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Dear Grumpy Boss: Chapter 40


already at the table when I arrived for brunch. Luca smacked a big kiss on my cheek, and Elliot hugged me tighter than usual.

I’d kept my distance from him, which hadn’t been easy. If he had seen me at my darkest, he would have lost it. Elliot didn’t care about many people, and I had always known for a fact I was his number one. He had moved heaven and earth to get me away from Patrick without asking a single question. I was afraid of what he would have done had he known all the ways Weston had rejected and hurt me, so I’d chosen to only tell him we’d broken up due to his work commitments.

When Elliot pulled away and cupped my face, there was evident strain around his searching eyes.

“How are you?” he asked.

“I’m okay.”

A stretch of the truth, but if I told him I’d never been so brokenhearted and felt like sleeping for the next decade, he would have been…angry. Not at me but at the source of my despair. The last thing I wanted was to drive an even bigger wedge between my brother and Weston.

The empty fourth chair at the table was evidence enough of how drastically things had changed.

“I ordered you a coffee, bella.” Luca nodded to the steaming cup in front of me.

“Bless you.” I picked it up in both hands, sipping the smooth but strong drink.

“I thought you were bringing your roommate,” Luca added.

I set my cup down, a small smile twitching on my lips. “She’s impossible to pin down. Today, she’s helping a friend she met in pottery class paint the walls of their new business.”

Elliot grunted. “How many friends does she have?”

I laughed. Elliot had never understood Saoirse. “Everyone she meets is a new friend. I’m her only best friend, though.”

If I had explicitly told her I wanted her to be here today, she would have ditched her new pottery friend in a heartbeat. I never doubted the meaning of my best friend title.

We ordered our food, and the topic moved on to Elliot’s most recent trip to Singapore. He’d bought me a lariat-style necklace with a golden orchid hanging from it. It was an upgrade from his usual gifts, but I supposed he’d felt sorry for me and it was his way of cheering me up. The necklace was beautiful, and I put it on right away, but it did nothing to fill the hollowness in my chest.

Luca folded his hands on the table. “Elliot and I received an email from Weston this morning.”

Elliot jerked. “We don’t have to talk about this.”

“What did it say?” I asked.

Elliot patted my arm. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does. I want to know what it said.”

Because there was an unread email from Weston in my inbox too. It had arrived last night, a few hours after I left the rooftop. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to read it.

Luca’s gaze dashed from Elliot to me. “He laid out the changes he’s making within Andes executive management. It’s pretty extensive. They’re adding a new oversight branch that will report to the COO, not Weston.”

Elliot folded his arms. “It’s about time. He’s run that company the same way since the beginning, when it was just him and Renata. He deals with the minutiae as if he’s not the CEO.”

“Why did he send that to you guys?” I glanced between them.

“He wanted our opinion on his plan,” Elliot answered.

Luca’s mouth hitched. “He asked if we thought it would be enough.”

My brows rose. “Enough?”

Luca’s half smile grew into a full-blown smirk. “To convince you it won’t be the same this time.”

“Is it enough?”

Luca answered first. “It’s good. I never thought I’d see the day Weston was willing to give up some control over Andes.”

Elliot picked up his coffee. “It makes sense if you think about it. Weston wasn’t able to see the big picture because he was bogged down by the details. He missed things he shouldn’t have. That’s what led him here. It put his company in jeopardy, which he won’t want to repeat.”

Luca slapped his arm. “He would have kept doing the same thing. You know why he’s restructuring. Don’t pretend you don’t.”

Elliot brought his cup to his mouth. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“Have you spoken to him?” I asked.

“No, and I won’t.” He set his cup down and flicked lint off his sleeve.

“You won’t?”

Elliot leveled me with a steady, blunt gaze. “No. He knew when he chose to be with my sister I would pick a side if it fell apart, and it wouldn’t be his. A discussion won’t solve anything. I would be surprised if he expects to have one.”

Elliot never pulled punches, and I felt this one more than any other he’d lobbed at me. Weston and I had been so careless, falling in love and damning the consequences. And now, here I was, staring the consequences in the eye.

A lifetime of friendship could be thrown away.

“And if I forgive him?” I pressed.

“If he does something to prove to you he’s worth forgiving, we’ll be right.” He angled forward suddenly. “I see your gears turning. You can’t be in a relationship with him for my sake. That will never work.”

