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K. A. LINDE
Not for reprint or sale.
“You can stay in the guest room,” Liz said. She drew Savannah into the house that she’d fled only yesterday with a diamond ring on her finger. Now, she was entering it all alone.
“Thanks,” she whispered.
Brady appeared from out of the bedroom. He was dressed down in a T-shirt and shorts. It was weird even for Savannah to see him like that. He was a suit through and through.
“What’s going on?” he asked confusion written on his face.
“Easton left Savannah,” Liz said.
“What?” Brady asked, his voice low and deadly. “He just proposed yesterday.”
“Yeah, I’ll fill you in,” Liz said. “Suffice it to say, Savi wasn’t really ready for that move yet.”
“Do I need to go find him? I can probably threaten him within an inch of his life for hurting you.”
“No,” Savannah said with a shake of her head. “It’s really my fault. I guess.”
“He literally just asked me about this last weekend. Why wasn’t I aware that it wasn’t something you were ready for?” Brady asked. He stepped forward toward his sister and drew Savannah into a hug. Big brother mode had taken over. “Liz?”
Liz just shrugged. “I mean, you were aware of the shit with Lucas.”
He sighed. “I’m sorry. I could have forestalled this. I thought you were happy.”
She wrapped her arms around her brother’s torso, breathed in that old familiar smell. And it was then that she broke down. That she finally felt like she could release all that energy. Tears flowed down her cheeks and wracked sobs broke from her.
“I…was…happy,” she said between choked gasps. “I was.”
“Oh Savi,” Liz whispered.
Brady held her for a minute until the worst passed, and then he directed her to the couch. She plopped down, curling her feet underneath her and wiping her face with the back of her hands.
“I didn’t want to cry,” she muttered. “I hadn’t meant to.”
“Crying is fine,” Liz said.
Brady came back into the room a minute later. He passed Savannah a glass of amber liquid. “Just…knock that back.”
“My older brother corrupting me,” she said with a choked laugh.
“Actually, I think he corrupted me,” Liz said, raising her hand.
That got a real laugh from Savannah. And then back to tears again.
“You two are so cute together,” she cried.
Liz sank down to her side. “Not without some serious complications. Brady was a huge asshole for a long time.”
“I’m still an asshole. Don’t try to damage my reputation.”
Liz smirked up at him. “Anyway, what I mean is that if you want this thing to work out with Easton, then there’s still time for that to happen. You two have been together for three years and the only complication has been Lucas and your fear of him going into politics.”
“Hey, what’s wrong with that?” Brady asked, crossing his arms.
“Everything,” Liz and Savannah said in unison.
Then they looked at each other and laughed.
“Politics ruins lives. It makes you reevaluate everything to see if it’s worth it.” Liz raised an eyebrow at him. “You know that better than anyone. You can’t blame your sister for having qualms about subjecting the rest of her life to the same scrutiny.”
“I do know that,” Brady said.
“It was bad enough growing up with it,” Savannah said. She stared down into the drink she hadn’t touched. Then took a deep breath and downed the liquid. She coughed as it burned a trail of fire down her throat. Her eyes watered. “Holy fuck.”
“Good?” Brady asked.
“Excellent. I’ll take another.” She passed him the glass back.
“So, tell me about Lucas,” Liz said when Brady disappeared.
“We kissed at his graduation. But I was blackout and didn’t remember it. He told me about it last night at the party.”
“And then Easton proposed.”
She nodded. “Yeah. It was…bad timing.”
“So…you told him?”
“I had to. With my history with Lucas?” She shook her head. “It’s a nightmare. We’re just complicated. You know the story. He liked me in high school but I didn’t want to ruin our friendship. Then we got together after graduation. But then bam! We were split up again. He went off to Vandy and got a girlfriend. Then came back every summer to fuck around with me. And it happened that first summer when I was with Easton and he found out. I promised it would never happen again.”
“You haven’t slept together since then, right?”
“No. But…I think if Lucas hadn’t stopped us at his apartment, we would have. I mean, how can I marry someone when this shit with Lucas never fucking ends?”
Liz raised her shoulders. “Maybe…you should see where things go with Lucas once and for all.”
