I don’t judge people based on two numbers. I judge them from the inside-out.
I’ve contemplated talking to Daisy about her situation. Letting her know that as confusing as it seems, it’s merely the construct of society that’s causing her to feel lost. That, no matter how many boxes people try to put you in, as long as you know yourself, you’ll be fine in the end.
And you may have to play by their rules, put up with their labels and use their terms—I’ve done so all my life—but it’s what you believe that matters most.
But I’ll never have this conversation with her. Frederick often reminds me that I am not the world’s psychiatrist. I can see through people, but I have to choose who and what I want to fix. Daisy is smart enough to get there on her own. She just needs some time.
Forbidding her friendships and relationships won’t solve her problems. It will just be another confusing reminder that two numbers matter more than her level of maturity. So I have to suffer being pleasant to her boyfriend.
“Word of advice,” I say casually. “If you’re going to have sleepovers in this house with your good friend, keep your orgasms to a minimum. I may not be the one to catch you next time, and it sounds like you enjoy your balls.”
“So…who exactly should I avoid?” He laughs.
“Everyone but me,” I tell him.
He laughs again as if this is a joke. I don’t break my even gaze and his smile falters. “Oh…” he mumbles. “Shit, that bad huh?”
“Yeah, man, that bad.” I inwardly cringe at my vocabulary, but he seems to respond better to it. His shoulders have slackened and he puts on an easy smile again. It’s almost like we’re friends.
Another one to add to my collection.
How f**king sick is that? Frederick—oh wait, I can’t call him. The annoyance builds and builds. I just need a f**king nap apparently.
“Julian, you think I could get your number? You’re coming to the Alps with us, right?”
“Yeah.” He recites his number for me and I categorize it in my phone. I have no intention of ever calling him, but if something happens to Daisy and she’s with him—it would be important information to have. “You think you can call Daisy back down here when you go upstairs? We were kind of in the middle of something, you know.” He gives me one of those looks that would accompany an elbow nudge to the hip.
He really is an idiot. “No,” I say flatly. “You can use your hand to finish up. She needs to make breakfast.” And something tells me she doesn’t want to touch you. I can’t look at him without wanting to slam his face in the crease of the door.
So I leave after I secure his number. I’ll just go upstairs and try not to wake Rose as I crawl into bed.
Thanks to Frederick, I can now sleep this day away.
[ 24 ]
“Did you see what happened at the airport?” Lily asks me with a big, silly grin. “Not one person even blinked in my direction. And all I had to do was wear sunglasses.” She lets out an appreciative sigh before collapsing on the bed. “I think I love France.”
I can’t help but smile. Seeing my sister happy is a special event.
Our trip to the Alps has been scheduled for a while since production wanted to film in a vacation setting. But it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. We all needed a break from the rabid paparazzi. The cabin has been rented out and stocked with wood, the climate still biting and snowy at the end of March.
3 months – Mom
3 months and Lily will be married. 3 months and I need to finish sewing the gown. After five sketches, I think I designed the perfect one, and I brought some fabrics here to start. Connor says I should just hand it over to a seamstress, but I want it to be perfect. If this is the only thing I get right for Lily—then the whole wedding is a success in my eyes. Maybe not for my mother, but for me—definitely.
Everyone unloads groceries while Lily and I scope out the beds to assign rooms. I hate to ruin her suddenly cheerful mood with wedding talk, but she’s created the perfect opportunity.
“So since you like France, you won’t mind that your wedding is in Paris.”
Lily lifts her body up on her elbows. “Does that mean that the reporters won’t film it?” The wedding is supposed to be national news, broadcasted on multiple cable networks sponsored by Global Broadcasting Association, as if Lily and Loren are royalty. GBA bought the rights to film us, against other big names like ABC, NBC, and CBS.
“I think they’ll fly out for it.”
The silence stretches longer than it should, the tension heightening. “I can change it if you’d like. You just haven’t given me any ideas or hints as to what you want.”
“I want to still be engaged in three months.”
She holds up her hands. “I know,” she exclaims with a sigh. “That’s not a choice.” She thinks for a second. “I guess Paris will be fun.” She grins. “Can we have crepes at the wedding?”
She jumps off the bed and throws her thin arms around my waist. “Thank you, Rose…” She pauses. “I’m sorry I’m making this hard for you to plan.”
“It’s okay. I like the challenge,” I lie. That’s Connor’s thing. Challenges. Games. I’d prefer my path to be an easy one.
* * *
Ryke lets out an exhausted huff as he barges through the front door, supporting my fifty pound suitcase in his arms. “What the f**k did you bring, Rose?”
“Sweaters and jackets take up more room than bathing suits,” I defend from the kitchen. Lily, Daisy, and I start stocking the wooden cupboards, and we make soup for dinner. Ben, Brett, and Savannah are still here, but they’re silently buzzing around, trying to unload their camera equipment as quickly as possible.
Savannah is the fastest, and I refrain from cheering her on, but she deserves the praise. Those steadicam contraptions are heavy. She’s already on her feet, heading to us.
Loren traipses in behind Ryke with Lily’s duffel slung over his shoulder, trekking in snow. He watches his brother struggle to keep my suitcase in his arms. Loren looks unsurprised by my over-packing, considering he’s attended many family trips with us.
“It has wheels, you know,” Loren tells him like he’s a moron.
“It’s f**king snowing,” Ryke growls.
Loren turns to me. “Don’t you already own a slav—I mean a boyfriend.” He flashes a sardonic grin.
