Sarah let out a breath then smiled. “Oh good. I thought maybe this little speech was leading up to you pulling out of being my maid of honor because you don’t want to be around him, but that’s almost a year away.” She smiled big. “By then, who knows? You might even have a boyfriend, be engaged, or even married to someone else yourself.”

Or maybe he would, and Valerie would be forced to be around his new girl. Her only consolation was that the man was clearly incapable of committing and it was nearly a year away. Anything could happen by then. As Sarah said, it wasn’t implausible that Valerie might be happily married even—the very thought nearly had her rolling her eyes.

Sarah and Isabel succeeded in getting Valerie to eat, though she didn’t eat half the pizza as she was normally able to do. Still, she’d had two slices.

Now Valerie stood in her kitchen, staring at her latest text from Alex. She’d been ready to delete it without reading it as she had all the rest, but she caught the preview of it and panicked, so she clicked on it.

I’m coming to see you since you won’t answer any of my calls or respond to my texts. If you’ve read any of my texts, you know the craziness I’ve been dealing with. If you haven’t, then I’ll tell you about it when I come over. But we are going to talk, Valerie. I WILL NOT let things end this way.

Valerie rolled her eyes. She was so sick of hearing his excuses for being too busy for her. Angel was just as busy, and he managed to be around Sarah all the time. Obviously, he’d found time to spend with the slutty so-called tutor in her f**k-me shorts. Alex would never change, and she resented that he thought he could call the shots about how, when, and where she was supposed to just agree to listen to all his garbage excuses.

Whatever it was he’d been so crazy busy with, she’d never know because she’d never ask. She’d already made Sarah promise there’d be no talk of him ever. Valerie didn’t know anything about his life anymore. She was officially divorcing herself from his life. Another thing she’d made Sarah promise was to not tell Alex how broken up she was about this. Valerie had been pathetic in his eyes long enough.

Sarah said he’d never ask her. He was too proud. If it hadn’t been for Isabel, she wouldn’t have even known about what happened between them. Sarah told Valerie that when she’d asked Alex if he’d heard or talked to Valerie lately, he’d barely acknowledged her question with a shrug and left the room quickly. Still, Valerie made her promise that if he ever did ask she’d tell him professionally Valerie was on cloud nine and socially she seemed content. Sarah didn’t have to give him details, just make it sound as though she’d moved on and couldn’t be happier.

So far, Valerie had promised everyone that worried about her, but most importantly she promised her battered heart, that this time he wouldn’t weasel his way back in her life. Seeing him could be disastrous. Of that she was certain. But taking one last call from him she could manage. If she did, it would be for one reason only: to make sure she made herself crystal clear that this was the end of the road for her. She needed out of this relationship before she needed to seek real therapy. She’d been depressed about Alex in the past, but this by far had been the absolute worst. As impossibly in love as she was with him, she needed him out of her life.

Just thinking about it had her choking up, and she knew when she actually did it—cut him off for good—she’d be a mess afterward. But as her dad had said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” She’d for sure be stronger for having fallen so addictively hard for Alex Moreno and then actually being able to just walk away.

She laughed suddenly—bitterly—reigniting the thought that she may, in fact, already be in need of some real therapy. She smiled, remembering what else her dad had said about what didn’t kill her just before he left the other day.

“Another thing about what doesn’t kill you,” he said as he stopped at the door and looked back at her. “It sure as f**k better outrun me.”

Even then when the pain of her meltdown was even rawer than it was now, Valerie had laughed. Talking to Alex again wouldn’t be easy. She knew exactly what she’d say and exactly what he’d be thinking. She didn’t have to tell him Elijah had since relocated to another county. That would ease his mind and why would she do that? Besides, if he did automatically jump to the conclusion that she was seeing someone from her office, he wouldn’t be too far off. There was new manager in her office, one equally as successful and good-looking as Elijah. She could now use him as her new mental consolation because she’d already caught the dapper new manager eyeing her in that same way Elijah had that made Alex’s jaw go taut.

With a deep breath, she gathered her strength. She could do this. She had to. There was no other option anymore.

Chapter 11


Without exaggeration, Alex could say this was the worst week of his life. It didn’t appear to be getting any better any time soon either. The construction on the restaurant had just gotten started, and already they were having issues, issues his dad had given him the go-ahead to make decisions on. Big expensive decisions. Most of the designs for the new floor had yet to be discussed. His dad hadn’t picked out flooring, tiles, colors, or window dressings.


It was all in Alex’s hands, and he and Joe, the guy managing the huge job, were now on each other’s speed dials.

Alex had been on the phone with Joe longer than all the calls and texts he’d made to Valerie put together. On top of that, Alex was now on crutches again. He had torn a ligament in his ankle. The doctor had warned him he needed to stay off his foot, but staying off it meant staying in bed, and with his schedule being what it was, that was impossible. So the pain had only gotten worse all week instead of getting any better.