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Page 34

“Okay, fine. But that dress goes with these boots.” Celia reached into her closet and pulled out a pair of trendy, pseudo cowboy boots. “I mean, they’re like a set. You’ll wear them, right?” She looked genuinely concerned Dimple might say no. “I just want you to have a good time. And I know you’re going to rock his socks off as you are, but this would really complete the ensemble.”

Dimple smiled, touched at the realization that Celia really thought of them as friends. This was her way of showing she cared; she was 100 percent invested in this non-date. Dimple had never had a friend quite like her before—a generous, glamorous fellow coder. “Sure, I’ll wear them. Thanks, Celia.”

• • •

Rishi smoothed over his hair. Did his floppy front bang things look better tilted to the right or the left? He flipped them one way and then another. Would Dimple even notice something like that? No, definitely right. Left made him look like an engineer. The kind with pocket protectors, not the cool kind. And for gods’ sake, why was he wearing this shirt again? He was fairly sure he’d been wearing it the first time they met, and, well, that wasn’t exactly the best association, was it? He was unbuttoning the top button when there was a knock at his door.

“Who is it?” he called, moving on to the next button.

“Um, it’s me. Dimple. Sorry, I know we said you were going to pick me up, but I got done early and thought . . .”

Crap, crap, crap. She was here ? She was here. Too late now. Rishi buttoned up again and pulled the door open, his heart in his mouth. But the minute he saw her, it thumped back into his chest, where it began thundering at warp speed.

Holy hotness, Batman.

She. Looked. Phenomenal.

Rishi couldn’t form a coherent thought.

“Wow.” He breathed out and rubbed his jaw, feeling his cheeks heat up when he realized he was staring at her thighs. Eyes up, Patel. “You look, um, just . . .”

“Yeah.” Her cheeks were staining a dusky purple as she tugged the hem of her dress, as if she could will it longer simply by sheer physical strength. “Celia sort of bullied me into this and I don’t know. It’s really not me, but—”

“No, no. You look amazing.” He gestured at her, making sure to keep his eyes on her eyes this time. Hard as that was to do. “Good job, Celia.”

She blushed even deeper, which made Rishi want to gather her in his arms. And then Dimple bit her lower lip and his brain immediately reminded him what it felt like to kiss that mouth, how soft her lips were, how silky her tongue felt that night at the party. Great. Thanks for that, brain.

With a lurch Rishi realized his brain was also diverting blood flow to other parts of his body. He immediately began to think of Nani, his grandmother with the hairy mole on her neck jowls. Yep. That did it. Whew. Crisis averted.

“So, are you ready?” Dimple asked, looking back at him.

“Yeah. Let’s do it.” He closed the dorm door behind him and stepped out into the hall with her.

Even under the sickening fluorescents of the hallway, she was beautiful. The ugly gray walls did nothing to mar her perfect cinnamon complexion, although it made most people look like walking zombies. How was that possible? Was it lust?

Rishi had heard once you were attracted to someone, your brain could actually rewire itself and make you think all kinds of sucky things about them were perfect. And then, once you’d been together awhile, bam. The gauzy lust-curtain fell away and you realized you’d married an alligator with bad breath.

Dimple glanced at him sideways, in that sneaky yet piercing way she had. “What are you thinking?”

Crap. He could not tell her he’d been engrossed with thoughts of halitosis-suffering marine carnivores. Not on their first date. Non-date. Whatever. “Just, you know. The brain. It’s an amazing organ, don’t you think?”

Dimple twisted her mouth to one side. “Yeah. Sure. You looked like you’d eaten something really gross though.”

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