Thanks so much for going on this journey with me! Here is chapter 14 of Broken Record for your reading pleasure! Scroll to get started!
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K. A. LINDE
Not for reprint or sale.
Dylan leaned over Savannah’s desk and grinned devilishly. She had a pile of paperwork to get through, and after the encounter with Lucas earlier this week, she’d been focusing primarily on work. But that smile told her that Dylan had something up her sleeve.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“So, Josephine knows a guy who works in the Business division. He invited her to this bar tonight. A bunch of the Post staff are going to be there. I think this is what we’ve been waiting for.”
Dylan arched an eyebrow. “You need to get out there. Your serious boyfriend left you and your like…side piece dude has a girlfriend. It’s time to have a taste of something new.”
Savannah couldn’t help but laugh. “Jesus, I sound like a train wreck when you discuss my life.”
“Well, that’s not a lie.”
“Thanks,” she said sarcastically.
“Come on, Sav. At least come help me find a guy even if you won’t.”
Savannah glanced away from her computer and up at Dylan. “Girl time might be nice.”
“That’s right. And some hot guys too.”
“Maybe…some hot guys,” she conceded.
Dylan squealed and hugged Savannah. “Oh, this will be so much fun.”
“But just flirting.”
“Whatever. I can’t wait.”
“Miss Gonzalez,” Savannah’s boss, Mr. McAllister, snapped from the door to his office. “Don’t you have work to attend to?”
Dylan saluted him with a wink. “Sure thing, Rich.”
Mr. McAllister sighed in exasperation. Apparently even hard ass bosses couldn’t control Dylan Gonzalez.
“See you tonight!” Dylan crooned before returning to her desk.
Savannah just shook her head and went back to her work. But inside she smiled and found that…she was actually excited for tonight.
Savannah stepped into the dimly lit bar. Dylan had texted that she was already inside with Josephine and Sandra. She craned her neck to see if she could locate them, but the place was packed. When Dylan had said that this was a Post party, she hadn’t thought that every person from the paper who was single would be in attendance.
She stepped around the crowd and hugged the perimeter until she saw a glimpse of Dylan’s unruly curls. She sighed in relief and headed to where she was standing.
“Savannah!” Dylan cried, throwing her arms around her. “I’m already two drinks in and you need to catch up.”
Savannah laughed and let herself be escorted to the bar where they promptly did pink shots that burned all the way down. She coughed and blinked rapidly. “That was intense.”
“Only the best for my girl.” Dylan winked at her and then grabbed a pair of clear drinks off of the bar. “Here you go.”
She took a tentative sip and winced over the sheer amount of gin in that drink. “How trashed do you want me to get?” she asked on a laugh.
“Not trashed. Just comfortably numb. Then you’ll let guys hit on you.”
“Who says that I won’t let guys hit on me when I’m sober.”
Dylan raised an eyebrow and said nothing.
“Fine,” Savannah grumbled, taking another sip of her drink. “So, I’m supposed to help you find a guy, huh?”
Dylan grinned. “Mission accomplished. You know Brad?”
“Isn’t he dating someone?”
“Not anymore. You might not like a rebound, Maxwell, but I sure as hell do.”
Savannah snorted. “Oh dear Lord. Is he even supposed to be here?”
“Oh yeah, he told me he’d be drinking away his misery. It was practically an invitation.”
“Practically,” she drawled.
Dylan laughed, not caring an ounce that Brad probably needed a little more time to recover. Or maybe she did and she thought a night of fun would be good for both of them. Either way, she dragged Savannah across the bar to where Brad sat with two of his friends. One wore glasses and a tweed jacket even though it was about a hundred degrees with the insane swamp D.C. humidity. The other was cuter with curly blonde hair he kept short on the sides. He filled out his T-shirt, looked her up and down appreciatively, and best of all, she had never seen him before in her life.
Dylan plopped down next to Brad after he invited them to join, and I sat down next to the T-shirt guy. He grinned at me.
