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It’s warm enough tonight for a sundress, and the young buck waiter at this sidewalk bistro has no problem admiring my bare shoulders.

He can’t be more than twenty-five, all muscle and untested bravado, and I so want to make eye contact just to see how far he would go.

I could have called Jeremy, but there’s still awkwardness there. Secrets and lies of omission and grief like a huge white elephant between us. So I am here alone, waiting for this hospitality demigod to service me, as it were.

He approaches with the cocky confidence of a young athlete, eyes twinkling, grin assured. “Can I get you a drink?”

“A glass of Sauvignon Blanc, please.” I let my lashes lie on my cheeks for a moment. When I look up, it’s only a brief connection, but the flicker is there.

I ended my agreement with James last night. I made the mistake of staying past midnight, and he took it to mean more than it did. Bianca, you don’t have to do this, you know…

I was out of his bed and dressing before he could make sense of it.

This?” My voice dripped with sarcasm. I needed to wound him. To snap the fantasy like a dry twig. “You’ll save me from my life of sin?”

Don’t ever fall in love with a woman who is paid to please you.

I have a distraction, anyway. Tomorrow night I am taking up residence in a suite near Anatoly’s former rooms. An associate of his is going to be in town, and would like a companion for two weeks. Even from halfway around the world, my bear of a Russian looks out for me.

“Can I get you anything else?” The waiter is back, and I can’t help but notice how his snug black tee-shirt hugs his washboard stomach. He sets my wine down in front of  me. Moisture rolls down the stem of the glass and I touch a finger to the droplet.

“The goat cheese salad, please.” I hand him my unopened menu. I eat here often. “And a glass of sparkling water.”

“As you wish,” he says with a wink. I can’t help blushing.

I eat my salad, drink my wine. I read the novel that’s lain, unopened in my front entry for weeks.

The waiter brings me my check. The second printout has his number scrawled across the top and a name: Connor.

I leave him a generous tip. My phone is out before I’ve made it to the end of the block, but it’s not Connor’s number I’m texting.

Hey Blue. Fancy a peanut butter sandwich?

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