His brow knits. “So you’re worried it’s insta-love?”

“But I don’t believe in insta-love.”

“Except you felt insta-love for him?” he points out gently.

My stomach flips with the sweetest memories of Herb’s kisses, his words, his easy way with me. “I did. That’s the thing. I felt insta everything for him.” I toss up my hands and look to my brother. “Clearly, there’s no way that can work. It’s impossible, so I took off at the end.”

“That’s real mature,” he deadpans.

“I couldn’t fathom that it was all real . . . And then, what if I’d invited him up?”

“Let’s play this game,” Flynn says, thoughtful and logical. “What would have happened? What were you so scared of? Having real feelings for someone you truly like?”

A movie reel plays before my eyes. “I would have had hot, dirty sex with him, and I would have said, ‘Let’s get married and make babies,’ and he’d have said yes, and it would be too good to be true.”

“Wait. I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about sex. You just said you had hot and dirty sex.”

“In my dreams. Yes, it was going to be the hottest sex of my life because I’m that attracted to him. He kissed me in the middle of an escape room, and it was incredible. My toes are still tingling from it.”

“Why are you standing here with me, then?”

“I don’t know. That’s a good question.” I swallow hard, my throat burning.

He sighs, shaking his head. “Olivia, you’re doing it again.”

I sigh. I don’t fight the truth this time. “I know. I’m sabotaging it. Because I’m afraid.”

“And you like this guy. So, woman up and un-sabotage it.”

6

Herb

The morning brings no more answers.

Only a gigantic question mark when I check my phone and find zero messages from her.

Then again, I didn’t text her either.

I don’t need to have her reject me again. Doing it to my face last night was all I needed, thank you very much.

Still, the clinical part of me wants to understand what went down.

As the sun rises, I dribble a basketball on the court in Central Park then send it soaring into the net.

“And then she just left,” I tell my buddy Malone, a fellow vet.

“Admittedly, that’s not an ideal ending to a date.” That’s Malone for you. Straight up and to the point. He grabs the ball and whooshes it toward the net.

I snag it on the rebound. “It was literally the definition of a perfect date. Then she said, ‘I’m so tired, and I need to go.’ Boom. She was gone.”

“Ah, now I get it. Sounds like she didn’t want to see your sorry ass naked.”

I roll my eyes. “My ass is spectacular, clothed or naked.”

He shudders, like he’s watching a horror flick. “Don’t tell me anything more about your ass.”

“I’m just saying, it’s a gold-standard ass. She was checking it out.”

He covers his ears. “Stop. Make it stop.”

I shoot the ball, watching it arc into the net. “Anyway, that’s that. She made it clear. There’s nothing more that’s going to happen. I’ll just move on.”

He grabs the ball, stops, and stares at me. “Wait. That’s your takeaway?”

“Well, what should it be?”

“You like this woman, you had a great date, she turned sleepy at the end, and your conclusion is you should just walk away?”

“You said sleepy time isn’t the ideal ending to a date.”

He taps his chest. “I did, and it’s not, because sexy time is the ideal ending to a date. But just because you didn’t get there doesn’t mean you stop shooting the basketball.”

“I should throw a basketball to get to the sexy times?” I’m thoroughly perplexed.

“No. But here’s the thing. You like her, you had chemistry, and you had one weird moment. Dating is weird. It’s like when you put a sweater on a cat and they don’t know how to walk.”

I furrow my brow. “Pretty sure Olivia knows how to walk.”

Malone hums. “But you might need to help her take off the sweater.”

“Man, your analogy game needs work. Are you saying I need to undress her?”

“No. Well, not yet. But soon. What I am saying is you need to try again.”

I crack up, clapping him on the back. “Wow. I didn’t get that at all from the cat sweater analogy.”

“Just try with her. Give it your best shot. Let her know what you want. The worst that’ll happen is you’re back out there on the dating circuit, putting sweaters on cats.”

Maybe, just maybe, he’s right. Maybe I should try to decipher what happened, because that really was the perfect date. And I don’t want to give up this time.

7

Olivia

Later that day, I track down my matchmaker. We have lunch, and I tell her what happened.

“I really messed up.”

Evie pats my hand. “No, sweetie, you didn’t mess up, you got nervous. People get nervous. That’s what happens. The question is—where do you go now?”


Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
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