“I’m Charles,” he said, holding his hand out. They shook a little awkwardly in the small space between them.
“So, do you work for the Post like Brad?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Both Dylan and I do. What about you?”
“Ah, not half as interesting. I work for the EPA, but still working my way up. More of a paper pusher, number cruncher at the moment.”
“Well, still, the EPA is important.”
He shrugged one shoulder. “It can be. If they let us hire people and do the work. You know, it’s a job.”
Savannah had about a million things to say to that. She had grown up in a political family after all. She knew all about policy and the direction the EPA had taken in the last couple years. She knew how important it all was, but it seemed that Charles didn’t really want to talk about it so she let it drop.
At that point, Dylan had stood up and was dragging Brad out onto the dance floor. He must have been drunk enough to say yes. Tweed guy and Charles shared a look.
“That’s a bad idea,” Tweed guy said.
Charles shook his head. “Helen is going to kill him.”
She glanced between them. “I thought he was single.”
“Oh sure,” Tweed guy said, “he’s single once a month. They’re toxic, but she has her claws in him.”
“Jared is right. If Helen shows up, this is going to go south quick,” Charles said.
“Guess she should stop breaking up with him,” Savannah said bitterly. She knew all about trainwreck relationships. She had been in one for three years with Easton. And one with Lucas for much longer. Her friends probably thought the same thing about her that Charles and Jared were thinking about Brad. It made her sad to see it all from an outsider’s perspective. She didn’t know Brad or his friends or his ex-girlfriend. But she knew the feelings and emotions that yo-yo’d between them.
It made her feel exhausted. All the years of indecision and going back and forth between these men. She didn’t want to have to get drunk and talk with new guys to figure this all out. She just wanted to be happy with herself. Find what she really wanted.
And for the first time, she was getting some kind of grasp on what that was. It was clear that this yo-yo was not it. If she ever got back together with Easton, she wanted it to be the right choice, not the only choice. If she got together with Lucas, she didn’t want it to be out of their continual primal lust. The years of pent up energy between them boiling over. She wanted it to be because they were right for each other.
Mostly, she wanted to continue her work at the Post. Prove to her boss that she was useful. That she could do so much more. She wanted to get promoted and eventually become the investigative journalist she’d always dreamed of. She knew that she had to climb the ladder. That her name had no bearing on why she’d gotten the job and that she was a force to be reckoned with. The paper would realize that too.
She wanted to make decisions without fear. Without wondering what these boys in her life would think or how they’d react. She might even audition for another musical. She could fit it into her schedule in the fall. She’d given that all up in college to pursue journalism like a fanatic. But maybe it was important for her to discover balance. Maybe everything she did didn’t have to be delivered like a religious zealot. She could have her family and friends and journalism and still have room for hobbies. Maybe even a boyfriend if she decided on that.
But for the first time in years, a calm settled over her shoulders.
Easton had been right. She needed this time to step away and figure herself out. No matter what that meant for them. Or where they ended up.
Dylan had thought bringing her here would get her a one night stand and help her move on from the boys. But in fact, she’d realized more acutely that she didn’t need sex to help her discover what she wanted. If anything, she’d just needed to see someone else who was as much a trainwreck as her. And somehow, it had all fitted together like the missing pieces of a puzzle settling into place.
Savannah leaned back against her chair, took a sip of her drink, and smiled.
Things would be okay.
Not right now. Not yet.
And it felt good to finally see it all so clearly.
Charles and Jared continued to talk, and Savannah was surprised to find how funny they were. She didn’t want to date either of them. But it was better than waiting around for Dylan to come back with Brad.
She was shocked to find out that Jared worked for ESPN. It seemed like it would be the other way around. Since Jared was the smaller of the two in glasses and tweed, but apparently, he worked behind the scenes for the local network.
“How did you get into that?” Savannah asked.
“I’ve always loved sports. I’m just…horrible playing them,” he said with a laugh. “So, I went and got my PhD in statistics with a sports analysis focus. I had an internship with the ESPN, and they kept me on. I do a lot of obscure data management. All those random stats that no one thinks about where they come from.”
