It all came back to the fact that Brady had never told her that he loved her. And it was clear from just one text message that he had told Erin. That he loved Erin. It made her head throb thinking about it.
When Brady didn’t answer, Liz said the first thing that came to mind. “You know Savannah hates her, right?”
“What?” he asked, clearly caught off guard.
“It doesn’t matter,” Liz said, shaking her head. “You love her. It doesn’t matter.”
Liz glanced up at him one more time wistfully. Hayden might be giving her almost everything she wanted, but he wasn’t Brady Maxwell. And Brady Maxwell was giving everything she wanted to someone else.
LOUD AND CLEAR
The ride back to Liz’s car was excruciating. She had sat through painful car rides with Brady before, but the silence was deafening. A year of built-up tension had been unleashed between them tonight, and to what end? They were still in the same place they were before. Sure, it had felt good to finally talk to Brady about why she had left, but it certainly hadn’t helped anything.
It had only made her more confused. Brady felt strongly enough about her to have nearly gone off the deep end on campaign, yet he’d never once reached out to her. He seduced her and yet loved another woman. How was she supposed to handle the number of paradoxes in their relationship?
Their nonexistent relationship.
That was how she would handle it: as if it didn’t exist. Because it didn’t. They were with other people. She may have had an argument with Hayden. She might feel hurt, betrayed, and confused about what had caused it, but it was the first . . . the only argument they had ever had. That didn’t mean they were over. That meant they had their first roadblock that they had to deal with.
The stuff she had to deal with with Brady was more like climbing mountains. With bare feet. While she was running out of oxygen.
They reached the parking deck and Brady stopped in front of it. Liz wrung her hands in her lap. She felt as if she should say something, but what could she say that hadn’t already been said?
That door was closed and it would continue to be closed. She was with Hayden and he was with Erin. She could practically hear the lock clicking into place and securing them on opposite sides. It made her heart constrict all over again.
“Thank you for picking me up,” she whispered.
She heard him sigh heavily and practically felt his annoyance at the whole situation. Or maybe just that the situation hadn’t gone as he had anticipated.
“I think this will be the last time,” he said solemnly.
She shifted her eyes to look at him. His were hard. They had lost all the warmth he had shown her at the condo. Not that they were particularly mean, but they were distant. At that point it basically equated to the same thing.
“I’m not doing this again. Next time he breaks your heart, I don’t want to hear about it. I don’t want you to call me. I don’t want you to think about me. I’m not part of your life. We might as well have never happened,” he said, turning to look at her finally.
She wasn’t going to cry. His words weren’t going to bring her to tears. No. She could control it. She could keep the pain away.
“I understand,” she whispered, her voice hoarse. A tear trickled down her cheek.
His hands reached up automatically and wiped it away with his thumb. “No tears for me, baby. Soon enough you’ll forget I ever existed . . . just like you wanted.”
Liz shook her head, wanting nothing more than to turn her cheek into his palm, to find the warmth and comfort in his touch that she so desperately craved. But instead she withdrew from him, pushed open the door, and walked out. She didn’t have a clever retort or a final word this time. Brady had made his point. Loud and clear.
Liz should have called Hayden straightaway. They had so much to talk about, but she couldn’t face him like this.
He might have been an ass, but her calling Brady and driving off with him had been worse. Kissing him and almost sleeping with him had been much worse. Hayden didn’t deserve that. She felt like a coward not facing him after what she had done, but it was the middle of the night, she had no idea where he had gone, and she just wanted to sleep off the depression that was crushing her heart.
Falling into the front seat of her car, she drove home in a blur. She didn’t really remember the drive, but she hadn’t gotten in an accident, so it didn’t matter. Lights were on in her house. Liz checked her watch. Half past midnight. She really thought it was later than that. It felt as if she had been out all night.
The last thing she wanted was to run into anyone looking like this. She just hoped that Hayden hadn’t come over here when she didn’t respond to him.
With a deep breath, she pushed the door open. Victoria was sitting on the couch in sweats and a low-cut T-shirt, eating popcorn, and watching reruns of some nineties television show. She jumped when she saw Liz walk through the door. She scrambled out of her seat and tossed the popcorn onto the coffee table.
“Where the f**k have you been? I’ve been calling you for hours!” Victoria shrieked.
“What?” she asked numbly.
“Hayden called me and he came by to try to talk to you, but obviously you weren’t here. He told me you guys got into an argument and thought I knew where you would be. What the f**k was I supposed to tell him?”
“That I wasn’t here?” Liz offered. What else was she supposed to say? “Sorry you had to deal with that.”
“Oh, Hayden, psh,” Victoria said, pushing her hands to the side. “I don’t care about him. I care about you, and the fact that I had to cover for your ass.”
“Cover for me?”
“Where the hell did you go after you guys had that fight if you weren’t with someone else?” Victoria demanded.
Liz blanched. No. No. No. No one could know about that. Brady was out of her life. Brady was gone. Whatever they’d had didn’t even exist anymore. She couldn’t tell anyone about it now.
“I was just driving around . . .”
“Bullshit! For over three hours?”
“What do you want me to say, Victoria? ‘Thank you for talking to Hayden for me because I’m not ready to’?”
Victoria shrugged and ran a hand back through her dark hair. “I don’t want you to say anything. I just don’t want to have to cover for you when you’re not even going to give me the juicy details of your sexcapade!”