Only she couldn’t shake the intuition something was wrong. Had he changed his mind about them? Maybe those declarations he’d made in the limousine were simply made in the heat of the moment. In the light of day, it was possible Travis realized he’d jumped the gun and made a mistake.
Would he even show up today?
“Wait, hold on.” Georgie lowered the sun visor and flipped open the mirror, so she could tie her hair into an even ponytail. “You made an offer on a property in town, but they wouldn’t sell, because Stephen warned them not to?”
“I can’t even get an appointment!” Bethany floored it through the intersection. “You really don’t listen at all. If you weren’t my sister, I’d probably date you.”
“You took that one step too far,” Georgie murmured, securing the hair on top of her head. “So they admitted this to you? Seems like that kind of treatment is illegal.” Georgie smacked the visor back into place. “Maybe it’s a misunderstanding. Is Stephen coming today?”
Bethany snorted. “Do you think Kristin would miss a chance to give him a heart attack? She’s doing the Tough Mudder with us.”
“Shut up.” Georgie gave in to her first laugh of the day. “Well, maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll keel over. You can have all the houses after that.”
“Fingers crossed,” Bethany muttered, taking a turn off the avenue and bringing them onto an uneven road, trees hanging low on either side. “This is ominous.”
They bumped down the road for a few minutes, bright orange sign markers guiding their way, before finally reaching the clearing. Tents were set up, advertisements splashed across their canvas tops. Music boomed through loudspeakers. A starting line loomed in the distance. Nerves started to jangle in Georgie’s belly as they parked the car and headed for the check-in. She’d bought new running shoes for the occasion and spent the week breaking them in, and even though they were destined to be ruined with mud, she was grateful to have them upon seeing the other decked-out participants. People took this shit seriously.
Trying not to be obvious about it, Georgie turned in a circle while waiting in the check-in line, scanning the observation bleachers for Travis. Not there. She already knew he wasn’t there, because her senses weren’t tingling, the way they always did in his presence.
Don’t panic. He’ll be here.
“There’s Rosie,” Bethany said, nudging Georgie in the ribs. “Oh my God, she looks so cute. She should never wear any color but lavender.” She cupped her hands around her mouth. “Hey, queen!”
Rosie closed the passenger door of Dominic’s truck and waved. But she didn’t come join them right away. She lingered at the fender as Dominic, dressed in jeans and a fitted white shirt that showed off his heavily inked skin, sauntered around the front end of the truck . . . and whoa. Whoa. Animosity spiked in the air between husband and wife, but there was way more than just irritation there. Dominic looked Rosie top to bottom, sucking his bottom lip through his teeth. She tossed her hair a little, as if enduring the perusal, but even from a distance, Georgie could see the deepening glow of her brown skin.
Dominic stepped into his wife’s space and tipped her chin up with a jerk of his own, as if they had an invisible string connecting their movements. He leaned in for a kiss—but their lips didn’t quite connect, and both of their sides heaved once, twice, before Rosie pivoted and left Dominic standing alone. His fist pounded the hood of the truck.
“Jesus,” Bethany breathed. “I need to get laid after that.”
Georgie nodded. “Same. And I’m getting laid now regularly.”
“Braggart,” her sister scolded. “When am I getting sordid sex details, by the way?”
“I don’t know if that should be a thing.”
“Sorry, it’s a new club rule. All sexual exploits are to be discussed in great detail. Added it to the agenda this morning.”
“You’re out of control.”
Rosie reached them, the flush still painting her cheeks and neck. “Good morning.” She looked everywhere but their faces. “I need this today.”
“You need something,” Bethany muttered.
Georgie hip checked her sister. “Bethany.”
“What? I’m just supposed to pretend I didn’t witness them air fucking?”
“Ma’am,” prompted an exasperated voice to their right. “If you’re checking in, I need to see some identification.”
Red-faced, Bethany unzipped the pocket of her running pants and handed over her driver’s license. Rosie and Georgie followed suit, trying not to die of mortification in the process. When all three of them were checked in and had been handed their official paper badges, they scooted off to the side to wait for the rest of the Just Us League members to do the same.
