“How many margarita sleepovers have we had?”
There was a moment of silence as my eyes met Coral’s across the kitchen table, and then we both burst into laughter.
“What?” Celeste spread her hands and gave us wide eyes. “What’s so funny?”
“You are,” Coral giggled. “You are so totally predictable, Celeste.”
“Every single time we have one of these, as soon as you get a little bit drunk, you ask us that question. And then you get pissy when we won’t stop and try to count them all up.” I lifted my purple margarita glass. “To the Bosom Buddies and our margarita sleepovers . . . however many of them we’ve had.”
The girl clinked with me, echoing my toast before we all took fortifying sips of our tequila.
“And to the Tinsel and Tatas Benefit 5K Run and Weekend Celebration.” Celeste raised her glass. “May we all survive the biggest charity event Burton’s ever seen.”
“Survive? We’re going to rock the whole damn thing.” Coral quirked one eyebrow. “Should we also drink to the weekend’s entertainment, one very hot, very famous, and very familiar—at least to one of us—country singer Ty Hollis?”
Celeste rolled her eyes. “Don’t start up with me again about Ty. I told you both that this is all business. It has nothing to do with what happened between the two of us almost ten years ago.”
“Time will tell,” Coral replied airily. “Just mark my words, girls. Remember that I told you so.”
Celeste patted her arm. “Of course, you did, sweetie.” She reached for the blender, where another serving was waiting. “But I think it’s time to get to the real juice of the evening.” She poured us each another drink and then fastened her gaze on me. “What’s going on with you, Sabrina?”
“Not much.” I left my glass on the table in my hurry to change the subject. “Coral, your movie premiere is next weekend, isn’t it? Are you getting excited?”
“Arrrgh.” She flung one arm onto the table and dropped her head down on top of it. “Don’t remind me. Why was I stupid enough to set this book in Savannah?”
I patted her hand. “Because you wanted to do a story that could include all of the history around here, remember? After we did that weekend in the city and went on the carriage ride and the ghost tour . . .”
“It was a rhetorical question, Sabrina.” She lifted her eyes. “Because when I set my books in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and Colorado, the movies premiere in New York or LA. But this time, with it taking place in Savannah, they thought it was such a great idea to premiere it here. And they say it’s absolutely essential that I’m part of the whole mess.”
Have I mentioned that Coral can be just the teensiest bit dramatic?
“I think it sounds like it’ll be amazing, Cor,” Celeste said, her enthusiastic cheerleading smile glowing. “Didn’t you say something about tickets for your closest friends? You know, your bosom buddies?” She winked.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve got that all set up.” Coral waved her hand. “That’s not the problem. The problem is that my publicist Sherell told me I need to bring a date. Like, a man.”
“Aha. Now the plot thickens.” I wagged my eyebrow. “This is getting juicy. Who are you going to invite, Coral?”
“I don’t know!” She practically wailed the words. “I was thinking of my cousin Gary, but then I saw the family newsletter, and I guess he got married or something. And anyway, Sherell says it has to be a romantic interest because they’re going to play up that angle—that I’m a romance author who leads this super exciting, sexy life.” Coral blew out a sarcastic breath. “As if! The most romance I get is when my fingers accidentally graze the barista’s hand when he’s giving me my coffee.”
“That’s no one’s fault but your own,” Celeste began, but I interrupted before we could get too far off track.
“So you need to find a hot guy who’ll be your date for that night.” I drummed my fingers on the tabletop. “I think I have an idea. There’s a new doc in the hematology department, and he’s kind of cute. I heard through the grapevine that he’s single—he broke up with his college girlfriend last year when she moved to Africa.” I shook my head. “Sorry, trivial detail. Anyway, I bet I could talk to him and see if he’d be willing to be your date for that night.”
Coral’s eyes lit up. “Seriously? Oh, Sabrina, I’d owe you forever.”
“Nah, not forever.” I grinned. “Just introduce me to whoever’s playing the leading man in your next big movie and we’ll call it even.”
“Oh.” She tilted her head. “The next one is shooting here in Burton this fall. I just got an update on the production schedule. Since they’re filming it here, I’m going to be an extra in one of the scenes. But the lead in that one was just cast—and it’s Diego Ramos.”
“Yummy.” Celeste took another long drink of her margarita. “But he’s not going to be interested in any of us, unfortunately. He was with that adorable guy who played a manny on the TV show—what his character’s name?”
“Chip,” I supplied. “But they broke up, or so I read.”
“Too bad for them.” Celeste licked a tiny bit of salt from the corner of her lip. “Now that we’ve got Coral sorted, time to turn out attention back to you, Sabrina. Don’t think I didn’t notice that you ignored my question. What’s up with you?”
I’d put this off as long as I could, and I knew when I’d hit the wall of defeat. “Okay, okay. If you must know, when I stopped by the house last week to see how things are progressing, I . . . met someone. Or rather, I had an unexpected reunion.”
Both of my friends wore puzzled expressions. “Who was it?”
I toyed with the edge of a napkin. “Do you remember when I told you about Wesley?”
“Oh, my God, Wesley,” Celeste clapped her hand to her chest. “You didn’t really find the boy who broke your poor teenaged heart, did you?”
“In fact, I did.” I swallowed. “He’s working on the house.”
