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Lowering the phone, I say, “Is it all right if I have Reed come to your apartment? I would love for you to meet him.”

“Absolutely.” He shrugs. “I will tell the guards to let him in.”

“Are you shitting me, Tess?” Reed screams. “Did you even hear what he said? He has guards!”

“So, what? We have Jay! Look, I’m going to lose you. It looks like we are here. We’re pulling into underground parking.”

“Fine.” He hangs up on me.

I force a smile at a very curious Brance Martinez. “He gets a little domineering at times.”

“Of course he does. He’s the Great Reed Saddington!” His voice is getting dramatic, and there’s a spark of mischief in his eyes. “Heir to one of the biggest shipping companies in the world. He can have anything he wants, and he wants you, Tess.”

“We’re soul mates,” I whisper.

“Are you always so submissive with him?” What the hell? Is that what everyone thinks about me?

He holds up a hand. “I’m not trying to be an ass. Look, if I had Reed Saddington as my boyfriend…”

The limo door opens, and our conversation is brought to an end, thankfully. A bald Hispanic man leans in to help him out, then pulls back a fraction to look at poor Brance. He’s a mess: his clothes are covered in blood, his head looks awful, and his eye, which is seriously swollen and red, is rapidly changing to black.

“Jesus, Mateo, who did this?” Brance groans as the man helps him out. “I talked to your father. He wants me to see to it,” he says quietly, looking over at me curiously.

“Thanks, Alejandro, but it’s kind of my mess to clean up. This is my new best friend,” he says, winking at me with his good eye. “Tess Gallagher. Her boyfriend will be arriving soon. Reed Saddington. Let him up.” Brance kind of spits this out as he straightens himself up. Slowly, we walk into the building. “My apartment is the penthouse.”

“Wait, this whole building is yours?” I turn to face him, which makes him sway a bit. “Sorry,” I say, grabbing on to him. I’m used to extravagant wealth, but Brance has a giant building only for himself?

“Yeah, my dad is big on security, so all the guards and their families live here too.”

The building is ultramodern. Gray is the main color theme, making the outside seem cold and unfriendly.

“So, you live all by yourself?” It’s hard not to feel sorry for this guy. My life is not perfect, but at least I have Reed and Jax. Poor Brance has no one but staff and this building.

“Yeah. Miserable, huh?” Maybe he can feel my compassion. Because it’s truly there. This place might be someone else’s dream apartment, but my gut tells me it’s his nightmare. A tomb making him an outcast. A lavish prison, secluding him from human touch.

He straightens up. “When I turn eighteen, I’m walking away from all this shit. Moving to LA. Starting fresh.”

A man in a dark suit helps Brance into the elevator, and I follow. It’s superfast, like Reed’s, and opens to a sleek, white hallway. Orchids sit on a glass table. The whole idea of less is more applies to this building. It is almost too clean, too white, too perfect. He doesn’t want to be perfect—how could he? Again, my heart swells with kinship for this stunning boy.

Yet another man is waiting for Brance. This one is apparently his doctor. My dislike of all this is new for me. Okay, I know I’m somewhat selfish, but this protective feeling I have toward Brance is startling. He has strength that I’m not used to.

No one says anything, so I perch myself on the edge of a red couch, one of the few things of color in this sterile tower. The doctor examines him with a detached, bored manner but seems to be thorough from what little I can see.

Clearing my throat, I pipe up, “Um, excuse me?”

Ignoring me, the doctor says something to Brance.

“Doctor?” I’m using my bitch voice. “He was out cold when I found him. I’m worried he may have a concussion.” Again nothing. I’m beginning to wonder if I should call my doctor. This man might be insane.

At last, after Brance’s ribs are taped and his head gets some stitches, the doctor turns to me. “He is fine.”

That’s it. Three words. Realizing this is what Brance is surrounded by makes me want to hug him.

“So, no concussion?”

“No,” he snips. Turning back to Brance, he tells him to rest.

When I glance down, my phone is vibrating in my hand. Thank God.

“Hello?” I whisper, not sure why, except that the room is so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

“We’re downstairs waiting for you.” Reed’s strong voice vibrates through the phone.

I can tell he is furious and I honestly don’t need any more drama. I like Brance and want Reed to like him too. And, Brance is hurt and needs to sleep, I think, watching as his doctor hands him some pain pills.

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