I take her hand, and along the way, I chat about the city, and the stores we pass.

“That coffee shop has the best vanilla lattes in the city. Don’t tell anyone I drink vanilla lattes. But I’m just sharing that tidbit with you,” I say, tipping my forehead to a trendy café.

“Oh. Okay.”

I blink.

Her tone is . . . off.

That’s odd.

But I keep going. “Best part of New York,” I say, as a man scurries by, arms laden with delivery bags, a stuffed walrus poking out of the top of one, and a plastic robot popping its head from another, “is the delivery anytime anywhere of anything.”

“Yes. Definitely.”

There it is again.

She drops my hand.

Something shifts in her.

Her stance is stiffer. Her eyes are cooler. Her tone reads distant.

When we reach her place, I squeeze her hand. “You okay? You seem a little off now.”

She gives me a huge smile. “I’m great, but I’m so tired, and I need to go. Bye.”

She spins around, heads up her steps, and darts inside without a parting glance.

A kiss on the cheek.

Or another word.

I stand on the street wondering how we went from best date ever to what sure looks to turn into a ghosting.

And I’ve no clue what the hell went wrong.

5

Olivia

Misery is my companion.

It trips me up on the racquetball court the next morning.

With an unladylike grunt, I lunge for the ball, and I smack it wildly. It screams across the court, missing the mark by miles.

Flynn thrusts his arms in victory.

I’m not annoyed he won. I’m simply annoyed. With myself. My thoughts are only on Herb Smith, and how badly I botched last night.

“Rematch?” Flynn asks, eagerness in his eyes.

I don’t have the energy to attempt to even the score with my brother. “Nah.”

He sets down his racket on the bench. “Clearly something is horribly wrong. Confession time.” He pats the wood. “Tell me how you messed up last night.”

I can’t pretend I didn’t. Misery slithers down my spine. “We were having the world’s most perfect date,” I say, forlorn.

“Yeah, yeah, skip over the sex part.”

“We didn’t have sex.”

“Okay, you didn’t have sex, so how could it have been the world’s most perfect date?”

I swat him with my towel. “Things do not have to include sex to be awesome.”

“But sex does help to make things awesome.”

“You know how you didn’t want to talk about how I look good in clothes? I don’t want to talk about sex with you.”

“Okay, fine, so you’re having an awesome date.” He makes a rolling gesture for me to keep going.

“We hit it off, Flynn. We had insane chemistry. We talked about everything, including how much we liked each other already. That’s what freaked me out. We liked each other from the beginning.”

His brow knits. “So you’re worried it’s insta-love?”

“But I don’t believe in insta-love.”

“Except you felt insta-love for him?” he points out gently.

My stomach flips with the sweetest memories of Herb’s kisses, his words, his easy way with me. “I did. That’s the thing. I felt insta everything for him.” I toss up my hands and look to my brother. “Clearly, there’s no way that can work. It’s impossible, so I took off at the end.”

“That’s real mature,” he deadpans.

“I couldn’t fathom that it was all real . . . And then, what if I’d invited him up?”

“Let’s play this game,” Flynn says, thoughtful and logical. “What would have happened? What were you so scared of? Having real feelings for someone you truly like?”

A movie reel plays before my eyes. “I would have had hot, dirty sex with him, and I would have said, ‘Let’s get married and make babies,’ and he’d have said yes, and it would be too good to be true.”

“Wait. I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about sex. You just said you had hot and dirty sex.”

“In my dreams. Yes, it was going to be the hottest sex of my life because I’m that attracted to him. He kissed me in the middle of an escape room, and it was incredible. My toes are still tingling from it. Then he kissed me in the diner and all I saw was a future full of kisses and pancakes and conversations and hot, hot sex.”

“This is like immersion therapy or something, right? Where you keep mentioning the deed over and over?”

I grab his arm for emphasis. “Yes, the deed. All the deeds. Over and over, but it was more than hot sex and dirty deeds. It was,” I stop, remembering how easy everything was with Herb. Every. Single. Thing. “We connected. We hit it off. It was insta-love. And what the hell? That doesn’t happen. And if it does, it’s dangerous.”

“Is it though? Is it dangerous? What if it’s the real thing?”

My stomach flutters at the possibility. “It felt like the real thing.”


Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
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