The Reckless Secret

By: Alexa Wilder

“Declan,” she said tightly, her mouth running dry.

“Am I not getting a smile?”

“Do you deserve one?”

“Oh, by the way,” said Grant, butting in like he couldn’t sense the tension in the air, “if Constance asks, you and Maggie are dating. Just play along.”

Declan tore his gaze away from Maggie and raised a brow at his friend. “We are?” There was a glimmer of something dangerous in his eye, something that made Maggie swallow thickly.

“Yeah, you know what she’s like. Obsessing over Maggie’s depressing love life—”

“Grant.” Jesus Christ.

But something about what he’d said had caught Declan’s attention, because he looked at Maggie with distinct interest. “What happened to that preppy doctor you were seeing a few months ago?”

She blinked, and all thoughts of creeping away disappeared beneath a wave of curiosity. And suspicion. “How do you know about that?”

He paused. “Word gets around,” he said, swiping the tip of his tongue across his bottom lip.

Maggie’s heart tripped over itself. “It didn’t work out.”

“I’m sorry,” Declan said immediately, but there was that dangerous glint in his eye again, and her stomach lurched at the insincerity of his tone.

“No you’re not.”

“Not really,” he said swiftly, and then turned to Grant, who’d been watching the exchange with a crease between his brows. “Did you know Maggie and I dated for a while?”

Grant’s whole face spoke of shock.

“It was two dates,” Maggie said quickly, and Declan smirked.

“She swapped me out for the doctor.”

His words were joking, his expression relaxed, but his throat rolled with a dry swallow like the words didn’t taste too nice. She’d never before considered the possibility that he might’ve thought she’d chosen Ronald over him. She hardly let herself imagine that he even thought of her at all. “I—no, I didn’t.”

“I last saw you on the Saturday,” Declan said, talking entirely to her now, like the rest of the room had melted away, “and by the Wednesday you were with the doc.”

“Were you having me followed or something?”

“I saw you,” he said after a moment of hesitation, his voice quieting, growing intimate and honest.

She didn’t know what to say. What she should even think.

“Hold on,” Grant said, crashing into the moment with all the grace of a bodybuilder at a ballet recital. “You two were seeing each other?”

His interruption brought her back to earth, and all of a sudden it hit her again—why she’d spent all these months being so angry with Declan Archibald. “We went on two dates,” she said. “And the second one we only made it halfway through before he bailed on me.”

Declan didn’t falter. “I had an emergency.”

“Oh, yeah, it was one of those true emergencies. Of the leggy blonde variety.” The words settled like ash on her tongue.

“Now who’s following who?”

“Kinda hard to miss, with it splashed across the society pages.”

“And the press never report anything but the absolute truth.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Maggie’s Uncle Lawrence from the front of the room, “if we could all take our seats…”

Maggie was breathless. She didn’t know why, as nothing about this whole exchange should’ve affected her. It wasn’t as if she still harbored a Texas-sized crush on the man.

And other lies she told herself at night…

She risked another glance at him, found his eyes pinned firmly on her, dark and intense, like he was trying to see past the words and to the meaning beneath. Like he was desperate for something.

“Maggie—” he started, his voice low and urgent, but Grant spoke simultaneously, much louder, and the moment shattered.

“We better head to our seats—”

Declan visibly shook himself free of whatever thought had him so captured. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, it’s nice to see you, man. Maybe we’ll catch up at the reception,” he added, glancing again at Maggie.

“Sure thing.” Grant slapped Declan on the shoulder, added, “Enjoy the show,” and then led Maggie away. She didn’t look back. “You and I are gonna have a very long talk about this later.”

“God, it was two dates,” she hissed for what felt like the tenth time, pasting on an over-bright smile for all the guests nodding and greeting her as she passed them. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

“I just want to know how you—the girl who turned her back on this world—ended up with the richest one of all.”

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