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Virgin Bride(10)

By:B. B. Hamel

I’m totally taken aback. I can’t really believe this. “Your first boyfriend was at twenty-one? And you haven’t had one since?”

She nods, smiling a little a bit. She clearly likes my reaction. “He was American, which I think is why I liked him. He was like the only cute American living in my area. It’s a lot easier to date someone when you both speak the same language.”

“But why haven’t you had any other boyfriends before or since?” I don’t understand it at all. She’s a beautiful girl. I know men have been hitting on her for as long as she’s been an adult. Probably longer, since some guys are huge fucking creeps.

“Just never wanted to, I guess,” she says.

“What was different about that guy?”

“Mark was… I don’t know, nice. And he spoke English. I was really lonely over there.”

I nod slowly. “I understand that.” Although I don’t, not really. This girl is absolutely fucking gorgeous and smart. She could have anyone she wants anytime she wants them.

“I doubt it. I don’t think you’ve ever been lonely in your whole life.”

I shake my head and sip the wine. “Not true, actually.”

“Come on.”

“Really. When I first started Numbers, I was just a kid in my dorm at MIT. I wasn’t rich or handsome back then.”

“You’ve always been handsome,” she says, shaking her head.

I grin at her. “Thanks for agreeing with me.”

She blushes. “Not what I meant.”

“Oh, I think it is what you mean. And now I know where you stand.” I grin at her and let her squirm a little bit before continuing. “Anyway, I was more interested in creating the Numbers Group than I was in partying back then, if you can believe it. Those first few years… they were tough.”

“How so?” she asks.

“I sacrificed a lot,” I say, thinking back on those first few years. It wasn’t exactly a dark part of my life, but it was definitely stressful and difficult in ways I haven’t had to experience since. It was all worth it, of course, but I sacrificed a lot. “James is pretty much the only friend I still have from back then. People grew up, got married, but I just kept working and working. Never had time to get close to anyone. I guess that’s why I developed the reputation I have now.”

She laughs and shakes her head. “No, I doubt that’s the only reason.”

“Okay,” I say, grinning at her. “Maybe not the only one. But still, those early years, it was all Numbers.”

“What about now?” she asks.

I glance over at the hallway. “Things are different now.”

“Lacey,” she says softly.

“That’s right.” I sip my wine for a second, smiling to myself. “That first night Lacey appeared in my life, I was so scared. I’d never held a baby before, you know.”

“Seriously?” Lacey asks.

“Seriously. I didn’t have siblings or super close family, so I just never held one until Lacey. I thought I was going to break her.” I laugh a little bit, thinking back to those first fumbling days with her.

“But you didn’t.”

“I didn’t,” I agree, nodding. “I had some help early on. Hired some people. They never stuck, though. I always wanted to do it myself. Because I love that kid to death, I just couldn’t let anyone else take care of her.”

“I see,” Erin says softly, smiling at me. I lock eyes with her then quickly look away. I know what that look means, and it makes me a little uncertain.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to ramble. I must sound like the biggest soft boy,” I say, trying to change the subject.

“Not at all,” she says. “Actually, I’m impressed. Not a lot of people in your position would take to being a father like that.”

“It was hard at first. But now I couldn’t imagine anything else.”

We lapse into silence for a second as I remember those early days. I remember the fight I had with Lacey’s mother, and how much I hated her. But then I was too busy learning to be a father to think abut her anymore, and it quickly became all about Lacey. My whole life changed that night. In a lot of ways, those first few months were a lot like the early days of Numbers. I didn’t go anywhere or see anyone. I had one single task, and that was to take care of Lacey. That was the only thing I really cared about.

That’s really fulfilling in a lot of ways. Having a task to totally throw yourself into can make you feel good, especially when that task is taking care of your flesh and blood. I fell in love with Lacey instantly, but I really realized the depths of that love those first few months. I totally lost myself in caring for her and in running the business, and I basically did nothing else.