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“That doesn’t sound like much fun.” I laugh, and he shakes his head in amused displeasure.

“I usually go every day after work. I’m still getting to know the city, too, and it’s a good way to learn the layout. You should come along one day.”

“I don’t know . . .” The idea doesn’t sound appealing.

“We could walk instead.” He chuckles. “I live in Ballard; it’s a pretty cool neighborhood.”

“I’ve heard of Ballard, actually,” I say, remembering browsing through page after page on sites showing the neighborhoods of Seattle. “Okay, yeah. Let’s walk around Ballard, then.” I close my hands in front of me and rest them on my lap.

I can’t help but think how Hardin would feel about this. He despises Trevor, and he’s already having a hard enough time with our “space” arrangement. Not that he’s said this, but I’d like to think that he is. Regardless of how much space is put between Hardin and me, literal or metaphorical, I only see Trevor as a friend. The last thing on my mind is being romantic with someone, especially anyone other than Hardin.

“Okay, then.” He smiles, clearly surprised that I’ve agreed to come along. “My lunch hour is over, so I have to get back to my office, but I’ll text you my address, or we can go straight from work if you want.”

“Let’s just go straight from here—I’m wearing reasonable shoes.” I point down to my flats, mentally patting myself on the back for not wearing heels today.

“Sounds good. I’ll meet you at your office at five?” he says and stands up.

“Yes, that’s fine.” I get up, too, and toss the crackers wrapper into the trash can.

“We all know why she got the job anyway,” I hear one of the women say behind me.

When, out of curiosity, I look over to where they’re sitting, they both quickly get quiet and stare down at the table. I can’t help but feel that they were talking about me.

So much for making friends in Seattle.

“All those two do is gossip, ignore them,” Trevor says, placing his hand between my shoulder blades and guiding me out of the break room.

When I get back to my office, I reach into my desk drawer and pull out my cell phone. Two missed calls, both from Hardin.

Should I call him back right now? He called twice, so maybe something is wrong. I should, I think, by way of bargaining with myself.

He answers on the first ring, and hurriedly says, “Why didn’t you answer when I called you?”

“Is something wrong?” I stand up from my chair in a slight panic.

“No. Nothing’s wrong,” he breathes. I can picture the exact way his pink lips move as he says the simple words “Why did you send those pictures?”

I look around my office, worried about upsetting him. “I was just excited about my office, and I wanted you to see it. I hope you didn’t think I was trying to be mean about it and brag. I’m sorry for—”

“No, I was just confused,” he coolly interjects, then goes silent.

After a few seconds, I say, “I won’t send any more, I shouldn’t even have sent those.” I lean my forehead against the office window and stare down at the streets of the city.

“Don’t worry, it’s fine . . . how is it there? Do you like the place?” Hardin’s voice is somber, and I want to smooth away the frown that I know is marring his face right now.

“It’s lovely here.”

He calls me out, I knew he would: “You didn’t answer the question.”

“I like it here,” I say softly.

“You sound absolutely ecstatic.”

“I really do like it, I’m just . . . adjusting. That’s all. What’s happening back there?” I ask in order to keep the conversation going. I’m not ready to get off the phone with him just yet.

“Nothing,” he quickly responds.

“Is this awkward for you? I know you said you didn’t want to talk on the phone, but you called me, so I was just—”

“No, it’s not awkward,” he interrupts. “It’s never awkward with us, and I only meant I don’t think we should talk for hours every day if we aren’t going to be together, because that doesn’t make any sense and it’s only going to torture me.”

“So you do want to talk to me, then?” I ask because I’m pathetic and I need to hear him say the words.

“Yes, of course I do.”

A car horn honks in the background, and I think he must be driving. “So what, then? We’re going to chat on the phone, like friends?” he asks, no anger in his voice at all, only curiosity.

“I don’t know, maybe we could try that?” This separation feels so different from the last; this time we separated on good terms, and it wasn’t a clean break. I’m not ready to decide if a clean break from Hardin is what I actually need, so I push the thought back, file it away, and promise to visit it later.

“It won’t work.”

“I don’t want us to ignore one another and not speak again, but I haven’t changed my mind about the space thing,” I tell him.

“Fine, tell me about Seattle, then,” he finally says into the receiver.

Chapter seventy-five


After I spend half an afternoon on the phone with Hardin and getting close to no actual work done, my first day at the new office is over, and I wait patiently for Trevor just outside my door.

Hardin was so calm earlier, and he sounded so clear, as if he was focused on something. Standing here in the corridor, I can’t contain my happiness that we’re still communicating; it’s so much better now that we’re no longer avoiding each other. Deep down, I know that it won’t continue to be this easy, talking this way, teasing myself with small doses of Hardin when in reality I want him, all of him, all the time. I want him here with me, holding me, kissing me, making me laugh.