Back to You
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“That one we’re taking step-by-step. Let’s go kick some ass.”
As they headed out to the roar of a hometown crowd, Vaughan wasn’t tied in knots. He’d made a choice. One he needed to make. Now he just needed to see it all through.
* * *
STACEY PUSHED A cup of coffee toward Kelly as she opened the door to admit her best friend. Who Kelly’d specifically told to stay in Manhattan where she’d been attending a conference.
“It’s gonna be a long day. I brought sustenance.”
“I know you heard me tell you to stay at your conference.”
“Please, as if I listen to nonsense like that.” Stacey tossed her bag on the couch and kept on until they reached the kitchen. “What’s for breakfast?”
“There’s like forty-five pounds of food in the fridge. Vaughan’s sister-in-law brought over a boatload of stuff yesterday and fed people for hours. There’s actually more left. I had some mu shu pork stuff. I shouldn’t have mentioned it, though, as I ate it all and there’s none for you. Why did you come back? I thought you were presenting your paper today?”
“I told them I’d had a family emergency so they let me present it yesterday. I was on a plane back here a few hours later,” Stacey explained.
Kelly hugged her. “I’m so glad you’re here. So much has happened since I spoke to you last.”
“Get to drinking that coffee while I go through your food like a hungry bear.”
Now that Stacey stood there in her kitchen, Kelly allowed herself to be relieved and then thrilled. “I’m so glad you’re a disobedient nag.”
Stacey moved back to her, hugging her once more. “She’s going to be all right.”
“I know.” Kelly drank her coffee while she watched Stacey fill a plate. “It’s not even that. I mean, I was freaked when it first happened. But Maddie’s going to be fine. It’s...Vaughan.”
Stacey slid up onto the stool across the island from Kelly. “Please tell me you didn’t sleep with him.”
“I didn’t sleep with him!” She kept her tone low, not wanting to wake Kensey just yet. All this stuff had been bubbling up and she’d had no one to say it to. Thank goodness for her friend.
Stacey arched a perfectly shaped brow. “You wanted to.”
Kelly had met Stacey eight years before when Stacey had been her divorce attorney. After the divorce had been final she’d been minus a husband but up a friend.
An unlikely pairing, but the two of them clicked. Stacey was the sister of Kelly’s heart and a big part of the way Kelly had been able to stand up and claim a safe place for herself and her kids.
The moment Kelly had fully fallen in love with her friend was when Kelly overheard Stacey giving a stern lecture to Vaughan’s attorney about not underestimating Kelly’s intelligence simply because she happened to be beautiful. No one had ever defended her like that before. It usually tended to be double-edged. In her modeling days she’d had friends, but they’d all been wrapped up in the track to the top. She did have people she kept contact with since she’d left, but Stacey had become the closest friend Kelly ever made.
Which also meant Kelly couldn’t lie to her. She put her head down, resting on her arms and groaned. “I always want to. That’s not a secret. I feel like I need one of those ‘days without a workplace accident’ signs only with ‘X days since I last boned my hot-as-shit ex-husband.’”
Stacey fanned her face a second. “He is hot as shit. No denying it. One of the most superior male specimens I’ve ever seen. And yet, he’s a thirtysomething man-boy who lives with his mom. Don’t forget that.”
Kelly burst into laughter. “He has his own house. He doesn’t live with them.”
Stacey snorted. “Oh, I see, he lives in the carriage house with his own entrance! Please. Same difference, Kelly. You can’t have a life with a man who lets anyone else have that much say in his decisions concerning your family.”
“I hate it when I can’t just say, you’re jaded because you’re a divorce attorney.”
“And why is that?” Stacey had no problem making Kelly come out and say it.
“Because you’re right. In part. He’s suddenly in my space. Sure, I see him often enough when he’s not recording, writing or on tour. He sees the girls regularly, is what I mean. Which is good,” Kelly added.
“Get to the real point and stop giving the man a gold star for doing what is a necessary and normal thing. It’s not a special achievement to be there for your children. Nor should you have to note it every time like a credit he gets paid for. Ugh. He’s supposed to be a good parent.”
When Kelly thought about her own upbringing, she couldn’t help but give Vaughan credit because she’d grown up without anyone who loved her the way he loved their children.
“What about Vaughan and Kelly? Don’t get sidetracked by your obsessive need to be nice. Not when we’re talking about sex and stuff. He’s reacting to your engagement.”
Kelly thought so, too. “Maybe. When I told him about the engagement he was surprised.”
“But the tool held his tongue to the point of pretty much rolling with it A-OK.”
Kelly shook her head, disagreeing with that. “It felt more like he ran from it. Not acceptance. Avoidance.” The distinction shouldn’t be important, but it was. “It’s recent and stupid and it doesn’t say anything. Not really. But it feels like he’s trying to get close to me. Like a deliberate step into my life.”