38,199
07.03.2019

Her lips purse with curiosity. “Yes it is.”

I point my finger. “Ha! I was right—I knew Kate would work on Christmas Eve if the shoe was on the other foot.”

I can’t wait to tell her I was right.

Again, Dee’s eyes roll. “That’s the first thing you want clarification on?”

I shrug. “I was right. It’s a big deal.”

“We’re in Chicago.”

“Why Chicago?”

“Because in this reality, this is where Kate and Billy moved after she got her MBA.” She pauses. “And after they got married.”

My head snaps to her. “What? She actually fucking married Douche Bag? Are you shitting me?”

For those who need a little backstory, here you go: Billy “Douche Bag” Warren is Delores’s cousin and Kate’s high school sweetheart. He was her fiancé when we first met. Not too long after, he became her ex-fiancé, clearing the way for her and me to enjoy a stupendous fuck-fest of a weekend. It still ranks as one of the best weekends of my life. And it was during that very weekend that I came to the shocking realization that I was utterly and *-whippedly in love with Kate Brooks.

Because Kate and Billy had grown up together, had so much history together, they stayed close friends—much to my dismay—after their breakup, after she and I got together, and after we were married.

Which all explains why I’m feeling frustration, disgust, jealousy, anger. Pick a negative emotion, and I’m feeling it at this moment.

“Why would she do that?” I demand.

Dee lifts a shoulder casually. “Because they were engaged. Because they thought they loved each other . . . enough. Because they settled. And also because she never met you—so she never realized what genuine passion and love are supposed to feel like.”

“I can’t believe she married him.” Again, my hand covers my heart.

Because it aches.

“If it makes you feel any better, they got divorced.”

I perk right up. “You should have started with that. It makes me feel hugely fucking better, by the way.”

Under her breath, she hisses, “Ass.” Then she explains. “Billy and Katie stuck it out for three years, then called it quits. He went out to LA and she threw herself into her work like never before. They don’t speak at all. When a marriage goes sour, it always leaves a bitter taste.”

My attention turns back to Kate as she speaks into the headset again. “Stop busting my balls, Saul. You and I both know the glory days of your technology division are behind you.”

I take a seat on the stiff couch and watch her. I could look at Kate all day and never get bored, but watching her work? Seeing her in her element?

It’s fascinating. A thing of true beauty.

She braces her hands on the desk, tapping her toe on the floor. “You’re quickly becoming a small fish in a very large ocean. Before long, a big bad shark is going to come along and chomp you into little pieces. But if you do the smart thing, sign with me and let me make this deal for you—I’ll be your own personal harpoon. And we’ll feast on shark fin soup together. What’s it gonna be, Mr. Anderson?”

Fucking Christ almighty.

Saul Anderson.

There’s a blast from the past.

The first client Kate and I tried to close. The one who basically sexually harassed her, and who I told to go screw a pooch. And now Kate has him on the ropes.

Even though this is some weird, fucked-up alternate reality, I’m so damn proud of her.

I don’t hear Anderson’s answer, but I don’t have to. The adorable hand-flapping, hip-shaking dance of joy she does around her desk says it all.

Though she’s smiling wide enough to pull a cheek muscle, she composes her voice. “That sounds perfect. I’ll have the papers overnighted to you. Excellent. Yes, to you as well—I think this will be a very happy New Year.”

She ends the call, and her dancing turns to jumping. Laughing.

And I laugh with her.

She picks up the phone and dials a new number. “Hi, Christopher. Oh . . . yes, Merry Christmas to you, too. It sounds like you’re having quite the party there.”

She pauses as Christopher responds.

I ask Dee sharply, “Who’s Christopher?”

“Relax, Hulk—he’s her boss. Nothing more. In fact, she has a less-than-zero social life.”

I consider that for a moment. “She doesn’t date? No boyfriend? No random hookups, no no-strings-attached fuck-buddy waiting in the wings?”

Delores shakes her head. “Kate was never a one-night-stand kind of girl. After Billy, she gave up on relationships altogether. Too much effort, very little payoff.”

I smile.

And Dee inquires, “That makes you happy, doesn’t it?”

I cannot tell a lie. “Yeah, it really does.”

She throws a pillow at my head.

❮❯