“Good evening, Miss Lane. I’m glad you decided to join me,” I said as I pulled out the chair for her.

“Good evening, Mr. Black. Thank you for inviting me, but it really wasn’t necessary. Please call me Elle.”

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I didn’t understand why she wanted me to call her Elle. I liked Ellery. I think it’s a beautiful name, and it shouldn’t be shortened. I looked at her intently.

“Isn’t your name, Ellery?” I asked.

“Yes, but my friends call me Elle,” she said as she took a sip of water.

She considered us friends? How can that be when I only met her this morning? I took my menu from the table and opened it.

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“But we aren’t friends, Ellery.”

I think she took offense to my comment because she narrowed her eyes at me as she said, “Alright then, Mr. Black, why don’t we just stick to Miss Lane?”

The way she said it was so sarcastic and with such attitude, that I couldn’t help but let a small smile escape from my lips. I watched her look over the menu, and I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable, so I told her to order anything she liked. Did I mention that I told her she was too thin, and it looked like she hadn’t eaten in weeks? She looked at me sternly then proceeded to tell me it was none of my concern. The attitude of this beautiful woman was starting to arouse me. I didn’t mean anything by saying she was too thin. I don’t even know why I said it. I can be such a bastard at times.

The waiter brought over a bottle of Pinot Grigrio and poured some in each glass. As he took Ellery’s order, I couldn’t help but stare at the way she presented herself and the way she smiled at him as she ordered her food. She noticed I was staring at her, and I was praying I wasn’t making her feel uncomfortable. Suddenly, she threw a question at me.

“So what’s your story, Mr. Black?”

She caught me off guard, and no woman has ever done that before. I looked at her as I picked up my glass and took a sip of wine.

“My story?” I asked.

A small smile escaped her lips as she tilted her head to the side and answered my question, “Yes, your story.”

“What’s to tell? I’m a 30 year old CEO, I have more money than I’ll ever need, I don’t do relationships, I usually get everything I want, and I do whatever I want.”

She was staring at me like she was trying to figure me out, so I threw her question right back at her.

“Now that we got that out of the way, what’s your story, Miss Lane?”

“I don’t have a story, Mr. Black. I’m 23 years old, I moved here with my boyfriend a little over a year ago, I work part-time at a small record company, I paint pictures, and I volunteer at the soup kitchen.”

I pressed my lips together because all I heard was the word ‘boyfriend’. It made me a little edgy, and I don’t know why. I asked her the obvious question.

“What does your boyfriend think about you having dinner with me?”

Her eyes instantly left mine as she looked down at the table when she answered my question. I could sense the pain in her voice.

“He doesn’t; we aren’t together anymore. He moved out over three weeks ago.”

I was curious to know more about her and her relationship with her ex-boyfriend. Was she the one who broke it off with him? I couldn’t imagine him leaving her; she was way too beautiful to be left alone. I asked her how long they’d been together. She told me they had been together for four years and that she moved here with him from Michigan. I was caught off guard when she decided to tell me more.

“Yep, he came home from work one day and said he needed space. He packed his bags and walked out,” she said as she stared directly into my eyes.

I was feeling something at that moment when she said that. I saw the sadness in her eyes, and I felt bad for her. I told her I was sorry that he did that to her and was shocked by her next words.

“Don’t be; nothing lasts forever,” she said as she waved her hand in front of her face.

When I heard her say that, I was elated. She believed the same thing I did. She just said it, ‘nothing lasts forever’. Did I just meet a woman who shares the same views as me? I watched her as she looked around the restaurant. I could tell she was taking in the beauty and class of it. I asked her if she liked it here. She smiled at me and told me how much she did. I knew she’d like it.

I was intrigued by her and the fact she volunteered at the soup kitchen. I wanted to know more, so I asked her why she volunteered there. She lightly smiled and cocked her head.

“I like to help people in need; you should know that by now, Mr. Black.”

Of course she likes to help people in need. I was in need of help last night, and she didn’t think twice about getting me home safely. Although, I’m still pissed about it because what she did was very unsafe, and she could have gotten hurt. I apologized for asking such a ridiculous question. She smiled at me as she cut up her chicken and started telling me personal things about her family. I stared intently at her and listened to every word she said.

“I had a rough childhood. Let’s just say there was nobody there to help me.”

“What about your parents? Didn’t they help you?” I asked as she looked down and away from me.

“My mother died of cancer when I was six, and my father was an alcoholic who passed away right before my 18th birthday.”

Jesus Christ, what the f**k has this poor girl been through?

“Is that why you helped me last night? Because you think that I’m an alcoholic?” I asked.

