I usually wouldn’t mind this. Not one bit. I can’t imagine that anyone would, unless they, too, were tortured by the temptation that is Nora while also knowing that nothing could come of it.

Her skin is a few shades darker than mine and I can’t tell her ethnicity by simply looking at her. I do know, though, that she’s a mix of something beautiful and unique. I’m not sure what it is specifically, but the almond shape of her eyes is striking, and so are her dark brows and the thick lashes that shade her high cheekbones. That shirt she’s wearing looks perfect on her, just like every trendy outfit I’ve seen her in. Her hips are full, and the way her white cotton pants cling to her ass is hard to look away from.

Did I already say that?

I allow myself a few seconds to look at her, really look at her. It won’t hurt just to stare for a second or two . . . right?

She’s so oblivious to my gaze, to my longing to run my fingers along the bare skin of her back. My thoughts take me there, to a world where Nora is lying next to me, my fingers moving their way across her tanned skin. I would love to see her fresh out of a shower. Her hair would be wet, wavy at the ends, and her skin would be dewy, her dark lashes even blacker against her skin when she blinks—

“That bad, huh?” Nora asks.

I shake my head. I was so lost in my own thoughts that I didn’t respond to Tessa’s question about my workday. I tell her it was the same as usual, crowded and fast-paced. The first few weeks of college are a busy time for coffee shops, even across the bridge in Brooklyn.

I don’t bore them with the details of the nozzle on the sink breaking off, spraying water all over Aiden. I can’t say I didn’t laugh when he wasn’t looking—he was so pissed that his hair got messed up. It was all the funnier because it had been his idea to toy with the nozzle in the first place, claiming that he knew how to fix the leak.

Draco . . . foiled again.

Tessa tells me that she picked up extra shifts for the next two weekends, and I know that by mentioning her work schedule she’s also really itching to know when Hardin is coming so she can keep her distance. I should tell her that he’s coming next weekend, and I intend to, but I’m going to wait until Nora leaves so Tessa can have some time alone to get used to the idea and figure out how to prepare herself.

I’ve watched the light in Tessa drain away with each day she’s in the city, alone, all the while that she’s hearing about how Hardin is thriving under the influence of his new group of friends and the advice of his therapist. I truly think he’s getting better and that this time away is necessary for him, even if he loathes it.

If the two of them don’t end up married with a bunch of stubborn, shaggy-haired children, I will lose all my faith in love.

I hate the word therapist. It adds such a stigma to someone who spends their life attempting to heal others.

Somehow it’s been deemed inappropriate to talk about your therapist at the water coolers at your day job, yet spreading gossip about your co-workers’ lives is completely acceptable. Sometimes the world’s priorities are really messed up.

“Have you heard from your mom?” Tessa asks me.

Nora moves comfortably around the kitchen again. She washes the cooling racks and wets a sponge to wipe the countertops clean while I explain to Tessa that my little sister is using my mom’s belly for soccer training. “She swears that little Abby will be first pick in the MLS superdraft,” I tell them.

My mom says her body aches and aches at night, making room for the baby growing inside. She isn’t complaining, though—she’s awed and fascinated by the changes her body is undergoing at her age and she’s eternally grateful to have had a healthy, uneventful pregnancy.

“You lost me at MLD super-something,” Nora chirps, her lips quirking up to one side in amusement.

Slight amusement. Her eyes always seem to have a touch of boredom, like her life prior to the current moment was much more exciting in some important way.

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