“It’s just dinner. As friends.”

“It’s just dinner. As friends.”

She couldn’t see how it could be just dinner on Valentine’s Day. And certainly not as friends when he was in love with her. He never tried to hide it, never once denied his feelings. Though she made it clear that she didn’t share them, it was still wrong, right? Going to dinner with him on Valentine’s Day? It was like leading him on, wasn’t it?

Except she didn’t want to spend the holiday in her house, alone. She told herself it wasn’t, anyway. Over and over. It could just be a normal day if she let it. Except for all the hearts and the flowers and the happy couples that would surround her, reminding her of what shambles her own relationship was in.

When she’d asked Adam if he wanted to do something for Valentine’s Day, he’d frowned. “I mean, we can,” he said, brows furrowed. “Except, I don’t know… We said we were gonna take it slow this time around, remember? It’s only been two weeks. Things are still shaky and all…”

Right, of course. She’d completely agreed with him. Outwardly, at least. Inside, her heart had tightened under her chest cavity. A thick lump had formed in her throat. Tears had burned behind her eyes.

“Besides, Valentine’s Day is just… it’s a conspiracy, really. Created by some, like, league of savvy business owners to get people to spend absurd amounts of money on candies and overpriced dinners, and pink teddy bears that you wouldn’t buy for any other reason…”

A part of her thought his explanation was just an excuse. An excuse lonely people used. Heartbroken people. And people who didn’t want to spend a romantic evening with their significant others. She embraced it.

So, why not? Why not go to dinner with Scott? It was just a fake holiday, anyway. It didn’t mean anything. And since they were just friends, it wasn’t cheating, either. It was just dinner. As friends.

He picked her up promptly at 7:30 that evening. She expected to be taken to her favorite restaurant, a cozy Italian place hidden away on a street unfrequented. But they drove right past that street, and past all of the restaurants on the main strip, until they reached a small café just at the edge of town. She frowned. “We’re having dinner at a diner?”

Getting out and opening her door for her, he said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

With a sigh, she nodded and reluctantly followed him inside. The place was tiny, though its size didn’t pose a problem because it was also completely empty, illuminated by dozens of candles on nearly every surface of the place. A single table in the middle of the room was dressed in a red table cloth. On top of it sat a single rose, two glasses, and a bottle of wine.

Scott watched as she peered around her surroundings in awe. She’d never seen anything so wonderful. Especially not for her. “Remember,” he said, “It’s just dinner. As friends.”

But she decided, right then and there, there by the end of the night, it would be much more.

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