One of my older clients had learned I was back and wanted me to team up with Tiffany to work on her current rental properties. Tiffany was prepared to go against every idea I had. I was so frustrated by the time the meeting was over, but I maintained my cool and remained the bigger person. Audrey wanted to go with my ideas anyway, and that frustrated Tiffany enough on its own.
We all were at the weekly Wednesday wine-down mixer with the entire WCSF staff, and the room wasn’t as thick with tension as I thought it would be. My first thought was to dress with Nova in mind, but I didn’t even feel like playing that game. Instead, I dressed in a custom-made olive-green pantsuit. I had no shirt underneath, just a lace bra that was exposed at the top. My relaxed hair was pulled up into a slick bun, and my face was free of makeup, except for a little blush and mascara with lip gloss.
I knew I looked damn good, and Nova did too. He couldn’t keep his eyes off me, even when he was with Tiffany. It seemed as the days went on, she hated me more, likeIwas the one that had betrayedher.
Funny how that worked.
Allegra was here too, but I hadn’t bothered to try to talk to her. We hadn’t talked since that day at her home, and I was okay with that. I was tired of trying to fix things between us when she didn’t even have the courage to admit something needed to be fixed.
I made my way over to the bar for a new glass of wine. Every week we went to Charlene’s for the wine-down mixer and Mia would close the place for us.
“You look beautiful, but that’s no surprise.”
At the sound of Nova’s voice, I smiled. He made his way next to me at the bar. He looked at me with a pained gaze as his brows wrinkled.
“You look sad,” he continued.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“You can tell me how we got here.” Turning, I leaned against the bar with my wine in my hand. My eyes scanned the room for Allegra and Jeremiah. They were in separate areas of the room and that crushed my spirit. We were all supposed to be seated together, talking shit, having a good time. “The crew is just… done, Nova. Look at us.”
Nova looked away briefly, gulping air as his shoulders sagged.
“That’s on me,” he admitted. “I didn’t take into consideration how deep a poison my cheating would be. How far it would spread. I hurt all of us and I ruined our bond. I regret this more than anything in my life.”
I wanted him to pay and feel remorse, but I could tell how sincere he was. For some reason, I wanted to ease a bit of that weight.
“We’re all grown adults, Nova. We could have survived this with effort. I left, and I have no idea what happened between you and—oh, God.” At the sight of Tiffany heading in our direction, I became more jaded than I already was. “Can you please go? I am not in the mood to go back and forth with your guard dog.”
He rubbed his fist against his chest, and I was familiar enough with his gestures to know exactly what that meant. I wished I could fix the aching within his chest, but this was his doing. Our doing.
“Yeah, of course. I’m really sorry about this, Chap.”
“Stop apologizing. What’s done is done.”
With a nod, he gave my hand a light squeeze and placed a kiss on my cheek. “We’ll talk this weekend, right?”
“Looking forward to it.”
He gave me a soft smile before walking away, pulling Tiffany away in the process. At this point, wine didn’t seem strong enough. Before I could ask for a shot of tequila, Jeremiah’s presence instantly began to calm me as he stood next to me.
“What happened between you and Nova?” I asked. “It’s clear the two of you aren’t close anymore. I don’t see you talking outside of business.”
“I beat his ass that night.”
Between his nonchalant tone and serious face, I choked on my drink. As I coughed, he patted my back and tried to lift my arms in the air. I pushed him away and patted my chest since the liquid had gone down the wrong pipe.
“Youwhat?” I choked out, gripping his arm for support as I sat on the barstool.
“I beat his ass,” he repeated, sitting next to me. “When Nova came to me and told me he was going to ask you to be his woman, I made him promise me that he wouldn’t hurt you. I told him if he did, I would hurt him, so I did. I beat his fucking ass.”
He lifted his hand to silence me. “I don’t want to hear that shit. We had an agreement, man to man. He broke his promise and squared up to pay for it.”
“Well, that explains why the two of you barely talk to each other. I feel so bad.”