She's right. "True."
"Do you have a plan for how you're going to fix it?" she asks.
"I do." I'd met with my senior staff all afternoon to devise a six-month roadmap that would pull us out of the red. Hence why I was home early and hitting the hard liquor. It'd been a brutal day, but at least we had a plan. I'd been shouldering this burden alone, not wanting to worry Sophie, but as she reaches across the table and takes my hand, weaving her fingers between mine, I see how wrong I'd been. Telling her – opening up this way – it hasn't made the situation worse – it's somehow made things better. It's at least put them into perspective. Work was work. It would always be there. There would be ups and downs. But this was my real life. This woman, who was taking me with all my flaws, and loving me anyway.
"You got this," she says, giving my hand a squeeze.
"Indeed." I squeeze back.
We continue eating, and then carry our dishes into the kitchen together. "I was worried for a second that your mood had something to do with Stella, or your divorce settlement," Sophie admits, rinsing the dishes and handing them to me one at a time to load into the dishwasher.
I shake my head. "No. All that's squared away."
"I can't believe just like that…it’s all over."
"I know. I’m over the fucking moon about this too. Pace suggested I throw a party."
Her brow wrinkles in concentration. "We should do it."
"Seriously? You want to celebrate my divorce?"
She shakes her head. "No. I want to celebrate us together as a couple. We could invite my family, yours, get everyone together to co-mingle."
"I like that idea." I lean across the kitchen island and plant a kiss on her mouth. "What should we do?"
"I think the only appropriate thing would be a pool party."
"Oh yeah? I didn’t think you’d ever want to go near the pool again."
"That’s the point, Colton. It’s time to move on and let go of the past."
My chest swells with pride. I love this girl.
"Come on, let's go upstairs." She takes my hand again. "I think a massage might relax you."
I raise an eyebrow at her. "You remember what happened the last time you tried to give me a massage?" The erotic images of us in the shower after her failed massage attempt are burned into my brain.
"I sure do." She smiles and pulls me from the kitchen.
"This is so freaking weird," I say, turning to Becca.
"What is?" she replies, adjusting the ties of her bikini top.
"Dad is over there talking to Colton." The man who purchased me at a sex auction, I mentally add.
Becca and I both turn and gaze across the pool to where Colton and our father are standing under the shade of the cedar gazebo, sipping cocktails and talking casually.
"It's just weird," I admonish.
She shrugs at my discomfort. "We're big girls, Soph. Dad doesn't care if you're sleeping with a millionaire. Shit, he's probably proud. I know I am." She grins at me.
I roll my eyes, thankful for the cover of my sunglasses. She's crazy. The anxiety I felt planning this party was mostly over how my dad and Colton would get along. I've never introduced my parents to a man before. Especially not one who's seven years older, runs a company, and has his own mansion in Malibu. It's little nerve wracking.
My mom has made herself busy helping out in the kitchen, clearly uncomfortable letting the hired help wait on us hand and foot, even though Colton and I both told her numerous times to enjoy and relax. I don’t think my mother knows how to relax. It's something I'm just now learning how to do myself.
The day is pretty perfect though. The sun is shining brightly overhead. The temperature is perfect. Soft reggae music hums lazily in the background through the outdoor speakers and the bar is stocked with tropical drinks and icy bottles of beer. No one's in the pool yet, but brightly colored balls bob on the surface of the water enticingly. After much more laying out, I'm sure I'll be ready to take a dip myself.
Collins and Pace are seated at the bar, each with a drink in hand. It's early still and Beth, Colton's personal chef, has everything prepped for a barbecue later. Which makes me even more curious about what my mother could be helping with inside. She's probably driving Beth insane.
I take another sip of my mango daiquiri and try to relax.
Marta comes strolling through the patio doors like she's working a runway catwalk. For some reason the sight of her in her little red string-bikini makes my stomach knot. I hate that she and Colton had a fling – no matter how brief.
"Who the hell's that?" Becca asks, lowering her shades.
"Marta. She works for Colton as his personal assistant."
"She's gorgeous," Becca says.
Apparently Marta didn’t quite get the casual pool party theme, her makeup is expertly done and she's styled her hair in perfect waves that fall down her shoulders and back. My own hair is tossed into a messy ponytail and the only thing decorating my skin is a thick layer of greasy sunscreen. I feel the need to march upstairs, add mascara and lipstick and change into my pushup bra-bikini top. Instead I chug down the remainder of my drink.