I lift a brow at her in a silent question.

“I would just…be careful with Shep. He’s—”

“A total fucking asshat,” Zoe interrupts.

“Zoe! You made it!” Allie throws her arms around her friend’s neck and squeezes tight. “Thank you so much for coming.”

“Like I’d miss your wedding. Stop it.”

It’s crazy that I never met Zoe in college, her being Delia’s best friend, but we finally met when Robbie and Monty were doing their dance around one another and I mistook her for Robbie’s date. We’ve been friends since.

In fact, it was my idea that AJ and Caleb get together to coach a little league team. Zoe, Allie, and I have had plenty of opportunity to bond over the season, so I’m a little surprised this is the first time I’m hearing Zoe talk about Shep.

“Do you know Shep well?”

“Know him well?” Zoe groans. “Ugh. Don’t remind me of that mistake. He wined and dined me and then banged and dashed—his signature move.”

I know Shep wasn’t perfect in college. He had quite the reputation, but so did I. I never expected him to be celibate.

“Whatever, though. I didn’t expect anything different from the Shep Clark.” Zoe points to Delia. “But I did expect a lot more out of him than what he did to my best friend.”

My gaze snaps to her and she’s looking at me like she’s in pain.

I don’t know if it’s the memories or the fact that she’s wishing she didn’t have to tell me what I don’t know.

“Delia?” I say.

“It’s not pretty, Denny,” she warns.

“Tell me anyway.”

She and Zoe exchange a look.

“You didn’t tell her?” Delia asks her.

“I didn’t know I needed to.”

Delia sighs, her eyes falling back to me. “Are you sure? It’s probably going to change things for you two.”

The thudding in my chest picks up pace and pure panic begins to race through me.

I watch them, their faces filled with worry and dread and total fucking pity.

I hate pity.

“I feel like I’m missing something very important over here. What are we talking about?”

“I think we’re about to break your sister’s heart,” Zoe says to Monty.

“Oh. Maybe I shouldn’t be present then.”

She begins to turn away, but I clasp her hand, keeping her close because I feel like I’m going to need all the strength she can offer me.

Monty squeezes me back, letting me know she’s not going anywhere.

“Tell me. Please.”

“Okay.” Delia clears her throat. “I, uh, sent Zach a naked picture when we first started dating. The pervert was bugging me about sexting and I finally gave in by sending him a nude. It was this really cute, tasteful shot of just—”

“Can you focus on the story, D?” Zoe interrupts her.

“Oops. Sorry.” She shakes her head. “Anyway, we were at Zach’s parents for Thanksgiving and I was kind of giving him the third degree for being a dick to my bestie because of girl code.” Delia pauses and laughs. “Funny, considering Zoe ended up with my ex, breaking rule number one.”

“You snooze, you lose.” Zoe waves her off.

My ears begin to clog with the rhythmic thump thump thump of my overactive heart. Bile begins to rise in my throat, and suddenly I wish I hadn’t crammed so much cake in my gob because I’m certain it’s about to come back up.

“Anyway,” Delia continues, “Shep, uh, got ahold of the photo after borrowing Zach’s phone.”

“Oh god.” The words tumble from my lips and I have to slap my hand over my mouth so the puke doesn’t follow.

Delia winces. “I’m sorry, Denny.”

“Are you saying…” Allie trails off.

“Say it, Delia.” I squeeze Monty’s hand tighter, bracing myself for the words. “I need to hear you say it.”

“I don’t want to. Zoe, you do it.”

“No way. Shep is your demon, not mine.”

“Hesentthephototohisfriends,” Delia finally rushes out in one breath.

The thumping stops and fire replaces the beat as my breath catches in my throat.

I was wrong.

Shep hasn’t changed.

He’s still the same slug he’s always been, and I’ve fallen for his games once again.

“There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you.” Shep slides an arm around me. “What are you doing out here all by yourself?”

