Worth the Wait (St. James #1)(12)

by Jamie Beck

Vivi’s curiosity got the best of her. “Okay, time to tell me what’s going on with you. I hardly ever see you lately, unless you split from Justin—which is becoming a pattern.”

“Have I been a bad friend, V?”

“Not a bad friend, but you’ve been different. Normally you share every little detail of your relationships. Overshare, actually!” Vivi smiled, then turned serious again. “With Justin, you’ve been tight-lipped. Whenever I ask about it, you shut down and become defensive. It worries me, that’s all.”

Cat drew a deep breath and covered her face with her hands. “I . . . it’s hard to talk about . . . embarrassing, actually.”

“Please talk to me. You know you can tell me anything. I hate seeing you all torn up.”

“Promise not to judge,” she warned, her voice tinged with resignation. Once Vivi crossed her heart, Cat continued. “Justin’s got serious jealousy issues. He’s suspicious of every guy I talk to, at work or elsewhere. Sometimes he checks my phone history or e-mails. He makes crazy accusations and we end up screaming at each other—saying awful, awful things. He got so pissed once, he threw the remote across the room and accidentally cracked his TV screen.”

Cat’s fingers gathered the comforter to pull it up against her chest.

Vivi rarely witnessed Cat’s vulnerability, let alone shame. A hot flash of resentment toward Justin streaked through her body. She bit her lip before asking the obvious question. “Why do you keep going back?”

Distress suffused the room while Vivi held her breath.

Cat choked out, “Because I love him and he loves me.”

Vivi turned her face away, collecting the thoughts whirling through her mind like a tornado. Thanks to her dad, she knew a little something about codependency and guilt-induced commitment. Apparently Cat thought she could fix Justin’s insecurities. She’d have to learn the hard way that no one can emotionally save another.

Vivi simplified her opinions. “Sometimes love isn’t enough.”

Her own heart skidded to a halt, because her love for David had never mattered.

As if reading her thoughts, Cat replied, “This isn’t one-sided like you and David. Justin and I are both invested.”

“I wasn’t comparing our situations. I’m just saying mutual love doesn’t automatically make a relationship work.”

Cat rolled her eyes, so Vivi conceded with a shrug. “Fine. But when his jealousy spirals out of control, tragedy can strike in an instant.”

“He’d never hurt me!” Cat’s eyes flared with indignity. “He just yells a lot. He’ll stop when he learns to trust me.”

Vivi shuddered, convinced many battered women uttered those very words prior to receiving a first punch.

“Okay. Just know I’m here for you, whatever you need. I miss you, Cat.” She shifted her body to nestle down under the quilt. Sensing the need to change the subject, Vivi teased, “I’ve been on my own a lot these days, so you know I’m on the verge of some kind of disaster.”

Cat nodded thoughtfully and picked at her comforter. After a protracted silence, she arched one brow. “I’ve got to give you credit. You handled David and Laney well yesterday. I didn’t honestly believe you were over him until now.”

Vivi knew it was unfair to resent Cat for protecting David’s privacy by never telling her about Laney. It had stung to be caught off guard. But now another white lie served everyone’s interests.

“Part of me will always love David, but we’ve all grown and changed. I want him to be happy, with Laney or whomever.”

“You’re a good person. If I were in your shoes, I doubt I’d be so generous.” Cat smiled. “His loss, anyway. She’s no fun at all.”

“Well, I’m probably not the best judge. Plus we barely know her.” Vivi tilted her head sideways and shrugged a shoulder. “Maybe she’s just shy, like him.”

“Shy? David?” Cat drew her thumb and forefinger to her chin. “I’ve never thought of David as shy. He’s always stolen the spotlight.”

Vivi’s brows shot up in surprise. “He’s a total introvert. He only steals the spotlight because he excels at everything to win your dad’s approval.”

“Maybe you’re right. I’ve never studied him like you have!” Cat laughed and caught the pillow Vivi tossed across the room, dispelling the final remnants of tension from their earlier discussion. “Perhaps now I’ll win more of my dad’s attention since David no longer cares about his opinion anymore.”

Vivi had always envied the way David admired his father’s dignified behavior, probably because of the marked difference from her relationship with her own father. Given what she knew, she didn’t believe David had now truly forsaken his father’s opinion. As for Cat, Vivi wondered how being a model wasn’t enough of a spotlight.

Vivi shook her head. Vacations weren’t to be wasted on sorrow or problems. “Let’s go make coffee and breakfast.”

Glancing in the mirror, she contemplated her scruffy appearance before going upstairs. Screw it. David was taken. Everyone could simply endure her crazy hair, boxer pajamas, and sleepy face.

“I’m desperate for a shot of caffeine.” Cat moved in slow motion. “Don’t ever wake me this early again!”

Moments later, taking a seat at the kitchen counter, Cat rested her head on her hands. When Vivi flung open the sliding doors to let in the breeze, her stomach grumbled loud enough to draw Cat’s attention. Not an uncommon event.

Vivi whipped up an egg batter with vanilla and a touch of cinnamon, and then cooked a batch of French toast. The sizzling pan heightened her anticipation. She smothered her stack with so much butter, yellow pools formed on top and dribbled over its sides.

Following Cat to the reclaimed-wood dining table, which sat bathed in sunlight streaming through the bay windows, she settled in front of her plate and let the sun warm her back.

She’d barely sunk her teeth into her breakfast when Jackson and Hank emerged.

“Smelled the coffee.” Jackson leaned over Vivi’s shoulder to survey her dish. “Any more where those came from?”

“I’ll make you some as soon as I finish,” she offered.

“You’re the best, V.” Jackson patted her shoulder before taking a seat beside her. Hank nodded at her and sat opposite them. Vivi watched Cat and Hank politely avoid eye contact. So weird.