The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club, #1)

Thea stared at the wall and the small progress she’d made. “So have I.”

When was the last time she’d done anything impulsive? Of course, being impulsive was partly to blame for how she got here. One throw-caution-to-the-wind romp in the back seat of Gavin’s car was all it took for sperm to meet egg. And just like that, the mistakes of her own family were repeated. An unplanned pregnancy. A shotgun wedding. A move to the suburbs. A husband who was never home.

Speaking of . . . “You RSVP yet?” Thea asked. Their father was getting married for the fourth time in December.

Liv snorted. “What’s the point?”

Thea nodded. “I’m thinking about writing maybe next time on the card, but that just seems mean.”

“Which makes it perfect.”

“What the hell is wrong with these women? How does he convince them to totally ignore his track record?”

“He shows them his bank account.”

It really was the only thing that made sense. No woman in her right mind would look at his pattern of chronic infidelity and think, Oh, yeah, husband material.

Liv downed the rest of her wine. “She’s thirty-two.”

“Who?”

“Our new stepmother-to-be.”

Thea’s mouth dropped open. That was only six years older than her. “Oh, Mom is going to love that,” Thea said with a snort.

“Speaking of our lovely mother,” Liv said, “she called me twice today.”

Thea straightened. Neither she nor Liv had talked to their mother in months, each for their own reasons.

“I haven’t called her back,” Liv added.

“Think she knows about the wedding?”

Liv shrugged and took a drink of water. “No idea, but I am not going to be the one to tell her.”

Thea winced. Yeah, that wouldn’t be pretty. But neither would the alternative explanation. “Maybe she heard about Gavin and me.”

“Doubt it. She would’ve said something about it in her voicemail.”

“Or called me directly.” Nothing would have made their mother happier than the failure of Thea’s marriage.

All your years of judging me, but you’ll see. You think you’re so in love now and that nothing will ever go wrong. But someday he’ll break your heart, and you’ll have to apologize to me.

That had been her mother’s advice on Thea’s wedding day.

Thea let her head fall back against the cushion, eager to change the subject. “How’s Alexis coming with the café?” Liv was helping craft the menu for a friend who was opening a cat café and coffeehouse.

Liv gave her a knowing look but played along. “Good. She’ll be open sometime in late January, I think.”

“Have you decided if you’re going to let her use Gran Gran’s sugar cookie recipe?”

“Not yet. Part of me still wants to save them for . . .” She shrugged. “You know.”

Her own restaurant. It had always been her dream.

Well, always was a stretch. There were several years when the only thing Liv dreamed about was finding new and inventive ways to rebel. Bad grades. Bad attitude. Bad boys. Liv reveled in them all during her teenage years. Restless like a man chasing a worm with a bell on it, as Gran Gran used to say. Which, honestly, Thea never quite understood but figured it meant Liv was in search of something that didn’t exist.

And that was really something to which Thea could relate. Neither one of them had emerged from their messed-up childhood unscathed. They’d just hidden from their scars in different ways.

But no matter how much Liv wanted to open her own business, she had repeatedly turned down Thea’s offers for a loan. Liv did things on her own or not at all, even if it meant enduring the hellish abuse of her tyrant boss.

“Thank you for being here,” Thea said, rolling her head to look at Liv.

“You don’t have to thank me. You were there for me more times than I could ever repay you for.”

“That was my job. I was your big sister.”

“You were a child.”

Thea finished her wine and then stood with a sigh. “I think I’ll go to bed.”

Liv caught her hand as she walked by. “Everything is going to be fine, Thea.”

“You and me against the world, right?”

Liv smiled softly and squeezed her hand.

Upstairs, Thea crept into the girls’ rooms to check on them. She bent over Amelia’s bed first and smoothed her hair back to drop a soft kiss on her forehead. Then she crossed the room to Ava’s bed and repeated the gesture, but she lingered over Ava. Even in sleep, she was more serious than Amelia. She clutched her favorite stuffed animal tightly against her chest, and her tiny pink lips formed a tight line. It was as if the one-minute age difference between them officially made her the big sister with all the big-sister responsibilities.

