Addicted for Now / Page 13

Page 13


And if my plan works, then Lily shouldn’t be worried at all. But right as I muster the courage to ask Rose, the door opens and we all stiffen.

Sebastian is back.

But the shoes on the hardwood sound different, more confident, faster and determined.

Connor strolls through the archway with a stack of French bread pizzas. He slides them on the counter just as the tension eases. Well, technically only Lily and I relax. Rose’s shoulders lock like she’s preparing to crush someone underneath her heel. “Who did you think I was?” he asks us. He must notice the shift in the room.

“Sebastian,” Lily says.

“We were talking about sex,” I clarify.

He nods, understanding now. “How’d the tutoring go?” he asks, about to approach Rose and kiss her, but she stares at the wall, not at him. Come on, Rose, let the guy in.

Connor only studies her, more determined to win her affections. He leans against the counter and then gives Lily his full attention.

“It was fine. I think Sebastian is going to help a lot.”

Really? I always claimed I’d switch from whiskey to bleach if I had to talk to him for longer than ten minutes. Obviously, there’s something going on between Sebastian and Lily, but I don’t want to bring it up now.

“That’s good,” Connor says. “I’m sorry I can’t tutor you. If I had more time this semester, you know I would.”

“It’s fine, really.” She keeps saying that, and I think we all know it’s not fine.

Connor flips open one of the boxes, and Rose peers over his shoulder, risking the touch of his arm.

“Artichoke and mushrooms?” she asks.

He pulls out the second box and faces her. But he holds onto the pizza. “And feta.”

Lily mouths to me, her favorite.

He’s smooth. And Lily is grinning so hard, watching her sister and Connor reunite. Her whole face glows. Fuck it. I slide my arms around her waist, and I draw her to my chest, her warm body makes my c*ck throb. She lets out an audible sigh, but Connor and Rose are lost in their own intellectual world.

Rose waits for Connor to pass the box, but he’s not going to let her have the pizza so easily. I sometimes forget that he’s willing to test her as much as she does him.

“You broke the vase, didn’t you?” He must have seen the crumpled white roses by the gate. If he’s hurt by the fact, I can’t tell. Rose and other genius-types must be the only ones able to read him.

“What? No, I…” She glances over her shoulder by the sink—where she had previously set the vase. But it’s no longer there thanks to her “best” friend. Her gaze drifts to the cupboard with the sliding trash bin.

Connor follows her eyes, and he opens the cupboard and lifts out the expensive crystal, a fissure running through the side. Cracked, broken. He sets it by the sink and then passes her the pizza.

“I didn’t do that,” Rose immediately says. Her eyes light with fire. “I’m going to kill him.” I’ve heard her say that about Sebastian too many times to take the threat seriously.

“Sebastian?” Connor wonders.

Rose nods tersely. She puts the pizza down, no longer interested in eating, and she inspects the vase with delicate hands. Her shoulders drop. He comes behind her and whispers in her ear. When his voice grows, I catch the syllables, but I don’t understand the words.

He’s speaking to her in French.

She answers back in the foreign language, fluent. He kisses her head, and then she spins around and kisses his lips, standing on the tips of her toes.

Lily turns to face me at this, and her eyes grow wide and eager. I want to, Lil. God, do I want to. Now’s the best time to talk to Rose. Even if it’ll break her moment with her boyfriend, it’ll save me from rejecting Lily again.

“Rose,” I say.

She drops to her feet, but Conner keeps his hand tangled in her hair, intoxicated by Rose’s commanding movements. She possesses him, but he’s equally as possessive of her, which I still find strange. I thought for sure Rose would devour any man she touched, but they have this symbiotic relationship instead of the parasitic one I share with Lily.

“Yes?” she asks.

My throat swells at the thought of asking her for help. Even as the words rest on my tongue, saying them is so f**king hard. So I turn to Connor. “Have you heard anything from the private investigator?”

“He’s working on tracing the messages. We’ll see if we can find any leads.” After the wave of texts in the car, that’s not exactly the news I wanted to hear. I don’t like waiting around. I only have patience where Lily is concerned. Waiting for her to choose me over a quick lay—that was hard, but I endured it. Waiting for this guy to rip apart our lives—that, I’m not taking so well.

“Lo,” Rose snaps. Her hand flies back to her hip. She could tell I was dodging. “Spill.”

I inhale. “As you know…” I rub the back of my neck, heat flushing my body all of a sudden. I’m not used to that. “…I don’t have a college degree, so getting a job that pays better than minimum wage is going to be a challenge.”

The silence lingers, waiting for me to continue, three sets of eyes boring into me in curiosity and hesitation. They think I’m on the verge of giving up, of throwing my hands in the air and saying I can’t do hard, physical labor. I can’t flip burgers. I can’t f**king be a normal lower-class guy who has to work for his money. I’ve never had to do that, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try. They think less of me, and I haven’t given them reason to believe otherwise.

