Page 43 of Corrupted

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“I’m positive,” I say.

“You are visiting the parks.”

“The what?” I ask, trying to focus on his words as Cason grunts and groans in the next room.

“You said you were visiting a friend in Florida. I assume you’re visiting the parks.”

“Right, the parks. For sure,” I say, hating to lie but having no choice in the matter. I can’t let him know who I’m with. He considers Cason, a boy who was tossed around in the system, from the wrong side of the tracks. If you ask me, that’s why he has so much character and integrity, and is so unlike the judgmental, unyielding stuffed shirts my father wants to see me with.

Cason said horrible things about you, Londyn.

Why am I suddenly second-guessing that?

Oh, because it just doesn’t fit with his character.

“Is everything under control, Londyn?” he asks.

Wow, not “How are you, really?” Or “I’d really like to see you for Christmas,” but instead, “Is everything under control?”

“Yes, of course everything is under control,” I say, and when I hear movement at the door I lift my head and find Cason watching me carefully. One hand goes to my chest in surprise, the other clutches my phone tighter when it nearly falls to the floor. “I have to go,” I say quickly. I end the call and slide my phone into my shirt pocket.

“You okay?” Cason asks, his gaze moving over my face.

“I’m good,” I say and push my father from my mind. “I’m just about to make hot chocolate. The tree is up?”

“Yeah, but not before it gave me a hard time.”

“Logs and hard times. I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.”

He laughs, and reaches for the mugs. His body brushes mine and a soft sigh catches in my throat. I scoop chocolate into the mugs, pour in the hot water, and we make our way back to the living room.

“Ready to start decorating?” he asks, putting one hand on his hip, like he has no idea where to start. Why would he?

“Can we sit for a minute?”

He turns to me. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Actually I’m great and I want to talk to you about something.” I shift on the sofa barely able to contain my excitement.

He lowers himself across from me and I say, “You know all the designs I’ve been working on all week.”

“Yeah, personally,” he teases with a wag of his brow. “I’ve been the lucky guy to take them off you.”

I laugh and playfully whack him. “I had an idea and I’d love to run it by you.”

“Run away.”

“Your business is Hard Wear. You cater to busy men on the go, men who hate to shop, or simply don’t have a lot of money to spend on quality, fashionable clothes.”

“That’s it in a nutshell.”

“What about women? There are lots of women in that same category, too. Lots of women who hate to shop—” His brow raises like I’ve truly gone crazy.

“If that’s what you think.”

I laugh. “It’s what I know.”

“You do seem to know a lot about a lot,” he says, and for a second I’m not sure what he’s referring to. “Anyway, go on.”

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