“I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything. Savannah just invited me.”
“Look.” He finally turned and faced her. His eyes were hard, his campaign mask firmly in place. “I don’t know what you thought you could get out of seeing me today, but please don’t come back. You already walked out once. It shouldn’t be hard to do it again.”
Liz felt the knife twist in her chest as his words issued a death strike. She put her hand over her heart as she felt her body collapse in on itself. Walking out on Brady had been the absolute hardest thing she had ever done in her life. She still couldn’t believe that she had actually done it. But she had. It killed her to hear him say things like that to her.
It also pissed her off. Those words combined with everything that he had said at dinner tonight just made all of the pent-up anger burst out.
“I didn’t even f**king know that you were going to be here tonight. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have come at all,” Liz snapped. “Okay? Does that make you feel better?”
“Much,” he growled.
“Good. Because the bullshit comments about being happy with having a public relationship and being over airplanes were really just unnecessary.”
“Oh, and kissing your boyfriend in front of me and bringing up airplanes in the first place wasn’t unnecessary, Liz?” he demanded.
“You called her baby!”
“You’re dating the guy you left me for!” he said, reaching out and grasping her shoulders roughly between his hands. Her mouth popped open. She stared up into his big brown eyes and felt her whole world narrow down to this one second. That face, those eyes, those lips. Only inches separating them. It would be so easy to just get swept away by their mounting anger.
And then the second passed.
“You should go,” he said, dropping his hands.
“You’re right.” Her breathing was uneven and her whole body was warm. The places where he had touched her were on fire.
Liz cracked the door open, stepped out, and turned to go. But then she thought better of it. She turned back around to face Brady.
“I didn’t leave you for him,” she said softly. “The moment Heather and Elliott told you that you had to ditch me, you left me for the campaign.”
Brady opened his mouth to contradict her, but she shook her head.
“Because while you might have told them that you loved me, you never actually told me.”
The weeks following the conversation with Brady outside of her house almost made Liz feel as if it were August again. Her heartbreak was still prominent all these months later, and she had only spent a few hours with Brady. Only fifteen precious minutes alone. Seeing him, talking to him, having him touch her, she felt the rush of lingering emotions once more. And everything was just as fresh as if she had just walked out of that primary all over again.
Hayden didn’t say anything. But Victoria told her that she was acting weird frequently enough that Liz knew he would have to be an idiot not to notice. And Hayden was anything but an idiot. He had been the one to spot his girlfriend being looked at by Brady in a way that he didn’t particularly like in the first place.
At least he didn’t ask about her change in behavior. It was the only good thing coming out of the situation. Because if he had asked, she didn’t know what she would do. She didn’t want to have to lie to him. She didn’t like lying to him. It made her feel dirty . . . dirtier than she was already feeling about how easily she had allowed Brady to seep back in.
And it was hard enough keeping Savannah’s secret about dinner; it felt like a lie of omission. A part of her just wanted to tell Hayden everything that had happened. She didn’t know how he would react. She knew how she had reacted to his dating Calleigh, and those two had broken up because Hayden wasn’t interested anymore. That most certainly was not the reason she and Brady had stopped seeing each other.
“Hey, gorgeous, are you even listening?” Hayden asked, waving his hand in front of her face from his seat next to her on his couch.
“Oh, no, I’m sorry,” Liz said. She shook her head and tried to bring herself back to reality. She had been lost in Brady Maxwell once again. She wished it wasn’t so difficult to get him out of her head. She hadn’t seen Brady in weeks, and it wasn’t as if she was going to run back to him or anything. He had made himself perfectly clear: he didn’t want her to come back.
“I was just asking what you had planned for your birthday this weekend,” Hayden said.
Her birthday. Was it April already? When had that happened? School was almost over. Hayden would be graduating soon. She didn’t want to think about that either.
“Oh, um . . . no plans. I’d forgotten.”
“Your twenty-first birthday?”
Liz shrugged and forced a smile on her face. Shit! Had she actually forgotten her own twenty-first birthday? She had been so looking forward to it before Brady had strolled back into her life. She needed to get her shit together. “I guess I’ve been busy. I haven’t had a chance to plan anything. I’m sure Victoria will want to take me out and get me trashed.”
“When doesn’t she want to go out?” Hayden asked, slinging an arm over her shoulders and pulling her into him on his couch.
“The girl doesn’t need an excuse to celebrate. That’s for sure.”
“So, I was thinking,” Hayden began, planting a kiss on her cheek softly.
He laughed and tickled her side. She jumped and giggled, pulling away from him as she straightened. She might be torn up about what had happened with Brady, but Hayden seemed to be able to put the smile back on her face.
“I thought we could go to Charlotte on Thursday.”
Liz tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. What did Hayden have up his sleeve? “I have class Friday morning.”
“I know. I thought you could skip.”
She gasped and reached her hand out to his forehead to feel his temperature. “Are you sick? You’re telling me to skip school?”
“It’s just one class, and it’s near the end of the semester,” he said, rattling off excuses. “It won’t be a big deal.”
Liz laughed, placing her hand over his lips. It was nice to forget about Brady and just get caught up in being around Hayden. “I’ll skip school for you.”