Approval settled into the lines of Andrew’s face. “That’s a good idea, actually. Jillian, you could go out to get coffee with Stephanie.”

She nodded without looking at me and, well, I could tell that was probably not going to happen. An awkward silence fell, broken by Brock. “You’re not in class today?”

Jillian shook her head. “Nope. I had an exam, and I finished early, so I’m done until later this afternoon. I thought I’d stop by.”

“Admit it. You heard I was back and you came to see me,” he teased, and I bit down on my lip as blood rushed back to her face. Dear God, was he that oblivious? Brock put her in what looked like a headlock. Yep. He was that oblivious. “Come on, Jilly-bean, you can help me set up.”

Jillian glanced at her father, and he nodded. “Go ahead and head down. I’ll be there shortly.”

“Nice meeting you, Stephanie.” Brock said, and with his arm still around Jillian’s shoulder, steered them toward the doors. “I’m sure I’ll see you around.”

“Nice meeting you, too,” I replied, giving him a tiny wave.

They got halfway down the hall when Jillian stopped and turned halfway around. “It w-was good meeting you.”

I smiled at Jillian, but her face looked like a tomato about to burst. Poor girl. “Same here.”

When they were at the doors, her father sighed heavily as he faced me. “Thank you for offering to talk to her. I doubt she’ll take you up on the offer. It’s nothing personal. She just doesn’t warm up to strangers well. Hasn’t since, well . . . in a long time, but I appreciate it nonetheless.”

“It’s no problem. I hope she does decide to get coffee or whatever.” And I meant it.

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Andrew nodded again, and the conversation ended between us. As Marcus and Andrew disappeared into the closed office, I sat back down and reached for the mouse. Just as my fingers brushed it, I remembered the strange text.

Tapping on the phone, I saw another message from the unknown number.

What in the hell? Ha.

Well, that wasn’t the response I thought I’d get. At least whoever this was didn’t type in text speak, thank God. I debated sending another pic. I had an entire arsenal of them but figured there was no point in dragging this out. I texted back, who is this, and dropped my phone in my lap.

A few minutes later it vibrated. One glance down and my lips parted in surprise. The response didn’t make sense.

I couldn’t believe it, couldn’t even figure out how it was possible, but I could read, and as long as something wasn’t functioning incorrectly in my head, I saw who was texting me.

It was Nick.

Chapter 9

It’s Nick.

When I didn’t respond, because I was too busy staring at my phone dumbly, it vibrated again.

I conned Roxy into giving me your phone number.

My eyes widened.

Another text came through almost immediately. Mainly bc I figured at some point you’d ask for mine. I saved you the trouble. ;)

Oh my word, the arrogance knew no limit. I hadn’t been planning to ask for his number. Okay, it might’ve crossed my mind, but I had decided it was best to let that sleeping dog lie. Yes. I was obviously attracted to Nick, as he was to me, but I wasn’t sure I could be just friends with him while lusting after him, and I wasn’t sure I could trust him not to have the same reaction he had last time after we got together.

A fourth text followed. Please don’t be mad at Roxy. She likes you. But she also likes me.

My brows rose. Irritation sparked, but it was minimal. I’d met Roxy and Katie again this past Sunday for breakfast. We hadn’t talked about Nick this time, but part of me wasn’t surprised that she’d given him my number.

I hope you’re not mad.

Snapping out of it, I picked up the phone and sent back: I’m not. And that was the truth. It wasn’t like I gave Roxy the impression I would flip my shit if she gave him my number. Though she probably could’ve asked first, but that was water under the bridge at this point.

Good, he sent back. A moment passed and another text came through. Did you save my number?

The corners of my lips curved up. I texted back: No.

That earned me a frownie face followed by: You break my heart, Stephanie. I saved your number.

Doubtful, was my response. But I quickly saved his number as I glanced up, hearing someone laughing from a few cubicles over.

A couple of moments passed and Nick texted back. You totally saved my number, didn’t you?

I swallowed a laugh and shook my head. Yeah, I did.

Knew it. The three little dots appearing under the text bubbled, and I waited. So I was texting you with a purpose.

Pressing my lips together, I sent back a quick reply. You were?

Ha. There was a pause, and then, Reece is having a get-together at his place tonight. A small one. Roxy is working, but I thought you might like to come?

My stomach tumbled instead of churned, and I wasn’t sure if I liked that sensation or not. Hesitation filled me, something I wasn’t at all accustomed to. I normally knew what I wanted to do, but for the first time in a very long time, I was unsure.

Chewing on my lower lip, I glanced up and looked around the office. Not like the answer to what I should do awaited me in the light fixtures. I flipped my gaze back to the phone and started to text back.

I haven’t been feeling well. That was the truth. But if I’m feeling okay tonight . . . What in the hell was I doing? I didn’t know, but I was doing it, doing it real hard. . . . I could stop by. What time does it start?

The three little dots appeared. Around 8pm. You okay?

Yeah, just stomach kind of messed up. Probably something he didn’t need to know. I’ll text you later and let you know.

Ok. I hope you feel better.

Thanks.

There were no more texts after that, and as the seconds turned into minutes, and minutes into hours, I still had absolutely no clue what I was doing.

And I wasn’t sure if I loathed that feeling.

Or if I sort of liked it.

I got home a little after six-thirty and changed into a pair of jeans and a loose sweater that was made out of a soft chenille material. I loved this sweater so much I wanted to snuggle with it, but that would be weird.

Barefoot, I padded into the kitchen and opened the pantry doors. I stood there for several minutes, picking at a packet of tuna fish and then moving onto the boxes of rice. Neither of those things interested me, so I moseyed on to the fridge. Microwavable bacon was somewhat appealing, but the sliced honey ham and Swiss cheese would be more filling. I didn’t want those either. Closing the door, I opened the freezer. There was a packet of hamburger meat and a steak, but both were frozen solid, and I hated defrosting meat in the microwave, so that didn’t do me any good. Sighing, I closed that door, too. I was hungry but not. My stomach seemed to be feeling better but my appetite was most definitely weird.

Opening the drawer near the stove, I started scanning the take-out menus I’d already started to accumulate since moving here. Chinese. Pizza. Italian. Subs. All of it looked good, but nothing sparked my interest as it should.

I glanced at the clock as I held a Chinese menu and felt my tummy tighten in a mixture of excitement and confusion, which was an odd combination. Whoever was going to Reece’s thing tonight would be arriving in the next hour or so. Nick would be arriving.