119,055
07.03.2019

“Well he did!”

I shake my head. “Kate must’ve misunderstood him.”

For a moment she just stares. Her gaze rakes over me, up and down, like she’s seeing me for the first time. Then her expression changes from righteous fury to cold disbelief.

And her voice drops to a harsh whisper. “Are you defending him?”

“He’s my best friend. Of course I’m defending him!”

Her chin lifts sharply, almost like she’s absorbing an uppercut. She hisses, “Well then f**k you too!”

“Excuse me?”

“If you think there’s nothing wrong with what he did then you’re not the person I thought you were. Not even close.”

And I shout, “Are you f**king serious right now?”

“Yes! A serious idiot is what I am. To think that I let myself believe . . . I should’ve never let things get this far. We’re done Matthew. Don’t come to my apartment; don’t call me! You and your ass**le friend can just stay the hell away from us!”

Her words hit me like a sledgehammer to the stomach. They’re wrenching. Bruising. And f**king maddening. Dee’s rant continues, but I’m not listening anymore. All I think about is how stupid I’ve been.

Blind.

Again.

It’s almost funny, in a depressing, ironic kind of way. Dee told me—more than once—that she couldn’t do this. That her relationships never ended on a happy note. But I didn’t listen. I heard what I wanted to hear and believed I could change her mind. That if I was charming enough, smooth enough, she’d see—like I did—how great we could be together.

What a f**king moron.

It’s really no different than Rosaline. The red flags may not have been there for the same reasons—but they were there. And I missed them.

“Goddammit!” I kick the coffee table but it doesn’t break. So I kick it again—until it does. The leg collapses and the glass top cracks against the floor, bringing Delores’s rant to an immediate stop.

She takes two steps back, looking cautious—almost afraid that she’s pushed me too far. And I hate that I’ve made her look like that. But I’m too pissed, too disappointed in her to stop. So instead, I lash out.

“You say Kate puts on a tough front but she’s soft inside? How about you look in a f**king mirror, Dee? You’re terrified—nothing but a scared little girl. You’d rather be alone and tell yourself it’s what you choose than take a chance on something that might be better. Something that could’ve been amazing. I have bent over backwards for you! I’ve spent weeks walking on f**king eggshells trying not to scare you away! And where’s it gotten me? Nowhere! You think you’re done? I’m done! ’Cause it’s not worth it.”

Her arms cross over her waist, holding herself together. And she doesn’t look angry anymore. She looks . . . sad.

I take a breath and push a hand through my hair. And I laugh at myself—because I’m an idiot. Pathetic. “I had this whole thing planned. I was going to take you to the boardwalk and win you a bear. I was going to tell you that I think you’re the most incredible, beautiful, fantastic woman I’ve ever known. And I was going to tell you that I’m completely in love with you. And now . . . now I can’t say any of those things.” I shake my head. “Because you’re just waiting . . . . looking for a reason . . . because I can’t love someone who’s so f**king eager to run out the door.”

Her voice is quiet now. Softer. “I told you . . . I told you I wasn’t good at this.”

And mine is raw. “Yeah, well I guess I finally believe you.”

I look into Dee’s honey-brown eyes. Eyes that always said so much, even if she didn’t speak a word. And I turn my back on her. “Just go, Dee. Just leave—it’s what you’ve wanted to do from day one.”

I hear her breathing. Waiting. And then I hear her footsteps. They stop near the doorway, and for a wonderful, awful moment I think she’s changed her mind.

Until she whispers, “Good-bye, Matthew.”

I don’t answer, and I don’t turn around. Until I hear the door close behind her.

Chapter 17

“Fuck!”

I spend the thirty minutes after Dee walks out cursing and pacing and kicking shit around my apartment—generally pissed off at the entire world.

“Shit!”

I’m angry at myself for letting things get as far as they did—for losing my patience and my temper—and for even falling for Dee in the first place. My self-flagellation is hot and varied and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense—even to me.

I’m furious with Delores—for not trusting me, for not even f**king trying. For not thinking what we have is worth the risk. For thinking I’m a goddamn risk at all, when I’ve done everything possible to show her I’m not.

And I’m beyond irritated with Drew—but I’m not sure what the f**k for yet. Maybe he cut Kate down just like Dee claimed. And if he did, it was an ass**le move. One that’s unjustly blown back on me. And I’m kind of pissed that he even screwed Kate at all—breaking his precious, stupid f**king rule that was there for a reason. This reason. Because—like a goddamn suicide bomber—his actions have had painful consequences for everyone around him.

But most of all, I’m infuriated that Drew won’t pick up his f**king phone so I can find out what the hell happened.

“Goddamn it!”

Guys aren’t chatty. The telephone is not a necessity for us—unless it’s to find out where we’re meeting up or what the latest baseball scores are. But this is one time I actually need to talk to him—and he’s MIA. I call Erin, Drew’s secretary, who’s still at the office. She informs me that he went home sick this afternoon—that he probably has the flu.

Fucking perfect.

Screw it. I drop my phone, grab my keys, and head over to Drew’s apartment—to get the story straight from the ass’s mouth.

But when I get to his place, he doesn’t answer.

I bang on the door for the third—or thirtieth—time. “Drew! Open the f**king door! What the hell happened today? Drew!”

Nothing. I stop and listen for any sign of life inside the apartment, but all I hear is silence. Not even the rustle of footsteps or the squeak of couch springs. There’s an excellent chance he’s not even home. Which means, for now, I’m shit out of luck.

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