The One Real Thing Page 93

“There’s no way I’m doing this.” I was in shock.

I couldn’t actually believe that real people pulled this kind of underhanded, ignoble shit.

“You’ll do it.” He leaned in to me and there was a new hint of menace in his voice. “Or I tell Cooper the good doctor’s dirty secret.”

I stared at him, not hiding my revulsion.

He must have considered my silence agreement, however, because he gave me that smug smile, nodded his head, and turned on his heel.

I watched him walking away, feeling as if the world had suddenly ended.

In a way it had.

At least my new life in Hartwell.

With Cooper.

I pressed a hand to my chest.

When my sister died, a piece of my heart broke. When my parents refused to have anything to do with me after it, another piece snapped apart.

What was left of it shattered into a million little pieces because I suddenly knew what I had to do.


I glanced over my shoulder. Bailey stood studying me, concerned.

“What did he want?”

She can’t know. She’ll tell Cooper.

Think. Think. Think!

I cleared my throat, trying to rid myself of any semblance of the agony that was pressing down on my chest and making it hard for me to breathe. “I . . . uh . . . I guess I should feel flattered, feel like one of you.”

“Why?” She stepped toward me. “What did that bastard say to you?”

“He thought somehow he would be able to convince me that Cooper should sell the bar.” I gave her a wry look as I moved toward her, calling on all my acting skills. “He gave some bullshit about Cooper being in financial trouble and said that I had to help him make the right decision.”

Bailey’s cheeks flushed red with anger. “That is bullshit. Cooper is doing fine.”

“I assumed, or he would have told me.” I let some of my pain leak through for the next part of my deception. “Anyway, even if he weren’t, Cooper and I are nowhere near a partnership. His bar has nothing to do with me.” I started walking back to the inn.

“What does that mean?” Bailey hurried to catch up to me.

“We just have a lot to talk about.”

“You mean the kids thing?”

“That and other stuff.”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

I sighed, heavily, shakily, desperately holding on to my refusal to burst into body-shuddering sobs. “I’m not sure it is. That’s why I’ve been out of it all day.”

“Are you breaking up with him?” Bailey grabbed my wrist, looking horrified.

I shook my head. “I just . . . I just really need to talk to him, sort things out.”

She studied me carefully. “Jess, you look really upset and worried.”

I shrugged.

“Okay.” She squeezed my wrist. “I’ll be a pal and be on call tonight so that you can talk to Cooper after he closes up the bar.”

My stomach flipped, and not in a good way, as I imagined that very thing. “Thank you.”

“It will all be okay.” She gave me a reassuring smile. “Communication is the key.”

I felt sick.

“Right,” I muttered.

My heart was pounding so fast I was sure I could see my racing heart beat through my shirt.

And I felt like I was going to be sick.

Shivers moved through me and my teeth were chattering. I wrapped my arms around my body, feeling cold even though it wasn’t all that cool on the boardwalk.

If I didn’t make a move soon I’d miss Cooper.

I already miss Cooper.

God, I couldn’t catch my breath.

The front door to the bar suddenly opened and Cooper’s head popped around it. “Hey,” he called to me, “what are you doing out here?”

My feet started moving toward him as if of their own volition since my brain wanted me to run in the opposite direction. Or maybe that was my heart.

“Hey,” I said, but it sounded croaky. He stepped aside to let me in and I muttered my thanks.

“I was about to leave,” he said as he started closing all his blinds.


“You here to talk about why you’ve been avoiding me for the past few days?”

He had his back to me.

It would be so much easier to say it to his back.

Don’t you dare. You are not a coward.

I snorted.

Yes, you are.

“What’s funny?” Cooper said as he finished up and walked back over to me. He assessed me as he stopped at a table, leaning on it. He crossed his arms over his chest and one ankle over the other and just stared at me.

Clearly he was already pissed at me for avoiding him.

I knew because Cooper touched me all the time.

It made me feel cherished.

And I hated when he didn’t touch me.

I blinked back the sting of tears, but Cooper caught sight of the shine in my eyes and I saw him visibly tense. “What’s going on, Doc?”

As I drew in a breath, my chest shuddered and I exhaled shakily. So shakily he heard it.

“Okay, I’m worried now.” He stood up straight, coming for me.

I raised a hand to ward him off. “Don’t.”

Cooper stopped. “Jessica?”

I flinched. “I . . . Oh, God.” I pressed a hand to my forehead, feeling like I was going to be sick right there.

“If you don’t tell me what the fuck is going on I’m coming over there.”

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