“This is the most perfect romance ever,” Coral breathed. “It’s like a made-for-film second chance love story. Tell me everything.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” I retorted. “I walked in, he came down—he’d seen me from the upstairs window before I walked in—he told me who he was.” I took a deep breath. “And I basically yelled at him for leaving me without any warning or explanation, and he tried to give me some lame excuse. . . and then I left.”
“And you haven’t been back to the house since?” Celeste wanted to know. “I mean, aren’t you curious, Sabrina? Don’t you want to know what happened to him when you guys were in high school?”
“Why would I want to know that?” I retorted. “It all happened a long time ago.”
“Because he hurt you,” Coral answered me gently. “I remember when you told us the story. It was the first time I ever saw you cry.”
I blinked and pressed my lips together, unwilling—or unable—to answer.
“Wesley was your best friend. He’d been there for you all of your life, especially after your mom died.”
“Mmmm.” I nodded.
“And then you started to have feelings for him, like that you wanted to be more than friends, and you were afraid that he didn’t feel the same way until one night when you were walking home together. He asked you to the—was it the prom? Or cotillion or something?”
“The Holiday Ball,” I supplied hoarsely. “It was a huge big deal in our school.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Celeste agreed, taking up the narrative. “And then even better, he kissed you and told you that he’d been trying to work up the nerve to ask you out for months.”
When I closed my eyes, I could still remember that night so clearly. I didn’t think about Wesley all the time—a demanding college schedule, med school, and life had kept me too busy to wallow once I’d left Wisconsin after high school. But on nights when I was by myself and lonely, the memory of Wesley’s shining eyes, how his lips had felt against mine, the joy in my heart when he’d confessed that he liked me . . . it felt all too close.
“I really thought it was the beginning for us,” I mused, staring down at my hands on the table. I thought all of my dreams were finally coming true. I went into the house after he’d kissed me goodnight, and I remember that I cried just a little because I wished I had my mother there, to tell her about Wesley and me. I wanted her to squeal with me and get all excited about finding a dress for the Holiday Ball.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Celeste murmured, reaching over to clasp my hand.
“Once I got into bed, I just lay there imagining how different my life was going to be. I pictured Wesley and I walking to school together the next morning, maybe sharing a few kisses. I giggled at how surprised everyone would be when they saw us holding hands in the hallway—Wesley was a big deal, the hottest guy in the school, and I—well, I wasn’t. I was the poor little girl who had no mother and was kind of a nerd.”
“Nerds rule,” Coral informed me solemnly. “Wesley would’ve been damn lucky to get a girl like you.”
I offered her a small, sad smile. “Unfortunately, he didn’t stick around long enough to figure that out. Because the next day, he never came to my door. For as long as we’d been going to school, he’d been there every morning. I was late to my first class, and I was so worried—at lunch, I snuck away and called him, which was totally not like me—I was a rule follower.” I closed my eyes, the waves of hurt breaking over me again, almost as devastating as they’d been that late autumn day fourteen years ago. “I thought he’d pick up or it would go to voicemail, but I just got a message that the line had been disconnected.”
“Son of a bitch,” Celeste swore. “How in the hell could he do that to you? Don’t you want to know why?”
“I don’t know,” I replied slowly. “Does it even matter? I went by his house and knocked on the door, and there was no answer. That weekend, I saw his father outside and asked him if Wesley was okay. I said he hadn’t been in school or in touch for three days, and I was concerned.” I bit my lip. “His dad was always a little bit of an asshole. He told me that Wesley had decided to finish high school in California because he’d have a better chance of a football scholarship. He seemed surprised that I didn’t know, that Wesley hadn’t told me. Apparently, his mom had driven him out there, and later that month, Mr. Crane followed.” I drew in a ragged breath. “He knew he was leaving the next day, but he didn’t tell me. Instead, he gave me the cruelest kind of hope, and then he disappeared from my life forever.”
“Oh, Sabrina.” Coral stood up and staggered around the table to gather me close to her in a sloppy kind of hug. “I knew the story already, and I still feel my heart breaking for you. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
Celeste looked thoughtful. “It just doesn’t make sense,” she remarked. “Wesley was always your friend. If he knew he was leaving the next day . . . what would make him treat you that way? I think there’s more to what happened, Sabrina. And I think you owe it to yourself to find out, now that you have this chance.”
“I don’t care about his reasons.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “Nothing he could say would make me feel better about what he did.” I paused, remembering the light in Wesley’s eyes when he’d come down the steps last week. “And what’s more, it doesn’t matter. It’s not like I’m going to fall into his arms like some lovesick girl in a romance novel.” I slid a glance Coral’s way. “No offense, Cor.”
“None taken.” She waved her hand. “But Sabrina . . . don’t you think it’s weird that Wesley came back into your life this way fourteen years after you saw him last? Don’t you think it might be a little bit of kismet?”
I snorted. “No, I don’t. I think it was coincidence and my bad luck. If I don’t see Wesley Crane again for the rest of my life, I’ll be perfectly fine with that.” I reached for my margarita. “Now let’s change the subject. All of this maudlin shit is harshing my tequila vibe.”
I took a long drink, pretending that I didn’t notice the loaded glance my friends shared. That was fine; they could believe whatever they wanted. But there was no chance in hell that I was giving Wesley another opportunity to hurt me.
No fucking way.
Want to know what comes next?
Episode Four is coming next Friday!
And we’ll hear Wesley’s side of the story . . .
The tale of Coral’s movie premiere date
is coming in September, right here.
What about Celeste?
Her romance is revealed in
which is part of the holiday benefit anthology
Releasing October 5th