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“Just don’t lose your head over a piece of ass. It’s never worth it.”

I resisted the urge to punch Jared. Piece of ass? Maybe when I first met her, but she was more than that now. Jared was right about one thing, she was screwing with my brain. But that didn’t mean I was going to stay away from her. It meant I was going to do the opposite.

Chapter Eight

Natalie was quick to fill me in on Allie’s room number when she never showed up in the lobby. I waited around for fifteen minutes before deciding to take matters into my own hands. Allie didn’t seem like the type to stand someone up.

I listened outside her door for a minute, trying to determine whether she was alone. I didn’t hear anything but a loud deep sigh. I was right that something was up with her. I knocked on the door.

She swung the door open quickly like she was expecting someone. Maybe she wanted me to come up and get her. We hadn’t actually discussed where I was picking her up. She wore tight gym pants and a tank top without a bra. She looked hot, but she didn’t look ready for a date.

“What are you doing here?”

She was blocking the doorway, so I walked around her. There was no reason to wait out in the hall. “Did you forget we had plans?”

“Plans? Oh, yeah, coffee, I forgot.” She took a seat on the couch and pulled her knees up to her chest.

I knelt down in front of her and made complete eye contact. I felt a pang in my chest as I thought about someone hurting her. “Hey, what’s going on, Allie?”

“You’re calling me Allie?”

“Whoa, now you’re annoyed at me for calling you Allie? Can a guy ever get a break?” I tried to keep myself calm, but she didn’t look like herself.

She shrugged.

“Seriously, are you okay?”

“I guess, but this summer has turned into a disaster.” She exhaled loudly. “Jess left and my dad still hasn’t come back. So yeah, great, I get to spend the rest of the summer all alone. Just what I needed.”

I rested a hand next to her on the couch. “Hey, don’t say you’re alone. Don’t I count for something?”

She smiled, and a weight lifted. “That’s what I was looking for. It’s going to be okay. But why did Jess leave?”

“It’s—” She stopped suddenly. “It’s personal.”

My gut told me it was about Jared, but I decided to leave it. There was no reason to make her talk about something she didn’t want to. “I’ll take that, but on one condition.”

“What?”

“Come out with me tonight. I promise I’ll cheer you up.”

She hesitated, and for a second I worried she’d say no. “Sure, just let me get changed.”

She’d just walked into her bedroom when I heard another knock. Who else would be coming to her room? I pulled open the door, ready to defend my territory, but I quickly relaxed. It was just room service.

“Just leave it. Here you go.” I handed the guy a ten, accepted the tray, and closed the door.

I opened the Styrofoam container and found a large slice of carrot cake complete with the little sugar carrot on top. “You want to eat cake first, or do you want to get changed?”

“I’m not in the mood for it anymore. You can have it or just put it in the fridge.”

She disappeared into the bathroom, and I moved the cake from its container onto a plate before putting it in the fridge. I figured it would be a nice surprise for her later that night, or maybe the next morning, depending on when she came home.

I walked around the suite, noting how clean and orderly it was. Allie was either a neat freak or super organized. I was neither, but I wasn’t a slob. I picked up the e-reader she must have discarded when I came in. I read a few paragraphs and it was either a romance or chic lit or something. The choice surprised me. I would have expected her to be reading something more literary.

I was about ready to turn on the TV when her cell phone rang. Curious when I saw a guy’s name flash across the screen, I picked it up. “Hello?”

I heard a sound of something dropping. Allie must have heard me answer. I smiled to myself.

“Who is this? Is Allie there?” An angry male voice yelled at me from the phone.

“No, Allie’s not available right now. She’s getting changed.” Both true statements.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Who am I? The name’s Levi.” I laughed to myself. This was kind of fun.

“Tell Allie Toby’s on the phone. Her boyfriend Toby.”

“Well, hello Toby, but I’m sorry I think Allie would have mentioned a boyfriend before she spent the night at my place. Are you sure you don’t mean ex-boyfriend?” Jess had specifically said she’d sworn off men, so she definitely didn’t have a boyfriend. Either this guy was delusional or he was just so hung up on her he couldn’t accept she’d moved on. I heard her breathing from just inside the door. She hadn’t come out to stop me. Another interesting observation.

“Go to hell, ass**le.”

“No, I won’t go to hell, but I’ll take a message.” I laughed out loud this time. The call disconnected. “You can come out now. I’m off.”

She opened the door slowly. “How’d you know I was listening?”

“I heard you breathing.”

“You heard me through the door?” She sounded skeptical.

“You didn’t really think you were fooling me, did you?” Like she couldn’t hear every word I said.

“Whatever. I can’t believe you answered my phone.”

“You could have stopped me at any time. Something tells me you have no problem with what I told Toby.” She liked it. She liked that I handled the ex for her. That was a good start.

“You’re right.”

“I’m sure I am, but about what exactly?”

“That I don’t mind what you said. He’s my ex-boyfriend. We broke up a few months ago and he hasn’t really accepted it.”

Bingo. The situation was easy to read. “I can’t say I blame him.” I took her in. She’d changed into a new tank top, this time with a bra underneath, and a pair of tight dark jeans. Not quite as nice as a short skirt, but when she turned around, I decided the rear view more than made up for it.

“So, aren’t we going out?” She watched me.

“Yes, the night awaits.” I held open the door, and we walked out into the hallway. This was our first time going out just the two of us, and anyway you spun it, she was letting me take her out on a date.