Thanks so much for going on this journey with me! Here is chapter 10 of Broken Record for your reading pleasure! Scroll to get started!
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K. A. LINDE
Not for reprint or sale.
The rest of the party was painful.
Painful to keep a smile on her face.
To fake the happiness that she should have felt.
To ignore the look of concern that kept flashing on Liz’s face.
It was a relief when Easton finally decided to bow out. His colleagues kept congratulating him. Offering him drink after drink, which he took with a careful smile and quick laugh as if this was his moment.
Dylan oohed and aahed over the ring. She wanted to celebrate next week after work when she had more free time. And promised that she’d be planning a girl’s night soon for it. Maybe this would thaw the frost from Savannah’s other colleagues at the newspaper.
Since Savannah was the only one still sober, she dropped Dylan off at her apartment and then drove Easton home to their place in Georgetown. She had to circle the block a half dozen times before she finally slid into an open spot a few blocks away.
Easton slung an arm over her shoulders as they navigated the short distance to their building. He was nuzzling her neck and whispering sweet drunken nothings into her ear. She laughed as he nipped at her earlobe and swatted him away.
“We should get you another drink,” he said.
“Let’s open up a bottle when we get inside.”
She let them up the stairs and turned the key in the lock. Their home didn’t quite feel warm and welcoming. Their separate belongings trying to merge into one but not yet managing it. Her style was too rigid—stiff throw pillows, black and white portraits, crisp furniture. His showed signs that he’d been a bachelor for many years with hand-me-down belongings that he’d made his own. For a second that felt like their relationship.
Three years together in Chapel Hill and they’d never moved in together. She liked her space. He had roommates. They stayed at her place more than his because it was quiet and there was no one to interrupt them. And she could see the differences stark tonight.
Her own melancholy and euphoria bleeding together into something like disaster.
Easton strolled lazily into the kitchen and pulled out a bottle of bourbon from the top shelf. He poured a knuckles worth into two glasses and then brought one over to her. She took it to cover her shaking hands. He held his aloft.
She raised the glass, clinking it against his, but didn’t say anything. Just downed the dark liquid in a big long gulp. It burned like fire down her throat. She held back her cough and shook her head once to clear it.
Easton took the glass from her hand and dropped it onto the coffee table. He pulled her into his arms. Not the drunken embrace she had imagined but a dance. He cupped her waist gently before bringing their palms together. His eyes were intense and full of love. So much love as he swayed them back and forth on their hardwood floors. The creak of the wood the only music.
She rested her head against his chest, leaning in to his familiar warmth. It was normal, natural even. They had always been good together. It was enough when she closed her eyes that she could smell the faint touch of bourbon on his breath and the musky smell underneath that belonged solely to Easton.
Let her mind drift back to the days when they’d first gotten together and he’d had no idea who she was. That she was a Maxwell with a political dynasty for a family. And a name that opened doors and made laws and ruled in its own way.
When she’d thought he was just a UNC student who taught tennis on the side. Just a sexy man with ripped six pack abs that could make her forget entirely about the boy who’d left for Nashville. When she hadn’t known that he wanted to be a politician. That he would work for her brother as he worked his way up. Or that they’d move here together to follow their dreams.
She’d thought that she was rebelling by picking the hot tennis instructor. Instead he had fallen perfectly in line with her family’s expectations of her. Proving that the tattooed motorcyclist was just a phase. And the dumb frat boys they didn’t know about were nothing at all.
But she had fallen for him so completely. So easily. She’d overlooked it. What was one fault, that no one else would consider a fault, in the profile of a perfect man? The kind of man who could forgive her for cheating and give her a second chance when she didn’t deserve one. When she still had to be around the other man, when he did. And who despite all of that, wanted to marry her.
She glanced at the ring on her left ring finger over his shoulder. It was enormous. She had no idea how he’d afforded it. If he’d gotten money from her father to help with it. It wouldn’t have surprised her. Only the best for his little girl.
“Where are you at tonight, Savi?” Easton whispered into her ear.
“I’m here with you.”
“You seem so far away.”
He pulled back and twirled her in place. Then dragged her back against him. His signature grin was plastered on his face.
“Is it still just work?” he asked.
She opened her mouth to say something and then shook her head.
He stroked the line of her hair, playing with the dark brown strands. His knuckles dragged against her jawline then his thumb played across her bottom lip.
“Talk to me. Did I overwhelm you?” he asked with a huff of a laugh. “Should I have taken you to a fancy dinner instead? When I talked to Brady, he suggested the party. I agreed with him.”
“Brady knew,” she muttered.
“Well, I asked him when we were gone last weekend in Chapel Hill. I’d already spoken with your father.”
She nodded slightly shocked by the old-fashioned gesture. “I didn’t know.”
“It wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if they’d told you.” He drew her in for a soft kiss. “Is it the ring?” He brought the giant thing between them to look at. “Did you want something simpler? Just one enormous rock instead of a halo of them? You’d never said what kind of diamonds you liked.”
She hadn’t, had she?
“No. This is perfect,” she said. It wasn’t what she would have picked, but it was beautiful.
“Then what is it?”
He was so earnest. She wanted to save him from this. She’d thought she could hold out until tomorrow. Put some distance between the engagement and what she was about to say.
Lucas had said that it didn’t matter. She didn’t need to tell Easton, because it was never going to happen again. That it would ruin everything. And she suspected he was right. That if she didn’t tell Easton what had happened, all would be well. They’d get married, have the requisite two and a half children, and move to the suburbs. He’d go into politics while she quit the paper to stay home with the kids and support his career. She could see it so clearly as if it were a movie reel.
Harbor this secret until it festered and turned rotten inside of her. Until she resented him for his forgiveness and hated herself for always giving in. Despised herself for becoming a Stepford wife because of her guilt.
The lie hung on the tip of her tongue.
She was happy.
Instead, she met his clear gaze, swallowed back bile, and said, “Lucas and I kissed.”
Easton went preternaturally still. A kind of stillness that came from utter shock and horror and vengeance. There were no words. There was just silence and twin flames in his beautiful eyes.
“Say something,” she whispered.
He took a step back. His hands dropped to his sides. He looked at her as if he didn’t recognize her. As if she were a ghost in their apartment, not fully corporeal. Something that he could pass through to get to reality again.
“Easton,” she murmured.
“What would you have me say?” he asked, his voice low and gravelly.
He huffed a harsh laugh, cold and full of razor sharp edges. “You don’t want to hear me say anything.”
“I do though.”
She wanted his anger. She deserved it. Had been anticipating it. His silence was worse she realized. So much worse.
“When?” was the word he finally bit out.
“At his graduation. I…blacked out and didn’t remember. He said nothing happened and then tonight, he told me that we kissed.”
Easton narrowed his eyes. She could see his sharp mind piecing it all together. “Of course, he did.”
“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I’m so so sorry.”
He shook his head, turning away from the words. He stumbled backward and reached for the keys that she’d left in a dish by the front door.
“What are you doing?” she asked, suddenly frantic.
“You’re drunk. You can’t drive.”
“Fine. I’ll take a cab.” He threw the keys in the direction of the dish and wrenched the door open. “Don’t fucking follow me.”
Then he was through the door and vaulting down the stairs to the main floor. She heard the ground level door open and then he was gone.
To where? She had no idea.
Out. Gone. Away.
Away from her.
And what she’d told him.
The truth she had confessed that would break him.
Savannah sank onto the sofa and stared at the door, willing him to come back, to talk to her, to figure this out.
But the door remained closed.
And he didn’t come back.
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