Thanks so much for going on this journey with me! Here is chapter 8 & 9 of Broken Record for your reading pleasure! Scroll to get started!
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K. A. LINDE
Not for reprint or sale.
“Now, don’t be nervous,” Savannah said to Dylan.
“I’m not nervous.” Dylan rolled her eyes and stepped out of the backseat of the car.
“Meeting my family is kind of…a lot.”
“You’re scaring her off,” Easton said. “Your family is fine.”
“You almost fainted the first time you met them.”
“I did not. And anyway, I didn’t know you were a Maxwell when we started dating. You just sprung that on me by having me meet your father.”
“Do you know how many senators I’ve met in this town?” Dylan asked. “It’s no sweat.”
Savannah nodded as she shut her door and headed toward Brady’s place. She was only saying this stuff to Dylan because she was nervous about bringing someone to his place. She’d always been like that. And she’d only known Dylan such a short time. They’d gotten drinks earlier this week after work and then again for her to meet Easton. They’d all hit it off, and she felt like she was finally finding her rhythm in the city. Work was still…work. But at least, she had Dylan.
Easton knocked on the door twice before entering. Brady and Liz were standing in the entranceway. He looked ever the dapper congressman in a suit with his arm around his loving wife. Liz was dressed to kill in a blue number that revealed what she had so wanted to hide these last couple weeks. It honestly wasn’t even fair how beautiful they were together. So fucking lucky to have found that.
Brady shook Easton’s hand and then smiled broadly when he saw his sister.
“Savi,” Brady said, pulling her in for a hug. “How are you settling in?”
“I like it so far. Work is…work.”
“So, I’ve been told.”
Savannah narrowed her eyes at Liz. “Snitch.”
Liz shrugged one shoulder. “You can’t expect me to keep things from my husband.”
Brady laughed. “It’s not like I’m going to stomp down to the newspaper and tell them to treat my sister better. You’ll find your feet. They’re just doing their job.”
“That’s what I keep saying,” Dylan said.
Brady’s eyes swept to Dylan, who froze in place. Savannah would have laughed, if she hadn’t seen that same expression on hundreds of other women. She hadn’t met anyone immune to her brother’s charms. No matter how many senators you’ve met, there’s only one Brady Maxwell.
“And who is this?” he asked with that debonair smile.
Liz just shook her head. “You’re worse than your brother.”
He shot her a look. “How insulting.”
“This is Dylan,” Savannah said. “She works with me at the paper.”
“Hi,” Dylan said. She’d lost some of her bravado in the wake of Brady’s inimitable presence.
“Nice to meet you.” He held his hand out and she shook gratefully. “Any friend of Savi’s is a friend of mine.”
“That is how you met your wife,” Savannah muttered under her breath.
“Oh my God, you two,” Liz said. “Let the girl breathe. Thank you so much for coming, Dylan. Feel free to help yourself to food and drinks.”
“You look lovely,” Dylan finally said. “How far along are you?”
Liz laughed. “Can you already tell?”
Dylan shrugged. “My family is Dominican, and I have four older sisters. I know the look. You glow.”
“Why thank you. That’s good to hear.” Liz put her hand on her stomach protectively.
“Liz, you’re pregnant?” Easton asked with a huge smile on his face. “That’s great. Congratulations.”
She laughed softly. “Cat’s out of the bag. Come inside. We’re about to tell the others.”
Savannah followed Liz and Brady into the living room and found it full of her family. Her mother and father were standing with another senator from their home state as well as his wife and kids. She found Clay teasing his wife Andrea in the corner. She looked like she might stab him or kiss him. It was hard to tell with those two. The Atwoods were here with their younger daughter, Alice, who just looked annoyed. Oh, teenage angst.
Following that line of vision, she found their eldest son and Lucas’s older brother Chris talking to Clay’s law partner Gigi. For a while Savannah had had the biggest crush on Chris. It had been a dumb childhood thing. He was ten years older than her and it had ended when she’d realized what she’d wanted was right in front of her.
And there he was.
She held her breath at the sight of Lucas. She hadn’t known whether or not he would show up. Whether or not he was even in the city yet. If the Wizards had sent him here for training or if he would have to be somewhere else at a camp. If he was living it up in Nashville with his fancy new bonus check. She didn’t know, because she hadn’t spoken to him. She hadn’t congratulated him or apologized or anything. And he hadn’t reached out to her either.
