“That was Romero,” he said, feeling like an ass**le for lying, but he had to.

There was no way he was taking that call in front of her, but he didn’t want her freaking out on him either if he didn’t say something. She finished downing what was left of her orange juice without saying a word then smiled. It was one of her less convincing smiles, but at least the suspicion in her eyes was gone now.

“You know him,” he added as she stood and he stood with her. “Once he gets started, he doesn’t stop. I figured, since you’re almost out of here anyway, I’ll call him back once you’re gone.”

“Yeah, I better go,” she said without further mention of the call. “I have that client I have to meet in less than twenty minutes.”

“We didn’t get to role play,” he said, pulling her to him.

“We will tonight.” She smiled up at him playfully.

He kissed her then glanced down at her plate. She’d left more than half. That was so not like her. He was used to seeing her plow through at least two servings. “You hardly ate. Are you sure you’re full?”

“Full enough,” she said, reaching for her purse in the booth seat. “I don’t wanna be late. I’ll grab a smoothie on the way.”

After walking her out and waiting for her to drive out of the parking lot, he headed back into the restaurant, making sure Sarah wasn’t there yet, then returned that call.

“Gwyneth,” he said when she answered. “I’m sorry. I was in the middle of something when you called.”

“No worries. I got your text, and I had a few minutes before my class starts, so I thought I’d let you know I’m free later today if you wanna get together then.”

He exhaled, relieved to hear it. “Yeah, that sounds good. But I’m having some work done at my place so—”

“You can come by my dorm if you want,” she said, sounding as eager as ever. “My roommate is out of town for a few days. We’ll have the place to ourselves.”

“Sounds good,” he said with a smile even as he felt his insides turn.

“But I won’t be there until after five,” she said. “Does that work for you?”

Squeezing his eyes shut, he took a deep breath. “Yeah, five is good. I’ll see you then.”

Hours later he was still having the same internal debate with himself. Technically, he was being dishonest, and, yes, spending time alone with Gwyneth in her dorm would be hard to explain, but it was explainable if push came to shove. Valerie always saw through his lies, so, earlier, when she’d called he’d cowardly texted her back instead. Since Sarah was working the early shift today, he was fairly certain he could get away with saying he’d been asked to work late again. He only prayed it didn’t somehow get back to her that he wasn’t.

Alex did add one thing that was absolutely sincere in his final text to her before telling her he’d see her later tonight at his place.

I already miss you like crazy.

Her only response to that was a few hearts. He’d hoped somehow adding that last part would make him feel better about not being entirely honest.

It didn’t.


Gwyneth insisted on escorting Alex out from her dorm to the parking area. She said she needed the air, but Alex knew she was just buying more time with him. Yet another thing that had him feeling like a crumb.

He’d already made it clear about Valerie being his girl a few times, but he didn’t want to lay it on too thick. Gwyneth was sweet, and he knew she wasn’t spiteful as some girls could be. But he still feared if he laid it on too heavily about having a girl it could cost him time with Gwyneth in the future. He didn’t want to risk it. So the times he mentioned it were minimal.

Strolling outside through the gardens around her dorm made him nervous as hell, and he made a mental note that from now on he’d only meet with Gwyneth at his place. That’d be tough with Valerie practically living at his place now, but it was less of a risk than being seen by one of Valerie’s friends, who he knew still stayed at these dorms. He felt stupid for not thinking this through earlier.

Luckily for him on his way home for once he had thought ahead. The nerve-wracking walk through the dorms had done it, and by the time he was home, he was a sweaty mess. Even if he did tell Valerie the truth, she might still be livid. He’d been alone with Gwyneth in her dorm room for hours. What the hell was he thinking?

The moment he set foot in his place he knew he was in for it. It wasn’t just that Valerie was packing up her laptop from his kitchen table; it was how she was doing it. She didn’t even look up when he entered, and she was throwing things in her bag in a mad dash.

“Something wrong?” he asked cautiously as he placed his keys on his kitchen counter. When she didn’t answer, he knew there was something wrong. “Valerie, babe—”

“Don’t you babe me!”

Immediately his hands were up, and he mentally went over what he was so glad now he’d rehearsed on the way home. “I got a call from the coach,” he said quickly, hoping to God he could get a hold of Angel before Valerie confirmed the next part with Sarah. “They needed me to go in for a last-minute clearance with the team medic, so Angel agreed to hang around the restaurant for me. But that’s it. I didn’t call you or tell you about it because I wanted to surprise you by getting home earlier than you expected—”

“Chels?” she asked through her teeth. “Is that who Monica said she saw you with not ten minutes ago? Is she the medic you who needed to clear you, Alex?”