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“I have a good job. The house will be done soon. We'll not deal with your family bullshit and have a good life. Amal, I waited for a whole year for you to come back here and see that I can give you a good life. I should have spoke up before you left, but I could see that if you didn't go, you'd hate me forever. ”

“This is so unexpected,” she said. “I never knew. ”

“Everyone, but you knew,” he laughed, and stroked her skin. “I almost drove down to see if you would consider it when you got out of school. I don't care if you got piercings on your nipples or the one down there. Your tattoos are pretty. I just want you here, Amal. And when I saw you tonight, I knew I had to say something now or lose you. ”

Cupping his face in her hands, she stared into his lovely eyes and wondered how she had never seen it before. A hard and terrible pang of regret sliced through her.

Sensing that something was changing between them quickly, Pete kissed her lips, then her forehead. Holding her tight, he whispered, “Say yes. ”

“I can't. ” Her voice was agony, tears sprang to her eyes. If only this had happened last weekend, before the date from hell.

“Yes,

you can. ”

“No, I can't. I can't!” She tried to push him away.

“No, Amal! You can stay. Look at us! We're good together. Damn, that was the best sex I've ever had. And you feel so good even if your skin is so cold and your body. . . your face. . . your eyes. . . Amal, please. ”

Trembling hard, she pushed at him again, but he held her close.

“I know that people are rough on you, but I think you're amazing,” he said firmly. “Look at you! Look at us! We're perfect together. ”

Before she realized what he was doing, he flipped the light on and pointed to the mirror over the small vanity and sink.

She literally felt his heart stop as he gazed into the mirror where only his naked reflection stared back. His gaze shot from the mirror to her face. Terrified, he pushed back from her, pulling his flaccid cock from her body with a disheartening tug. Immediately, she felt empty and alone. In silence, she watched his eyes flick back and forth between her and the mirror. He bolted toward his clothes and the door.

“Pete!”

He almost fell over trying to get his jeans on while trying to fumble for his keys.

“Pete, please,” she whispered.

“No! No! This-” his gaze moved to the mirror and his sole reflection again. “This isn't real!”

“Don't go, please,” she said again.

Please tell me you love me and that the house is for me and we can pretend that we're happy.

“You're not real,” he said again, his eyes so wide he looked crazed.

In a flash, she was across the room and pinned him to the door. Amaliya was startled at how the room had seemed to slide sharply toward her when she moved. She had Pete firmly in her grip and she dismissed the weirdness of her movements. She concentrated her gaze on him.

“I need you to believe I'm real,” she said softly. “Please, believe that I'm real. ”

He wouldn't even look at her. He just gazed at the mirror over her shoulder.

“Look at me,” Amaliya hissed. “Look at me and believe I'm real. ”

He shook his head. The horror in his eyes was beyond anything she had ever seen and his body was violently trembling.

“Look at me!” Her voice rose sharply and he struggled to get away from her. Holding him easily to the door, she sobbed with desperate need. “Please. Please. Look at me. ”

“No! No!”

With a growl of anger, she flung him toward the bed they had just spent two glorious hours on and leaped onto him. His eyes flashed even wider as she hissed in his face. The throbbing in her teeth let her know her sharp little teeth were now visible. “I'm still me! I'm still me!”

“Let me go! Let me go!” He was slobbering. Bits of saliva struck her face.

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