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I frowned and rubbed my forehead. I had a pounding headache from thinking about this arrangement with Braydon. “It’s nothing. Just guy problems.”

“Ah. I see.” She nodded, her eyes weary and wise, like she’d been around long enough to know all about such matters. “Do you want to talk about it?”

I inhaled deeply and released it slowly. “No. But thank you for the offer.” How did you tell your boss that a sexy male model wanted to become your . . . what did he call it again? Oh yeah, pleasure pal. No, I wouldn’t be explaining that to my boss. I wanted to keep my job, thank you very much.

She replaced her glasses and patted the back of my hand. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out, Elizabeth. You’re a very smart girl.” She was one of the only people who called me Elizabeth and not Ellie.

I smiled weakly. I didn’t feel so smart. I felt as if I was back in high school, complete with sweaty palms and a stomach full of nerves at the thought of the football captain wanting to ask me out. Scratch that. Braydon didn’t want to ask me to go steady. He just wanted me naked and ready in the backseat of his car.

Shit.

These thoughts weren’t helping me focus. “I didn’t sleep well last night. I had to help a friend with a leak in her apartment.” At least that part was true. Crap. Hopefully Braydon followed through on his promise to remove the soggy belongings and have the apartment aired out. Crappy friend that I was, I hadn’t thought about that again since last night.

Lydia nodded. “Okay. Well, if you need to leave a little early this afternoon—recharge your batteries—you be sure to do just that.”

“Thank you. I think I will.” Another reason why I loved my boss.

I thought getting home early would be a blessing. Instead it just meant I had more time to sit around worrying before Braydon was due. I felt caged up inside my apartment, so after cleaning every room thoroughly I decided to change into a sports bra, T-shirt, and shorts and go for a jog. I figured I’d still have time to shower and get ready before he arrived. Pushing my muscles into action, with loud music blaring in my ears, was exactly what I needed. I felt sluggish at first—too many indulgences last night—but soon found my rhythm and pounded out three miles. When I arrived back home, my head was slightly clearer. Maybe I could do this with Braydon. Give in to my body’s yearnings. Have a fun adventure. You only live once, right?

I turned the shower on as hot as I could stand it and let the water beat down on me. I scrubbed myself thoroughly, shampooed and conditioned my hair, and shaved my legs for good measure. I dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, refusing to primp for him. Refusing to pretend this was some type of date. He’d made it clear that we wouldn’t be dating.

When Braydon arrived promptly at seven, my heart jumped into my throat. I answered the door and found him standing there, dressed casually in jeans and an old band T-shirt. His style was cute. Relaxed and vintage. I liked it. A lot.

“Hi,” I said, pulling open the door wider.

“Hiya. Can I come in? I have Thai food.” He held up a brown paper sack. “Of course it occurred to me that you might not like Thai, but you seem like an adventurous girl, so I went with it.”

“Thai is fine. And please, come in.” I motioned him forward and led him into my tiny kitchen. After gathering plates, utensils, and drinks, we carried the whole lot to the small round table in my breakfast nook.

“Nice place,” he commented, looking around. I’d never officially given him a tour, but I was just trying to avoid that awkward moment when we ended up in my bedroom staring at the bed. I doubted I’d have a witty comeback when he suggested we christen it.

“Thank you. It’s cozy.”

Braydon opened each package and my stomach grumbled as I inhaled the mouthwatering aromas greeting me. There was roast duck, stir-fried vegetables in fragrant curry, sticky jasmine rice, and several different noodle dishes.

“Did you invite a hockey team over and forget to tell me?” I joked.

“I wanted to be sure I ordered something you would like.” He flashed those pretty blue eyes at me, and my skin heated. He was thoughtful. That did not help my case against him.

Thankfully, scooping heaps of food onto my plate provided a good distraction from his prettiness.

“So, what do you do?” he asked, taking his time to arrange his food artfully on his plate. Gosh, was he going to gift wrap it or eat it?

“I’m a microbiologist at a pharmaceutical firm downtown.”

“Shit, seriously? Did you go to school for that?” His mouth hung open, waiting for my answer.

“Yeah. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in microbiology.”

His eyes widened. “Damn, girl. So, what does a sexy-as-fuck microbiologist do all day?”

Me? Sexy? I was pretty sure I had curry sauce smeared on my chin. I wiped my mouth with a napkin before answering. “I look at tiny organisms under a microscope. It’s super exciting.” I rolled my eyes for effect. I actually quite enjoyed my job and the challenge of it, but it usually bored people when I went into detail, so I kept it light.

“Do you get to wear one of those white lab coats?”

“Yep. Sure do. I examine cell reproduction, run studies on diseases, watch how different bacteria react to stimuli. . . .”

“Mmm, smart girls are sexy.” He grinned again, flashing me his dimple that I was becoming a teeny bit obsessed with. I took another bite of roast duck to distract myself.

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