Home > California Girls(8)

California Girls(8)
Author: Susan Mallery

She took it but didn’t drink. “What is it?”

“A smoothie. Coconut water, red ginseng, prickly pear and ginger. Do you need to throw up?”

“I might now.” She wrinkled her nose. “I don’t even know what prickly pear is.”

“Everything in there will help with your hangover. Drink it and go take a shower. When you’re done with that, we’ll see if you want to eat.” He held up a grocery bag. “I brought breakfast.”

“You need to talk in shorter sentences,” she told him before taking a sip. The smoothie wasn’t half-bad. It mostly tasted of chocolate and maybe a little of coconut, which made sense because of the coconut water. Except coconut water didn’t really taste like—

“What were we talking about?” she asked.

He smiled at her. Now that got her attention. She wasn’t sure she’d seen Daniel smile before, at least not because of something she’d said or done. He was usually stern-faced and disapproving. As if she smelled bad, which she didn’t, except possibly this morning and hey, that wasn’t her fault.

“Do you like it?” he asked.

His smile? That seemed like a really personal question. Oh, wait. “The smoothie? It’s good.”

“Drink it down. You’ll feel better.” He glanced around. “So you and your sister did okay last night?”

“It was fine. I mean horrible because of Glen, but Zennie was very sweet. I cried and got drunk and called him names and she offered to take out his liver.”

Daniel raised his eyebrows. “That’s very specific.”

“Zennie’s an OR nurse. I’m not saying she’d do a great job, but it’s not like we’d want him alive at the end of the surgery so hey.” She drank more of her smoothie, only to remember Daniel was Glen’s brother.

“You know I’m kidding about his liver, right?”

“Yes. And even if you weren’t, under the circumstances, you get to be pissy.”

“Damn straight. What a jerk. It’s not fair. I loved him. I was going to marry him. Why can’t he be more like Nigel? That’s my sister Finola’s husband. Nigel is wonderful. So handsome and successful. He’s a plastic surgeon, not some stupid engineer who designs sewers. I hate him. Glen not Nigel.”

“I got that.” Daniel put his hands on her shoulders and turned her. “Shower, then breakfast. After that, we’ll come up with a plan for the day.”


She drank a little more of the smoothie, then walked into the bathroom. She flipped on the light, closed the door, then turned and saw herself in the mirror. And then she screamed.

“Oh, my God!”

“You okay?” Daniel asked from the other side of the door.

“Mortified. Why didn’t you say something?”

“About what?”

She heard the humor in his voice. “Go away.”

“Going away.”

The sound of his chuckles faded a little. She flipped on the fan so she couldn’t hear them at all, then assessed the damage.

She had a serious case of bed head, with half her hair sticking up, all gross and matted. There were chocolate smudges on her cheeks, pizza stains on her shirt and her eyes were bloodshot and puffy.

Kill me now, she thought as she stripped out of her clothes and turned on the shower. Because getting dumped less than two months before the wedding wasn’t hideous enough? She had to wake up looking like she’d barely survived a frat party?

Thirty minutes later, she was ready to face the world. Sort of. She was hoping Daniel had left, but didn’t think her luck was that good. Still, she’d showered, washed and dried her hair. She’d both flossed and brushed her teeth and put on clean clothes. She’d also finished the smoothie, which had been surprisingly restorative. Except for a very slight headache, she didn’t feel half-bad. Not counting the breakup, of course. There was always that.

She walked into her living room to find it transformed. Gone were the pizza boxes, the empty bottles of wine and the dishes. Her coffee table was wiped clean and the remnants of what had been her phone sat in a little plastic bag next to her engagement ring.

She flushed with embarrassment as she realized her apartment had looked just as bad as she had. Because, hey, there could never be enough humiliation for one person, right?

Daniel stood in the kitchen, slicing mushrooms. For such a macho guy, he looked perfectly at ease. There was a carton of eggs on the counter, along with a package of bacon. She smelled coffee and her whole being perked up.

“You didn’t have to stay,” she began as she headed for the coffee. “Seriously, you’ve done enough.” She waved the empty drink container. “This worked great. Thank you, but I’m sure you have plans for the day.”

And while they were on the subject, she wasn’t totally sure how long she would be holding things together. She was fine now but at some point the pain was going to slap her upside the head again and then she would be sobbing and blubbering like a fool, all over a man who hadn’t had the balls to dump her face-to-face.

“I do have plans,” he said, putting down the knife. “First, I’m going to make you breakfast. Then we’re going to get you a new phone.”

She glanced at the little bag filled with phone bits. “Probably a necessary thing. Mine now has a Humpty Dumpty–like quality and I have no king’s horses or men.”

He flashed her a grin. “You’re feeling better.”

“It was the ginseng.”

“Or the prickly pear.”

She grimaced. “Let’s not talk about that.”

“Not a problem. After we get you a new phone I thought we’d come up with a game plan.”

“For what?”

“Canceling the wedding.”

Her mouth dropped open. Well, crap. She had to cancel the wedding. As in undo all that had been done. There were venues and food and...

“I just mailed out the invitations,” she said.

“I got mine Thursday.”

“We already have gifts from the save-the-date cards. I have to tell everyone. That’s nice.” She poured herself coffee. “Hey, world, Glen changed his mind and no longer wants to marry me. Sorry there won’t be a party.”

Daniel finished cracking the egg he held, then wiped his hands on a towel and walked over to stand next to her. He put his large, manly hands on her shoulders and stared into her eyes.

“My brother is a jerk and a fool. He’s making a mistake, but I hope that by the time he figures that out, you are so over him, you can only laugh at his patheticness. You are sweet and pretty and funny and kind and he never deserved you.”

She knew he was just being nice, but still. Wow. The words, the intense gaze, the closeness.

“You’re really good at the whole consoling thing,” she told him. “You should consider it as a part-time gig. You could make a fortune.”

He smiled. “I’m happy with my current job, but I appreciate the compliment.”

He went back to his egg cracking and she was left with the reality of having to cancel a wedding. Glen hadn’t even bothered to dump her himself, no way he was going to help.

“Don’t take this wrong, but I hate him.”

“Right now I hate him, too.” He looked at her. “I downloaded some articles on what to do in what order. I brought them over.”

He pointed to a plain folder sitting by her handbag on the small table next to the front door.

She thought about all the work she’d done to get married and how much more work it was going to be to undo it all. She thought about how she’d been so happy before and how she wasn’t happy now. Everything was different. No, she corrected herself. Everything was exactly the same. That was what had been lost. The promise of something better, with Glen. Now all she had was who and what she’d always been. Talk about sucky.

She looked at Daniel, then at the food. She thought of the hope she’d had, how she’d wanted to be a part of something, to make a family. With Glen, of course. He’d been the center of her...

Her eyes began to burn and not from lack of sleep. “I can’t do this,” she whispered.

Daniel turned toward her. “Ali?”

“I can’t do this. I can’t be the perky post-breakup girl who has it all together and I don’t know you well enough to have a meltdown in front of you. No offense.”

He wiped his hands on a dish towel. “None taken.”

“I just need to process this. I’ll get a new phone and distract myself for a few hours. I want to just keep breathing.” She nodded at the folder. “I really appreciate you bringing me information on how to cancel my wedding, but I’m going to put that off until tomorrow.” She tried to smile and failed. “You’re being really sweet and I appreciate it, but I—”

“You need some time alone. I get it.”

He crossed to her, put his hands on her shoulders and lightly kissed her cheek. “Breakfast is on me. I’ll check in with you tomorrow.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I want to.”

“It’s guilt, right? You feel guilty because of what Glen did.”

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