“Can you talk to me?” he says, irritated.
“A vibrator isn’t going to help,” I say, opening my eyes.
“Why not? Are you out of batteries?”
I return the smile, even though I’m not in the mood. “It’s just…not enough.” He gives me a weird look. “It’s like keg beer.”
His nose crinkles. “Copy that.” He scans my body, and I look away from the intrusiveness of it, his gaze heating me quickly.
“I’m going to just…withstand it for tonight.”
“You could go out,” Lo suggests. “If Daisy wakes up and looks for you, I can tell her that you had…an emergency study group since you’re failing econ.”
“I don’t even believe that. It’s fine, Lo.”
“I’ve been a jerk, so I want to help you,” he says in a breathless tone. “And there’s only one obvious solution.”
My forehead hurts from frowning so hard. Is he really going there? Does he want to have sex with me? For real?
“We can get you wasted so you won’t care about hav**g s*x. Then you’ll pass out and Daisy will be long gone tomorrow.”
The suggestion takes me aback because it’s not what I expected or kind of wanted to hear. I would have liked him to say, sleep with me, I want to be with you, for real. Hell yes, I would have replied. Even if monogamy scares me more than anything, I would try it. For the whole purpose of having Loren Hale. I think I’ve always wanted it. With him. But I’m not so sure he feels the same. This is a letdown, but at least it’s a solution. “That’s a good idea.”
“Yeah?” Does he seem bummed out by my sudden acceptance of it? I can’t tell. “Well, good thing I know someone who’s an expert in the field of alcohol. He can set you up real nice.”
“Just tell this guy not to make me so drunk that I puke,” I warn.
“Barfing is unacceptable, got it.” We rise from the floor and reenter the bedroom, and I lose my shakiness to a smidge of excitement at something new—with him mostly. I usually don’t drink at all throughout the night. Lo’s never told me outright, but I can tell he likes me better when I’m sober. Maybe so I can drive and help him regain consciousness, but sometimes, I think it’s more than that.
I sit on the edge of his bed and cross my ankles. “Are you going to make me something that I can actually drink?”
“I think I have flavored rum somewhere. It’ll be easier going down.” He spends a few minutes concocting a very large drink, filled in an over-sized, super-wide water bottle.
“Ugh…” I hold the cold concoction. “Am I going to die?”
“There’s more Diet Fizz in there than rum, I promise.”
I take a tentative sip, and when it doesn’t burn, I take a much larger one.
His smile grows. “Good?”
“Tastes like coconut.”
“That’s the rum.” He plops on the bed beside me, and has a much smaller glass of whiskey in hand, being economic on his sips. In a matter of minutes, I down the whole drink but barely feel a thing. Maybe it hasn’t kicked in yet.
I glance at Lo. The way he watches me with rapt attention sets my whole body aflame. I just want him on me. In me. Dear God. “More,” I tell him. “Maybe I should take some shots.”
“I don’t know your limit,” he says, standing. “And the whole point of this isn’t to get you sick.” He fixes another mild drink. I can barely look at him without imagining his body on mine.
I join him by the desk and grab a shot glass. “I need something with a higher alcohol content.” Before he can protest, I pour some of his whiskey into a shot.
“A whiskey shot?” he says with raised eyebrows. “Really? You’re going to f**king gag, Lily.”
I narrow my eyes in challenge, and then throw back the liquor in my throat.
I gag. But I do manage to swallow it down without spitting it back up.
He cocks his head to the side like told you so.
I touch my neck. “That was horrible. I think my insides are burning.” I try to clear my throat.
“Now you’re just being dramatic.”
He pours me a shot of something clear and then something else and holds both of them up. “Vodka. Cranberry juice.”
I nod and drink the first and wash it down with the second. Ah, much better.
He shakes his head at me. “You done?”
I run my eyes over his abs, and the spot between my legs clenches. No, no, no. “Another.”
I barely hear him mutter, “This is stupid.” Hey, it was his idea, but I can tell he’s rethinking it. A lot. An hour later, one more drink and a few more shots, I head to the bed and the whole world sways. Whoa.
I think it’s hitting me.
I fall backwards onto the mattress. I can’t see my feet. Everything swirls, and I no longer…even a little…care about sex. Hell, I don’t think my body is capable of moving on its own accord right now.
I lie supine on the bed and stare at Lo as he shambles about the room, cleaning up spills and shutting away bottles.
“Lo…ren,” I say his name that feels funny on my tongue. “Ren…lo.” I smile stupidly.
“I’m glad you find my name as amusing as the rest of your sisters,” he says, locking the last of his cabinets. Then he sits beside me while I shut my eyes. “How do you feel?”
“Spinning,” I murmur.
“Don’t think about it,” he instructs. “You think you can crawl underneath the covers?”
Everything starts fading. And I drift into the blackness.
