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Three

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Jasper shot her an amused look. "I like you, too, Olivia. You are definitely not what I expected."

Tiffany sniffed, not sure whether to be offended or relieved. "And I like Gilbert. And he likes me. And we both like Olivia." She speared a look at her only daughter that would have shriveled all but the most immune. "Most of the time."

Liv looked at her father. "And you!"

"Me? What did I do?"

"You allowed her to do this."

"Well, maybe I'd like to see my only daughter settled down before I die," her father grumbled.

Jasper looked from one to the other. "Uhhh...pass the scones, please."

"See what you stumbled into here, Jasper? This family is nuts," Liv said, nudging the basket of scones closer to his plate. "But cheer up. No one has died on account of a date with me yet."

"Thank you," he said, taking a scone and cutting it open. "Is this a date?"

"I hope so," Liv said, shrugging and handing him the jam before he asked. "Or the prelude to a date, anyway."

"Prelude to a date," Jasper said, nodding. "I like that. Maybe you should give me your number so we can talk about that in greater detail."

Liv handed him her business card. "Knock yourself out."

*****

"Okay, Ruth. I have a pretty good idea of your setup here. I'll email you my recommendations for a new security system by the end of the week."

"Much appreciated." The short, gray-haired owner of Buoy Bagels stuck out her hand. "I shouldn'ta put it off for so long, but you know how it is."

She did. Owning a small business meant doing it all yourself or hiring someone to do it for you. There was never enough time in the day. When Liv got back to her office, she planned on spending the afternoon with her accounting software and stack of receipts.

They left the office, and Ruth stepped into place behind the cash register. "Getcha' a latte or something before you go?"

"You know what? A latte would be fantastic. Thank you."

As Ruth made the drink, a group of female students wearing black leggings, Ugg boots, and sorority sweatshirts trooped into the shop. Seeing them laughing and chatting, Liv felt a not-unpleasant ache of nostalgia for her own college days.

Had it really been ten years since she and Ashleigh were roommates, smoking cigarettes over their morning coffees at the tables outside the student union? She remembered so vividly the flavor of the tobacco and the taste of burned coffee, the bad poetry in the student 'zines they'd followed, the anxiety about papers and mid-terms and dating drama. Wearing their low-rise jeans and tiny tees and puffy coats, they'd thought they were so cool.

Yeah, cool, Liv thought. It had taken her three years, countless acupuncture sessions, and a billion nicotine patches to finally kick that nasty smoking habit. She watched as one of the girls sneaked a puff on an e-cig and passed it to a friend. Now all the kids were vaping. The more things changed...

"Here ya go, Olivia. Thanks again." Ruth placed a large latte on the counter. "My treat."

"Thanks, Ruth." Liv waved on her way out the door, stepped into the warm sunshine filtering through the still-bare branches of the trees. Spring had finally decided to make a tentative appearance.

She took her time as she drove toward her Bayside office. The smell of spring made her feel reckless and young, so she rolled down the window a few inches and turned up the volume on the Bach Partitas she'd been obsessed with the last couple of days. The trilling piano notes fit the lighter, spring mood in the air.

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