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Addison Walker is every fantasy I never dared to believe in.
My desire is growing beyond control.
Addison is just down the hall—might as well be miles away.
After all, I didn’t wait all this time to settle for less.
Addison and Shane.
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My father told me that a single second can change everything. In this moment, I finally believe him.
She walks toward me, this life-altering girl. An erratic beat echoes in my ears, and I seem to have lost the ability to breathe properly. Am I awake? I’ve experienced surreal dreams countless times, but this isn’t the same. All of my senses are going haywire—misfiring and crossing—but set directly on her.
“Dude, what the fuck is wrong with your face?” Trey says from beside me. I barely hear him, much less care what’s coming out of his mouth.
My co-worker doesn’t appreciate being ignored and jabs me in the ribs. “I’m talking to you. Why are you staring at her like that?”
I shake my head, clarity creeping in. “Huh? What was that?” I glance at him as heat stings my cheeks.
Trey squints at me. “You’re an odd duck, Shane.”
I shrug, rolling his words off me. Nothing I haven’t heard before. I’ve been scorned for my differences since I was little. To say I’m socially unaware is a huge understatement, but it’s not entirely my fault. I was raised in a tiny, almost non-existent community where church is the only social gathering. Garden Grove is an entirely new dimension. Most days I just stumble around, taking in the hectic activity buzzing along Main Street. Everyone has somewhere to go and the choices seem endless. I didn’t have a clue where to begin and had been wandering aimlessly, until now.
A gust of sweet apples suddenly overpowers the bar’s ever-present popcorn and beer stench. This new aroma makes my mouth water, and I immediately want more. I turn to find the source, my newfound breath stalling again.
Why is she standing at our table? Is she mad I was looking? I couldn’t help myself. This is exactly why my mother was constantly seeking forgiveness for me. But I’ve never seen anyone like her, and it’s liberating. The girl speaks up before I can attempt an apology.
“Hey, cutie. Welcome to Dagos. What can I get for you?”
I stare at her angelic face, getting lost in a fog of red hair, brown freckles, and green eyes. I should resist this pull, fight the urge building inside me. That’s what Pastor Raines would command. But the control he once held over me no longer exists. Resolve infuses my spine, and I don’t shy away. I keep looking at her, ignoring the years of harsh commands demanding otherwise. This right here—her—is the reason I left. All doubt melts away. The remaining regret churning in my gut evaporates. I’m escaping their constricting clutches and narrow-minded beliefs… permanently.
This beautiful temptation waves in front of me, and I blink slowly. “Did you hear me? Are you okay?”
I swallow once, then again.
“Cat got your tongue?” She giggles, and my gut clenches.
What the hell is going on with me? I’m certain my mind is playing a cruel trick. No one can be so… perfect. I manage to find my voice. “S-something like that. You, ah, work here?”
She leans on a chair, and her ponytail flips, cascading all that long hair over one shoulder. Her hip pops out to the side, creating a hypnotic curve. I trace her body, unable to look away. Hell, I wouldn’t move if this building went up in flames. She points to a name tag pinned on her shirt.
“Sure do. I doubt the boss man will ever get rid of me.”
“Addy’s the best damn server this place has. Grayson would be lost without her. Or at least lose half his customers,” Trey says.
Addison gawks at him. “Was that a compliment?”
He rolls his eyes. “Don’t read too much into it. I’m just hungry, and you’re the one to fix that.”
She huffs. “Sounds more like it.”
My neck almost snaps while I look between them. Trey knows her? A fiery wave crashes over me and I curl my hand into a fist. I stare down at my shaking arm, steam covering every inch of me.
A soft palm lands on my shoulder, and the fire snuffs out. I fling my startled gaze up and find her looking at me.
“You okay?” Her brow is creased, and my finger itches to smooth those wrinkles away.
I give a slow nod as too many thoughts pile up. This girl is free, relaxed, and calm. I’ve never witnessed anyone move so effortlessly. She talks to everyone with ease. It’s perplexing, but makes complete sense considering her profession. It’s probably just her, though. She’s everything opposite, and that draws me in. A whisper of my mom’s threats wiggles into my mind. She’d scare me off. Tell me this is exactly what she was afraid of. I should come home, repent, but my ass remains firmly planted on this chair.
What can I do to make her like me?
Trey chuckles. “We’re still trying to figure this guy out. He showed up out of nowhere, asking for a job at Jacked Up.”