It’s about time I stand up for myself.
I get to the end of the block when my phone rings.
I send it to voice mail and shake my head. I cannot deal with talking to any of the Montgomerys today.
Instead, I search for another contact and press send.
“Hello, Jonathan,” I reply and clear my throat. “Would you be willing to meet up with me for breakfast tomorrow?”
“You’re in San Francisco?”
“Yes.” No, I want you to fly your dumb ass to Seattle and meet me there.
“Our diner, nine o’clock.”
“I’ll be there.” He pauses. “Are you okay?”
“I’m going to be.” I end the call and point my car toward my hotel. The phone rings again.
“Fucking telemarketers,” I mumble, and send it to voice mail, and no sooner does the phone ring again.
“What?” I snap.
“Um…hello.” I can hear commotion in the background. People laughing.
“Sorry, Jules. What can I do for you?”
“Well, we’re having a family dinner, and Jax and Logan are here, and they’ve decided to get married in two weeks, which I know is short notice, but we want to make sure that if you can’t help plan, you can at least come to it.” She pauses to take a breath and I can hear someone—Sam?—yell, “You better bring your sexy ass to it!”
Oh, hell no.
“I’m sorry, Jules, I’m quite sure I have an event that day.”
“No, you don’t. I talked to Emily.”
“Then why did you just ask if I did?”
“Well, I’m polite, aren’t I?”
I can’t help but grin.
“If there’s no event, it must be because I have something else going on. Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m going to have to decline.”
I can hear movement, and the background noise lessening until it’s nonexistent, and then Jules says, “Okay, cut the shit. What is going on?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You don’t sound like yourself at all. You sound…sad. Talk to me, friend.”
She just had to throw friend in there, didn’t she?
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to be at one of your family’s parties right now, Jules.”
“What did my idiot brother do?”
I frown and park at the hotel. “Who said he did anything?”
“I’m not stupid, Alecia. Talk to me.”
I take a deep breath. My nerves are already shot from my visit with my parents, and I haven’t slept in days. To my horror, I feel my eyes fill with tears.
“I just don’t think it’s going to work out between your brother and me.”
“Why?” Jules asks in a soft voice. “I think you’re perfect together.”
“I need to be with someone who makes me a priority, Jules.”
“Okay.” She sounds confused. “What’s the problem?”
“I’m not that for Dominic. And I deserve that, Jules. I need it.”
“Everyone deserves it, but I don’t understand why you think you’re not a priority for Dom. Hold on.” She pulls the phone away from her face and murmurs to someone quietly before returning.
“Please don’t tell the family about this.”
“That was my dad. He’s just making sure everything is okay. He won’t say anything.”
“I hope you’ll still think of me when events come up.”
“Girl, you’re doing Jax and Logan’s wedding. We won’t take no for an answer.”
I bite my lip as longing fills me. I love working with this family. It’s not just because of the money, but because they’re fun and my best clients. I don’t want to give them up.
And why should I have to? I didn’t do anything wrong!
“Okay. I’ll call you next week. I’m out of town right now.”
“Where are you?”
“San Francisco. I have some demons to put to rest.”
“Alecia, I’m worried about you.”
“Don’t be. I’ll be fine. I’ll talk to you next week.”
She sighs in my ear. “Fine. We’ll talk next week. And I mean talk, Alecia.”
“I’ll see you soon.”
When I arrive at the Alley Cat, the diner that Jonathan and I had Sunday morning breakfast at every week during our entire marriage, he’s already sitting in our booth, near the back, looking nervous as he stares down into his coffee mug. I take a minute to soak in the sight of him. His mink-brown hair is longer than he used to wear it, almost shaggy. He’s still thin, just this side of too thin, with no muscle definition on his arms. He’s wearing his usual metal band T-shirt and baggy jeans.
He looks young. Carefree.
I sit opposite from him, unlike when we were married.
“You used to sit beside me,” he says with a half-smile and sits back in the booth arrogantly.
I don’t return it.
Instead, I sit back and say the first thing that comes to mind.
“You should be ashamed of the way you treated me.”
His eyes widen, but I see I’ve struck him dumb, so I continue.
“The way you used to belittle my job? Not okay.” My voice is perfectly calm, but my eyes are pinned to his. “The way you’d give me the silent treatment when I disappointed you? Definitely not okay. Making me feel small, or that your shortcomings were my fault, was not okay.”
The waitress appears to take my drink order, but I simply shake my head, sending her on her way.
“You pushed me away when I tried to give you affection. You made sure I knew that I was the last person on your priority list. You had inappropriate relationships with women that you weren’t married to.” I lean forward, bracing myself on my elbows. His face has paled, but his mouth is tight, and I can see I’m pissing him off. “And making me feel like a piece of shit because my sexual appetites weren’t the same as yours was not fucking okay.”
He swallows hard. “Are you done?”
I tip my head back and forth, giving it some thought. “For now.”
“It’s good to see you too. You look beautiful, by the way.”
I blink and frown at him. “I’m out of here.”
“Wait.” His hand covers mine before I can slide out of the booth. “Don’t go. You’re right. None of that was okay.”