Samina fought against the nagging feeling that she’d forgotten something as she pulled into the dimly-lit parking lot of the Westside Tennis & Fitness club. With a wary stare at the two-story building with its signature green roof, Samina heaved a sigh and pulled out her tennis shoes from the back of her chair. Kicking off her sandals, she wiggled her feet into half socks before shoving them into the shoes.

As avid tennis players, both Ada and Jaxson frequented the tennis club weekly, often asking that Samina join them for friendly matches. It was a way for them to catch up, unwind after a stressful day. Today, it was a chance to meet Jaxson’s best friend and the best man, Topher Chance.

Rolling her eyes, Samina ducked out of the car and strode up to the clubhouse.

Ever since their first semester in college, Ada made it a personal goal to get Samina into a serious relationship, introducing her to every single guy she met or knew briefly.

“You deserve to be with someone who will cherish you as much as I do,” Ada whined, squeezing her in a bear hug. “Stop pining for a guy who’ll never come around. It’s time to give others a chance to set your heart on fire.”

Samina shook her head as she slung her tennis bag over her shoulder and stepped inside. Minutes later, she stood with her hands at her hips, watching as Ada and Jaxson engaged in verbal combat.

Ada glared up at her 5’11” fiancé, arms akimbo. “What do you mean he changed his mind?” she demanded, a scowl marring her features.

Chagrined, Jaxson glanced once at Samina before looking back to Ada. “Emergency, he said… with his aunt.”

The violent knot in Ada’s brow instantly loosened, concern replacing the annoyance. “Is she okay?”

He nodded with a sigh. “She’s fine now. Resting.” He turned to Samina, an apologetic smile making him look more boyish than usual. “Sorry about this, Sammie. We really hoped Topher would join us.”

With a sigh, Ada pulled back her hair into a ponytail and strolled to the other side of the tennis court.

Samina raised a brow at Ada’s stiff posture, a sign that her best friend resented her plans being changed. She turned back to Jaxson with a wan smile. “I’ve already met him once. At your graduation.”

She remembered clearly having to drive that grueling journey from Houston to Philadelphia. Recalled the tall, imposing form of a man named Topher Chance, Jaxson’s best friend for many years. He wore a goofy expression that only grated her nerves after a long drive. And when he swung his striking gray-green eyes at her and grinned, she hadn’t smiled back.

Samina swung her gaze over to Jaxson staring at her quizzically. “Hmm?”

The corner of his lips quirked up. “Still in for a match? You and Ada against me?”

Ada scoffed in laughter from the other side of the court. “Get ready to lose, Dumas.”

“Ladies first,” Jaxson tossed back with a wicked grin as he poised to start the game.

Samina smirked and jogged over to Ada’s side just as her friend set the ball.

Hands in the pockets of his shorts, Topher peered down at the lit streets of Downtown Houston. The muffled sounds of bleating horns lulled him into a peaceful calm, and his eyes scanned the skyscrapers jabbing the starless sky blanketed over the city.

“Get a humidifier as soon as you can,” the doctor had instructed gravely, scanning Nadine’s medical history file. His brow wrinkled with concern. “It will do good to keep her stable and comfortable while we run some tests.”

Topher rubbed the back of his neck, working through the taut cords of muscle stiffened from the ordeal with Nadine’s attack early evening. A cold shiver ran down his spine as he recalled stumbling in through the door when he heard a crash in the bathroom.

Nadine’s slender frame was curled in a fetal position, a pool of spilled perfume and pieces of broken glass precariously too close to her head. She was supposed to get ready for lunch downtown with him and now he berated himself for not just ordering room service instead.

Breathing out a sigh, Topher moved his head from side to side to loosen the tightness.

“You’re late,” Nadine’s raspy voice penetrated the silence, punctuated by the intermittent hiss of the humidifier.

Topher turned to see Nadine propped up in bed, her tired caramel eyes riveted to his. He managed a smile and walked over to the side of her bed. “You okay?” he asked softly, perching on the mattress and reached for her hand, cold and frail against his own.

Her probing eyes scanned his face, her brow furrowing. “You’re late,” she repeated pointedly.

He lowered his gaze to their joined hands. “Don’t worry, I rescheduled. There’ll be other days.”

With a frown, Nadine started to scoff but as the sound caught in her throat, Topher quickly grabbed the glass of water on the bedside table.

Dipping her head submissively to sip the warm water, Nadine then settled back on the pillow. Her eyes returned to his. “Can you go again?”

Topher frowned at the hoarseness of her voice. “You should rest your voice.” His thumb traced the bones on the back of her hand. “And yes, I can. Don’t worry and get some sleep.” He lifted their hands, planting a kiss on the back of hers. “I’ll be right here.”

Nadine tried to stay awake for as long as she could until her eyelids drooped. Her body slackened against the pillow and soon her face relaxed into a peaceful sleep.

He swallowed hard, watching her chest rise and fall, her breathing hoarse and labored even in sleep. Topher glanced once at the humidifier, the intermittent puffs of mist keeping his mind busy all through the night.

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