“Huh,” she said in awe. Way more interesting than Charles work for the EPA. At least Jared seemed passionate about it.
“Oh, shit,” Jared said, his eyes going round. “I didn’t think she’d show.”
“Who?” she asked. She looked around. “Helen?”
“No, there’s this cute girl at my work. I invited her out tonight.”
“She showed?” Charles asked, clearly in shock.
“Oh,” Jared said on a sigh. “Looks like she brought a date.”
“Sucks,” Savannah muttered.
“Yeah, man. Those sideline reporters never go for the stats guys.”
Jared wrinkled his nose. “I know, but…” He shrugged and didn’t finish that sentence. “I’ll just say hi.”
He waved his hand and finally got the attention of a redhead who had just stepped through the dance floor and walked straight toward them.
Savannah’s stomach sank. “Fuck,” she whispered.
She hadn’t pieced it all together. Jared worked for ESPN. The woman was a sideline reporter. She was a redhead, walking through the crowd with her date.
“Mariah Glover,” Savannah whispered.
Jared startled. “You must watch basketball.”
“Sure do,” she muttered as she eyes dragged to the tall guy following behind her.
The recognizable build, the shaggy dark hair, and mesmerizing eyes. Those eyes that had found her in the crowd. That were now narrowed, trying to figure out answers to everything at once. What she was doing there. Why she was with these guys. Where Easton was.
All the questions piled up as his eyes found hers again.
“Holy shit,” Jared whispered next to Savannah. “That’s Lucas Atwood. He’s a five-star recruit…”
He rattled off Lucas’s stats like he’d memorized them before this meeting. But Savannah could barely hear him. All she saw was her impending doom. This wasn’t how she wanted him to find out. This wasn’t how she wanted to tell him.
She could see the fury building in those eyes as Lucas and Mariah finally stopped in front of them.
“Well, Savannah Maxwell,” Mariah said with an arched eyebrow, “funny seeing you here.”
Lucas’s eyes narrowed further. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s a Post party?”
He looked from guy to guy and the empty space in between, but said nothing.
Mariah had no such qualms. “So, where’s your fiancé?”
She wielded that word like a weapon.
Savannah swallowed and moved her gaze back to Lucas’s. She took a deep breath and decided it was now or never. She had decided what she wanted. No going back now.
“We broke up,” she told them and waited for the fall out.
“You did what?” Lucas asked, his voice as cold as ice.
Mariah’s attention diverted to her boyfriend. Savannah could see her immediate displeasure at the way he’d asked that question. But it was Savannah he’d directed that rancor toward.
“You and your fiancé broke up?” Charles interjected, clearly not reading the situation. He placed his hand tenderly on Savannah’s arm. “I’m so sorry. That’s horrible.”
“Yes, it is,” Mariah said with none of Charles’ warmth or sympathy. “How exactly did that happen?”
Savannah swallowed. “We decided we needed time apart.”
“After he proposed?” Mariah asked incredulously.
“Yes, it wasn’t exactly planned.”
“Are you getting back together?” Lucas demanded.
She bit her lip and shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Jared sighed across from her. “No wonder Dylan dragged you out here. You need a drink.”
Savannah didn’t think drinking any more in this situation was going to be a good idea. Lucas looked as if he were going to boil over at any second. Mariah was the only thing keeping him from shaking Savannah and demanding answers. She knew him too well not to see it.
Fuck, she should have just told him.
She had been so caught up in her own mind that she hadn’t been able to see the truth. She never should have hidden this from him. Easton had scared her into staying away from Lucas, and now, she was going to pay the price for this secret.
It was too late for her isolation to bring her the clarity she needed to know not to hide from him. Lucas was supposed to be her best friend. Whether or not they ended up dating, she had always wanted to salvage the lifelong friendship. And now…she might have fucked the whole thing up.
“I think we all need a drink,” Lucas spat. He turned to Mariah. “What do you want from the bar?”