Savannah threw her head into her hands. “That’s exactly what Easton expects me to do. He thinks that I can’t be alone. He said that I lie to him and to myself.”
“Lie about what?”
“Everything. I don’t know. I was raised my entire life to hide my true self from the public. It seems now there’s no difference in private.”
Brady appeared then with another glass of bourbon. He passed it to Savannah before sitting in an armchair next to her.
“Excuse me for eavesdropping, but Lucas Atwood kissed you at graduation?” Brady leveled Savannah with his most big brother stare.
“His graduation,” Savannah corrected. “And…yeah.”
“I know where he’s staying. Chris and I can go straighten him out.”
“Would you get out of big brother mode for like one whole second,” Liz muttered with an eye roll. “You’re not going to fix her problems by intimidating the guys in her life.”
He sent his wife a sly smile. “I could try.”
“I don’t know. I don’t even know if it’s his fault. Or Easton’s fault. Or my fault,” Savannah said, taking a sip of her drink and grimacing.
“Maybe it’s no one’s fault,” Liz suggested.
“It’s probably Lucas’s fault,” Brady muttered.
Liz shot him a look like she was about to smack him upside the head. He just smirked lazily like he was probably going to drag her off to bed. It was almost painful to watch their reactions to each other. Made Savannah just want to crawl back into a hole.
“Anyway,” Liz said with a pointed eye roll, “what I’m saying is that it’s not anyone’s fault that you ended up where you are. You’re all young. And you do stupid shit when you’re young. You just need to decide what you want. If it’s Easton then maybe some time apart would be good. Show him that you’re committed. If it’s Lucas then probably give him a heads up that you’re single.”
“No,” she said at once. “No, I can’t tell Lucas.”
“Then isn’t that your answer?” Liz asked.
“Why can’t you tell Lucas?” Brady said. “I don’t think for a second that you’re afraid of communicating with him. You’ve known him since you were infants. He’d hear you out even if it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.”
“I just…can’t,” she said. “He can’t know.”
She set her glass down and then put her hands on her knees. Her throat bobbed as she considered Brady’s words more thoroughly. It wasn’t that she couldn’t talk to Lucas. That had never been their problem. It had always been timing. Timing and this pull that they both felt but ignored until the whole thing snapped and they were on top of each other in the sand at Hilton Head.
She just didn’t want it to look like she’d gone straight from Easton to Lucas. She couldn’t even fathom doing that at this point. She felt fucked up. And worse, she didn’t want Lucas to look like some kind of rebound. Some consolation prize. If she was going to decide, she didn’t want it to be a snap decision.
And she knew the second that she told Lucas, coherent thought would flee her mind and they’d end up in bed together.
The worst part of it all was that…Easton wasn’t wrong.
She kept things from him on purpose. She’d never had to look at who she was. She’d gone from Savannah Maxwell, Senator’s daughter, to rebelling against that for barely a year and then right into Easton’s arms. She’d never given herself the time to figure out what she wanted.
Even if it turned out that it wasn’t either of them.
Going back to work Monday morning was a rare form of torture.
Savannah hadn’t told anyone about the break up except Brady and Liz. She knew that she’d have to tell the rest of her family eventually, but right now she couldn’t even think about it without wanting to break down again.
What was worse, she woke up wanting to text Easton. For three years she had spoken to him almost every single day. And now…she couldn’t.
He didn’t want to hear from her. He wasn’t available to her anymore. And that made her feel more empty and abandoned then walking out of their place in Georgetown.
She knew the whole split was supposed to help her find herself again. Or perhaps for the first time. But all it felt like was losing this huge connection. Something she hadn’t even known that she’d relied on. Maybe that was the point.
“Girl!” Dylan cried, dashing to Savannah’s side. “I am so excited for you. I’ve been thinking about that proposal all weekend. How fucking amazing was that?”
Savannah swallowed back the rising bile in her throat. “It was…um…”
Dylan’s smile diminished only slightly. “What? Did you want something flashier? A fancy dinner? I thought proposing in front of your entire family took balls.”