In perfect timing, Connor walks through the doorway easily carrying my other two duffel bags without an issue. Yes, I have a problem over-packing. I need choices, and I would have gladly brought my own luggage inside but we divided up duties.
“We were just talking about you,” Loren tells Connor.
“I heard,” he says. “In terms of ownership, we’re both on equal footing…unless you’re talking about in bed.”
“I can see how she’d be bossy.”
Connor grins and slides past Loren and Ryke to drop off my bags. Loren’s brows bunch together in confusion while my neck heats.
Lily tugs my arms. “You’ve done things, haven’t you?” she asks in a whisper-hiss. “And you haven’t told me?”
Savannah edges close with her camera, her red braids against a black chunky sweater with mini pink skulls. Her goth look is actually quite cute, and she’s more apt to crack a smile than porky Brett, who only looks happy when he catches Lily doing something sexual.
He’s still my least favorite of the three-person crew.
“Maybe,” I answer Lily evasively.
At the stove, Daisy stirs the soup with a large ladle, smiling brightly until she looks up and her eyes lock on someone.
I follow her gaze and find her “boyfriend” strolling into the cabin as he texts on his phone. Tall, dark-haired, Italian, a quarter Spanish. I had a five-minute conversation with him on the plane, and it was clear Daisy didn’t hide Julian from us because he’s dumb.
He’s six years older than her.
To say that most of us were displeased would be an understatement. None of us have done the yelling bit yet. Mostly because the cameras have been heavily up in our faces during the trip, waiting for us to explode on Julian.
That’s why Scott withheld airing footage with him. They wanted that moment. And so far, no one has given it to him. Which put Scott in quite the pissy f**king mood. I am abnormally chipper because of it. I could twirl around in a dress and hold out my hand, waiting for a bird to come land on my finger. Imagine the Wicked Witch doing that dance number, and that’s pretty much me right now.
I turn to Lily. “Apparently we all keep secrets.”
“Hey,” Daisy says, knowing I was referring to her. She waves her hand at me. “I knew you’d disapprove. If production hadn’t forced me to bring him along, he’d be back in Philly.”
“I only disapprove because it’s illegal if you two hook up,” I remind her. “One year. That’s all you have to wait.”
“Back to the point,” Lily insists. “Connor said unless you’re talking about in bed. That implies you did things.”
Months ago, Lily would have crawled underneath a table to avoid discussing sex. Now she prods for details. It’s enough to break my silence. “We did some things,” I tell her in a whisper. But I know Savannah catches every word.
“Things? What things?” She grins from ear-to-ear, excited for me. I wonder if she remembers her first time, or if it was something hazy like her other sexual experiences.
“Wait, I want to hear,” Daisy tells us. She steps away from the stove and closes our little circle.
“We haven’t had sex yet, so don’t get too excited.”
“Things can be better than sex sometimes,” Lily says, poking my arm with her bony finger.
Daisy stays quiet, her gaze drifting.
“Daisy disagrees with you, Lily,” I say.
“What? No I…okay, I kind of do.” She grimaces a little as she recalls a few memories, waving her hands theatrically with each word. “They’re pretty much equal for me. Fingering, oral, sex—it all sits somewhere in the meh territory. I think I’m just not programmed to like sex. I’m like the anti-sex goddess. The opposite of Lily, you know?”
Lily turns bright red. “Ugh…” She places her hands to her hot face. “My body betrays me all the freakin’ time! I don’t know why those words embarrass me.”
“Because you’re a sex addict,” I remind her. “Stupid people make you feel like you’re a whore if you say them.” And then I turn on Daisy. “And that’s ridiculous.”
Daisy is all smiles but I see her fear—that she really isn’t ever going to have a proper f**king orgasm.
“You can orgasm,” I tell her. “You just have to find the right person.” I thought she had reached that peak with a guy before, but she explained to Lily and me what happened, and it did not sound like an orgasm. It sounded more like she settled with what was given, which was nothing much at all.
“And what if there is no right person for me?” she asks seriously. And then she plays it cool, shrugging. “I mean, I have no problem being a casual dater, a single lady for life. You were going to do that before you met, Connor, weren’t you?”
“Yes, but I never had a problem pleasing myself.”
Daisy has said on numerous occasions that she can’t orgasm from masturb**ion, no matter how hard she tries. The only thing I can think of is that she’s doing it wrong. I even found a book that literally shows her how to touch herself—and she still said nothing happened.
Lily’s eyes widen at me like you’re making her feel bad.
Oops. Tact. I lose it sometimes. “You’ll find someone,” I tell her, squeezing her shoulder encouragingly. But I think I squeeze a little too hard because she winces. I let go. “…Just keep dating. And when you find a loser, ditch him quickly. Please.”
Daisy nods. “So how far did you go with Connor?”
“I thought you were going to forget about asking.”
“No way,” Daisy and Lily say in unison.
“We did things…” I remember him choking me for the first time as I hit an excruciatingly blissful peak, and then the many times after where he made me come with his fingers. Almost every night we play around, but we haven’t had sex yet. And we haven’t done anything kinkier than tying my wrists to the bedposts.
“We want details,” Lily says with wide eyes. “Like…what things?”
I feel the hot gaze of the camera. I want to keep some things private from them and many things private from the nation. “Good things,” I say evasively. I gesture my head a little at the camera, and they both catch on, starting to drop the conversation. I end it with, “He’s better than anything I imagined.” Suck on that, Scott.