Page 27

“I can see why you’d be left a little speechless.”


“Maybe I could go with you when you talk to your uncles?”


Use your words, Holland. Tell him it isn’t so much that you’re feeling regret as you’re feeling sheer panic at the prospect of sharing an apartment with a stranger who also happens to be the hottest man you’ve ever touched. What if you fart in your sleep?

“I want you to know,” he continues, “despite my misdemeanor candy theft, I’m not a creep. I would never hurt you. But if you would feel more comfortable staying separate places—”

“We can’t.” Although it’s true, there is a vague tremor of nausea in my thoughts now. I’m ninety-nine percent sure Calvin isn’t a rapist or rampant drug abuser. But now taking him into my apartment seems somewhat impulsive—and not just because I might fart in my sleep.

“I want you to know how much I appreciate this,” he says, “and I won’t take anything for granted.”

I’m unaccustomed to being thanked so profusely, and stammer out a few sounds before nodding.

“Is the plan that I come home with you tonight?”

Heat spreads up my neck and over my cheeks. “I think so.”

“You have a couch?”

I nod.

“Your bedroom door locks?”

I pull back, looking at him. “Do I need it to lock?”

He shakes his head quickly. “Of course not. I want you to feel safe.”

“You must think I’m a maniac.”

His grin charges something to life inside me. “Well, aren’t you? I think that’s why I like you, Holland Bakker McLoughlin. That and your freckles.”

We straighten in slow unison, and the whole time he grins down at me from several inches above. I finally manage to respond to this: “You think I’m taking your name?”

“I’m sure of it.”

My jaw drops through a grin. “I married a caveman?”

“Just a personal preference. Want to make a wager on this?”

“As in,” I say slowly, “I lose and take your name. You lose and I keep mine? What’s really in it for me?”

“If I lose, I’ll take yours.”

What is even happening right now?

He slides his hand around my fingers. “So . . . uncles tomorrow?”

I blink up from our joined hands. “I’ll make sure they’re home.”

“Good. Now let’s get inside and make that wager. I’m freezing my bollocks off.”

I nearly trip on the sidewalk.

As Calvin holds the door for me, I hurry inside where Lulu and Mark wait and a blast of warm air hits that’s so amazing, we groan in unison.

Lulu walks over, cupping my elbow. “You okay?”

“Yeah, just had to fix the strap on my shoe.”

“Okay, good.” She seems placated and motions to where a group of busboys are clearing a table. “About five minutes, they said.”

“Cool, thanks for doing that. And thanks for coming with me today. I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”

Her smile goes soft and she wraps her arms around me. “Are you kidding? The craziest thing I’ve ever seen you do is try to change the date on your expired Saks coupon so you could still get half off. I wouldn’t have missed this.”

I laugh and press a kiss to the side of her cheek. “You can be kind of great sometimes. Not often, but . . .”

“Very funny. Now pardon me, but I’m gonna go live it up and harmlessly flirt with your husband’s friend.”

Calvin watches Lulu leave and returns to my side, taking my hand. The touch is so unfamiliar and awesome, it makes my stomach vault around in my belly.

“Hungry?” he asks.

“The wager?” I remind him.

“I’m getting there—it’s related to my question.” He lifts his chin to the meat locker. “They have good steaks here.”

And just like that, I’m interested in whatever he’s suggesting. “They do. What’re you thinking?”

“They have a porterhouse for two, three, or four.”

I haven’t eaten in nearly twenty-four hours, and the idea of a big juicy steak has me salivating. “Yeah?”

“So, I say we split the one for three, and whoever eats more wins.”

“I’m going to guess their porterhouse for three could feed us both for a week.”

“I’m betting you’re right.” His adorable grin should be accompanied by the sound of a silvery ding. “And your dinner is on me.”

For not the first time, it occurs to me to ask him how he makes ends meet, but I can’t—not here, and maybe not when we’re alone, either. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I think I can handle treating my wife to dinner on our wedding night.”

Our wedding night. My heart thuds heavily. “That’s a lot of meat. No pun intended.”

He grins enthusiastically. “I’d sure like to see how you handle it.”

“You’re betting Holland can’t finish a steak?” Lulu chimes in from behind me. “Oh, you sweet summer child.”

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