Chapter Thirty

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A pink-ribboned box of macarons. Salted caramel.

A bottle of rye.

A pickle bottle-just brine, no gherkins.

A colorful vintage scarf, frayed at the edges.

A brand new camisole and matching knickers, frilly at the edges.

Rosalind stared at the things Nick had brought her. Flavors. Textures. New and old.

"It looks like Christmas in here," Portia said, popping her head into the study. She looked around. "Is he gone already?"

"Yes."

"And you aren't naked." Her sister entered the room. "It must not have gone well for him."

"I can honestly say I'm not sure who lost out most." She unwrapped the foil around the top of the rye, uncorked it, and took a swig. It went down smooth, warming the pit of her stomach.

Portia sat down on the floor next to her awkwardly. She took a moment to figure out how to arrange her legs before she held her hand out. "May I?"

Shrugging, she handed it over.

Portia daintily tipped the bottle to her lips. She winced as it hit her palate, and then coughed twice. Passing it back, she said hoarsely, "Good."

The corner of her mouth quirked, which was saying something because she'd never felt less amused in her life.

"Knock, knock." Bea breezed in, her heels clacking with authority on the marble floors. She arched her brows at them as she set her bag down on a side table and unwrapped her scarf from her neck. She took in the scene in one quick sweep. "Did I forget someone's birthday?"

"Rosalind's beau is courting her."

"The lying bastard?" Bea joined them on the rug, frowning as she reached for one of the gifts. "He's courting you with pickles?"

"Pickle juice," she corrected. "To go with the rye."

Bea's patrician nose wrinkled. "That's disgusting, Ros."

She shrugged. Nick got her, but just thinking that made her sad.

"At least he has excellent taste in knickers." Bea grabbed the satin and lace bottoms and inspected them. "These are Agent Provocateur."

"I like that style."

"And he knows it." Her sisters exchanged looks.

She frowned at them. "What did that mean?"

"What do you think it meant?" Smiling like a cat at the cream, Bea opened the macarons and popped one in her mouth.

Viola hurried into the room. "Portia said it was urgent to get here, and I arrive to find you having a picnic. How is that an emergency?"

"The picnic is courtesy of Rosalind's cheating lover."

"He's not cheating," Rosalind said, to clarify. "He's lying."

"At least he has good taste." Vi sat on the rug as she shimmied out of her coat. "I love macarons."

Summer did, too, Rosalind remembered suddenly. Then what Viola said struck her. "Portia told you to come?"

Portia reached for the alcohol. "Nick showed up at the door, and I thought we should have reinforcements, just in case."

Rosalind gaped at her sisters. "You all came here to protect me?"

"Of course." Plucking another macaron from the box, Bea looked at her like she was insane.

She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat.

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