Addicted for Now / Page 16

Page 16


“You don’t have to talk to them,” he reminds me.

Too late.

“I thought you said you were at your desk.”

“I am.”

“Then how come I don’t see you?”

He’s here? I can’t even crawl out from underneath my desk anymore, not even to greet Lo and Rose. Because everyone by the muffins will laugh and look at me funny for being down here. I just want to stay hidden until they all leave.

“Maybe,” I say, “because your superpower is to turn me invisible.”

He pauses. “That’s a horrible power. Take it back.”

“Okay fine. I may be here. But I’m not here on my chair,” I whisper.

And then I see a pair of ratted Vans. He bends in front of me the same way Julian did, but his face isn’t full of kind amusement. His eyes darken, and his brows harden in concern.

“Go model or try on clothes or, you know, do what you do,” I tell him. “Don’t worry about me. I’m working on something down here.”

“Like what?”

Uhhh… “A report…thing.”

“Okay,” he says, and I relax, glad that he’s letting me off the hook. “Can I have a hug before I go?”

I crawl forward a little, still blocked by the desk sides, and I wrap my arms around him. He smells good. Like mint soap and a hint of citrusy cologne. Just before I let go, Lo’s arms tighten around my waist, and he begins tugging me out of my sanctuary.

“Lo,” I whisper fiercely. I shove his chest, trying to escape and crawl back to my den.

But he brings me into the light, and I bury my face in the crook of his arm, unwilling to meet the mocking gazes of the other models. I don’t want people to look at me like I’m a weird, abnormal girl.

Lo strokes the back of my head, and his lips brush my ear. “Hey, you’re okay. Lil, no one cares.”

“I care,” I mumble.

And then he clasps my face and before I can go spastic, his lips touch mine. He kisses deeply, his tongue slipping into my mouth. My thoughts, my insecurities—they whoosh out of my head and all my built-up tension starts to tighten again.

The distraction works too well. Because when he draws back, a few of the models clap and whistle in jest. Lo shakes his head at me as my elbows blush.

“Don’t listen to them.” He rolls out my chair and guides me until I’m sitting behind my desk once more. And he hangs onto the back, his head dipping low as he meets my ear. “Just think of finishing that kiss tonight.”

I turn my head a fraction to see his sharp features, all ice. “And what if I can’t wait?”

“You can,” he assures me, but his muscles flex, worried by my sudden claim.

“You’re right,” I say. “I can.” I nod, knowing I have to. I have to wait in this chair, with my back to ten male models, and I have to finish double checking my spreadsheet. I nod again, trying to build confidence.

He kisses my temple one last time, leaving me completely aching. And every so often, my arousal turns to embarrassment and shame. I wonder if any of those models can read my sinful thoughts—or if they just think I’m a bizarre girl. I shouldn’t care about the latter, but being reminded that I’m not normal makes me feel…wrong and dirty.

After Rose assigns the models outfits, she stops by my desk. “You look flushed.”

I shrug sheepishly. What else is there to say to that?

“You don’t have to be here, Lily,” she says. “You can go home early.”

“I need to finish this.” I tap my screen. “And I want to ride home with Lo.”

“You’re uncomfortable,” she says.

I am, but I’m desperately trying to do the right thing here. I’m trying to be better. “It’s okay.”

She pats my shoulder. “If you change your mind, let me know. I won’t be upset by it.” She returns to the models, and she flocks Katie and Trish, making sure they’re doing their jobs well.

After ten minutes, I regret drinking two mochas this morning. I have the worst urge to pee, and that means spending time alone in the bathroom. And hello, I’m aroused too, and the allure of self-love is overpowering like a drug.

I cannot squirm any longer in my seat. I don’t want to attract more unnecessary attention to myself. So I stand and walk tentatively to the bathroom past both Trish and Katie’s work stations. I look over my shoulder just once, and I spot all the models pulling on sport’s coats, button-downs, collared shirts and golf shorts, all of the clothes tailored and chic.

Lo meets my gaze. He’s full of questioning. I mouth, bathroom. He nods, but he must see the need creeping over me like a cancer because his worry never disappears. But I can wait to have sex. I’ll be fine, I try to convince myself.

I shut the door behind me, and after I finish on the toilet, I touch my panties, about to raise them around my thighs. But I hesitate for one strong second. Because the place between my legs throbs so badly, and I remember the blissful feeling if I just touch once. I’ll be floating. I want that.

I shut my eyes and spend a great deal of time in a mental battle. I end up pulling on my panties, but my jeans stay around my ankles. I close the toilet lid and sit on the maroon suede covering. The bathroom smells like pine and cranberries, a glass vase of potpourri emitting the aroma.

It makes leaving ten times harder.

And then the door opens. I forgot to lock it! I internally shriek. I struggle with my jeans. “Someone’s in here!” I shout, but the body slips inside anyway.

