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Page 24

“I think I’m in love with your fiancée and her family,” I added.

He grinned, taking another drag, then lifting his beer. “I know. Why do you think I’m marrying her?”

I grinned, but I didn’t look back to meet his gaze. We were side by side, and it felt right, like old times, though I was still certain he’d come out for a serious talk. And fuck me, but I was going to beat him to the punch.

“I don’t want an apology.”

There. Take that.

“Good.” He put his beer down, coughing once. “’Cause you ain’t getting one.”

I gave him the side-eye now. “Excuse me?”

He grinned, then took another drag from his cigarette. “You heard me. This is what you reap. You don’t let your friends in, and this is what you get. They can’t know if you don’t tell them shit.”

I grunted. “Touché.” And a second grunt. “Hadley and Owen were fawning over him in the car coming over here.”

“As they will.” A sip of beer. “They don’t see it the way I see it.”

I groaned. “I hate when you bait me.”

He laughed softly. “Fine. I’ll take the bait myself. How do I see it? Well…” He was quiet a moment. “Are you using him? How invested are you?”

“You’re worried he’ll hurt me?”

“I have reason to be worried.”



Early-onset dementia that was supposed to be so rare it never happened. But it did. It had happened to him.

I took Grant’s cigarette. “I don’t know what to tell you—”

He plucked it back out of my hands. I didn’t even get the chance to bring it to my mouth.

He scowled. “What the fuck? I know you, Charlie. I know you. You’re going to take a drag, then start coughing so much you’re almost puking, and you’ll run inside to the bathroom. Either way, you get out of this conversation, and I know that’s the real goal for you.” He pointed his cigarette at me before taking it to his mouth. “No smokes for you, and stop bullshitting me. Just tell me what I want to know, and we can be done with it.” His eyes flicked upward. “And you know I’m sorry for being a dumbass earlier. I get you not wanting to talk about you-know-who, but just reassure this old bastard who used to be your best friend that you are talking to someone about him?”

I was quiet.

He sighed. “Charlie.”

“I’ve mentioned the situation to Reese.”

“Forster?” he scoffed.

“Yes. Him.”

He was quiet again. “Shit. I’m trying not to be best-friend jealous here. Him? Really?”

I shrugged, my stomach settling back down. “To be honest, I didn’t say much. Just that I’m going through something stupidly tragic.”

Another beat. “It’s not stupid. It’s just tragic, plain and simple.”

Oh whoa. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t talk. I blinked back sudden tears. They’d come out of nowhere. I stuck out a blind hand for his cigarette.

He chuckled, swatting it back down. “Here. Drink this instead.” He pushed his beer into my hand, and I guzzled it.

He sat back, and the air felt lighter somehow. He finished his cigarette. “I saw Superstar’s interview. He flicked his ear.” His shoulder nudged mine.

I’d beamed when Reese did that, and I knew Grant had noticed, though no one else did. Reese made the gesture so subtle, it looked like he was flicking off some sweat or an itch. But I saw it.

“That was for you, wasn’t it? You used to do little signals all the time when we were young.”

I laughed, the beer helping with my throat. “That’s right. The good old…” I scratched my nose with my middle finger.

He laughed too. “Yeah, and this one.” He made a circle with his thumb and finger, moving another finger through the hole.

“That’s not that discreet.”

“It is when you did it behind Keith’s back.”

I groaned. “He’s such a dickhead.”

“He is a dickhead, yes.”

“How can you work there?” Scratch that. “How can you still work for him?”

He lifted a shoulder. “Patience. There’s a plan in the works.”

“Good. I support that wholeheartedly as long as it involves him getting fired in the end.”

“You know…”

Oh no. He was back to his serious voice. I shook my head, standing up. “No. No more real talk. I’ve handled what I can for the night.”

I was itching to shoot off twenty different questions to Reese—not because I was feeling uncomfortable, but because I wanted to see his responses. But I refrained, until after another beer.

Raising Grant’s beer, I finished it. “That is one thing about your fiancée, though. She’s not that perfect.”

He harrumphed. “Says you.”

I held the now-empty can out. “Her margaritas are too sugary. I need more beer.”

