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Her fiance doesn’t want her anymore. Her new neighbor would do anything to have her.
From the outside, Alyssa has the perfect life. Beautiful apartment. Handsome high school sweetheart. Impending wedding.
Only her fiance doesn’t love her anymore. He disappears into work, leaving her alone with her emptiness.
Until Luke. The brooding lawyer needs a beautiful distraction. Soft lips against his chest, hard nails against his back, Alyssa groaning his name.
He doesn’t care that she belongs to someone else. He’s going to claim her anyway.
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“Sweetheart, I’ve given this a lot of thought.”
Ryan’s eyes meet mine. There’s a coolness to his expression, like nothing in the world could rattle him.
“I’d like to make you my wife.” He pulls a soft, powder blue ring box from his slacks and slides it open.
The ring is enormous. A princess-cut diamond, two carats at least, in a white gold setting.
It must have cost a fortune.
Ryan’s gaze is still on me.
He’s waiting for my reaction. To see the joy register on my face.
This is supposed to be the best day of my life.
I try to speak, but my mouth is too sticky.
He doesn’t blink. He doesn’t falter for a second. He’s sure I’ll say yes. It wasn’t even a question. More a statement of his desires.
I nod. “Of course.”
He smiles, more of an I’m glad we can do business smile than anything, and slides the ring onto my finger.
It’s heavy and cold and it catches every damn flicker of light in the room.
It’s expensive. Ryan doesn’t spend money on things unless they’re important to him.
He runs his thumb over my hand, all his attention on the ring. “It’s beautiful on you.”
“It’s breathtaking.” My lungs are so tight I can barely get the words out. It only proves my point, proves how damn breathtaking the ring is.
“I know this is what you want too.”
I nod, of course. Ryan has been my best friend for a long time. And he’s always looking out for me. If this is what he thinks is best…
I’m only 23. And he’s only 26. But that’s Ryan. He doesn’t waste time when he wants something.
He smiles. It’s a little sweeter, a little softer, though still through that veil of arrogance that I’m noticing more and more in him.
There’s something in my chest, a heaviness, but I tell myself it must be nerves.
Ryan may not be the best boyfriend in the world. He’s not the sweetest guy either. But he’s always been there for me, even when other people would run for the hills.
“Should we order dessert?” I ask.
His jaw tightens.
“Sweetheart, that isn’t a good idea.” He leans down and plants a kiss on my hand. “I’d hate to ruin the night by triggering you.”
Part of the fun of being a recovered bulimic is all the trigger foods. Two bites of dessert, and I’m desperate to binge and purge.
In theory anyway.
I haven’t actually had two bites of dessert since I got out of inpatient treatment eight months ago.
“It should be fine.”
“Alyssa. It’s not a good idea.” His voice is stern, harsh. A warning not to go against his advice.
He pulls his hands back and fishes for his wallet.
I nod, fine, and wait for him to pay the bill.
There’s a cool breeze on the patio. I pull my arms around my chest in an attempt to find warmth, but it doesn’t help.
It’s still cold here.
Ryan helps me out of my seat. He slips out of his suit jacket and slings it around my shoulders.
His arms are on my back, his breath on my ear.
“You’re going to make a beautiful wife.” He takes my hand and walks me through the restaurant, to the main entrance.
It’s cooler out front. I shiver, pulling the jacket tighter around my shoulders. There’s a flash—the bright light from someone’s camera phone—and I squint to avoid it.
“What was that?” Ryan asks.
“Probably someone’s birthday.” It’s not like anyone is all that interested in C-list actress Alyssa Summers. Not enough to snap a picture without asking first.
He shakes his head, cursing my tiny hint of fame yet again. But he drops the irritated look and slings his arm around my shoulder. It’s the tiniest bit warmer.
It’s not much.
But it’s something.
We’re halfway home when Ryan’s phone rings.
“Sweetheart, can you check that?” His eyes are on the road, his fingers curled gently around the steering wheel of his luxury sedan.
I slide my fingers around the phone’s slick glass back.
“Incoming call from Luke Lawrence,” I read from the screen.
Ryan lets out a heavy sigh.
Luke is his business partner, the other divorce lawyer at their tiny firm. I’ve heard numerous complaints about him over the last six months, though it’s not clear why Luke is a constant source of annoyance. I don’t know if he’s incompetent, annoying, or simply unwilling to follow Ryan’s my way or the highway mentality.
“He must have a stupid question,” Ryan says.
“On a Sunday?”
“He has a court date in the morning.”
“I thought this guy was all about getting out of the office by six p.m.”
He probably cares about whoever is waiting at home for him.
I bite my lip. That’s not fair to Ryan, but it wouldn’t kill him to get home a little earlier.
The call ends, and Ryan glances at the phone like he’s debating calling back. The phone answers for him—lighting up with another incoming call from Luke Lawrence.