Forever in Cape May

Page 43

Taylor took a sip of wine and slowly grinned. “Fourteen.”

“Now you’re just bragging,” Bella said.

“You and Gabe did it four times in one night,” Avery reminded. “That’s bragging.”

A dreamy look came into Bella’s blue eyes. “Oh yeah. I forgot. That’s the night I threw away my vibrator.”

Taylor laughed. “What about you, Avery? Do you think marriage will slow you and Carter down?”

Avery smiled smugly. “Not if last night was any indication.”

Bella sighed. “Guys, we’re all so lucky! Last year, we didn’t have any of this, and now, look. We’re all getting some, and it’s first class!”

They burst out laughing and finished their wine.


Pierce met Gabe and Carter at the Ugly Mug for dinner and drinks. They sat at an outside table in the corner where they had some privacy. Thankfully, the conversation had been casual while they ordered a round of cheese sticks and beers, but after the waitress dropped them at their table, he noticed a weird vibe.

They both seemed hurt.

Finally, Gabe brought up the demon in the church. “When Bella told me what she saw, I was really surprised. I mean, I thought we were all pretty close.” He shook his head and stared into his beer. “I just don’t know why you kept this from us. It feels . . . dirty.”

Pierce choked on his own brew and fell into a fit of coughing. He’d been expecting some lighthearted ribbing and high fives. Not this sense of betrayal his two friends seemed to be radiating like a nuclear explosion. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he asked, slamming his beer down on the rickety table. “Dirty’s supposed to be a good word for us, man! Why are you trying to make me feel guilty?”

“We’re not,” Carter said. “I just think we expected you to tell us, since we’ve been asking how you really feel about Taylor for a long time. This is big news and you kept it quiet. You can’t blame us for getting thrown off.”

It was official. His gang was getting a little touchy-feely. When had this happened to them?

Pierce tugged on his ear in frustration. “I told you, this whole thing happened on impulse. We were drunk. We had sex. We decided to keep having sex until she goes off to Paris. Nothing’s really changed between us.”

His friends shared a pointed look, then refused to meet his eye. “Sure,” Carter said. “We believe you.”

“No, you don’t. You’re pulling some Oprah shit with me! Why don’t you just say what you mean?”

Gabe cleared his throat. “You love that woman, dude. Always have. Now you’re suddenly having sex and pretending nothing’s changed, but I can already tell things are different. It’s obvious when we look at you.”

“Yeah, you look . . . happy,” Carter said.

“I was happy before,” Pierce grumbled, pissed off at this intimate exchange he wasn’t prepared for.

“Not like this,” Gabe said. “Maybe it’s because you finally got what you want. Or who you want.”

Ah, crap. His friends knew the truth he swore he’d never admit to anyone.

He loved Taylor Sunshine.

He thought of their lovemaking in her art room. The passion and connection. His hands painting over her while she fell apart with such a raw openness that he wanted to devour her whole. When she’d made that comment about the sex not meaning anything, it had stung worse than he’d expected. He sensed she’d also experienced a shift in the bond between them—the vulnerability and trust they shared—but he’d convinced himself there was nothing to do but let it go.

Admitting it to Gabe and Carter wouldn’t change the outcome. In fact, it just might make everything worse. Denial was a beautiful thing, and he was going to wholeheartedly embrace it.

“Taylor is heading to Paris,” he said firmly. “Even if the exhibit doesn’t work out—which it will—she plans to travel and paint for a year. My business and life are in Cape May. We’ve both accepted we need to go our separate ways. Adding sex to our relationship is just an extra bonus. In two weeks, we’ll break that off and remain close friends. I think you’ve noticed me being happier because I’m trying to make some changes in my own career. Decided to do some freelance work in a new niche for me. I’m feeling good about it.”

“So it’s work and not Taylor,” Carter stated, as if he were a court stenographer and Pierce were on record. “She has nothing to do with that goofy-assed grin and the spring in your step?”

“Did you get brainwashed by some self-help guru?” Pierce asked, annoyed. “What am I, fucking Tigger?”

Gabe smothered a laugh. “I always pegged you as Rabbit.”

Carter frowned and regarded Gabe. “You have Rabbit tendencies, too.”

“Nope, I’m Pooh all the way. Kind of the leader in this crew,” Gabe said.

“I’m Pooh,” Carter said coolly. “You’re really Piglet. Definitely the nurturer in the group.”

“Fuck you. I’m no Piglet.”

Pierce let out an annoyed breath. “Can we get off this ridiculous subject and all agree I’ve got this handled? I’m sorry for not telling you. Taylor and I decided it would be best to keep it a secret exactly for this reason. We didn’t want anyone getting confused about our relationship.”

“I don’t think we’re the confused ones,” Carter said. “But we respect your decision.”


“You know, Luis found her a permanent place to stay rent-free, if they both feel the exhibit goes well,” Carter said.

“Wow. Luis will really finance her to stay in Paris to paint?” Gabe asked curiously.

“Yes, if there’s interest. He’s got a lot of connections, and he’s well known for investing in new artists with promise. Taylor’s work is something fresh. I knew it the moment I saw that first painting.” He narrowed his gaze on Pierce. “I’m just telling you, if all goes well, she’ll be away for a long time. Luis has galleries in Milan and Switzerland. He’d make sure she becomes a household name overseas.”

He nodded, his throat tightening. “What about New York?”

Carter’s gaze sharpened, but his tone was mild. “Maybe eventually, but his plan seems to revolve around a European audience for a while. Lovers or friends, I’m just saying it’s going to be hard to lose her.”

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