Not so much.
She’d been saving the little black dress for a special occasion. The one-week anniversary of the world’s most traumatic breakup seemed special enough, right? Granted, no one besides the Just Us League ladies would see her wearing it, but the fitted silk material made her feel better. For, like, a full five seconds. Her longest streak yet!
Oh God. She shut down the camera app she’d been using as a mirror and dropped the cell into her lap. Through the windshield, she watched Bethany and Rosie flit back and forth in front of the living room window, preparing the house for the meeting. Georgie should have been in there helping them, but her sister and Rosie would take one look at her gaunt cheeks and sunken eyes and know she’d been a sobbing insomniac, despite her reassuring texts to the contrary. Plus, it would take so much energy to get out of the car and walk all the way to the front door. She’d have to fill chip bowls and uncork wine . . .
Georgie dropped her head back against the seat and groaned.
It was unbelievable how much she missed Travis even after everything. By sheer force of will, she’d gotten out of bed every morning, returned client phone calls, and booked an exciting number of parties, for both herself and the new entertainers. She might have sunk to the lowest pit of despair, but the new, improved Georgie wouldn’t wallow there. People were counting on her. And yeah, pride was a huge motivator, too. She’d stood in front of these women and defended Travis, but that zeal had been misplaced—a mistake she would walk in and own. If she didn’t own it now, she’d hide forever.
The temptation to do exactly that was so strong, though. God. What an absolute fool she’d been. She’d been blind, no idea that her secrets weren’t secrets. That the person who’d been encouraging her didn’t think she was smart enough to know her own heart.
How could he hold her in his arms so tightly through the night, knowing her feelings far exceeded his own? How dare he. How dare he give her some illusion he never intended to keep up.
Despite all of this, she needed him. Half of her soul felt torn away.
For what seemed like the millionth time, she closed her eyes tight and remembered the kisses, the hugs, the laughing, playing baseball in the rain. The way she’d felt about Travis had been right there all along, plain as day. Georgie might have tried to play it cool, but it was an inherent part of her. Every moment of their time together, she’d been expressing that love. Dropping off leftovers, encouraging him, throwing food at his head. Her heart had created an extra chamber for loving Travis Ford. The fact that he’d borne witness to it and continued to doubt made those feelings seem invalid.
Georgie’s body moved with an awful lethargy as she climbed out of the car, careful not to trip over her own feet on the brick path. High heels hadn’t been the best idea, considering her legs weren’t working right. Just like the rest of Georgie, her limbs moved at a sluggish pace. Her hand lifted to the doorknob like it was submerged in a jar of Vaseline.
The door swung open before she was halfway through the process, and Georgie lost her balance, sending her pitching forward. Bethany and Rosie caught her, the simple human contact sending a shock wave of sorrow through her.
“I’m not good.”
“I know, honey,” Bethany said, helping her straighten and pulling her back into a hug. But not before she got a decent look at Georgie’s face. “Oh shit. No worries. I’ve got a bottle of concealer upstairs that could hide the spots on a fucking cow.”
Rosie rubbed a circle on her back. “How about a drink?”
“No, thanks. It’ll only make things worse.” She pulled away from her sister. “Maybe just, like, a half a glass of literally anything?”
“I’ll grab some glasses and a bottle and meet you guys upstairs,” Bethany said, giving her shoulder a final squeeze. “We’ve got more than enough time before everyone arrives.”
Georgie and Rosie made their way upstairs, going straight for Bethany’s en suite bathroom. She sat on the edge of the bathtub, instantly comforted by the luxurious cream-striped wallpaper and matching fluffy towels. The little notches in the wall where candles flickered gave off a glow and the scent of pears and freesia. Growing up, Bethany had always bemoaned sharing a bathroom with her siblings, vowing to have her own private bathing palace one day. Mission accomplished. Throw in a minifridge and it would be livable.
“I know your mind is all over the place right now,” Rosie said in a soft voice, dropping into an elegant lean against the wall. “But . . . Georgie, I can’t thank you enough. We hit the donation goal early this morning. For the restaurant.”
