Bonus Chapter 1

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Henry's POV A few weeks before Chapter 1

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Henry's POV
A few weeks before Chapter 1

"How long will you be out of town?" Paul takes another sip of his beer and looks at me, a frown forming on his forehead.

I sigh. "I'm sorry, but my dad wants me to accompany him so he can show me some more of his perfect business skills." I roll my eyes. "I'll just be gone for three days; I'll be back by Friday."

Paul nods. "No need to apologize. One of these days, you need to make a decision, you know?"

I let out a long breath of air. "I know. But let's not talk about work."

"Sure. Let's talk about that hot blonde that was eyeing you up and down while we were playing."

I shake my head. "No thank you. Not interested."

Paul chuckles. "Since when? Or is there another pretty lady here that caught your eye?"

I roll my eyes. There's just one blonde on my mind right now, and she isn't even here tonight.

Damn, where does that come from all of a sudden?

Paul looks around the pub. We're at O'Reilly's, enjoying a few drinks with our friends after our gig.

I finish my beer and put the empty bottle on our table. "Just stop it already."

Paul laughs before he looks at me. "Okay, okay. Not in the mood, I see. Then let's plan Jack's birthday party. We definitely need to get him a stripper."

I groan. "Paul, how many times does he have to tell you not to do that?"

He shrugs. "The more he protests, the more I want to do it."

I chuckle. I can already imagine Jack's horrified expression when he gets a lap dance from some girl. For some reason, he doesn't like to be touched. I still wonder how he managed to satisfy his last girlfriend.

While I'm talking to Paul, my gaze wanders through the pub. And suddenly, I see Lauren. I'm surprised because I thought she mentioned last week that she probably couldn't make it tonight.

I get that warm and pleasant feeling in my stomach again, something that's been happening for a while now whenever I see her.

I'm not sure when my reaction toward her changed, just as I'm not sure what to do with that. We've been good friends for a while now, and somehow I get the feeling that I will never be more than that to her.

Next to Lauren stands a guy that is flirting with her. But her expression and gestures should tell him to leave her alone—which he doesn't. I furrow my brows and sigh.

Paul clears his throat. He notices my eyes are fixed on something and turns his head. When he sees Lauren, he laughs. "Ah, now I see why you're not listening to me anymore."

I glare at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Come on. You can't deny that you like her."

"She's a good friend. And right now, it seems like this guy isn't getting the message to back off."

He looks at them and shrugs. "I don't see what you mean. To me, that looks like some easy conversation along with some flirting."

He obviously doesn't know her very well. Whenever Lauren talks to someone—wants to talk to someone—she gives that person her full attention. Her whole body tells you that she's engaged in that conversation one hundred percent. She makes you feel like you are the only person that matters.

And that is not the case with this guy. But I'm not going to tell Paul that; I can already guess his answer.

"He's flirting with her, but she's definitely not flirting back," I say.

Paul grins at me. "And you think she needs a good friend to rescue her?"

I shrug. "Maybe."

"Well, why don't I be her knight in shining armor and scare that guy off? I'm her friend, too."

I glare at him. "Don't you dare. I'll do it. Go find yourself one of those redheads you like so much." Without paying any attention to his outburst of laughter, I brush past him toward Lauren.

Without overthinking what I'm about to do, I approach them. Before I reach them, Lauren notices me, and when she does, her face lights up instantly, which reassures me in my decision.

So I stand next to her and put my arm around her shoulder. I expect her to flinch a little, but she relaxes under my touch. So I take it up a notch. "Hey, Sweets." I gently kiss her temple, breathing in the flowery scent of her hair. "I was looking for you."

She turns her head and looks up at me, smiling. Her gaze locks on mine, and for a moment, I'm captivated by her beautiful hazel eyes.

"Oh, so sorry," the guy that was talking to her stammers. I take my eyes off Lauren and glare at him.

"I didn't mean – well – I didn't – um – I have to go!"

Lauren watches him take off before she looks at me. She wraps her arms around my middle for a quick hug before she takes a step back. I take my arm off her shoulder and smile at her. She laughs. "Ah, Henry, thank you so much. I couldn't get rid of him."

"My pleasure. You looked a little uncomfortable. I hope you didn't mind the small act."

She waves off my comment. "Not at all. He's gone, and that's what matters." She gives me another warm smile. "Sorry I missed your gig, but I had to pick up my sister from the airport."

"So she managed to get this weekend off?"

Lauren nods. Last week she told me her sister wanted to visit but wasn't sure if she could get off from work.

"Yeah, she made it. She's here somewhere." She looks around and finally spots her sister at the bar, talking to Amy.

"Well, now that you're free, can I buy you a drink?"

Lauren chuckles and nods. "Sure, I could use something strong now."

After getting our drinks, we walk over to Lauren's sister and Amy.

"Hey, guys! Henry, this is my sister, Hannah."

Hannah shakes my hand and smiles at me. "Hey, nice to meet you. I've heard so much about you and the great music you guys make. Shame I missed it tonight."

I laugh and look at Lauren, who blushes. "Well, maybe we can arrange a private session sometime this weekend," I suggest.

"Oh, that sounds like fun." Hannah claps her hands and turns to Lauren. "Can we do that, or did you have other plans?"

Lauren smiles at me—a smile that does weird things to my body. It is as if I was seeing her differently all of a sudden. I haven't noticed before how that beautiful smile of hers lights up her whole face and makes her eyes sparkle. And then my gaze wanders to her mouth. And her full, sensual lips. A sudden urge rises within me to run my tongue along those lips.

Damn, I have to stop. Otherwise, I won't be able to form another coherent sentence tonight.

When did I cross that fucking line? Since when do I want her to see more in me than just a friend? Since when is she the only woman I see? Next to her, all the others seem dull and ordinary. No woman can measure up to her kind and caring nature; no woman makes my heart skip a beat whenever I see her.

But will she ever be interested in anything else from me but friendship?

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