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“You look amazing tonight,” he says as he takes another step, closing the gap between us.
My heart hammers in my chest, and my whole body feels unstable. “Thanks,” I whisper. “You do, too.”
“I mean it.” Aiden’s breath falls hot on my skin.
He’s too close—someone’s going to see us. But at the same time, he’s too far away, and I need him right against me, skin on skin.
Aiden seems to feel the same way, because he puts his hand on my waist and pulls me close.
“We shouldn’t,” I say. “Someone might see.”
“Just one minute.” Aiden puts his hand on my cheek and strokes my skin with his thumb.
I can’t help but melt into his touch. Before I know it, my eyes are closed and my head is tilted up. Aiden leans down and puts his lips on mine.
It’s gentle, tentative, and more than just a little bit scary, this kiss we’re sharing. It feels new like the first one, but I know these lips and the way they kiss—I replay his kisses in my head all the time.
“I miss you, princess,” Aiden says when he pulls away.
My body tenses. “There it is again. ‘Princess.’”
I break free of Aiden’s arms, which only seconds ago felt like heaven.
I raise my gaze to meet his. “I’m not your princess now, Aiden. I used to be, but you just disappeared without an explanation. I waited for you all night at our meeting point. I waited until the diner closed and they shooed me out, luggage and all.”
I want to add that it was raining, too, to add insult to injury, considering I was literally in a desert city. But I think I’ve gotten the message across.
Regret and realization flash in Aiden’s eyes, but there’s something else: hurt.
He was the one who left me hanging; what’s he got to feel hurt about?
Aiden opens his mouth but before he can say anything, the big door opens.
Music blares from the gap through which I can see the party. It’s in full swing now. With flashing lights and a popular dance number to set the mood, Hannah and Earl’s wedding guests are getting wild on the floor.
I take one big step away from Aiden when I realize the person who’s just opened the door is my dad.
“Aubrey, you’re here. Your sister’s looking for you,” Dad says with a big smile on his face.
I let out a surreptitious breath of relief. He mustn’t have seen the kiss or suspect anything.
“Yeah, I was just getting her some powder from upstairs. Took me a while to find it,” I say, pulling out the compact from the pocket in my dress before I follow Dad back inside.
I glance back over my shoulder and catch a glimpse of Aiden. Looks like I’m getting texts with sad emojis tonight.
My phone lies on the counter. I’ve already turned it off and taken out the battery, so it’s probably safe now.
“Damn,” says the man on the other side of the counter. He works for the cell phone carrier, whose bright orange logo is printed on his blue polo shirt, just over a plastic name tag that says “Tom.”
He’s working at the moment so he shouldn’t be swearing, but I guess this is a sight that would even shock a veteran phone-carrier-stand guy.
“So can you help me?” I ask again, my gaze darting between Tom and my seven-year-old nephew, Marcus, who’s currently too busy zig-zagging between annoyed shoppers to realize I want him to just stop for a moment.
I just want some peace and quiet while Tom fixes my phone. God. Is that too much to ask?
“I don’t know,” Tom says.
“Huh?” I stare at Tom. Is this guy reading my mind?
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know,” Tom repeats. “This account is not yours. It’s under your dad’s name. So because it’s his account, he can technically do whatever he wants to it.”
“So you’re saying this is legal?” I can’t believe this.
“Yeah.” Tom shrugs.
“So you’re saying he can track my phone and find out where I am at all times, without my consent and even without my knowledge, and it’s perfectly okay?” I ask, the words coming out like bullets. I’ve been preparing this ammo all day, since I found out about what my dad’s doing.
“Well…” Tom takes a sharp breath. “I don’t know about ‘okay,’ because this is totally fucked up if you asked me.” He pauses, then he gives me a look of sympathy. “But it’s completely legal.”
“Marcus!” I yell over my shoulder. “Let go of that lady’s bag!”
Marcus stares at me with a mischievous grin as he lifts up the bag over his head.
Oh no, this can’t be good. “Marcus,” I warn him.
Without saying anything, he lets the bag go so it hits its owner with a loud thud against her hip. As he cackles, she recovers from her shock and lifts her angry glare from Marcus’ face to mine.