Frayed Page 51

’’After, I think,’’ I say, and then go in search of Ivy.

’’Finally,’’ I say when I find her. With my nerves calmed I get to look at her for the first time tonight. She looks utterly beautiful in her short dark blue sapphire satin dress. I\m shocked that Xander hasn\ had a heart attack yet over her wearing it it\s not only sleeveless but backless as well. He\s very protective over, as he says, what is his. But since the dress matches the color of her eyes as well as her sapphire star earrings, he must have let it go or maybe he\s just more secure. Her earrings glitter from her ears like shooting stars from the sky. They make me smile every time I see them. They were my grandmother\s and Ivy always admired them when she wore them. It seemed fitting that Mimi gave them to her, because she always thought Ivy was going to be a star.

’’Come with me,’’ I tell her. ’’So?’’ I ask.

She looks at me blankly.

I grab her hand and turn it over and there it is the engagement ring my father gave to my mother. I hug her tightly and whisper, ’’Congratulations.’’

’’Thank you, Bell.’’

I pull away. ’’Now come on, we have things to do.’’

I drag her over to the photo booth I rented. I have her pose a few times, well, maybe more than a few. Next Dino captures my attention and points to the table centers. They are missing the silver stars I asked to be confettied around the flowers.

’’I have to go,’’ I say, running off to place some of the photographs in the centers instead.

Aerie sashays up to me as I\m fixing the tables. ’’Bell, you look amazing. I love your outfit,’’ she says in a really bubbly manner.

’’Thank you. I love your look too.’’ She looks very businesslike with a touch of sass her hair is in a bun and she\s wearing a purple pantsuit with pumps, but surprisingly it\s low-cut and shows a hint of cle**age.

She smiles. ’’So, how are things?’’

I know exactly what she\s asking and I can\ take the chance of discussing Ben here, so I deflect the question. ’’Where\s Jagger?’’

She gestures toward the makeshift bar with her wineglass. ’’Oh, Jack caught him on our way in and they\ e huddled somewhere.’’

’’Film talk?’’ I roll my eyes.

’’Yep.’’

’’That\s so Jack. So, how\s the movie anyway?’’

’’Still hasn\ started filming. Production issues.’’

’’Sorry to hear that.’’

She shrugs. ’’I\m going to get another drink before I tell Xander and River about Ben acquiring Sound Music magazine.’’

I gulp. ’’Oh.’’ I want to say thanks for the heads-up because I plan to be nowhere near either of those conversations. I watch Aerie approach Xander and quickly avert my gaze, not even wanting to witness his reaction. When I scan the room, my eyes land on not only Tate but Romeo too. Romeo grins with a slight wave and I wave back, then head toward the hallway and into one of the offices we\ve turned into our prep room. I suspect Tate brought Romeo as his plus one. Tate has been a friend of Jack\s for a while, so I knew he\d be invited. His father was Jack\s business associate many years ago. But when did he become buddies with Romeo?

Once I have everything as organized as possible, I check my phone. No texts from Ben since before I left. I can\ understand why. I feel so disappointed I could have invited him to come with me but I was too chicken. The thought of Ben in the same room with River and Xander seriously makes me almost break out in hives. In fact, my skin is itchy just thinking about it.

But Ivy and Xander offer the perfect distraction when I meet them in the hallway. We haven\ spent that much time together since I\ve been living in Ben World, but I\ve known her since I was ten, so I feel a connection to her.

’’No more pictures, Bell,’’ she jokes.

I have to laugh. ’’Oh God, no. I think Xander might lose it if I ask him to smile one more time.’’

’’What\s so funny?’’ Xander asks, putting his arm around Ivy and pulling her to him. I love seeing him like this happy and in love.

’’Nothing. Nothing at all,’’ we both say in unison.

My phone dings and I quickly pull it out of the pocket of my little romper. Finally . . . Ben. Why is seeing him in such a short time making me so nervous? It\s not as if we haven\ sleep together before. I read his text.

Did I tell you how much I enjoyed the noises you made in the parking lot earlier?

A slight rosy color blooms on my cheeks I can feel it. My body already feels ten degrees hotter than it should, and his message only intensifies the heat.

’’Who\s that? A guy? Maybe a boyfriend?’’ Ivy teases.

Xander snorts. ’’You don\ know Bell well enough yet she always has a boyfriend.’’

I try not to let his quip jab me in the heart, but it does. Yes, I always had a boyfriend, but they were never really boyfriends, not that he\d understand that. I\ve always had this overwhelming need to make men happy. It\s deep-rooted, my therapist said stems from feeling that I couldn\ make my father happy so I was trying to make up for that. But I\ve worked through those issues now.

I redirect my attention to my brother and put my hands on my hips. ’’I\ll have you know, brother of mine, I have not had a boyfriend since Tate almost a year ago.’’

Xander raises his arms in surrender. ’’Wow, calm down. I didn\ know. But I\m just teasing you.’’


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