Page 42 of Corrupted

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“Funny, just a minute ago I was thinking the same thing.”

“I’m not too far off either, so again something we have in common.”

I arch a playful brow. “Does that mean we can get this one?”

“Of course,” he says, and as he reaches for his wallet, happiness wells up inside me. This tree goes hand in hand for what I want to plan, and speaking of, with Christmas just around the corner, I need to hit the ground running.

“Now we need to find a store with all the bulbs.”

He groans, but there is a new kind of happiness about it. “What have I gotten myself in to?”

“Save that thought for later...” I tease.

He grabs my arm. “Come on, I’m getting a boner.”

“Oh, that reminds me. We need to get some logs for the fire.”

He groans. “Really, Londyn?” I burst out laughing and he shakes his head at me. “Let’s go find these bulbs and logs.”

A little over an hour later, we’re back at his villa with a fire raging in the hearth. We’ve both slipped out of our formal wear and into our casual clothes. Cason looks edible in his jeans and a T-shirt that showcases his broad shoulders and trim waist. I’m currently in my yoga pants and one of his button-downs, which he seems to enjoy, judging by the way his gaze keeps going to my cleavage as we move furniture so we can put the tree in front of the big window.

“We won’t be able to see the sea,” Cason says.

“I want to look at the tree, not the water.”

There’s a knock at the door, and Cason goes to answer it as I finish rearranging his place. As he brings in the tree, I dash to the kitchen to put the kettle on. There will be no decorating without the prerequisite hot chocolate. A bubble of happiness wells up inside me, and I almost burst, until my ringing phone brings me back down to earth. I grab my purse, stare at the number and debate on answering it.

If I don’t, he’s soon going to start worrying, and for all I know he’ll send out a search party. Since Cason is busy, I run my finger over the phone and answer the call.

“Hello, Father,” I say.

A beat of silence and then, “Londyn.”

“Ah, how are things? How’s Mother?”

“Your mother is preparing for her holiday in the Alps. Will you be home for Christmas?”

I lower my voice, not wanting Cason to overhear. “No, I told you I’d be spending my holidays in Florida with a friend.”

“Is that right?” he asks, his voice hard, doubtful.

I straighten my spine. Honest to God, I’m a grown woman, and I no longer have to answer to him. Let him cut off my monthly stipend, or as he calls it my allowance. That’s ridiculous, considering I work for every last dime, and if you ask me, he’s not paying me nearly what I’m worth, or utilizing me the best way he could. I wish I didn’t have to depend on him. Wish I could make it on my own. The second that thought hits, so does another one. I gasp, and cover my mouth as a brilliant complementary idea to Cason’s Hard Wear app pings around in my brain.

“Londyn, are you still there?”

“I’m here,” I say, struggling to tamp down my excitement. Cason curses under his breath in the next room and I chuckle silently as he struggles to get the tree in the stand. I should be in there helping him not trying to placate my father.

“I can’t really talk,” I say. “I’m a bit busy.”

“Is that why you haven’t been answering my calls?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Are you sure that’s the only reason, Londyn?”

A chill goes down my spine, taking me back to my teenage years, when my father reprimanded me for one thing or another. Was there

ever a time I could do anything right in his eyes? Ever a time where he was impressed or told me he was proud of me? Over the last week, Cason has been filling me with confidence, giving me the courage to run with my ideas. My creativity has come back under his care, which is likely why that brilliant idea hit moments ago. I can’t wait to tell Cason about it. I’m sure he’s going to want to run with it.

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