In the last couple of hours, Katie had purchased all four railroads on the board and was in the process of acquiring over three houses on the orange-colored group. Last I paid attention, she’d been driving Lori and me to the ground, leaving us with measly small sheds in the bad parts of town and the clothes on our backs. Luckily, Lori and I were sharing a bottle of wine and pieces of gossip about the royal family, which, it turned out, we both shared an unhealthy obsession with. We’d spent the last hour dissecting Kate Middleton’s wedding dress before moving to the grave topic of Meghan’s wedding tiara.
“Are you kidding me?” I pressed my wineglass to my blistering cheek, enjoying its cool sensation. I was probably slurring. The four glasses of champagne and one glass of wine on a relatively empty stomach weren’t a good idea, but I had to dull all the Chaseness around me. He was a lot to deal with. “I love you guys. Ronan is, like, a legendary fashion icon, Lori is the mom I wish I still had, and you . . . Katie, you’re . . .” I paused, blinking at the Monopoly board. I hated the idea they thought I wasn’t around because of them. Hated that Chase had kept the truth from them and villainized me in the process. “You’re seriously someone I would be good friends with. The first time we met, at Christmas, my dress tore up across my ass. You didn’t even blink before ushering me to your room and giving me something to wear.” A Prada something, to be exact. It had taken everything in me to send it back with a thank-you note. “You’re amazing, Katie. Like, really amazing.” I leaned forward, putting my hand on her arm. I couldn’t tell through the fog of intoxication if we were having a tender moment or an awkward one.
Her eyes clung to mine. “Really? Because I thought maybe it was me.”
“Why would it be you?” My eyes widened.
“I don’t know,” Katie said, so sweetly shy she looked like a kid, even though she was older than I was. Her voice was like broken glass.
“No, you’re perfect.” I hiccuped. “I love you.”
Had I just declared my love to a relative stranger? That was my cue to retire before Martyr Maddie became Creepy Maddie and passed out over the Monopoly board.
“I think I better head to bed. Who won?” I squinted at the board. It was blurry, the little pieces swimming around it like they were chasing one another. I hiccuped again. “Me?”
“Actually, you owe me two thousand dollars and a house on Tennessee Avenue.” Katie laughed, starting to remove the Scottie dog, top hat, and thimble from the board. I yawned, my eyes flickering shut as I took spontaneous one-second naps between blinks. Somewhere in the back of my head, I realized I was being a mess, not at all the brilliant, responsible fiancée Chase wanted me to be. Screw him. I owed him nothing. As long as his family was having fun.
“I hope you like fixer-uppers and accept coupons, Katie, because I’m broke as all hell,” I snorted out.
“That’s all right. It’s just a game.” Katie folded the board and tucked it back into the box as she hummed to herself. She was so agreeable and docile. The opposite of her older brother. Almost like he’d hogged every drop of ferociousness in their DNA pool before he was born.
“Yeah, well, I’m flat-out broke in real life too.” I snickered.
Time to go to bed, Miss Hot Mess Express.
I stood up on wobbly feet. My knees felt like jelly, and there was a strange pressure behind my eyes. Knowing I’d be coming face-to-face with Chase made me break out in hives. I’d tried to postpone our reunion as much as I could, hoping—praying, really—he’d fall asleep before I got back to the room.
“Not for long.” Lori laughed.
I laughed too. Then paused. Then frowned. “Wait, how do you mean?”
“Well”—Lori offered me a one-shoulder shrug, picking nonexistent lint from her dress pants as Katie put the Monopoly box away—“you’re going to marry Chase, honey. And Chase is . . . well endowed.”
Katie choked on her soda, while I used every ounce of my self-control in order to not break into giggles. “Oh, Lori, you have no idea,” I said.
Now Katie cackled. It was a sight. The willowy, dark-haired beauty with her hair pinned back carefully let it all out and laughed. I grinned. I wondered when the last time she’d actually had fun was. Then resisted the urge to invite her for a night out with Layla and me. Martyr Maddie needed to be switched off this weekend to make sure things wouldn’t get overly complicated.
Lori wasn’t wrong, though. Chase was a billionaire. His level of rich was golden toilet seats and private jets containing sex swings. It was burn-the-money-just-to-see-if-it’d-make-you-feel-anything rich. The scary, jaded type of wealth that seemed wholly untouchable from where I was standing.
It hit me then that I’d never considered Chase’s money as a factor when we were really dating. His wealth was in the backdrop of our relationship, like a massive piece of furniture I learned to overlook, even though it was a part of the view. When he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him I needed a new heating pad. It was twenty-five bucks on Amazon, available on Prime, with a gift-wrap option included for an additional fee. Chase laughed and got me a pair of $10K earrings instead. He couldn’t fathom why I wasn’t enthralled by the lavish gift. The truth of the matter was I was broke post-Christmas and had really been counting on that heating pad.
I didn’t want something expensive and useless. I wanted something not so expensive and useful.
Lori’s comment made me sober up momentarily. I nodded, getting back into delighted-fiancée mode. “Oh yeah. Sure. But I’m going to be very responsible with his money. I mean, our money. Money in general.” Shut up, shut up, shut up. “I don’t spend a lot.”
“Well, we all know I have the opposite problem.” Katie looked down at her feet.
Desperately eager to change the subject, I clapped my hands, standing in the middle of the room. “Where is Amber, by the way? I really wanted to get to know her.”
And by really I meant not really, but it seemed like something I should say.
Katie and Lori exchanged looks. I was drunk but not stupid and could tell they were doing this eye-communication thing Dad and Mom used to do when she was still alive to decide something I wasn’t supposed to know.
“She was tired,” Katie said at the same time Lori mumbled, “I think she came down with something.”