Part One

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It was a setup. She knew it. And it was going to be trouble.

Not just any kind of trouble, but the weak-at-the-knees, Taylor-Swift-had-probably-written-a-song-about-it variety that ripped away Shelby Marlowe's ability to speak. That was new. Shelby always had something to say and often said it, and not once in her twenty-six years of life had she stopped in her tracks or become speechless at the sight of a guy.

None of this went unnoticed by Emily Watts, Shelby's best friend and roommate. Emily didn't say anything, but she didn't have to, since the twitch at the corners of her lips gave her away. She recovered quickly, but not before Shelby saw the knowing glance she shot at her boyfriend, Raine Kingston.

Shelby pursed her lips and also looked at Raine. For someone whose acting ability had earned him Hollywood A-list status, and who raked in millions of dollars per film for the same reason, he was doing a horrible job of hiding what was really going on. Shelby couldn't decide what made Raine's plans for her and the hottie sitting at his dining room table more obvious: the merry twinkle in his chocolate-brown eyes, or the smile that grew wider when Emily nudged him with her elbow. Now Shelby knew why both of them had insisted she come to this dinner party at Raine's house tonight.

A few choice words ran through Shelby's mind, but she couldn't say them here where she was also in the company of Raine's friends Olivia and Matt, who were visiting from New York. And she definitely couldn't voice her thoughts in front of the yet-to-be-identified, drool-worthy Adonis who'd clearly been invited here to be her dinner companion, whether he knew it or not.

Shelby leaned in close to Emily, her light brown curls bouncing around her shoulders as she did. "Nice try," she murmured, keeping her voice at a volume only the two of them could hear. "You know I need some time off."

"Time off?" Emily repeated. "Aren't you taking a few weeks off from work soon?"

"That's not what I meant."

Emily's forehead crinkled at Shelby's words, then her hazel eyes widened. Shelby had to give her credit—she was better at feigning innocence than Raine was, and Raine was the actor in the room.

"Can you help me with something?" Emily turned toward the dining room entrance, gesturing for Shelby to come with her.

Shelby followed her out of the room and down a hallway. Emily stopped walking when she got to the kitchen and waited for her to catch up.

"There's no 'nice try' going on here," Emily said, keeping her voice low. "Or if there is, Raine didn't tell me about it."

Right, Shelby thought, folding her arms across her chest. She leaned against the kitchen counter and studied Emily's face, searching for any signs of a cover up.

"There are six people here, and only two aren't part of a couple," she pointed out. "If you and Raine were trying to be subtle about it, you failed."

"We're not trying to be anything, or at least I'm not," Emily said. "I don't even know who the guy in the dining room is, or that he isn't dating someone. He could just be a friend of Raine's who also knows Olivia and Matt."

"Uh-huh. So explain why you looked overjoyed when you spotted him at the table?"

"I looked overjoyed?" Emily asked.

"I saw you trying not to laugh."

Now Emily did laugh. "You're right, but that was about the look on your face. I know you, and I've never seen you react that way to anyone. Admit it—you want him to be single."

"No. I want me to be single, and for a very long time. You know I just ended things with Darren."

Shelby waited for Emily to flinch at the mention of Darren's name, and was impressed when she didn't. It was more than Shelby could say for herself after the last couple weeks of reliving her decision to let her lying and cheating ex-boyfriend from college back into her life. She should have known better. She did know better. That was why she had ended things. It was also why Shelby had vowed that until she had some time on her own to clear her head and figure out why she'd let herself be in a relationship with Darren again, and why all of the dating choices she had made since high school had been a complete disaster, she wasn't going to get involved with anyone. Period. That included so-called harmless flirting and innocent coffee or dinner dates.

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