I let out a weak laugh, actually smiling at that one. She’s good. I unlock the car. From the back garage door, we enter the house, walking into the granite kitchen.
Lily must have heard the garage because she breezes through the archway with a zipped backpack. She sets it on a chair and waits patiently for me to approach her by the bar stool. She’s doing well, and then I notice the way she fiddles with her fingers, the way she presses her thighs tightly together.
I close the space between us and slide my arms around her shoulders. She rests her cheek to my chest, but her body doesn’t sag in relief. No, it tightens in eagerness. Lily doesn’t do hugs. She f**ks until she passes out.
And I so badly want to fix her, but I can only help. The real mending—that has to be her job, her fight, her battle. I can’t win this one for her—just like she can’t defeat my demons.
Shoes tap along the hardwood, and I expect to see Connor Cobalt cresting the archway. Instead, I’m met with Sebastian Ross.
He’s still here after tutoring Lil? I internally groan. His self-confident swagger rubs me wrong. Always has. He wears a smug grin ninety-nine percent of the time, and he makes certain he knows what’s going on in everyone’s life. Sebastian and I have never seen eye to eye. Maybe because I say more mean comments to Rose than nice ones. He thinks I’m an a**hole.
And he has full right to dislike me. I’ll give him that.
I guide Lily over to a small breakfast table and sit on the chair, bringing her on my lap. She opens her mouth, probably about to ask when we’re going to have sex, but she shuts her lips and blushes.
Before rehab, this is when I’d tease her. Run my hand down her thigh and watch her breath catch. It takes every ounce of strength to shake my head. Her eyes widen in slight horror, but I press a kiss to her temple.
I want to distract her from sex, so I ask, “Anything good on TV?”
“I taped Avengers Assemble while you were in rehab,” she says softly. “It’s pretty good, but they make Captain America look kinda weak.”
I smile. “Spoiler alert?”
“No, he wimps out in the first episode.” She seems to relax, which makes me relax.
“How was the meeting?” Sebastian asks Rose, a lit cigarette burning between two fingers.
“The meeting was fine,” she says. “The menswear collection just shipped, so everyone was excited.” When she turns to him, she spots the cigarette between his fingers, her eyes narrowing. With Connor’s vase still clenched in her hand, she plucks the cigarette from Sebastian. “Outside only.” She snuffs it in the sink and makes no other comment about it.
He gets away with more shit than any other guy in Rose’s life.
Lily resituates herself on my lap, straddling me on the chair all of a sudden. Fuck.
It’s the middle of the day. We shouldn’t have sex. It’s not considered the norm. I remind myself of all the reasons why this can’t happen. Not to mention Rose and Sebastian are halfway across the kitchen from us.
“How’s tutoring going?” Rose turns to Lily at this. She’s trying to delay what I think is the inevitable—my c*ck in Lily, her body and mind appeased, coming with a blissful high.
Lily points to her chest, flushed. “Oh, me?”
Rose gives her a look—one that tells her to relocate her common sense. Lily tucks her hair behind her ear and sits up a little from my chest. Progress, yes. But I can’t move my hands from her thighs. I’m afraid she’ll freak out by the lack of touch.
“I know why people call the class Stats and not Stat now.” She flashes a strained smile, hoping that’s enough for Rose.
“She’s doing fairly well,” Sebastian says nonchalantly. But his gaze descends to the vase between Rose’s fingers. He grabs the clear glass. “Is this crystal?”
“Yes,” Rose says tiredly. She pulls her glossy brown hair into a sleek pony.
Sebastian pauses for a second, and I realize Lily is entrapped with the scene, watching with more interest than she normally would have.
I squeeze her leg and lean forward to whisper in her ear, “What’s going on?”
But Sebastian speaks, cutting off any chance for Lily to reply. “Where are the flowers?”
Sebastian opens a cupboard and slides out the trash.
“What are you doing?” Rose asks, her pitch spiking.
“He really expects to win you back with flowers. Come on, Rose.” Huh, I’m surprised Rose felt comfortable enough to share intimate details of her fight with Sebastian. I just didn’t think she opened up her frigid gates to anyone.
Rose stares questioningly at the vase in Sebastian’s hand, considering trashing Connor’s present.
Oh f**k that. “It’s crystal,” I remind her.
“Yeah,” Lily adds.
Sebastian looks unperturbed by the voices of dissent and rests an elbow on the counter. He passes the vase to Rose, but she hesitates by the trash bin.
“It’s Lalique,” she says under her breath, her fingers running over the smooth face. The vase is cut like a square, and the bottom has an intricate knot design.
“What does that mean?” Lily asks.
“He has good taste,” Rose says.
Sebastian makes a show of rolling his eyes.
Rose clutches the vase to her chest. “It’s my favorite brand.”
