‹ Prequel: Even Lovers Drown
Status: Paused for now

Happily Ever After

Chapter 9

Cadeau stared at the frozen foods lining Wal-Mart’s freezers. Pizzas and burgers and chicken nuggets and every meal that could be purchased on her budget to quickly appease her daughter’s never-ending hunger. Somewhere, Jolie was roaming the aisles with Reese and Emily and Grayson, helping to stock their house with treats for her visits. She’d let her run off with them, cracked under her big blue eyes and the guilt she felt at not being able to get her everything she wanted.

Sunday morning grocery shopping always ended the same.

But things would change. Eventually. Staring at the unappetizing and unhealthy frozen dinners, Cadeau had to remind herself of that. For now, she’d have to bear it with the same enthusiasm as her daughter.

So which frozen meal was she going to stock in her freezer? Definitely not pizza, Jolie wouldn’t eat that. Her daughter always welcomed chicken nuggets and macaroni, sometimes burgers if she wanted something heavier, and there were the premade pastas but those were cheaper when Cadeau bought the ingredients separately, or she could get—.

“Hey,” Saylor’s voice cut into her rambled thoughts.


Cadeau turned her head. Sure enough, Saylor was standing next to her, leaning on the handle of her own basket, bright, cheery smile on her face. Cadeau’s stomach fell, a rush of anxiety flooded her veins. Saylor was there. In the store. Shopping. While Cadeau was shopping. With her friends. And her daughter. Had Saylor seen Reese already? Had she noticed Jolie standing among the family members? Did Reese tell her who Jolie was? Could she already guess who Jolie’s mother was?

Cadeau plastered on a smile—something she had gotten very good at doing during her pregnancy, during her time drowning in emotional distress—and spoke. “Hey, where’s your other half?”

Blake could very well have been nearby, conversing with Reese and Emily and Grayson. And Jolie. Cadeau needed to be sure, needed to know if she should prepare for the consequences of not telling the band about her daughter.

“In a meeting with Andy. She’s suffering through that alone while I grocery shop.”

She wasn’t there. She wouldn’t pop out of nowhere with newfound knowledge of Cadeau’s family situation. Good. Now, the only potential threat was Saylor.

Cadeau hid her relief under a good-natured laugh. “Sounds glamorous.”

“You’re right, I should be spending Blake’s money on shoes and clothes.” She sighed and pretended to be ashamed. “I’m not very good at this whole ‘rock star’s wife’ thing.”

Cadeau snorted and patted Saylor’s arm in mock-sympathy. “You’ll get the hang of it. Just keep practicing.”

“Then I’ll finally be the gold-digger the tabloids keep calling me.”

“Ouch,” Cadeau mumbled.

That had to hurt, being called a gold-digger by people she didn’t even know. Cadeau could only imagine how Blake’s diehard fans reacted to Saylor. Hatred for no reason other than the fact that Blake was a celebrity.

But Saylor didn’t seem upset. She smiled, gave a nonchalant shrug. “I’ve gotten used to it. They have to find something to talk about. Remember that when your name starts popping up.”

“My name?”

Was she already appearing in tabloids just because she was a possible replacement drummer? She hadn’t noticed her face splayed on the trashy magazines in the checkout lines. What was Saylor talking about?

“When you officially join Say Goodbye.”

Oh, that.

“If that ever happens.”

The moment the words passed her lips, Cadeau mentally cursed them. She could have laughed off the comment, ended the conversation, and let Saylor continue shopping so she could rush away to find her daughter and convince Reese to handle her groceries till Saylor left. Damn. Not to mention she was not comfortable enough with Saylor, no matter how nice she was, to discuss her fears over joining Say Goodbye. The comment slipped in her distracted curiosity.

Saylor tilted her head, eyebrows drawing together. Cadeau prepped herself for the question to come, ready to hide her worries under a joke so she wouldn’t have to discuss them and find a way to close their conversation.

But Saylor didn’t ask about her insecurity. Instead she said, “You do know that today’s meeting is about you, right?”

Cadeau’s mind blanked.


“Andy’s making sure you’re a good fit before offering you a contract. He’s getting the band’s input.”

The band. Including Sage. Cadeau’s worries didn’t seem so off the mark anymore. She’d never get in with Sage deciding her fate.

“Fantastic,” she muttered.

“It won’t be that bad,” Saylor assured her. “They like you.”

“Not Sage.”

Saylor opened her mouth, then closed it, the words she wanted to speak lost. But her eyes were easy enough to read. She didn’t agree with Cadeau’s statement. She knew something that Cadeau didn’t, something about Sage, something she wasn’t even sure how to word.

“Or does she?” Cadeau asked.

She didn’t speak immediately, remained silent for a moment before saying, “She’s just a little confused right now.”

Giddy relief surged through Cadeau’s veins. Confused was better than outright hate. She still had a chance.

Before Cadeau could pry more information from Saylor, an excited screech of “Mommy” tore through the air.


Plans sped through her head, ways to play off the situation without letting Saylor know the truth, as tiny feet raced down the aisle to her. Claim Jolie was adopted—no, that would tear Jolie’s heart out—pretend to be sisters—who was she kidding, Jolie wouldn’t play along well enough—ignore her—never—end the conversation and run down the aisle, prompting her daughter to race her—because that wouldn’t look strange. By the time those time feet reached her, she had nothing, had to admit defeat and suffer the consequences. She looked away from Saylor, to avoid meeting her gaze once she became aware of the situation, and smiled down at her daughter.