Thea crept back out of the room and shut the door. With a soft snap, she called Butter to follow. She changed quickly into a nightgown and then went into the bathroom to do the nightly face-teeth-hair thing. On the way back to the bed, she stopped at Gavin’s dresser. A tug of regret pulled her heart from its normal rhythm. He’d left almost everything here—most of his clothes and shoes, his collection of baseball caps. On the top of the dresser was a small dish full of the myriad things that he’d emptied from his pockets—loose change and gas receipts and a pack of orange Tic Tacs.

Thea brushed her fingers over the container. She could almost taste them, the hint of them ever-present on his breath when he’d brush his lips perfunctorily over hers before leaving for yet another road trip with the team.

So unlike the kiss he’d dropped on her today.

Thea picked up the Tic Tacs and threw them in the trash. Then she flipped off the light and slid into bed. Butter jumped up, circled several times, and then plopped down on Gavin’s side.

Except it wasn’t Gavin’s side anymore. He’d left. And no amount of begging and apologizing on his part could change that now. Because, really, who the hell did he think he was? He didn’t get to march in here and kiss her like that after all this time. As if she’d just melt and forget everything that happened.

Which, okay, she did for a brief moment. It just had been so long since he’d kissed her like that—like he used to kiss her, back before she got pregnant, when they were falling in love like maniacs. Back then, she would never have believed that the man who could barely stand to go a single day without tearing her clothes off would morph into a man who was almost apologetic when he reached for her at night. Who began to reach for her less and less. Who didn’t even pay enough attention to her needs to notice that she was left frustrated time and again.

Until that night, that is. The night of the Big O-No.

Thea threw an arm over her eyes and squeezed them shut to block the memories, but like an annoying song that had wormed its way into her brain, the memory wouldn’t leave her alone.

They hadn’t had sex in two months at that point and were barely speaking, other than the daily necessities of dealing with the kids and the house and his game schedule. She didn’t want to go to the game, but even in her newly woke who-the-hell-have-I-become state, Thea wasn’t that petty. She couldn’t miss a playoff game. Not with so much on the line. So like a good little WAG, she donned his jersey, posed for photos, sat in the family section, and pasted on her wholesomely pastel smile.

And then came the ninth inning. Bases loaded. Two outs. And Gavin was at the plate. He needed to hit just a single to bring in the tying run. A double would mean the win. It was the most important moment of Gavin’s career, and for the first time in a long time, it felt important to her too. She didn’t have time to explore why, because the minute he swung the bat, she began to sob. Thea knew just from the sound of the bat that he’d done it. He’d nailed a home run. And not just any home run. A walk-off grand slam.

Tears fell down her face as she watched her husband race around the bases, his arms in the air. His teammates waited for him at home plate in a screaming, celebratory melee. The crowd chanted his name. Del drenched him in Gatorade. The announcers called it a Hollywood finish. It was the kind of moment every player dreams of their entire lives but few ever get. And she got caught up in it as much as anyone else. She drank the champagne in the clubhouse. Let him lift her off the ground and kiss her.

By the time they got home, they were just like they used to be. Manic. Crazed for each other. They barely made it to their bedroom before ripping at each other’s clothes. And Gavin, oh Gavin . . . he devoured her like he used to.

There was a fierceness in his touch she hadn’t felt in so long. An urgency that excited her, thrilled her. And she returned the fervor, the madness. She was drunk on him, on champagne, on desire.

Her orgasm took her by surprise, blinding her, making her shake and cry out. But then Gavin suddenly went still.

“Wh-wh-what was that?”

Thea laughed, joy filling her up and spilling out. “I know it’s been a while since we’ve done it, but did you forget what it’s called?”

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