With his back to me, Lo locks the door and then turns around, catching me frozen—with my jeans midway up my legs, with the toilet seat closed.

“I didn’t…” I start. Does he believe me?

I wouldn’t. I’ve been caught with my pants down.

It looks like I didn’t even try to wait. It looks like I gave up.

{ 10 }

LOREN HALE

I rub my lips, not sure what to make of Lily sitting on the toilet lid with her jeans halfway up her ankles. I worry about her heavy breath and the shakiness of her hands. She’s an addict who needs her next fix.

“Lo, I didn’t,” she says again.

And I believe her this time. Tears threaten to spill down her cheeks, and I rush to her before she has a major breakdown. I squat to match her height, and I place my hands on her knees. “Hey, shh.” I cup her face and rub a fallen tear with my thumb. “You’re okay.”

She shakes her head.

“Can you wait?” I ask her. “You have five more hours.”

She shudders.

I can’t watch her crumble like this. My lungs constrict, my whole chest clenching.

“You should go back,” she says. “You’re working.”

I’ve changed out of the Calloway Couture clothes, and I wear my regular black shirt and jeans. “They’re writing down the alterations for the other models. I have time.” I’m supposed to be putting on my second outfit, but Rose is preoccupied with measurements and test shots. She won’t miss me for long.

Lily stares at her hands in her lap, barely meeting my eyes. “I can wait,” she says under her breath, so meek that I don’t believe her for a second.

“Can you?” I ask.

She nods and wipes her nose with the back of her hand. I tuck her hair behind her ear, wanting so badly to pull her into my arms and to make it all better. But that’s not how this new chapter of our lives is supposed to go, is it?

“I didn’t have sex for three whole months,” she says softly. “What’s five hours?”

“This is different.”

“Why?” she asks, her chin quivering. She so badly wants to grab me. I can see it in the way her eyes flit over my body for a brief moment. She catches herself and stares back at the floor.

“Because I wasn’t there,” I tell her. “You didn’t have the opportunity to touch me. It was easier.” I imagine three months without me was like being locked in a house without booze. If there’s nothing to drink, then you’re not going to get drunk. But there are always liquor stores. The same way there are always other guys to fuck. She also had the option to touch herself, but she’s eliminated that completely. She stuck to her vows.

And I know that if I leave her like this, she’ll break one by masturbating. She can’t last five hours, and she won’t ask me to have sex with her. So she’ll be drawn to the next best thing, thinking that self-love is the right solution. She won’t cheat on me. She’ll just cheat on herself.

So while she sniffs and wipes her tears, I rack my mind for that damn blacklist with the therapist’s rules. My head is fuzzy, distracted by Lily’s constant trembling and the way her knees begin to turn inward.

“Lo,” she cries. “I think you should leave.”

My chest falls. “I’m not going anywhere.”

And before she can refute, I kiss her. I part her lips with my tongue, and she clenches my shirt, her soft moans like thank yous. Each one drives me harder, and my movements become as hungry as hers. I lift her in my arms, her legs instinctively wrapping around my waist. And I knock her back into the wall. Her voice is lost in the base of my neck, her forehead pressing to my shoulder.

“I need you,” she whispers, panicked. “Please…” The fear in her voice cuts a new scar.

“Shh, love.” I rub my hand through the back of her hair, and I nip her ear with my teeth. She shudders against me. I want her to release, but I feel like there’s no winning with this one. If I let her go, she’ll masturbate. If I f**k her, she’ll hate herself. If I make her come, she’ll still be filled with shame and guilt for not lasting five hours.

There is no right answer, no f**king break. And so each stroke against her flesh is seared with tension and a strong ache, my heart pounding like a jackhammer to cement.

And I kiss her again, my lips swelling beneath her eagerness, her insistency to push deeper, to go farther. She runs her bitten nails across my back, not sharp enough to draw blood, not even long enough to truly scratch, but she digs her fingers into my skin. She grips so fiercely, as though I am two seconds from dropping her. From saying no.

My brain clicks, and the blacklist isn’t hazy anymore. We can’t do this. I retract my lips from her, and I don’t meet her eyes.

I f**ked up.

I want to punch the wall. I want to scream. More than anything, I want to go sit at a bar and forget the road I was about to pull Lily down. What the f**k is wrong with me?

“Lo…”

I bring her to her feet, and she wobbles unsteadily. I keep a hand on her waist, but there’s considerable amount of distance between us.

“What did I do…?” Her high-pitched voice lurches my stomach.

“Nothing,” I say, tucking another piece of hair behind her ear.

“Then we can do something…” She grips my shirt again, clenching the fabric between two panicked fists.

I pry her fingers from me. “We can’t have sex here, and I can’t touch you here either.” But she can’t wait until tonight.


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