“Give me your phone,” he responded.
My brows lifted. “Excuse me?”
“Give me your phone and I’ll plug my number into it.”
I hesitated for a few seconds. More than likely I wasn’t going to buy this bike. And as far as working out, I didn’t have time for that, so there was no reason to have this dude’s number. As if centrifugal force had taken over my being, I witnessed the hand holding my phone moving toward Butler.
“This way you can reach me anytime,” he said while pressing numbers.
Then to my surprise, Butler held the phone up at arm’s length and clicked his picture. As he handed it back to me, the tips of his fingers grazed my hand, causing a cascade of tingles down my spine. When the phone was safely back in my possession, I looked down at it in awe like it was a gold brick.
“It’s a great bike.” The sound of Butler’s voice caused my gaze to snap up.
“Yeah. Well, it’s mint green and mint green is pretty.”
“Color is the most important thing when choosing a piece of exercise equipment. Who cares about performance?”
The corners of my mouth twitched. If I hung around a second longer, I’d have a full-blown smile across my face and the beginnings of a crush on this guy.
“I gotta go,” I said, pushing the shopping cart past him.
“Oh. Yeah. Sure. I didn’t mean to keep you so long.”
“Thanks for all the info, Butler.” I glanced down at his contact info, “Thompson.”
“I put my last name in there, so you’d know I wasn’t a serial killer. Serial killers don’t give out their last names.”
“You seem to know a lot about what serial killers do and don’t do.”
“I can supply references on request.”
“That won’t be necessary,” I said.
I was midway down the aisle when I snuck a glance back to see dark eyes staring at me.
Tossing the words over my shoulder, I hollered, “Chapman. Evie Chapman.”
“Nice to meet you, Evie Chapman.”
“You don’t have to watch me go.”
“I know I don’t, but I’m gonna.” The smile in his voice was evident.
This was going to be our final encounter. I didn’t have time for complications or distractions in my life. Besides, I knew just how it would play out. We’d “accidentally” run into each other a few more times, flirt, he’d ask me out, I’d go, and have an amazing time. Then I’d tell him about my situation. He’d be understanding and empathetic right before he made a beeline to the exit. Nope. Not gonna go through that again. Butler Thompson was officially relegated to the dead zone.
Glancing down, I checked the time on my phone.
The sound of my name in a curt tone caused my head to pop up.
“Did you hear what I said?” Ben’s expression was tight and annoyed.
I gave him an apologetic smile. “Sorry. I wanted to make sure I’d have time to stop by the drugstore before heading home.”
“The place stays open twenty-four hours.”
“I know, but I also need to run by the grocery store.”
“This is supposed to be our time,” Ben said with a bit of snark.
“I realize that, but you know Liza doesn’t drive after dark, and—”
“Evie, I can’t do this anymore.”
Blinking, I let his words sink in then immediately tried to think of a solution. “Okay…um…I can talk with Liza and see if she can come on a different day and time.”
His blank expression told me that wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear. “I mean, I can’t do us anymore.”
I sat frozen as Ben’s words catapulted forward, slapping me into stunned silence. The air left my lungs as numbness set in. Sitting at our table at our favorite local café, Dough-Mates, I stared at the man who was supposed to be my person. The man I’d shared dreams and secrets with. The man I counted on to keep me sane during the most difficult time of my life. Maybe I heard him wrong. There was no other explanation. Ben would never leave me.
My lungs expanded, the oxygen bringing my body back to life.
With furrowed brows, I asked, “What did you say?”
He glanced down, avoiding my eyes and my words for several seconds. After a deep sigh, he lifted his head and finally met my gaze.
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