The skin tone had been hard to capture, mixing browns and pinks and yellows together until I got as close as I could to the golden tone. The shoulders had been easy to shape on the canvas, but shading the contoured muscles had been the hardest. My wrist didn’t appreciate all the hard work it had taken to get the right curve of his spine, the corded muscles on either side. The black pants had been the easiest.

I’d painted Reece like I had seen him in the kitchen Tuesday morning.

Squeezing my eyes shut, it did nothing to ease the burn in my eyes or stop the tears from building. Frustration rose in me. I knew without looking at my phone that it was past ten in the morning. That knowledge made my chest ache and my stomach feel wrong, like I’d eaten too much.

I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d waited two days.

Dropping the paintbrush on the stand, I hopped up and went to my phone. Without thinking too much about it, without stressing myself out any longer, I typed Reece a quick text.

I miss you.

God, that was so bizarrely true. I went almost a year not speaking to him and I had missed him during that time, but that want had been cloaked in bitterness and anger. With that gone, all that remained was how much I missed him.

I deleted that and typed Are we still on for today?

Then I also backspaced the mother out of that and finally settled on Hey.

Bringing my phone into the bedroom, I took a quick shower and blow-dried my hair. I even curled lazy waves into it and put makeup on so I’d be ready just in case . . .

Then I paced my living room and kitchen, too wired to sit down, and with each passing minute, that frustration and panic pecked away at me.


Twelve o’clock dragged into one and then two and when I had only thirty minutes left to get ready for my shift at Mona’s and there was no text or call, that teeny, tiny spark of hope that I’d been holding close to my heart extinguished.

Reece had lied to me.

For the first time since I’d known him, he had lied to me. Because I knew in that moment, he wasn’t going to call me. Everything between us wasn’t okay.

Chapter 16

Making your bed and lying in it was probably one of the worst things ever. I hated that stupid saying with the fierceness of a thousand burning suns, but it was true. When you were disappointed or saddened by something you had no control over, it was easier to let it go, but when it was something that you did to yourself, it was so much harder to deal with.

And this mess with Reece was my fault. Sure, it took two to tango, and it took one to get plastered, but it was me who hid the truth of the night a year ago. I’d betrayed his trust. To some it might not be seen as a big deal, but it was to Reece. Honesty was everything to him.

Katie stopped by during my shift Thursday night, right before I took my break. One look at me, and she knew what was up. Or maybe it was her super-stripper powers.

Grabbing a basket of fries from the kitchen, we hid out in the office. She hoisted herself up onto Jax’s desk, which made me smile in spite of how crappy I felt. Her dress, if one could call the shirt a dress, did not cover her ass when she sat down.

“Tell me everything,” she ordered, holding the basket of fries.

I sat beside her and told her what went down. Trusting Katie, I gave her all the details. Well, I didn’t go into that much detail about how I was gripping the headboard Tuesday morning. That wasn’t a necessary part of the convo.

When I was finished, Katie had already consumed half of the fries. “Honey buns, here’s the thing. There’s a whole lot of could’ve and should’ve that has gone on. You can’t change the past, and let’s be honest, you didn’t drown a kitten.”

I made a face.

“Stop beating yourself up over it. You know you did wrong. You apologized and you meant it.” Handing over the basket, she hopped off the desk and stood in front of me, hands on her hips. “If he can’t get over that, then he’s truly not worth your time. And I mean that in the most non cliché way possible.”

I popped the last fry in my mouth and then placed the basket aside. “I know, but I like him—”

“You love him,” she corrected, throwing herself on the leather couch against the wall.

Rolling my eyes, I waved my hand dismissively even though my heart turned over heavily. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Why else have you been crying since Tuesday if you don’t love him?”

I cut her a narrowed look. “Because I like him a lot. I’ve liked him for a long time. And we were friends and now it’s ruined. And I haven’t been crying since Tuesday.” At her look of doubt, I scowled. “Not the entire time.”

She arched a blond brow. “Okay. First thing you need to do is stop lying to yourself. Just admit that you’ve been in love with him for ages. There’s nothing wrong with that.” When I opened my mouth, she raised a hand. “Secondly, fuck him. Not literally, unless he comes around, but like I said, if he doesn’t get over this, it’s on him, not you.”

Nodding, I tucked my hair back behind my ears as I slipped off the desk. I got what she was saying.

“Calla and Teresa are coming up next weekend. The four of us need to get together and get shitfaced,” she announced, rising from the couch like a goddess who was summoned. “Like, we need to get stupid drunk, talk about how stupid boys are, and then wake up wishing we never see another bottle of liquor.”

“Okay,” I mumbled.

“Like as drunk as the night before Calla left us,” she continued, and I cringed, knowing where she was heading with this. “Remember? You were convinced that one of those plastic closet organizers could hold your weight?”

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