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“Um, because you’re beautiful and sexy and sweet and generous and loving and—”

“Okay, you can stop.” I shake my head while a smile twitches my lips.

“Not until you tell me that you understand why he’s interested in you.”

“I understand,” I lie.

I didn’t used to be so jaded, but having a man cheat who’s supposed to love you makes you question your own self-worth.

Abby presses her lips together in disapproval, then waves her hand at me. “You know what? I’m not even going to get into this with you. I have a feeling that Lucas is the kind of man who will make it perfectly clear why he’s into you.”

“What does that mean?”

“Just mention to him that you are unworthy of his greatness, and you’ll see.” She shrugs; then her eyes fill with mischief. “Also record his reaction on your cell phone so I can see.”

“Are one of you gonna pay?” the cab driver asks, impatiently breaking into our conversation. I see that we are parked in front of our office building.

“Sorry,” I mumble, reaching for my wallet.

Abby gets out her card before I can get mine and swipes it through the machine. We both get out and head into the building. Before I know it, it’s time to leave for the evening.

“I really love this dress.” Lucas groans against my skin while pressing me harder against the wall next to my apartment door. I smile as he slides his hands down my hips and over my dress.

“You said that already.”

He stops kissing my neck and looks down at me.

“It’s a really fucking great dress.” He grins, and I bite my bottom lip.

His eyes told me that he liked my dress the moment we met outside the restaurant. Then he told me again with his mouth when I was sitting across from him. Then he told me again as he walked me down the block to my building while holding my hand.

Dinner was good, but his company was better. I have never met anyone else in my life who I can talk to about nothing and everything. I also have never met another man who’s made me feel as beautiful and as wanted as he does with a single look or touch.

“I wish I didn’t have to get home,” he says as his eyes roam over my face.

I drop my forehead to his shoulder and let out a deep breath.

“Me too.”

I give his waist a squeeze, hating that he has to leave but knowing it’s for the best. It would be so easy to give myself over to him without thinking about what I was doing, but I know I’m not ready for that. Not yet.

“Thank you for dinner.” I look up at him.

“My pleasure.” His lips touch mine, and I fight the urge to open my mouth and deepen the kiss. “I’m taking you out again Friday, so don’t make plans.”

“What about Maddi?” I ask.

He smiles. “She’s sleeping over at her friend’s place—the one who had the party last weekend.”

My face softens. “Is she excited?”

“She got the invite Monday and hasn’t stopped talking about it. So yeah, she’s excited.”

“Good.” I lean up and press my lips to his, unable to stop myself.

“Damn, I really wish I didn’t have to leave.” His forehead rests against mine briefly before he lets me go with one last, soft kiss. “I’ll see you Friday.”

“You will.” I smile at that, then open my door and back into my apartment while keeping my eyes locked with his. “Have a good night, Lucas.”

“You too, baby.”

I watch him walk away, then close the door and get up on my tiptoes to look at him through the peephole—like a total creeper. When he gets in the elevator, his eyes lock on my door. I swear he knows that I’m watching him. Only when the elevator doors close and he’s out of sight do I head for my bedroom to get out of my dress and heels.

I settle in bed against the headboard and grab my cell phone. I smile when I see a good-night text from Lucas. I text him back.

Then I feel my chest get tight when I notice that Tom’s mom called and left me a voice mail. I haven’t spoken to her since the day Tom showed up here. I don’t know why I haven’t, I just . . . I guess I feel like I need to put some distance between us. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. I love her, and it sucks that I need to let her go, but it has to happen if I’m ever going to be completely rid of Tom. I don’t want him in my life. If I have to let her go to get that, then that’s what I’m going to have to do. Holding my phone, I debate with myself whether I should just delete the voice mail. Instead, I click on the “Play” icon and put my cell on speaker.

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