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She sat in her car but didn’t turn it on.

She put her head down on her steering wheel. And, oops, she honked the horn with her nose. She sat up with a jerk and waved an apology to the dog in the car facing hers. It still barked at her.

Maybe driving to the desert in the middle of the night in July wasn’t the best idea she’d ever had, but the alternative was to actually think about this, and how she didn’t know how to do this, and what if his email had meant he was apologizing for saying he loved her because he hadn’t actually meant it, and how she didn’t know what she would do if she never saw him again, and the desert sounded better than all of that.

The Vons parking lot was no place to figure this out. Maybe . . . maybe Carlos would be waiting on her doorstep this time. Yes, she would go home, and he’d be waiting for her there. She would leap into his arms and say she loved him and that she was sorry for everything, and he would say he’d never stopped loving her, and they’d go upstairs and have lots of sex, and everything would be perfect.

She started her car and raced home, convinced more and more every moment that that was what was going to happen. It made perfect sense. He had sent that email so she would be ready to leap into his arms when he showed up! Which she would!

She pulled into the parking lot behind her building and walked around to the front with her groceries, ready to pretend to be surprised as soon as she saw him.

But no one was there.

Fuck.

Did this mean she was going to have to figure out how to fix this herself?

She walked into her apartment and put her entire grocery bag in her refrigerator, too tired and confused to unload it.

She pulled out her phone to text Courtney and Dana. But what was she going to say to them? “I just realized I’m in love with Carlos and don’t know what to do”? She already knew what they would tell her to do.

TELL HIM—that’s what they would say. Courtney would use all caps; Dana wouldn’t but would use exclamation points, but the message would remain the same.

But didn’t they know how hard it would be to tell him something like that?

Yeah, they’d been her friends for fifteen years. She was pretty sure they knew. But they would tell her to do it anyway. The assholes.

When she realized that she was cursing at her friends because of their imaginary conversation with her, she knew she’d gone fully around the bend. Okay, tonight she was going to make no impulsive decisions, neither driving to the desert nor texting anyone would happen. She turned off her phone and went straight to bed. Maybe in the morning she would be over this love nonsense.

She woke up the next morning after ten full hours of sleep and stumbled to the kitchen to make coffee. She opened the refrigerator to get milk and did a double take at the full grocery bag stuffed onto the middle shelf of her refrigerator.

“Why the fuck did I do that? Was I drunk last night?”

Oh. It all came back to her now. Way worse than drunk.

The coffee pot beeped at her, and she poured herself a cup and drank about half of it like a very hot tequila shot.

She sat down and stared into her coffee mug for five full minutes. Then she took out her phone to text her friends.

I realized I’m in love with Carlos and I don’t know what to do.

She sat there, staring at her phone, waiting for their responses.

OMG. This is so exciting! I knew it! You’ve got to tell him!

That was Dana, of course. Wait a minute, what did she mean, she knew it?

FINALLY. But why are you telling us, tell HIM.

“Finally” was not the response she had expected to get.

Why are you guys acting like this is old news? I just realized it last night and I almost had a breakdown in the Vons parking lot!

She poured another mug full of coffee. What had she been thinking last night, granola? All she wanted right now was a doughnut.

Oh, honey, we’ve known this for weeks, but it doesn’t matter that you’re late to the party. All that matters is that you got here at all. Right, Dana?

Right! Go get him!

She hated them so much.

“Go get him!” they said. Like that was easy. Like she knew how to do something like that. Like she wasn’t terrified to do it.

She finished her cup of coffee and poured another one. Then she picked up her phone and scrolled back through her call log until she found the number. She took a deep breath.

“Hi, Angela? Hi, this is Nik. We, um. We met at the Dodgers game, and . . . yeah, that Nik. I need a favor.”

Chapter Twenty-three

. . . . . . .

Carlos didn’t think he’d ever get Angela to leave Jessie’s side. They’d been there for the past four hours, and the way Angie looked at Eva, it seemed like they’d be there for another four hours, minimum. The original plan had been for Angie to go today and for him to go tomorrow, but Angie had called him that morning and said Jessie wanted to see them both today, since her mom was coming over tomorrow. He didn’t quite understand the logic there, but he chalked it up to hormones and went along with it.

Plus, it wasn’t like he had anything better to do.

“Hey, man,” he said to Jon when Jessie and Angie were giggling about something in the corner, Eva sound asleep on Jon’s chest. “I’m sorry we’ve been here for so long. I’m sure you two wanted to be alone with your baby more in these first few weeks.”

Jon laughed.

“Thanks, but I’ve known my wife’s family long enough to know that there isn’t going to be a day in the next month, minimum, when we’ll be alone with our baby. And you know what, that’s fine with me. These past few months have been so stressful, and now we have this tiny baby who we are responsible for, and I’m grateful for every bit of help from everyone in your family, because I sure as hell don’t know what I’m doing.” He looked down at his daughter on his chest and then back up at Carlos. “I’m glad she has you guys. Come over anytime.”

Carlos patted him on the shoulder, realizing just in time to do it softly enough so he wouldn’t wake the baby.

“We’re going to be over so often that you’re going to get sick of us. I already adore my new little cousin.”

Jon stroked Eva’s mass of dark hair.

“Anytime you want to come entertain her late at night so we can sleep, just let us know.”

Angela stood up and interrupted their laughter.

“Hey, Carlos, you ready to go? We should probably give Jessie and Jon some time alone with their baby.”

He stood up too.

“I was just saying that to Jon.” He rubbed Eva’s little head as a good-bye and hugged Jessie.

“I thought you were trying to get us to move in,” he said to Angie once they’d gotten in the car.

“Oh.” She looked out the passenger window. “I just thought Jessie needed some company, that’s all.” She turned to look at him. “Was that all right? You didn’t have plans tonight, did you?”

On a Saturday night? Of course he didn’t have plans. The person that he’d had plans with for most of the Saturday nights this summer clearly never wanted to see him again. She hadn’t even replied to his email.

Sure, he’d said she didn’t have to, but he’d still really wanted her to reply.

“No,” was all he said. He didn’t want to sound too bitter. “I was happy to stay there as long as they needed us.”

Angie let out a relieved sigh.

“Oh good, that’s okay then.”

He dropped her off at her apartment, then drove the short distance to his house. His only plan on this Saturday night was to watch the Dodgers game from the couch. Whatever snack he ate along with it would have to be low in cholesterol, after what his doctor had said on Friday, but he could handle that.

He unlocked his front door and stepped inside.

What the hell?

There were blue and white streamers, Dodger pennants, and boxes of Cracker Jack everywhere. And standing directly across from him, wearing a blue and white baseball T-shirt and jeans, was Nik.

“Hi,” she said.

“Nik.” My God, it was so good to see her. He wanted to cross the room in one leap and embrace her. He wanted to tell her how much he’d missed her. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, still. Wait, no, that’s what started all the problems in the first place. He dropped his keys on the table by the door and didn’t move. “Hi.”

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