"I bought it at school to wear over the weekend, but when you told me you were thinking of attending Oxford, I decided it would serve you better...for inspiration."

"James, this is a wonderful gift. Thank you." Lexi was glad the wait staff had started setting out breakfast trays, because she knew her cheeks were lighting up. James's incredibly thoughtful gift proved he was not a butthead.

Lexi slid the box under her chair, and the meal commenced amid polite conversation. Of course, there was no mention of the incident in the study, apart from someone commenting on the lightning strike right outside their window, and James never asked about the surprise. Thank the gods. Lexi spent the entire meal vacillating between glaring at her parents and her godfather, and then ignoring them.

When the dishes were cleared, Lexi's dad stood and toasted her with the dregs of his orange juice. "This is your day, Lexi. What would you have us do to accommodate you?"

Lexi had worked this part out last minute, switching her original idea of badminton to something that fit her current mood. She wanted to dance to loud music and beat everyone at billiards, and she glanced around at each expectant face, making them wait just like they made her wait. "I thought we could hang-out upstairs in the billiard room. It has the best sound system."

Uncle Z swiftly took the floor, pushing away from the table and raising his water goblet above his head. "To the billiard room!"

Lexi let the dining room empty without her until only the wait staff remained. She needed a few minutes of reprieve before engaging with her family again and pretending everything was rainbows and unicorns. James hung back, and so did Luke. Lexi knew James had to leave, and she wanted to thank him again for his thoughtfulness, but she didn't want to upset Luke.

"I will see you upstairs after you say goodbye to James," Luke said, making his move first and saving her from an awkward encounter. He leaned into her face conspiratorially, and their sudden closeness made her breath hitch. "He deserves a proper thank you for not acting like a preppy clod, don't you think?"

Luke then turned to James, shaking his hand and saying something to him in Greek before making his exit. James looked taken aback, but he recovered quickly, and with a winning smile and determined strides, he took the steps needed to bridge the distance between them. 

"I hate that my visit is being cut short."

"And I apologize for being distracted during your visit, James. I was a little annoyed with my parents for inviting strangers to my birthday party. They like to think they know what's best for me. But I'm glad you and I got to know each other."

"Me too." He glanced around the room. They were nearly alone, apart from a pair of women hustling back and forth, and Lexi felt their closeness like a wool blanket. "I'm no stranger to overprotective parenting," he said. "I attended an all-boys school until I graduated. It made for a rude awakening when I started college."

"How so?" Lexi tried to find something else to stare at instead of James's mouth. This was her usual point of focus during debates, but the tactic didn't work with James. She kept thinking about his lips on her cheek. Was that bad?

"In college, everyone expects you to know the ropes when it comes to dating. So, it was a rough first year for me." James shoved his hands into his pockets, avoiding Lexi's inquisitive gaze. Why was he bringing up the topic of dating?

"I can't imagine you having trouble finding a date." She offered her opinion and immediately shrugged her innocence. This was Lexi's modus operandi for any guy who showed an interest in her, which, now that she thought about it, happened more often than she admitted.

"Believe me, it's harder for guys than girls. Our fragile egos are on the line every time we ask for a phone number."

Lexi suppressed her shock at James's bold admission. It seemed he was both humble and not a butthead. "If a girl can't see when a guy is the genuine article, she isn't worth talking to."

James glanced at his watch to hide what seemed to be an embarrassed blush. "I really need to go. I hope you enjoy the rest of your birthday. Feel free to call or text whenever the mood strikes you."

"Thanks for the amazing birthday gift. I'll send you a picture of me wearing it."

"I'd love a picture of you."

They stared at each other for a second before Lexi inserted one more thing. "Can I ask you a quick question? What did Luke say to you before he left? I'm just curious."

A flash of uncertainty swept across James's face, but he never lost eye contact with her. "He said, A treasure worth keeping is the hardest to find. I have to agree with him on that."

The wait staff vanished, leaving Lexi and James alone with his innuendo, and she couldn't help reminiscing about the kiss Luke gave her in that very room, on that very spot. He made her insides melt, but she wasn't so love struck not to see the logical side of the equation. Luke was the one-night-stand, while James was the boy-next-door. Both had potential in their own ways, and it was up to Lexi to decide what she wanted from each of them.

Giving James the opportunity to leave with his fragile ego intact, Lexi leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth. It wasn't a passionate kiss, but it wasn't a sterile peck either, and she kept at it long enough to let him know he had gotten her attention. She was officially a woman now, and it was time she started testing the waters.

Lexi's Undoing {Book 1}Read this story for FREE!