He nods. “That’s fine.”
She starts fixing up our orders, and I squeak out, “I actually don’t drink.”
His face drops. “You don’t drink?” The disbelief makes me question my normality. I guess a sober body in a club is hard to come by. “So…” He scratches his stubbly cheek. “You’re sober right now?”
I think I just died a second time. He thinks I’m a weirdo for having sober sex in a nightclub. My neck is turning violent red, and I want to stick my head in a hole. Or an ice bucket. “I drink,” I mumble under my breath. “Just not tonight. I’m driving.”
The bartender sets the blue cocktail on a napkin, and Dillon pushes it towards me. “Go ahead. You can always get a cab.” Ulterior motives glimmer in his eyes. He’s imagining what I’ll do drunk, considering I wasn’t too prudish sober. But that was before. And this is now—when my hunger to get laid has diminished considerably. At least with him.
“She doesn’t want it,” Lo snaps, clenching his fifth beer so tightly I think it might shatter.
“I thought you told me I could ‘have at her,’” Dillon says, using air quotes for effect.
“That was before you started f**king with my ride home. I need her sober, so go find another girl to buy blue volcanoes.”
“Blue lagoon,” I correct him.
“Whatever,” Lo says into his swig of beer.
Dillon’s eyes darken. “She has a mouth. Let her speak for herself.”
Wow, this took a turn.
Lo turns his body towards Dillon for the first time. “I bet you know all about that mouth, right?”
“Ohmygod,” I mutter unintelligibly.
“Hey, don’t f**king talk about her like that,” Dillon tries to defend my honor.
What is going on?!
Lo raises his brows. “So now you’re suddenly chivalrous, coming to her defense? You banged her in the bathroom. Don’t act like you’re the good guy in this situation.”
“Stop, Lo.” I shoot him a warning look that may be lost beneath my flushed cheeks. If he starts a fight, I’ll be barred from the club.
“Yeah, Lo…stop,” Dillon says in challenge. My face is so hot I think my skin might have second degree burns. Lo stares at Dillon for a long moment, unblinking.
“I’m not drunk enough for this shit,” Lo announces. He rises from the stool and closes out his bar tab quickly. While I wait, Dillon clasps my wrist and I try to peel away.
“Can I have your number?” he asks.
Lo tucks his wallet in his back pocket. “She doesn’t know how to say no. So I’m going to do it for her.” Thank you. But instead of actually saying anything, Lo flips him off.
I don’t look at Dillon. Lo. Or any other person in The Blue Room. I speed out of the club, wanting nothing more than to evaporate from the moment and flutter into the air.
After sliding into my sporty BMW, Lo silently joins me. The car ride home stays that way except for the sound of Lo unscrewing his flask and chugging it like he’s been trapped in the Sahara desert for a week. We avoid talking or mentioning the bad night until we enter the apartment.
I throw my keys in the basket by the door, and Lo bolts for the locked liquor cabinets. My hand shakes, and I tuck a flyaway hair behind my ear. I need a release.
The familiar sounds of clinking bottles fill the kitchen. “Do you want something to drink?” Lo asks, concentrating on his concoction.
“No. I’m going to call someone to come over. If they’re still here in the morning, can you do the usual?”
He hesitates, and the bottle of bourbon freezes above his glass. “I may be passed out. I’ve been drinking shitty beer all night.” Oh. He’s about to get wasted.
“We have the luncheon in the morning,” I say, my voice strained. Few things instigate a true fight between us, but I sense one brewing.
“I know. I’ll be awake for it, but maybe not to help you. That’s all I’m saying.”
My chest heaves. “You’re the one who ruined my night. You didn’t have to come to the club with me and start an argument,” I vent. “Now I’m the one who has to suffer because you didn’t want to drink blue f**king vodka.”
“Fine, go back to the club and be annoyed by that prick all night. I did you a favor, Lily.”
Irrational anger surges through me and I push one of the stools hard. It knocks over and breaks a rung. I crawl back inside myself, instantly feeling bad about hurting a piece of furniture.
“Whoa,” Lo snaps. “Don’t Hulk Smash the apartment.”
His addiction is screwing with my addiction. Alcohol trumps sex is this place, and that kills me. Or at least the part of me that needs a good lay, preferably one that lasts longer than five minutes.
I stare at the broken stool and feel so dumb. I squat and right it up. Mood swings. Lo understands what it’s like to turn into a needy freak, but I still can’t look him in the eyes.
“You’re a big girl, Lil,” he says after a moment of silence. I hear him stir ice into his drink. “If you want to hook up with someone then you should be the one to kick them out. I’m not stopping you from hav**g s*x.”
I don’t know why it feels like that or why his words upset me so much. I don’t move until I feel Lo stealing my newly bought phone from my pocket. I frown as he scrolls through my contacts and lands on a number for a male escort service. He dials and presses the receiver to my ear while he sips his drink.