“Jack and Coke,” she said softly.
He nodded once and then stormed away from the group, leaving Mariah and Savannah to stare at each other in dismay. Jared immediately stood and gestured for Mariah to join their group. Her eyes flickered to where Lucas had disappeared to and then finally sat down next to her colleague.
Charles and Jared seemed to be picking up on the tension between them as they tried to make small talk. But thankfully, Dylan decided to return that minute with a rather drunk and sweaty Brad.
“Hey girly!” Dylan said, twirling in a circle. Her curls making a halo around her head. “Come dance with us!”
Savannah’s eyes were wide. She saw her out and took it. “Bathroom.”
Dylan raised an eyebrow. “All right. Do we have to be girls about it?”
“Safety in numbers.” Savannah grabbed Dylan by the arm and dragged her away from the uncomfortable situation.
Dylan grumbled. “If you make me lose ground with Brad, I’m going to be pissed.”
“Lucas is here and the redhead is his girlfriend.”
Dylan ground to a stop. “Wait, what?”
“Keep walking,” she bit out. “Apparently, Mariah knows Jared who is friends with Brad. It’s twisted fate that they just fucking found out that Easton and I broke up.”
“Oh Jesus, Savannah.”
“Tell me about it.” She pressed forward into the bathroom and leaned back against the sink. “God, this is a nightmare. I feel like I just figured everything out. Like I was in the right place being here with you and just chilling, having a good time with friends. I didn’t need a one night stand or anything. I just wanted that time to be me. And now, he’s here. And he had to figure this shit out this way.”
“Yeah, that’s messed up,” Dylan agreed. “Keep talking. I’m going to pee.”
Savannah chuckled softly and shook her head. “I’m just going to call Liz and have her pick me up.”
“You’re going to leave?” Dylan groaned from the stall.
“This is going to go from bad to ugly. Its better if I get out now rather than wait around for it to all blow up in my face. Because it will, I know it.”
“Ugh, I hate this. Can’t you just tell Hottie McHottie and his little ginger friend to GTFO so you can have a good night? We can deal with it later.”
Savannah sighed. She wished it were that easy. But she knew better. “I’m calling Liz.”
Dylan muttered a string of four-letter words.
Savannah laughed and dialed Liz’s number. She picked up on the third ring. “Hey, Sav, what’s up?”
“Please tell me that you and Brady aren’t busy tonight?”
“Brady is still at the office. Some congressmen billiards and cigars something or other,” Liz said. Savannah could practically see her eye roll. “How’s your night out? I would literally kill someone for a margarita.”
“Well, uh, Lucas showed up with his girlfriend.”
“Of all the bars in D.C.”
“Yeah, my luck, right? So, he just found out about Easton, and he looked like he was going to kill me.”
“Maybe you should talk to him. You’ve known him forever, Sav.”
“Tonight, while he’s here with Mariah? I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I feel like I finally figured out what I want and who I want to be. Now, I’m dealing with this. I just wanted one night to enjoy myself.”
Liz snorted. “I know all about that feeling.”
“Could you pick me up?”
“Of course. Let me get dressed and I’ll come get you. Let’s hope there isn’t traffic.”
“There’s always traffic.”
“True. True. I’ll try to be quick.”
Savannah hung up the phone. Dylan came out of the stall pouting. “I wish you wouldn’t go.”
“Me too. I mean, I’ll probably have another forty-five minutes if traffic is shit.”
“Can we just dance and forget that he’s here?”
“Duh. Plus, do you really need more than another hour to get back to Brad’s place?”
Dylan arched an eyebrow after she finished washing her hands. “Of course not. Who do you think I am?”
Savannah laughed and linked arms with her again. “Okay. Let’s go dance.”
Dylan grinned at her and then directed them out of the bathroom. They made it to the end of the hallway that led back to the bar before noticing that Lucas Atwood stood at the exit.
Dylan sighed heavily. “Should I tell him to fuck off?”
