Twisted Roses

Page 50

Brenda directs her attention to me, a bright smile on her face. “I have a really good feeling about your campaign. You’ve got this in the bag. Polk won’t know what hit him.”
“Right… let’s hope so.” I glance down distractedly at my phone. Beside it, the ice melts into my drink.
“Oooh, waiting on a certain someone’s text?” Brenda wiggles her brows, noticing my preoccupation.
I shake my head, but it’s too late—Brenda’s curiosity has been activated.
“Cade. No, no, wait. Chadwick!” She gasps and her eyes bulge. “It’s not Garrett, is it? You’re not getting back together, are you? You always seem like you have guy troubles you never talk about.”
It’s an ex, alright. But not that ex.
It’s been weeks since I’ve said a word to Salvatore. I’ve decided to spare myself any more headaches about his rivalry with Dad. After fifteen long years, it becomes irritating. Salvatore can hate Dad as much as he wants. Dad can hate him the same. I don’t give a fuck.
Their rivalry has nothing to do with me. I’m bowing out. I’m done being in the middle.
But Salvatore just can’t let it go. Just like he can’t let me go.
“You don’t have to worry about me ever getting back together with Garrett,” I answer. “That ship has sailed.”
“I notice you didn’t deny there being someone. You just denied who it is.” Brenda wraps her lips around the straw of her fruity cocktail and slurps down the rest of her drink.
We’re perched on bar stools among the many other working professionals out for cocktails and social hour. Luxe is known for its lavish, cushioned walls made of leather and the crystal chandeliers overhead. The drinks are overpriced and nothing special, but you’re paying for the atmosphere and social network.
Brenda waves down the bartender to order another vodka strawberry lemonade. I’m still stunned she’s guessed there’s a man in my life…
“There might be someone,” I admit coyly. “But we shouldn’t be together.”
She frowns. “Why not?”
“He’s bad for me.”
“The ones who are bad for us seem to be the ones we want most,” she says. “In what way is he bad for you?”
“Well, for starters, he’s obsessed. He refuses to give up on us.”
A soft sigh blows past her lips. “Is it terrible I find that kinda romantic? No man has ever fought for me. They just take.”
I don’t contradict her. Brenda hasn’t been shy about voicing her issues with men. I’ve often felt like she’s possibly the only woman in Northam with worst dating luck than me.
“Anyway, I’d rather not talk about him. I shouldn’t think about him at all.”
“If I were in your position, running for DA, I’d be secretive too. It’s best to keep it under wraps if it’s not something that’s good for you. CHET!”
I jump at the sudden raise of her voice. She thrusts her arm into the air and hovers over her seat, flagging him down. I turn around in my stool in time to watch Chet chart a path toward us.
Brenda’s been dating him on and off for months and we still haven’t met.
“He texted me earlier he might make it, but I didn’t think he would,” Brenda gushes.
I’m stuck on who Chet is. A string bean of a man, his arms and legs long, he’s freckled with a shock of red hair. Our gazes connect and my brows knit, trying to place his face.
He grins hello at me and holds his hand out to shake. “Hi, Delphine. Nice to see you again.”
“Chester… Bailey?” I trail off, ignoring his offered handshake.
“The one and only. Small world, isn’t it?” He slides an arm around Brenda’s shoulders, his grin only spreading.
Beside him, Brenda beams too, happily slurping on more of her drink. “Isn’t it pretty crazy? Chet told me he went to high school with you. I’ve never mentioned it because I didn’t know if you’d remember him.”