Page 40 of Tripping on a Halo

“Right.” Her voice softened. “So… six months. I’ve never asked you, because you’re so damn business-like about the entire thing, but don’t you think you’ve developed some feelings for him during that time?”

“No!” I pshawed the idea, blowing on the top of my coffee in an off-hand gesture that completely hid the windmill of thoughts that churned around my skull.

I hadn’t developed feelings for Declan. Not when I saw him drop off a bagel every morning for the homeless woman who sleeps behind the downtown bus stop. Not when I saw him play basketball with Ansley’s neighborhood kids. And not when I watched him laugh, his eyes crinkling, teeth showing, dimple popping. Or when he worked over lunch, his glasses on, pen scratching across a pad of paper, handsome brow furrowed.

I had not developed any feelings whatsoever for Declan Moss. And those non-existent feelings had definitely not deepened by having his eyes soften when they’d roamed over my body. My professional composure hadn’t cracked when he’d whispered my name across my skin, his lips skimming, breath tickling. I hadn’t fallen even a little bit when he’d been inside of me, his mouth on mine, the warm weight of his naked body above me.

“It’s okay if you like him,” Ansley said gently.

“I don’t.” I shook my head emphatically and she gave me a look, the sort of one she used to give me when I ate all the ice cream and then lied about it. But the truth was, it didn’t matter if I liked Declan Moss. It was irrelevant. Declan Moss may have given me the best sex of my life, but I wasn’t going to stack orgasms and tingly kisses on top of a man’s safety and well-being. End of discussion. Goodbye, toe-curling ecstasy. Hello, binoculars and portable first aid kit.

“And he doesn’t like you?” Ansley scooted her stool closer to the counter and pried open the foil on the plate of remaining brownies.

I ignored her question, moving back through Declan’s last words, directed at the bodyguards. “If I see any of you anywhere near me, I’m calling the police.” Maybe it had been a little too sudden of me, to call the security company and conduct interviews. I’d just gotten excited at the prospect of bringing in professionals, men with guns, advanced surveillance, and those cool little ear mics.

Ansley broke one chocolatey square in half, offering it to me. I dipped it into the coffee and took a small bite, trying to find a new angle to approach him with. Something to do sober, with my clothes on, all professional-like.

“Let’s talk about damage control.” Ansley tapped the counter in front of me to catch my attention.

“Okay.” I pulled my hair into a high ponytail. “Damage control. How do I do that?”

“I think you should give him some time,” Ansley suggested. “You’ve just freaked him out a little. I mean”—she gestured to the bare spot where the bodyguards had previously stood—“I don’t know why you thought inviting three Dwayne Johnson lookalikes to a post-sex breakfast was a good idea, but I can go out on a limb and say that he probably thinks you’re insane. Especially if you told him the reason you’re following him.”

I considered her advice. It was pretty solid. I could give him a few days. Let him cool off, then approach him with an organized proposal, the start of a negotiation, one where I’d wow him with my PowerPoint skills and he’d turn over full access to his life, or at least his calendar. And I could drop the idea of bodyguards for now. That request came from an ego inflated on post-coitus bliss, encouraged by his easy acceptance of my other requests. In hindsight, maybe I should have made sure he was fully awake.

“So, I should leave him alone.” I tested the idea aloud. “For a few days.”

“YES.” She smiled, and she had dots of chocolate in her teeth. “Just forget about him for a little bit. Let him come back to you. Trust me, he will. And in the meantime, maybe you can find a new focus for your life. Something that doesn’t involve this gorgeously virile man who you have absolutely no attraction for.”

“I’m working on a scrapbook for Mrs. Robchek,” I pointed out. “A new one.”

“Awesome,” she said dryly. “Anything else?”

I fell silent, my life pretty empty once you pulled out Mrs. Robchek’s latest keepsake. My backyard had never looked more beautiful, the damn thing behaving perfectly with only an hour or two of work per week. I was considering ripping out the front planters just to give myself something to do. “Maybe I’ll go back to—”

“You’re not going back to school,” she interrupted. “You’ve graduated from that damn school twice now. The only thing you’re learning is how to throw money away on useless degrees.”