And I sort of hate when people feel sorry for me.

But I nod. “I understand. I wasn’t sure what you were thinking, how you were feeling, and I was trying to get over Dakota,” I explain.

She nods her head. “I’m glad you were. But let’s just agree to be friendly. No touching, no kissing”—her voice slows and her eyes glance away from me—“definitely no thigh-grabbing . . . And no ear-nibbling, no throat-kissing . . .” She clears her throat and straightens her back.

I clear my throat, too, and look for a towel to wipe my sweaty palms on.

I’m getting caught up in her words and whirled back to two minutes ago when I was possessed by one of those guys in romance novels. She was about one more moan away from me saying things like I shall ravish you in my best attempt at a seducer’s voice.

A list of romantic comedies pops into my head, guiding my thoughts. “The next step in this agreement is for you to propose a friends-with-benefits type of relationship, and then we bicker over it for about thirty seconds before we agree,” I say. “One month later, one of us will be in love and it will be messy. Cut to another month later, we have ourselves a perfect relationship or a complete disaster. There’s no middle ground. It really is an indisputable fact that the movies have proved.”

I like that I can be completely unfiltered around her. I’ve made a fool out of myself more than once, so she should be used to it by now. There’s no history, I don’t have any expectations placed on me. She laughs and nods. Her omelet is browned now and my kitchen smells amazing. She slides it onto the plate and blows at the light puff of steam coming from the dish.

“Agreed.” Nora tucks a lose strand of hair behind her ear. “We can easily avoid all of that mess now and agree to be friends. I don’t have time for catfights in restaurants with twenty-year-old girls who shouldn’t even be drinking in public in the first place.”

Somehow the way she says that makes her sound much older, and I feel like a child being scolded by his mom.

“I’m building a career in a thriving city and I don’t want to fuck that up for some cute college kid.”

Her use of the word kid stabs at my already wounded ego. I’m nearly twenty-one and I have more in common with the people my parents’ age than I do with college “kids.” I’ve already been stopped twice on campus by students who thought I was a professor; I have that mature look. It’s true—my mom says it, too.

Ugh. Using my mom as a standard—maybe I am just a kid. That hurts a little.

I wouldn’t have thought Nora would see me as anything other than a peer, but apparently to her, I’m just some college kid who was going to be her distraction from whatever.

“Friends, then.” I deliver her a smile and she nods. From here on out, I will be only friendly to Nora and Dakota.

I will not let things get messy.

No chance.