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“But just know this,” she says softly. “I did it because I was being loyal to myself.”

Vale then scurries out of the bathroom, and in a flash, she’s gone.

I let out a pent-up breath of frustration and push off the counter.

I was being loyal to myself.

Now what the fuck did that mean?

Just a mere moment ago, I was tired of the conversation and didn’t want to know a damn thing anymore. But she can’t just leave that little tidbit there unresolved and think I’m not going to demand an explanation. I stride with purpose out of the bathroom, down the hall, and take the stairs two at a time. I head straight out to the back deck, instinctively knowing Vale is in flight mode and will be in the process of collecting her father and boyfriend for a hasty escape.

I spot her quickly, leaning up on tiptoe to whisper something into Todd’s ear. He looks irritated, glances around, and then nods curtly at her. She takes him by the hand and starts leading him toward her father.

I push through the crowd, and in four well-placed steps, I’m in front of her. She looks up at me with surprise and drops Todd’s hand.

“You’re going to have to explain that one to me, Vale,” I tell her, referring to her parting shot.

Her face becomes panicked and she glances up at Todd. I don’t bother doing the same, instead keeping my gaze pinned on my quarry. She turns back to me and says, “Not now, Hawke.”

“Yes, now,” I say, widening my stance and crossing my arms over my chest. “What did you mean you were being loyal to yourself?”

“Hawke,” Vale whispers pleadingly. “We can talk about it later.”

“Fuck that,” I say with quiet menace as I lean forward. Keeping my voice low so only she and Todd can hear me—because I don’t intend to embarrass Vale in front of my guests—I tell her, “You can talk about it now because seven years is fucking long enough. We can go back up to my room if you want privacy, but it’s time you came clean with me.”

“Vale,” Todd says as he takes a step closer to her. “What’s going on?”

Vale cuts Todd a sharp look. “I’ll explain later.”

She then turns to look at me and in a pleading voice, she says, “Hawke…please, let’s talk about this later.”

A low burning in my gut wants me to push her, but the tone of her voice gives me some pause. I have a houseful of guests and I truly don’t want my business aired in front of them.

So I reluctantly give her a curt nod of acceptance.

But then, I can’t help myself. I need to lash out, just a bit, so I add, “You might as well tell Todd the entire truth since you’re going to be explaining things to him. Make sure he knows exactly how close we were all those years ago.”

I turn away from them both, but not before I see Vale’s shoulders sag in defeat.

Chapter 10


The ride home from Hawke’s party is tense and silent. Todd sits beside me as I drive, slouched down and sullen. He caught Hawke’s inference loud and clear, and I imagine he’s all kinds of confused.

Join the club.

My dad has no clue what’s going on, but he knew by my sudden demand we leave and the silence that lays heavy between Todd and me that something’s wrong. I suppose I’ll have to fill him in later after Todd and I talk.

I could strangle Hawke for outing us to Todd. While my feelings may be jumbled, and plain bat-shit crazy, the last thing in this world I want is to hurt Todd. He doesn’t deserve it, not with the way he’s already been feeling about our relationship.

As I pull into the parking lot of my apartment complex, my heart starts racing from the anticipation of confrontation. I hate it, always have. I have no clue what to even say to Todd, and even less of a clue as to what I really want, but I suppose it’s time for me to put my feelings under a microscope and figure out what the hell is going on with me. I need to either commit to Todd or cut him loose…which, apparently, is what Hawke thinks I’m destined to do.

He called me disloyal. Not in the sense of cheating, but he’s saying I’m disloyal to love and trust.

He called me disloyal and he’s absolutely right, but he’s also a hypocrite. While I may have bailed with uncertainty over the strength of what we had all those years ago, he’s the one that slammed the door on us permanently. Maybe he feels justified. Maybe he thought to give me a taste of my own medicine, so I would never forget my lesson on the consequences of impetuosity.

I pull into a spot close to our outside stairwell, and my dad is already opening the door before I can turn the car off.

“I’m really tired,” he says before stepping out. “I’m going to hit the bed. I’ll see you kids in the morning.”

“ ’Night, Dad,” I murmur as I cut the engine. He closes the door and the overhead lamp fades, throwing the car into semidarkness because the security light on the stairwell is broken.

My mind spins with how to begin with Todd, but I’m lost without a compass. It’s ironic. When I think about how I broke things off with Hawke, I was just so sure of myself. Unforeseen circumstances threw me for a loop, but I came to a rapid decision to alter the course of my life. To my way of thinking—which, granted, was muddied with grief and terror—there truly was no option other than to part ways with Hawke.

Things aren’t so easy where Todd’s concerned, and the only thing muddying up my current relationship is one bitter ex-boyfriend who doesn’t seem to want to share any responsibility for the demise of what we had.

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