By: Mia Sheridan

"Why, Lydia De Havilland, I haven't seen you in forever!" Lindsey Sanders stopped in front of me, looking me up and down in that bitchy, assessing way she'd always had. "Hello, Daisy," she said, shooting her a thin-lipped smile before focusing her attention back on me. I sighed internally. I wasn't in the mood for Ginny, and I was even less in the mood for these women. My old high school friends. It could be argued that Daisy was shallow sometimes, but these women took it to a whole new level. It might have been somewhat acceptable when we were fifteen, but not now. I'd grown sick and tired of the constant competition, the utter phoniness, and we'd had a big falling out at the senior prom when Lindsey had accused me of trying to steal her date. I'd had zero interest in her date. As a matter of fact, I'd had zero interest in my date. I'd been struggling with more complex issues than they'd been capable of understanding, and they had nothing at all to do with stealing the muscled college guy Lindsey had brought to a stupid dance. I'd stopped hanging around all of them after that and they still hated me for it—assumed I thought I was too good for them, I supposed. The truth was, I simply didn't have the stomach for it anymore. I'd grown out of all the trivial nonsense, but they never had.

"You look nice," Lindsey went on. "Not every bottom-heavy girl would have the confidence to wear a floral print. You always did take fashion risks though. We all admired you so much for it." The phoniness dripped from her voice. I held back the laugh that wanted to escape my throat. I knew I wasn't bottom heavy and so did she. Once upon a time, that comment would have had me on an immediate starvation diet. How sad that I had cared so much what these petty girls thought of me. "So what have you been up to?" she asked, taking a sip of her drink and looking around as if she couldn't care less.

I plastered on my own phony smile. "Oh, you know, not too much—"

"Lydia's too modest to say that she's insanely busy running a multi-million-dollar company, Lindsey." Lindsey raised one perfectly sculpted eyebrow before Daisy went on. "What have you been up to? I'm sure it's thrilling, and we must hear about it sometime. But not now. Right now we're needed upstairs. Nice to see you!" And with that, Daisy grabbed my arm, and I was forced to stumble behind her, letting out a small laugh before stifling it in a cough. I grinned back at Lindsey and her group of followers who were all glaring after us. I'd been the leader of that group once upon a time . . .

While I was still looking back, before we were far enough away not to overhear, Lindsey turned to Daphne Hanover and said, "She still acts like she's lady of the manor even though, if the rumors are true, she barely has a pot to piss in." And then the sound of their laughter rang out, piercing me in the gut. Maybe Ginny wasn't being as discreet as I'd hoped.

"Ignore them," Daisy said, grabbing my arm and pulling me into her as we walked. "You were better than them then, and you're better than them now. They very well know it and it kills them."

Daisy and I climbed to the balcony and sat down at a stone table with an umbrella over it. Looking over the rail, I watched as Lindsey's group joined a small crowd gathered around a tall, dark-haired man. A brunette in a pale pink dress was standing at his side. Something about the man caught my attention, the way he held himself slightly away from those around him, even as people tried to lean in to talk to him. There was something . . . familiar. The only person I'd ever known with those mannerisms was Brogan Ramsay. I took a quick inhale of air, my heart lurching at the thought. But . . . no. This man was too tall, too broad, and the way he held himself was too self-assured to be Brogan. And there was no way he could be here. It was just . . . just because I'd been thinking of him earlier. Shut up, Lydia. Yes, that was it.

But I squinted my eyes, trying to look closer. I couldn't make out the man's exact features from this distance, but from what I could see, he looked gorgeous. If my own vision hadn't told me, the gaggle of women—now including Lindsey—vying for his attention, preening and prancing around him despite the woman at his side, would have clued me in. And the woman at his side, although she wasn't touching him, she was clearly possessive, turning her shoulder toward women who got too close, flipping her hair in what looked like annoyance.

"Daisy," I asked distractedly, "do you know who that man is?" I inclined my head toward him and Daisy followed my nod, watching him for a moment.

"No, but he's something to look at, isn't he?" We were both quiet as we stared. "I don't think I've ever seen him before. Should we head on down and introduce ourselves?" She winked at me.

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