Lily spun around and threw the door open wide.
"Noa-!" Her shout died on her lips as she caught sight of him, still standing on her porch with one hand clutched in his hair. He was breathing hard, as if he'd run around the block twice in the five minutes she'd been debating with herself. He hadn't moved though. Not one step.
"Noa-" She started again.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it the way it came out."
Lily froze, his words ripping through her. He hadn't meant it. The realization crushed her, mangling her heart. Unbidden tears burned at her eyes. She sucked in a breath to fight them back. "It's fine."
"Lily-" Noah's face fell. "Lily, I-"
Here it comes, she thought. The "you're a great friend, but" speech. She couldn't stand here and listen to that speech. Not coming from Noah. Not tonight.
"It's fine, Noah," she said again, trying to find the ability to smile at him or laugh off the entire situation. So he called her beautiful. So what? Didn't mean he wanted her like she did him.
"You don't owe me an explanation. We're friends." She turned toward the door, ready to flee before the tears in her eyes gave away that lie for what it was. Noah wasn't just a friend to her.
"Screw that. We're not friends."
Lily spun toward him again. "Wha-"
"I've been falling for you for four fucking months, Lily," Noah whispered, his voice as ragged as it'd been in the restaurant. The expression on his face burned through her. He looked wrecked, haunted. "Tell me you don't feel the same way. Tell me that you feel nothing for me, and I swear I'll drop this if that's what you want. But I swear I didn't just say that to get you to sleep with me. Just . . . tell me I don't have a shot. Please."
* * *
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