“Well, come on. Let’s show everyone that ring. I got in early and was gushing to Sandra and Josephine about it.”
Savannah didn’t move. Not a muscle. She just froze in place. She hadn’t considered that Dylan would tell other people. That she’d have to explain to more than just Dylan that she was no longer engaged. Also, that she’d tell people who clearly didn’t even like Savannah. Thus far, they’d been nothing but rude to her.
As she was about to open her mouth, Sandra and Josephine appeared around the corner. To Savannah’s surprise they rushed right over to where she stood with Dylan. All of their frost was gone and they actually seemed…excited to see her.
“Oh my Lord,” Sandra said with a wide grin. “Let me see that diamond ring.”
“Dylan was gushing about how enormous the rock is. Congratulations!” Josephine gushed. She reached for Savannah’s hand.
Savannah wrenched back and willed herself not to cry. She could make it through this. She could.
“What’s wrong?” Dylan asked as if just finally realizing that something wasn’t right.
“He, um…left me. We broke up.”
Dylan’s jaw hit the floor. Sandra and Josephine gasped in shock. Then Sandra put her arm around Savannah, and Josephine patted her shoulder.
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry,” Sandra cooed.
“I cannot believe that,” Josephine said.
But it was Dylan who looked thunderstruck. “I don’t understand. What the fuck is he thinking?”
Savannah shook her head unable to speak the words. But all three women took the cue and bustled her through the office. They stroked her hair and called Easton horrible names and generally tried to make her feel better. They treated her to lunch and helped her get through her massive to-do list whenever they had a moment.
It was the first time that she had ever felt welcome at her work. Who knew she just had to get dumped to be included?
“I still can’t believe this,” Dylan said with shake of her dark curls as they exited the building later that day. “Had you been having problems?”
“We’ve had one problem,” Savannah confessed.
“Let me guess—Lucas?”
Savannah blushed. “Was it that obvious?”
Dylan snorted. “Yes. Absolutely. You’d have to be blind not to see it.”
“Oh,” she muttered.
“So, are you and Lucas…?”
She shook her head once. “No. That’s not happening.”
“Why not? He’s fine as hell.”
“Besides the fact that it’s way too soon. If something happens with Lucas, I don’t want it to be a rebound. I don’t want to have any doubts when I decide what the hell I’m going to do about all of this. Easton said that I need to find myself. That I’m lost and just keep secrets and lie, which isn’t wrong.”
“And are you still considering getting back together with Easton?”
Savannah sighed. “I mean, yeah. We’ve been together three years.”
“That’s a lot of history to just throw away.”
“It is,” she whispered.
“Don’t you think it makes him an ass that he just ditched you?”
“No. I mean…it was my fault.”
“Is it always going to be your fault for the rest of your relationship? Because looking over your shoulder isn’t healthy either. And if he keeps blaming you every time you’re around Lucas, it’s not going to work.”
Savannah nodded her head. “It’s kind of felt like that. But there was reason. We did kiss when I was drunk at his graduation.”
Dylan arched an eyebrow. “You didn’t even fuck him?”
Savannah laughed. “No.”
“And you’re sure you don’t want to go fuck Lucas to spite Easton?”
“You’re ridiculous. You know that, right?”
“No,” Dylan said. “If the guy I’d just dated for three years up and left me, I would be getting some other dick stat. Did Easton say that you were going to get back together? Did he give you a timeline? A way to prove that you’d—what did you call it?—found yourself?”
“Well, no,” she whispered.
“So, he gave you some vague instructions to better yourself for him and expects you to just save yourself until he’s ready for you?”
Savannah paused and looked at Dylan uncertainly. She hadn’t thought about any of this in that light. She had thought she was the bad person. She was still convinced of that actually. After all, she had kissed Lucas. And they had slept together a couple years ago. A slight she had been paying for practically the length of their relationship.
Not that she’d been a good person when these things had happened, but could she ever make that up to him? Was it even possible?
“Just a thought, but maybe you should decide what kind of terms you want to set for your relationship and stop waiting around for some guy to tell you it’s okay. Be alone if you want. Fuck Lucas if you want. Only you get to choose this time, Savannah.”
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