Love Thy Roommate

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Chapter 22

Nova:

I was reading Sam's romance novel, when my phone beeps.

I look at it to see it was from Mom. She had send a request to video-chat with her.

Scott shifts beside me and nudges my shoulder. I look at him and show him my cell.

"You talk to your mum, I'll give you some privacy. I'll be in the living room, 'kay?" He says getting up.

I look up at him and smile.

Just as he reaches the door, he smirks and says, "Don't worry, I'm in the next room... Try not to miss a lot. I know you will." He winks.

I roll my eyes and throw a pillow at his face, which misses the target as he ducks.

What's with all the pillow throwing around Scott?

I quickly accept the request in my cell and Mum's face appears on the screen.

Oh! How much I miss her...

"Hi, Mum."

"Hey sweetheart... how are you?" My mum asks, softly.

I take in Mum's face. I was a xerox copy of her. She had black hair and brown eyes that had experience written all over it, ivory skin, small delicate button nose and full lips.

"I'm fine... How's Richie Rich?" I ask, winking.

Mum called my dad, Richie Rich 'cause, you know - his name was Richard and he's like 'Richie-Rich' rich.

"I'm fine, KittyKat..." Dad says, entering the screen, sitting beside Mum.

Dad wanted to name me Katherine, but my Mum wanted Novella. Hence, my name Novella Katherine Stark.

Remember guys - once you get married; your wife always wins.

Like they say - happy wife, happy life.

"Hey, Dad." I wave at him.

Dad smiles back, his dark blue eyes warm and soft. His dark brown hair with some strands becoming white, looks all messy.

What can I say? Mum likes to experiment different hairstyles on him...

It's not like he's complaining...

"How's my baby?" Mum gushes.

"I'm fine, Mum... In fact, I'm good, really good." I say, smiling.

"Ooh... you found someone!" Mum claps her hand, excitedly.

Dad looks over at me, with serious expression on his face and states, "I need his name, social security number, address, occupation and date of birth, right now young lady!"

"Dad!" I whine.

"What?" He looks confused.

"Stop being so over-protective. Jeez, you're turning into Nate." I mumble.

"FYI, KittyKat, Nate's turning into me... I'm his dad. And I'm just being protective. It's my right to look after my daughter." He states confidently.

"Richie, she's right. You are being kinda over-protective." Mum says, smiling.

"Hey, you're my wife! Stop taking her side." Dad whines like a child.

"Seriously, dad! When I came to Manchester - before moving in with those seven guys. You ran a background check on them; then looked for any criminal record, when you didn't find anything - you called each of their parents for Christ's sake. And then, you argued with me not to move in with them because you found out that Roy - my then roommate had accidently sat on his dog, a chihuahua when he was three years old and given the poor dog some major fractures."

Dad just looks at me and says, "And you are complaining because? I mean, if that boy can cause serious damage to a dog when he was three years old; imagine what disaster he could cause as an adult."

Mum and I look at dad in a expression that clearly said, 'SERIOUSLY, DUDE!?'

Dad repeatedly looks back and forth between Mum and me.

Finally, he smiles sheepishly and says, "Oo-kay... I may be a little bit over-protective."

Mum and I giggle at his expression.

I always looked like my mother, same hair, same eyes. My brother, Nathaniel was a exact image of Dad, dark brown hair, dark blue eyes. My sister, Nina, was what you called a mixed breed. She had Mum's dark hair and Dad's dark blue eyes.

She is a knock out.

No guy could walk by her, without getting attracted to her.

"How's Nate doing?" I ask, smiling.

"He's fine!" Mum grumbles.

"Am I missing something?" I ask Dad, looking at Mum's expression.

"She's just upset that you live really far away from us." Dad explains.

"Oh..." I whisper.

"I swear to God, if Nina or Nate try to move away from me, I will literally handcuff them to me, making sure they don't go anywhere." Mum grumbles.

Dad and I, both look at her, surprised.

She doesn't usually yells or complains bout anything. She's like the coolest mum ever.

When she realizes what she had just said, she quickly points towards Dad and says, "I was just voicing Richie's thoughts..."

Sometimes, my parents act like five-year olds, blaming each other for silly things.

Dad places his hand through Mum's shoulder, pulling her towards him and rubs her arms softly. "We miss you, KittyKat."

"I know, Daddy. I miss you too..." I sniff.

