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Rubbing my hands on my pants, I admit it. “I’m nervous.”

He starts laughing. “Why? Because you know she is going to like my gift better?” He waggles his eyebrows.

“Why are you being a dick tonight?” No way am I admitting that is exactly what I was thinking.

Jax doesn’t answer but keeps that smug smile on his face all the way to her apartment. Glaring at him, I pound on the door. Brance opens it, and I almost take a step back. He’s wearing a shiny silver tuxedo! And is that eye makeup on him?

“Hey, hey, hey. Welcome, you gorgeous men.” He waves us in.

“Brance, tone the gayness down a notch or two,” I snarl.

“Hmm, Tess, said you were going to be prince charming tonight.” He shrugs, dismissing me and leaving us to enter alone.

“SexyBack,” by Timberlake is blasting. With a deep breath, I take in the scene around the apartment. What the fuck? I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. The apartment has been completely refurbished and repainted in reds and golds. Velvet couches with mixed with metallic gold pillows line two walls. And that’s in addition to the ridiculous number of Chinese lanterns, silver and gold streamers, and metallic balloons drifting from the ceiling.

Looking at Jax, I point around the room. “The whole place is changed. Did Tess mention this to you?”

He shakes his head. “Wow, Claire might actually be losing it. I can’t wait to see Robert’s face when he comes home after months of being gone and finds his multimillion-dollar apartment is a gay man’s dream.” Jax snorts.

“Jesus, I think that’s insulting to most gay guys,” I say. “It’s more like Liberace’s wet dream.”

Leaving Jax speechless at the décor, I head straight for the kitchen where I know I’ll find Maria and Letty.

Their dark heads are close together, and they speak in hushed Spanish, checking to make sure the appetizers are warm.

Their eyes light up when they see me. Grabbing and kissing me, they make me feel instantly welcome.

“What has happened to this place?” They both smile and shrug, a knowing look in their eyes.

“What? You don’t like it, Mr. Reed?” Letty acts shocked.

Rolling my eyes, I grab a bacon-wrapped date before Maria can stick a toothpick in it. I pop it in my mouth, almost groaning out loud as it burns my tongue, bursting with goat cheese and the bacon’s salty sweetness.

“Holy God, that’s so good.” Kissing Maria’s forehead, I reach for another.

She slaps my hand. “No more, Mr. Reed. You have to wait for everyone.”

“Just one more. I need to make sure the bacon is fully cooked.”

She eyes me up and down. “One more, and don’t get any on your suit.”

Hugging her, I ask, “So what’s the story with Claire and Robert? Are they getting divorced? Because if they’re not, they will be when he comes home.”

Both giggle at my joke. Unfortunately, I’m kind of serious. “Is he going to be here tonight?” Tess hasn’t mentioned it, but I know she wants her dad to be here for her birthday party.

Maria looks at the doorway, then lowers her voice. “We have not seen Mr. Robert in months. Mrs. Claire was fighting with him on the phone a couple days ago, though.” She shakes her head disapprovingly and bites her lip with worry. “I don’t think he is going to show tonight.”

“Asshole.” Robert has never liked me, so I’m not a fan. In the last year, I think I’ve seen him twice.

The doorbell rings, breaking up our gossiping. Assuming it’s my parents, I allow Jax to let them in.

Putting my arms around Maria and Letty, I squeeze them tight. “I’m going to go find Tess. I’ll see you two later.” When I wink at them, they laugh, then chastise me for stealing another hors d’oeuvre.

“Jesus.” Shaking my head at the gaudy gold hallway, I make my way to Tess’s room.

When I stop at the door, I’m almost scared of what I’m going to find. Not bothering to knock, I open it. I can’t get a good look because Tess, some tattooed girl with pink hair, and Olive Oyl are all screaming at me. I start laughing at the stupidity of it all. Brance appears and shoos me out, shutting the door behind us.

“What the hell has happened to this place?”

He stares at me, arms crossed.

“We need to talk,” I say, motioning with my head for him to follow. This conversation is long overdue. Especially, with his decorating and how it seems he is becoming Claire’s life coach.

He keeps up with me. His dark eyes show no fear. If anything, he seems to be trying to decide if I’m good enough to bother with.

Snorting at his smugness, I enter the library slash billiard room: meaning it is surrounded with books and in the middle of the room is an ornate wooden pool table. This is one of Tess’s and my favorite rooms for numerous reasons. Brance moves to a love seat in the corner. He glances around, taking in the hunter-green walls and dark wooden bookshelves as if he can’t wait to get his hands on it.