I blink in surprise because that’s impressive. “Wow.”

And maybe that’s why he’s a little awkward in conversation. Aren’t the brilliant types usually that way?

And yet, he doesn’t look away again. The expression on his face is contemplative, as if he’s trying to figure out the mystery of me. But I’m just me, so it can’t be that. I’m pretty much a ‘what you see is what you get’ person.

He says nothing, and I don’t know what else to say either. I’m out of ideas, so I start to figure out how to exit from this conversation, clearly realizing our chemistry revolves solely around sex. Which is fine. We don’t need to talk.

“Would you like to go to The Wicked Horse with me?” he asks out of the blue, and I’m taken aback by the almost clinical way in which he states his question. If he were trying to seduce me, he’d do it with softer words or perhaps a caress on my arm.

Instead, it sounds like a boring business transaction.

Still, I want this man again. Never tried to deny that.

Every molecule in my body vibrates, screaming “Yes”. I knew I’d jump at the chance to be with him again if the opportunity presented itself, but I find myself regretfully shaking my head. “I can’t. My membership only allows me to go twice a month, and I’ve already used up my allotted days for January. But we could… um… go to your place instead?”

“We can’t,” he replies flatly, and it arouses my suspicions.

“Why? Are you married?”

“No,” he replies staunchly before he grimaces. “It’s just that I’m a private person, and I keep sex at the club.”

I can understand his reasoning. It’s my motto, too, and I want to kick myself for even suggesting going to his place. It seems desperate. Besides, it goes against all the rules I’d put upon myself so I don’t fall into a trap again. It’s the same exact reason I keep sex strictly limited to the club.

To keep men at arm’s length.

Will I never learn?

“But if you’d allow me,” he says almost stiffly as if he doesn’t quite trust the words coming out of his mouth. “I’ll gladly pay your evening fee to get in tonight.”

I locate Jorie standing next to Walsh, and her eyes lock with mine. They’re full of questions, but she would never begrudge me if I walked out of here right now on this man’s arm.

But with a small sigh of regret, I turn my attention back. “I can’t leave until Jorie has her cake.”

The man glances over to Jorie and Walsh before bouncing to me. He inclines his head in a way that conveys his disappointment. “Maybe some other time then.”

Damn. I had hoped he’d stay for a while until it was appropriate for me to leave, but, clearly, I was just an easy and available conquest in his path. Sounds like he’ll head to the club and easily find someone else.

So be it. I don’t beg.

“Have a good night,” I murmur with a smile, hoping it masks my regret.

After a nod, he heads toward the exit.

I watch him move with an elegant grace despite the slight limp and use of the cane. When he’s out of sight, I finish my glass of champagne and take another from a roving waiter.

CHAPTER 5

Benjamin

My house is dark when I walk in. I should do a better job of leaving lights on at night for safety reasons, but it’s just not high on my priority list of worries.

I flip on the foyer light, which provides illumination over the spacious living room that leads into the kitchen, then place my cane into an umbrella rack by the door. At one point in my life, it used to just hold umbrellas.

I don’t usually bother with my cane in the house. It’s not for balance but rather to help take some weight off my recovering leg. I’m able to traverse my house by holding onto walls or counters to help accommodate if necessary.

Moving through the living room, I ignore how ghostly it looks with the furniture shrouded and the built-in shelves empty of knickknacks, mementos, and pictures. When I came home from my lengthy hospital stay following the accident, I had every intention of selling this house. It wasn’t my home anymore.

Not without April and Cassidy.

I hired someone to come in and pack away everything. I couldn’t bear to look at their smiling faces in the photos April had liberally placed all around our house. Couldn’t bring myself to sit on the couch where she would curl up with Cassidy to read her books before bedtime while I would sit in my recliner, perusing some medical journal. I couldn’t stand any of it, so I covered it all up and tried to ignore it every time I walked in the door.


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