"Gee... you're making me cry!" Mum sniffs, snuggling into Dad's chest.

"How's Nina?"

Mum looks up at me, excitedly and says, "I think someone's interested in her."

"What? Who?" I ask, curiously.

"Do you know, Mr. Cooper from CoopCorp? My company had struck a deal with them three weeks ago. I kinda had a lunch date with Nina that day. During that meeting, she barged in because I had forgotten about lunch and also because I had forgotten to take my pills." Dad starts, saying pills with a disgust.

Dad had some serious hatred towards medicines.

"So, she claimed that she would not let the meeting continue if I didn't take it." Dad grumbles.

I chuckle, "Sounds like her."

"I know. Anyway, she started getting bored because I was taking forever just staring at those stupid freaking pills." Dad whines.

Mum giggles.

Dad mumbles, "Anyway, so she started looking through the contracts for fun and while looking through it, she suddenly yells, 'This is bullcrap!' And then she shows us the way, in which we have to invest a little less capital than before, and through marketing and other-"

I interrupt Dad and say, "Dad! Speak in English!"

He rolls his eyes and mumbles, "Fine! In short, she proposed a new contract in which we invest less and earn more profit, which is divided equally by both companies. CoopCorp was impressed by her, and they offered her a job, sending a offer to her previous employer, the very next day."

"So... who's the guy?" I ask, confused.

"We're getting there. She works right under the CEO of CoopCorp; Mr. Cooper." Mum says.

"Why doesn't she just works with you?" I murmur.

"She says - she'll take over our business, when she finally proves me that she's capable of it. That's why, she had started from the bottom in her previous job, and now she's kinda like the right hand of Mr. Cooper."

"Wait until you hear all about Mr. Cooper." Mum says, giddily.

"Tell me!" I scream, excitedly.

"His full name is Lucien Xander Cooper, age - 28, literally the most eligible bachelor in New York. Had been in the cover of magazines a numerous times." Mum gushes letting out a dreamy sigh.

"So... he's interested in her?" I ask.

"Um... duh! Have you seen your sister?" Mum says.

"Okay... fine. I gotta go! I need more dirty details from sis." I say, giddily.

"Fine, sweetie... Talk to you later." Mum says, softly.

"Bye, KittyKat." Dad says.

"Bye, Mum, bye, Dad." I wave.

***

Nina:

Type, type, type.

That's all I'm doing all day.

I seriously hate my boss!

Who does he think he is? Making me work after my shift.

My intercom buzzes.

I look straight ahead at the Devil's office, which was separated by mine through a glass wall.

I look at him to see him staring back at me and gestures the phone with his hands, telling me to pick up the call.

I press the speaker button and continue doing my work and say, "Yes, Mr. Cooper?"

"Did you finish drafting the contract for the Dollar Media??" His husky voice pours through the speaker.

And damn, if it doesn't make me shiver...

"Yes, Mr. Cooper. I'm emailing it to you right now."

"Good." He gives me a curt nod and looks away.

I release the breath, I didn't know I was holding.

I look back at him, scanning him for the thousandth time today.

His face void of any emotion. His green eyes scanning the papers in front of him. His dark blonde hair messy, as he spends hours running his fingers through it. His tanned skin, making me imagine how it would feel against my own.

He wore a black button down shirt, that fits him perfectly, showing off his biceps and those drool-worthy abs. The top two button was left open and a silk grey tie is hung loose around his neck. It was paired with black slacks and boots. His sleeves are rolled up to his arms, showing off his sleeve tattoo.

A perfect bad boy!

My drooling over him gets interrupted when I see him looking back at me.

I stare dumbfounded, not knowing what to do. He just caught me staring at me.

He smirks, as if he could read my mind.

I roll my eyes and turn my attention to my computer, emailing him the contract.

"Niiinnnaaa." Someone shouts out loud.

I almost scream when I turn to my right and a familiar face catches my attention.

I turn towards my laptop and smile at my sister, through the screen.

I look back at Devil to see him having the same, surprised reaction as me.

He heard Nova screaming my name?

No, it can't be. Our offices are soundproof.

Maybe its a co-incidence.

Maybe he saw a cockroach.

I giggle at the thought of him getting scared by a cockroach.

As if anything could scare the Devil. Pfft.

I turn towards my open laptop and smile, "Hey, Supernova!"

