Her question is disturbing because it forces me to face an ugly truth. I stop sawing on a lock of her hair, gazing at her through the mirror. “I think he’s too broken to be a husband or a father again. And… he doesn’t want me to fix him.”

“But that’s a good thing,” Jorie points out.

“Yes, that’s a good thing. What I should have said is he doesn’t want to be fixed. So this is going to be nothing more than amazing sex, which will eventually run its course.”

“I’m going to call bullshit again,” Jorie demurs. “He made a claim on you. He’s established a monogamous relationship with you. He wants something, that’s for sure.”

Could that be true? I don’t want to get my hopes up. I saw how easy it was for Benjamin to just give up on things, and I’m still not sure why he broke things off to begin with. We haven’t really talked about it.

Sure, we’ve fallen back into the same pattern where we’d meet up for drinks at The Wicked Horse before finding a room to fuck in, but our talks haven’t been deep or consequential. It’s clear we’re both afraid to push too deep.

Besides, we communicate best when our clothes are off and we’re immersed in each other.

Still, I play devil’s advocate, running though scenarios where he does want me. As they play through my mind, I admit my darkest fear to Jorie. “I don’t want to be the one who has to fix him, though. That never works out.”

“Agreed,” Jorie replies, twisting to see me. She even takes my free hand in hers, giving it a squeeze. “So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Let things develop if they do. If they don’t, at least you’ll have no regrets for trying.”

“Sounds simple enough,” I say on a half-laugh, giving her hand a squeeze before I release it. I move my concentration to her hair, taking another piece and giving it a quick lop.

“Are you seeing him tonight?” Jorie asks.

My belly flutters as I pick up another piece of hair, setting the edge of the razor to it. “Yeah… actually, he asked me out to dinner.”

“What?” she exclaims, turning quickly to look at me. My razor slices cleanly through her hair, luckily not taking off more than I’d intended.

“Jorie,” I snap with irritation. “You could have caused me to cut down into your scalp or even taken off a finger of mine. Hold still, damn it.”

She ignores me, eyes blinking rapidly in surprise. “Dinner? Like a date outside the club?”

“I guess,” I reply hesitantly. “Although, I’m not quite sure. He asked me to meet him at the hospital as he’s on call today.”

“That’s huge,” she murmurs in awe.

“Not really,” I reply, putting my fingertips to her jaw and forcing her around. “Now stay still.”

I go to work again, cutting it to pixie length. Jorie watches me quietly, but I can tell she’s gearing up to saying something important.

I start feathering the razor at her left temple, alternately running my comb through the pieces to critique the length and how they lay. Jorie’s got the perfect face for this cut, and I wonder why I’ve never suggested it before.

“I’m worried now,” she finally says, which surprises me. I stop, look at her through the mirror, and tilt my head in question.

“Why’s that?” I ask.

“Because, well… the way you’ve been painting things, I thought for sure this wouldn’t go anywhere. But dinner is a pretty big deal for a man such as Benjamin.”

“Yes, I could see that,” I drawl hesitantly. “But I don’t understand why that’s concerning to you.”

“Because… he really is a broken person, Elena. What he suffered…what he lost… do you really want to deal with that?”

I’m so shocked by the fear I hear in her tone that I walk around the chair so I can look at her face to face. She’s now freaking me out a little. “What’s really bothering you, Jorie? It’s not like you to be wary of people because of their past. You’re way too empathetic for that. You’re the type of person who would bend over backward to help Benjamin overcome his past.”

Her eyes drop a moment, cheeks turning slightly pink. I’m on to something. She’s not being transparent with me.

“Jorie,” I prompt. “What’s really bugging you about Benjamin?”

She finally looks back up, swallowing hard before lifting her chin a bit defiantly. “You won’t be his first love. You’ll be second. You’ll come after a wife and a daughter who will most likely always be above you, and you’ll never live up to them in his eyes. And I see that as nothing but heartbreak and misery for you. I changed my mind about all of this. I don’t want you to see him anymore. He’s not good enough.”

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