A laugh, then he stood with me. Taking the can, he nodded. “Then beer you will have. Come on.” He led the way. “We’re off for a refill. I need one myself.”

More than two hours later, after three more beers—don’t judge me—and one slice of pizza then I finally sent off another round of questions. I had thought long and hard about them—and by that, I mean I gave it no thought.

Me: Octopus or bear?

Me: Why do people have to have the last word? What’s the point?

Me: Why can’t people vacation in their own homes? That’s where all your stuff is.

Me: When global warming melts all the snow, will Antarctica have to change its name?

Me: Was I wrong for cheering in Aquaman when they tossed the trash back on the land?

Me: Stupidest advice you’ve ever gotten?

Me: What constitutes being nosy versus probing?

Me: Why do we call it a refrigerator and not a food-cooler?


Reese: Stop. Jesus, woman.

I giggled. Normally, I hated giggling, but in this instance, that’s what it was. I’d just gotten back to his cabin, and I was curled up on the couch, my phone in hand and what I could only imagine looked like an unhinged smile on my face.

I was buzzed, gloriously—a let’s-forget-reality kind of buzzed. It was the bestest.

The phone rang instead, and I hit accept. “When people work the midnight shift, are they nooners instead of a morning or night person?”

“Fuck’s sakes. I’m tired, woman. Stop. Turn the brain off.”

“Reese,” I whispered. More laughter. A hiccup now.

“What?” But he knew. I could hear his smile. “Ah. You’re buzzed.”

“I am. Did you use a one-use girl tonight?”

“Who is that?” a voice asked from where he was.

“Sorry,” he said to them. “It’s a chick. Hold on.” He was moving around. I heard a bunch of static sounds until a door closed, and his voice came back, dropping low, “Give me a second. I’m actually going to the lobby to have a conversation with you.”

“I’m a chick? Why not ducklings? Little ducks? Too close to little dicks?”

He barked out a laugh, then smothered it. “Chill. Give me a second to regroup.”

A ding.

“Are you on the elevator?”

“I am, and yes, there are people here.” He said to them, “Nice night, huh?”

A woman laughed. A guy said something. Then I heard, “You’re Reese Forster, aren’t you?”

“No.” I shot upright on the couch. “I’ve got him now. He’s mine.”

Reese snorted, but said to them, “I am.” To me, “One second.”

The elevator door dinged again, and I could hear Reese stop to take a selfie. He signed a couple things for them, and then the phone came back to his mouth. “Hold on. I’m moving somewhere more private.” He asked someone else, “My roommate’s sleeping, and I know you guys don’t like people to hang out in the hallways. Is there somewhere I can take this call?”

A sudden burst of laughter and yelling came from where he was, in the background.

“Oh yes, Mr. Forster,” someone said. “Of course. One moment, please.”

It was another two minutes before I heard a door close and Reese said more clearly, “Okay. I’m in a back office that I’m pretty sure some dude was hoping to take a nap in for his thirty-minute break just now.” He yawned. “And shit. Why am I talking to you at two in the morning?”

I forgot he was an hour ahead where he was. “Why would you not talk to me when I’m buzzed?” I felt a belch coming and stifled it. “I’m hilarious.”

He laughed quietly. I heard creaking on his end. “Maybe. So entertain me, woman.”

“Stop calling me woman. I have a name.”


“You call me a gnat again, and I’ll start taking pictures of your dirty boxers. You have some here, you know.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Stop calling me a gnat. It’s insulting.”

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry. You’re right. Just…names felt a bit personal, Miss Don’t-Ask-Me-Any-Real-Questions. Thought a nickname, made in jest, was the right way to go.”

“What do you usually call your female friends?”

He grunted. “I don’t have female friends.”

“Right. You have one-use girls?”

“Or multiple-use girls.”

“That is disgusting.”

He laughed. “Sorry. I don’t really date, so I don’t label anyone anything, but would you rather I say fuck buddies? I have a few of those.”

I wasn’t feeling a burning in my chest. Not at all. A gnat hadn’t nestled there and started digging even deeper.

I scowled. “When’s the last time you dated?”

“Really? We’re going this route?”


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