Her stomach clenched when his eyes found her in the room and then hastily darted away. As if those hateful words they’d screamed at each other were their new reality. Maybe they were.
“Thank you all for coming,” Brady said once everyone was assembled. “It’s a pleasure having you all in my home tonight. We just have one announcement before the party continues.”
He looked at Liz with adoration in his eyes. It said everything Savannah had always known about them. They were perfect together.
Liz turned back to the crowd, put her hand on her stomach, and said, “I’m pregnant.”
A gasp went up through the crowd and then a ring of congratulations as everyone rushed forward, eager to give their well wishes to the happy couple. Savannah tugged Dylan around the crowd to the buffet table and reached out for some finger food.
“I’m starving. I hardly ate before this,” Savannah told her.
Dylan shook her head. “Your brother is so much hotter than his picture.”
“Uh…ew,” Savannah said as she nibbled on a sandwich and added carrots, dip, and a cookie to her plate.
“I was a total idiot.” She fluffed her curly hair and sighed. “I mean…have I ever been speechless in my life?”
“I really don’t think so.”
“Do you have another one of those lying around? I could be into joining the family.”
Savannah laughed and shook her head. “Nope. All out of Maxwell men.”
“Damn! What about that guy? Is he taken?”
Savannah knew who Dylan was talking about before she turned around. Because of course, even though the room was full of people including many other young men that worked with Brady, it was Lucas Atwood who drew Dylan’s eye.
Dylan arched one of her perfectly maintained eyebrows. “By that response, I guess he’s taken?”
“No. Actually, he’s not. He’s very much single.”
“Excellent. Introduce me?”
Savannah opened her mouth to tell her friend there was no chance in hell, but how exactly could she even explain that? She’d only known Dylan for a couple weeks. The nonsense with Lucas had been going on for years.
“Yeah, sure,” she finally said. She tossed her finished plate of food and grabbed a drink for the nerves.
After taking a large gulp, she navigated the room until she was standing before Lucas. He arched an eyebrow at her. She could practically read what he was thinking. What the hell are you doing over here? Don’t you have someone else to bother? Like your boyfriend?
Savannah pushed her shoulders back. “Lucas, this is my friend Dylan. Dylan, this is Lucas.”
“Hey.” Dylan thrust her hand out and Lucas shook it.
“Nice to meet you,” Lucas said. His eyes flickered to Savannah’s and then back to Dylan where he gave her the most charming look. “How do you know Savi exactly?”
“We work at the Post together. I saved her butt her first day on the job, and she’s torturing me by insisting I come to family parties with her.” Dylan smiled coquettishly and leaned toward Lucas. “What about you? Is she also torturing you?”
Savannah nearly spat out her drink. Good job, Dylan. Straight As for awkwardness.
“Savi and I grew up together. Our parents are best friends,” Lucas added smoothly. “She has a way of torturing everyone around her, doesn’t she?”
Dylan nudged Savannah. “In the best way.”
“And what about you?” Lucas asked, shifting ever so slightly so that his attention was focused intently on Dylan. A purposeful move that made Savannah’s stomach clench. “Tell me about yourself.”
Dylan grinned. “I’m from D.C. but my parents are Dominican. I graduated from…”
Savannah only listened with half an ear as Dylan went on about herself. What she was more focused on was the body language. The way she leaned into him, swatted him playfully, laughed whenever he opened his mouth. Savannah had promised Dylan the party wouldn’t be boring, but she hadn’t expected this.
How could she though? She hadn’t thought Lucas would even be at this party. And she’d known that Dylan was looking, that had been part of the draw was all of Brady’s cute employees, but not…Lucas.
Either she needed to leave them alone and walk away from this or she needed to end it. Because she couldn’t stand here any longer.
“Hey,” Savannah said, drawing Lucas’s attention back to her. “Can we talk?”
“We’re talking now.”
“Alone,” she said pointedly.
Lucas looked like he was going to say no and tell her to fuck off but then he nodded once.
Savannah shot Dylan what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “Sorry to steal him. It’ll just be a minute.”
Dylan shrugged. “I’m kind of starving anyway. Don’t abandon me too long. I don’t know anyone!”
