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“I got coffee yesterday and always get shit from you,” I counter as I sit and absently rub the little mark behind my ear, almost a hickey. . . . “I’m not giving you gory details, those are for me to dwell on and fantasize over. But, Pan, the way we connected. The way he looked at me. And looked and looked and couldn’t stop looking at me.”

“Oh, boy, you really are on ecstasy.” She sighs and puts her forehead on her palm as if she’s in for a headache. I know that she hates it when I’m in my bestest mood, so I just grin, start humming, and wonder what my mother would say if she knew about this.

I was married and had you before I was twenty-five, she’s told me all my life.

And I tell her that I’m twenty-five in three weeks and have great friends and a damn career.

But now, maybe, there’s a boy . . .

As Pandora and I start mixing and matching fabrics for our current assignments, my mind drifts off to my phone.

I have this rule that the last one to text should be the one who is next texted.

Greyson texted “And accurate” last night and before I know it, I text him back.

Are you there?

To be honest, I don’t know what to expect. This is uncharted territory for me. I hardly know what my name is today.

One moment I was at a party with so many people . . .

And then I was with him.

And he was with me.

Entirely focused on me.

And what frightens me—no, what haunts me—is not that he gave me the best orgasms of my life, though that rocked, but that I felt something. That his touch went farther than my skin, it went into me.

My skin prickles pleasurably remembering the way our eyes met as we made love, and I keep staring at my phone, waiting for him to text me.

♥ ♥ ♥

Two days after Greyson

TODAY WE’RE DECORATING one of my client’s new homes. At Susan Bowman Interiors, no matter who’s in charge of the project, everyone pitches in on “the” day when the actual delivery and arrangement of furniture takes place. Basically it works like this:

I meet with a client and get the hang of their budget and taste.

I make a proposal detailing the approximate costs, room by room, and propose the decorating concepts.

I make the room plans, take room measurements, then deliver the PDF files with the prices of several options and images and fabric swatches, based on the concepts we discussed.

Once the client approves our choices, I show it all to Susan, get her stamp of approval, then I order the fabrics, the furniture, the window treatments, the rugs and carpets, and everything is shipped to the company warehouse, where it is checked and assembled and upholstered. And then, the fun begins. For we actually get to set a date, usually when our client is out of town, and we will get to make everything that we visualized mentally happen in real life.

I’m a visual person, and this is what I do. This is what I love. Since I was three years old, I visualized everything. From the way I would dress for the first day in school. To the way a certain boy would look at me. To the way the teacher would smile in delight at the apple my mother always had me take. She said if I put an apple in their hand, I would be putting their hearts in my pocket. I always felt ridiculous giving them the apple, but my mother is very big on being “generous” to everyone and is always giving out things, even hugs. Yes! She’s done the FREE HUGS posters at charity events and just hugs everybody—and she’s taken me with her. So I guess I’m big on hugs too. They just feel good. In any case, pleasing people and living a happy, relaxed, colorful life is what I love.

“Where’s this going to go?” Pandora asks as she unwraps a pretty glass lamp.

“Oh, that little darling goes in the girl’s room,” I say, then I check all my files for the third time today. “It’s over that old pink vanity and this little fellow.” I toe a small striped ottoman that is so fun, it takes all my effort not to hug it. “Isn’t it cute?”

“What’s cute is how you keep pulling out your phone like it’s a warm, live puppy.”

“Oh, hush! I’m checking my signal.”

And my signal looks . . . okay.

Hmm.

Interesting.

NO text. Still.

Sometimes guys need nudges. They’re scared. It was too intense. He gave me “the” look. Right now, he could be sitting at home thinking—What the f**k, Greyson man?

I mean, it’s very possible he could be having problems like I am. I cannot go to sleep without fingering myself. So there. He’s made me think of only him, his skin, his touch, and I want it . . . I crave it . . . I freaking need it again. I’ve mentally checked myself into the Greyson Addicts Anonymous and only he can remedy my disease.

