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Page 36 of Just Desserts (Holland Springs 4)

Yes. “No. However, I appreciate you sacrifice. You wife’s company is surely preferred to mine.” His eyes kept straying to the door. Maybe if he willed Daisy to walk through she would. Maybe if he texted her. He slipped his hand into his pocket, palming his phone. Maybe he should leave her the hell alone tonight. Jules had broken her heart after all.

“Damnable pride,” Christian said, capturing Sebastian’s attention. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Sebastian let go of his cell and frowned. “For once you were thinking instead of doing, that’s what.”

“Which gets us nowhere.” Christian slapped some money on the table. “I’d hoped—ah, bugger it. Ready to go?”

Before Sebastian could answer, his brother had already turned and walked away. He hated this, this wall between them that couldn’t be scaled with conversations about anything. He didn’t know what to do or what to say to make things better.

And why should he?

Christian didn’t need him. His brother had a wife and a family that cared for him. There was no way Sebastian could compete with that, not with their history, and as his brother constantly reminded him—Vladimir Romanov’s legacy lived on in Sebastian.

Jaw and fists clenching, he followed his brother out of the pub. Then he got in his car, and made himself listen to every last one of Daisy’s voicemails to Jules.

Repeatedly.

Chapter Fifteen

As soon as Sebastian woke up the next day, he went straight to Daisy’s. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d say or do to make her feel better, but he had to do something.

She wasn’t expecting him exactly, but he had said he’d be back to get his coat and there was still the business of securing his position with Romanov Industries.

Unfortunately, the more time he spent here, the less inclined he was to worry about it, and that worried him. Never before had he purposefully put business at the bottom of his everyday to-do list. Normally, it ranked up there, at the very top. Or it had, until he’d met Daisy.

She resided at the top, everything else second and third, and in some cases falling off his list completely.

Today was no different. Today he had to fix things for her.

Just as he raised a hand to knock, the door was jerked open and there stood Daisy, eyes puffy and mouth thin.

“You,” she growled. “Why don’t you come inside so we can have a little talk?”

She knew. Oh bloody hell, she knew. “Okay.” With a tight smile, she moved out of his way and he stepped inside. The door slammed shut behind him.

“How could you?” she cried, marching up to him and shoving a finger in his chest. “I hadn’t agreed to anything yet.”

Wait, she didn’t know. He blinked, encircling her wrist with his hand and keeping it against him. “What?”

“There are pictures of us, everywhere. I looked on the Internet. Jules saw, and he-he—” She bit her bottom lip and looked away. Tears fell from the corner of her eyes.

“And he what?”

“He broke up with me,” she said, her voice cracking.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and he was. He hated hurting her.

Her fingers tightened in his shirt, pulling on it. “He was nice about it, and said I needed to have a relationship in real life. Is there something wrong with me, Sebastian? Am I so horrible that I can’t even keep a virtual boyfriend?”

With his free hand, he smoothed her hair as best he could. It was pulled on top of her head, in a rubber band instead of her usual chopsticks. “No. He’s the ass**le. Not you. You were honest with him, and he took the easy way out. Maybe it’s for the best.”

Guilt scraped over his body, leaving him raw.

You did this, a voice in his mind whispered. You made her cry.

And I can make her feel better, he swore. I’ll make her forget all about Jules, if it’s the last damn thing I do.

“Bella would agree with you,” she sniffed.

“Why don’t you come have dinner with me, at Christian’s house? The entire family will be there and we can announce the engagement.” Forward. Always moving towards his goal.

She shrugged. “I guess that would get my mind off of Jules.”

At least she hadn’t said no. Still…He let go of her wrist and stroked her cheek. “Would you wear my ring?” She didn’t flinch. She didn’t lean in. In fact, she did nothing at all. Her hazel eyes were dull.

“Sure.”

Feeling lower than anything that had every stuck to the bottom of a rubbish pile, he murmured, “I’ll wait outside by the car while you change.”

***

Daisy watched as Sebastian strode around his car, his body tall and lean. His strides were purposeful and sexy. He was powerful and compelling.

While she was helpless and weepy, eyes all puffy and rimmed in red. Makeup had helped a little. The shiny ring on her hand had helped her a little, too. She wouldn’t apologize about that either; it was pretty and sparkly. Two things that always made her feel better. He opened her door and smiled, “Shall we, darling?”

Darling. Jules called her darling all of the time. “Don’t call me—”

“Sorry, force of habit,” Sebastian said with a smile and gently pushed the hair out of her eyes. “That’s better. I can see your pretty face now.”

“You think I’m pretty?”

He gave her a look, but she didn’t care. She needed compliments from a man. She needed to be assured that she was pretty, smart, and fun to be around. That she didn’t drive men away, especially the ones she loved.

“Isn’t it obvious what I think about you?” he answered as they walked up the steps of the front porch.

“Not really,” she answered.

He stopped at the door and looked at her. The lights by the door highlighted his handsome face. “Ask me.”

She let out a shaky breath. “What do you think about me?”

Sebastian cupped her face, tipping it up. “I think you’re sexy, beautiful, kind, and smart. Any man, including Jules Westmoreland, who’s not willing to do anything short of murder to be with you, doesn’t deserve you.”

“Oh.” That hadn’t been the compliment she’d craved. Oh no. It was much, much better and really, really unexpected. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Rising on her toes, she licked her lips and waited for him to kiss her. She wanted him to kiss her. He was close enough for her to kiss. All she had to do was lean forward and—

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