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That just pissed him off. “You should have called to warn me you were on your way home, Ive. Now what am I supposed to do? You’ve put me in a very difficult position!” He ran a hand through his short, sandy hair. “Give me an hour? So I can finish up here? Then we can talk everything through.”

Ivy spluttered. “You want to finish fucking her?”

“Well, yeah.” He shrugged. “Get a coffee or something? Bring one back for me.”

“And me, if you don’t mind,” Chelsea said. “Almond milk latte with vanilla syrup.”

Ivy pretended she hadn’t spoken. “We’re doing this right now.”

“Fine.” He sighed and pulled on his boxers, motioning for Chelsea to stay behind in the bedroom as he retreated with Ivy to the dining nook, his face and chest still flushed. His dick was probably still hard, too. Gross. He waited until Ivy stiffly took a seat across from him before he started in. “About the house…”

“Aren’t you going to apologize?” she blurted disbelievingly. “Tell me we’re going to work it out? Suggest counseling?”

“Ive, come on. It’s over. Our relationship has been in rigor mortis for months. I was going to tell you,” he added, with a furtive glance at the now-closed bedroom door.


He shrugged, looking suddenly haggard. “On the trip. I thought we could work out the details of the split on neutral ground. The cabin has two bedrooms. That’s why I booked it.”

“Do you still want to go?” Ivy’s mind whirled, recasting the romantic holiday getaway in the new light. No Christmas proposal was forthcoming, that much was clear. Instead of tipsy hot-tubbing, they’d be sleeping apart. Having tense discussions about who gets to keep the sofa.

Her feelings finally kicked in, and she regretted it. Her stomach turned at the thought of spending three days cooped up with James as he sulked and cast blame and checked his phone for messages from his new girlfriend. “You know what? Don’t answer that. I’m going to the cabin alone. While I’m gone, pack your shit and get out.”

James grimaced. “I would, but…I don’t think you can afford the lease on this place by yourself. It’s probably better if you find somewhere else. Take the cabin booking, of course,” he added hurriedly. “Use the time away to look at your budget. Schedule some apartment showings. Figure out how to land on your feet.”

His pragmatic suggestions made her want to scream. He wasn’t sorry. He wasn’t a wreck. He’d already made sense of his future, and it didn’t include her. The fact that her entirelifehad been smashed to crumbs in the last fifteen minutes was none of his concern.

That was James, though. Unflappably patient. He’d always wait for things to go on sale rather than use credit. This was obviously the “right” time for their breakup, according to his schedule. He’d planned it. Booked a two-bedroom cabin weeks ago, reserved the perfect time and place to dump her.

“How long has this been going on?” she demanded. He stayed silent. “How long?!”

“Since May,” Chelsea called through the bedroom door. James had the decency to wince.

“I thought it would be easier to split up when the rental agreement on the house renewed at the New Year,” he explained. “Then it’d be no fuss to take your name off it.”

She stared at him in disbelief. He’d cheated and lied for over six months to avoid a minor hassle with the lease paperwork and planned to break up with her overChristmas, all because it was more convenient for him. Without a word, she pushed back from the table and stalked to the laundry room, unable to stomach the humiliating thought of returning to the bedroom, where Chelsea was still camped out on her pillow.

She crammed the contents of the dryer into a backpack, retrieved her toiletries from the bathroom, and then grabbed one of the bakery bags to take with her. The one that remained, she dumped into the sink and ran water over. She’d be damned if she was going to leave it for James and Chelsea to share over their lattes-with-vanilla-orgasms.


Loopingherbagsoverone arm, Ivy slung her purse over the other shoulder and grabbed a bottle of tequila from the bar cart by the door. If there was ever an excuse for day drinking, this was it.

She realized she’d forgotten her jacket when she was halfway down the hill. Oh well, at least her ugly Christmas sweater was thick and warm. She slugged some of the tequila, letting the burn in her throat warm her and give her an excuse for her watery eyes.

When her vision cleared, she noticed Tairon was still sitting there on the corner, watching her, looking…sympathetic?

“Youknew.” Her voice cracked.

He gave a single nod. “I saw them drive up together. Not for the first time.”

“So the ride you offered—that was…pity?” Of course, he hadn’t been flirting. He was just sorry for the sad sack who lived up the hill. Could this day get any worse? More tequila. This could only be solved by more tequila. She gulped as much as she could get down, and her nose started running.

His breath caught. “No. That’s not it. Listen—where are you going? Let me take you.”

“The car rental center,” she snuffled into her sleeve. “Don’t worry about it. It’s only a few blocks.”

His mouth quirked up as he eyed the tequila bottle she was strangling by the neck. “I don’t think driving is a good idea right now. I can give you a ride to wherever you’re going.”

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