“I’ll see you soon,” I say, turning to leave. And there, right behind me, are Michael and Juggsy. Her real name is Jill, but she’ll always be Juggsy to me.
“Evelyn,” Michael says with surprise in his eyes. Juggsy glares at me as she hangs onto his arm.
“Surprised to see you here, Evelyn. I thought you’d be at the show with your husband.” Her obnoxious insinuation strikes up my hatred for her. Amy has trained me well in dealing with Juggsy, though.
“And I’m surprised to see you upright and not on your knees. As you can see, we’re expecting a baby soon, and I didn’t feel up to traveling.”
I veer around them but Michael grabs my arm. “Can we talk for a minute?”
“Because I haven’t seen you in a long time. You can’t take ten minutes to talk to me after spending almost half your life with me?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Feather watching us, and the last thing I want is some kind of scene in here, surrounded by the staff of a Valentine family business.
“Okay. But I only have a few minutes.”
“I’ll meet you outside,” Michael says to Jill, and the look of rejection on her face is priceless.
We step a few feet away, near the electric fireplace surrounded by a leather love seat and two wing chairs.
“Wow.” He reaches out and touches my stomach. “I never thought I’d see you pregnant.”
I back away from his touch. “Neither did I, but a lot has changed.”
“I see that. You look great.” His eyes rove over me, taking an inventory of my new hairstyle, clothes, and diamond wedding rings.
“Thank you,” I say politely.
“I heard you married him. I saw the pictures online. Are you happy? Does he treat you good?”
I look him right in the eye. “I’m happier than I ever thought imaginable, to be honest. And he treats me like a princess.”
He nods and shakes his head with sadness in his eyes. “I really fucked up.”
“Michael, what’s done is done. I’m not going to stand here and pin blame.”
“I miss you. I wish you had given me a chance.”
I almost drop my tea on the floor. “A chance? You were cheating on me for years. I know what I did was terrible too, but I never would have let it drag on for years, leading you on and deceiving you.”
“You’re right, and I’m sorry I did that. I was dumb.”
“Apology accepted. And I’m sorry as well. But we’ve both moved on, and I hope you’ve found whatever it is you need.” I glance out the window at Juggsy, standing on the sidewalk peering in on us like a creeper. Why does she always have to be hanging around everything the guys are involved in? She’s like a parasite.
He runs his hand through his short hair. “I appreciate that.”
“What are you doing with her? How did you two even meet?” I don’t trust Jill at all, and I know her hanging out with my ex isn’t just some coincidence.
“Sue and I broke up. Jill sent me a friend request on Facebook, and we hooked up.”
“Seriously, Michael, do you really think that was just a random friend request?”
He shrugs. “She told me she has a history with the band.”
I stifle a laugh. “A history? Is that what it’s called now?”
“I’m sure she is. She’s a troublemaker, Michael. I have no doubt she went after you to either attempt to annoy me or to try to dig info about me out of you. Please tell me you haven’t told her anything about me.”
“No…I mean she knows we were together when you started to see Storm, but I haven’t really told her anything else.”
“Just be careful. And keep me and Storm out of any conversations with her.” I check my watch, pretending I have somewhere to be. “It was nice to catch up, but I really have to get going.”
He nods. “Okay. Take care, Ev.”
I can’t get out of there and get to my car fast enough. What an awkward run-in. And I know that bitch orchestrated meeting him as part of her agenda to screw her way through anyone and everyone even remotely connected to the band. She’s sick.
When Storm calls later I’m going to tell him about this. He’ll be all sorts of gloaty over Michael admitting he fucked up.
Chirping birds wake me, and I blink in confusion for a few seconds before I realize it’s the ringtone on my cell phone and not real birds. My eyes focus on the digital clock next to the bed, the glowing blue numbers indicating it’s seven o’clock. I can’t believe I slept for almost four hours. I fumble for the phone and hold it to my ear.
“Hi, honey. It’s a good thing you called, or I might have slept all night.”
“Evie, what the fuck is going on?” The anger in his voice instantly snaps me awake.
“Huh? Did you call earlier? I was asleep—”
“No, this shit plastered all over social media with you and fucking Michael.”
I bolt up. “What?”
“I’ll send you screenshots. Look at your phone messages.”
I put Storm on speaker and bring up my messenger app, watching as the images of Jill’s social media accounts come through, showing a photo of Michael touching my stomach with the words “Evie Valentine getting cozy with her ex while Storm’s away. Is this really Storm’s baby? #blizzardchick #babydaddydrama”
“Oh, fuck!” I yell. “That fucking bitch!”
“You want to tell me how she got these, Evie? What the hell is your ex’s hand doing on my wife? And my baby?” I can hear him sucking in and exhaling smoke. “I’m going to fucking kill him,” he rasps.
He’s smoking a cigarette. He hasn’t touched one since he quit, right after we met. He’s pissed. My heart and stomach sink and the baby gives me a sharp kick.
“Storm, let me explain.”
He exhales again but says nothing.
“I was at the café when you texted me. I told you that. As I was leaving, Michael and Jill came in. I was surprised to see them together. He asked if he could talk to me alone for a minute. I didn’t want to, but I was afraid they might cause a scene and that’s your brother’s cafe. I was afraid of something exactly like this happening.”
“He just wanted to ask how I was, I think. He said he missed me and that he fucked up. I told him I was happy, and I told him to watch out for Jill because she didn’t just contact him randomly. She wanted to start shit. God knows what kind of info he’s feeding her about me.”
“And how did his hand get on you?”
“He just reached out and touched me. I backed away, but she must have taken the picture just as he did it. I would never let him touch me, Storm. For God’s sake, everyone in the café knows me. If anything were going on I wouldn’t be doing it there, of all places. And I would never do anything like that with anyone, anyway. I love you.”
“Evie, I know you wouldn’t cheat on me. That never even entered my mind. But I don’t want his hands on you, and I don’t want him fucking with your head.”
“Telling you he misses you and admitting he fucked up is trying to get you to second-guess leaving him and doubt me.”
“I’ve never second guessed leaving him or being with you. You’re the only guy for me and we both know that.”
“I know, but he’s hoping you change your mind. I’m gonna kill both those assholes. The whole fucking world has seen those pics.”
“I thought you said we should ignore this stuff,” I say. This is awful…all the fans seeing this…making it look like I’m cheating and the baby might not be Storm’s. It’s nauseating, and way worse than fans saying crazy things to get attention. Jill did this to intentionally hurt and humiliate us, and neither one of us deserves it.
“This crosses a line, Evie. That bitch dragged our kid into it. I’m sick of her games.”
“She’s jealous. She thought she had a chance with you once upon a time.”
“No,” he says quickly. “She never had a chance. She turned our friendship into something it wasn’t. She fabricated it into more in her own fucked-up head.”
And this is where friends-with-benefits goes horribly wrong. I’m not going to say that and throw salt on the wound though.
“Baby, I’m sorry I yelled at you. This really caught me off guard.”
My clenched grip on the phone relaxes. “It’s okay. How many times have I blown a gasket over a picture without knowing the whole story?”
“Lotsa times,” his teasing tone is back. Thank God. “Asher’s having the lawyer contact her to get all the posts taken down.”
“Should we post something ourselves to counteract what she said? About me and the baby?”
“No. That’ll just feed what she wants, making my wife have to validate paternity to our fans. Fuck that.”
“Storm, I’m so sorry for this. It’s obvious she went after Michael for dirt, and running into me by accident was just the cherry on top for her.”