Had loved him.
I still couldn’t even look at my navy-blue Converse sneakers or favorite boyfriend jeans without bursting into tears. I’d worn them the night he’d broken up with me and quietly closed the door in my face.
The sound of the door clicking shut may as well have been a gun going off.
The pain was probably the same.
I knocked. Over and over again.
Finally, one of the neighbors threatened to call the cops. I hadn’t even realized I was sobbing until I got into my car and glanced in the mirror.
He’d broken me.
And he hadn’t even looked sorry.
With a loud sigh, Avery pushed Snickers wrappers out of her way and sat on my bed, putting her hand on my lap. “It will get better, I promise.”
“No,” I sniffled.
“Would it make you feel better if I told you that I took a can of spray paint to a few of his signs downtown and gave him boobs?”
I started laughing. “Yes.”
“No can do. I’m pretty sure they send you to prison for that kind of shit, but I did manage something even better.”
I perked up.
“Oh, I see that look of revenge in your eyes, and I like it. I can work with revenge. What I can’t work with is Sad Austin. I hate Sad Austin, she’s no fun, and I say this because I love you, but Sad Austin’s going to give Awesome Austin diabetes one day.” She pulled out a bag of Skittles from the foot of the bed and dropped it onto the floor.
“Those aren’t mine,” I said defensively while my mouth watered with need for the sugary, sticky candies.
“I forgot you still have an imaginary friend who sneaks into your room and litters it with junk food.”
“Hey, that excuse worked when I was eight! My parents totally believed me.” Probably because for the most part they ignored me. I was to be seen and not heard, and when the time came for me to do my part for Daddy and his campaigns, I memorized cute little speeches and made sure to wear dresses that were only an inch above my knee. My parents loved me—they just had an odd way of showing it.
“That’s called ‘enabling,’ sweetie.” Avery patted my hand and stood. “And I refuse to do that. So, Sad Austin has got to go. The first step is admitting you have a problem, and you”—she pointed to the adjoining bathroom—“have a problem. You smell like cheese.”
“But I love cheese,” I whispered longingly. “I could go for some cheese right now.” Where the hell was my Gouda when I needed it!
“Not the good kind, Austin.” Avery scrunched up her nose.
My shoulders slumped.
“Austin,” Avery began, using her serious voice, the one that said she was done with kid gloves and was ready to pull out the big guns, “you’re smart, motivated, a kick-ass friend, and you’re only a few months away from graduating with your MBA!” I nodded. She was right. She knew my hot buttons. There was a reason I was trying like hell and working my ass off. “Besides, do you really want to be like your mom?”
And there it was.
The knife twisting.
A loud sigh escaped between my lips. Avery didn’t take it at all as a sign to stop talking before I burst into tears or smothered her with a pillow.
“She gave up everything for your father. Her education. Her interests. Now look at her.”
Yeah, my mother was a perfect Stepford wife with a tight smile. The perfect trophy wife. The perfect everything.
All modeled after my father’s idea of perfection.
That could not be my future.
“You don’t want that, do you?”
“Thatch wasn’t turning me into that,” I said defensively. Even though a small part of me knew that if I was willing to overlook cheating this early on in a relationship, then I had already lost a part of myself, an important part. I frowned. “What the hell!”
Avery jumped back.
I clenched my fists. “I was going to take him back!”
Her eyes widened.
I cleared my thoughts with a shake of my head. That bastard! I was going to sacrifice my pride for him! And he shut the door in my face!
In. My. Face.
“What’s this revenge you speak of?” I asked, feeling the best I had in weeks, probably because I suddenly realized I wanted to be angry at him, not sad because of him. I wanted to cut off his balls and feed them to piranhas while he watched.
“First.” Avery moved my hand away from her arm—apparently, I’d been squeezing her skin between my fingers. “My arm isn’t his face. Second.” She grinned. “I got Lucas drunk and got dirt on Thatch, so much dirt that I turned into a dirty little girl and—”
I covered my ears.
“Just making sure you’re listening.” She winked. “Let me put it this way. When a guy screws you over, cheats on you, and you’re the one in bed eating all the calories and hating life? Well, we don’t get sad, we get mad.”
“Madness is insanity. It’s not actually anger, Avery.”
“‘Anger’ doesn’t rhyme with ‘sad’—work with me here.” She clapped her hands in front of my face. “Okay, I’ve breathed through my mouth enough—go shower before they send in the hazmat people.”
I rolled my eyes. “Stop being melodramatic.”
“Your mom found a mouse yesterday.”
I let out a snort. The only time my mom came into my room was to steal my clothes. The ones she fought tooth and nail to fit into. Spin classes were her addiction—then again, she had a sweet tooth too, so she had no choice but to take a daily class in order to stay perfect.
For my perfect father.
For our perfect family.
“In your room. I’m pretty positive it died from Cheetos consumption.”
“It had a bloated stomach. We had a funeral for it and everything.”
I rolled my eyes at her clear exaggeration and slowly walked toward the bathroom, stopping once I was at the door and turning to whisper, “Thanks, Avery.”
“Kicking my ass.”
“Oh, that part comes later.” She winked. “Just remember . . . revenge can be sweeter than”—scrunc
hing up her face, she made a circular gesture around the room with her arm—“whatever the heck you have going on in here.”
I nodded and shut the door.
She was right.
I was going to destroy him.
And when I was finished?
His heart was going to be shattered and scattered—just like mine—just like mine still was.
“I’m sorry, what the hell did you just say? You were mumbling.”
Lucas covered his mouth with his hand and said something under his breath about being drunk and a turkey.
“You did what with a turkey?” I shook my head. “Because you really don’t want to know what I’m thinking right now.”
With a sigh, Lucas dropped his hand and took a long sip of coffee. We’d been sitting at Starbucks for the last five minutes while he mumbled about needing to tell me something important.
I checked my watch. “Look, I have surgery in an hour, so if you could just”—I lifted my hands in the air—“be normal, for one second, that would be fantastic.”
He’d been my best friend for four years, and the best wingman a single guy could ask for. Until he put a collar on his dick and gave his girlfriend, Avery, the leash.
Pain sliced through my chest.
I ignored it.
Really it was all the same.
“I may have gotten drunk,” Lucas finally said. His dark eyes darted between me and the coffee cup, then back at me. “And . . . said stuff.”
“Lucas Thorn.” A woman, probably one of his many exes, walked up.
“Not now,” he said in a bored voice. “I don’t have a list anymore.” He was referring to the list of women he picked from—women he used to date and cheat on, all the while telling them it wasn’t cheating if they were aware it was happening.
So basically, on a scale of one to ten, Satan would have been a ten, Lucas would have been a nine point five—ask any of the scorned ones.
One hissed in our direction once—I half expected her to throw holy water in his face and demand he burn in hell.
The woman looked between us, said under her breath, “Still a bastard,” and stomped off.
“You got drunk,” I repeated, completely unfazed since the man would always have women falling all over themselves for his attention. It was his thing. It would always be his thing. “And said stuff.”