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Rinsing my hand under the water, I ask, “Don’t you think a phone call would work equally as well? Isn’t it dangerous for you to go to Colombia?”

“No doubt, but I’m long overdue to see my family. My middle brother is recovering from a gunshot wound. I told you he almost died, right?”

“Yes.” I chew my bottom lip. “That’s what I’m talking about. I can’t stand the thought of anything happening to you.”

He smiles, showing off his pretty white teeth. “My dad will take care of security. Believe me, he will have me so heavily guarded, I will be fine.”

“I guess.” I glance down at my nails.

“Also, it’s only fair to tell my father in person that I’m still gay and moving to West Hollywood.” Brance sprinkles some salt on the omelet from my cute little rooster salt caddy.

“I hate it. What am I going to do without you?”

“You have Reed, Pretty Girl. And school and obviously cooking.” He holds up a forkful. “I’m not lying. This is delicious.”

Smiling, I grin. I love to cook. “I made lasagna last night for Reed. He said it was so good I could open my own restaurant.”

Brance’s lips twitch. “Of course he did. Well, he would know.”

“I’m being serious. Reed loves when I cook for him.”

“Reed loves anything you do. Which is why I can safely leave you in his hands.”

I stare at Brance, my mind scrambling to find a way to make him stay. He has been my one constant for the last three years. Sighing, I’ve known from the beginning that he was going to eventually move to California.

“I’m being selfish and spoiled. I want you to be happy. I guess this means as soon as we graduate, we’ll move to Los Angeles. I hate New York anyway,” I say, popping a grape into my mouth.

“Says the girl who won’t leave it.” His snarky voice makes me stick out my tongue.

“You know I have a love-hate thing with New York. I guess it symbolizes security because of Reed.”

“Whatever.” He takes another bite. “Holy God, Tess Rose Gallagher, this is fantastic. I’m extremely impressed.”

I smirk. “I told you I was getting domestic.”

“You weren’t kidding. Next thing, you’ll be barefoot and pregnant.”

I glare at him. “What?”

He arches an eyebrow at me. “It was a joke. God, you’re sensitive today.”

“I wonder why that is. Hmm, could it be because my best friend is being a jerk?” When I glance out the window, gray skies stare back at me. “You know I don’t find the baby thing funny. I don’t even like you joking about it!”

“Lighten up, Tess. Reed cares about two things: you and him. If you don’t want kids, believe me, the man will be more than happy not to share you,” he says in between bites.

“You think so?” My voice betrays my insecurities.

Brance stares at me like I’m insane. “Are you eating or not?”

“I can’t eat.” I reach for some grapes. “Do you want me to fit into that gown you have me wearing tonight?”

He appraises me up and down again. “You’re right. Coffee and fruit for you.”

“So…” Taking a breath, I try to prepare him. “I need you to rethink your negative vibes about Reed’s grandfather’s party tonight. Lana is going to need you.” I’m trying my best to guilt him.

He snorts, forking in the last of the omelet and pushing back the plate. “There is nothing negative about me not going to that party tonight. It’s positive all around.”

“No, it’s not.” The thought of my mom and my dad being at the same place nearly makes my chest break out in a rash.

“Please… I need you! So does Lana. She is going to be humiliated. And I can’t be in two places at once.” Sliding close to him, I clutch tightly to his shirt.

“Tess? Let go of my shirt. I’m not Reed, so stop whining.” He cups my face. “I’m trying to get away from the one percenters. The Saddingtons are old money. It goes against everything I’m striving not to become. I mean, come on, wasn’t Reed’s great-great-great-grandfather a duke or something?”

“Fine.” I pull away from him, grabbing my rubber band from my wrist to tie up my hair. “Just let me have to handle everything.” Dramatically, I wave my hands. “You know my mom is going to go insane when my dad walks in with Lana. It’s going to be a complete slap in the face for her. Not that I’m her biggest fan, but even I have to say it’s humiliating.” I open the refrigerator for a bottle of water.

“This is not our problem. Lana needs to tell Robert to fuck off. I told her that too.” Taking the bottle from me to open it, he looks at his watch again. I almost kick him.

“Stop looking at your watch. We have plenty of time before we have to meet her.”

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