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I thought about his hesitation to be seen with me and I wondered if this woman, who he seemed all too happy to be photographed with, had anything to do with the sudden change.

Pulling my quilt up over my legs, I struggled to piece together the puzzle of Braydon. Maybe he had his heart broken and he was cautious about jumping into another relationship. Or maybe I was reading way too much into it and being way too generous. He could just be a player who acted on his baser instincts, like my subconscious first warned me about. He’d hinted at something in his past holding him back. Knowing I was no closer to solving the mystery, I did the only thing I could do. I went to grab the scrap of paper Katrina had given to me that was currently stuffed in my wallet. Maybe she held the key to his past, and maybe she could help me understand why he was the way he was.

Summoning my courage, I pulled the slip of paper from my wallet. Her neat, curvy handwriting covered the entire length of the scrap. I punched her number into my phone and typed out a text.

Me: Hey! It’s Ellie from the photo shoot . . . remember me?

A few minutes later, her reply arrived.

Katrina: Hi! Of course I remember. How are you?

Me: Eh, I’ve been better. I was actually wondering if I could ask you a few Braydon-related questions . . . if that’s not too strange.

My heartbeat thumped unevenly. I felt like a superfreak stalker. I hoped I didn’t sound as pathetic as I felt. But something told me Katrina would be willing to share her experience.

Katrina: Oh no! What happened?

I couldn’t tell if she was mocking me or genuinely interested in helping. If Braydon was single again, would that put her back in the running? I blew the strands of loose hair out of my face and plopped down on the couch. I had to try. She could help me piece together his past. And he’d cut me too deep. I had to know.

Me: I was tired of feeling like a plaything—I don’t think he was ever really going to commit . . . so I sort of left him in Hawaii.

When I worded it like that, I sort of sounded like a badass. I had put my foot down, it was true. I’d left him in a hotel and flown halfway across the globe. If I weren’t feeling so utterly crappy, I might be proud.

Katrina: Dang, girl. How are you feeling now?

It was like she could sense that now that I was back home and all alone, the glow of pride in my decision had worn off. It was hard to feel proud when you were in sweatpants and a T-shirt and your heart felt like it’d been put through a blender.

Me: Basically like shit.

The smiley face was pure sarcasm, but seriously, I didn’t mean to be such a downer.

Katrina: Sorry. Been there. Done that. I understand.

It was weird to think this stranger understood my situation better than anyone. Better than Emmy. But it would be nice to have someone to talk to about all this. I wondered if she still regularly Google-stalked Braydon. I wondered if a girl could ever really move on after someone like him. Probably not.

Me: I’m sure it sounds pathetic, but I was wondering if maybe you’d want to meet up for coffee or something . . . swap horror stories? It might help me to understand him better.

Katrina: It doesn’t sound pathetic at all, and sure, I’d love to. You just let me know when you’re up for it.

Me: Thanks. I will.

Heading back into my room, I felt the tiniest bit better. At least I had a plan. It might not have been the most noble of plans—to pump his ex-girlfriend for information—but hell, it was a start. I collapsed on my bed, curling into the sheets. There was no way not to notice that my pillowcase still smelled like him. I pulled the pillow to my face and inhaled deeply, letting his scent envelop me.

12

Several days later, Emmy and I sat at a sidewalk café, enjoying the fall sunshine and crisp air while we still could. I was so thankful she was back from her trip. Enduring this breakup alone had been torture. Especially since I knew my best friend was there with him, having fun in the sun, I was sure.

We sat over coffee and croissants as I poured my heart out to her. Once I’d finished, she lifted her chin, her eyes full of concern.

“You’ve fallen for him,” she said with a frown. I nodded sheepishly. “Then why did you run?”

I bit my cheek. “Because I wasn’t okay with being his dirty mistress. I wanted more.”

She nodded sympathetically. “If it makes you feel any better, he was miserable once you left.” I doubted that. But I avoided asking her if he found another girl on the island to replace me. I couldn’t handle knowing that right now. “This is just like me and Ben in the beginning. We started out as just a fling. You told me not to chase him, remember? You said since he was used to women throwing themselves at him that I needed to be myself and show him that my appeal was that I was a regular girl. And if he liked me and wanted me in his life, he’d make it happen.”

“That was my brilliant advice?” I cringed.

“Yes. And it worked. You were right then, and I’m right about this now. Braydon’s used to the same thing, just like Ben was. Traveling the globe, dating supermodels, girls dropping their panties at a single flash of those dimples.”

Shit, just picturing his adorable smile and dimples made my heart hurt. “Yes, and unfortunately I’m not a model, not even close, and I’ve already dropped my panties—two strikes against me. This will never work.”

“Yes it will.”

“None of this matters, Emmy. We’re done. I left him in Hawaii and he hasn’t even called.”

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