Clay laughed. “Andrea, it’s fine. It’s just one piece of artwork.”

“It’s not just one piece of artwork! I’ve been working on the arrangement for weeks. Everything was in order. Now, this.”

“We can move it. It’s all right,” he reassured her.

She sighed. “Fine. Let’s figure out where it belongs before I have a fit and start throwing things.”

Her heels clicked against the hardwood floor as she raced across the room. He was right behind her with his hands behind his back and a huge grin on his face. She yanked on the sheet, and as it fell away, she gasped even louder than before. Her hands flew to her mouth, and she seemed to be stuck in place.

“Clay…” she murmured.


“You couldn’t have,” she said, staring up at the painting of the woman looking out the rain-splattered window with tears running down her face. The very painting Andrea had been obsessed with for so long and had sold for over half a million dollars—his entire year’s salary.

“Oh, but I could.”

Tears welled in her eyes as they turned to face him. “How?”

“Does it matter how? Just know that I got it back for you.”

“It absolutely matters how. I mean…this painting…this…” She couldn’t seem to speak. “It was highly sought after. I know who I sold it to. I know what he was willing to spend to get it. He never would have sold it back to you.”

He grinned. “Well, that’s obviously not true, is it?”

“How?” she repeated.

So, Clay launched into the story. “It took a hell of a lot of backroom dealings to even freaking figure out who you’d sold it to. I didn’t want to invade your privacy, so I didn’t go through your things. But I eventually found out who you’d sold it to and confronted the couple who had purchased it. They point-blank refused to sell it back to me, no matter my sob story.”

Andrea chuckled. “I bet they did.”

He took a deep breath. This was the part he wasn’t fond of. “So…I went to Asher.”

“You did what?” she stammered.

“Well, he seemed to know the art industry, like you do here. I had to use all my resources. Let me tell you…he wasn’t exactly happy to see me.”

“After what happened at Brady’s wedding, I’d think not.”

“But he ended up helping me.”

“Why the hell would he do that?” she demanded.

Clay scratched his head and looked at his feet. “You, Andrea. He hates me, but he still cares for you enough to help me keep you happy.”

“Oh, Clay, you didn’t have to do that,” she whispered.

“Course I did. Anyway, we tracked down an art dealer who was selling another painting that the couple wanted even more than this one. I put the bid in on it and then went back to the couple and offered a trade.”

“They didn’t…”

“They didn’t want to. They offered to buy the piece from me. I told them what they told me…it wasn’t for sale. I think I ended up charming them though because here’s the painting I wanted, and they have the one they wanted on their fireplace mantel.”

Andrea leveled him with a look that he couldn’t read at first. It was part, You’re an idiot, and part, I’m going to fuck you on the spot. He was pretty okay with that.

“Well, do you like it?”

She shook her head. “I love it. I cannot believe you right now.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist and brought his lips down on hers, slowly and gently. “You make me crazy, Andrea. All I want is for you to be happy. I would do anything to make you happy.”

“Can’t you see?” she whispered, tears brimming her eyes again. “You make me happy. It’s always been you that makes me happy.”

“Now, don’t mess up your makeup,” he joked, clearing his throat. A lump was growing there, the more choked up she got. “You still have a gallery to open.”

“Thank you. For this. For everything.”

“Thank you for giving us a second chance. I never knew that this was what I wanted all along. But I’m never going to forget it now.”

She kissed him then, ceaselessly, drowning out the rest of his words. They stayed like that—flat-out making out—until someone cleared their throat behind them. Apparently, the staff was here and ready to prepare the gallery to be opened.

When the gallery officially opened an hour later, Clay was at Andrea’s side for the entire thing. He greeted her customers and directed people to the various displays, and overall, he enjoyed her success.

The last art gallery she’d had…was horrible for him. One of his lowest points during their breakup. Now, he was here with her, watching her brilliance close up.

At one point, Asher turned up. He looked anxious about being there, but Clay stuck out his hand. Asher had helped him when he needed it. As long as Asher stayed far away from his girlfriend, then he could move past what had happened. Clay had won after all.

More people he knew filed in. All of their friends and family, who had recently been at their housewarming party. His boss, Ted Cooper, showed up with his wife. And then, just as it was thinning out and it was about time for Andrea to return to the crowd to mingle and wheel and deal…his parents appeared, as if out of thin air.

Andrea smiled brightly. “Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell,” she said formally, “I had no idea you’d be in attendance this evening.”

Clay’s mother went straight up to Andrea and pulled her into a hug. “Andrea, call me Marilyn. We’ve known you since you were a kid.”

Andrea laughed softly. “Of course, Marilyn. You know how I am. It’s so good to see you. Are you here for anything in particular?”

“Just to see my son and his very successful girlfriend,” Marilyn said with a smile. “Isn’t that right, Jeff?” She nudged Clay’s father.

“That’s right,” he said. “Congratulations, darling.” He gave Andrea a peck on the cheek and a big politician’s smile. “We’re both proud of you.”

His father reached out his hand, and Clay shook it. He was slightly flabbergasted that his father was here. He knew that they were on the invite list for the opening, but they hadn’t said whether or not they would be coming. His parents spent most of the summer in Chapel Hill and away from D.C. if they could at all help it.