Every Little Thing

Page 21


And then he’d seen Bailey strolling arm in arm down the boardwalk with Dahlia and he’d surmised they were heading to Cooper’s for drinks. Needing a drink himself he’d decided to follow them, refusing to acknowledge that he wanted to be near Bailey to check on her.
What he’d discovered was that Bailey Hartwell was stronger than he’d ever imagined, and that he’d made a mistake thinking she’d be anything like Camille. It only made him admire her more, and he was already unsettled enough by how much he admired the Princess of Hart’s Boardwalk.
Then he’d gotten pissed overhearing her talk about being ready to date and watching as that stupid kid behind the bar flirted and drooled over her.
When Tom arrived Vaughn was already irritated and trying so very hard not to get off his stool and punch the stupidity out of the moron. Instead he’d pretty much threatened to do it and then he’d had to cover up the reason for it by telling Bailey about the smell of bourbon pouring off him.
And in doing so he’d not only been a bastard but he’d sent her running back to her ex.
Which should have pleased him.
Instead he wanted to kick the shit out of something.
It was aggravating how this woman could reduce him to acting like a hormonal, brooding teenager.
Tom was making slow progress in front of me down the quiet boardwalk, so I caught up with him just as he was passing Vaughn’s hotel.
I’d tried calling out his name but he’d just ignored me, so when I finally caught up to him he pretended like I wasn’t there.
A breeze blew up from the water and the scent of bourbon hit my nostrils.
Vaughn hadn’t been lying.
“Tom. Stop.”
“Go home, Bailey. I wasn’t thinking going in there tonight.”
“I’m guessing because you’re drunk.”
“I’m not drunk. Do I sound drunk?”
He sounded quite in control, but he smelled like a distillery. It occurred to me he must have been drinking for a while to be in that kind of state.
“Despite what happened between us, I’m not going to ignore the fact that you stink of alcohol!”
That stopped him in his tracks and he whirled around to face me, his face contorted with pain. “Go back to Cooper’s, Bailey. Let me be!”
“No. You’re not okay, Tom.”
“And what? You think you’re the person to help?” he scoffed.
“Don’t be a dick. Again.”
At that he stumbled back against the boardwalk railing. He looked tired and mournful. “I got a suspension at work yesterday.”
“What? Why?”
He gave me a wary look before he proceeded. “Rex stayed with Erin. They were going to try to work it out. Evidently he couldn’t forgive her and they broke up. Yesterday he came into work and we got into a fight. A physical fight.” He turned his face and that’s when I saw the faint dark shadow of a bruise on his jaw. “I got suspended because . . .”
“You incited the fight by sleeping with your colleague’s girlfriend?”
Tom winced. “Exactly.”
“So you thought going on a bender would help?”
“My life is a mess, Bails,” he snapped.
Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad as I realized I was witnessing the self-pity of a man discovering actions had consequences. Instead of responding I stayed quiet, knowing that anything I said would be harsh and cutting.
Tom laughed because apparently my silence spoke volumes. “And I’m complaining to the woman I betrayed. Now I’ve really hit bottom.”
I was unwilling to give energy or time to his self-pity. “How long is the suspension for?”
“Two weeks.”
“That’s nothing. In the grand scheme of things that’s no time at all.”
“It’s not nothing! I’ve lost my credibility there. I’ve lost everyone’s trust. I’ve lost you!”
My patience snapped. “What the hell did you think would happen when you stuck your penis in someone else’s vagina?”
A giggle behind me made my shoulders hunch up around my neck.
We had a witness.
My tension increased when I recognized the giggler. Dana Kellerman. Cooper’s ex-wife. And she wasn’t alone. Her arm was threaded through Stu Devlin’s. Stu was Ian’s eldest son and just like his father he was a pain in this town’s ass.
I glowered at Dana, who was grinning at me, enjoying every minute of my distress. We had never liked one another mostly because I refused to kiss her ass like everyone else did just because she was so beautiful. Not that people kissed her ass anymore. She’d cheated on Cooper with Jack Devlin, the second youngest son. Worse still, Jack used to be the only Devlin I liked. We all thought he was a good guy. He’d grown up as Cooper’s best friend, and I’d crushed on both of them when I was younger.
But one day Jack quit working construction and began working for his father when everyone knew that Jack couldn’t stand his dad and his brothers. He’d only ever had time for his mother and little sister. No one could understand the decision, least of all Cooper.
And then Jack had gone and slept with Dana behind Cooper’s back.
Cooper lost his wife and his best friend in one fell swoop.
Now it looked like Dana was moving on to another Devlin. That wouldn’t make her very popular once word got out about it, but betraying Cooper hadn’t made her very popular anyway, and this town had a long memory.