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“They are.”

“I’m glad you didn’t shoot one of them.”

“I considered it.”

“Not funny.”

“I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

She gazed at the view in front of us. “Here we go.”

“I’ve got you.”

She smiled, and as we walked toward the club entrance, cameras flashed. Noise rose.

Teens yelled all around us, “Oh shit! That’s Zola!”

Paparazzi swarmed too, snapping images. Still holding her hand, I tried to remain in the back as much as I could. But the media demons weren’t having it.

The crowd assaulted her with questions.

“Zola, who’s this?”

“Are Trigger and you over?”

“Will Trigger be upset with you bringing your new boo here?”

“Zola, is My Heartbreak Bitch about you?”

“What parts of the album do you think you inspired? Was it Brokenhearted? Was it Love or Go?”

Like a pro, Zola continued forward.

I considered correcting them on my being her new boo but knew it wouldn’t make a difference. Anything we said could be twisted and used against her. With gossip blogs, it wasn’t about the truth. It was about what subject would get the most clicks and views.

Meanwhile, I scanned the crowd, searching for someone off to the side, snapping pictures, but not truly. Someone who would be mimicking the paparazzi with the sole reason to get closer. He’d probably be happy for the new pictures of her tonight too.

Are you out there?

When we arrived inside an empty lobby, she paused at the nightclub’s interior double doors and exhaled. Her makeup team and friend hurried along, yapping and excited to be at the event. They barreled through the doors and didn’t notice we’d stopped.

I squeezed her hand. “Do you need a minute?”

It would probably be the only few moments where we would be alone for a while.

“Yes,” she said.

I guided us to the side. “I could run in and get you a glass of water or—”

“No. I’m good.” She gazed up at me.

“What’s wrong, Zuzu?”

“Don’t call me Zuzu.”

“What’s wrong, Zola?”

In a flash, she wrapped her arms around my shoulders. Thanks to those heels and her pushing on her toes, she almost reached me eye level. Before I could ask her what she was doing, she hit me with shocking words.

“I’ve always wanted you too.”

I tensed, loving what I was hearing, but also unsure of it.

Did she understand what those words would do to my body? My heart? My mind? My fucking soul? This was nothing to play with, nothing to toy or act on with haste. What would this mean for us? Would it change our lives forever?

I stiffened. “You’ve always wanted me?”

“Yes. Always.”

Want or need? Love or lust? Serious or nothing more than a fling? What did she mean by want and always? How would it change her and me?

More people entered the club and rushed by.

She let go.

I moved away and straightened up.

“Okay.” She brushed back her hair with her fingers and shifted her expression to neutral. She looked relaxed as if she’d never confessed anything.

People pushed through the double doors.

And then, we were alone again.

“Alright.” She grabbed my hand and headed away. “I’m ready.”

“I’m not.” I stopped her from moving forward and pulled her back to me.

Others came in.

Some glanced at us.

Worry covered her face, but she played it off with a smile. “We should go, Hunter.”

“We’re talking about this.”

“Now you want to talk about it?”

“You damn right.” I inhaled her. “Now the gloves are off.”

“We’re not fighting.”

“What do you mean you’ve always wanted me?” I asked.

She blushed. “I…you know…well, what did you mean?”

“Everything.”

“All you said was aroused—”

“Because I was too scared to go further.”

She snorted. “You? Scared. I don’t think so.”

“York, Mrs. Ellen, and you are the only family I have.” My voice lowered. “That’s it. Three people. You think I want to change that to nothing? No one else is in my life.”

“That’s not true, Hunter.”

“If we go there, York and—”

“I don’t care what anyone says—”

“Of course, you don’t care,” I interrupted. “Because you have hundreds of family members, people who will always be there. Do you know if you’re lost, you can call many people to come get you? If you need a place to stay, you have tons of relatives’ bedrooms and couches for good old sweet cousin Zuzu.”

Sighing, I stared at her. “I don’t have that. You three are the only people who I would call. This means that things must be done carefully. Love has rules.”

Pissed, she rolled her eyes. “Love doesn’t have rules. I hate when you say that.”

“Zola! Come on, baby.” Alexander yelled out from the opened double doors. “They’re starting the first song. We need you up on the stage for a shot.”

She shook her head. “We’ll talk about this later.”

Did she just end this?

She stepped around me.

Frowning, I followed.

Goddamn it. My head isn’t even in the game right now. She’s fogging it up.

Alexander handed her a pack of Natural Health cigarettes. “Don’t forget to smoke a couple of these on stage. It will rejuvenate you anyway. I swear my blood pressure has gone down from smoking these—”