Page 21

I know he is right. I need to tell Melissa my connection with Simon Wagner. And I needed to do it yesterday. The more time that goes by, the more the ball of worry grows in my gut. I don’t think she would have taken it so bad if I told her sooner, but now that we are both solidly invested in this relationship and our feelings are finally put out there, well… I don’t think this is going to go well.

Turning around after biting out, “I’ll fucking tell her about Simon tomorrow; just shut the fuck up about it,” and seeing Mandy standing behind me is not a welcome site. There’s no telling how long she has been there but any amount of time is too long. I have stupidly just let it all out and if she has been there long enough, she knows the one thing that I am keeping from my girl, the one thing that might have the power to come between us.

I don’t even spare her a second of my time. I walk in, grab my girl, and get the hell out of there.

And not once since that phone call has my heart calmed down. I need to tell her and then deal with the fall out. I can tell when she questions me about Axel’s call that she doesn’t completely believe what I have to say. With good reason too, since she knows me well enough to know I am keeping something from her.

The next morning isn’t much better. We both oversleep, so by the time we make it downstairs, we have just enough time for a quick kiss before we head to work. I follow behind her, and watch her pull off into her office before continuing down the street to Corps.

Things around here have, thankfully been quiet over the last few weeks. Luckily, the gold sidewalk seems to keep Sway in a good enough mood that he doesn’t mess with us nearly as much as he used to. I did catch him sprinkling glitter on Coop a few times, and that is enough to keep us all laughing for a week, at least.

Emmy is doing better, but I can still see some pain in her eyes. She has decided it is best to distance herself completely from Maddox. I don’t know if that is something she is consciously doing but he isn’t happy about it.

I have just sat down to start looking over emails when my door opens and Axel walks in.

“You still have that stick up your ass?” He says and sits down in front of me.

“Fuck off.”

“Oh, so I see, not only is the stick still there, but you might have just shoved that shit a little higher, huh?”

“Jesus Christ. What? What do you want me to say? No, we didn’t talk last night because once I got off the phone with you, which was already interrupting our dinner, I had to walk right into motherfucking Mandy. So no, by the time I got home and loved my woman good, I wasn’t in the mood to taint that shit.”

He leans back and lets out a long huff. “I get you man, I do, but that shit is not going to be pretty.”

“You don’t think I already know this? I’m not looking forward to not only opening those old wounds, but rubbing salt in them when I tell her. You don’t think I feel guilty enough? I could have stopped him, Axel! I could have stopped him, but instead of sticking around, I took off for years of booze and pussy to try and forget. I let him slip through the cracks and in turn, the man who killed my sister married hers. Oh, pretty fucking hilarious move by fate there. Throwing us together finally, only to have that between us.”

“Seriously, G? That’s what’s been eating you? How in the fuck do you feel like it could even remotely be your fault that he ended up with her sister? You didn’t introduce them, you didn’t pull the fucking trigger, so I just don’t understand how you are adding one and one and getting five.” He leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees before continuing. “Brother, that isn’t on you so don’t hold it there.”

“But it is, Axel. It is.”

And that is the root of the problem. After Grace died, I was too torn up to stick around and deal with anything. My mother lost her damn mind and spent the years I disappeared slowly letting her heart wither away. By the time I had my head pulled out of my ass and got back to her, she wasn’t doing well. She made it another year before I lost her too. My head wasn’t in the right place to deal with Simon Wagner.

By the time I started my business in Atlanta and finally tracked him down, I was shocked to learn he was just a few counties over and had remarried. That was when I started to keep an eye on him when I could. And when I couldn’t, I had Derrick. What a fucking joke.

“You need to get it done but you also need to stop blaming yourself for shit that is not your fault.”

“Hear you, brother, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with you right now.”

After a few minutes of silence, he leaves me to my silent brooding.

Melissa calls a little while later to let me know she is going to go out with Izzy and the girls for dinner tonight. Hopefully that means she will have a few glasses of wine and come home in a good mood. But, this also gives me a chance to work up my nerve to have the talk with her that I have been putting off for weeks.

“Hey, Greg,” Emmy says as she walks into my office and puts some files on the desk. “Did she talk to you?” By the way she stresses the word ‘she’, I know she isn’t talking about Melissa. They have become thick as thieves recently and unless I’ve missed a major fight, they still are.

“Uh, she would be who?” I ask.

“Seriously? God, I can’t stand that woman. Mandy. She was here about an hour ago. Walked past while I was on the phone so I couldn’t stop her. I think you were talking with Axel. Anyway, she was right back and out the door a few minutes later so I just assumed you had kicked her out of here.”

“Fuck,” I hiss. “She was here?”

