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Sugar Plum Isabella Starling, Jenika Snow 2022/8/5 16:59:12

I really hoped she was right.

It was Sunday again, and Bastian was sitting on the opposite side of the table while I fought the urge to play footsie with him. Any excuse to touch him was constantly on my mind.

My gaze was trained right on him as he talked to Dad, and my heartbeat sped up every time he addressed me. After we were done with lunch, I retreated to my room, knowing I needed time alone and to think. I was also afraid I’d make a fool out of myself if I stayed, given my current state of mind.

I called Rosie and spent twenty minutes telling her how irresistible Bastian looked that night.

“The man is a silver fox,” she purred. “You have got to make your move.”

“What about the New Year’s party?”

“That’s your backup plan.”

I laughed softly. “You think I should just jump his bones?”

“You’ll never know how he’d react if you don’t.”

I could picture her winking on the other end of the line, and I groaned.

There was a knock on my door, and I said a quick goodbye to Rosie before calling out for whoever was on the other side of the door to enter.

Bastian opened the door, his tall figure overwhelming my doorframe. “Hey, sugar plum.

My face heated at his endearment. Like it always did.

“Your dad asked me to tell you I’ll be spending the night. Apparently, there was a fire in my apartment building.”

I sat up, furrowing my brows. “A fire? Is everything okay?”

“Yes, it was a couple floors below me.” He nodded. “I was just going to hole up in a hotel, but you know how your dad is.” He grinned. “Besides, I’d rather stay here. You two always make me feel at home.”

“Of course.” I flushed. “Did you want me to set up the guest bedroom for you?”

“I can do it. Just give me the bedding. You don’t need to go to the trouble.”

“No, it’s no problem. I like it.” I smiled shyly, wishing I were braver. “I’ll set it up now.”

I kept my gaze trained on the floor and was almost by the door when I changed my mind.

Oh my God. Am I actually going to do this?

I closed the door, and Bastian turned around, his eyes conveying his surprise.

“Something the matter?”

“Y-Yes,” I stuttered. Oh, God. Forget being confident, I was already a nervous wreck. “I… I’ve been thinking about it, and I’d like to ask you for my Christmas present early.”

“Is that so?” He chuckled, pulling out his wallet. “How much is the dress, kiddo?”

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“What?” I narrowed my eyes at him. I didn’t like him calling me kiddo. It made me think of how this might be a huge mistake, because he still saw me as that and not the woman I’d become.

“The dress?” His tone questioned me. “Or books? A trip? Something you don’t want to mention to your dad?”

“I don’t need money.” I felt tears burning my eyes and turned my back to him. “God, I’m so stupid for even trying,” I whispered to myself.

Bastian’s palm wrapped around my forearm, and I tried to shrug him off, but he wouldn’t let go.

“What do you want, sweetheart?”

His voice was the softest torture, and I knew I couldn’t hold back my true feelings anymore. I’d been keeping them inside for years.

“I want you to tell me if there’s any chance of—” I swallowed, my lashes fluttering. I faced him but refused to look into his face. “—of us ever… spending s-some time alone.”

“Alone?” His brows knitted together. “Is there something you need me to sort out for you?”

I groaned in frustration, running my hands through my hair. “I want to go on a date with you.” There. I said it. The truth was out in the open now.

“A date?” he repeated. “A date, right. As my—”

“Your woman,” I interrupted. Oh my God. His woman? I was screwing this all up. “Your… I don’t know. Someone you want to pursue. Someone you dream about kissing. Someone who you keep thinking about….” My face was on fire.

“Oh, Holly.” His eyes burned with unspoken pain and he let go of my arm.

“What?” I looked pleadingly into his eyes. “I’m twenty years old. Why is that so wrong?”

“Not only are you who you are, but… you’re so much younger than me, sugar plum. It’s—”

“You still think I’m just a little kid,” I accused him. “You think I’m still a child who needs looking after, Bastian, but I grew up a long time ago. I’m not a little girl anymore.”

“Oh, honey. I can see that. Don’t you think I know that, Holly?” He rubbed the bridge of his nose. When he was this nervous, every muscle in his body was taut, making his shirt seem to tighten. I could barely stop myself from licking my lips. “Don’t you think I spend every waking moment knowing you’re no longer the little girl who used to sit on my lap?” He groaned, running a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair. “I wish I still saw you the same way, Holly. But I don’t think that’s possible.”