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November 9(7)
Author: Colleen Hoover

My father stiffens. “And how, exactly, do you think I see the world, Mr. Kessler?”

Ben leans back in our booth without breaking eye contact with my father. “Through the closed eyes of an arrogant asshole.”

The silence that follows is like the calm before the storm. I wait for one of them to throw the first punch, but instead, my father reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet. He tosses cash onto the table and then looks directly at me.

“I may be honest to a fault, but if bullshit is what you prefer to hear, then this prick is perfect for you.” He slides out of the booth. “I bet your mother loves him,” he mutters.

I wince at his words and want so badly to hurl an insult back at him. One so epic that it would wound his ego for days. The only problem with that is there’s nothing anyone could say that would wound a man who has absolutely no heart.

Rather than scream something at him as he walks out the door, I simply sit in silence.

With my fake boyfriend.

This has got to be the most humiliating, awkward moment of my life.

As soon as I feel the first tear begin to escape, I push against Ben’s arm. “I need out,” I whisper. “Please.”

He slides out of the booth, and I keep my head down as I stand and walk past him. I don’t dare look back at him as I head toward the restroom again. The fact that he felt the need to pretend to be my boyfriend is embarrassing enough. But then I had to go and have the worst fight I’ve ever had with my father right in front of him.

If I were Benton James Kessler, I would have fake-dumped me by now.


I hang my head in my hands and wait for her to return from the bathroom.

I should leave, actually.

I don’t want to leave, though. I feel like I trampled on her day with the stunt I just pulled with her dad. As smooth as I tried to be, I didn’t ease into this girl’s life with the discreet grace of a fox. I barged into it with the subtlety of a fifteen-thousand-pound elephant.

Why did I feel the need to step in? Why did I think she wasn’t capable of handling her father on her own? She’s probably pissed at me right now, and we’ve only been fake-dating for half an hour.

This is why I choose not to have real-life girlfriends. I can’t even pretend without starting a fight.

But I did just order her a warm plate of salmon, so maybe that’ll make up for some of it?

She finally exits the bathroom, but the second she sees me still seated on her side of the booth, she pauses. The confusion on her face makes it apparent she was sure I’d be gone by the time she returned to the table.

I should have been gone. I should have left half an hour ago.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

I stand up and motion for her to sit. She eyes me suspiciously as she slides into her seat. I reach over to the other booth and collect my laptop, my plate of food and my drink. I set them all on her table and then I occupy the seat her asshole-father was just sitting in minutes before.

She’s looking down at the table, probably wondering where her food went.

“It got cold,” I tell her. “I told the waiter to bring you another plate.”

Her eyes flick up to mine, but her head doesn’t move. She doesn’t crack a smile or say thank you. She just . . . stares.

I take a bite of my burger and begin to chew.

I know she isn’t shy. I could tell by the way she spoke to her father that she has sass, so I’m a little confused by her silence right now. I swallow my bite of food and take a drink of my soda, maintaining silent eye contact with her the whole time. I wish I could say I’m mentally preparing a brilliant apology, but I’m not. I seem to have a one-track mind, and that track leads straight to the two things I shouldn’t even be thinking about right now.

Her boobs.

Both of them.

I know. I’m pathetic. But if we’re just going to sit here and stare at each other, it’d be nice if she were showing a little cleavage, instead of wearing this long-sleeved shirt that leaves everything to the imagination. It’s pushing eighty degrees outside. She should be in something a lot less . . . convent-inspired.

A couple seated a few tables over stands up and begins to walk past us, toward the exit. I notice Fallon tilts her head away from them and lets her hair fall in front of her face like a protective shield. I don’t even think she realizes she’s doing it. It seems like such a natural reaction for her to try and cover up what she sees as flaws.

That’s probably why she’s wearing the long-sleeved shirt. It shields everyone from seeing what’s beneath it.

And of course, this thought leads me to her breasts again. Are they scarred, too? How much of her body is actually affected?

I begin to mentally undress her, and not in a sexual way. I’m just curious. Really curious, because I can’t stop staring at her, and that’s not like me. My mother raised me with more tact than this, but what my mother failed to teach me is that there would be girls like this one who would test those manners merely by existing.

A solid minute passes, maybe two. I eat most of my fries, watching her watch me. She doesn’t look angry. She doesn’t look scared. At this point, she’s not even trying to hide the scars she so desperately tries to cover from everyone else.

Her eyes begin to make a slow descent until they stop at my shirt. She stares at it for a moment, and then moves her gaze over my arms, my shoulders, my face. She stops when she gets to my hair.

“Where did you go this morning?”

Her question is incredibly random and causes me to pause mid-chew. I figured the first question she would ask me would be why I took it upon myself to interfere with her personal life. I take a few seconds to swallow, take a drink, wipe my mouth, and then lean back in my booth.

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