“Sorry about before, Rosie,” Bethany said, using the safety pins to affix the number to the front of her shirt. “I have boundary issues.”
“No, don’t apologize.” Rosie shook her head. “I’ve known for a long time something is off with Dominic and me. Like really off. But seeing your reactions only confirms it.” She narrowed her gaze on something over Georgie’s shoulder. Georgie turned to find Dominic watching his wife from the edge of the crowd, a cigarette tucked between his fingers. The hunger in his expression was nothing short of ferocious. “If you want to know the truth . . .”
Bethany and Georgie waited.
“The truth is we don’t talk. We avoid each other. He’s angry. I’m getting angrier by the day. But the attraction . . . it’s a monster. Sometimes the buildup goes on for weeks until we finally give in. We’re just about there now.” Rosie let out a shaky puff of air. “Obviously.” With a shrug, she broke eye contact with her husband. “And then the vicious cycle starts again.”
“Hey.” Georgie squeezed Rosie’s hand. “You have a long history with Dominic and no one knows your relationship better than you. But we’re here if you want help. Or just to talk.”
“I know. Thank you.” Rosie jogged in place, the redness beginning to fade from her skin. “Without your help, I never would have launched my Kickstarter last night. Help fund Rosie’s Empanada Factory. I already passed the thousand-dollar mark this morning.” She was practically trembling with excitement. “If you hadn’t put my empanadas on a tray at the meeting, Georgie, I probably wouldn’t have had the balls.”
In disbelief, Georgie released a rush of breath, feeling Bethany’s hand rubbing circles onto her back. “Who needs balls when you have flaky dough filled with meat?”
“Indeed.” Rosie’s lips spread into a smile, more optimistic than Georgie had ever seen it. “Right now, I just want to kick ass and take names.”
Bethany threw back her head and whooped. “We got that covered!”
By mile two, they wanted to burrow beneath the mud and let the earth reclaim their bodies as compost.
“Oh my God,” Georgie wheezed, trotting over yet another mound. So many mounds. She hadn’t trained for mounds. “Whose idea was this?”
Bethany made a strangled sound. “It was a collective—”
“No. No, it was you.” Georgie splattered through a deep pit of mud. “You owe me new shoes and two hours of my life back.”
“It’s not so bad,” Rosie panted, threading through the sisters on a spurt of momentum, then immediately slowing down. “Okay, it’s that bad. But we’re going to hit our second wind soon. I read about it.”
They all screeched to a halt when a blond ball of light sped past them. “Hey, ladies. Sorry I’m late!” Kristin turned and jogged backward, somehow navigating the uneven terrain without looking. “Isn’t it a beautiful day? Strawberry tarts at the finish line!”
“I’m going to kill her,” Georgie growled. “Who’s with me?”
Both women raised their hands, then doubled over from the physical effort.
“That’s it. That’s our motivation for finishing the race.” Georgie took Bethany’s and Rosie’s arms and tugged them along. “We’re going to murder my sister-in-law. Just keep repeating it to yourself like a mantra.”
Somehow Bethany, Georgie, and Rosie made it through three miles of running. Ah, but then came the obstacle course. Several of the Just Us League members had caught up to them by that time. The desire to help each and every one of the women over the climbing wall and through the army crawl distracted Georgie from the pain of exertion. She’d expected a feeling of accomplishment. Satisfaction. But straddling her high school physics teacher and bodily dragging her through a mud pit while both of them laughed? It bonded them. Crossing the monkey bars, then jogging back to help Bethany prop up Rosie as she did the same? She wasn’t just part of a team, she was leading it.
Georgie wasn’t sure what made her turn and look at the row of spectators lining the makeshift fence. Maybe it was the sparkle at the back of her neck. But when she glanced over, Travis stood there in a ball cap, his beloved face softened with a smile. And it was too much. The explosion of camaraderie. Her boyfriend’s support. The love she’d been keeping locked up inside herself for so long. The glue holding her together started to evaporate.