And anyway, Paxton wasn’t all bad. He was handsome, funny, and incredibly good-hearted at the beginning of our relationship. He left me love letters everywhere, packed my lunch box for me each night, sent me flowers for no reason at all, and arranged spontaneous Disney World vacations where we’d drive down to Florida in our beat-up car, eating crappy gas station junk, and singing to my Paula Abdul and Wham! playlist from the top of our lungs.
A stand-up guy who’d offered to paint my parents’ entire house for free before they sold it, bought me an engagement ring using every single cent he had to his name, and was always there when I needed him.
Until he wasn’t.
I thought I could help him get on the right path. That love would conquer all.
Turned out, it couldn’t conquer his gambling addiction.
“You still believe in that bitch?” Belle tilted the bag of pretzels in my direction in offering, pulling me out of my musings.
“In what?” I took a pretzel, munching on it without tasting it. I’d become scarily thin in the past few months. The side effect of inheriting Paxton’s weighty problems.
“Love.” Belle shot one eyebrow up. “Do you still believe in love after Pax took a dump all over the concept, then set it on fire?”
“Yeah.” I felt my ears pinking, masking my embarrassment with a chuckle. “Pathetic, right?”
My sister patted my thigh.
“Wanna talk about it?”
I shook my head.
“Wanna drink about it?”
I nodded. She laughed.
“I’ll heat some pizza, too.”
The thought of eating made me want to vomit. But I also knew Belle was becoming suspicious, what with my weight loss and inability to sleep.
“Pizza sounds great. Thanks.”
She stood and sashayed over to the kitchenette. I watched as she threw the fridge door open, shaking her butt to her off-key whistle.
“Belle?” I cleared my throat.
“Hmm?” She shoved a slice of pizza into the microwave, setting the timer for thirty seconds.
“What do you think is going to happen with Pax?” I grabbed a pillow and hugged it to my chest, pulling at a thread in it. “I can’t stay married to him forever, right? I’ll be relieved from this marriage at some point if he doesn’t show up?”
Belle plucked a can of Pepsi from the fridge, tapping her lips as she contemplated my question.
“Well, marriage is not a public restroom. I’m not sure you can be relieved from it, but you for sure can get out of this if you put your mind to it. The man hasn’t been around in almost a year. You need to save up, get a good lawyer, and finish with this mess.”
Me. Paying for legal representation. Right.
“You’ll have to do it at some point, you know,” my sister said, more quietly now. “Seek legal help. Take the bastard down.”
“With what money?” I sighed. “And please, don’t offer me another loan. I’m just going to refuse it.”
Belle was working as a club promoter for one of Boston’s most outrageous joints, Madame Mayhem. She was a genius in her field and brought in clientele that made the owners foam at the mouth, but she was nowhere near financially established. Plus, I knew she was saving up to chip in on Madame Mayhem’s looming remodel so she could become a partner.
“Let’s say you’re too proud to take money from me—your own sister, mind you—and still want legal representation. I would just go to Sailor and ask for a loan.” Her voice grew heated, desperate. “The Fitzpatricks have enough fuck-you money to build a dick-shaped statue the size of Lady Liberty. Sailor won’t be hard-pressed to get it back, you’ll have zero interest, and she knows you’re good for it. You’ll pay it eventually.”
“I can’t.” I shook my head.
“Why?” She took the pizza out of the microwave, put it on a paper plate, and sauntered over to the couch, dumping it on the pillow I was hugging. “Eat the whole thing, Pers. You’re skin and bones. Mom thinks you have an eating disorder.”
“I don’t have an eating disorder.” I frowned.
Belle rolled her eyes. “Bitch, I know. Your ass inhaled three Cheesecake Factory meals just eight months ago and washed it all down with margaritas, Tums, and regret. You’re going through something, and I want you to snap out of it. Ask Sailor for the money!”
“Are you insane?” I waved the soggy pizza in the air. “She doesn’t have time for my drama. She just told us she was pregnant.”
Three days ago, on our traditional weekly takeout night, Sailor dropped the bomb. There were a lot of squeaks and tears. Most of them Ash’s and mine while Sailor and Emmabelle stared at us blankly, waiting for us to get over our hysterics.
“And?” Belle cocked her head. “She can be preggo and give you money, you know. Women are known for multitasking.”
“She’ll get worried. Plus, I don’t want to be that loser friend.”
“It’s just a few thousand dollars.”
It’s a hundred thousand of them.
But my sister didn’t know that.
Which was the real reason I hadn’t asked Sailor.
“At least think about it. Even if it feels weird for you to turn to Sailor and Hunter, that sociopath Cillian would give you the money. Sure, he’d make you sweat for it—I swear, that asshole is as annoying as his face is sitable—but you’ll walk out of there with the money.”
After the suite incident, my friends and sister demanded to know what happened between us. I’d told them the truth. Most of it, anyway. About the bleeding heart and the steroid shot, omitting the part where I told him I was in love with him and put a curse on him.
Why get into the small details, right?
I’d managed to forget Cillian over time. Barely. Even the memory of him saving me faded and was washed away along with the Wish Upon a Cloud performance I was determined to suppress from my memory.
I hadn’t spoken to my Auntie Tilda since that day. That day, I stopped spotting lonely clouds in the sky and tried to move on with my life.
I fell in love.
Almost got divorced.
Cillian, however, remained the same man who left that suite.
Ageless, timeless, and taciturn.
He was still single and as far as I knew, hadn’t dated anyone, seriously or otherwise, in the time since he’d rejected me on Sailor and Hunter’s wedding day.