The One Real Thing Page 95

Now she was mad at me.

I watched the porch door slam behind her as I stared up at the inn from the boards, my suitcase by my side.

I should leave.

I knew it.

But tucked into my pocket were Sarah’s letters to George, and George was apparently due back in town at the end of the week.

What the hell I was going to do until then I had no clue.

I’d have to find somewhere cheap to stay because cash flow was kind of a problem.

And it turned out news traveled really fast.

Walking down the boardwalk, suitcase in hand, trying to figure out what to do, I saw Iris opening up Antonio’s and I waved to her.

She glowered at me, stuck her chin in the air, and turned her back on me.

Hurt, I almost stumbled over my own feet.

“What did you do?”

I jerked my head around from Iris to find Vaughn in my path. He kept doing that. Appearing out of nowhere.

“Huh?”

“Well, even I get a hello out of Iris.” He smirked at me. “What did you do?”

“Cooper and I broke up last night.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And you’re still here? Everyone will know by tonight.”

“I . . . I can’t leave just yet.” My mouth trembled as I tried to hold in my tears. I’d already cried more than I knew I had in me. Enough was enough. I cleared my throat. “I have some business with George Beckwith. As soon as he gets here, that gets done and I’ll be gone.” To what and where . . . I had no idea.

Vaughn scrutinized me for a moment and then his eyes dropped to my suitcase. He frowned. “Miss Hartwell kicked you out?”

I heard the disbelief in his voice. “No. I left. She’s pretty mad at me right now.”

He looked at me again. “Where are you planning on staying?”

It occurred to me that Vaughn probably had a good idea about local rates. “Do you know where the nicest but cheapest place is?”

He made a face. “Ouch, no time for pride, huh?”

“If you’re going to be an asshole, get out of my way.”

Vaughn chuckled. “I’m not being an asshole. I’ve just . . . I’ve been there.”

“Oh, I’m sure with all of your money, you’ve been there. Yeah, I can see that.”

He tsked me. “And here I’m trying to help.”

“By making digs at me about my lack of pride?”

“No.” He stepped closer to me, his eyes losing some of their usual glacial superiority. “You can stay at my place.”

I shook my head. “I’m not staying on the boardwalk.” I didn’t want to chance bumping into Cooper.

“My place, not my hotel. And my place isn’t on the boardwalk. It’s on the outskirts of town.”

Confused by his generous offer, I said suspiciously, “Why?”

“I spend most of my nights in my suite at the hotel. My house is just lying empty.”

“But why? Why are you helping me?”

My question made him look away. He stared out at the water. “Let’s just say I know what it’s like to be the heartbreaker, the villain.”

I sucked in a breath at the label. “How do you know I broke up with Cooper; that it wasn’t him who did the heartbreaking?”

Finally Vaughn looked back at me. The shrewdness in his eyes had never unsettled me more. “Because any fool can see he’s in love with you.”

I winced.

“Doesn’t mean he couldn’t have let me go.”

“When the woman you love lets you into her bed, you don’t let her go unless she wants to leave.”

I surveyed him, happy to be distracted from my own heart for a second. “Speaking from experience?”

“Didn’t I just say I was the heartbreaker?”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“Do you want a free place to stay or not?”

I thought about it. It would be incredibly helpful not to have to pay for accommodation. Plus, he’d said his house was on the outskirts. It sounded far enough away from town to be perfect. “Yes. Thank you.”

“Where is your car?”

My car.

Right.

“Oh. Um . . . in Bailey’s parking lot.”

“So you’re wandering on the boardwalk, why?”

Feeling sheepish, I shrugged. “I wasn’t thinking.”

Something akin to concern flickered over Vaughn’s features. “You sure you’re up for driving?”

“Yes.” I nodded quickly. “Honestly, I’m fine.”

“Well, a bigger lie you’ve never told,” he said dryly and then gestured over his shoulder with his thumb. “Meet me in my hotel parking lot. You can follow me out to the house.”

“Okay.”

He gave me a sharp nod and then turned, swiftly striding away.

“Vaughn!”

He stilled, shooting me a look over his shoulder.

I swallowed past a new lump of emotion in my throat. “Thank you.”

If I wasn’t mistaken, Vaughn Tremaine looked uncomfortable with my thanks. He made no reply and instead just walked away.

Some of my worries eased, I turned around to head back down the boardwalk to my car. Iris was standing in her doorway, arms crossed over her chest, frowning at me.

She was probably wondering what I was doing talking to Vaughn.

I didn’t attempt to wave again, knowing it wouldn’t be welcome.

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