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“You didn’t know?” Her blond hair is expertly curled today, resting perfectly on her shoulders. Her black, bow-shaped earrings glitter under the bright lighting.

“Nope. Didn’t tell me.” I sigh, reaching for the full glass of wine in front of her.

She laughs and grabs the bottle to fill the empty glass that was originally intended for me. “Christian said Hardin hasn’t given Trish a definite answer yet. I shouldn’t have said anything until I knew, but I had a feeling he wouldn’t have mentioned the wedding to you.”

I quickly swallow the white wine in my mouth before I spit it out. “Wedding?” I hurry to take another sip before I have to speak again. A wild thought shoots through me . . . that Hardin’s going back to get married. Like an arranged marriage; they do those in England, don’t they?

No, I know they don’t. But the horrible thought electrifies me while I wait for Kimberly’s next words. Am I drunk already?

“His mom’s getting married. She called Christian this morning to invite us.”

I quickly look down at the dark granite. “That’s news to me.”

Hardin’s mother is getting married in two weeks, yet he didn’t mention it to me at all. Then I remember . . . when he was being weird earlier.

“That’s why she was calling so much!”

Kimberly looks at me with wide, questioning eyes as she takes a sip of her wine.

“What should I do?” I ask her. “Just pretend that I don’t know? Hardin and I have been communicating so much better lately . . .” I trail off. I know that it’s only been a week of improvement, but it’s been one amazing week for me. I feel like we’ve made more progress in the last seven or so days than we have in the last seven months. Hardin and I both have been talking through issues that previously would have turned into massive fights, yet here I am being transported back in time to when he kept things from me.

I always find out. Doesn’t he know this by now?

“Do you want to go?” she asks.

“I couldn’t, even if I were invited.” I rest my cheek against my hand.

Kimberly moves her stool to the side and grips the edges of mine to turn it to face her. “I asked if you want to go,” she corrects me, a hint of wine on her breath.

“It would be lovely, but I—”

“Then you should go! I’ll bring you as a guest, if I have to. I’m sure Hardin’s mom would love you there. Christian says she absolutely adores you.”

Despite my mood over Hardin’s secrecy, her words thrill me. I absolutely adore Trish.

“I can’t go, I don’t have a passport,” I say. And I could never afford a plane ticket on such short notice.

She waves off my objection. “Those can be expedited.”

“I don’t know . . .” I say. The butterflies I’m feeling in my belly at the mention of England make me want to rush down the hall to my computer and research how to get a passport—but the unwelcome knowledge of Hardin’s purposely keeping the wedding from me forces me to stay in my seat.

“Don’t doubt it. Trish would love to have you come along, and Lord knows Hardin could use a push toward commitment.” She sips on her wine, leaving a deep red print of her full lips on the rim of the glass.

I’m sure he has his reasons for not telling me. If he’s going, he probably doesn’t want me to tag along all the way to England. I know his past haunts him, and crazy as it sounds, his demons could easily be stalking the streets of London and find us both.

“Hardin doesn’t work that way,” I say. “The more I push, the harder he pulls.”

“Well then . . .” She moves her red-toed high heel and gently taps her foot against mine. “You need to dig your heels in the damn dirt and not let him pull you anymore.”

I seize on her words and save them to analyze later, when I’m not under her watchful gaze. “Hardin doesn’t like weddings.”

“Everyone likes weddings.”

“Not Hardin. He thoroughly hates them and the entire concept of marriage,” I tell her and watch with a peculiar amusement as her eyes widen and she carefully places her wineglass back onto the countertop.

“So . . . then, what . . . I mean . . .” She blinks. “I don’t even have anything to say, and that’s really saying something!” Kimberly bursts out laughing.

I can’t help but laugh along. “Yeah, tell me about it.”

Kimberly’s laugh is contagious, regardless of my mood, and I love that about her. Certainly, she can be excessively nosy at times, and I don’t always feel comfortable with the way she speaks about Hardin, but her openness and honesty happen to be the things I love the most about her. She tells it like it is, and she’s very easy to read. There’s not a layer of guile there, unlike so many people I’ve met of late.

“So you’ll what? Just date forever?” she asks.

“I said the same thing.” I can’t help but giggle. Maybe it’s the glass of wine I finished, or the fact that Hardin’s refusal of any type of permanent commitment had slipped my mind in the last week . . . I don’t know, but it feels good to laugh with Kim.

“What about your children? You don’t mind having them out of wedlock?”

“Children!” I laugh again. “He doesn’t want any children.”

“This just keeps getting better and better.” She rolls her eyes and picks up her glass to finish it off.

“He says that now, but I’m hoping . . .” I don’t finish the wish. It’s too desperate sounding when said out loud.

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