“Need some help, Goose?”

I lurch to a stop and lose my balance, the heavy bag stealing my center of gravity. Oh God. Trying to compensate for the sudden lack of stability, I drop my purchases, but that doesn’t stop me from falling backwards down the stairs.

Wow. That was fast. I’m going to die.

Only I don’t, because I land in a pair of strong arms. The man they’re attached to doesn’t even budge. But when I tip my head back to look at his face, he’s white as a ghost. “Ah, Addison. Sugar, you okay?” He throws a glance over his shoulder. “I thought you saw me when you pulled up and you were just ignoring me.”

“I didn’t,” I rasp. “I d-didn’t see you.”

His mighty exhale blows my hair around. “I’m sorry.”

How long am I going to lie here like a stoner watching infomercials? It’s just that…he looks so handsome. And tired. There’s weight underneath his chocolate eyes I don’t remember from before. The circles do nothing to detract from his innate sincerity, though. Too long. You’ve been staring too long. Plus you haven’t heard from him in a week. “Um.” I wiggle until he sets me down. “No, I don’t need any help. Thanks.”

I stoop down to pick up the fallen bag, but Elijah beats me to it. “You’re cross with me.”

“No, I’m not.” Ignoring his tilted head and furrowed brow, I turn and stomp up the remainder of the stairs. “In order to be cross with you, you would have to disappoint me in some way. Which implies I had some kind of expectation. And I.” Insert apartment key. Jiggle it. Open the door. “Did not.”

Elijah follows me inside, setting the bag down on the kitchen table. “Cross.”

“Don’t smile when I’m frowning at you.”

“I can’t help it. It confuses me, too.”

God, I can smell him on me. Different from his wedding day. Less menthol aftershave, more eucalyptus and masculine bite. Like he’s been outside in the sun and his sweat wore off the freshness of his morning shower a little. It’s annoyingly amazing. Addictive. They could bottle the aroma, call it Eau de Elijah and it would fly off shelves. “What are you doing here?”

“Explaining where I’ve been.”

“I didn’t expect you to come back.”

“Yes, you did.” He pulls a newspaper out of his back pocket and tosses it on the table. “I’m about to be one hundred percent truthful with you. It might make you even angrier—”

“That’s a safe bet.”

“But I’m not going to lie on top of cutting and running.” My throat is too tight to respond, so I just shrug and wait for him to continue. “There was a lot of curiosity about you, Addison. It’s not typical behavior from me to jump into a car with a stranger. They wanted to know the timeline of our relationship. And I didn’t want them bothering you, so I nudged them in the right direction. New York. My whereabouts since you arrived. They spent a lot of time trying to put us in the same place at the same time, but they couldn’t.”

For the last week, I’ve been positive he never thought about me once. I guess I was wrong. This man—one of the most influential, powerful men in Charleston—is standing in my cheesetastic holiday-themed apartment, taking up space with his big personality and bigger shoulders, looking totally contrite. He’s spent the last week tidying up a clusterfuck I sent into motion by playing his getaway driver…and he’s worried about my anger? A girl whose career path now includes the manufacturing of reindeer testicle ornaments. “I’m waiting for the part where I get upset.”

“There’s an article in today’s newspaper titled ‘The Captain’s Getaway Girl.’ It could have been worse. If they’d found some proof we’d been…”—he clears his throat, hands tucking into his pants—“…messing around, it would have made the front page. As it is, there’s only a short interest piece on page three. Somehow they’ve missed the family connection between you and Naomi—I’m guessing because of the different last names and the fact that your two sides aren’t close. Unfortunately, they do know you work at the market now.”

I snatch up the paper and flip to the correct page. “Oh wow. I should have listened to my teachers. The internet really is forever.”

“For what it’s worth, Goose, you look very nice.”

“Elijah, I’m doing limbo in stripper heels.”

“I guess at one time you had more than four pairs of shoes.”

I shoot him a look and go back to the article. “This is insane. They even interviewed my landlord in Brooklyn.”

“It’s a good thing this place is still listed under your grandmother’s name or they would have tracked you here. Still could happen, too.” He scrubs at the back of his neck. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m the one that picked you up,” I mumble, setting the newspaper down. “It’s fine.”

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