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When I return to the back, he’s already seated in the same chair I washed his hair in last time. And just like last time, his eyes never deviate from my face. I test the water before running it over his hair. After wetting it, I dispense shampoo onto my palm and work my hands through his hair until it lathers. For a few seconds, his eyes fall shut, and I take this opportunity to stare at him.

He reopens them as soon as I begin rinsing his hair, so I quickly glance away.

I wish he would say something. If he’s here, there’s a reason he’s here. And it’s not to stare at me.

When I’m finished washing his hair, we silently walk toward the front. He takes a seat in my salon chair, and I dry his hair with a towel. I’m not sure if I breathe the entire time I’m cutting his hair, but I do what I can to focus on the hair and not him. The salon has never been this quiet.

It’s also never been this loud.

I can’t stop the thoughts from racing through my head. Thoughts of what it was like being kissed by him. Thoughts of how he made me feel when his arms were around me. Thoughts of how our conversations felt so natural and real that I never wanted them to end.

When I’m finished with the last cut of the scissors, I comb his hair out and then clean him up. I remove the protective smock and shake it out. I fold it and place it into the drawer.

He stands up and pulls out his wallet. He lays a fifty-dollar bill on the counter and slides his wallet back into his pocket.

“Thank you,” he says with a smile. He turns to leave, and I immediately shake my head, not wanting him to go. We haven’t even discussed the confessions. He didn’t even tell me what made him stop by.

“Wait,” I call out to him. Just as he reaches the door, he turns around, slowly. I try to figure out what to say to him, but nothing I really want to say will come out. Instead, I look down at the fifty-dollar bill and grab it, holding it up. “This is way too much money, Owen.”

He stares quietly for what seems like an eternity before he opens the door and walks out without a word.

I fall into my salon chair, completely confused by my reaction. What did I want him to do? Did I want him to make a move? Did I want him to invite me back to his place?

I wouldn’t have been okay with either of those things, and the fact that I’m upset that neither of them happened makes me feel like a horrible person.

I look down at the fifty-dollar bill in my hand. I notice for the first time that there’s writing on the back of it. I flip it over and read the message sprawled across the back in black Sharpie.

I need at least one night with you. Please.

I clench my fist and hold it up to my chest. The erratic beat of my heart and the rapid expansion of my lungs to make room for more air are the only two things I can focus on right now.

I toss the money on the counter and I bury my head in my arms.

Oh my God.

Oh my God.

I’ve never wanted to do the wrong thing so much in my entire life.

When I pause in front of his studio, I’m contemplating making a decision that I won’t be proud of tomorrow. If I walk inside, I know what will happen between us. And while I know with Trey being out of town, the likelihood of his ever finding out about this is slim, it still doesn’t make it okay.

The thought of his finding out about it also doesn’t make me want to do it any less.

Before I can even make the choice for myself, the door opens and Owen’s hand reaches out for mine. He pulls me inside the dark studio and closes the door behind me, clicking the lock into place. I wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness and my conscience to adjust to the fact that I’m here. Inside his studio.

“You shouldn’t stand outside like that,” he says. “Someone might see you.”

I’m not sure whom he’s referring to, but there isn’t a chance of Trey seeing me tonight, considering he’s in San Antonio. “He’s out of town.”

Owen is standing less than two feet away, watching me with his head tilted to the side. I can see a faint smile cross his lips. “So I was told.”

I look down at my feet, embarrassed. I close my eyes and try to talk myself out of this. I’m putting everything at risk by being here. I know if I could shut down the thoughts that have been going through my head, I would be able to see that this isn’t smart. Whether we get caught or not, being with him won’t make anything better. It’ll just make it worse, because I’ll more than likely want him even more after tonight.

“I shouldn’t be here,” I say quietly.

He’s eyeing me with his same unwavering expression. “But you are.”

“Only because you pulled me inside without asking.”

He laughs quietly. “You were standing outside my door trying to decide what to do. I just helped make the decision for you.”

“I haven’t made any decision yet.”

He nods. “Yes you have, Auburn. You’ve made a lot of decisions. You chose to be with Trey for the long haul. And now you’re choosing to be with me for the night.”

I bite my bottom lip and glance away from him. I don’t like his comment, no matter how much truth is in it. Sometimes the truth hurts, and having him lay it out like that makes it seem more black and white than it really is.

“You’re being unfair.”

“No, I’m being selfish,” he says.

“It’s the same thing.”

He takes a step toward me. “No, Auburn, it isn’t. Unfair would be giving you an ultimatum. Being selfish is doing something like this.” His lips connect with mine with strength and purpose. His hands slide into my hair and wrap around the back of my head. He kisses me like he’s giving me every kiss he wishes he could have given me in the past, and every kiss he’ll wish he could give me in the future.

All of them, all at once.

His hands drop to my back and he pulls me against him. I’m not sure where my hands are at this point. I think I’m holding on to him for dear life, but every part of me other than my mouth has just gone completely numb. The only thing I’m fully aware of is his mouth on mine. His kiss is all I know in this moment.

All I want to think about.

But damn it if Trey doesn’t force his way into my thoughts. I don’t care how strong my feelings are for Owen, my loyalty is with Trey. Owen’s actions forced me to make a choice, and now we both have to live with the consequences.

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