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“Don’t remind me.”

“Martin dropped them off at the Sox game Sunday. Then took them to the North End for dinner. And later this evening, he will be taking him over to Miss Adler’s house.”

“Can you get her address for me?”

“I can do that no problem. Martin is very diligent about his travel logs.”

“Wonderful.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?”

Donovan thought for a moment and came up with a brilliant plan. “Yes. I’m going to try to spook Miss Adler. If what you’re saying is true, if Burnham is interested in her, he will insist on her having a protection detail, not wanting to take any chances. And when that happens, I want you to try to get that assignment.”

“Yes, sir.”

Donovan hung up the phone before dialing again.

“Grant. It’s Donovan here. I may have a job for you.”

CHAPTER TEN

NEPENTHE

AFTER returning home from the gym, Olivia looked at the time, wondering how it was suddenly only a few hours away from her date. She started to panic as she began to get ready, trying on practically every outfit in her closet. She was so nervous and really wanted to look good for Alexander, but nothing seemed to work.

She wanted him to like her. Hell, she wanted him to love her, and that was a strange feeling. She almost texted him to cancel no less than six times, her nerves getting the best of her. She even broke down and called Kiera to ask for advice.

“I’m going to cancel. I’m not going for oysters.” Olivia plopped down on her bed covered in the vast majority of the contents of her closet.

“Bitch, I’m going to start charging you for all the shit you put me through.”

“I know. But I have no one else to turn to.” Olivia laughed anxiously.

“Okay, so why don’t you want to go today? It’s just oysters? Right?”

“Well, yeah. It’s just oysters. But oysters lead to dinner. And dinner leads to kissing. And kissing leads to mind blowing sex. And mind blowing sex leads to marriage. And that will just end in disappointment for all involved.” She started breathing heavy. Inhale. Exhale.

“Okay, crazy. You know I love you. You got over all your issues with me, so why can’t you just let someone else in. Stop being a selfish bitch.” Kiera laughed. “This is good for you. And I swear to God, if I find out you cancel, I’m calling Dr. Greenstein!”

Kiera’s threat to call her therapist was all Olivia needed. She really didn’t want her doctor to think she was any more messed up than she already knew, considering she hadn’t seen her in over five years. “Fine. I’ll go. But I have nothing to wear.”

“Bullshit. I’ll be right over.”

Kiera arrived within the half hour and picked a gorgeous green Grecian style dress that fell right above Olivia’s knees. She paired it with a pair of gold sandals, gold bangle bracelets, and large gold hoop earrings. It was casual enough, but added a touch of dressy.

Alexander arrived promptly at seven that evening. When she opened the door, it felt as if all the oxygen was ripped from her body. The sight of him alone overwhelmed her very being as he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes, holding flowers for her. Olivia openly gawked at how good he looked in his dark jeans and light green shirt that made his eyes pop. This is one attractive man, she thought to herself.

Olivia was finally brought back to her senses after staring at Alexander for God knows how long. “Thank you for the flowers. Let me just put them in some water. Would you like to come in for a moment?” she asked, stepping into her foyer and allowing him to enter.

Nepenthe came up to greet Alexander, staring at him with a questioning look on his furry face. “Alexander, this is my cat, Nepenthe,” Olivia explained before walking over to the kitchen island and grabbing a vase for the flowers.

Alexander looked down at the orange long-haired cat that was walking in and out of his legs. He bent down and scratched him near his tail. Nepenthe immediately started to purr. “Nepenthe. That’s an interesting name,” he commented.

“Yeah. Well, when I brought him home with me from the shelter, it was the first night I didn’t have any nightmares for as long as I could remember. I wasn’t even going to keep him. I just brought him to my place after volunteering one day because he wasn’t feeling well and I wanted to keep an eye on him overnight. And, well, I had to keep him, especially if he kept the nightmares away.” Olivia looked down at the wildflower bouquet she was arranging into a vase.

“How did you come up with the name Nepenthe?” he asked, staring at Olivia as she carefully placed the flowers in a vase, making sure it looked perfect.

“I lived out in Big Sur for a while after I graduated college and actually bartended at a great restaurant right on the coast with amazing views. It was called Nepenthe. In Greek mythology, nepenthe is a medicine or elixir for sorrow. I guess it was the first anti-depressant pill there was. So after not having nightmares that night when he was here, he became my own elixir for sorrow. My own personal Nepenthe.” She smiled affectionately down at her cat.

Alexander just stood there, amazed by the woman in front of him. She had so many different layers. He desperately wanted to get to know each and every one of them. And to slowly become another one of her own personal nepenthes.

As Olivia sat in the car holding Alexander’s hand a few minutes later, she was glad Kiera pushed her into actually going that evening. Her heart was beating so loud in her chest, she thought it was going to bust through and walk out of the car. Why did that man have such an effect on her?

She kept hearing Dr. Greenstein’s voice in her head from all those years ago, pushing her to forge real relationships with people. She was engaged in a balancing act of self-preservation and selflessness. It was unclear which would win when it came to Alexander. Should she keep him at arm’s length to avoid the emptiness she would feel when he left her, or should she just jump, feet first, into a new relationship because maybe it’s something he needs or wants, and to hell with Olivia’s selfish thoughts of being abandoned? She was starting to walk the tightrope and it was only a matter of time to see if she made it across or fell to the depths yet again.

“You look beautiful tonight, Olivia,” Alexander said after they sat down at their table. When Olivia had opened the door earlier that evening, Alexander was stunned at the sight of her beauty. She looked like a Grecian goddess, her figure illuminated from behind by light from the setting sun streaking through her house.

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