“Okay, sweetheart.” He looks between Tyler and me before turning around and getting back in his car.

“Sweetheart?” Tyler shakes his head.

“If you don’t need anything . . . ,” I start, but I stop when he forces me back into my house, using his big body to do it. When he has me inside, he closes the door and crosses his arms over his chest.

“What kind of guy just gets in his car when the woman he’s going on a date with is talking to another man he doesn’t know?”

That’s a good question, but since I don’t have an answer, I keep my mouth closed.

“Why the fuck are you going out with a tool like him, Leah?”

“First,” I hiss, getting pissed that he’s asking me the same questions I’ve been asking myself all day, “you have no right to barge into my house. And second, who I date or why I’m dating them is not your business.” I turn away from him and pick up my purse. I quickly and angrily transfer my wallet and cell phone into my clutch, then grab my coat and put it on, tying the waist. “If you don’t mind, I need to leave, so please get out of my way.”

His jaw clenches, and I can see he wants to say more, but he smartly keeps his mouth shut before heading outside. With my heart pounding and frustration twisting my gut, I walk out behind him and lock up my house. Tyler is halfway between his house and mine when I turn around, but Bruce is still sitting on my porch at the top of the stairs.

“Be a good boy and go home with your dad.” I rub the top of his head, and he stands. “Go on,” I order as I head down the stairs. I walk to the passenger-side door of Charles’s car and grit my teeth when he doesn’t even get out to open it for me. When I slide into the seat and slam the door, he starts to back out of the driveway before I even have my seat belt on.

“Who’s that guy?”

I glance at him. Now he wants to know?

“My neighbor,” I answer as he stops at a red light.

He smiles tightly; then his eyes roam my face. “You look good, Leah.”

“Thank you.” He looks good, too, and he’s the kind of guy who knows he does. With his blond hair, golden tan, and eyes the color of the ocean, he is the definition of the all-American guy. He couldn’t be more opposite of Tyler if he tried.

When my cell phone buzzes in my purse tucked on my lap, I pull it out. My eyes get squinty when I read the message on the screen.

Tyler: Do not kiss him.

Who does he think he is?

“Everything okay?” Charles asks as I type back quickly.

Me: You have no say in that.

“Yep, everything is good. Just my grandmother asking me a question about an order I placed for the salon.” I turn the ringer off so I’m not tempted to look at it again if he messages back, and I tuck my cell away.

“Have you thought about giving up the hair business and going back to the real world?”

Annoyance makes my neck tight, but I still keep my voice even as I ask, “The real world?”

“You know what I mean.” I do, and that pisses me off. “You were a nurse, and now you do hair.”

“Mmm-hmm.” I want to tell him that last year I made close to a hundred grand just doing hair, and I was able to buy my house—something I probably would not have been able to do working as a nurse. But instead, I say nothing.

“Don’t be mad. I was just curious.” He touches my leg, and I instantly feel like I’m doing something wrong.

“I’m not mad.” I cross my legs so his hand is forced to fall away. “Since I got my cosmetology license, friends and family have asked me the same thing. I’m used to the question.” I’m just annoyed you asked me with such a self-righteous tone, I leave out. “How’s work in the real world going for you?”

“Busy. Have you seen our newest commercial?”

“Yeah.” I did see it, or one of many just like it, constantly playing on all the local stations. His dad owns one of the bigger injury law firms around, and Charles, who followed in his daddy’s footsteps, works for his firm. The commercials are all the same—him or his dad giving a check to someone in a hospital bed or a wheelchair.

When we reach the restaurant, we get out of his car and head inside. The interior is dimly lit, and with just a few tables and booths covered in white tablecloths, it’s one of the few places in town where you need a reservation. I’ve been here before with my family to celebrate. The food is good, but I still prefer eating a hamburger and fries while sitting at a bar to this.

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