* * *
I don’t know what time it is. All I know is that there’s a monster rumbling in my stomach, and it wants out. I’m underneath Lo’s comforter. I don’t remember even getting here or putting my head on his pillow. Lo sleeps on the other side, facing towards me, but he keeps his hands to himself.
I debate whether I’m really sick or not. The effort to walk to the bathroom sounds strenuous and painful and way too taxing on my head and body. But I am past nauseous right now. And then my stomach contents start rising.
I have to get up.
Hurriedly, I race to the bathroom and pull open the toilet seat. Everything I drank appears in the bowl like a magic trick.
“Lily?” Lo flips on the bathroom lights. “Shit.” He runs a wash cloth underneath the faucet and then kneels behind me.
I can’t stop vomiting, but each time I do, I start to feel somewhat better.
He rubs my back and pulls strands of hair out of my face. After a few minutes, I start dry heaving, no longer actually puking anymore. He flushes the toilet and wipes my mouth for me with the cloth.
“I’m sorry,” I mumble, about to set my cheek on the toilet seat. Instead, he gently leans me into his chest, and I rest my head against him.
“Don’t apologize,” he says, sounding pained.
“Lo?” I whisper.
“Please…don’t move, okay?” The thought of standing or shifting my body at all may just send me back to the toilet.
“I won’t.” He wraps his arms around me, keeping me warm on the cold tile. We stay like that for quite some time. And I start to fall back asleep, my eyes heavy. And then I hear his voice, so soft, that I think I’ve made up the words.
“I should have just had sex with you.”
The morning sunshine burns my vision. I squint and scoot up, trying to right my world. Where am I? is the first, scary thought that I process. I take in the champagne comforter, my two legs underneath it, my hair pulled back into a nice pony, and little flashes of last night course through me.
Lo carried me from the bathroom to the bed, tucking me in and keeping my nasty hair out of my mouth. Last night, I think I snatched a bottle of whiskey right from his hands. Even as he protested, I guzzled the liquor like an idiot. I’m that kind of drunk.
I let out a tired, mortified groan. When an antagonizing voice doesn’t make fun of my bear-like noise, I frown and glance at the right side of the bed. Empty, except for an unmistakable butt print. He has a good ass. I stuff my face in the pillow and groan louder. I hate that I think that.
I try not to dwell on whatever stupid things I said or may have done while intoxicated. I rub my eyes and sit up, but a piece of paper safety-pinned to my shirt, which is actually his shirt, distracts me. He changed my clothes? I think at first. Must have puked on the other tee.
My cheeks rose as I pluck the paper off and scan it. The letter is scrawled so fast it looks half in cursive. My eyes widen in horror.
“What the hell?”
Parents are here. Get the f**k up.
What are my parents doing here? Do they know Lo and I aren’t really together? Do they think Lo’s an alcoholic? Are they going to send him to rehab?
I stand on two quaking feet and find a glass of water and four aspirin on the desk. Gratefully, I pop them and begin to search for clothes I can wear. His closet doesn’t have a wide selection, but I store a few emergency outfits just in case of the worst.
I hop into a lavender day dress that will impress my mother, considering my greasy hair will dock me a couple of points. After brushing my teeth four times, rolling a stick of deodorant on, and pinching my cheeks for natural blush, I gain the courage to leave the sanctuary of Lo’s bedroom.
I take a sharp breath, voices echoing off the hallway walls from the living room.
“Where is she, Loren? The morning is almost gone,” my mother complains. I wish he could use the “she’s ill” excuse, but for the Calloways, ill requires a hospital visit and an extended stay. Otherwise, you’re fit to enter the world of the living.
“I’ll go check on her,” Lo says, voice tight.
I step into the living room as he rises from the gray couch. “Ah, there she is,” my father exclaims with a bright smile. My mother and Daisy sit on the gray-stitched couch, both sporting pretty floral dresses. Everyone stands as I enter, as though I’m a Queen or something. But then I spot the Hermes suitcases and luggage bags leaning against the wall. They’re a matching set. Lo’s and mine.
What the hell is going on? They know, don’t they? They’re sending us away! Maybe to a far off rehabilitation center. We’ll be apart. Alone. For real.
Just as I put a shaking hand to my mouth, seconds from puking again, Lo rushes to my side and speaks. “It’s your father’s birthday weekend.”
I try to breathe. My eyebrows shoot up in surprise.
My mother fingers her pearls that choke her bony neck. “For goodness sake, Lily, I’ve been reminding you for months. We’re taking the yacht to the Bahamas to celebrate.”
I’ve never been good with dates or other peoples’ schedules. I turn to Daisy who seems to be looking everywhere but at me. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Lo’s cheekbones sharpen, his jaw clenching, and I realize I’ve missed something. Daisy clears her throat, but her eyes train on the carpet. “I knew you would have made some sort of excuse…and we all agreed…” she trials off.