“As if it’s hard for you to make friends,” Savannah teased.
Dylan grinned slyly. “True.”
Dylan meandered back to the table lined with food, and Savannah nodded her head into the other room. Her eyes flit self-consciously to where Easton was standing with his colleagues. He laughed and joked and seemed to be the center of that tiny universe. His attention was so diverted that she was sure he didn’t even see her slip out.
Savannah pulled open the door to the guest bedroom. “Get in.”
“What do you want, Savannah?” he growled low.
“I want to talk to you.”
He grasped her arm. “Last time we spoke, you said you never wanted to see me again then literally left the city to escape me. Why should I go in there?”
“Do you want to have this conversation where everyone can hear us?”
“What do I have to hide?” he asked mercilessly.
“Lucas,” she growled low.
He sighed and stepped into the bedroom. She carefully closed the door behind them and leaned back on it. This was stupid. She knew it was. Everything that had to do with Lucas was stupid. But she’d hated standing there and watching him flirt with her friend. Of course, it was a hypocritical of her considering she had a boyfriend, but she couldn’t change how she felt. Especially not when they were still on rocky terms.
“I can’t believe you were just flirting with her.”
She ground her teeth together. Why was that the first thing that came out of her mouth? Why couldn’t she have just said what she’d actually wanted to say instead of let the anger get to her?
“Is there something wrong with me flirting with her?”
“You did it on purpose,” she accused. “You’re unbelievable.”
He laughed and walked away from her. “This is why I’m here? Fuck, Savi. Is it wrong for me to want you to feel an ounce of what I feel when you walk in here with him?”
“Seriously? That’s what this is about?”
“I can’t with you. Move out of the way. I don’t need to stand here and hear more of your bullshit. You made yourself perfectly clear in Nashville.” He strode forward until he was nearly in her face.
“Ugh! I don’t even know why I bother with you!” She pushed him away. “I was going to apologize, you know!”
“Apologize?” He snorted. “Yeah. As if you’re even capable.”
“Why do you make me so crazy?”
“I have no idea. But you’re batshit!”
She glared at him and crossed her arms. “But why her?”
“You brought her over to me,” he spat. “And anyway, you’ve been dating Easton for three goddamn years. Do you really think you have room to talk?”
The words hit her in the face. She was being irrational. Utterly irrational. This wasn’t even why she had come back here. Yes, she didn’t like him flirting with Dylan in front of her, but that hardly mattered. Fuck, why was it so impossible to think around him?
“You’re right,” Savannah said softly.
“You’re right, okay?”
“I am?” He sounded skeptical.
“I don’t have room to talk. Easton and I are together. So, you can flirt with whoever you want. That wasn’t even why I asked you back here.”
“Why did you?”
“Well, first, I wanted to congratulate you. You actually did it. You’re an NBA star.”
He chuckled softly. “Not exactly. But thanks.”
“You’ll prove yourself. And it’s so awesome that you’re living your dream.”
“What about your dream? Did you go to your audition?”
She chewed on her lip. She’d been debating about going to the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers audition. It was this week, and she had everything prepared. But it didn’t make it any easier. She was rusty. She’d been out of it too long.
“That’s a hobby,” she corrected. “And yeah…I think I’m going to go.”
“You’ll let me know how it goes?”
She shrugged. “If you want me to.”
“When do you start with basketball?”
“Next week. I’ll be swamped all summer preparing for the season.”
“You’ll like that. You always liked being busy. Are you happy to be in D.C.?” she asked.
“It’ll be nice being near my family again. And your family. Are you happy I’m in D.C.”
“That’s complicated. But I’m glad that you got everything you wanted.”
He snorted. “Not everything.
She pushed her hair behind her ear to avoid the implication in those words. “And I guess, secondly, I wanted to say that I’m…sorry about what happened in Nashville.”
She looked up at him under thick black lashes and felt for a second as if she were exposing her soul to him. He seemed to see her like no one else. Their years as friends growing up together just changed their dynamic.
“I got drunk and acted like an idiot,” she continued. “I put myself in a bad position and then took out my anger on you. You were the gentleman who stopped me from doing anything stupid.”
She tilted her head. “Well, from doing anything stupider than getting wasted and dancing on tables. You stopped us from happening again.”
“Not exactly, Sav.”
