Daisy groans into her hands. “I don’t want my older sister and her boyfriend breaking up with my boyfriend for me.”
“Fine. Will you break up with him?” Rose raises her eyebrows.
Daisy’s face drops.
“So let’s lay out the facts,” I interject. “Everyone in this house dislikes Julian. You dislike Julian. And I don’t like to generalize, but I’d say a very large portion of America hates Julian. But you’re still dating him because…”
“I don’t like breaking up with people,” she admits. “It’s awkward and horrible. In all my past flings, I would just stop talking to the guy and he’d kind of go away. Julian’s not like that.”
Rose snaps, “If you can’t break up with someone, you shouldn’t be dating them.
“Okay, but still…I say we reconvene this powwow in a month or two. Like, chill on it until Julian gets tired and moves on.”
Rose looks to me and her lips lift. “I think this might be on my bucket list. You and me, crushing the heart of my sister’s disgusting boyfriend.”
“Was this boyfriend on your list named Loren Hale?” I ask with a smile.
“Maybe. But we can always have an addendum.”
Daisy lets out another long groan.
“If it’s so embarrassing, next time don’t date someone you can’t break up with,” Rose refutes.
“She’s watching this, right?” I ask my girlfriend.
“What?” Daisy gawks, her eyes widening. “Noooo…” She draws out the word like she’s coming to terms with what’s about to happen.
“You’ll watch,” Rose says with a nod.
“And take notes,” I add.
Rose turns to me, her face lighting up. “Look at us. We’re already pretty good at this.”
I slide my hand into hers, joining in her excitement, maybe even more than her. I see us ten years from now. The same incredible team. Only with little versions of us running around. But her fear of motherhood is another battle for another day.
“After you,” I tell Daisy, gesturing towards the door.
“He’s here? Right now?” She blinks in a daze.
“Yes,” Rose snaps, “so reconfigure your sense of direction and make your way downstairs. Chop chop.” She snaps at her sister until Daisy springs to her feet.
“Okay, I can do this…” Daisy says brushing her hair off her shoulders. “I’ve swam with sharks before. What’s so bad about listening to my sister tear the soul out of a guy?” She cringes and gives Rose a pleading look. “Go easy on him. He’s already half-ape, Connor said so.”
I laugh when Rose glares at me. “What?” I say. “I watched him open a can of soup in the Alps by smacking it against the counter. There are tools that humans invented for such complicated tasks.”
Rose shakes her head repeatedly and then she marches towards the door. “If no one is going to move their ass, then you all can follow mine.”
“Fine with me, darling.” But I wait for Daisy to walk ahead of me. She’s the type of girl who would jump out of a three-story window for the hell of it. And we’ve just given her a reason to do so.
Daisy sighs and heads downstairs with Rose. In the living room, Julian waits for me to show up, thinking I’ve invited him over for beer—like we’re friends. He sits on the couch and flips through Rock and Ice, a mountaineering magazine that Ryke reads.
Daisy lingers by the staircase, unable to approach the couch any further. She looks like she’s about to flush a pet fish down the toilet. Ben is already sitting in one of the chairs, his camera positioned at us.
“Hey, man,” Julian says with a nod, standing up. He tosses the magazine on the table.
I don’t say a thing. I just head over to the couch. “You can take a seat.”
He frowns, but he sits on command. Rose and I choose the loveseat across from him. She crosses her ankles and rests her hands on her knees.
“Julian,” Rose says flatly. “It comes with my utmost pleasure to inform you that Daisy will no longer be seeing you, ever again.”
“What?” Julian scratches his cheek, more unshaven than I last remember.
“She’s breaking up with you,” I clarify. “Don’t call. Don’t text. Don’t show up on the doorstep expecting a quickie of any kind. You’re done.”
Julian rotates, looking over his shoulder at Daisy by the staircase. “What the fuck? Are you dumping me?”
“Hey,” Rose snaps her fingers at him, and the noise draws him back towards us. “She didn’t want to hurt your ugly little feelings.”
Julian immediately rises. “This is bullshit.” He stares at Rose’s sister. “Did they put you up to this, baby?”
She’s about to answer, but the front door suddenly swings open, banging against the wall. Rose and I stand up at the same time. Wild, angry voices pierce the room.
“I’m not being overdramatic!” Lily yells…dramatically. She carries a towering stack of magazines in her arms. Loren and Ryke push forward, past Brett and Savannah who try to squeeze through the doorway before them.
Lily rushes into the kitchen.
This doesn’t look good.
I make my way to the kitchen to deploy whatever airbags they all need to survive this crash.
Lily throws the magazines into the sink and then opens a cupboard. She pulls out a bottle of lighter fluid for the grill outside.
“Whoa!” Ryke and Lo yell in unison. They dart for her body as she squirts the liquid all over the magazines. I pry the plastic squirt bottle out of her grip, and Rose starts cleaning. She trashes all the magazines in a hefty bag before Lily has a chance to light them on fire.
Lo has Lily around the waist, and I stare at her eyes, filled with hatred and hysteria. “What’s going on?” I ask her, trying to be calm so everyone else feels reassured enough to relax.
But my tactics aren’t helping Lily right now. “People suck!” she screams, half crying on her words.
That explains nothing. I reach for one of the magazines in Rose’s hand before she tosses it. The paper is wet, and pages stick together. I don’t need to flip it open to understand the root of her anger.
The headline reads: Lily Calloway, Nymphomaniac and Reportedly Sleeping with Brothers
The photograph shows her walking down a street in Philly with Loren and Ryke on either side of her, which isn’t uncommon, especially when everyone is concerned about the girls’ safety without bodyguards.
“I don’t f**king care about the rumors.” Ryke extends his arms. “How many times do I have to say that?”
