“I just wanted to talk.”

Andrea paused and sighed. “It sounds like you’re at a bar.”

“What else do I have to do?”

She didn’t respond.

“What do you want, Clay?”

“I want answers, Andrea.”

She scoffed. “You have answers.”

“We haven’t spoken in weeks.”

“And we shouldn’t be talking right now.”

“You busy? Are you somewhere important?” Clay pressed his phone harder against his ear and moved deeper into the hallway, away from the noise.

She was so quiet. She clearly did not want to be having this conversation.

“As a matter of fact, I am.”

Clay knew just what that meant. “What’s his name?” he drawled lazily.

“Clay, don’t.”

“You have a game for me tonight? Is that why you answered?”


“Any real competition?” he asked. He could practically see her squirming on the other end of the phone.

“That’s not why I answered, and it’d better not be why you called.”

No, it wasn’t. He’d called because he missed her. Because fucking everything that walked did nothing for him. “I want you back, Andrea.”

“No, you don’t,” she said firmly. “You keep saying I. I want this. I want that. Well, I don’t care what you want. What about what I want?”

“Fuck, Andrea, what do you want?” he asked, running a hand back through his disheveled hair.

“It doesn’t matter because you can’t give it to me.”

Clay cringed, glad that she couldn’t see him. He hadn’t had enough alcohol for this. “How do you know I can’t give it to you if you don’t tell me what it is?”

Andrea laughed. “I told you already, Clay, and you made your choice perfectly clear. So, I’m going to go now.”

“Andrea,” he said, keeping her from hanging up on him in anger.


“Why’d you really pick up?”

“I guess I’m just a masochist,” she murmured into the phone.

“You’ve always been one of those, but that’s not it.” He could sense there was something else.

“Fine. It’s late, and I still worry about you.” She sighed, as if the admission hurt her. “So, don’t call me again unless you’re really in trouble.”

The line went dead in his hands, and he felt like chucking his phone across the room.

Well, that hadn’t gone as he’d planned. He was pissed and frustrated and didn’t know what the fuck to do. Sleeping around hadn’t helped. Drowning in booze hadn’t helped. Talking to her definitely hadn’t helped.

Maybe it was time to just let the bullshit go.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Gigi asked him.

She held a crisp white envelope in her hand. The Cooper & Nielson logo was embossed on the front. A gold foil sticker had been placed over the flap with a raised C&N. The party invitation was sleek and powerful and the absolute only way to get into the exclusive annual event.

“I’m sure.”

“I thought that, when you called me to pick you up the night you talked to Andrea on the phone, you were a real idiot, but this…” She plucked the other invitation from his hand and held the pair aloft. “This is mental.”

“It’s my chance.”

“You broke up two months ago, Clay,” Gigi said softly. “I hate to say it, but the likelihood of her, one, being excited that you’re randomly showing up to see her, and two, accepting your invitation to a gala event are pretty slim.”

Clay shrugged unperturbed. “Big gestures run in the family.”

“Oh, so, now, you want to be associated with your family?”

“What do you want me to do, Gigi? Do you think I should just let her go? Wash fifteen years down the drain?” he asked.

“I didn’t say that, idiot. I just want to make sure you know what you’re walking into.”

“Well, thanks for your kindness, De Rosa, but I have a feeling that I’m just going to have to be an idiot either way with her.”

“Not sure you know how to be anything else.”

“Now that, that’s settled,” he said with a grin.

He should have been wallowing after that conversation with Andrea. It should have turned him on his head and made him dive headfirst into a drunken pit. That was how he had always reacted to bad situations in the past. He was practically an alcoholic with his drinking tendencies. He never went anywhere without a drink in hand.

But something had clicked when he talked to Andrea.

She’d admitted that she worried about him.

And, if she worried about him, that meant she thought about him.

And, if she thought about him, that meant there was hope.

And, if there was hope, then the shit he’d been pulling the last couple of weeks needed to stop.

When he’d asked Gigi for her help, she’d looked at him in wide-eyed wonder. He was pretty sure she legitimately thought he was insane. But who else could I ask?

She was the closest thing he’d come to know as a friend in a really long time. Liz was on Andrea’s side at this point. Brady was too busy with work, not that Clay really wanted to ask for his help. And the guys were against him ever seriously dating again.

So, Clay had decided to take matters into his own hands.

He’d cut back his drinking habits. Stopped fucking around. No more revolving door of women.

And it’d been easy. Well, easy enough at least.

“Do you want me to go with you?” she asked. She looked nervous for him. “I could drive you.”

“I appreciate it, but no. I need to do this alone.”

She shook her head and straightened the bow tie of his suit. “Well, at least you look hot.”

“That’s a constant.”

Gigi smacked his sleeve. “Just go get your girl.”

Clay retrieved the gala invites from Gigi, and she shot him one last anxious look.

“Let me know how it goes.”

He shot her a dimpled grin. “Will do.”

Then, he left the office, took his Porsche uptown, and parked in front of a small modern-looking building. He knew he was in the right place by the other cars he followed into the lot. High-end clients were here to purchase expensive artwork. The pulse of the most privileged and influential in D.C. were in one building. But he wasn’t here for them.