I’m standing in the gazebo where Allie and AJ exchanged their vows two hours ago.

I had to get out of there after Delia finally confessed what Shep did to her. My stomach was twisting and turning, and I couldn’t stand to be in that room of happy people for another minute.

Though every bone in my body is screaming at me not to because I love the way he feels against me, I step out of Shep’s hold, creating the distance this conversation necessitates between us.

He looks dejected and hurt, but so am I.

Only I deserve to feel that way because of his betrayal. He doesn’t.

Shep shoves his hands into his pockets, rocking back on his heels and staring at me with worry.

“Is, uh, is everything okay?” he asks quietly.

Turning away from him, I rest my arms on the banister of the gazebo and stare out into the sunset on the horizon. It’s like the sun is setting on our relationship or whatever the hell this is we’re doing.



He exhales heavily. “You talked to Delia.”

The ice in my voice must be a dead giveaway for him, and I think what hurts the most is that he was expecting this, that his mind automatically goes to that.

“Is that why you’ve been so cagey this week? Why you were weird when we ran into them at the restaurant? Why you won’t take me near your parents?”

He takes a moment to answer, and I can’t help but wonder if he’s trying to think up a lie.

“Yes,” he finally says. “That’s why.”

“How did I not know?”

“No one does, really. It was kept quiet because of my baseball career.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it’s embarrassing as fuck, Denny. I made one of the biggest goddamn mistakes of my life in a moment of simple jealousy and I can’t take it back.”

I spin to face him. “How could you do that to her?”

“I was stupid.”

“Beyond stupid, Shep. That’s a massive invasion of privacy.”

“I know that.”

“It’s disgusting and crude and so harsh it hurts to look at you right now.”

He winces like I’ve just punched him in the gut, and maybe I have with my words. He deserves every hit.

“If it makes you feel any better, I’ve lost nearly everything because of it.”

“It doesn’t. It would make me feel a whole lot better to know you aren’t the slug everyone has claimed you were over the years.” I shake my head in disgust. “I thought you were better than that, Shep.”

“I thought I was too.”

“Then why did you do it?”

“I told you—I was jealous.”

“Of what?”

He scrubs a hand over his face, and then does it again.

“Fuck!” he yells, and it echoes around us angrily. “Them, okay? I was so green over what they obviously had because it could have been us.”

His hands slide through his hair, destroying the perfectly tousled look he had going on, just leaving it messy.

“That could have been you and me.” He drops his head. “But I screwed that up, and Delia just sat there reminding me of all the girls I used to get you out of my head. The guilt crept in. Everything felt wrong and gross and I was just so fucking angry at her. I just sent it to a few guys on the team. We did that kind of shit all the time, passed photos around. It wasn’t supposed to be anything serious. She wasn’t supposed to know.”

“I wish I could be mad at you and your jackass friends for passing nudes around, but that would be hypocritical. I’ve done that myself. Usually, though, it’s unsolicited dick pics from guys I don’t know. You knew Delia. You knew her, and you still did that to her. That’s wrong on so many levels, Shep.”

“I know, but—”

I hold up my hand to stop him. “Furthermore, you cannot keep blaming your bad behavior on me and us and whatever we had. You fucked up. You did that, not anyone else.”

His shoulders sag in defeat.

He’s wrong, and he knows he’s wrong, but that doesn’t change anything, doesn’t change what he did.

“I can forgive you for making a stupid shitty mistake, for being a complete tool for a moment in your life. We all make mistakes and I’d hate for all of mine to be held against me forever, but Delia’s my friend, Shep, and you hurt her. Do you know how scared that makes me about wanting to take a chance on a future with you? What if I piss you off? What if something else makes you jealous? Will it be my picture you’re sending out to people?”

“No!” he shouts. “No. I’d never do that to you.” His teeth gnash together, jaw so coiled I can see the muscles jumping. He knows I’ve made a valid point. “That’s not who I am…not who I want to be.”


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