Dedicated to my favorite avid reader, Rachel.
COREY COULND’T STAND THE thought of Megan with another man, nor could he believe he came right out and told her what that ass had said about her but seeing her reaction didn’t help matters. Just the thought of Joe’s hands on her, kissing her, loving on her, made his stomach tie into knots as red-hot fury shot through his veins. He still wasn’t sure how he’d managed to keep his cool these past few days or how he didn’t fly to New York and confront her once he got the news. Nolan spent two days pleading with him, calming him down, and giving Megan the benefit of the doubt. After listening to Nolan talk about the faith he and Anna shared in one another, he wasn’t ready to jeopardize his marriage just yet, however it was proving difficult seeing her right now.
He prayed Megan and Joe were a one-time thing, that it meant nothing to Megan. Hell, even that it happened before they got together. He couldn’t stomach finding out that she slept with Joe after they started dating, or at all for that matter. That knowledge made his heart throb painfully. He thought he knew her, understood her, that she would always be faithful and honest with him, and now nothing made much sense to him.
“Is it true?” he asked, bracing himself for the answer.
Megan reached forward, resting a hand on his arm. “I don’t know.”
Corey scowled. What in the hell did that mean? How could she not know if she slept with someone else? “Just tell me the truth, Megan.”
She turned away from him and took a couple steps forward, before sighing. Just the fact that she pulled away, turned away from him made him apprehensive, the pit of his stomach churning, dredging up pure trepidation.
“It’s true. I’m not sure what I did with Joe. It was right after my father’s heart attack. We’d been drinking, and the entire night is a blur though I keep having dreams, but I don’t have a clear memory of that night after the first few shots of whiskey.”
Her confession didn’t make him feel any better. “So, it’s possible.”
Megan nodded, keeping her back to him, and the distance felt like they were worlds apart, and the divide would continue to grow. If it was possible she did have sex with the man, then it was also imaginable that she didn’t. He wondered why she never mentioned it before, and then a memory filtered through his confusion, back to that moment when Joe kissed her right in front of him. The memory made him tremble and he winced at the recollection, his heart pounding wildly as anger shot through him again, that memory on a loop in his head.
“I don’t know what to believe,” he muttered, shaking his head to drive the irritating image from his mind. “And you gave me hell for drinking, practically accusing me of being an alcoholic, yet it didn’t stop you from getting so drunk you don’t even know if you had sex or not.”
She turned to face him. “I’m so sorry. I tried to tell you that night after your fight with Joe at The Stix, but I just couldn’t do it.” She looked down at the ground and shifted from one foot to the other. “As for drinking, it was the one and only time I’ve ever been drunk.”
Her eyes filled with tears, and as much as he hated seeing her upset or crying, he kept his distance, couldn’t bring himself to comfort her, even knowing he probably ought to. She should have told him, should have prepared him because Joe Adams apparently didn’t care who he told or who knew about his tryst with Megan. Even knowing Corey and Megan were married didn’t stop him from running his mouth, and right now, he had no reason not to believe it was true when she couldn’t even deny the possibility.
The more he thought, the angrier he became. His entire world spun out of control and the only thing he really wanted to do was confront Joe Adams for being the one to take advantage of Megan. How dare the man insinuate that Corey did that when it was him all along? His fist bawled at his side, the urge to charge off and find the bastard pumping his adrenaline up, and not in a good way. If he didn’t blow off some of this steam quickly, the two days of it simmering were sure to blow and he couldn’t be responsible for what happened when it finally did.
MEGAN HATED THE LOOK of betrayal in his eyes, the way those black orbs speared her in place and took rapid jabs at her already aching heart. She didn’t understand why Joe would do this, why he would interfere with her new marriage, unless he was jealous, though that didn’t make sense to her either. If Joe were truly her friend, genuinely cared about her like he claimed, then he couldn’t do such a thing, yet that’s exactly what he did. She jerked her purse from her shoulder, grasped it so tight her fingernails dug into her palm, determined to settle this now before this caused more damage. As she was finding her keys a sense of sheer willpower washed over her, making her next move the only pressing thing she had to do at that moment. She needed answers, the truth about what really happened that night, to go back and remember, and only one person could give that to her.
“I’ll be back,” she said storming off to her new car.
Corey was hot on her heels, but she couldn’t tell him where she was going or bring him along for this confrontation. It was imperative that she dealt with this alone, realizing that Joe would lie right through his teeth to get the best of Corey, and she just couldn’t do that to Corey or herself. She put the key into the ignition and cranked the engine. Corey stood at her door, staring at her, waiting for an explanation.
“You’re just going to leave? We’re not finished talking.”
“Trust me. I won’t be long.” With that, she put the car into gear and pulled away leaving Corey standing there to stare after her. The entire drive to Joe’s her mind whirled with questions, trying her damnedest to remember one of the most difficult, not to mention, stupid nights of her life. Megan screamed as she drove, the frustration consuming her body and mind at a rapid pace. She wanted to cry, to hit something with all her might, to go back to that night and make a better choice, but she could do none of those things.
