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“What? Why? I told you—” I stand up, knocking the cereal box onto the tray.

“I know you did, but just hear me out,” she begs.

“Fine.” I sit back on the bed and wait for her explanation.

“He said he’s really sorry and that he needs to explain all of this to you. I understand if you don’t want to hear it. If you don’t want to talk to either of them, Christian or your mother, I’ll get online and change the flight now. I just wanted to give you the option first. I know you care for him . . .” Her eyes begin to water again.

“I don’t,” I assure her.

“Do you want me to change the tickets?” she asks.

“Yes,” I tell her. She frowns and leans over to lift my laptop from the nightstand next to the bed. “What else did he say?” I ask hesitantly. It doesn’t matter, but I’m curious.

“The wedding is still on,” she informs me.

What the fuck?

“And he says he’s going to tell Kimberly everything and that he loves her more than his own life.” Tessa’s bottom lip begins to tremble at the mention of her betrayed friend.

“Mike is fucking stupid, then—maybe he does belong with my mum after all.”

“I don’t know what made him forgive her so quickly, but he did.” Tessa pauses and looks at me like she’s trying to gauge my mood. “Christian asked me to have you at least say goodbye to your mother before we leave. He knows you won’t go to the wedding, but he wants you to tell her goodbye.” She rushes the words.

“Hell, no. No fucking way. I’m getting dressed and we’re getting the fuck out of this shithole.” I wave my hand around the overly expensive motel room.

“Okay,” she agrees.

That was easy. Too easy. “What do you mean, okay?” I ask her.

“Nothing. I just meant okay. I understand if you don’t want to say goodbye to your mom.” She shrugs her shoulders and tucks her messy hair behind both ears.

“You do?”

“Yes.” She smiles a weak smile. “I know I’m hard on you sometimes, but I’m going to support you on this. You’re completely justified here.”

“Okay,” I say, more than a little relieved. I thought she’d fight me and even try to force me to go to the wedding. “I can’t wait to go back.” I rub my fingers over my temples.

“Yeah, me, too,” Tessa weakly replies.

Where the fuck is she going to live? After what happened here she can’t just go back to Vance’s house, but she won’t come to my place either. I don’t know what she’s going to do, but I do know that I want to rip Vance’s fucking head from his body for making her return to the States complicated.

I wish I could get her a job with me at Bolthouse, but it’s impossible. She’s not even a sophomore, and paying internships at publishing houses don’t come along every day, even to graduates. There’s no way she’ll find another, especially in Seattle, not until she’s further along in her degree, or even finished with it.

I take the laptop from her hands to finish the task of changing our flight. I shouldn’t have agreed to come to the UK in the first place. Vance talked me into bringing Tessa, only to ruin the entire damn trip himself.

“I just need to get the stuff from the bathroom and we can head to the airport,” Tessa says, tucking my dirty clothes into the top pocket of the suitcase. A defeated-looking frown covers her face, and her brows are drawn together. I want to smooth away the deep worry line between them. I hate the way her shoulders are slumped, and I know without a doubt that they’re bearing the burden of my troubles. I love Tessa and I love her compassion; I just wish she wouldn’t carry my problems along with her own. I can carry my problems myself.

“Are you all right?” I ask her. She looks up and plasters the most unconvincing smile onto her face that I’ve ever seen.

“Yeah, are you?” she asks back, her worry line deepening.

“Not if you aren’t. Tessa. Don’t worry about me.”

“I’m not,” she lies.

“Tess . . .” I cross the room and stand in front of her, pulling the shirt from her hands that I’ve just watched her fold at least ten times within the last two minutes. “I’m fine, okay? I’m still pissed off and shit, but I know you’re worried that I’m going to snap. I won’t.” I look down at my busted hands. “Well, not again, anyway.” I correct myself with a small laugh.

“I know. It’s just that you’ve been controlling your anger so well, and I don’t want anything to jeopardize your progress.”

“I know.” I run my hand over my hair and try to think clearly without getting angry.

“I’m really proud of you already, for how you handled that situation. Christian was the one who attacked you,” she says.

“Come here.” I hold my arms out, and she graciously steps into them, nuzzling her face into my chest. “Even if he hadn’t come at me, the fight still would have happened. I know I’d have made the first move if he hadn’t,” I tell her. My hands move under the hem of her shirt, and she flinches at the coldness of my touch against the warm skin of her back.

“I know,” she agrees.

“Since you’re off until Wednesday, we’ll stay at my father’s house until you—” The vibrating of her cell phone interrupts me.

Both of our eyes dart to the table. “I won’t answer it,” she announces.