She smiles at her childhood nickname. "Hello to you too, big sister."

"How are you?" I ask.

"Good... I'm really good." She says.

I smile at her and ask, "You never interrupt me at work. What's up?"

"You're working? What's the time there?" She asks, looking around.

"Um... It's 8 pm." I say, looking at my watch.

"It's 8? Don't you work from 9 to 5?" She asks, looking confused.

"Yup." I sigh. "But Mr. Cooper is making me work late. Mmh. I'm so tired. And hungry." I pout.

"He's mean..." She mumbles, supporting me as always.

I smile and say, "I know he's mean... and moody, but he's good at his job. You should see him during conferences, how he dominates it. It's so frickin' hot!" I exclaim like a teenager describing her crush.

"You think he's hot?" Nova smirks mischievously.

I roll my eyes. "Yes, I think he's hot. If anyone says otherwise, I'm pretty sure they're blind or crazy. Total cuckoo."

"How can I respect him and hate him at the same time? He's such a jerk to me. You know, when he first introduced himself to me, he just said, 'Hello, my name is Lucien everyone-calls-me-Luke-but-you-work-under-me-so-you'll-always-address-me-as-Mr-Cooper Cooper.'" I grumble.

"But you find him hot!" Nova says in sing-song voice.

I stop my work and stare at her, "You've been talking to Mum." I state.

It's not a question.

"Yup! How did you know?" She asks.

"Because I kinda had the same reaction when she told me you're dating and also living with Scott Taylor." I say, wiggling my eyebrows, suggestively.

"How did you know? Wait! Mum knows too? Why didn't she just tell me?" She asks, confused.

"We kinda saw the video on the net - him kneeling in front of you, asking you out on a date at your diner. Some kids posted it. And Mum didn't wanna say anything until you were ready. She didn't even say anything to Dad." I shrug.

"Oh... That's nice. Bee-tee-dubbs that whole kneeling thing was so romantic." She lets out a dreamy sigh.

"Yeah. I can imagine. Plus Scott Taylor - not bad, huh?!" I wink at her.

"I know right? He's so hot!" She giggles.

"Mmh hmm... you got that right, sister!" I giggle back.

I hear a growling sound that sounded like it came from Mr. Cooper.

How can I hear him?

It must be something else.

I look towards him to see him, typing something in his computer. More like slamming his fingers in the keyboard.

What's up with that?

I shake my head, clearing my mind and look back at Nova.

"So... Boo, do you like him?" She asks.

I smile at my nickname. When I was a child, I mastered playing hide and go seek.

No one could ever find me. I was pretty damn good at hiding.

Some people thought I was a ghost.

One minute near them, the next hiding away, for no one to find.

Hence, they called me Boo.

"Like who? Mr. Cooper?" I ask, confused.

She nods.

I let out a breath and shake my head, saying, "It doesn't matter, Supernova. You know, I'm never gonna date anyone."

"Why?" She looks at me, worried.

I just shrug.

"Is it because of Brandon?" She asks, softly.

I whip my head towards her.

She hit the nail.

Brandon Mills was the captain of the football team. Nova was a year younger than me. Before Brandon dated Nova, he was interested in me.

I, like any other girl in my high school had a crush on him. We had some classes together.

Once, he asked me out on a date which I politely refused because everyone in the college knew that he was a huge player. I didn't just wanna be another notch in his bedpost.

Even after my denial, he didn't gave up. He saw me as some sort of challenge. And everyone knew he always gets what he wants.

He used to do some really sweet things, like leaving a note in my locker, sending me flowers during classes, walking me back to my dorm. I was just about to give in to his request to go out with him.

I mean, no one knew he could be this sweet. I always read novels, in which the bad boy became the perfect boyfriend, once he found his 'The One'.

One day, I was in the library, searching for the books for my recent project when I heard some moaning noises behind the book shelves.

Yeah, you guessed right...

I found Brandon, half naked with head cheerleader Victoria. Both were swapping spits with each other.

I ran out of there, as fast as I could. I could hear him calling my name behind me and saying, 'It's not what it looks like.'

Pfft, yeah right! I couldn't believe that I actually thought that he could change.

The next day, I was depressed as hell, when Nova came to visit me. I didn't say anything bout Brandon to her.

She dragged me out of my bed to a nearby Starbucks.

Guess who we saw there?

Brandon Freaking Mills.

