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“Because that’s the goal.” Liv instructed the waitstaff to distribute the drinks. Once everyone had theirs, she lifted her first shot glass. “To the Handlers’ ol’ ladies.”

“I’m not an ol’ lady,” Harper pointed out.

“Give it time, give it time.” Liv motioned to Harper’s shot glass.

With a roll of her eyes, she grabbed the shot. She’d give this one to Liv even though she wasn’t an ol’ lady and never would be.

“Bottoms up, ladies!”

They all sucked back the shots. Harper screwed up her face and gasped as the disgusting liquid scorched its way to her stomach. “Oh my God, that’s awful.”

“Right there with you,” Rachel said with a full-body shudder. “Ugh.”

“Mm… it’s my fave.” Live smiled.

“Let’s play a game,” Jo said.

“Ooh, how about truth or dare?” Liv’s eyes lit up.

“That sounds fun.” Already, Harper felt her muscles loosening. Whether the shot magically worked that fast or it was all in her head, she didn’t care. This was fun, and she planned to make it last as long as possible.

“Okay, then you’re first, Harper. Truth or dare?”

“I’ll start with a truth to warm myself up.”

Liv’s smile grew mischievous.


“Did you sleep with Jinx last night?”

Well, she’d walked right into that one, hadn’t she?

“How about we do our next shot?” she asked, raising her glass. “Yeah?”

A huge grin broke out across every face at the table.

“Oh my God, you did, didn’t you?” Rachel asked. She squealed and clapped her hands. “This is the best news ever.”

“What? I didn’t say anything,” Harper exclaimed.

“No, but your face did,” Liv called out, laughing.

“And that hickey on your neck,” Brooke added with a wink.

“What?” Harper slapped a hand over her neck without even knowing if she had the right spot. How had she missed a hickey? “He didn’t give me a hickey, did he?” She gaped at Brooke.

“Nope,” Brooke said with an apologetic wince. “But now you just admitted you were with him.”

“Oh!” Well, shit.

Everyone laughed and cheered.

“Wow, Brooke. That was devious.” Liv held her hand up for a high-five.

From there, the game turned hilarious. Brooke dared Liv to trade her five-hundred-dollar shoes for Brooke’s twenty-dollar Target ones for the rest of the night. Jo was forced to describe Tracker’s goods in detail, and Rachel had to crank call the tire shop asking if she could have her tires bedazzled while speaking in a French accent. A confused Ty ended up calling her crazy and hanging up on her, which sent the tipsy ladies into a round of giggles for the hundredth time that night.

“Back to you, Harper. Truth or dare?” Jo asked.

“Oh God, I can’t do another dare. I’ll go with truth.” On her previous turn, she’d had to order a drink called Cum in a Tub. Never in her life had she been more embarrassed than when asking the poor waiter for the nasty drink. Hopefully, Jo’s question would be less painful.

“How are you doing?” Jo asked.

Such a simple question, but Jo didn’t mean it in a simple manner. But she left it up to Harper as to how to take it. She could answer with a simple “I’m great,” or she could get real. Thank God for tequila, or she’d have taken the chicken-shit way out.

“I’m doing all right.” She sipped the margarita. It’s funny how she thought the tequila shot was disgusting, but add some lime, crushed ice, and salt, and they were onto something.

She glanced at Rachel’s confused expression. Curly’s half sister was the only one at the table who didn’t have a clue about her past.

“Um… when I was eighteen, I dated a guy who got me in trouble.” She went through the whole sorted story, pausing only when another round of drinks was delivered to the table. By the time she finished, the girls had tears in their eyes, and all reached across the table to grab her hands.

“You are strong as hell, Harp,” Brooke said as she shook her head. “I knew the basics from the background check, but honey, I’m so sorry that happened to you. I want you to know we are a safe space if you ever need to talk, scream in anger, or break down in tears.”

“That goes for all of us. Anything you need to talk about,” Liv said with a nod, then a wink. “Including a six-foot-six hulk of a man with a wicked sense of humor and some serious muscles.”

“Hell yes,” Jo added. “Especially if you want to talk about him.”

“I’ve never been in a situation like yours, but my ol’ man has been,” Brooke added. “He is also there for you anytime you need it. Having someone who understands what you’re going through might be helpful. He’s been very open with me about his struggles following his release, so I know it can’t be easy for you. One thing he told me that helps him erase the feeling of loss after being locked up for so many years is grabbing every ounce of happiness he can. He doesn’t let any opportunity for joy pass him by.”