Page 74

“I make you uncomfortable.”

I huffed. “Doesn’t exactly qualify as the revelation of the year.”

Anton chuckled. Infuriating. “Well, maybe this will,” he said, coming toward me. “I know why I make you uncomfortable.”

“I know why, too,” I said, looking him up and down. “Everything. The whole Anton Xavier package makes me uncomfortable.”

Super. I’d just mentioned Anton and package in the same sentence, and the twisted SOB hadn’t missed it either. One side of his mouth was already lifting.

“I make you uncomfortable because some part of you likes me. Some part of you is attracted to me and that pisses you off. Some part of you knows that if you weren’t with him, you and I would be together.” He said this all without a bit of remorse, not even shame.

I was getting upset. More upset. I wasn’t sure if it was because of how wrong he was or how right he was. It was all very confusing.

“Maybe,” I said with a lazy shrug. “But that’s the answer to every question in the universe. Maybe. Maybe you and I might have hooked up in some alternate reality where there was no Jude, but that’s not the case. There is a Jude. And I’m in love with him.” I was getting worked up, just shy of a shout. I held up my left hand, flashing the ring in front of him. “And we’re getting married.”

Anton stuffed his hands in his pockets. “When?”

“Soon.” I grimaced at my word choice. He noticed that too.

“How long have you been engaged?” Still the picture of calm.

“Three years.”

He took a step toward me; I took a step back. “What are you waiting for?”

Why hadn’t I stuck with the whole none-of-your-business approach? “To graduate college.”

“No, I don’t think that’s it,” he said confidently. “I think you’re waiting because you’re unsure. Something’s telling you this man is not the right one for you, and you can’t kill that voice.”

“Wow, good one,” I said, clapping my hands. “And the Delusional Award goes to . . .” I stopped clapping to sweep my hands dramatically at him.

The more I got worked up, the cooler he seemed. Nothing I said or did could tip his calm scale.

“You say we could never be together, but that’s just because you’ve never even opened yourself up to the idea.” He took another step toward me and this time, when I took a step back, I was up against a wall.


“I don’t want to open myself up to that idea,” I said, warning him with my eyes. Warning him not to take another step closer.

He didn’t heed that warning. “Then I’m going to help you.”

Before I had time to process his intention, his lips were on mine, his hands following. Though his mouth was unyielding, his hands dropped gently to my waist and stayed there.

I tried shoving him away immediately. It was a useless endeavor with Jude, but I at least managed to budge Anton, though not enough. His lips continued their assault on mine, like they were a drowning man begging for a lifeline, but I’d tossed my lifeline out a long time ago—to a different guy, and I’d never asked for or wanted it back. I knew that what Anton had said was partly true. The two of us very well could have ended up together had the world been Jude Ryder–less. But it wasn’t. Anton was the understudy to Jude. Anton was my what-might-have-been, but Jude was my was, is, and will be forever.

“Anton, stop,” I protested against his unrelenting lips.

Either he’d gone deaf or he was ignoring me. Neither would work for me.

Raising my hand, I slapped it hard across his cheek. “Stop it!”

The slap got his attention. Good thing, because my next move would have been a sharp knee to the groin.

When Anton loosened his grip on me just enough, I gave him another hard shove, pushing him back a few feet. “You’re an ass**le. How’s that for an answer as to why we’re not together?” Shoving him in passing just because he deserved it, I marched toward the door. “And one more thing. I quit!”

I didn’t wait for a reply. I ran for the elevator, hoping I’d make it to the car before the last two minutes had caught up with me. As it was, I felt like I was hyperventilating.

What Anton had said might have been true, but none of it mattered. I was with Jude. I wanted Jude. There was no Anton and Lucy when I’d given my heart to Jude Ryder four years ago.

I had no doubts that if you plugged Anton and me into a compatibility computer, we’d come out on the other end together. I knew that, but it didn’t change anything. His rubbing that in my face when my fiancé was across the country, while I was an emotional, hormonal wreck, was not what I needed right now.

As soon as the elevator doors opened, I ran through the lobby, shoved through the revolving door, and continued my sprint to the Mazda. I was pulling my phone from my purse before I knew I’d gone searching for it. As if my fingers had a mind of their own, they punched in a number as I crawled into the car.

Jude answered on the first ring. “Hey, Luce.”

Just hearing his voice unleashed the flood of emotions I’d been trying to hold back. I started sobbing. Hard-core, rocking, choking sobs. The kind I’d experienced only in the days after my brother’s murder.

“What’s the matter, Luce?” Jude’s voice was tight with worry. “Shit. Are you all right? Where are you?” He was frantic, and it sounded like he was running.

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