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“Hello,” I say again before realizing I already said that.
He chuckles. “I want to see you tonight.”
“I can’t. I have to work.”
“Then tomorrow night.” He’s not asking.
I know that we can’t go any further than what happened last night. It’s just not possible. But I already told him that. So like last night again—sure, why not? One more time. Sex only. I can do that. “Sure, tomorrow night. I’m at work now, so can I call you tomorrow with the details?”
A laugh echoes through the line. “I’m calling you. How is it you’re the one deciding on the plans?”
“Oh, I think you’ll like what I have in mind,” I coo to him. Josie’s head snaps up and I drop my gaze to the floor, unable to look at her.
“When you put it like that, how can I say no?”
“Okay, I’ll be in touch tomorrow. I have to go. Bye.” I hang up and rush to my desk.
In a matter of minutes fingers are tapping on the wooden surface. “Spill it,” Josie says.
“I can’t right now. I have to go out to meet a client. But I’ll catch you up on Monday, I promise.”
She smiles at me. “Please tell whoever that was he is one lucky guy, because I’ve never seen a look like that in your eyes before.”
I shake my head and grab the topper before heading out the door.
• • •
After lunch with Tate, we arrive at the hotel to supervise the vendors setting up, answer questions, and discuss the couple’s grand entrance, first dance, cake cutting, garter toss, and other details. As the time for the ceremony approaches, we head to the church to distribute the flowers and organize the wedding party. Tate cues the music to begin the ceremony while I keep the processional flowing.
From the ceremony we move quickly to the reception venue to ensure that the wedding party is in their appropriate places for photos to begin. I have to admit that when Tate is in the right frame of mind, we work well together. There’s dinner, dancing, cake cutting, and finally the night comes to a close without any complications. One good thing about all the work has been that it’s kept me from daydreaming about Ben. The way one hand expertly pinned me to the wall and the other roamed my body. The way he filled me, stretched me, and covered my mouth when I screamed out in ecstasy.
“Want to grab a drink?” Tate asks, tearing me away from my erotic memories.
“Not tonight. I’m really tired. It’s been a long day.”
“Are you seeing someone else?” he asks.
Exasperation overtakes me, but exhaustion overrules it. “No, Tate, I’m not. My feet hurt. My calves ache. And I just want to go home. I’ll see you Monday.” I don’t bother to explain that it wouldn’t be someone else anyway since he isn’t someone I’m seeing. But that would just trigger his temper. I don’t need that.
He nods affably, although his eyes pry into mine, looking for a lie. But there isn’t one. I’m not seeing anyone, by definition anyway, and I really am wiped out.
The funny thing about exhaustion is that it plays with your mind. I fall asleep easily but wake up constantly, each time after another dream about Ben. I’m a damsel in distress and he saves me. I’m a patient and he’s my doctor. I’m a naughty girl and he’s my master.
The next day I decide to sleep in and spend the day lying around trying to keep my mind from wandering—trying not to dwell on the incredible sex Ben and I shared the other night. How he took control, how he set the pace, how much I enjoyed that. How different he is from anyone I’ve been with and how much I want him. I’m obviously failing at erasing him from my mind and decide to get out for spin class to help chase away some of the pent-up energy I’m feeling.
I come home and make my typical round of calls—Mom, River, Xander—and then I decide it’s time for the not so typical call. With a shaky finger I find his number and tap it. Not even one full ring and Ben’s voice, smooth and velvety, seduces me through the line. “Hi there.”
“Hi,” I say, losing my ability to think coherently once again.
“We’re on for tonight, right?”
“What time do you want me to pick you up?”
“Oh no, you can’t pick me up.”
He chuckles. “Okay, then, what is your plan?”
My voice is shakier than my legs at this point. I know I don’t have the courage to tell him my idea. “I’ll text you the details.”
“I have to go, but I’ll be in touch soon.”
“Okay,” he says, and it almost sounds as if he’s laughing.
I hit END and cradle the phone in my hands. I have to shed the sixteen-year-old smitten girl and be the woman I know he wants. I can do that. I know I can. So with renewed determination I type out what I was unable to say on the phone.
Since you seemed to enjoy saving the damsel in distress so much the other night, maybe you wouldn’t mind helping a student out with a failing grade.
His response is immediate.
Are you asking for a favor? A grade reversal perhaps?
Good, he’s going to play along.
I am and I’m willing to meet you in the USC Library, fifteenth floor, third room on the right, to discuss my grade at nine tonight.