Emmy shot me a confused glare. “I thought you were free all day?”
“I’ve got errands to run, I need to go to the store, do laundry, get groceries, return an overdue book to the library. . . .” I stopped myself from spewing any further lies.
Braydon’s posture relaxed a bit and he leaned down to give me a hug. “I’ll see you later, yeah?”
“Sure,” I murmured, my agitation growing. Braydon wasn’t happy to see me. He didn’t appreciate my effort. He was so confusing, it made my stomach hurt. Coming here had been a bad idea. I turned and fled, heading for the nearest cab or subway station I could find. I just wanted out of there.
That evening when Braydon texted me, asking to come over, I immediately said yes. I’d let him know what was on my mind when he arrived. I had to, for my sanity’s sake. I couldn’t keep walking around day after day, not knowing. When he arrived at my apartment, bottle of wine in hand, I ushered him inside, my resolve weakening at the sight of this handsome man. He was dressed casually in a pair of dark jeans, a vintage tee, and his beat-up Converse, as he usually was. He looked frickin’ adorable.
He kissed me briefly then set about opening the wine and pouring us each a glass. I bit my cheek to avoid asking him about the gala or his strange behavior on the set of the photo shoot. Let it go, Ellie. Move on, I begged myself silently. There are more important things to discuss.
“Here you go, gorgeous.” He handed me a glass of ruby-colored wine. “Shall we sit?” He motioned to the living room and I led the way, nestling into my couch, which was worn in all the right places. Braydon sat down next to me but left enough room between us so that we could carry on a conversation naturally.
“Listen, I think we need to talk,” I began.
“Yes, we do,” he agreed, watching me thoughtfully over the rim of his wineglass.
“Okay, you go first.”
“Nope. Not yet. Tell me what’s on your mind.”
I chewed on my lower lip. Did I have the courage to do this? Making the split-second decision that I wasn’t yet ready to probe into anything deeper—like where he and I stood—I blurted the first thing that came to mind. “I know about the threesome.”
Braydon didn’t even blink. “Am I in trouble?”
I considered it. But it happened before he met me. It’d be completely unfair to be mad at him about something that had happened in his past. “No, you’re not. I was just surprised is all. I wish you had told me.”
“Emmy told you, I take it?”
“She knew about your piercing, and when I pressed about how she knew . . . she told me the story.” He nodded, like he understood this wasn’t something that could be kept secret forever. It had to come out eventually. Emmy and I were best friends. “Is it weird for you now? Being around Ben and Emmy?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Nah. I don’t really think about it. I knew it was a one-time thing. Ben and I had done that type of thing before, and it was never a big deal. It was something we did for fun.”
He and I had very different ideas of fun. “Is that something you’d want to . . . would you share me with someone?”
“No.” His voice was firm. “I have no desire to do that again. And I have no interest in sharing your sweet little body with anyone.”
Satisfied with his answer, I knew I had to let it go. Though I knew the next time we were all together, I would have a hard time not picturing the three of them in compromising positions, wondering about the mechanics of how it all went down. I shook my head, clearing my mind. Braydon had said there was something he wanted to talk to me about, and I still had to work up what I wanted to say about some of our bigger issues. Focus, Ellie. “Okay, now that the weirdness is out of the way . . . what did you want to talk about?”
He pushed a lock of hair behind my ear and grinned down at me, as if he was proud about how mature I was being about his past. “I’m leaving for Maui next week and I’ll be gone for two weeks.”
“Oh.” Two whole weeks without any texts and visits from Braydon to look forward to? It hurt more than it should. The wine churned in my stomach.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’d like you to come with me.”
“What?” That wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I thought he was going to chastise me for getting too close, for wanting things he’d told me we’d never have. “Ben and Emmy will be there, too. I thought it might be fun.”
“I can’t. I have to work, Braydon.”
“I know, but I thought perhaps you could use a vacation. And I thought it’d be nice to have you there.” He smiled at me warmly, making my heart flutter erratically.
All the things I wanted to say to him about his reluctance to be seen with me went out the window. He was inviting me to Hawaii. That spoke louder than anything, didn’t it?
“I do have a week of vacation time saved up.” The idea of spending a week in the sun with Braydon, Ben, and Emmy sounded heavenly. “I’ll ask my boss about it tomorrow.”
“That’s a good girl.” I smiled at the endearment, gazing up at him like a lovesick fool. “I work better when I’m having regular orgasms, so you being there will be very helpful.” He chuckled.
My stomach dropped, and I let out an exasperated sigh. That was why he invited me? I couldn’t be some kept woman, a mistress hidden away in his hotel room. I had a job, a life, a brain. I was more than just a vagina for him to sink into whenever he pleased. “That’s why you want me there? Newsflash: I’m not just a warm hole to be used for your enjoyment.” I felt like punching him, but I kept my composure.
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