“What do you mean not exactly? You said that…you stopped us.”
“I did,” he confirmed. “After we kissed.”
“Yeah, Savi, we kissed.”
His words opened something in her. Then it all came back. A rush of memories that she had clearly repressed.
They’d kissed. Oh God, they’d kissed that night.
She suddenly felt like she might throw up.
“I can’t believe we…” she muttered.
Lucas stepped closer. So close. Dangerously close. The small distance that made her brain go fuzzy. That made her remember things she shouldn’t and want things she couldn’t have.
“You honestly don’t remember?” he asked with raised eyebrows.
“You said nothing happened.”
She was desperate for it to be true. For these new memories to be false.
“Yeah, because I thought we were playing that game. Jesus, we kissed and you begged me for more. You wanted me inside of you, but I walked.”
Savannah leaned forward and buried her face in her hands. “Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.”
She couldn’t believe this. She had blocked that night out. She’d blacked out. So much of it was foggy. Only bits and pieces of it had come back to her. But she had a distinct memory of asking him if he was scared. She hadn’t known what it meant. But now that the pieces were all back together it hit her like a two-by-four.
She’d kissed Lucas.
She was dating Easton and she’d kissed Lucas. It was bad enough what they’d done together in the past. That they’d…slept together on the Fourth of July all those years ago. But they’d moved on from that. It hadn’t happened again. It had been so long. She’d thought that she wouldn’t give in again. And now here she was with the knowledge that she’d fucked up.
“I have to tell him,” she whispered. She tried to hold in the inner panic that was threatening to crumble her from the inside out.
“I have to be honest. He’s going to hate me.”
“Look, you were trashed and clearly…it meant nothing to you,” Lucas said. “You didn’t even remember.”
“That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” she whisper-shouted at him. Her eyes found his and she stared hazily. Her body began to tremble. “It happened. And I said it would never happen again. He hates you for a reason.”
“So…I have to go tell him.”
She straightened and reached for the door handle with a shaking hand, but Lucas was there. He pushed the door closed. “You can’t go barging in there looking like this and acting all crazy. Even if you’re going to tell him, you shouldn’t do it like this.”
“I have to,” she said, my throat sore and tears threatening to fall.
“Think for a second. Do you want to kiss me? Is this what you want? Because if it’s not, then what are you throwing away all of this for?”
She stared up at him in surprise. “Are you defending Easton?”
“I’m defending your happiness,” he said. “Do I want you with him? Hell fucking no. But I don’t want to be the reason your light goes out.”
“What am I going to do?” she whispered in agony.
“Nothing.” He sighed. “You don’t want this. We’ve had every opportunity, and it’s not what you want. So, just let it go. We shouldn’t have to keep hurting each other.”
“Even if this means the end?” she couldn’t help but ask.
He looked away as if the very idea was too hard to consider. “I always thought that you were going to be mine. I knew from an early age that I would never love anyone the way that I love you.” His eyes met her. “But I can’t control if you don’t feel the same way.”
“I’d fight for you to the end of the earth. But I’m not going to keep fighting a losing battle. I won’t say I’m happy for you. I’ll just…disappear.”
He leaned forward and swiped the tears from her cheeks.
“Don’t cry for me. You just got everything you wanted.”
He pulled the door open, pushing her gently away from where she had been standing. Then he disappeared through it without another glance. Her heart was trying to wrest its way out of her chest. She felt like she might collapse. If she’d thought their argument in Nashville was bad, this was so much worse.
He’d wanted to protect her happiness over her having to tell Easton what had happened between them. He was actually…bowing out of the fight.
It seemed impossible that one short conversation could end up here.
How could she even return to the party? What would she say to everyone? What would she say to Easton?
He deserved to know.
She knew that.
She should have never done it. But it didn’t excuse what she had done. It didn’t make it okay. Even if she wasn’t going to be with Lucas, Easton deserved better.
She wiped the last tear that had fallen down her cheek and tried to rally. She had to get through the rest of this party and then figure out where to go from here. Because Lucas was right about one thing, at least. She couldn’t just fly out there right now and blurt it all out. Her entire family was here. Half of Brady’s employees were here. Everyone she knew and loved. She’d have to find a better time.
