Addicted for Now / Page 39

Page 39


“I’ve already talked to her.” On numerous occasions, but she keeps saying the same thing to me. “She knows that she can’t do anything with him. And…” I snap my fingers at the realization. “Ryke brought Melissa here, so he is clearly putting off the right signals.” Showing up on vacation with a girl screams “taken” and should let Daisy know not to act on her feelings, if she does have any that extend beyond a friendship.

I kind of hope we’re blowing this all out of proportion and no chemistry really exists there. Because they have to know that nothing can ever happen.

Our mother would be more than just furious if she learned that Daisy even had a crush on Ryke Meadows. For one, his age. And two, he’s the spawn of Sara Hale. After the separation between Jonathan and Sara, my parents chose a side—Team Jonathan all the way. And with our mother’s incredibly high standards, I can see her wanting something more for Daisy. Something better.

Someone as affluent as Connor Cobalt or Loren Hale. Someone that has more to offer than a trust fund inherited out of a quiet divorce and hurt feelings.

Lo tilts my chin so that I meet his eyes and come back to the present, pulled straight from my thoughts. “Then Ryke needs to stop ditching Melissa for Daisy,” Lo tells me. “I’ll have another conversation with him…when I’m not picturing tearing his head off his shoulders.” His jaw locks at another thought. “He’s older. He has to be the one to take responsibility.”

“Can you blame him though?” The words tumble out of my mouth before I can catch them. I’m so not used to defending Ryke Meadows, but being in his company for three months maybe opened me up to his ways.

My eyes widen, and Lo looks equally shocked by the words. “Explain,” he says.

“Well, it’s just…” I stumble. “Daisy is a high fashion model. She’s always around older people, and she doesn’t look sixteen. She has a career. She makes money and travels the world. Sometimes she acts her age, sure, but most of the time she’s basically twenty.” There are moments where I even feel younger than her. I’m less worldly, less cultured, and less experienced (not sexually but for everything else, sure). “I can understand how that might be confusing for someone who’s attracted to her.”

Lo presses his hands to his face, more distressed than I’ve seen him in a long while, at least in moments that don’t involve craving booze. “That word, don’t say that word.”

“What?”

“Attracted.”

Oh. “I think my fear is that the more we keep telling them to stop, the more they’ll just do it to spite us.” And what if nothing’s there but friendship and we involuntarily push them together. “…like two rebellious teenagers or something.”

He groans. “She is a teenager.” He drops his hands and lets out another breath. “This is so f**ked up.”

I smile at this and nudge his side. “Doesn’t it feel good to not be the only ones?”

He meets my gaze with a tilt of his head, and his lips try hard not to rise. “No, I like being alone on the f**ked up island with you.” He nuzzles his nose into the crook of my neck. I laugh, a sound that I didn’t think possible an hour ago, and he responds with two light kisses on my collarbone.

“So what do we do?” he asks me, intertwining his fingers with mine. I appraise our hands for a moment, trying to come up with a plan.

“Maybe…maybe we just keep them separated for the rest of the vacation. Or try to.”

“But what about when we go home? What do we do about them then?”

“How many times are they really around each other?” Daisy has school, and modeling occupies most of her time. Without her knowing about my sex addiction, she’s invited to less and less outings with our group. Sometimes I imagine telling her, but I don’t think it will improve our relationship. And that’s what I’m trying to repair.

“Then we have a plan.”

He extends his palm like we’re closing a business deal. As I go in for the shake, he drops his hand and plants a surprise kiss on my lips. It takes me aback, but it sends little happy flutters in my stomach. The kiss lasts longer than the others as he cups the back of my head and gently opens my mouth with his. I feel the brush of his tongue and more flapping fills my belly.

He edges back after a moment and I curl up in his arms. One thing is certain.

Surprise kisses are the best.

{ 26 }

LOREN HALE

Four days of pool and beach have left me a little sunburned, tan, and tired. Lily and I have succeeded in separating Ryke and Daisy for the majority of the trip, at least enough where they haven’t had any opportunity to really talk.

Tonight we’re all eating at an authentic Mexican restaurant in the city. Chips and dip overflow the table, and the noise gathers by a stage, which sits close to the bar. I draw back at Daisy’s threat to make us all do karaoke later tonight. Not going to happen, even if the youngest Calloway girl can be highly persuasive. She seems to bat lashes, give us those big green puppy-dog eyes and everyone falls under her spell. The frightening part, I think she knows she has this power too.

If I was Greg Calloway, I’d have her ass on the next flight home. But I know her father: a workaholic who pours his time in business, who believes love equates to money and the luxury he can provide his family. I’ve watched Lily accept that kind of love and move on, as I’ve done in a sense. My father wasn’t always around. You don’t achieve this lifestyle without sacrificing something.