“I’m not a cheater! I don’t even like being an alleged cheater,” Lily says angrily. She points a threatening finger at the magazines. “And I hate being called a nympho!”
Nymphomania encompasses all hypersexuality, not just sex addiction. For someone like Lily, who identifies with being an addict, being labeled a nymphomaniac strengthens the debate that sex addiction is a myth.
“What do you want to do about it, Lil?” Loren asks. “Throw a tantrum in front of the cameras. Done. They’ve got your reaction on film.”
She settles down, and her face contorts in hurt. Before Lo can share in it, I speak up. “Or you could light this on fire.” I throw the magazine into Rose’s trash bag. “It might be cathartic.”
Lily’s eyes brighten at my permission.
Rose shoots me a disapproving glare. “Don’t encourage her.” She lets go of the bag and holds out her hands far away from her clothes. I can smell the lighter fluid on her from here. I’m about to help her clean up, but a loud voice overtakes all of ours.
“Are you f**king serious?!” Julian yells, his nose inches from Daisy’s. His hands rest beside her head on the wall, her back pinned against it.
She turns her face and winces, shutting her eyes tightly.
“Do you know the hell that I went through for you?!”
“HEY!” Ryke shouts, immediately sprinting over to Julian, his features darkening in a split second. Brett races beside him, whipping his camera towards an impending fight.
Rose curses and tries to turn off the faucet with her wrist, her hands dripping with water. Lo has Lily, calming her down. And as much as I want to stay and help Rose, she gives me a look that says, GO.
Crisis management #2.
The fact that we started this issue makes me want to resolve it even more. And I don’t begin running until Julian slams his fist into the wall beside Daisy’s head, screaming so loudly that veins protrude from his neck.
She flinches, and Ryke grabs Julian by the shoulder and slugs him in the jaw with a hard right hook. Julian stumbles back a couple steps before barreling into Ryke, trying to force him to the floor. But I grab Ryke and keep him upright from behind.
Ryke shakes Julian off him, and then hits him again in the face.
Julian curses and staggers back—further this time. He stops, breathing heavily as he touches his reddened eye.
He deserved a lot more than a f**king shiner for screaming in a girl’s face. I was kind of hoping Ryke would break an arm or a leg. I’m sure Rose wanted a detached penis, but we’re going to have to settle for this.
Julian looks up, his nose flaring as he glares at Daisy again. “You’re just going to f**king stand there?”
“What do you want from me?” Daisy asks.
“For you to give me back months of my life that I wasted with you, you stupid cunt.”
Instinctively, I grab Ryke by the shoulders as he tries to lunge for Julian. I hear Lo start cursing from the kitchen, about to storm over here, but Lily has climbed on his back to stop him. Rose’s heels clap towards us.
“Go f**k someone who actually likes you, Julius!” Loren yells from the kitchen. “Oh wait, that leaves no one on this planet. Better go find someone who can take you to Mars, you motherfucker!”
Ryke struggles in my grip, and he turns on me for a second. “I swear to whatever f**king weird god you believe in, Connor, if you don’t let me beat the shit out of him, I’m going to f**king punch you in the face.”
But Rose is faster than him. She has a can of pepper spray directed at Julian as a warning, and she pushes his arm. “Get out,” she says. “Or I will burn more than just your eyes.”
Julian raises his hands, the skin above his cheekbone beginning to swell. He shoots all of us one last glare as Rose opens the door and forces his body onto the brick stoop.
“Connor,” she says in a stiff voice. “I need you to lead Julian out and to tell the guards to put him on a blacklist, please.”
“Of course.” I look at Ryke. “If I release you, do not run after him.”
His muscles stay flexed. “Sure.”
He’s not convincing at all.
But then Daisy says, “Sorry guys.” Her voice cracks. We all look at her, even Rose in the doorway. Daisy clears her throat. “I should have broken up with him myself, to avoid this.” She nods and stares at the ground, her blonde hair shrouding her face.
“No,” Rose says, “I’m glad we did it—or at least tried to do it.” Rose’s cheeks redden in guilt. “It’s our fault for not finishing what we started.”
Ryke adds, “I can’t even f**king imagine you breaking up with him alone. He would have probably…” He cringes and shakes his head, pissed all over again. I picture the same thing. Julian saying, Baby, come on, don’t be like that. Don’t listen to your friends. We’re so good for each other. And if she refuted, he’d probably pin her against a wall and scream all the same.
At least we were here to lead him outside.
As I pass Rose in the doorway, my chest brushes her body, and I meet her hot gaze that warms me in a single instant. I’d very much like to be in control right now and have her look at me just like that.
My eyes flit over the length of her in a Calloway Couture black dress, short on the thighs, higher at the collar. And I whisper in her ear, “I know how I’m going to take you tonight, darling.” I skim my hand over her hip before I drop it to her ass, squeezing.
Her breath shallows, and then I walk down the stairs towards the half-ape who kicks over our trashcan.
I can practically feel Rose smiling behind me.
[ 45 ]
I steady her in my arms, maintaining my intense rhythm. Rose sits on my lap, her legs wrapped around my waist while I lean against the headboard of the bed. Even with her on top, I guide her. I make the decisions and route the path. My hands grip onto the flesh of her hips, and I buck up into her with rough exhilaration.
She moans. I think I hear my name from her muffled voice. She can’t speak, even if she wants to. I’ve shoved her panties in her mouth. And her hands have been tied behind her back with my leather belt.
I stop moving, and her head lolls like she’s been riding a rollercoaster for the past twenty minutes. And maybe she f**king has. I’ve been alternating between taking her by the waist and maneuvering her own body up and down on my cock, and then keeping her still as I thrust my own body up. My chest rises and falls, and I try desperately to ignore the throbbing sensation in my groin. But I want to play with her, not just f**k her into submission.