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I nod, growing more and more breathless.

He presses his lips to mine, hard, not forcing me to open up, just soft, warm, demanding lips pressing down. I feel myself yield; and I love how he softens the kiss the moment he feels my resistance vanish. And I love what he’s doing now, giving me some earlobe love, licking me, tugging and kissing my lobe, his breath warm on my ear. “You’re such a man-eater, Rachel. I’m disappointed we didn’t break your bed, though.”

He stands, and he is beautiful and virile and edible as he dresses. “How’s Saturday?” he asks.

“Excuse me?”

“How’s Saturday for you?”

“I, um. For breaking my bed? I might be free Saturday.”

He laughs lazily, completely relaxed this morning, all the tension from last night’s event with his father completely gone. He totally fucked it out of himself. “Pick you up at noon? Wear something comfortable.”

“Wait. What? Where are we going?”

“You’ll see.”

Butterflies in my stomach. Followed by tangled ropes, reminding me I can’t be feeling like this. I’m not a girl anymore, I’m not free to fall for a boy like this. Not this boy. I could not have chosen a worse time, an even worse circumstance, or a more elusive man to fall for. “Sin, no, I just remembered I can’t. I just can’t.”

He studies me; then he nods quietly. “I’ll call you, then.”

“I’ll be busy all week,” I lie.

I need space between us, I need to get back to the groove of work. He stops by the door and I already miss him—the distance between my body and his suddenly too much. God, what’s wrong with me?

A minute later he drives off to his office, I suppose, and when I can’t seem to work, I unhook my phone from the charging outlet, power it on, and, like an addict, already worrying about when her next hit will come . . .

On the other hand, I just moved some things. Saturday is great.

I step into the shower, then check his message when I step out and wrap a towel around myself.

Good

Oh typical. He’s so limited with words! I quickly wrap a towel over my wet hair and text back:

You know, I like words. You can totally use a few more

Good girl

Hahah OK.

I had a good time

Me too. I already miss you

Oh boy. Did I say that? I stress about it. Then before he can answer or feels obligated to say something like that, I quickly text:

Ok, gotta get back to work. XO

I set my phone aside and then take out my notepad, trying to write something, but I find myself doodling his name.

Malcolm Saint

23

STATUS

He changed his status.

He actually changed his Interface, Facebook, and general social media status.

I feel like there should’ve been an alert, something like an earthquake. If my stalking has told me one thing, it’s that he’s never done it before. In a relationship, it says. And considering mine still says I’m single, I wonder if Malcolm is even talking about me.

It’s the weekend after he slept over, Saturday, to be exact, when I text Gina. DID YOU SEE?

She doesn’t answer. I call her cell phone.

“Did you see?”

“Hmm.”

“Where are you?” I demand.

“Rachel, I’m sleeping. I’m next door.”

“Are you alone?”

“Of course I’m alone,” said Gina.

“I’m coming over.”

I flip my laptop open and cross the apartment to her room, make her scoot over, hop on her bed, and show her. She reads, frowning as if she can’t figure out the emergency, then her mouth flaps open.

“Wow.”

“Come on, it’s more than wow.”

“Double wow.”

She looks at me, scowling bleakly. “Wow!” she explodes. “This is a whole new level of playerness that’s just . . . so Paul-like.” She scowls and is agitated and mad. Normally I’d agree with her. This is a douchebag move. But she doesn’t know the details—that he is also a human being. That he has, incredibly, not really been accepted by his parents.

She doesn’t see things through my eyes, the way he has this really, really genuine smile, and a wholly different smile when I’m amusing him.

“Aren’t you outraged?” Gina explodes.

“I . . . well, I—”

“Rachel. Rache. Do not go Wynn on me.”

“Wynn is adorable. She always gets the guy. You know why? ’Cause she thinks she deserves him, and that it’s possible.” I pull my phone out, my heart doing things. Excited, weird things. “I’m going to text him.”

“Text what? He might be in bed with the girl he’s in a relationship with.”

“Then I’m going to call.”

I hit dial and wait for him to answer with his usual curt hey.

“So I want to take you out tonight. But as I see you’re in a relationship, I wanted to check if you were still available.”

He laughs.

God, his laugh.

Butterflies.

“Where are you?”

“Golfing with the guys.”

“When did you change your status?”

“What?”

“On Facebook.”

“I didn’t change it. One of my assistants must have.”

“Oh.”

He laughs and I feel like a dick.

“You’re disappointed, Rachel?”

“No, I wouldn’t even expect monogamy from you.” I guess I’m testing him with that comment. I’m doing a girl thing, needy for reassurance, needy to hear him define what it is we have going on between us.

He doesn’t give me much, but he says, “I do. From you.”

“What? You think I can tackle any other guy at the same time I tackle you?” I ask.

Oh, my heart.

“Tahoe’s dicking with the golf cart—I’ll call you back.”

“Fucking Tahoe,” I mumble to myself as I hang up.

“Tahoe. I swear he needs something to do,” Gina says.

“Like you. Just say it.”

“Never.”

“He’s the product of your every fantasy.”

“He’s an animal.”

“He thinks you’re succulent.”

“What?”

“Yes, he asked me your name. ‘That succulent friend of yours.’ ”

“He did not. Motherfucker!”

I sit there staring morosely at my “single” status.

Gina sits there, stumped because Tahoe thinks her succulent.

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