Tristan leaned behind me and studied Sam’s movements. “Ohh, you got a hot date tonight? Is that why you’re wearing that cute little dress?” For the past few days, Tristan had been staying in our guest room since his house was being painted. That night we’d been going over my ideas for his house and I’d been showing him different boards I’d created with ideas for the space. He seemed less than interested, but I was just happy to be doing what I loved once again.

“It’s not a date,” I said. “Sam just wanted to show me around Meadows Creek a bit, to get me out of the house.” Tristan cocked an eyebrow. “What? What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“You do know that he thinks this is a date, right?”

“What?” I stood up a tad. “No, he doesn’t. He just doesn’t want me sitting around the house.” Tristan gave me a bullshit-it’s-totally-a-date look. “Shut up, Tris.”

“All I’m saying is I doubt Stalker Sam knows that it’s not a date.”

“What does that mean? What do you mean Stalker Sam?” I asked, my voice timid. Tristan gave me a wicked grin and started walking away. “Tristan! What do you mean Stalker Sam?!”

“Ever since he moved into town he has a history of coming on a little strong sometimes, that’s all. I’d watch him follow girls around in town when I would be out running. Did he say where he was taking you?”

“Yes, and it’s not really a place where dates happen, so I think you’re wrong.”

“The town hall meeting?”

“Exactly!” I said, pleased with the idea. “The town hall meeting isn’t a place you take someone you think you’re going on a date with.” Tristan’s lips pressed together as if he was trying to hold in a chuckle. “Stop it,” I argued. There was one knock on the door. “He doesn’t really think this is a date, does he?”

“I bet ten dollars Stalker Sam leans over to you during Sherriff Johnson’s speech about the town fair and asks you if you want to go down to the barn house where there’s always a fish fry, dancing, and karaoke after the town meeting.”

“You don’t want to pay me ten dollars.”

“You’re right, I don’t. But it doesn’t matter, because I’m going to win the bet,” he joked cockily. “Stalker Sam is going to woo you.”

Knock number two.

“Stop calling him Stalker Sam!” I whispered, feeling my heartbeats increase. “He’s not going to ask me to the barn house.”

“You bet money on it?” he said, holding his hand out.

I shook his hand. “Fine. Ten dollars that this isn’t a date.”

“Ah, easiest money I ever made, Lizzie.”

The nickname left his mouth as if it was effortless. When I pulled my hand back from his, I tried not to show how much the simple nickname affected me.

Knock number three.

“What’s wrong?”

“You called me Lizzie.” His eyebrows furrowed with confusion. “It’s just…no one called me that except for Steven.”

“Sorry,” he said, nodding a little. “It slipped out.”

“No, no. I like it.” I’ve missed it. I gave him a small smile. We stared at each other, standing still as if the soles of our shoes were super-glued to the floor. My eyes traveled to the small unfinished tattoo on his left hand, and I forced myself to take it in, instead of his stare; sometimes it was too much looking him in the eyes. “I like it.”

“Then I’ll keep saying it.”

Knock number four.

“You should probably…” Tristan’s head nodded in the direction of the door. I shook my head and agreed, rushing to open the door to Sam, who was giving me the biggest smile and holding a bunch of flowers in his hands.

“Hey, Elizabeth.” Sam smiled, stretching his hands out to me with the flowers. “Wow. You look beautiful. These are for you. I was sitting out here, and realized I didn’t bring you anything, so, I don’t know. I just picked them from the front of the house for ya.” His eyes moved to Tristan, who was standing a few feet from us. “What’s that asshole doing here?”

“Oh, Sam. This is Tristan. Tristan, Sam,” I said, introducing the two. “Tristan’s house is being painted, so he’s staying with Emma and me for a few days.”

Tristan held his hand out toward Sam with his beautiful smile. “Nice to meet ya, Sam.”

“You too, Tristan,” Sam said warily.

Tristan patted him on the back, his wolfish grin in full force. “Oh, no need to be so formal with my name. By all means, call me asshole.”

I giggled to myself. What a jerk.

Sam cleared his throat. “Anyway, sorry about the flowers. I should’ve thought to grab some from town but—”

“Don’t worry about it, buddy,” Tristan said, knowing he was making him feel extra levels of discomfort. “How about you come on in and take a seat in the living room while Elizabeth and I find a vase or something to toss the flowers in?”

“Oh, okay, yeah, sounds good,” Sam agreed, allowing me to take the flowers from his grip. “Careful,” he said. “They have thorns.”

“I think I can handle it. Thanks, Sam. Take a seat and I’ll be right back.”

The moment I stepped into the kitchen, Tristan was already giving me a smartass grin. “If you keep looking at me like that, I will beat you up, Tristan. This doesn’t mean it’s a date.” He snickered. I narrowed my eyes. “It doesn’t!”