He saw me and explained that he was tired for waiting around for me and said that if I took so long to go on a date with him, imagine how long would I take to sleep with him. He started talking about, how he was growing up and he has his needs.

He didn't even apologise!

That poop!

Apparently, Nova was standing in the queue to order and didn't notice Brandon. As soon as she brought me my drink, I pulled her out of there, to get as far from him as possible.

I was just about to get to the door, when Brandon stopped me. I whispered and told Nova to go ahead, to give us some privacy.

I thought the jerk was at least gonna apologise to me.

But he just asked, "Is she single?" Gesturing to Nova.

Can you believe this guy?

I told him to forget about her, saying that she wouldn't give him the time of her day. And she was better than his other plastic bimbos.

Apparently, me saying that made him think of Nova as a challenge.

Soon enough, they started dating. I warned Nova but I guess she was under his spell, like I was before I saw him in the library.

But, Brandon didn't just stop there. He just had to ruin everything in my sister's life.

And it was all because of me.

If I wasn't connected to him, he wouldn't have had met Nova. Then he wouldn't have had destroyed her life.

I was to blame for ruining my sister's life.

That's why, as my punishment I vowed never to date anyone. Ever.

I would just live and die alone. I know it was harsh but it was nothing compared to what Nova has been through.

"Nova, just drop it. It's not gonna happen." I say to her, sincerely.

"But, Boo... when was the last time you dated someone? When was the last time you kissed someone?" She asks, softly knowing I hadn't dated anyone in eight years.

I look over her, a lone tear escaped my eye. I just shook my head, pleading her to drop the subject.

I think she saw something in my expression which made her gasp.

She looks at me curiously and asks, "Boo... Did you have your first kiss yet?"

I gulp.

I look straight at her and say, "Nova, please..." I try to sound it stern but I couldn't stop the whimper escaping my lips.

"Boo..."

I quickly wipe my tear. And give her a slight smile and say, "It's no biggie, Nova... No one's perfect. It's just the way life is, 'kay?"

She still looks at me worried, "Look at me, Nova. I'm fine." I smile at her.

I suddenly feel someone staring at me. I turn around to see a green pair of eyes looking at me intently from his office. I tilt my head slightly, trying to study him.

When he still doesn't stop staring, I just shake my head and look back at Nova.

"Are you seriously okay, Boo?" Nova asks.

"I'm fine, baby sis!" I sigh.

"So, you really think-" She starts but I interrupt her and say, "My boss is calling me. I gotta go, sorry!"

"Oh... Okay. Talk to you later, Boo." She murmurs.

"Bye, sweetie." I blow her a kiss.

"Bye." She whispers, softly.

I smile and close my laptop.

I sigh and place my elbow on my desk and cover my face with my hands.

I seriously hate lying to my sister.

I suck in a breath when I feel something wet running down my cheeks.

Great, now I'm crying.

Deep breaths, deep breaths.

"Um... the tissues are in the second drawer to your right." A voice comes from the intercom.

I look up to see, Mr. Cooper staring at me through his office, his expression soft.

Wow! I never seen him like this before.

I give him a small smile and open the said drawer and take out some tissue and wipe my tears.

"Um... thanks." I whisper softly into the intercom.

"Your welcome." He smiles warmly.

I press the end button in the intercom and sigh.

That's when it hits me.

I didn't end the call when he asked me to email him the contract.

Shit!

That means he heard everything!

Everything.

That's why he had the same reaction as me when Nova suddenly shouted my name.

That's why he was staring at me, when Nova guessed that no one had kissed me yet.

And... and... did he just growl when I agreed with Nova that Scott Taylor was hot?

My thoughts get interrupt when I hear someone clear their throat.

I look up to see the Devil himself.

He doesn't seem much of a Devil now.

"Yes, Mr. Cooper?" I ask, back in my professional form.

He studies me intently, but then blinks and returns back to his cold face and asks, "What's my schedule for tomorrow?"

I take a deep breath. "You have to sign some contracts that would be faxed to us, tomorrow at 10 am. Then, you have a meeting with Smithson Industries and then a conference call with Mr. Jones regarding their account. Finally, in the evening you have to go to a charity event organised by Mr. Stark." I say altogether, the whole schedule printed in my mind.

It feels weird to call Dad, Mr. Stark.

But it would be unprofessional to call him Dad, in front of my boss.

