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As further proof, he caught a quick darting glance she sent his way from across the room. She knew exactly where he was and he could see he was unnerving her. So this cool, charming Anastasia was the fake.

It didn’t matter. He still wanted her. He could feel the instincts he used in his business kick into place. His mind was already grappling with the problem of how to achieve the goal he’d set himself. It was how he’d worked all these years—set the goal, identify the obstructions, deal with them and claim the reward.

And even as he identified what his subconscious was doing, he clamped down on the myriad trails of thought and chopped the process off in its infancy, hating himself for one bleak moment for even trying to deal with this the way he had successfully dealt with business.

As he stood there berating himself, he watched her move to Hugh’s side. Hugh was talking to three people grouped loosely near the bar, his round, pleasant face alight with good cheer, the keen, intelligent eyes behind the glasses twinkling. Anastasia put a hand on Hugh’s sleeve, an intimate form of interruption and he stopped speaking to look at her. His grin softened to a smile.

David almost groaned and spun around, back to face the door. He swallowed what remained of his drink and leaned up against the doorjamb. He deliberately stared at the cold landscape beyond the glass, filling his mind with it, trying to blot out the little tender scene he had just witnessed and the self-loathing that accompanied it.

He knew he couldn’t dodge the facts forever, though.

Anastasia was deliberately stunting herself, perverting her nature, in some insane bid to avoid future pain. It was the pale shadow of herself that remained that Hugh loved.

If David dared to try to win her, he would hurt his best friend. If he left her alone, he would be condemning her to a half-life of superficial emotions and feelings.

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