Filthy Beautiful Forever(7)

By: Kendall Ryan



I wander back downstairs, but Tatianna isn't in the library where I left her. The house feels cold and quiet. I head back upstairs to the master suite that takes up the entire second floor west wing.

“Tatianna?” I call, not finding her in the bedroom.

“In here,” she says from the Hers walk-in closet.

I find her hanging up clothes on little pink padded hangers. There are a half dozen shopping bags at her feet, and I'm reminded of our fight this afternoon. “Are you okay?” I ask.

She stops what she's doing and watches me. “Who is that woman?”

“Mia? She's a childhood friend.”

“You never dated her, did you?” Tatianna raises her manicured brows at me.

“No.” Not officially. “We were close growing up, but her family moved across the state just before we started high school. Does it bother you that she's staying here?”

She shrugs. “No, I guess not.”

“Come here.” I open my arms and Tatianna drops the garment she's holding to the carpet and steps into my arms. “I'm sorry about earlier,” I whisper, placing my lips against her neck.

She sighs heavily and rests against me. “It's okay. I know you have a lot on your mind with the merger and everything.”

The merger? That was three months ago. I don't correct her. “It looks like you found some good things on today's outing, huh?” There are shopping bags and tissue paper littering the closet floor.

She nods. “Bergman's was having a sample sale and then my favorite jewelry designer previewed their fall collection at the Grove today, so I swung down there.” I listen as she tells me about her day, my thoughts faraway. “I'm just going to finish putting all this away, okay?”

I nod. She loves organizing her closet, and I know she can spend hours in there. I had it designed just how she wanted—with a brightly lit crystal chandelier hanging overhead, a floor-to-ceiling mirror on one wall and rows and rows of colorful high heeled shoes resting on the shelving at the end of the room.

I'm still too keyed-up to relax, so I head into the sitting room linked to the master suite and pull out my cell phone. I try to figure out which of my brothers to call while Tatianna hums quietly in the other room.

While I'm sure Pace remembers Mia, he’s five years younger, and his memories of her will be spotty at best. Colton, then.

“You'll never guess who showed up here today,” I say in place of a greeting.

“A strippergram?” he asks.

“No.” I chuckle. “Mia Monroe.”

It takes him only a second. “No shit?”

“Yeah.”

We each wait silently on the phone. He knew how close we were growing up. Which means he knows how much she meant to me.

“Explain,” he says, finally. “What's she been up to all this time? How does she look? Why is she there?” He shoots the questions off one after the other.

“She looks incredible.” I don’t know why those are the first words out of my mouth. Probably because the image of her standing on my front porch is burned into my brain. Gone is the slender, boyish frame of youth, and in its place are generous curves and the soft rounded flesh of womanhood. “She's an accountant now.” I don't mention that she'd been fired or the secret marriage promise we made when we were ten that she's come to collect on—because that's crazy. It's completely fucking nuts. And it makes my heart thump like it's got some type of damn tick. Maybe I should schedule that stupid physical after all.

“You still have a thing for her?” he surprises me by asking next.

“Of course not.” Fuck. “I'm with Tatianna.”

He sighs, and I hear him tell Sophie that he'll be there in a few minutes. “Yes, but we both know that Tatianna is just a convenience. You've been in love with Mia since you were five years old for fuck's sake.”

“I'm not in love with Mia,” I drop my voice. Tatianna does not need to hear this. Besides, I don't have time for love right now. It's messy and unpredictable. I don't do messy, or unpredictable. Never have. Wasn't about to start now. No fucking thank you.

“Well, now that she’s back, the least you can do is man up and fuck her finally.” He laughs.

“Uh, already taken care of.”

“Fuck, man. She's only been there a couple of hours, and you've already banged her?”

“No, dumbshit. When we were fifteen. We were each other's first.” I have no idea why I'm telling him this information. I guess Mia's shocking entrance back into my life has brought out my sharing side.

“No shit?” he says. “I always thought Erika Garcia sophomore year was your first.”

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