And that feels like a very risky bet to place, especially if this whole thing is just about money.

“Look, Mel, you know you don’t have to stay here, right?” Devan’s eyes search mine, worried. “You can come home with me if you want. There’s no shame in that.”

“No,” I blurt, louder than I mean to. I tense and force my shoulders to relax before I reveal too much. “I mean, I agreed to stay for a while, to help Xander out with this thing. And anyway… I am enjoying it here. Being with him is…” I shake my head, stealing a shy glance around the apartment. “It feels like a dream that I don’t want to wake up from.”

Devan’s eyes narrow. “But is it a dream because of all the stuff he comes with, or—”

I shake my head even harder. “Dev, I really like him. More than any other guy I’ve met.” I chew on my lower lip, embarrassed by a sudden sting of tears at the back of my eyes. “I just… I know it’s weird and unusual and that I should probably be more careful with my heart, but when I’m with him, I can’t seem to make myself remember any of that. Because when we’re together it just feels so… natural.”

Devan’s expression relaxes. After a moment, she smiles. Then, to my surprise, she shoves to her feet and offers me a hand. “Come on, then.”

“Where are we going?” I ask as I let her tug me back to my feet.

“I flew all the way to New York City to visit my best friend and her new semi-fake fiancé.” She winks at me. “We’re going to have some fun. Take your mind off things for a bit, if nothing else. You need to maintain a social life of your own, lady.”

I let Devan draw me toward the bedroom, unable to help the grin that slowly spreads across my cheeks. “Well… I haven’t been out dancing in the city yet.”

“Perfect.” Devan reaches the walk-in closet and flings the door open. The moment she does, she gasps aloud, her eyes going wide as she drinks in the collection. “Are all of these yours?”

I laugh. “Xander really likes taking me shopping?” I respond. After a pointed look from her, I snort. “And, okay, I might enjoy letting him spoil me. Just a little.”

“Girl, there are more shoes here than I’ve ever owned in my life.” Devan dives into the closet. “I’m so glad we wear the same size. Okay, what type of dancing are we doing? Know any good Latin nights?”

My earlier worries fade as Devan and I get ready for a night out. I text Xander to let him know where we’re going. He replies that he’s working late, but he promises to come and meet us. He also reminds me yet again to be sure Andrew drives us.

In the meantime, I must try on at least half the closet for Devan before she finally pronounces one of my outfits perfect for the night she has in mind. It’s a little black dress, long but tighter than I’d normally wear, with a scooped back that reveals several more vertebrae of my spine than I’m used to letting show.

But when I spin in front of the full-length mirror, in a pair of low, sensible heels with a hint of glitter along the toes, I know it’s perfect.

Beside me, Devan poses in a looser dress she borrowed, and a pair of boots she found. She winks at me in the mirror and links our arms. “We look good enough to eat, you know that, right?”

I wink right back. “Let’s go find you a New Yorker beau of your own,” I reply, and she snorts and swats my arm when I use the word beau, teasing her about our earlier conversation. Then we catch the elevator down to the waiting car, where Andrew holds the door open for us with a little bow.

Devan’s eyes flash over him, in his formal black driving suit, and her expression lights up a little. “Hey, is he single?” she whispers as we slide into the backseat of the car. “That suit sure fits him nicely…”

I snort and roll my eyes, but follow her into the car. “Please don’t scare poor Andrew away, or I’ll be trapped in the penthouse without transportation.”

“Too good to take the subway already?” Devan’s eyes spark with amusement. “And here I took you for a practical, competent country gal.”

I elbow her, before we both dissolve into more laughter. My heart feels lighter with Devan here. Even the whole pretend fiancé situation feels easier to handle—for one night, at least, I can distract myself. I don’t have to think about Xander, wonder about where we stand. Worry that I might feel more for him than he does for me.

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