My gaze moved over the canvas and then to the paintbrush in my hand, the ends of its bristles stained blue.

Dammit all to hell in a handbasket. And not a cheap handbasket, one of those Longaberger baskets like my mom collected.

I did it again.

Resisting the urge to throw the brush at the painting, I wondered if the handle was sharp enough to give myself a lobotomy, because seriously, that was the only valid response to painting Reece’s face.


As in way more than once.

Not only was it really kind of pathetic, it was also sort of creepy if I thought about it. I mean, I doubted he’d appreciate knowing I was painting or sketching his face. I’d freak out if some dude was secretly painting my face and had several versions hidden away in his closet. Unless it was Theo James or Zac Efron. They could totally paint my face all they wanted and then some. Reece also probably wouldn’t want to know that I woke up this morning with his eyes burned into my thoughts because I’d dreamed of him again.

Also as in way more than once.

Maybe he wouldn’t mind, an evil little voice whispered. After all, last night in the stockroom he’d gotten all up in my personal space. He totally fixed my glasses for me. There was a moment when I thought he might kiss me.

He also told me the night he thought we had sex should’ve never happened.

So, that evil little voice was a misleading bitch who liked to stir up shit.


Pushing my glasses up my nose, I sighed as I dropped the brush next to the little jars of watercolors sitting on top of the old nightstand that looked like the primary color wheel threw up all over it.

I really needed to stop painting his face.

Why couldn’t I be a normal wannabe artist, painting rolling hills and vases of flowers or some other stupid, abstract stuff? Oh no, I had to be the artist people would think had stalking tendencies.

Sliding off my stool, I wiped my hands along my denim shorts and then carefully peeled the sheet of watercolor canvas free. Some people liked to paint on recycled paper, but I’d always preferred the texture and look of canvas, and all you had to do was gesso the canvas so the watercolor would work.

What I needed to do was roll it up, trash it so no one in the world could see it, but like every time I committed any image to canvas, no matter how embarrassing it might be, I couldn’t part with it.

Painting, the same as sketching, well . . . it became a part of me.

“I’m such an idiot,” I muttered as I walked the almost dry painting to the makeshift clothesline I’d strung the length of the bedroom I’d converted into a studio.

I hung the portrait from clothespins and then backed out of the room, closing the door behind me and swearing that if anyone ever stumbled inside the room and saw that painting—or any of the others—I’d curl up in a little ball in the middle of the interstate.

The soft hum of the TV in the living room tickled my ears as I started down the narrow hallway. Ever since I was a kid, I didn’t like silence, and it got worse after what happened with Charlie. A TV or a radio always had to be turned on. At night, I always had one of those standing fans running, not so much for the cool factor, but mostly the noise.

Two steps took me past my bedroom and the one and only bathroom. My apartment was a bit on the small side, but it was nice. Ground level, hardwood floors throughout, an open floor plan combining the kitchen and living room, and a door that led out from the kitchen onto a neat deck and green area, as well as front access.

It really wasn’t an apartment complex either. Just a huge, old Victorian smack-dab in the middle of the Plymouth Meeting, a town a few miles outside of Philly. The Victorian had been remodeled back in the early 2000s and converted into four two-bedroom apartments. Charlie would’ve called it quaint and he would’ve loved it.

An elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Silver, lived in the other ground floor apartment, some dude I rarely saw had just moved into the apartment above me a few months back, and James, a guy who worked at the local insurance place lived in the other apartment with his girlfriend, Miriam.

My phone dinged, drawing my attention to where I’d left my cell on the arm of the couch when I got home from the bar. I saw it was a text.

I winced and almost hid behind the couch. It was from Dean and all it said was: Love to see u again.

Yikes, I suddenly felt spazzy. I didn’t even want to touch my phone.

Last week, when I brought Dean home—the guy from Olive Garden who had peach fuzz according to Melvin—things hadn’t gone as I’d hoped.

The night had ended with some kissing. Kissing in a good location, out on the small deck, under the stars, but nothing more. Probably had to do with Mr. Silver hobbling out on the deck shared with the apartment next door. The elderly man looked like he was going to beat the poor guy with his cane.

But even if we hadn’t been interrupted, nothing else was going to happen between Dean and me. He was a nice guy, if not a wee bit overcommunicative, but when I thought about him, I didn’t feel anything.

Maybe had to do with . . . God, was I going to finish the thought? That the kiss I shared with Dean was lackluster because it was nothing like when Reece had kissed me—crap! I’d finished the stupid thought.

Funny thing was, I wasn’t in the business of looking to feel anything in the first place, so in a way, Dean was safe. He was fun to hang out with and there was absolutely no chance in holy hell of my heart getting involved, but that wasn’t fair to him.

I sighed as I passed the couch, leaving my cell phone where it was. Dean was nice, but there was going to be no second date. I had to find my lady balls and tell him that, but I needed a nap before I did that. Maybe a bowl of chips and—

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