“No,” Savannah muttered. “I should probably talk to him.”
“But dancing, Sav.”
“I’ll meet you.”
“Fine,” Dylan grumbled. She marched right up to Lucas and pointed her finger at him. “Be nice to her. We were having a good time before you showed up, and I don’t want her to have to be in tears again.”
Lucas arched an eyebrow at Dylan’s assault but said nothing. Dylan shook her head at him, gave Savannah one more forlorn look, then disappeared. Which left them all alone.
Savannah tensed, preparing herself for what was to come. “Hey.”
“Since he proposed,” she told him.
He looked away from her, his chest heaving. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, it happened the same night. I told him that we’d kissed at your graduation, and he ended it. Or said we needed a break. Whatever. I’ve been staying with Liz.”
“That’s why you came over.”
She nodded. It was. “I was going to tell you then, but you seemed so happy about Mariah. I didn’t want to make it seem like I was there to break you up.”
“You think you could?” he snapped at her.
She winced and shrugged. “History repeating itself.”
He ran a hand back through his shaggy hair and looked like he wanted to say more. But he held his tongue. Just let the silence stretch between them. She didn’t want to be the one to break it. She didn’t know why she was even still standing here. Lucas was with someone else. He had never respected that about her. She didn’t want to be that person to him.
“I should get back.”
Lucas turned then and pressed her back against the hallway wall. She gulped and met his hard gaze. Her heart jumped in her chest at their close proximity. At the way he loomed over her. If he’d been anyone else, it could have been scary, but with Lucas, it just drew a pit of wild anticipation in her stomach. Something she knew she shouldn’t want, but she did. She really did.
“Why do you torment me?” he asked, all calm resolve and lethal attention.
“I was happy. I was moving on. I was trying to forget you,” he spat. “I didn’t want to think about you anymore. You fucking take over my headspace. You fucking wreck my life, Savi.”
She flinched at the words. “Then be happy.”
He glared, looking like he was going to punch the wall. “You think I can be happy without you?”
“I don’t know, Lucas,” she whispered.
“The answer is yes,” he said, leaning forward so they were only inches apart. “The answer is yes. I can be happy with someone who is actually honest with me.”
She opened her mouth to say that she’d wanted to be honest with him, but what did that even matter? She had held the truth back. She had done it on purpose. Even going as far as asking others not to tell him so she could be the one. She understood his anger even if it stung.
“You couldn’t even tell me to my face. You made me find out this way. When I was the one who had always been there. When I’d offered everything to you. And you just fucking threw it away. Then you’re sitting at a fucking bar, trying to get fucked like what we were meant nothing to you.”
“I wasn’t trying to get fucked! I was just trying to find me.” I pushed back against him. “And don’t talk to me about moving on, Lucas. You’re here with your girlfriend. Who you went to Vegas and probably fucked all week. So, I don’t need lectures from you about how horrible I am for being in a bar with my friend.”
“That’s right. I’m here with my girlfriend.” He leaned back in. “And we did fuck all week in Vegas.”
Her stomach tightened, and she thought she’d be sick. She felt the tears welling in her eyes, and she swore that she wouldn’t let them fall.
“Are you done?” she hissed back at him. “If you’re trying to hurt me, then congratulations. You did it. At least, I didn’t mean to hurt you. And now I’m thinking it was a good idea to never tell you in the first place. All we do is fight like cats and dogs. We argue and spit vitriol and claw at each other’s hearts.” She pushed him out of her space. “You didn’t deserve to know.”
She saw the anger on his face. The desire to get the upper hand. To scream that they hated each other again. Even though it was the farthest from the truth. But it was uncontrollable. Their hate as fiery and explosive as their love. She just couldn’t deal with it tonight.
“Just don’t,” she said. “Go back to your girlfriend. Leave me out of this.”
Then she turned from Lucas, swiping the tears from her eyes, and walked away. Leaving both Easton and Lucas in the same month, but finally finding herself. Bittersweet and hollow victories.
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