“No, my father choked to death on his vomit during one of his drunken nights. I found him dead in his bed the next morning. I didn’t want that same fate for you. What people don’t realize is how easy it is for something like that to happen. I spent my entire life taking care of my father who absurdly drank himself into oblivion almost every night because he couldn’t get over my mother’s death. So, it’s just second nature for me to help people.”

I wanted to look away from her, but I couldn’t. I wanted her to know that I was listening to every heartbreaking word she spoke. I lightly smiled at her as I held up my glass and motioned for her to do the same.

“Well, thank you for your help last night, and as mad as I was this morning to find you standing in my kitchen, I do appreciate it.”

She smiled as our glasses touched one another. Damn that smile.

As we were sitting and continuing our conversation, my phone went off. I pulled it from my pocket and there was a text from Kendall, another one of my casual flings.

“Connor, I just wanted to tell you that I’m leaving the door unlocked, so just come in and head straight to the bedroom. I’ll be waiting for you.”

Shit, I forgot all about Kendall and tonight. We’d arranged this last week. I sighed as I looked at Ellery. She asked me if everything was alright.

“Everything’s fine; it’s just business,” I said as I put my phone back in my pocket.

After we ate and finished our wine, we got up and headed out of the restaurant. As soon as we stepped outside, Ellery asked me if I wanted ice cream. I looked at her with a puzzling look because I thought it was odd she would just blurt that out.

“No, I don’t want any ice cream. I’m taking you home and then I have somewhere I have to be,” I said.

She kept insisting that we go for ice cream, and to be honest, I was beginning to get irritated because I didn’t want any.

“Miss Lane, I don’t want any ice cream, now get in the car so Denny can take you home.” My tone was adamant, but she wasn’t listening to me, and I wasn’t used to that.

Before I knew it, she turned her back and started walking down the street. She put her hand up and waved.

“Thanks again for dinner, Mr. Black. I’ll see you around sometime.”

I stood there and watched her walk away. What the f**k is this girl’s problem? Why the hell doesn’t she listen?

“Miss Lane, get back here!” I yelled.

She kept walking, so I hastened my pace to catch up to her. “Miss Lane, I will not tell you again to get in the car,” I said in an adamant tone.

I think I pissed her off because she abruptly stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, turned around, and pointed her finger at me.

“I don’t take orders from anybody, Mr. Black, especially people that I’ve only known less than 24 hours. I’m not your responsibility. You thanked me for my help with a nice dinner, and now it’s time for us to part ways. I’m going to get some ice cream, and then I’ll call a cab to drive me home.”

Wow, this girl doesn’t take shit from anyone. She continued walking away from me. I took out my phone and called Denny.

“It looks like we’re getting ice cream. I’ll call you when we’re leaving.”

She told me that I didn’t have to come if I didn’t like ice cream. I tried to explain to her it wasn’t that I didn’t like it, but I just didn’t want any. It didn’t matter because Ellery Lane was getting ice cream with or without me. I think that I’ve just met my match.

We continued walking down the street, and I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t safe for a beautiful young woman to be walking the streets of New York alone at night. I noticed her smile when I called her beautiful. It made my heart do something weird which I can’t explain because I’ve never felt anything like it before.

We sat down at a small table in the ice cream shop, and she asked me when the last time I had ice cream was. I found that odd, and why was it important to her?

“I don’t know; since I was a kid, I guess,” I answered.

“Are you kidding me? You haven’t had ice cream since you were a kid?”

“No, is that a problem?”

“No, I’m just surprised,” she said.

“I think you’d find a lot of things surprising about me,” I grinned.

I didn’t want her to know how I live my life. She was a nice girl, and she didn’t need to know about all the women I see. She didn’t need to be exposed to that.

“So, where are you going later?” She asked out of the clear blue.

“Miss Lane, I don’t think you really want to know the answer to that,” I said as I raised my eyebrow.

As we were finishing our ice cream, I called Denny to come pick us up. I went to open the car door for her, but Denny beat me to it, and Ellery seemed very pleased he did. I slid into the seat next to her as she looked at me and lightly smiled. She seemed to be either nervous or uncomfortable as she didn’t say a word the whole way to her apartment. Denny pulled up to the curb and got out to open the door for her. I leaned over to take a closer look at her apartment and simply asked about her having her own private entrance. I think she took offense to that because she responded in a sarcastic tone.

“I don’t live in a fancy apartment building with a doorman and private elevator. This is it, Mr.

Black; my little apartment with its own outside entry.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it; I just think it’s unsafe, and anyone can break in,” I responded with an irritated tone. She didn’t need to be so sarcastic with her answer.

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