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“Jax said they are sending the G5 Jet.” I stare at Pudding who has made himself at home, sitting in one of my chairs looking out the window.

Brance pulls out his phone. “I called Ken Paves Salon and talked to Stacey. She said she can fit you in at noon.”

I snort, reaching for the pot and pour myself a fresh cup.

“I’m getting on that jet because I have no choice!” I blink rapidly as I look up at my ceiling then back at his worried face. “Why are we even trying to be optimistic? This is so bad, beyond bad,” I yell, jerking open my kitchen cabinet. “It doesn’t matter what my face and hair look like, Brance.”

Grabbing a mug for him, I slam the cabinet shut, the sound ricocheting around the room. Pudding jumps off the chair and runs over to me.

“Shit.” I brace my hands on the counter.

“Why don’t you sit down.”

“You need coffee,” I say, jerking the pot out. My hands are shaking so badly, I spill brown liquid all over the counter. “Goddamn it!” This time Pudding runs away.

“Tess, just sit! God, you’re even scaring Pudding.” He guides me to the kitchen nook, and I sink into the chair Pudding has just left. It’s still warm.

Brance shakes his head as he calmly pours himself some coffee.

Turning away in disgust, I open one of the bay windows. A cool breeze blows on my fevered cheeks. I might be losing it, but as much as I want to, I can’t. I have reasons to get myself together. Vaguely, I hear the hum of a gardener’s lawn mower and some birds. Birds are good, right?

Brance snaps his fingers in front of my face. “Tess, get your shit together. We don’t have time for the dramatics! We have to get organized.”

My eyes shoot over to his. “You don’t have to be a jerk.”

Leaning his hip on the counter, he sips his coffee. “Have you called Scott and explained what’s going on?”

Stiffening at Scott’s name, I wipe some crumbs off the table. “Why would I do that? This is none of his business,” I say, daring him to make it a big deal.

“Tess, you are seeing this man. You need to at least let him know you’re going out of town.” His disapproval aggravates me. He’s only been like this since he married Logan. The old Brance wouldn’t have even mentioned Scott.

“We don’t have that sort of relationship, and you know it,” I snap.

Brance stares at me, then pushes off the counter to sit.

“If I call him, he will want to help, and that is not an option. It’s better this way. Scott is way too good for me.”

“You think so, huh?”

I stare at him. “Don’t act like you don’t.” Rubbing my fingers on my temples, I contemplate what I’m going to do. He’s right. Scott deserves the common courtesy of a phone call. At least let him know we will be out of town.

“God!” I say, briefly dropping my head in my hands. “When have I ever done the right thing? Add it to the list of shitty things I can feel guilty about.”

“You’re becoming quite the little martyr, aren’t you?” I glance up but don’t acknowledge the comment. Rolling his eyes, he adds, “Whatever, Tess. Do you want Logan to stay here with Pudding?”

“No, bring him to your house since I don’t know how long we’ll be gone.”

Standing up, he dumps his coffee in the sink. “I’m coming with you. I would never allow you to face this alone.” He shrugs. “Besides, I’m not exactly innocent in this fiasco.”

Hope surges inside me. “You’re coming with me?” I’m so pathetic, but I truly need Brance. “Logan won’t want you to go,” I remind him.

“He already knows. He hates it, but he has accepted it.”

Guilt rears its ugly head. I carry enough, and I don’t need to add this. Shaking my head, I say, “No, you should be here with your husband. I’m a big girl. He can’t hurt me anymore.”

He arches a dark brow. “Tess, we don’t know how he is going to react. All we can do is make sure that you look as good as you possibly can.” He says this completely deadpan. I blink at him and burst out laughing. Slapping his arm, I laugh. “You’re ridiculous. You know that, right?”

His mouth twitches. “I’m being serious. He’s always had a weak spot when it comes to your looks.”

“I think I’m going to need more than that this time.”

“Agreed, but we have to work with what we have. So… even though your lips look spectacular when you’re hysterical, your eyes look like shit!”

My mind flashes back to Reed, his smile making my heart ache, calling me beautiful, exquisite, so many compliments, always making me feel like a goddess that he worshiped.

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