“Uhmm, yes?” I can tell she looks slightly worried that I am this pissed about Mandy showing up. She has already started backing out of the office when I shake myself clear of the fury raging.

“Emmy, not upset with you. Next time you see her, do not let her past those doors. Drop the phone if you have to. Hell, throw the damn thing at her, but she doesn’t make it two steps into this building, yeah?”

“Sure, okay, Greg.” She furrows her brow and makes a hasty retreat out the door.

Goddammit. This is not another kink that I need in my day . Who the fuck knows what Mandy wants now, but I know one thing, no good is going to come with finding out.

The day gets worse and then worse again as it goes on. There isn’t a damn thing except Melissa’s lunchtime hello call that is bright and happy about it. By the time I get home, I’m in such a shit mood and exhausted from my mind running wild all day that I crash on the couch and pass out within a few minutes of clicking on the TV. Which is unfortunate for me, since I am sleeping, I miss all of the phone calls from Izzy, then Dee and Emmy and finally Axel a few hours later.

The one call I don’t miss is from Melissa. And that is because it never came.

Chapter 21

Work has been typically normal. Dr. Roberts is in a good mood so it’s easy to follow his lead. I am still a little worried about Greg and what is bothering him but I am determined to make today a good one. I make sure to call him a few times during the day just to make sure he’s okay and each time his voice sounds more and more troubled. I hate knowing he is hurting even if it’s something he is keeping from me. It still hurts to know he feels like he needs to.

When Izzy calls with the idea for an impromptu girl’s night, I am all over that. I’m not avoiding going home but I’m still not eager. I get off work early and run home to change out of my scrubs before heading over to Heavy’s to meet the girls. I pass Greg on the way out, but he isn’t watching the other lane and doesn’t see me, I consider calling but figure I won’t be gone long so there isn’t a need. When I get home, I will sit him down and ask him to talk to me.

I know my man, and he might not want to tell me what is hanging over his head, but if I ask, he will.

I get to Heavy’s right when Dee and Izzy are pulling up. Dee bounces over with her carefree smile firmly in place.

“Hey, you! Don’t you look all casual hot tonight! Izzy,” she screams over her shoulder. “You see this? This is how you pull of jeans and tees!”

“Shut it, Dee! I haven’t worn mine in years; you know why? Because you threw them all out! Like a deranged fashion fairy. Who does that?” She laughs at Dee. These two have the kind of friendship that anyone would be envious of. I am beyond lucky to have them in my life.

“You two are crazy, you know that? Where’s Emmy?” I look around the parking lot but don’t see her, or her car. “I passed Greg on the way over, so I know she isn’t at the office anymore. He never leaves with her still there.”

They both exchange looks, the kind of looks that communicate everything with just one glance.

“What? Did something happen?” Emmy and I are growing the kind of friendship that Izzy and Dee have. The thought that something is wrong with her hits me hard. I know she is dealing with her feelings for Maddox and after what happened at Izzy and Axel’s wedding, I think we decided it is best to back off for a while. That girl, her heart is too big for her own body.

“No, nothing happened, but I know Mad is sick of her freezing him out. According to Coop, who heard it from Beck, who heard it from Sway, they had it out in the parking lot this afternoon. I don’t know much after that. Axel doesn’t know what happened because he took the afternoon off to keep Nate so I could get some work done. I called her and she sounded fine, but she says she wants to stay in tonight.” Izzy finishes speaking and turns to walk inside.

“That’s it? You just let her off the hook with some lame excuse? You guys know her; if something’s happened, she’s hurting.”

“Meli, there isn’t anything we can do. She has to realize on her own that he isn’t going to come around. I told her I would stop by before I went home. She needs this time.” I look at Dee as if she has lost her damn mind. The last person that should give Emmy any sort of relationship advice is Dee. Love her, but damn she is just as screwed up.

“Really, Dee? Is that the path you decided to use between you and Beck?” She flinches and I instantly regret my jab. “I’m sorry, Dee, that wasn’t cool. I’ve got some shit on my mind and I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”

“It’s okay. Really, I know y’all don’t understand where I am with Beck because I have never told you. I just know what it’s like to want the impossible, okay. Give her some time.” She gives me a weak smile before turning and walking over to Izzy, who is impatiently waiting to get inside. For such a small thing, she puts away BBQ like a grown man.

We have been enjoying our dinner for a while and discussing everything that has been going on since our last get together. We try to make girls night at least once a week but because of Nate’s being sick last week and Dee having to go up to North Carolina to deal with something at her other office, it has just been me and Emmy.

“What’s going on up at the other branch? You seem to be doing bi-weekly trips these days.” From my understanding, she has the other branch of her insurance company so fine-tuned that she could disappear for a year and it will be fine. Even Greg says that he is impressed with the crew she has running it.


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