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He pats my butt to get me going, and he follows close, standing right behind me as we both help ourselves to the offerings. He starts to playfully take some of my pieces.

“There’s a million croissants in the basket, why do you want mine?” I chide.

“Because it has my name written on it.” He steals another pastry from my plate. So I steal something from his in return.

“That’s my apple, Regina. Do you want a bite of my apple?” His eyes twinkle even when he scowls down at me.

“Only because you stole my croissant.”

We do this all along the length of the buffet until we each end up with basically a plate full of what the other had chosen.

We end up breakfasting on warm croissants, fruit, and sugary churros.

I can’t help the queasy feeling in my stomach as we eat in comfortable silence.

When I say comfortable, I’m of course excluding the queasy feeling in my stomach. And the occasional thoughts of how beautiful he looks and how beautiful he looked just now, my T-Rex in the wild.

We munch on churros and seem to lick our lips far more than usual to get all the specks of sugar outside our mouths.

The queasy feeling is still there as we head to the beach and I drop down to tan next to Trent and Rachel. Tahoe disappears for a few minutes, then comes back wearing a wet suit that hugs every muscle and plane, and hops on one of the WaveRunners.

“Trent? Want to join?” Saint asks. “There’s gear in the shed and a jet ski just for you.”

Trent leaps to his feet and heads out with the guys, leaving us girls to tan. I notice Tahoe actually starts showing Trent how to use the WaveRunner.

He towers over Trent unashamedly, and Trent is obviously a bit awkward with the WaveRunner when he climbs on top, but Tahoe is being patient and easygoing, treating Trent like just one of the guys.

When Tahoe says something that sends Trent into a roar of laughter, the queasy feeling returns full force.

The fact that Tahoe is man enough to show my boyfriend the ropes, even when I sense he doesn’t like him much, makes my admiration for T-Rex grow.

QUEASY FEELING OF RECOGNITION

By the next day, I recognize the queasy feeling in my stomach. The same one I felt when I stood staring at Paul with my toothbrush in my mouth. It’s the sensation of caring too much about a guy and fearing that not only can he hurt you, but he is going to.

That he’s already hurting you.

That he’s standing right in the middle of you and a nice guy who you could have something real with. So when we all sit down for breakfast, I avoid him by sitting in the seat farthest away. Then when everyone heads to the pool, I play a game of staying out of the water whenever he goes in, and taking a dip as soon as he gets out.

Finally he catches me that afternoon in the sunlit library as I sit on a window bench with a book.

“What’s up with you?” He fills the doorway completely and he sounds vaguely puzzled.

“Nothing.”

“Nothing’s up with you, so why aren’t you out with us?” He seems genuinely confused.

“I’m reading.”

He wants to know what I’m reading. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. We start arguing over why I thought it was a good idea to read now.

“Are you avoiding me, Regina?”

“Wha—” I sputter and set the book down. “No, absolutely not. In fact, I was going to hit some balls at the tennis court just now.” I leap out of my window seat and take advantage of him having walked into the room, unblocking the exit, to breeze through the doorway.

He follows me to the mudroom and scoops up a tennis racket after I do, smacking it gently on my rump. “Let’s go.”

CLUBBING

I didn’t beat him in tennis, but the exercise helped release some of the sexual tension that has been building in me since I saw him shower. He didn’t get tired like I did, but he seemed to enjoy teasing me and making me run after the ball—watching me with a half a smirk on his face and thoughtful eyes.

We ended up playing four sets, and then I went back to shower. The thought of him naked in the shower was replaced with thoughts of him smashing the hell out of the tennis ball—which is somehow equally disturbingly sexy. But at least the knot in my stomach lessened some. Because we laughed and teased again—friendly, as usual.

We’re supposed to meet everyone at a club downtown.

As Trent and I arrive and give our names to the bouncer, we’re allowed inside and we both head toward a large VIP area at the back that consists of four booths facing each other.

I instantly spot Tahoe.

Tahoe’s smile freezes when he sees me. His eyes run over me in my red cocktail dress, once, twice, three times, and then a woman taps his shoulder. He takes a quick swig of his beer and turns, ducking his head to listen to something she has to say, scraping a restless hand over his jaw.

I’ve seen him with women a thousand times, so I don’t understand why this time makes me uncomfortable. I especially don’t understand it when Trent is so sweetly holding my hand.

“Roth,” Trent interrupts and greets him.

“Davis.” Tahoe doesn’t look at me as he grabs and shakes Trent’s hand.

His lips curl the barest fraction as he glances in my direction, but his stare is dark and he’s deathly quiet, not speaking a word to me at all.

What’s going on?

Are we not friends anymore?

What did I do wrong?

“Come on, let’s get you something to drink.” Trent leads me to the bar and we watch as the server makes me a cocktail. We sit at the bar with our drinks, avoiding the crowded dance floor, but past my shoulders, I keep looking at Tahoe with an awful feeling in my chest. He didn’t tease me. He didn’t even say hi.

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