copied from missing older thread, can be deleted if it reappears
lead someone on - mislead or deceive someone, esp. into believing that one is in love with or attracted to them.
Random House unabridged:
lead - ... 28. lead on - to induce to continue a course of action that will probably end unfavorably; mislead: 'She led him on to think that she would eventually accept his proposal of marriage.'
lead on - 1: (vi) (usu imper)
lead on, sergeant! - führen Sie an, Feldwebel!;
lead on, John! - geh vor, John!
2: (vt) (sep) (= deceive) anführen (inf), hinters Licht führen; (= tease) aufziehen, auf den Arm nehmen (inf);
she's just leading him on - sie hält ihn nur zum Narren /or/ führt ihn nur an der Nase herum
lead on - 1: (v.t.) a: (entice) lead sb. on - jmdn. reizen;
he's leading you on - er versucht, dich zu reizen;
b: (deceive) auf den Leim führen (ugs.);
she's just leading him on - sie hält ihn nur zum Narren;
c: (take further) that leads me on to my next point - das bringt mich zu meinem nächsten Punkt;
lead sb. on to do sth. - jmdn. darauf bringen, etw. zu tun
2: (v.i.) a: (imper.) (go first) lead on! - geh vor!;
b: leading on from what you have just said, ... - um fortzuführen, was Sie eben sagten, ...;
lead on to the next topic etc. - zum nächsten Thema usw. führen;
lead on to better things - jmdn. weiterbringen
to lead on - anführen
If the draft I saved is right, there should have been a thread with exactly this same title already in the archive, from about the beginning of August 2006.
Here are some comments I wrote four months ago. If the old thread reappears, this can all be deleted, but in the meantime, maybe there will be something there you can use.
You're right, this sense is missing from LEO. It's not 'hinhalten,' closer to 'verarschen,' but I don't know if that's exactly it; it's more like to give someone false encouragement, encourage someone to have unrealistic hopes. Maybe 'jmdm. (falsche) Hoffnungen machen' or 'jmdn. irreführen.' For your sentence, I would try something like:
Ich will nur nicht, dass du denkst, ich würde dir Hoffnungen machen.
Ich möchte dich nur nicht glauben lassen, dass ich im Augenblick für dich mehr empfinde, als wirklich der Fall ist.
Ich will nur von Anfang an ehrlich mit dir sein, ich möchte dich nicht anlügen.
Maybe some of the German speakers can correct my mistakes or suggest a more idiomatic translation. If so, 'lead so. on' would be a really good New Entry.
As I recall, there were better suggestions later, but I don't remember what the final consensus was, if any.
There should also be something in the archive about 'to have a lot on (one's plate),' meaning to be busy, to have a full schedule, to have many things going on, many responsibilities and activities, not to have much free time for (or, probably, interest in) something else. That would be another good entry if it's not already in.
But I'm tired and I don't feel like looking for anything else tonight, sorry. It would be great if someone else could help out. Thanks in advance.