"Okay. I need you to accompany me to the event, as I have to introduce you to the investors. It improves the relations between us if they are familiar with our company's staff."

"But I-" I stop myself when I see his expression, which clearly says, 'Go on, try and deny me.'

"Of course, Mr. Cooper." I breathe out.

He gets up and heads towards the door, but suddenly turns and says, "Order dinner from the opposite restaurant, if... you're um... hungry." He stutters.

I've never seen him stutter. He's always confident.

And did he just say that because he heard me complaining to Nova that I was hungry?

Huh.

I call the restaurant and order Chinese for both of us.

After ending the call, I stand up and head out of my cabin to go to the washroom.

Um... nature's calling.

As soon as I get out of the door, I run into Mr. Cooper.

"Where are you running off to? Have you finished drafting the remaining contracts?" He asks sternly.

I look up at him. "No. But-" I get interrupted when he says, "No buts, Miss Stark. I expect you to complete the contract today itself. You cannot run off to your home when you notice that I'm not looking."

Have I mention that he's really hot?

It's really hard not to stare at those lips when he's talking.

"Well? What are you waiting for? Go back to your office and resume your work." He orders.

"No." I say confidently.

What's up with this guy? I really wanna pee.

"Did you just say No to me? To your boss? Do you know the consequences of your-" He starts muttering but I cut him off by placing my hands over his chest.

He stops talking immediately and stiffens beneath my hand, and inhales sharply.

Mmh... I kinda like it.

As soon as I realize that was really unprofessional of me, I pull my hand back.

"Um, sorry for that." I say, gesturing to our recent touching incident. "But I was kinda leaving because I kinda had... um..."

He raises his eyebrow questioningly.

I point my index finger behind him, pointing to the door of the washroom.

He follows his gaze to the direction of my finger.

He looks back, blinks twice, runs his fingers through his hair.

"So, if you don't mind... I'll.. um." I start.

"Yeah, yeah, sure..." He says, getting out of my way.

"Thanks." I murmur walking past him.

Did I just thank him for letting me use the washroom?

I shake my head, clearing my mind and walk towards the washroom. I felt his stare on me the whole time.

Entering the washroom, I quickly do my business. Then I walk up to the sink and wash my hands. I look up and take in my reflection.

I run my hand through my black sleeveless shirt and straighten my red pencil skirt.

I look up at my face, to see my hair tied up in a ponytail looking messy. I take off the band and my hair falls over my shoulder. I run my fingers through my hair and fluff it, trying to make it look more presentable. I splash some water over my face, and clean it with a nearby cloth.

I take a deep breath and get out of the room. As soon as I open the door, I hear the elevator ding and the door opens to a delivery guy. I quickly pay him and take the order from him.

I walk to the door of Mr. Cooper's office and knock.

"Come in."

I quickly open the door and enter the room and close the door behind me. I walk towards the desk, concentrating on the heavy bags on each of my hand.

Before I could reach the desk, Mr. Cooper takes both of the plastic bag from my hand and walks back to his desk, carrying the bag like it weighs nothing.

"What's this?" He says, searching the bag.

I look up at him and say, sarcastically, "Barbie."

He raises his eyebrow, his lips twitching.

"Dinner." I sigh.

I point to one of the bag and say, "That's for you."

I take the other bag from him and turn around with intention of eating alone in my office and say, "Enjoy your dinner, Mr. Cooper."

"Sit down, Miss Stark." He orders from behind me.

I stop immediately.

I turn around and say, "You don't have to do that, just because you feel obligated to do so. I can eat on my own." I assure him.

"Do you think that I'm a kind of man who does things he doesn't wanna do?" He asks, smirking.

I take a deep breath and mumble, "Okay."

I quickly walk towards the desk and sit on one of the chairs opposite him. We both open our bags and start eating quietly.

God! This Chicken Fried Rice is seriously good.

I moan inwardly.

"Good?" Mr. Cooper asks, looking at me.

I nod and mumble, "Yes." And go back to devouring the food.

I hear the sound of my phone beeping. I pick it up to see its a message from Nova.

SuperNova: Took care of the Lucien situation. Thank me later. ;-)

What the..?

"It's rude to be on your phone when your having dinner with someone. It's basic manner. Didn't your parents teach you that?" Mr. Cooper asks me, tilting his face.