So for the sake of helping him, for the sake of easing the little sting of disappointment that’s starting to grow on the left side of my chest, hell, for the sake of him knowing I am definitely still interested and please, dude, if you liked me at all, do as you said and call me, I consider breaking my cardinal rule of texting and maybe texting him again.

Should I?

Rules say I shouldn’t. But I’ve never liked rules, and Greyson doesn’t look like a rule man either.

What do I do?

I want to ask Pandora but I already loathe the smirk on her face.

I want him to know the truth, that I want him to call me. I don’t want to play games. Not with him.

Even so, I force myself to tuck my phone back in my bag and remind myself Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was any worthwhile relationship.

“Melanie,” Pandora says, her lips flattening into a thin black line.

I blink innocently and smile. “What?”

“Face it. He was a douche.”

“Not.”

“Is.”

“NOT!”

“Is . . .”

♥ ♥ ♥

Four days after Greyson

“NOTHING YET?” PANDORA asks.

I want to groan when she comes up to my desk, where I was hoping I could hide from her and her peering black eyes. But today, it happens that she’s the one with a flat, angry little smile, and I’m the one with the scowl.

On Monday I didn’t know my name; I was on cloud nine. On Tuesday I was still hopeful and upbeat, on about a cloud three. Today I’m not only back on earth, I fell a couple notches down to purgatory or maybe even all the way to hell. All I know is that today is Thursday, and I have heard zip, zero, nada from him in days.

Like a fool, I’ve been smiling, glancing at my phone and waiting for something, but to be honest, my phone has started to feel like a heavy, motionless boulder in my bag, and its silence is telling me things—things that GREYSON probably doesn’t have the balls to tell me himself.

It was good. For a one-night stand. Thanks for the f**k. You won’t be hearing from me again.

“Nothing yet,” I defensively tell Pandora as I stand up and carry my phone to the ladies’ restroom. I lock myself inside and go wash my face in the sink. I think of hazel eyes with flecks of green and the look Greyson King kept giving me . . . and I feel so beyond wretched and disappointed, I slowly type another text while a well of emotion keeps growing in my chest.

I keep thinking I imagined you.

I wait for a couple of minutes. I wash my hands, dry them, check my phone, stare at my nails, check my phone. There’s a knock on the door and one of my colleagues calls, “Anyone in there?”

Fuck.

I shout, “I’ll be right out!” then I pace a little, reread the text I sent him, including that mopey sad face, and suddenly, I feel like the world’s biggest fool.

This morning I Googled him and found, surprisingly, nothing at all.

No trace of Greyson King on the Internet. He could’ve been a ghost.

A ghost not answering my texts, not interested in me, not feeling the connection that has been eating and gnawing, haunting and consuming me.

A ghost that I, drunken Melanie, made up to stop feeling lonely.

FIVE

IT TAKES WORK BEING AN ASSHOLE

Greyson

I can’t remember anyone f**king with my head more than my father has, so I’m not sure what’s happening to me, except I’m distracted as f**k this week.

Melanie’s deep in my f**king head and deep under my f**king skin.

I’m trying to shut her out of my conscious thoughts, but there she is. In my subconscious. Playing with my nipple ring like it’s her own personal toy.

I’d wanted to taste her. Now I’ve tasted her, but I’m not satisfied.

I want to make her pant like she just won the New York Marathon—I want to make her moan like a f**king pro winning a f**king National Moaning contest. And I want to make her smile like she did when I took her home.

I’ve been forcing myself to focus, keep my head in the game, my eyes open.

But Christ.

She’s not making it easy.

This week I’ve worked two more marks off my list. I’ve also found out that my father’s leukemia is real—at least the experts I brought in have confirmed it.

He’s settled in a two-story gated home, close to where the Underground season will begin in a month. And it’s strange. His voice has a different timbre even. His gaze isn’t as hard. When I came in, he asked me how I was doing.

“I’ve got half the list . . .”

“Not the list. How are you doing?”

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