My father does a half turn to follow my line of sight. “What in God’s name—”

“Addison. Thanks for coming.” I smile at her across the room, holding up a finger to let her know I’ll be right over, although Chris and Lydia have already jumped up to greet her. Giving them my back, I send my father a look of warning. “I asked her to be here.”

Wheels turn behind his eyes. “You’ve been seeing her all this time, haven’t you?”

“Not in the way you think. But if I had, that would be my business. Not yours—and not the people of Charleston’s, either.”

“Then why’ve you been keeping her all to yourself, son?” My father laughs at my silence. “You know what kind of women to trot out in front of the media. And you know which ones to keep under lock and key. Don’t play the saint.” He takes a long swig of his drink. “When it comes down to it, you’ll do what’s best for the office you hold. Same as me.”

“You’re wrong on both scores. I’ve only kept her out of the public eye because they poison everything they touch. They’d hound her—and they’d never understand what we have is a friendship.” I finish my drink and set the empty glass down on the conference room table. “Second, there are a lot of things I won’t do. Pretending some decades-old feud has any relevance is one of them.”

“Feuds never die in the south.”

“This one dies with me.”

My father rolls his glass between two hands. “What are you going to do about this friendship when there’s another woman in your life? You think Naomi would have appreciated you making time with some—”

“Be very careful.”

“With another woman. A damned attractive one, at that.”

Maybe I’ve been distracted with the campaign or flat out haven’t given another romantic relationship a single thought since the wedding that wasn’t. But the point my father makes hasn’t occurred to me even once. If I started dating someone, I would have to sever ties with Addison, wouldn’t I? In no world could I continue to spend time with her. “She’s important to me,” I say, past the discomfort in my throat. “You’ll treat her with respect.”

His eyes are shrewd and I know this isn’t over. “Very well.”

My father follows me to where Addison is laughing with Lydia and Chris. “Hey, Goose.” I lean down and kiss her on the cheek, noticing a dash of glitter behind her ear. “Were you decorating without me?”

“Well, you were kind of busy,” she murmurs, an uncharacteristic blush painting her cheeks. “But I saved you the snowman buttons to glue on next time you’re over.”

“You know they’re the only thing I can’t mess up.” I can feel everyone in the room watching us, but I’m not ready to pull away from Addison yet. Election day has been nothing but one stressful interview and update after another. Having her close by now has the same calming effect of walking into her apartment every night. “Did you get a haircut?”

“No.” In my periphery, I see her dimple pop. “I got all of them cut. Are you, um…going to introduce me?”

“Yes.” I straighten and pretend I’m not greeted with curious expressions. “Roy Du Pont, I’d like you to meet Addison Potts.”

“Getaway Girl,” my father says smoothly, taking her offered hand and bowing over it. “You’re something of a mystery in this town. No one can get to the bottom of you.”

She smiles and takes her hand back. “I’m just a girl who sells ornaments in the market.”

“Now, if that were the case, my son wouldn’t be sneaking off to see you.”

“Roy,” I warn, stiffening. “That’s—”

“I’m probably the only one who’ll put up with his annoying habits,” Addison cuts in, smiling. “He talks to the television during the eleven o’clock news, he never wraps the cheese back up properly. And he leaves his jacket draped everywhere but the coat rack. Honestly, I don’t know why I hang out with him. If I hadn’t just shaken your hand, I would swear he was raised by wolves.”

A couple seconds pass in total silence, nothing but the television noise to fill the void. Then my father drops his chin and laughs, along with Chris and Lydia. “Hold on, my wife needs to hear this. Honey…” I’m still standing there in shock as he waves over my mother before elbowing me in the side. “Go get Miss Potts a drink, son. Where are your manners?”

“See? What did I tell you?” Addison wrinkles her nose at me. “Wolves.”

It takes me a beat to get moving toward the makeshift bar we’ve set up near the windows—and I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe I’m shocked over how well the introductions went and kicking myself for not making it happen sooner. Or more likely, I’m watching my father and wondering if his easy acceptance of Addison is too good to be true.

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