Her little car pulled up behind Joe’s truck, and she slammed on the brakes, not realizing how fast she was going, making the tires squeal in protest. Megan breathed a sigh of relief when the car came to an abrupt halt, thankful she didn’t crash again. The commotion from her car was enough to bring Joe running to the front door, and once their eyes met, she saw his jaw hanging open. He had to expect her to come and confront him after what he’d said, and if he didn’t, then that was his own stupidity. Megan shut the engine off, exited the vehicle, and marched to the front door, ready to get the answers she sought.
“Why?” She demanded her hands planted squarely on her hips to stop them from bawling up and pummeling Joe with all her might, while her body trembled uncontrollably.
“Well hello to you too,” he said opening the screen door and granting her access.
Megan crossed the threshold into the house, praying he would tell her what she wanted to know, and for the first time considering their friendship over.
“Don’t be flippant. I want answers.” She turned and stared at him. “I deserve that much.”
He laughed, refused to make eye contact with her and that might as well have been an answer. Joe never had trouble looking her in the eye before, and the fact that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t now had her wondering if it were all a game to him.
“It’s not funny.”
“You’re right, it’s not. It’s not even one bit funny that you led me on for five years, and then ran off and married Corey Brady,” he yelled, his voice thick with hatred and anger.
“I never led you on. You knew we were just friends. I made that noticeably clear and if you decided you wanted more, that’s on you,” Megan seethed, her blood boiling through her veins at his absurd accusation.
His eyes grew cold as he inched forward, making her shiver. “That’s how you see it? After all, I did for you?”
“That went both ways, and you know it. When was I not there for you? You tell me one time you needed me, and I turned my back on you, or lied to you, or avoided you and caused trouble for you,” Megan questioned.
Joe glared at her, becoming more intense with every passing second. “I’ll tell you when. The night you got drunk and threw yourself at me. You were the one making advances, you kissed me, you were hugging and touching me, wanting me!”
Megan cringed, wishing to God it weren’t true, but the niggling sensation in the back of her mind was like a truth serum, making it impossible to lie even to herself. “Look, I admit I got drunk, and if you took that one drunken night as a relationship, I’m sorry. You knew how I felt about Corey, that I have loved him since I was a child. I never once lied to you about that.”
Joe scowled. “Yes, yes, it’s all about Corey, forget everyone else.”
“That’s not fair,” Megan said, realizing that they weren’t getting anywhere, and probably wouldn’t. “I’m not going to apologize anymore. There’s nothing left for either of us to say. I should go.” She headed to the door, her mind whirling, hating how this all played out, especially knowing that nothing she did or said would change the situation. She needed to make peace with the fact that she lost her virginity to Joe, and that their friendship was over. Her feet hit the porch when Joe called her name, but she kept right on going, determined to get away from the drama.
“That’s right run-away, Megan. Run back to him and learn the hard way what a mistake you’ve made. I bet you never wondered why your daddy was so dead set against you being around Corey. You never asked what your daddy knew about the man you married, what secrets he was hiding, did you?”
She spun around. “Whatever my father’s issues were with Corey, he’s gone now. Corey is my husband and I will stand behind him, no matter what.” She rushed off the porch and to her car, no longer willing to listen to anything else.
Joe’s words echoed in her mind on a loop, making her head spin as she drove back to the ranch. She had no idea what she should say to Corey. They were both hurting over this, both angry and she wasn’t sure how they would start to put the pieces back together. She had been so happy to come home from New York, expecting to have this wonderful homecoming, and instead, the day was shot to hell and a total disaster. Joe didn’t help clear her mind, didn’t reassure her that nothing happened between them, didn’t even care that their friendship was finished. As bad days went, this one took the cake.
Now she had to get back home and repair the damage with her husband, and she wished she knew how exactly to do that. She remembered the betrayal in his eyes, the way he looked at her with such disappointment and hurt when she couldn’t give him a definitive answer. Thinking that confronting Joe would give her the answers turned out to be a mistake, especially since he believed she used him, which was the furthest thing from the truth, but Joe was just too stubborn and blind to see it. She would make sure to keep her distance from him and focus on where she belonged in her life now.
Her heart skipped a beat making the turn toward the ranch. She took a deep calming breath, doing her best to get her thoughts together, and ready to apologize to Corey again if need be. She hoped beyond hope that her past wouldn’t matter to him, because she would never hold his past against him. Though she had to admit that Joe’s little barb about the reasons why her father didn’t want Corey around still rubbed her the wrong way. With Joe’s recent actions, she didn’t doubt he was just trying his damnedest to stir up more trouble out of spite. She couldn’t let him do that, refused to let him find a way to wedge her and Corey apart. She would fight with everything she had for her marriage. For the man that she loved with every fiber of her being.