I take the phone from him and mouth, thanks.
He shrugs noncommittally, but the muscles around his shoulders tense. Without another word, he leaves for his bedroom. My nerves settle and the anticipation begins to build.
The line clicks. “Hello, how may we be of service?”
* * *
The alarm on my phone blares for the third time, an annoying harp melody that I seriously reconsider. I wiggle from my covers, careful not to hit the male body splayed out on the other side. I shouldn’t have let him spend the night, but I lost track of time. Even though these…well, gigolos are on the clock, excitement fills their eyes at the sight of a young client who isn’t middle-aged and obese. So sometimes they prompt the overtime, but this instance, it was my doing.
Will he want to stay for breakfast? I don’t know gigolo protocol that well or what to say or do afterwards. Usually I have Lo bang on my door and tell the guy to beat it. Much easier. The digital clock on my white nightstand glows red. Ten in the morning. I have an hour to primp and shower for lunch at the Villanova mansion.
Quickly, I toss on a T-shirt that stops at my thighs and stare at my roadblock: a well-built, thirty-something male with tattoos sprawling along his torso. His limbs are tangled in my purple sheets, passed out from all the sex. Shouldn’t he be used to it by now? You don’t see me acting like I downed a bottle of sleeping pills.
“Hey,” I say, timid. He barely stirs. Okay, Lily, get it together. If Lo believes I can do this, I surely can. Right?
I take a deep breath, battling the intense blush and nerves that threaten to rise. Please don’t start a conversation with me.
“Hey!” I shake his legs and he lets out a long, bear-like groan. Yes! The gigolo rubs his eyes and props himself on his elbow.
“Whattimeisit?” he slurs.
“Late. I need you to leave.”
He plops back on the mattress with a long whining noise. What was that? Did he just die? “Let me wake up, will you?”
“I have to be somewhere soon. You have to go.”
He squints at me, the light too penetrating for his lethargic eyes. “While you get dressed, I’ll make us some coffee. How’s that?”
“I didn’t pay you to hang around,” I say, finding some confidence. Why is this so difficult? Are my requests that unreasonable?
He shoots me an annoyed look, and I instantly feel like a bitch. I shrink back.
“Noted.” He stands to collect his jeans and button-down. Yes, he’s leaving. But then, he stops and eyes the length of my body. I go rigid. “For someone who was anything but reserved last night, you look incredibly uncomfortable right now.” He waits for me to explain.
I open my mouth and shut it, not sure what to say.
“Was the sex not up to your standards?”
I turn my head. “Can you just leave?”
“You’re embarrassed? I don’t understand…” Of course I’m embarrassed. I called a gigolo out of desperation, because it sounded nice, because I knew it would relieve something in me that ached for it. I wish I could be one of those girls who has the guts to do it because they’re exploring their sexuality, but with me, I needed him to fulfill a desire, one that does nothing but torment me. And he’s reminding me of everything I hate about myself. That I let my downstairs brain control my night. That I can’t be a normal girl and just forget about sex for one second. Just one.
“Did I hurt you?” he asks, sounding concerned now.
“No,” I say quickly. “It was great. I’m just…” lost. “…thank you.”
My words spin his features into sadness. “If I leave, you aren’t going to do anything…” He thinks I’m suicidal?
I inhale deeply. “I need you to go so I can head to a family event.”
He nods, understanding. “Okay.” He buttons the last of his shirt and adds, “You’re fantastic in bed by the way.”
“Thanks,” I mumble, stripping my sheets.
The door closes, and my muscles don’t relax like I thought they would. The conversation replays, and I feel strangely about it. He saw through me. Not many people do.
I don’t have time to wallow in a self-deprecating puddle. The luncheon starts in less than an hour. I trip over a pair of sneakers on my way to the shower. While I wash off last night, I contemplate waking Lo. I’d rather let him sleep off his drunken stupor than force him to interact with my family.
By the time I hop out of the shower and change into a mint green dress, I decide to check on Lo and make sure he’s sleeping on his side. He rarely pukes when he passes out, but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Before I retreat from my room, I scour my closet for a rare purse. To avoid my mother’s ridicule, it’s best to be as normal as possible. I find a white Chanel with a gold chain (a birthday gift from Rose) shoved beside a broken pair of heels.
I unclick the latch. My runaway phone has reappeared, which is pretty worthless considering I already transferred my number and contacts onto a new iPhone.
I scroll through the old missed calls and few text messages that were delivered before I purchased my new cell. My heart stops as I open a text from Rose. Sent about the same time she last left my apartment.
Jonathan Hale is coming to the luncheon. Tell Loren.
No, no, no. Lo maybe, possibly, could have stayed home today. I could have formed a weak “he’s sick” excuse. Ditching on my family is a minor infraction. Ditching on his father is suicide.
Hurriedly, I toss the phone on my bed and head to his bedroom with less than half an hour to get ready. We’re cutting this close.