And again.

I shift gears from my reminder, scrawling out my ideas for our next marketing campaign, repeating silently, He’s too young for me.

That’s the trouble.

I’ve always been drawn to younger guys, and they’re always dangerous. They’re not serious, they don’t have their act together, they don’t know how to take care of you. Even though I absolutely do not, in any way, shape, or form need a man to take care of me, I do need someone I don’t have to mother.

I’m thirty-five and I have a ten-year-old daughter. I’m a single mom, and I’ve only ever been a single mom.

My daughter’s father left me before she was born, and I raise her all by myself. That’s why I don’t need yet another young guy in my life, someone who can’t compute what it’s like to have responsibilities. After all, he’s the man who has enough free time to train for marathons, play in the company softball league, do a kickass amazing job as the director of sales, and probably get a full night’s rest too. He might be exceedingly excellent at playing the Uncle Noah role, but c’mon. As endearing as that is, it’s not the same as actually having everyday responsibilities of the permanent kind. I have to remind myself of that every time I feel tempted.

My boss taps the door to my office. “Idea,” he announces.

I turn around and wave at the man the other ladies call Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome. They might as well add “Unavailable” to his business card, because Leo wears unattainable like a cologne. Works for me, since we’re friends and only ever will be buds. I have this crazy hunch he’s still carrying a torch for a woman from his past, but he doesn’t like to talk about mushy stuff, so I don’t prod too much about the woman named Lulu. A woman I’ve noticed him looking at pictures of on his phone now and then. “Hey, Leo. What ideas are rattling around in that big old brain of yours?”

He strokes his chin. “What’s rattling is this. The Big Chocolate Show is coming up soon.” He wiggles his eyebrows. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

I raise my hand like I have the answer in class. “That we’re going to gorge ourselves on chocolate to successfully achieve the nirvana state known as a chocolate coma?”

He taps his skull. “You can indeed read my mind. Because I do fully expect us to sample as much as we possibly can.”

I pat my stomach. “I’m in. I’m awesome at chocolate sampling. You ever need help with that, you call on me.”

“You’re the only one I would ever call on.” He clears his throat. “But in all seriousness, what I was really thinking was at the show we should look for the next rising star.”

I bounce on my toes at the prospect of finding a top chocolatier to design a line of craft chocolates for Heavenly. “Yes, that was actually the real mind meld that I was receiving from you. Brilliant idea, and I’m going to be on the lookout.”

That’s what I focus on this afternoon: devising a strategy for the upcoming trade show. I don’t at all think about the young, sexy, muscular, perfect-bodied, Michael Peña look-alike who tried to make an electric toothbrush is like a vibrator joke.

I might, though, use one of those devices tonight while thinking about him—and it’s definitely not the electric toothbrush.

The next day, in the break room, I find Noah digging into a kale salad.

That’s a sign right there. I despise kale, and Noah likes it.

All I have to do is focus on things I dislike, and I’ll get rid of my desire for him.

I mime gagging.

3

Noah

I take the bait.

“Hmm. I get the feeling you’re trying to say you don’t like kale? Is that what you’re saying, Gin-meister?”

She rolls her eyes. “Noah, no one likes kale.”

I stand tall and proud in front of the podium in kale defense. “Not true. I love it, love it, love it. Like adore it. I think it’s one of the greatest foods ever.”

She shoots me a skeptical look. “That’s not possible.”

“No, it is possible. See?” I take another bite and I chew, smiling and humming as I go. Oh, that was a bit of a mistake, because kale definitely takes a couple of years to chew through, and that’s going to make it harder for me to talk, and talking is absolutely one of my strong suits when it comes to Ginny. Except it’s also my wild card still, because what if I say something that turns her off? Screw it. I’m the eternal optimist, so I choose to believe everything will all be good. “I love kale, and I bet you can too.”

“But you’re a health nut,” she says. “That means you have to love it.”


Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
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