I ask Daisy what her mother thinks of her being in Cancun. Lily confirmed that she has permission, but I’d like to hear it from Daisy’s mouth.

She hasn’t touched a single chip. Her hands busy themselves with folding a paper napkin into a flower. The one downside to separating Daisy and Ryke, she seems less inclined to take bites of food without pressure from him. His persistence is useful sometimes. And I’ve tried to do the same “eat this” bit, but she gives me a look like I’m crazy for suggesting an avocado, and then she dodges me with word games that spin my head. Ryke can keep up. I can’t. My lingo is clearly meant for sex addicts, not adrenaline junkies.

“Well, you know…” Daisy starts and trails off as if I didn’t ask a question. She looks around and taps a waiter on the back. “Hey, can we get a margarita pitcher?”

He stares at her blankly, and with Ryke in the bathroom, Connor takes the lead and translates for her. Apparently, I’m the only guy who slept in Spanish class.

“Daisy,” I say. “You didn’t answer the question.”

We sit at a circular table, so it doesn’t take much strain for Daisy to turn back to me. “Oh, sorry, what was it?” she asks innocently.

“Samantha, your mother,” I say dryly, already knowing where this is headed. “She doesn’t mind you being out here all week?” Samantha’s ways have always eluded me. She digs her nails into Poppy’s daughter, Rose’s fashion line and Daisy’s modeling career but leaves Lily alone. It’s strange and something I couldn’t quite comprehend before rehab. Being around them, I’m starting to understand it even more.

Daisy is about to answer when Ryke and Melissa return from the restroom. No shame on their faces. Way less guilty than Lily and I ever were when we screwed during a meal. Melissa plops into her chair and grabs a napkin, wiping her lips.

Daisy sits between her sisters, and she basically stares straight at Melissa and Ryke across the circular table. I try to read her expression, but she stays guarded and nudges her rice with her fork.

Ryke motions to the suddenly silent table as he takes a seat beside me. “Don’t let us interrupt you,” he snaps. His eyes land on Daisy, who stares blankly at her rice, very interested in a pea that she unburies. It’s the first time Ryke has shown interest in Melissa with Daisy present. Usually Melissa just hangs all over him.

“Daisy,” I say, urging her again to answer the question. My arm slides around Lily’s shoulders beside me, and she surprisingly keeps her hands to herself. Normally she’d have me unzipped by now. Yes, even at a restaurant. Her restraint is admirable, but I can’t deny that a horrible (mostly horny) part of me wishes for it.

Daisy blinks a couple times. “Right. And no, my mom doesn’t mind. She was really happy that I could have a whole week to bond with my sisters. I just have to abide by my normal rules.” She shrugs at the last bit and claps her hands. “Should we start karaoke early?” She begins to rise from her chair, but both Lily and Rose put their hands on the frame to stop her. Rose pushes her back in.

“What are we talking about? What rules?” Melissa asks. She reaches into the basket of chips.

Lily cringes beside me, and I can see Rose’s icy demeanor turn even frostier at the topic.

Daisy eyes the chips longingly before putting on another smile. “It’s nothing.”

Ryke is slouched, leaning back on only two legs of his chair. He looks like an a**hole. “You brought it up,” he reminds her. “So clearly you want to talk about it.”

Melissa rubs his thigh, smirking now that he took her side for a change. I should feel good about it too, but for some reason, I just feel really f**king awful.

“I did bring it up,” she nods to herself. And then she shrugs. “I guess the rules are simple. You know, no getting fat. No ruining your hair. No getting too tan. And no tattoos.” Her lips twitch. “So good news is—I’m free to contract an STD.”

“Jesus Christ,” Ryke says under his breath, only loud enough for me and Melissa to hear.

“That’s not funny,” Rose tells her, “and our mother may not kill you, but I would.”

“Only joking,” Daisy says, sporting a goofy face before she turns to Lily. “How’s school?”

Bringing Lily into any conversation usually deflects attention, and it’s like watching a little perceptive mastermind at work. Daisy’s good, and I wonder who else has caught onto her tricks. Which is why I look to Connor.

He watches quietly, observing everything like some analyst ready to type the social dynamic into a spreadsheet. He probably knows more than he lets on. I wonder if he’s predicted the outcome of everything, if our lives are neatly mapped out in his head with probabilities and statistics. Then again, he didn’t figure out that Lily was a sex addict.

Regardless, I think being inside Connor Cobalt’s head would be both terrifying and strange, and yet the most expensive amusement ride there is.

Lily begins to spout off some story about a professor with a bowtie and lisp, trying to avoid any topic about Stats and her exam grades.

“…so he was old.”

“That’s not a story,” Rose tells her pointedly.

“It is. Just not a good one.”

“How are you doing in classes, grade-wise?” Connor stirs up the topic. “Sebastian is still tutoring you.” He doesn’t ask it more as confirms what everyone already knows.


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