Damn. What the fuck is wrong with me? It’s like I’m fifteen and unable to control my boners all over again.

“Anyway,” Allie says pointedly, interrupting our stare-down. “We’re here to talk about important dates and duties.”

She begins rattling off information, way more than I can process or care to process, and Denny takes it all in. She passes Steve to me, pulling her phone out and taking careful notes.

I order breakfast for Denny while AJ takes care of Allie, both of us way too afraid to interrupt them.

“So what gives, man?” my best friend asks quietly, the girls still absorbed by their discussion of flowers.

“What do you mean?”

The look he gives me says he doesn’t buy my shit.

“It’s just what Den said—she was tired after the gala last night and stayed over.”

“Sure, understandable, but care to tell me why she was at the charity event with you in the first place? Last I heard you were taking Penny.”

“Shh!” I whisper angrily, peering over at Denny and Allie to make sure neither of them heard that.

They aren’t paying us a lick of attention.

“Keep that shit on the DL,” I tell my friend.

He jerks his head back. “She doesn’t know about that?”

“No, and I want to keep it that way.”

“What are you up to, Shepard?”

“A bunch of none of your goddamn business.”

My eyes drift back over to Denver, loving how animated and into the conversation she is. She’s genuinely happy for her best friend, and I love that about her.

She once told me about her goals for life. She’d meet the one in college, they’d fall madly in love with just the right amount of angst in their relationship, and then when college was over, they’d get hitched, spending the rest of their days happy as fucking clams.

Or some shit like that.

I know she wanted that to be us.

I sure as shit screwed that one up.

“Just be careful, man,” AJ says. “Last time you two were together it didn’t end well. She wrecked you.”

My eyes still focused on Denny, I tell him, “No, AJ, I wrecked us, and I’m not going to make that same mistake again.”

Fourteen

Denver

“I need you to not freak out when I tell you what I’m about to tell you.”

“Well, that’s super reassuring.” Monty tosses her long hair over her shoulder. “Okay, I’m ready.”

She sits across from me at the breakfast bar, another Wednesday already here, another stack of pancakes to be had.

I flip the one sitting in the pan, avoiding her curious stare.

“Wait!” She holds her hand up. “You’re not pregnant, are you?”

“What? No! Babies are gross!” I shiver in disgust. “I’m way too diligent about that shit to get knocked up.”

“Good.” She sits back, looking relieved. “That’s good. So, what’s up then?”

I take a deep breath, ready to unleash years and years of secrets on my sister.

Luckily for me, I know she’s way too nice to try to maim me for keeping my mouth zipped tight. Plus, she knows the kind of house we grew up in, knows why I needed to keep this secret.

At least I hope she knows.

“Okay, so, remember in high school how I told you I had this…pen pal?”

“I remember,” she says.

“Well, remember when we started texting on my secret phone because I said buying stamps was getting too expensive?”

“Yes…though now I realize that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

“No, it doesn’t, especially considering those damn phone cards cost a whole hell of a lot more than a fucking stamp.”

She laughs. “Very true.”

I note the way she doesn’t flinch when I use profanity, a huge step up from the Monty of last year.

I guess that’s what happens when your prim and proper twin sister snags herself a tattooed bad boy…who also happens to be one hell of a sexy single dad.

If only I’d seen him first…

I move the finished pancake to a plate then slide it over to Monty.

“What about that though?”

“Well…” I drag out, pouring more batter into the skillet. “I was texting with a guy.”

She lifts a cardigan-clad shoulder. She might be dating a bad boy, but the girl still dresses like she’s a kindergarten teacher. “I kind of figured that much.”

“He’s…” I lick my suddenly dry lips and decide to just rip the band-aid off. “Fuck it. He’s kind of the reason I moved across the country.”

A crease forms between her brows. “I thought you moved to go to school with Allie.”

“I mean, technically I did, but it was also because of him. He’s best friends with AJ.”

Her mouth drops open. “Oh. I wasn’t expecting that.”

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t expecting him.” I shake my head. “Anyway, I came out here to be with him. I—”

She holds her hand up again and I pause.

She swallows the food in her mouth. “Sorry. I had a question.”

“Go on.”

“When you say be with him, you mean…”

I sigh. “I was in love with him, Monty.”

Her fork clatters to the plate and I glance over at her. She’s shocked.

“But you didn’t even know him!”

“Says the girl who met her boyfriend in a bar bathroom then proceeded to text him for weeks and weeks before falling in love with him.”

Her shoulders sag in defeat.

“I didn’t know him?” I challenge.

She shakes her head. “No, no, you’re right.” She stabs another piece of pancake and lifts her fork to her mouth. “Keep going.”

I flip the pancake and continue. “Like I said, I was in love with him, like move across the goddamn country and leave my life behind kind of love. I was delusional.”

“You were young.”

“I was stupid,” I argue. “I was so stupid because it turned out he didn’t love me like I thought he did.”

“What does that mean?”

The night of Shep’s betrayal runs through my mind, but I refuse to relive that torment in story form with Monty.

The memories are bad enough.

“It’s not important. We’ll just say it didn’t work out.”

“But you’ll tell me eventually, right?”

“Maybe when you’re older,” I tease. It’s something I’ve always told her and something that’s always annoyed her, because I’m only five minutes older than she is.

“Brat.”

I point the spatula her way. “First, I cannot believe you just called me a brat. Second, now I’m really not telling you.”

She rolls her eyes and I laugh. I’ve always loved the sassy side of my sister.

“Anyway, things didn’t work out, so we went our separate ways, but I still had to see him all the time considering we attended the same college. Luckily Allie was kind enough to not try to force me to attend group dates with him, but that didn’t stop him from whoring around campus.” I grit my teeth together at the thought of seeing Shep with anyone other than me.

Not that I haven’t seen it plenty of times—I have—but it doesn’t make it hurt any less, even now.

“What does that have to do with now?”

“Well, he’s kind of…back in my life.”

“Because of the wedding, right? That should be over soon because your friends are loony enough to spring a wedding on everyone that’s less than two months away.”

“Breathe before you get yourself all worked up,” I tell her, finding it very amusing how the thought of someone else rushing their big day makes her stressed out.

Only Monty.

“He’s back because of the wedding, but there’s more. I…well, I’m kind of whoring myself out for my career.”

Her green eyes grow three times in size. “You mean you’re sleeping with him for a job?”

“What? No! I’m sleeping with him because he’s hot. The job part is just a bonus.” The words I just spoke hit me and I quickly backtrack. “Wait—no! I’m not sleeping with him.”

“You’re not?”

“No!” I nearly shout. “We made out last Friday and I stayed the night at his house—in a separate bedroom, though—but that’s it. No other funny business. The only action I got was from Steve.”

“And Steve is?”

“His pug.”

She pushes herself off the barstool, slamming her hand down on the countertop. “He has a pug?! You go marry that man right now, Denver!”

Laughing, I busy myself with flipping my pancake onto my own plate and slathering some butter on the sweet deliciousness. Forgoing the syrup, I rip off a piece and stuff it in my mouth.

“I can’t marry him. I haven’t slept with him yet—what if he sucks in bed?”

She blushes. “You want to though.”

“Huh?” I glance up to my sister, my mouth full of food, though that doesn’t stop it from hanging open at her words.

“You want to,” she repeats. “Sleep with him, I mean. Even after he hurt you, you still love him.”

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