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Pain hits me in the gut. The way he says it, he thinks I’m going to run out of here and never look back. But that’s the furthest thing from the truth.

“Are you an addict?”

He jerks back. “What? No!”

Shaking my head as if I’m not fully understanding and wanting to, I ask another question. “Were you guilty?”

He looks tormented at the question. “It doesn’t matter if I was or not. None of it changes the fact that I am in fact a felon or the fact that you are way out of my league.”

I put my hands on my hips. “I’m not out of your league.”

He walks to the front. “I’m not talking about this anymore. You and me, we’re not happening, and I’ll just say it’s not you—if I’d met you before I would already have you upstairs in my apartment, bent over my bed. But that’s not the case. So I need to close up shop.”

His words are almost frantic, and I wonder if I’ve pushed him too far. He’s obviously embarrassed about his incarceration and doesn’t want to talk about it. I grab my purse off the wall and follow him, pulling my phone out along the way. “Yeah, uh sure,” I say, trying my best to keep the hurt out of my voice. “Let me call my sister to come get me. She drove me here.”

He exhales loudly. “C’mon, I’ll take you home.”

He’s huffy and obviously out of patience with me. “No, it’s fine. You can go on home. I’ll wait outside for her.” I start for the door, and with my hand on it, about to push it open, I stop and turn and look at him. “This isn’t over, Ozzie. I don’t care you were in prison. There’s something between us, and I’m not just going to forget about it.”

I don’t wait for his response. I about trip over my own feet trying to get outside. I start to dial my sister when he opens the door. “Put the phone away. I’m taking you home.”

He says it in a demanding tone, and I can feel the pull of his words in my lower belly.

“Are you sure? I live out at the Ranchlands.”

He motions me toward a car that is parked at the curb. “I’m sure.”

I walk ahead of him, and he’s right there with me as he opens the door. I slide in and wait for him to walk around and get in too. I want to ask him more about his time in prison, but I know that’s a sore subject. “How’d you get into tattooing?”

“I’ve always loved art. That’s the one thing I was good at in school. It just went from there. What about you? How’d you end up owning a produce stand?”

“My family owns a farm, and we supply a lot of stores and restaurants in the area, but my sister and I had the idea for the stand. We wanted to provide fruits and vegetables to families too.”

He nods approvingly. It’s dark out now, and I can barely make out all of his face, but I still can’t take my eyes off him. He must feel my stare, because he asks, “What is it?”

I smile in the darkness. “I just like looking at you.”

He shifts and in turn grinds the gears, the only indication that my words affect him in any way.

We talk about the tattoo parlor and my sister and David. We talk about his mom, who sounds like a character and someone I would really like to meet.

Before I know it, time has flown, and he’s pulling into the long driveway to our farm. I point out the produce stand on the edge of the road. I point out my parents’ big house, my sister’s smaller one, and then finally we come to my small cabin.

“This is nice that you have your family all together.”

I shrug. “Yeah, it’s nice, but it’s also nice having my own place too.” And then I notice the extra car in my driveway. “Oh shoot.”

He pulls the car into my driveway and stops next to the two cars. One is mine. “What is it?” he asks.

I jerk my chin up to the porch. “My ex. He doesn’t want to take the hint.”

He turns his head and looks up at the porch. His hands tighten on the steering wheel before he turns back to me. “Do you want me to get rid of him?”

I almost tell him yes, but quickly change my mind. I may not know Ozzie well, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of person that likes drama. And that’s exactly what it will be if I have him run off an ex-boyfriend. “No, that’s okay. He’s harmless. I’ll get rid of him.”

“Are you sure?” he asks.

But already I’m reaching for the door. “I’m sure. I know you need to get back. I’m fine. I’ll see you tomorrow,” I tell him before leaning over and surprising him with a kiss on the lips. He doesn’t have time to react before I’m jumping out of the car and waving at him through the front windshield. And the whole way up to the porch, I can’t stop thinking that tomorrow can’t come fast enough.

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