Why can't he leave me alone for a minute?

I sigh and look at him and say, "Well, parents also teach their children not to be rude to others just because they work under them. But we don't always listen to our parents now, do we?" I smile at him sweetly.

He leans forward, placing his arms on the desk and asks, "Are you saying that I don't have manners?"

"I would never say that, Mr. Cooper." I fake-gasp.

His lip twitches.

As soon as he finishes his dinner, he stands up and walks towards me and leans against his desk, besides me.

"So..." He starts.

I look up at him and blink twice.

"So?" I ask, confused.

"Your sister is a little bit feisty." He says, looking at me.

"Wh... what?"

"Apparently, your sister video-chatted with me and threatened me that if I ever hurt you, she would grab my balls and shove it down my throat." He says deadpanned, looking straight at me.

She what?

That's what she meant in the message.

Damn, she's good!

***

Lucien:

As soon as I tell her about her sister, I see different reaction pass through her face.

First surprise, then confusion, then relief and finally happiness.

I look at her to see her smiling; a dimple making appearance on her right cheek.

Why did she had to have a dimple?

Isn't she beautiful enough, that God is trying to make her look irresistible?

Damn! If I thought she was beautiful before - it seems nothing compared to her smiling face.

She looks up at me, 'cause me being fairly a feet taller than her.

She tilts her face slightly and asks, laughing inwardly, "Nova? Nova threatened you?"

I just nod.

She looks at me, her dark blue eyes sparkling. She studies me for a few seconds.

Finally, she surprises me by leaning forward, rising up and hugging me tightly. Her face in my neck and her arms around it.

I waste no time in placing my hands around her waist, on the small of her back, pulling her into me.

Her green apple scent engulfs me. Maybe that's what heaven smells like.

Mmh.

How long I've waiting for her to do this, and now I don't even know why she's doing it...

And seriously, I don't even care.

She pulls away from me, her hands on my shoulder, her smile intact in her face and whispers, "Thank you."

She leans in and kisses my cheek and smiles and pulls away, getting out of my office, leaving me alone to my thoughts.

I place my finger over my cheek, relishing the thought of her lips over it and smiling to myself.

As soon as I come to my senses, I get out of the room and walk into her office.

As soon as I reach it, I see her talking on her cell, looking through the floor to ceiling windows.

I start walking towards her and stop when I reach a few feet away from her, giving her a distance. She still was looking away from me.

"Yes, Nate. She really did that... I can't believe it too... This Scott guy is causing some major changes in her... Yes! She returning back to her older self... I'm so happy... Yeah, I really missed her too... I'm so happy that I wanna cry... I know you're crying too... Stop acting manly... At least you have Amy to calm you down... Yeah, yeah, you're lucky to have her... Yeah, I'll talk to you later... Bye, bro... Love you too." She talks over the phone and hangs up.

She lowers her phone from her ears and sighs out loud. She leans forwards and places her forehead against the glass.

I walk towards her and place my hand in hers.

Without looking at me, she turns around and hugs me tightly. I hug her back and run my hand over her back soothingly when I feel her sobbing into me.

When she finally calms down, she pulls away from me, by placing her hands on my chest.

"I'm sorry, today has been a really overwhelming day for me." She whispers softly.

"You don't have to apologise, I understand." I whisper back.

She looks up at me and smiles. "Thank you for today. You have no idea how much happy you've made me just by telling me bout Nova. She's been really different after something happened in her past. She stopped talking to everybody. And now - she didn't even knew you and she threatened you, while talking to you for the first time. She used to do that before. We're really protective of each other. And now... now she's turning back to her old self. You have no idea, how long I've been waiting for that." She says, looking at me.

A tear escapes her eyes, which I wipe it with my thumb; loving the soft feel of her pink cheeks under my fingertip.

"You really have no idea, what you've done for me. Thank you, Lucien." She whispers softly.

And damn... if I didn't like the sound of my name coming from her lips.

I know, she has some secrets of her own, but I swear, one day...

I would make her mine.

One day at a time.

For now, let's start with, "Call me Luke..." I mumble warmly.

"Luke." She tests my name on her tongue.

She smiles and tilts her head slightly and extends her hand forward and says, "It's nice to meet you, Luke. I'm Nina."

I take her hand in mine and whisper huskily, my voice raw with emotion, "The pleasure's all mine, sweetheart."

***


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