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I turn and see Michael in the doorway of the gym, giving me an unreadable look. “Sorry,” I say. “Sister emergency.”
“No prob, but Mrs. Rubio’s here for her appointment, so—I’ll see you tomorrow, K?”
“Okay,” I say, tugging on a curl.
He disappears only to reappear a second later. “Chloe?”
His eyes are unreadable. For a second I’m confused by the question. Nobody ever asks me that. Ever.
I fake-smile at him. “Totally!”
He holds my gaze, and I know he doesn’t believe me, but before he can press further Gail Rubio’s bleached-blond head appears at his shoulder and she sees who’s been keeping her boy toy from her. “Oh. Hey, Chloe!”
I don’t miss the way her expression goes from catfight-ready to relief when she sees that it’s “just me” that Beefcake’s talking to.
“Hey, Mrs. Rubio. I love that coral top—it’s a great color on you!”
“Thanks, sweetie. Give your mom a hug for me, K? I’ve been missing her at Junior League.”
“Will do!” I give them both a happy little wave and head toward the locker room.
Feeling oddly out of sorts, I’m just talking myself into a little pity-party ice cream and debating which flavor to splurge on when I get the text message.
Devon: Hey, you busy?
Me: Nope. What’s up?
Devon: Can we talk?
Just like that, my mood’s improved.
Me: Absolutely. Tell me when and where.
When Chloe mentioned the Fourth of July party, I had absolutely no intention of going.
Not because I had other plans, but because I understand the way these things work.
This isn’t some section of middle America where the butcher rubs elbows with the mayor who’s married to the kindergarten teacher whose sister is a wealthy entrepreneur who’s engaged to the football coach at the local high school.
Cedar Grove is a lot more like the Upper East Side or Aspen or Beverly Hills, where there are two very distinct groups of people and a very deliberate line separating them.
In this world, employees of the country club don’t mingle with the members of the country club.
And I had no interest in trying.
At least not until I’d overheard one tiny, trivial conversation in the gym that changed everything: Did you hear Tim and Mariana are back from Tuscany?
Tim and Mariana.
Tim and Mariana Patterson.
As in, my biological father and his wife.
More eavesdropping had revealed another crucial detail.
The Pattersons just happened to be best fucking friends with none other than … the Bellamys.
As in the Bellamys and Pattersons cohost an annual Fourth of July party.
The very same one that Chloe had invited me to.
This is my chance.
My very reason for being in the Lone Star State.
I’ve stalled long enough. At first it was because I told myself it would be better to observe the man from afar. Hence, getting in good at his club.
Only, by the time I got the job as tennis pro/personal trainer, the Pattersons were off on an extended wine-tasting trip in Europe.
That’s the technical reason I’d never come face-to-face with the man who’d given me half my DNA.
The real reason … the one that creeps up just as I’m falling asleep: I don’t know what the fuck to do about it. Any of it.
Which is why I need to get to the damn party. I need to see the man. Look him in the eye.
Figure my shit out.
And for that, I need Chloe Bellamy.
Which is why I’m standing outside on the porch of the house where I rent the basement as she pulls up to the curb. She honks, followed by a huge wave and smile that I don’t return.
The trunk of her silver Audi A4 pops open and I drop my leather duffel bag next to her hot-pink one, and, for the tenth time that morning, consider backing out.
An entire weekend rubbing elbows with people I work for?
But then I get in the car anyway.
“I told you I’d drive,” I say irritably, slamming the door shut.
“Um, I’ve seen the way you talk about your car. I’d be too scared to eat snacks in there.”
“It’s a three-hour drive,” she says, jerking her thumb over her shoulder.
I glance back and see a cooler and a paper bag with Lay’s potato chips perched on top. I can just imagine what other junk-food monstrosities lay beneath.
“Three hours,” I repeat.
“Lots of time to get to know each other, Beefcake.”
She grins and pats my leg. “Okay, no problem. How do you feel about Broadway tunes?”
I turn my head to look out the window, hoping she’s joking.
An hour later I know she’s not.
“Okay, I give!” I say, interrupting a very dramatic version of the title song from Phantom of the Opera.
“I always wanted to see that show on Broadway,” she says dreamily. “I’ve only been to New York once, and my parents dragged us around to all of the boring museums and a dull-ass play instead of the musicals.”
I say nothing.
“You ever been?” she asks.
“To Phantom of the Opera? No. God, no.”
“What about other Broadway shows?”
I remain silent, looking out the window.