Straightening out her clothes and hoping that she didn’t look like she’d been crying, she exited the guest bedroom. Thankfully, the hallway was empty and she carefully slipped back into the party.
Dylan was standing with one of Brady’s employees smiling and carrying on like Savannah hadn’t abandoned her. Liz was chatting with Victoria. Easton’s eyes caught her across the distance and tilted his chin to indicate she should come over. She nodded and headed in his direction, looking around the full room.
Lucas was nowhere to be seen.
Maybe he’d really left after all.
“Hey baby,” Easton said, pulling her close and kissing her cheek.
She held in her flinch. Her mind still closely focused on the horrible thing she had done and had to tell him about. But she couldn’t show it. Not yet.
“Hey. How’s the party going?” she asked.
“Good so far. I’m surprised with how many people showed up. Even Jake showed. And you know how much of a flake he is.”
“Dylan seems to be into Curtis.”
“She’s good with people.”
“I saw her talking with Lucas too,” he added casually.
“Yeah. I introduced them,” she said in a monotone.
Easton arched an eyebrow in surprise. “How’s he doing?”
“I don’t know,” she lied. “What does it matter?”
He clearly liked that response, because his smile brightened to the megawatt that had made her fall for him. The perfect hair and jaw and smile and eyes and everything. The tennis body she’d died for that first day. The chemistry that ignited at first touch. The everything that looked like it was crumbling into pieces all around her.
“Are you okay?” he asked when he noticed her expression.
“I’m just beat, I think. Work has been so rough lately. It’s hard to decompress,” she muttered.
“I know.” He slipped an arm around her shoulders. “We don’t have to stay long.”
“That’d be great,” she said with a half-smile.
He kissed her hair and went back to talking to his colleagues. Dylan returned to their circle soon enough. Having her there ended up being a great distraction, because hardly anyone noticed how quiet she was. And only she noticed when Lucas slipped back into the room to talk to his brother.
For a split second both Lucas’s and Chris’s attention were focused on her, and then they both darted away.
Oh God, did Chris know?
Her stomach twisted at that thought. Because if Chris knew…would it get back to Brady? She could trust Liz to keep it to herself, but not Chris. And then it would spiral before she was ready for it to.
She tried not to let her mind corkscrew into a dangerous paranoia. There was nothing she could do about anything tonight. She’d have to figure it all out later, and be more present now.
“Do you need another drink?” Easton asked.
“Oh, no. I’m not really drinking tonight,” she told him. Because drinking was definitely a crux of one of her problems.
“Huh. Okay.” His smiled brightened. “Just me then.”
He stepped back and faced the entire room and raised his glass high.
“Excuse me. Excuse me. Can I have everyone’s attention?”
Savannah looked at him in confusion. What was he doing? A toast?
The room quieted almost instantly and everyone’s attention was rapt on Easton standing at the front of the room.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Brady and Liz for hosting this amazing party tonight. I’m so thankful for them, and I can’t wait to meet their new addition to the household.”
Cheers went up around the room as everyone agreed with Easton.
Brady raised a glass to Easton and winked. Liz just hugged her belly and smiled. The genuine happiness that radiated from them was almost sickening.
“And while I have your attention, I want to turn to the love of my life and ask a question.”
Savannah’s eyes widened as Easton turned to face her. He withdrew a blue box from his coat pocket and dropped to one knee. He opened the box to reveal an enormous haloed diamond.
Her stomach dropped out of her bod, and her heart screeched to a halt. Her hands flew to her mouth.
Easton looked up at her with earnest kind eyes. “Savannah, will you marry me?”
Oh, fucking hell.
What…what was she supposed to do? She’d been planning to tell him that she’d kissed Lucas…and he was asking her to marry him? In front of everyone that she knew. Her parents and siblings and their wives and all their friends and…Lucas.
Tears came to her eyes again unbidden.
She’d dreamed of this moment. Hoped for this moment. Envisioned exactly how it would all go.
And now that it was here, it was both magical…and horrifying.
Because she wanted to say yes. And she shouldn’t say yes. And she couldn’t say no.
“Yes,” she choked out.
Easton plucked the ring out of the box and slid it onto her finger. Then he scooped her up into his arms and swung her around in a circle. She could dimly hear the cheers through the fog that was her brain. And her eyes snagged just a moment, just a brief second, on Lucas’s retreating back.
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