“Good. You won’t regret it.” He holds my gaze, and I think he might kiss me again. In the space between two heartbeats, I have to have a conversation with myself about why that would be a bad thing. First, we’re in the middle of a crowded bar. And, right until last night, I was supposed to marry someone else. But finally, he nods once and backs away. “I can’t wait.”

I’m still staring after him when Savvy saunters up to my side. “Do you have the name of a good OBGYN?” she asks, waving a hand in front of her face.

I head toward the table to grab my phone. “Sure. I’ll give you mine. Why?”

“Because I think I just got pregnant from watching you two look at each other.”

I stop in my tracks and slowly spin to face her. “Bitch.”

“Hussy.”

“Troublemaker.”

“Mother Teresa.”

I prop my hands on my hips. “Mother Teresa wouldn’t call you a bitch.”

“No, but she would buy me a drink.” She angles her head toward the bar’s main room and starts striding in that direction. “Come on, Abbi and Stella are waiting, and I can’t wait to see their faces when we tell them about your date.”

I gasp. “You were eavesdropping?”

She flashes me a grin. “You think I’d miss that show?”

Chapter Twenty-Three

Brinley

Savvy’s sprawled in the middle of my unmade bed, playing on her phone, when I step out of my bathroom in a just-this-side-of-appropriate little black dress.

“What about this one?” I ask.

“Super-hot. Love it,” she says without taking her attention from her phone.

“Savvy, you didn’t even look!”

With a sigh, she puts her phone down and gives me a once-over. “I didn’t need to. You look absolutely fuckable, and he won’t be able to take his eyes off you. I mean it, and I meant it for the last three outfits too.”

I wrinkle my nose. “I’m just nervous, okay?”

Standing, Savvy opens her arms. “Come here.”

I step forward and let her hug me, and after a stubborn beat, I hug her back. “I know I’m being dumb.”

“You aren’t being dumb. You’re nervous because you care, which is fucking fantastic, because I haven’t seen you really care about a date since . . . Well, I’m not sure I have.” She grips my shoulders and pulls back so she can look at me. “But you don’t need to worry about what to wear. You’re a hottie, and he’s wild about you. You could show up in a potato sack, and the boy would be driven to distraction the whole meal as he imagined taking it off you.”

I laugh. “I somehow doubt it.”

“We both know these nerves aren’t really about your outfit.” She arches a brow. “Right? This is more about what this date means.”

I wrinkle my nose and frown. “Why do you always have to psychoanalyze me like that?”

“Because I love you,” she says cheerfully. The doorbell rings. “Sounds like Prince Charming is here to sweep you off your feet.”

I tip my face up and take a few deep breaths, then I go to the door.

Marston is dressed in dark jeans and a white dress shirt that’s rolled up at the sleeves, a single red rose in one hand. Just like prom night.

I’d gone with Roman to his senior prom at my parents’ insistence. It would shame them if I refused, they’d said. Roman was such a nice boy, they’d said. Why did I have to fight them on everything?

So I went with Roman and spent my night texting Marston from a burner phone I’d bought at the gas station. Then, about an hour into the dance, when Roman had finally given up on me acting like the date I’d told him I didn’t want to be, Marston texted and told me to slip out the back door. There he was, sitting on the hood of his aunt’s Honda Civic in a stiff white dress shirt and a pair of black jeans, twirling a single rose between two fingers. He hopped off the car and strode over to me, offering me the flower. Then, as if on cue, the muffled opening chords of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” floated out to us from the gymnasium. Our song.

I knew that somehow Marston had planned it that way.

“Dance with me?” he asked.

I nodded and stepped into his arms. We let our bodies sway to the beat, his arms wrapped around me, my cheek against his chest.

The memory grabs ahold of me, and I can hardly breathe as Marston takes me in slowly, from my strappy black heels to the nearly inappropriate hem of my sexiest LBD. Every inch of his visual perusal feels like a caress, and by the time his eyes meet mine, I’m a live wire.

* * *

Marston

I give myself three beats to stare, to look my fill and memorize every inch of her. She’s beautiful. I’ve known this since the night we met, but seeing her dressed like this and knowing she chose to doll herself up for a night with me?

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