“Obviously. I just wanted to know where your head is.”

Luca chuckled. “Elliot would never admit it, but he’s been off-kilter the past week. He actually walked out of the gym locker room dressed for work in a black suit with brown shoes.”

I winced. “Elliot would never.”

Luca’s head bobbed. “He did.”

Elliot turned, the hinge of his jaw jumping and ticcing. “I never said I was happy with the current circumstances.”

Luca mouthed, “Off-kilter.”

The topic moved on to safer pastures while my gears kept turning. Truthfully, they hadn’t stopped since the roof. The way he’d looked at me, owning up to everything he’d done wrong, holding me like he couldn’t stand another second apart, the email waiting in my inbox…

It wasn’t only last night, though. All week, he’d been relentlessly present, which I was certain hadn’t been easy for him considering everything going on.

Our waiter dropped our food off. I’d skipped breakfast and ordered a chicken salad sandwich. I went for the pickle first, and Luca chuckled.

I raised a brow.

He winked and watched me, amused.

“What’s so funny?”

“You and your pickles.”

Elliot almost smiled. “She’s been a maniac for them since she was little. Our dad used to sacrifice his pickles to Elise every time we went somewhere and one was on his plate.”

Luca tapped his chin. “I’d wondered why I’d caught Weston sliding you his pickle when we had lunch last month.”

I shrugged. “He always has. He doesn’t like them.”

Luca chuffed, and Elliot stared at me, unblinking from across the table.


“El.” Elliot shook his head. “He watched Dad do it, and when Dad was gone, Weston took his place. That’s why he always gives you his pickle.”

“I—” I looked back and forth between them. Elliot had started eating as though he hadn’t dropped a gigantic bomb on me. Luca was still watching me, something soft and sympathetic playing on his features. “I didn’t know.”

Luca reached over and squeezed my forearm. “He wouldn’t have wanted you to know.”

Because he had always loved me.

Not in the same way he did now, but Weston’s love for me had been a presence in my life for as long as I could remember. Through my stone-cold bitch phase and his plethora through living in Chicago. Even now, I didn’t doubt he still loved me.

Brunch went on for an interminably long time. I’d been looking forward to being with Elliot and Luca, but now, all I wanted to do was leave so I could roll what I’d just learned around in my mind.

And read the email.

When I was finally headed home in the back of my Uber, I took out my phone, scanning over Weston’s plans for Andes. From my cursory, untrained glance, Weston wasn’t playing around.

At the bottom, he’d written me another quote from my book.

“Lying in a pool of blood—my own, for once—it’s her face I see. I’m not so lucky that she would actually be here. A hallucination is all a man like me can ask for. I reach for her. Her fingers are solid when I expected ephemeral.

“Are you real?”

She weaves our fingers together. “As real as you are.”

“I’m dying.”

“If you’re dying, so am I. I refuse to let you go.”

“You’re the only reason I would stay.”

“I should be dead already, but I’m nothing but a servant at her command. If she tells me to stay, I will. If she asks me to be a better man, I’ll turn myself inside out to do it. There’s nothing I would not tear the world and myself apart to give her. All she has to do is ask.”

Those weren’t Weston’s words, but I wanted to believe he meant them.

As soon as the Uber stopped in front of my building, I bolted, running for the elevator. I had to see him, even though I wasn’t quite sure what I would say.

At his door, I shoved my key in the lock without considering whether I should. Before we fell apart, I’d always let myself inside without knocking.

“Weston?” I called.

There were plates on the dining room table. I wrinkled my nose at the leftover food. It wasn’t very like Weston to leave his table a mess, but then, I hadn’t been myself lately either.

He wasn’t in the living room. I started toward the hallway where the bedrooms were and heard noises. The TV? It didn’t sound like it.

Two more steps down the hallway cleared up what I was hearing.

Animalistic moaning.

Guttural grunting.

“Harder. Please, more.”

“Yeah, baby. That’s right.”

Blood drained from my face. My hopes pooled at my feet.

Oh god. He’d moved on. After everything he’d said about waiting forever, he hadn’t even waited twenty-four hours.

I stumbled backward, somehow managing to steer myself toward the door.

We were over.

Really, truly over.


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