“What?” Georgie gasped, the storm clouds parting. “No way. Oh my God, Rosie. That’s fantastic.” She shot off the tub, throwing both arms around her friend. “Of course you hit the goal once word of mouth got around.”
“I can’t believe it,” Rosie whispered. “I can’t believe that many want to come to my restaurant. Bad enough to put money where their mouth is.”
“I can believe it,” Georgie said, easing away. “Lots of work ahead.”
Rosie blew out a breath. “Yes.”
“We’ll help you,” Bethany said with a radiant smile as she walked into the bathroom, balancing a tray of champagne and three glasses. “It’ll make me feel less guilty when I put you two in hard hats for demo day.” With a twist of her wrist, she popped the cork. “I’ve got myself a house.”
Georgie spun toward her sister. “You—how?” With too many emotions to compute in one day, her laughter was watery, but her pleasure was genuine. “Did Stephen cave?”
“No.” Bethany pushed Georgie back down onto the lip of the bathtub and handed her a glass of champagne. “Travis Ford handed me the key to his childhood house. Gave me permission to flip and sell it, free and clear.”
Hearing his name out loud was a one-two punch to the sternum. All she could do was sit there and breathe in, out, in, out. He’d done what? “I don’t understand,” she finally whispered. “Why would he do that?”
Bethany rolled her eyes. “He said it was important to you that I succeed. Or something. I wasn’t really listening.” She set down her champagne glass and dragged over a designer makeup bag. “Let’s get to work on those dark circles, shall we—”
“Wait a second.” Georgie couldn’t even feel the glass between her fingers. “He just came here and . . . Was he . . . Did he . . .”
Georgie’s sister squirted some beige foundation onto the back of her hand and ran a silver-tipped brush through it, applying the cool liquid to Georgie’s face. “Like I said, I was kind of half listening. He’d interrupted Drag Race, which is a cardinal sin in my house.” She tilted her head, swiping the brush in a neat line between Georgie’s brows. “Hopefully someone is doing his concealer, because he looked like S-H-I-T.” Georgie wanted to sink back into the empty bathtub and curl into a ball hearing that. “Honestly, it was all so sappy. Georgie this, Georgie that. Georgie is so good. I’m done living in the past. Et cetera.”
“Yeah. Et cetera.” Done with the brush, Bethany stowed it back in the makeup bag and drew out a gray stick, the function of which Georgie did not know. But she sat there gaping as Bethany swiped it beneath her cheekbones and started to rub it in. “When I pulled the deed, I realized his father’s name is listed on it, too. Turns out Mark Ford was back in town for a few days to make sure he got a cut. There were words exchanged at Grumpy Tom’s.”
“Travis’s father was back?” Georgie sputtered. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
Was this the part of the equation that had been missing? She’d been so mired in heartache, she hadn’t stopped to think about why Travis would have called her a kid with a crush. Maybe there was a reasonable explanation. He’d still left her in the dark about what Stephen told him, but shouldn’t she have given Travis a chance to explain? With his father in town, he would have been in a tailspin. And he had canceled their date the night before the Tough Mudder . . .
“I mean, it’s all just noise at this point, right?” Bethany said breezily. “He messed up too big. It’s done.”
Georgie threw Rosie a look that said, Help me. “Um.” Rosie nodded at her in the universal sign for I got you. “What else did he say? It’s totally common to want a play-by-play when a guy talks about you. There had to be more.”
“Nope, that was it. He looked like garbage and gave me a house.” She applied some mascara to Georgie’s lashes. “Oh, and Georgie this, Georgie that.”
“Be more specific!” Georgie screeched.
“Drag Race was on,” Bethany said defensively. “Okay, look in the mirror.”
Fully intending to ignore the command and strangle her sister instead, Georgie nonetheless caught sight of her reflection and did a double take. “Oh, that’s—wow.”
“Not bad, right?”
“How did you—”
“Contouring. Georgie, meet your cheekbones.”