A smile tilts his lips. “I like it when you forget to be mean to me.”

My words are horrifyingly breathy when I say, “I never forget. I’m just keeping you on your toes.” I swallow a golf ball. “And anyway, since they mentioned Jingle Balls, this whole thing kind of scored me some free advertising. Joke’s on them.”

He laughs, casting a glance down the front of his body. “Guess I didn’t need to wear my protective cup, after all.”

“Oh, you were expecting a knee to the nuts?”

“More than one, in fact.”

Flipping my hair back and cocking a hip comes as natural as breathing. “That’ll teach you to try and predict me next time.”

“I want to move in here.” When I start to choke on a cough, Elijah raises an eyebrow. “You’re not the only one who’s unpredictable.”

What is happening here? Am I being pranked? Yes. That has to be it. This rich, future mayor of a major city does not want to live in my prehistoric two-bedroom. “Very funny.”

He opens his mouth to say more, but closes it and drops into one of the dining room chairs. “I know it could never work, but damn. I’ve only been here a few minutes and…”

“And what?”

A few beats pass as he regards me across the table. “When I spent the night last week, that’s the most normal I’ve ever felt. No pressure. No campaign talk or reminders of the greatness that came with my father and must come after. It was like I shed the job for just a little while and it was easier to concentrate the next day. To see this path in front of me clearly—the way I want it to look.” His head lifts, dining room light caressing his shoulders, those deep brown eyes holding me hostage. “You’re part of it, Addison. You treat me like what I am, not what you think I should be. I appreciate that kind of friendship.”

Oh God. I need to tell him. He needs to know being his friend isn’t as easy for me. I have a fascination with him that definitely wouldn’t go away if he was sleeping across the hallway. Tell him. Or…I keep my mouth shut. I don’t utter the truth, because the prospect of him showering in my bathroom and eating in my kitchen is being paired with your crush in science lab, multiplied by one thousand. What if his laugh was a fixture inside these walls? There wouldn’t be any more uncertainty if I’ll ever see him again. Or if he’ll remember me.

He wants me to be his friend, though. After what he just said, it’s obvious he really needs one. I find myself wanting to be that for him. Almost as much as I want him to lay me across this table, unzip his pants and fill me. “It wouldn’t be a good idea,” I say, skirting around the table to sit down beside him, firmly ignoring the electricity that races over my skin. “If the press lost their minds when I gave you a ride, imagine if you moved in here. There would be a riot. Especially when they find out I’m related to Naomi.”

“And you’d be the target. That’s what’s stopping me.”

“That, and I haven’t invited you.” I look down my nose at him, as if my heart isn’t fluttering in my ribcage. Was he this protective of Naomi when they were together? If so, how could she have left him? I shake the thoughts free and focus on the improbable conversation. Elijah wants to live here. “What would be in it for me?”

In what seems like an unconscious move, Elijah leans back and loosens the knot of his tie, a smile playing around his mouth. “Hadn’t thought about it, but I suppose I could help you carry heavy bags up the stairs. You have to admit, you’re a little clumsy.”

I gasp. “Only when scary politicians leap out of the shadows.”

“I think you mean charming.”

My laugh won’t stay put. It comes flying right out of me. “It’s just as well it could never work, because I’m turning your room into a Christmas ornament assembly line.” I gesture to the bag. “Today’s haul from the craft store is only the beginning. Turns out, I can’t just show up and be a market vendor. I need things to vend.”

His attention shifts to the closest Christmas tree. “Your grandmother was making everything by hand?”

“That’s the long and short of it.”

“Better write that down.” He winks at me. “There’s a balls joke in there somewhere.”

“Oh, just move in,” I blurt.

Elijah tilts his head. “What was that?”

This is his fault. He had to go and be smart and gorgeous and funny, all at the same time. I was doing so well, enumerating reasons why him sharing my apartment would never work. But right now, in the perfect ease between us, I can’t imagine him leaving. Especially now that I know this place makes him happier. That…I make him happier. As a friend. Only a friend. “I was just thinking…maybe we could get around the press if you only stay occasionally. When you need a break from everything you have going on.” I roll a shoulder. “No one has to know you’re here. They don’t know you’re here now, do they?”

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