“I’d have no problem flipping burgers,” I explain, “but I owe Ryke forty grand for rehab that I’d like to pay in a reasonable amount of time…plus, you know, rent.” I pause again, half expecting Rose to bail me out and say, you don’t have to pay rent, Lo, you’re practically family. But I forget who she is for a brief second. Maybe her little meltdown over a vase tricked me, but she stands resolute, strong, unwilling to let me take the easy road.

Good.

Still, I glare. Habit. “You’re going to make me ask, aren’t you?” I say.

She smiles icily. “Last year in the Cayman Islands, you said that not even the abominable snowman would want to f**k me.”

Lily gasps, “You did not.”

“I did.”

She punches my arm. I mock wince. Yeah, I deserved that.

Connor stays completely impassive. But he holds Rose closer, as though silently saying I’m wrong. Clearly guys with insanely high IQs want to f**k her.

I let out a deep breath. Here it goes. “I’ve already been scouted by modeling agencies before,” I explain. “You’d be an idiot not to use me in your menswear campaign.” Way to go, Loren. Call her an idiot. That’s definitely the way to land a job. Jesus Christ, no wonder you’ve never had one.

“I remember that,” Rose says stiffly.

“How come you’ve never modeled if you were scouted?” Connor asks.

“I may have walked into the interview drinking straight from a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.” I was f**king with the agency, wasting peoples’ time and mine. I didn’t really want to model. I still don’t, but it’ll be quick money. And this is a chance for me to redo my past mistakes. I can make things right.

Connor lets out a long whistle. “Impressive.”

“I think so too.”

Rose looks ready to reignite their old argument, but Connor leans in and whispers into her ear again. French. Can’t understand a f**king word. She eases considerably.

“I need a translator,” Lily whispers to me.

“Or an interpreter.” Preferably not a male interpreter. I can just picture Lily getting aroused and flushed from some French guy. Even that proposed fantasy makes me cringe. Jealousy is the one thing I don’t ever want to tear us apart. But it’s there. Festering.

Rose finally pins her eyes back on me. “Modeling is difficult,” she says, her voice much softer. “It’s not just about having a good body or a pretty face. Ask Daisy.”

“I know,” I say. “But Rose, this isn’t going to be a career for me. I just need to make enough money to pay back my debts and get on my own two feet. That’s it.” I glance at Lily for a second. “And you won’t have to mess up your schedule for Lil. I’ll be there while the other models are. It’ll be better.”

Lily holds onto the waistband of my jeans, and she says, “And what are you going to do after modeling?”

I have no idea. The fog of my future is too thick to clear. “One step at a time,” I say. She nods, understanding.

Rose mulls over my proposition for a minute. And then she says, “Fine.”

I break into a full grin.

And she adds, “But just so we have things clear, I’m doing this out of pity.”

My smile vanishes. “You could have stopped at fine.”

It’s her turn to grin. “I know.”

{ 9 }

LILY CALLOWAY

Two days pass and I still haven’t had sex. And on top of that, I welched on telling Lo about the old tests. But I plan to. I just need to…phrase it correctly so he joins my immoral side of things. And Connor has yet to find any evidence about the so-called blackmailer (or whatever he is—considering he still hasn’t asked for anything in return).

“What about Patrick Bomer?” I sit with my legs crossed on the bed, an old navy-blue Dalton Academy yearbook on my lap. Big black circles outline certain faces and on others I’ve drawn X’s…and mustaches.

I raise my head and catch Lo’s frown through the circular mirror mounted above our dresser. He spent a solid twenty minutes dressing this morning and another ten minutes on his hair. It’s his first job at Calloway Couture. Hell, it’s his first job ever, and he’s freaking out about it.

“Why would Patrick hate me?” he asks, disheveling the thicker pieces of his hair on purpose.

“You won first place in our art class’s end-of-the-year projects.” Lo took a five minute video of a plastic bag blowing in the wind, which was beyond boring and beyond unoriginal, seeing as how American Beauty did it first.

He turns to look at me. “What? That’s not my fault. My project was damn good.”

“The entire class fell asleep,” I remind him. And Patrick made a bronze sculpture of Apollo, but it was hardly appreciated by Mr. Adams.

“So he should be pissed at the teacher, not me.”

I don’t refute because he’s right. Teachers gave Lo special treatment, even so much as awarding his crappy video the highest prize because he’s a Hale. Because his father is a multi-billionaire with connections so intricate that a spider would be jealous of the web Jonathan Hale weaves.

I glance at my computer screen on the bed. “Maybe he’s not angry anymore,” I add. “He’s at Carnegie Mellon for art now.”

“How do you know that?”

“Facebook.”

Lo groans. “Please tell me you didn’t sign up.” We’ve had an anti-social media rule since high school. We like privacy too much to waste it away on cyberspace.


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