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James sighed internally. His inner voice wanted him to stand up for himself and argue with her, tell her that it was his chess set, and he’d keep it if he wanted. But he knew that if he did, the fight would go on for hours. And he’d ultimately give in, anyway. He always did.

He put on an apologetic smile to satisfy Laura. “Of course I will. I’m sorry I upset you.”

“I know you’re weak, James.” She gave him a peck on his cheek. “That’s why you have me to be strong for you.” She picked up the chess set and walked toward the door. “I’ll put this in my car and dispose of it in the morning before we leave. We don’t want to keep it in the flat, do we?”

“I could always send it back and get a refund,” said James hopefully.

Laura shook her head. “No, the only way you’ll become strong enough to resist your urges is by learning that if you waste your money on things like this, it’s gone for good. You need to learn your lesson properly. It’s best for both of us if I get rid of it.” She flashed him another smile, then stepped outside.

James sighed. It had been a wonderful chess set. He would miss it. And he hadn’t even had a chance to study it.

His cell phone rang. He glanced at the number before answering. It was his boss, just the person he didn’t want to talk to.

“Hey, Ian. Don’t worry; I got your reports done. And I’ve left documentation with Al, so if you have any questions while I’m away, he should have the answers.”

“Ah, James, I’m glad I caught you before I left. Listen, I’m going to be away next week. Something’s come up, and I have to leave for Hawaii immediately. I need you to come in next week and cover for me.”

“What? But Laura and I are going to France tomorrow. I’ve had this vacation booked for months. The hotel is paid for, and I had to make a reservation six months in advance for the restaurant Laura’s been dying to try. I can’t cancel it.”

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