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“He will. Trust me.”

I rolled my eyes. He had texted me once, but I didn’t mention that to her. “And when he does, you need to distance yourself from him a bit. Let him miss you. He’s already seen how great you are. You’re smart, funny, sexy, and you give him a run for his money, too. I’ve never seen a girl keep up with Braydon’s quips like you do. He’s going to realize just how amazing that combination is. Just give him a little space to miss you.”

I nodded. I knew she was right. What she was saying made sense. But the idea of distancing myself from him caused a physical ache to form in my chest.

“I’ve seen you guys together. You have amazing chemistry. I can only imagine what the sex is like between you two.”

“Oh honey, you have no idea,” I said with a chuckle. Emmy’s cheeks grew the faintest bit pink. “He’s f**king fantastic in bed. Seriously, I’ve never been with a man who knows the female body so well.”

Emmy took a sip of her espresso. “Well, all that’s got to be put on hold.”

“Emmy, are you deaf? We’re not even speaking. I certainly won’t be sleeping with him anytime soon.”

“Trust me, I know Braydon. He’s going to call. So just promise me, when he does call, don’t go to bed with him, missy. You need a hiatus to see what your relationship with him is really made of. And you need to make him work for it, despite how fabulous the sex is with him.”

“It’s more than just great sex. He’s sweet, kind, funny, and so giving. He made me feel beautiful. And smart. He’s the total package. You know, aside from that pesky detail of not wanting to be seen in public with me or have any type of real relationship.” I faked a smile.

Emmy squeezed my hand from across the table. “Do you want me to have Ben say something to him?”

“God no. That would only make things awkward.” I shuddered at the thought.

“He’ll come to his senses.” She sounded certain, but I had my doubts.

I shrugged. “We’ll see. I’m not counting on it.”

“I give him a week before he’s begging for you to come back.”

I scoffed, concentrating on my croissant, picking it into small pieces on my plate.

“Ells?”

I lifted my head. Oops, I guess I’d been lost in my own thoughts for a bit there.

“Just be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt again.”

I nodded. “I promise.”

Regardless of the fact he probably wasn’t going to call, I knew she was right. Maybe it was time to start dating again and renew my online dating profile, just to take my mind off of things with Braydon for a while.

• • •

Despite being back in town for several days, and Emmy’s prediction that Braydon would contact me, he didn’t. I tried not to be too crushed and went on with my life. It helped that I’d already had several interested guys emailing me, wanting to set up dates after I updated my online dating profile. I was just starting to feel better about things when Braydon took me by surprise on a Thursday night.

My phone rang, and as I went to pick it up, I saw Braydon’s name flashing across the screen. I stood there in my kitchen, staring down at the phone like it was a ticking time bomb. It was a call. Not a text. I tried not to get my hopes up.

“Hello?” I finally answered.

“Hey,” he said casually. If he was going to pretend like nothing was wrong—that our fight hadn’t happened—I was going to lose it.

“I miss you,” he said softly.

“I miss you, too,” I blurted out before I could stop myself. Shit. So much for playing it cool and standing my ground. Did I have any self-respect left? Sheesh. I straightened my shoulders. “Braydon, why are you calling? You know where I stand.”

“Yes, I do. You made that abundantly clear.”

I waited, the gentle sound of his breathing and the faint humming of my refrigerator in the background the only sounds I could hear.

“I’m sorry I hurt you. I never meant for that to happen.”

My heart kicked up a steady, thumping rhythm. “Go on.”

“I thought we were on the same page with this arrangement . . . and I’m truly sorry about Hawaii. I’d like to see you,” he said.

I didn’t respond. I was trying to be strong. “Can I come over tomorrow night after work? We should probably talk,” he said.

I wiped a stray tear from my cheek and inhaled deeply, needing to make sure my voice remained steady. “I have a date tomorrow night. Sorry.”

“A date?” The surprise in his tone crashed through me. I wanted to feel proud, but instead I just felt shitty.

“Yeah. I figured it was time to, you know, take care of me and move on.”

He didn’t need to know my date was with a forty-year-old divorced guy I wasn’t the least bit excited about. I was only going to force myself to try to move on.

“I see.” His tone was soft, disappointed, and I fought with myself to keep quiet. I wanted to tell him never mind, that I’d cancel my stupid date. But then I realized he was offering to come over. To my apartment. Not take me to his, not meet up in public. It was the same old, same old. That realization renewed my strength.

“Goodnight, Braydon.”

“Night, kitten.”

I sunk to the kitchen floor, pulling my knees up to my chest, and heaved deep, shuddering breaths as tears leaked from my eyes uncontrollably.

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