Only Rose would have a favorite kind of crystal at twenty-two. But more than that, Connor knew exactly what she liked. That detail has to count for something. I’m not even that perceptive.
Sebastian taps the counter, watching Rose closely. “You can keep it,” he says, “but what kind of message does that really send? Every fight, he’ll try to buy you back. Personally I’d be fine with that type of relationship. I have a pair of a crocodile leather shoes from Max in my closet, but I know you, Rose. After the fifth piece of jewelry, you’re going to be sick of him.”
Rose looks conflicted.
“Connor is trying to say he’s sorry,” Lily pipes in.
Sebastian looks bothered by Lily’s interjection. He tilts his head, his eyes flickering to her backpack. I’m missing something important. It doesn’t take a genius like Connor to figure that one out.
Lily hesitates, and she recoils into my chest. I wrap my arms around her and assault Sebastian with my glower. That’s what life in the first-class world is—a series of glares, half-smiles and scowls. Each one is lethal, each one like a f**king razor. And I’ve learned all of them from the best. Not Rose Calloway. My father could destroy her with his sharp ‘go-the-fuck-to-hell’ stare.
Hell, he’s almost destroyed me with it.
Rose sets the vase on the counter by the coffee pot, uncertain. “I have a box I need to grab from the car. I’ll be right back.” Partly, I think she’s leaving to hide how flustered she’s become. When she exits out the back door, Sebastian straightens up and grabs the vase off the counter.
Lily’s spine goes erect like a surprised cat. “What are you doing?”
“What Rose can’t. She’ll thank me later.” He chucks the vase in the trash bin.
“No!” Lily springs from my lap. I follow her, only because I don’t like that look in Sebastian’s eye. It’s the kind that I’ve seen from too many rich kids—the one where they think they’re invincible. That no one can touch them.
I’ve probably worn it on occasion.
Sebastian kicks the cupboard closed and extends his arms across the counter behind him, blocking Lily from the bin. She squats to go through his legs to reach it, but Sebastian holds his foot out. “Remember what’s at stake, Little Calloway,” he says casually, a voice so smooth that I want to tear it to shreds. Mine is nothing like that. I’m all edged, all something harsh and severe.
Lily freezes and slowly rises. I place my hands on her shoulders, confused as ever.
“Are you blackmailing her?” I ask.
Lily shakes her head first. “It’s okay,” she says to me. She places her palms on my chest and begins to push me away from the counters and towards the breakfast table again. It’s not okay. What the f**k is going on?!
The door opens. Rose enters with a paisley box labeled Spring/Summer Men’s Collection.
“So you’re really doing menswear?” Lily asks, her hand slipping in mine. She squeezes once, a sign that she’ll explain the Sebastian stuff later. I have to trust her.
Rose nods and pulls out a blue men’s sports coat and passes it to Sebastian.
“I like the pocket,” he says and inspects the silky lining. “I’m glad you went with this print.”
“Me too. The mini-checkers were too much.” She turns to Lily. “Sebastian’s been helping me with the collection.”
Lily told me Rose has been nervous about branching out since Calloway Couture has been strictly for women only.
“I know this is probably a busy time,” Rose says to Lily, taking the coat from Sebastian and folding it precisely, “but I could use your help at the office. Would you mind working more hours?”
Since my stay at rehab, Lily has occupied her time as Rose’s assistant, even if two other girls work at Calloway Couture for social media, online sales and whatever the hell Rose needs them for. Lily told me that she’s Rose’s numero uno bitch—and she said it all with a flourish of pride, which I found pretty adorable.
“Sure,” Lily agrees with a solid nod. But she grips my hand tighter, and then she blurts out, “But what about the male models?” And then her eyes dart to Sebastian and she pales, forgetting his presence.
“Oh yes,” Sebastian says, “they’re gorgeous. Maybe Rose can find you someone better to date than that one over there.” He points at me.
“And maybe she’ll find someone to replace you.” I mockingly pause. “Oh wait, she already has.” Where’s Connor Cobalt when you f**king need him?
The corner of Sebastian’s mouth tics. Good.
Rose sets the sport’s coat back in the box. “Sebastian, I think it’s time for you to go. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Sure.” He kisses her cheek, and then he waves to Lily. “Study hard.”
“I will,” she says tensely.
With this, he departs, and when the door slams, Rose sets her hands on her h*ps and faces Lily. “I won’t ever schedule the male models for fittings when you’re in the office, I promise.”
“I’m just scared,” Lily admits. She can’t even look at me.
I try to hold back a cringe. I should have more faith in her—that she won’t cheat on me, but I spent years hearing her f**k other guys through the walls. Being monogamous isn’t natural for her, and I’m honestly shocked she’s made it this long with just me. I wait for the day when I’m not enough, especially now that I can’t feed into her desires. I can’t give her what she can so easily receive from some other douchebag.
“I’m not going to put you in that position,” Rose tells her. “I promise.”