“Yes, princess?”

“Mommy, look.” Jolie held up a brightly colored box. Gushers. Gooey and messy and exactly the kind of product her daughter enjoyed devouring in mass amounts. “Can I have it?”

She was sure she had enough to deviate from her shopping list a little.

“I don’t know,” Cadeau said, smiling. “Does it fit in the basket?”

An excited gasp slipped past Jolie’s lips, unable to be contained, and her whole body wiggled with delight. She turned her attention to the basket, her mouth pursed in her determination. Buying a box of Gushers depended on this box fitting in their near empty basket. Jolie wouldn’t let anything stand in her way. Not even her lack of height. She rose on the tips of her toes and attempted to slip the snack into their basket.

Cadeau smiled, hiding her discomfort. Saylor’s curious gaze was on her, watching, taking in this new information. She could feel it burning her skin. From the corners of her eyes, she could see Reese nervously approaching them, his wife and child in tow.

Good, he should share in her nervousness.

He stopped his basket next to Cadeau, blocking the rest of the aisle. “Hey,” he greeted, his voice filled with false pep.

“Hey, Reese, Emily,” Saylor said. Cadeau gathered enough nerve to look away from her daughter, who was attempting to find decent footing on the basket to climb and put her Gushers in, and face her. Saylor didn’t appear put off by the situation, smiling her usual flirty smile down at Grayson. “Hi, Grayson.”

“Hi,” Grayson mumbled. He dug his foot into the ground, eyes shifting between Jolie and his Auntie Saylor.

Cadeau would have laughed at his internal conflict but she couldn’t relax enough to enjoy watching Grayson debating on which girl he adored more.

“I did it,” Jolie exclaimed.

“I guess you’re getting Gushers,” Cadeau said.

Jolie screeched and threw her arms around her mother’s leg, her excitement so intense, she couldn’t contain it. Cadeau chuckled and mussed Jolie’s blonde curls.

“Someone likes Gushers,” Saylor said, addressing Jolie for the first time since her sporadic appearance.

Cadeau’s heart plummeted into her stomach. Great, now Jolie would speak to Saylor. Unfortunately for Cadeau, her three-year-old wasn’t shy around new people, wasn’t the type to hide behind her mother’s legs and peak out an unfamiliar person. She wholly embraced the attention strangers gave her.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Jolie looked up at the new acquaintance, smiled the way she knew would make anyone fall for her adorable charm, and left Cadeau’s leg and walked up to Saylor.

“You Mommy’s friend?” she asked.

“Yes, I am.” She knelt, placing herself on the same level as Jolie, something that would make Jolie feel like her equal. She was well on her way to becoming Jolie’s new best friend. “My name is Saylor.”

“Your name is cool.”

“Thank you.”

“Mine’s cool, too.” She glanced at Grayson. “Right, Grayson?

Still digging his toe into the tiled floor, slight pout on his lips, he nodded, a short, jerky movement. Looked like he was still upset about his two favorite girls meeting.

“What’s your name, sweetie?” Saylor asked.

“Jolie Marie Johnson. I like your hair.”

She was fishing for compliments. Cadeau knew. She’d seen her daughter do it before. With her parents’ friends. With Reese and Emily. With nice, old ladies who stopped to coo over how cute she was in stores or at the park. And if Saylor fell for it, well, Cadeau would be forced to invite her over for play dates by her whirlwind of a daughter.

“I like your hair, too. It’s very pretty.”

Damn. She really didn’t need Saylor seeing her sorry excuse for a house.

Jolie stroked her ponytail, feigning modest shock. “Oh, dank you.”

“I think your hair is pretty, too,” Grayson mumbled, “And your new bow looks nice.”

Cadeau snorted. The bow wasn’t new, not technically. It was one of her old bows, decorated with the Greek letters for Tri Delta, her sorority. But Jolie was wearing it for the first time. And Grayson noticed.

He knew just the right things to say.

Jolie’s blue eyes lit. “You like it?”

He nodded, again a jerky movement but this time out of embarrassment. “I wanna buy you a chocolate.”

Jolie’s excited gaze turned to Cadeau. “Can I have one, Mommy?”

“Of course, princess.”

She wouldn’t stand in the way of Grayson’s wooing.

Emily spoke up, finding an escape. “Why don’t we go see what chocolate bars they have?”

Thank goodness for Emily. Reese wasn’t a quick enough thinker to catch that escape route before it disappeared. He was a god on the drums, could talk his way out of detention, but could never help her out of particularly difficult situations.

“Okay,” Grayson said, slipping his hand in Jolie’s.

“Meet us in the candy aisle,” Emily said to Cadeau. She nodded at Saylor. “See you later.”

“Bye, Emily,” Saylor said.

Emily led the way down the aisle, Grayson and Jolie following close behind. Before following after them, Reese wrapped his arms around Cadeau, a comforting hug.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered in her ear.

“It’s fine,” she whispered back.

He released her, gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, then turned and hugged Saylor, mumbling promises to visit later that day. With a final smile, he walked down the aisle to catch up with his wife and the children.

Leaving Cadeau alone with Saylor.
♠ ♠ ♠
Thank you to RwaR means i Luv you and Drowning Upwards for the comments.
Thank you to the new subscribers.
Thanks for the recs.
And I am sorry for being gone so long.
I haven't even written that much in this past month.
Been a tad stressed.
And now, I'm really tired but I wanted to at least post something today.
So I hope you enjoyed.
Sorry again!
X's and O's
Dakota Ray