Don’t be stupid. He burned you once …

I really don’t think he’ll burn me again. At least, I hope he won’t.

“Come inside,” Violet invites and we follow her into the apartment, Max shutting and locking the door behind him, always cautious, always safe. I’m starting to appreciate that about him more and more. “You want anything to drink? Water? Coffee? Wine?” Violet asks.

“I’ll take a glass of wine,” I say, hopeful that it will calm my agitated nerves.

“You sure that’s a good idea?” Max asks, his voice low.

I stop and turn to look at him. “I’ll only have one glass,” I say, annoyed.

“I only ask because I don’t want you to give your father any ammunition,” he explains. “I’m trying to watch out for you.”

Nodding, I say nothing else and follow Violet into the kitchen, grateful to see she’s already got a bottle out, and she’s now reaching into the cabinets and pulling out two glasses.

I want to ask Max why he’s being so nice to me. There’s got to be a motive behind all of this. He claims he cares for me, but does he really? It’s hard for me to believe him. It’s hard for me to believe anyone when they say that I matter. I’ve never felt like I mattered.

“Where’s Ryder?” I ask Violet as I stop to stand beside her.

She fills a glass halfway with wine before handing it to me. “In the shower still. Like I said, you’re a little early.”

“Sorry,” I say after I take a sip. The wine is cold and smooth, going down my throat easily. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Never.” Violet smiles. “This way we can talk before Father gets here.”

My stomach drops. I’m so nervous to face him I’m nauseous.

Max walks past the kitchen and enters the living room, going straight to the giant windows that overlook the city. He stands in front of them, his back to us, surveying the land below I guess. I watch him, as does Violet, and she steps closer to me, her voice lowering to almost a whisper.

“Who is he exactly? Why did you bring him? And what did you want to talk about?”

“He’s a … friend. Someone I met in Maui.”

Violet gasps and socks my shoulder with a gentle fist. “Shut. Up. You met a man while on vacation and brought him back here? Hmm. He’s not your usual type, but then again, I wouldn’t really know your usual type since you never bring any of them around to meet us.”

“None of them were worthy enough,” I say with a shrug.

“And this one is?”

“Yes.” I don’t even hesitate with my answer. “And I didn’t bring him home with me. He lives here. Well, he lives in Brooklyn.”

“Really.” Violet takes a drink, still contemplating Max over the rim of her glass. “I need more details.”

“It’s … complicated.” For once, that’s not an excuse. My history with Max really is complicated.

“Someday you’re going to have to tell me everything. Does Rose know?”

“Does Rose know what?”

“About Max?”

“Sort of,” I admit, hating that I can’t tell Violet everything yet. She’s going to be so angry when she discovers what Pilar did. Giving away business secrets, including our perfume line. That’s personal. When Max showed me the other emails between Felicity and Pilar last night, I about burst a blood vessel, I was so angry. I’ve calmed down some, but I know talking about it once more is going to rile me up all over again.

Max was right. I probably shouldn’t be drinking wine.

“Sure, you tell her everything but not me? Whatever.” She’s teasing, but I can tell Violet’s a little hurt.

I turn to face her, grabbing her arm. “I would’ve told you sooner, but everything’s happened so fast and … I’m sorry.”

Violet frowns, covering my hand with her own. “I was just teasing you, Lily. Are you okay?”

“Not really,” I whisper, shaking my head when she opens her mouth to say something else. I can’t answer questions right now. But she needs to know I’m here for her. “But it’ll get better soon, once I tell you everything that’s going on.”

There’s a knock at the door and I hope it’s Rose. I’m not quite ready to face Daddy yet, and I’d prefer to have Max by my side when he enters the apartment. Luckily enough, I hear Rose’s voice greet Violet and I grip the edge of the kitchen counter, taking a big gulp of my wine before I set the glass down.

My nerves still aren’t steady.

“Hey.” I turn to find Max standing there, studying me with a concerned look on his handsome face. He shaved after he took a shower, so his cheeks and jaw are smooth. He’s wearing a dark blue button-down shirt and jeans, and he looks … edible.

I should not be thinking like this. It’s as if I can’t help it.

“Hi.” I offer him a smile and he steps closer to me.

“You all right?”

“No.” I take a deep breath. “But I will be when this is over. Hopefully.”

He touches my shoulder again, his fingers moving to shift my hair away from my neck, and they brush my skin. A shiver steals through me and I close my eyes on an exhale and lick my lips, wishing he would kiss me. We’ve been constantly together for the last twenty-four hours. I spent the night at his apartment, for the love of God, because he wouldn’t let me go home. He didn’t want me alone, too concerned over who could be waiting for me, watching me. He slept on the couch while I slept in his bed and I could smell him on his sheets.

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