Isabella sighed dreamily while Daisy forced herself not to puke up what she had eaten. He made her sound like his favorite pet.
As soon as Sebastian was out of earshot, her best friend grabbed her hand. “I totally approve of this relationship.”
Of course she did. “You don’t think I’m being too impulsive?”
Isabella snorted. “In less than twenty-four hours, I’m heading to the Bahamas to elope, without having told anyone but you and Haven. What do you think?”
A little feeling of disloyalty snaked through Daisy. “My lips are sealed.”
“Who knows—maybe I’ll come back from my honeymoon and you’ll be engaged. Then we get to plan your wedding of the century.” Isabella lifted her glass in the air. “Here’s to true love.”
Here’s to true lies, Daisy thought glumly. The only thing Sebastian loved was Romanov Industries, not that that mattered to her. Nothing he did mattered to her.
Except, he’d saved her from embarrassment with Glen. He’d sat with her by her parents’ grave and held her. No one had been around to witness that. The street had been virtually deserted when Glen and Nina had shown up, and the cemetery wasn’t exactly a town hotspot.
And Sebastian had sounded completely sincere when she’d asked him about why he’d done it.
They clinked their glasses together and Daisy fought the urge to spill her guts.
Her phone vibrated. She fully expected another text from Sebastian, but it was a reminder to get her tail down to the library. “Cheese and crackers!”
“The hors d’oeuvres are already there and ready to go. The library wanted something simple since only twenty-five guests RSVP’d.” Grabbing her purse and slipping on her jacket, she slid out of the booth. She reached into her wallet and pulled out enough money to cover her tab, placing it on the table. “But I promised to help hand out the listing of items as people arrived.”
“I’m in charge of the money.” Isabella followed her to the door. “One of the volunteers had to cancel, so I’ll get to be with you.”
“Yay!” Flashing a genuine smile, Daisy texted Sebastian as she waited for Isabella to put on a coat.
Headed to library ~D
Which one? –S
Only one ~D
The cold March afternoon air went straight thru the gap in Daisy’s coat. She quickly buttoned it, and then turned to her best friend. “Wanna walk with me?”
“Not in these shoes,” Isabella said, sticking out her leg. She wore leather booties with heels at least three inches tall. “It’s a ten minute walk to the library and that’s nine too many. Besides, I have to run over to my parents’ house to get my cell phone. I can drop you off.”
“Nah, it’s in the opposite direction.”
“See you in a bit,” Isabella called out, before sliding in her car.
After waving good-bye, Daisy set off in the direction of the library. Streetlights flickered on and the wind blew. Wishing she’d driven her Honda, she shoved her hands in her pockets and quickened her pace.
Her phone vibrated just as she entered the library. She checked the screen as she hung up her coat.
A strange feeling passed over her. Why did he care if she were safe? She hadn’t had anyone worry about her safety or lack thereof for over a year, besides Jules. Glen had always assumed she’d get where she was going to in one piece.
The only other person who’d ever worried about her was her momma. Which was why she was here tonight to help raise money for the library to buy more bookmobiles to service the rural parts of the county.
Those bookmobiles had been her mom’s only way to escape from the pain while she convalesced at home. Every Wednesday, just like clockwork, the bookmobile would show up at their house.
She glanced at her phone again.
See you soon –S
The new head librarian rushed to her, and Daisy smiled. “Hi, I’m Daisy Barnes. Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to introduce myse—”
The woman shoved a stack of pamphlets into Daisy’s hands and dragged her by the arm to the entrance. “We can do introductions later. Right now, I need for you to stand here, look pretty, and…well, if you don’t mind, get that earl of yours to bid on something.”
The woman gave her a look. “Please, everyone is talking about y’all.”
“Everyone?” Daisy repeated, her voice weak. Apparently, the new librarian wasn’t that new. “But—”
“And don’t get me started about him leaving your place the other day, after an extended period of time. Or the bouquet of flowers he had delivered. Looks like romance runs in the family with those Romanov boys.”
Daisy blinked. “Ah, well, menus and stuff.”
“Showtime.” The woman smiled, talking through her teeth as the group of patrons walked inside. “Don’t forget to ask him to bid.”
Well, wasn’t that special. Everyone already thought they were a couple. It was too perfect. It was too much of a lie. Closing her eyes, she let her head fall back against the glass wall behind her.
“Daisy,” the librarian hissed.
Her eyes snapped open and she took a deep breath. Time to focus on something that she could make a positive impact on.
Her earl showed up right before the presentation started.
Automatically smiling, she handed him the last pamphlet just as he leaned in to kiss her. She turned her head so it would land on her cheek, but somehow he ended up brushing his lips over hers. Her knees went as wobbly as a Jell-O mold.
“Are you feeling quite well?” he asked, brushing back a stray piece of hair. “You look a bit flushed, love.”
It seemed as though every person in the building stared at the two of them. This might actually work in her favor. There was no way he’d ever cause a scene in front of anyone, especially since the town’s only newspaper reporter was here with his camera.
Swallowing, she looked into his eyes. “You won the bet,” she whispered. “But I can’t go through with it.”
His eyes flashed, hot and bright like a flame. His fingers tightened, then loosened but didn’t let go. “We had an agreement.”
She lowered her gaze, staring at her flats and wishing she were anywhere but here. “I know, but I can’t… I can’t lie to the people I love.” Like Jules. She was betraying Jules with her lusty thoughts for a man she hardly knew. A man she had to pretend to like and love. A man she really wanted to hold and kiss her. Kiss her hand, her lips…every part of her.