Chapter 19

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Deciding simpler was better, I dipped my key card in the reader and slipped into the room in order to offer my apology.

"I'm sorry."

Elliot was at the dresser, his back to me and the door, tossing clothes into the duffle bag on the bed. Every muscle in his back tensed up when I spoke. It was several long seconds before I saw him forcibly relax his shoulders.

"Hey, no reason to apologize," he said with a patently false casual tone. "It's not like we have something monogamous going here."

"Please," I wanted him to turn around, to look at me, "let me explain."

He turned his head, looking half over his shoulder but not really seeing me. "I think you already made everything perfectly clear. Message received. My job here is done."

"Job?" What was he talking about?

"You hired me to make the ex jealous, and clearly it worked." With a handful of socks, he crossed to the duffle, threw them inside, and pulled the zipper shut in one swift movement. "I'll send you a bill when I get home."

He started for the door. Other than tossing by body down in his path, I didn't know how to stop him. So I started talking. Fast.

"You weren't hired to make him jealous, you were hired to keep him away. And I thought-I thought that was all over now." I was babbling, but I couldn't stop. "But I found out that what I thought I knew wasn't right at all and I was all wrong about him and his secretary-Rhonda. You know her."

When he tried to sidestep me, I leapt back and pressed myself up against the door, blocking the handle. Anything to keep him from walking away. Maybe for good.

"So I wanted to see what I was missing-if I had made the wrong decision two years ago because I don't want to spend the rest of my life wondering. It might not work out this time either but what if it did. I'm a different person now than I was then. Yes, I'm spending time with him, but I want to spend time with you too. I have fun with you-the kind of fun I didn't know I needed in my life until I met you, and I don't want to give you up for something that might or might not work out."

I saw a teeny bit of softening in his eyes. Hoping that my inane, rapid-fire explaining was getting through, I stepped forward and pressed my hands to his steel-tense chest.

"I know it's not fair to either of you but I-" This was low. I dropped my eyes. "-I can't choose. Not yet. Either way I would always wonder what if."

Though wouldn't admit it on the record, I had watched a few-okay all-of those shows where a bunch of singles vie for the eye of an eligible bachelor or bachelorette. And I, like the rest of the country, fell victim to the patriarchal view that the bachelors were sour balls, but the bachelorettes were sluts.

Now, finding myself in the position of choosing between two guys and wanting to explore relationships with both of them before having to make my decision, I suddenly sympathized with those women.

"Please, give us a chance," I pleaded. "Stay."

His eyelids fluttered down, shielding his readable blue eyes from view. I could feel him weighing my argument. Weighing his own feelings.

Then, eyes still closed, he lowered his forehead to rest against mine.

"I'll stay," he whispered, "because I'm not strong enough to leave."

His lips pressed softly against mine.

The duffel dropped to the floor with a soft thud.

"Besides," he said against my mouth, "I only packed half my things. I couldn't leave without the trench coat."

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