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Up in Flames(Rosemary Beach #14)(2) by Abbi Glines

Sarah, on the other hand, knew the score. She wasn’t clingy or needy. She was no-pressure and fun, and she offered me the release I needed. I liked her, but I didn’t want to keep her in my life. Not in that way. I just needed someone like her to balance out Nan’s overwhelming presence.

Nan had a way of making me forget that we could never be more. My job was too important. We could never be real. She just didn’t know it. Yet.

I didn’t need to know what she was doing last night. I already knew. I may have been busy with my date, but her house was under constant surveillance. Cope—my boss, so to speak—was watching her every move when I wasn’t. If she went out, we needed to know where.

Luckily, she’d stayed put, and I’d gotten to have a fun night with Sarah. The last time I’d tried to go out with Sarah, Nan had called upset over something, and I’d had to go over to her place to comfort her. She was a ball of emotions and constantly kept me on my toes.

A sharp knock on my door made me groan with dread. I knew who it was, and it was too early to deal with him. I hadn’t had my coffee and eggs yet. Sighing, I got out of the warmth of my bed, jerked on a pair of shorts that I’d left on the floor the night before, and headed toward the door.

Cope barely let me get the door open before he forced his way inside. He was taller than me, though not by much. But it wasn’t his height that made him larger than life; it was his persona. He walked into every room like he owned it—and if he didn’t, he’d kill whoever he needed to in order to own it. He was the kind of son of a bitch you didn’t want to piss off. He was as brilliant as he was crazy, and I’d seen him track down a target within minutes and kill with no emotion.

“You enjoy your night?” he asked, with an edge to his voice.

“Yeah, I did. Thanks for asking,” I said matter-of-factly, refusing to let him intimidate me. I hadn’t told him about Sarah, and I wasn’t going to start now.

Cope didn’t even glance back at me. “You’ve gotten us nowhere. She doesn’t trust you. She knows you’re a slut.”

Slut? What the fuck did he know? “She does trust me.”

Cope turned quickly, and his dark eyes pierced me with a glare that would make Superman take a step back. “The fuck she does. The woman’s not stupid. She knows. She’s been with enough men to know when she’s being blown off.”

“I’m taking her to lunch!” I fired back at him.

“Not enough. She might not know who the other girl is, but I sure as hell do. Sarah Jergins, 8431 Ravenhurst Drive. She knows you were with someone. That means she won’t trust you enough to spill her secrets, and we need the fucking secrets. She’s our only in with Livingston. She got close to him. She has to know something. We need to know what she knows.”

Cope stalked toward the door to leave, and I took the opportunity to make faces behind his back, because it was the mature thing to do, obviously.

When he put his hand on the doorknob, he stopped. “You’ve got a week to figure it out, and then I’m stepping in. If you can’t make the girl fall in love with you, I’ll have to do it myself.” With that, he jerked open the door and slammed it behind him.

The fact that he knew Sarah’s name and address didn’t surprise me, but the idea that he thought he could get Nan to fall in love with him was hilarious. Nan liked men with model-like faces. Faces made for the movies. Faces like mine. She also liked flirty and sweet.

Cope didn’t have a chance in hell. His hair was so long he wore it in a man bun most of the time, and his facial hair was too much. He needed to shave that shit. Sure, he was built like a brick wall, but he wasn’t at all like me. And Nan liked me. She liked me a hell of a lot. I could tell. Cope didn’t stand a chance of even catching her eye.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I really didn’t want to hurt her, I’d have pushed her one more step and let her love me. But I couldn’t hurt her that way. I didn’t love her. She was more than I needed in my life right now. I had a mission to accomplish first.

Picking up my phone, I sent her another text. Want to walk down to the beach after lunch? Or are you up for a run today?

I could get her to talk without messing with her heart. She just had to trust me. I thought she did or was starting to. She’d have been snippy with me this morning if she had known I was with Sarah last night.

I could use the run, she replied.

Smiling, I texted back. Then we’ll run.

Nan

Some women pouted and sulked. Others tried to make the guy jealous. Then there were those who did the good-girl thing and moved on. Me, well, I just went to Vegas.

The slinky silver dress I had bought in a boutique in Paris last July hugged every curve I had, and I knew just how good it looked. Not that it mattered. Tonight wasn’t about love or anything real. I would dance and flirt and forget them all tomorrow. Vegas was a cure-all for me, grounding me in the reality that relationships never worked for me and that I should stop trying.

My phone vibrated, and I saw Major’s name on the screen. I changed all my settings to silent, then slipped my phone into my Prada wristlet. He had ignored me for two nights too many. Tonight I’d ignore him and get him out of my system with someone else. A real man. Someone with broad shoulders and big arms. Someone who could handle me. Control me. Remind me that I didn’t need to be the strongest person on earth.

When I returned to Rosemary Beach, Major’s pretty smile and charming ways wouldn’t reel me back in. I would make damn sure of that. I wasn’t pathetic, but lately he’d been making me feel that way. Not anymore.