PART TWO - Chapter 20

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Emma

I read the stupid text over and over until the smell of burning bacon made me leap into action. For the first time since we'd moved in, I felt grateful for the tiny kitchen, since I literally only had to lean a few feet toward the stove to move the pan off the heat. I slammed it down on a cool burner and slumped against the stupid pole I hated so much, anger and betrayal washing over me like acid rain.

Zach had lied. He'd goddamn fucking lied. New doomsday scenarios exploded into life across my mind—images of him dancing with Kennedy, kissing Kennedy, lying in bed with Kennedy... I honestly couldn't take much more of her, and it was getting harder and harder to believe there was nothing going on.

But then Zach's sad, tired face came back to me. He sure hadn't looked like a guy who'd spent a sexy night in the arms of a beautiful woman. There had to be a reasonable explanation, I decided, and before I scrambled him even one egg, I needed to know what it was.

I charged toward the bedroom, pep-talking myself the whole way. We were partners. There should be no secrets between us. We loved each other. Talking things out was good for a relationship. But my flow of thoughts stopped as soon as I stepped through the doorway. There he lay, his side of the bed no longer perfect, snoring like he meant to hibernate through the winter. So much for communication.

***

The bakery didn't lift my spirits as much as usual—at least not until I got to work on the bread dough. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't keep from picturing Zach's head each time I punched it down, rolling and flipping with all my might.

"You know, they give boxing classes right next door," Thayer said.

I looked across the island at him, a little startled to remember he was in the room, and a little annoyed to have my rhythm interrupted. His smile was warmer than his comment, though, and my irritation faded. At least the part that had to do with him. "I think my fiancé is cheating on me," I blurted out.

His eyes widened along with mine, and I felt a sheepish blush climb up my neck. "Sorry," I said.

"Don't be. You can't keep something like that bottled up."

"Apparently not." I went back to the bread dough.

"And I'm sorry. I know how much that sucks."

"Sure does," I said, and punched the dough. If I didn't stay angry, I knew there would be tears, and I had no intention of crying at work.

"You want to talk about it?" His voice was quieter than I'd ever heard it.

"Nope." I gripped the dough and rolled it over on itself. A big bubble burst in its milky surface, and my hands stopped moving. "It's just that law school is really demanding, not just the classes but the networking and the schmoozing and everything. And then, of course, he ends up in class with one of his oldest friends, who happens to be stunningly gorgeous and well connected and, in my opinion, has a serious thing for him. They're always together—studying, they tell me—and lately, instead of just long days, he's been staying out really late, sometimes all night, and it's too much. I only came to this stupid city for him, and now I feel like I'm here all alone, and I don't even know if it's what I want anymore."

Head spinning, I paused to take a breath. Across from me, Thayer stood with his mouth open and his hands frozen over his bowl of pastry cream. "Oh, boy. Sorry about that," I said, wanting to disappear. "I'm sure that was weird."

He shook his head. "Don't apologize. Do you feel better?"

I thought about that. "Actually, yes," I said with a grin.

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