Chapter 1 | Rowan

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Rowan ducked her head as the group of college boys passed her and scowled down at her hands. How infuriating.

She was twenty years old and still blushed at compliments, and still found it difficult to meet the direct gaze of boys without stumbling over her words. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't seem to not act like a shy, embarrassing mess.

What it really came down to, she decided, was that she was just terribly awkward.

Caden had loved and hated that about her.

Her heart constricted as her thoughts shifted to her ex-boyfriend, though part of her felt a small amount of satisfaction that the word "ex" sat before the otherwise endearing term by her own doing.

Somehow the quiet girl had found her voice, and she'd left him.

Guilt had plagued her mind since that night, but she knew she wasn't wrong in her decision to end things with him. Things had gotten bad. She'd held on for too long.

But she didn't want to think about that.

Her pencil went skidding across the table as her concentration broke, and she let out a quiet sigh.

Retrieving the drawing tool and stuffing it into her bag, she shifted back in the wooden chair and let her eyes wander around the cozy cafe. They landed almost immediately on a man seated near the door. He hadn't been there when she arrived.

She sat frozen for a moment. He was incredibly attractive, and it was almost jarring to see him in the cafe that had been taken over by college students since the semester began. He stuck out in the fact that he must have been in his late twenties or early thirties.

Thick, dark brown hair brushed his cheekbones and was set off nicely by his deep maroon jacket.

He appeared to be concentrating hard on something in front of him, so she was momentarily shocked when grey eyes suddenly met hers. She quickly averted her gaze and reached for her coffee; the hot liquid nearly scalding her tongue.

The door opened to loud voices as a group of students piled into the small cafe, and she had to move out of the way to avoid having her head bashed by elbows and heavy backpacks. Everyone was in a panic over the nearing exams, and this meant they gathered in every building offering coffee and sweets.

The group settled into the booths lining the back wall, and the once quiet recluse quickly became loud and uncomfortable.

She was tempted to throw the obnoxious students a glare but resisted. It wouldn't change anything, and with her luck would somehow backfire. She didn't want to make enemies. It felt like she had made enough of those as it was in the past months just by existing.

With a sigh, she gathered up her belongings and swung the bag over her shoulder.

As she neared the door, her gaze collided with that of the man she'd very nearly been ogling mere minutes prior, and she felt her face heat up. Had he seen?

Curious eyes regarded her over the brim of an old white mug.

Please don't talk to me. Please don't talk to me.

She found herself nearly chanting the words as she approached the exit, and
to her immense relief, he remained silent as she passed.

But the smell of musky spice followed her out into the brisk December air, and she found that it was a difficult one to forget.

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