Page 20 of Forbidden Stranger

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“You should have told me the truth.”She cuts me off, and I see anger in her eyes now.“How dare you?”She looks me up and down like she’s seeing me for the first time.“You lied to me.”

“I didn’t lie,” I start to say, but she’s already shaking her head.

“You lied by omission.”The tears fall down her cheeks now as I nod.

“Yes but your mother—”

“My mother is at home with my dad two blocks from here!”she snaps back at me.“The person you know is a stranger to me.”

“You’re right,” I say but feel the stab in my heart all the same.I guess I can make this worse.

“I don’t ever want to see you again.”She turns away from me and begins to walk back to the front.

“Wait.”I grab her arm, but she yanks it out of my hold and turns to glare at me.

“I thought I’d found the one.”She angrily wipes away the tears.“But I should have known it was too good to be true.”

I’m frozen in place as she walks away, leaving me with the thoughts that maybe she was in love with me too.Up until today when I broke her heart.

“Noel,” I call out when my brain finally catches up with my feet.By the time I reach the lobby, she’s already gone, and I’m left standing in the middle of Troping with my heart in pieces.



I quickly text Joy asking if she can watch over the library until a few of the girls that volunteer from the high school can make it over and cover for me.I’m barely past the front of City Hall, and Joy is already coming down the stairs with her head down as she clicks away on her phone.It buzzes in my hand, and then she looks up and stops.

“I just texted you.I’m leaving,” I say as she comes toward me.

“What did he do?”She tilts her chin up, ready to go to battle for me.

“Who said—” She levels me with aDon’t try itexpression.

“It’s a lot.A whole story.”I peek over my shoulder to make sure Gabriel isn’t following me.The man really can send me into a spiral of emotions, and I had to get away from it.That was the only way I’d be able to think straight.

“You sure running is a good idea?I saw him yesterday.He couldn’t take his eyes off of you.He’s the kind of guy that chases.”

“Maybe,” I agree but not for the reasons I want.The reality is he came here because my birth mother wanted to find me.Then things got out of control, and he went too far.I feel so stupid.

“Everything okay?”Mayor North comes out of the building next, and my mind flashes to the things Gabriel and I did last night in his office.I’m sure he and Joy have done far more on that couch.

“Yeah, I need to go see my parents.I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry.”North comes down the stairs, a concerned expression on his face as he places his hand on Joy’s back.“The perks of a small town.We can all cover for each other when we need to.”

“Thanks.”I force a smile.“I’ll see you later.”I take off on the sidewalk, and then a thought occurs to me.“And please don’t tell Tinsel!”I throw over my shoulder.The last thing I need is her getting into the mix.

“No one really tells her anything,” I hear North say from behind me.True, she has a way of finding things out all on her own.

“Noel?”my mom calls when I enter the house.“Did you forget something?”She comes out of the kitchen, and the smell of cinnamon fills the house.She’s making her Christmas popcorn balls.

“I…ah…” I don’t know where to start, but Mom must see my expression because she pulls off her apron and wraps me in her arms.She holds me tight for a long moment, and I just breathe her in.

“I’ll kill him,” my father grumbles as he comes out of his office.

“It might not be about the boy.”Mom tries to calm Dad down.Boy?Gabriel might be a liar, but he’s a full-grown man.

I inwardly groan when I recall all the books I suggested Snow read and the scenes I thought were the hottest.All the air leaves my lungs as I realize that’s how he lured me in so quickly last night.He knew the things to say and the dirty talk that would have me melting for him.Had that all been fake?What if he only said those things because he knew I’d get off on it and that’s not him at all?

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