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Page 45 of Just Desserts (Holland Springs 4)

Kate’s brows shot up. “The two of you started dating, then?” she asked sharply.

“No.”

“But you said—”

“You asked how we met, not when we started dating,” Daisy pointed out.

Kate blinked, her cheeks coloring little. “So I did.”

“We ah…the next time I saw him, he…We fell in love, just like that.” Daisy snapped her fingers. “Next thing I know, he’s proposing and I said yes.”

“Sebastian Romanov spontaneously proposed to you?”

“Yes,” she said, trying to sound convincing. Lying had never been something she’d been good at doing. “It was very romantic.”

“Romantic?” Kate’s jade-colored eyes narrowed. “Are you quite sure we’re talking about the same man?”

“Y-yes,” Daisy said, starting for the counter with the dress. Ivan waited near the register, and she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Countess?” His gaze swept the area before settling on Daisy.

“After I pay for this, I’ll be ready to go back home,” she said, walking faster. A light pressure on her arm made her pause.

“I’m sorry, Daisy. I’m being rather horrid to you, all in the name of protecting my friend,” Kate said. “Please don’t go. Let’s spend the rest of the day getting to know one another, and perhaps in the future, the two of us could be good friends as well.”

In the not-so-distant future, Daisy and Sebastian would no longer be engaged. Would Kate want to be her good friend after that? She didn’t want to be rude, but she was pretty sure that one of two things would happen as the day wore on:

One: She would snap at Kate, because she was grumpy and tired, and not in the mood for twenty questions.

Two: She would discover that Kate was in love with Sebastian, which he obviously didn’t return, since he hadn’t asked Kate to be his fiancée. Or worse, he didn’t know Kate loved him. Then she’d feel lower than low for lying about everything.

“Look, I’m not in the best mood right now. I’m tired and grumpy. How about you come to dinner with us, instead?” Daisy gave the woman a gentle smile. “I’ll text you when I find out the place and time.”

Kate considered her offer for a moment. “You’re going to G.R.’s—Sebastian personally knows the man. Text me the time when you get a chance.” Leaning in, Kate bussed Daisy cheek. “So very nice to meet you.”

Sebastian knew G.R., too? Wasn’t this a small world.

A wave of dread washed over Daisy. Something wasn’t right. Sebastian needed to explain how he knew Jules’s last name.

She could ask Kate, but she was afraid of the answers she’d get. Instead, she waved good-bye and watched Kate leave the store.

By tonight, after dinner—she could give him that long—, Sebastian had better be ready to tell her everything.

Fishing her phone out of her purse, she wavered on contacting Jules, then…

I miss you.

***

Sebastian’s other phone buzzed and he picked it up, reading the text Daisy had sent to Jules. Closing his eyes, he leaned back his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose.

She missed him.

Even after the email Jules had sent her, even after the night she’d shared with him, Daisy still wanted Jules. How in the hell could he compete with an online version of himself?

She thought him to be stiff, formal, arrogant, and unyielding. He was those things, but those few adjectives weren’t the entire sum of his parts. There was so much more to his personality he was dying to show her, but fear held him back. The fear she’d discover he was a fraud and would think he’d been playing with her emotions all along.

He guessed it was time to pay the piper, and tell her the truth. She deserved the truth. She deserved the best of everything, even if the best didn’t include him anymore.

Texting his driver, he made his way to the parking garage underneath the building, slipped inside his car and nearly fell into the backseat, after Boris closed the door behind him. He was exhausted, mentally and physically.

Tonight he would wine and dine Daisy, introduce her to his best mate, his friends, and G.R. Later when she was happy, rested, and hopefully comfortable, he would tell her the truth.

Decision made, he headed home, heart heavy.

Yet as he strode inside, anticipation flowed through him. The earth tilted on its axis, his palms grew damp, and his breathing became erratic. Daisy glided down the stairs in a lovely coat that hid her dress from him, but not her shapely legs. Her hair was styled in an elegant up-do.

Yet, she felt nothing for him. Only Jules.

She smiled, her pretty eyes crinkling at the corners, and he stopped thinking about her feelings for Jules. Hell, he stopped thinking at all.

“Hi,” she said, coming to a stop a couple of feet in front of him. “You look nice.”

His heart skipped a beat. “Thank you.” Then he noticed the three-inch heels she wore and his gut clinched. “I brought you something.” He procured the rectangular box from his suit jacket and held it out. “Wear them tonight.”

Annoyance flashed in those hazel eyes. “Yes, milord.” She dropped him a curtsy and took the box. “May I open it now, or should I wait for you to count to three first?”

He deserved that, he supposed, for his high-handedness. “You may open it whenever you like.” Of course, that was so much better.

She placed a hand over her heart. “Thank you for giving me permission.”

Rocking back on his heels, he clenched his jaw. This was not how he envisioned tonight. “Daisy—”

“I’m sorry,” she said, still holding on the box from Bulgari. “You came bearing gifts of apology and I’m went all grumpy cat on you.”

He almost laughed, but would she believe Sebastian knew anything about that damn cat? Not likely. “What in God’s name is ‘grumpy cat’?”

“Hold this.” After giving him back the unopened box, she whipped out her phone, thumbs flying over the screen. “Take a look.”

Their fingers brushed as they traded phone for box. Briefly their eyes met, sparks of want in her gaze. “Now will you open my gift for you?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

“Yes.”

At that moment, he wished he’d asked an entirely different question that could elicit that exact response. Something along the lines of—Do you want to skip dinner and head straightaway to bed, with me?

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