For a moment Paula felt weak with longing. She wanted to accept Noah's invitation to show him the must-sees of Copenhagen.
But she gathered herself, and shook her head, furiously, no.
Weakness gnawed at her. She had the next day off. Why not continue this? Why not give herself one more carefree day of make-believe?
But no, she had to go meet her children. She had to be free of Noah Sheridan and the wistfulness for a different life that he was creating in her.
"Alright," she said.
"Let's exchange contact info." He took his phone out of his pocket, and turned it on, scowled at it for a moment, as if he'd seen something he didn't want to see. "I'll pick you up."
This was precisely why she could not meet with him.
"No," she said, maybe a little too intensely. "I'll meet you. We could start at Rosenborg Castle."
"Would eleven work?"
What did the time matter? She could not meet him!
"Perfect," she said, despising herself for the lie. But she had to say whatever it took to get free of his hand. What she had to be free of, more than anything else, was the hope that her life could be different. That a man like him—self-assured, obviously wealthy and successful—would ever want anything to do with the real her.
If she spent more time with Noah—time where they actually talked to each other—either the truth would have to come out or the deception would have to deepen.
What if, a little voice inside her whispered, you trusted him with the truth, and it didn't matter to him?
She had to let go of these hopes. Right now. Her children were waiting for her. Her real life was waiting in the shadows to swallow her up again.
"What about your contact info?"
"I don't have a cell phone."
Noah let go of her hand. She slipped the shoes off her feet and ran barefoot into the crowds, checking over her shoulder to make sure he was not following her.
He was standing looking after her. There was no need to feel guilty. He'd probably had too much champagne, just as she had. He probably was not going to be at Rosenborg Castle at eleven tomorrow morning, anyway. He lifted a hand, turned and walked the other way, and had soon disappeared in the after-concert crush.
Isabella and Emil were waiting for her at the appointed place.
"That was the best night of my entire life," Isabella said excitedly. "Mor, you look—" She cocked her head and regarded her mother, puzzled. "Happy. But sad. Why?"
"I'm just tired, it's been a long day."
"You work so hard," Isabella said softly. "Thank you for the tickets, Mor. For everything. You are the best mom in the world."
That's what was important, Paula told herself. It was the only thing that was important.
Isabella reached into her large handbag and handed Paula a package.
"What is it?"
"Just a souvenir. I want you to remember tonight forever."
No problem there, Paula thought.
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