Authors: Dana Aynn Levin
After a light rain had fallen, it had turned into anot
her perfect south Florida day. It was so perfect, even my hangover was gone. The only damper was Cam and Shane’s obvious displeasure that I was hooking up with Reggie for the day.
Cam and Shane
had hit it off with a couple of Reggie’s friends and were enjoying themselves. Why wasn’t I allowed to have any fun?
The streets of South Beach were crowded with a mixture of colorful locals, flamboyant wannabees, and vacationing tourists. An occasional out-of-place businessman added a humorous touch.
Every inch of Reggie was evenly tanned making her long, blonde hair appear even paler. Her short blue shorts emphasized slender legs that went on forever. She had tied her crisp white cotton blouse above her waist revealing a flat torso. At 5’10” she didn’t need heels to approach eye-level with me. I didn’t necessarily like that.
After lunch at a
patio bistro, I held Reggie close, my arm draped around her shoulder as we made our way to a bicycle rental kiosk. Heads turned. Reggie always attracted attention.
phone vibrated in my shirt pocket. I quickly removed it. Eli was calling. Feeling guilty, I dropped my arm from Reggie’s shoulder.
ot to take this,” I said. Reggie nodded. “Hey, baby,” I said into the phone. “You’re up early.”
“It’s almost eleven, Danny.”
“Right. So what’s up?”
“I’m checking on you. Danny, y
ou sounded awful last night.”
“I did, didn’t
I glanced at Reggie smiling so beautifully.
“Much better, Eli,” I answered, but I smiled at Reggie.
“Danny, I hate when you’re drunk. I couldn’t fall asleep.”
“Why didn’t you call?”
“I wanted you to sleep it off.”
“And I did. Baby, y
ou worry too much.”
“Can’t help it.
I love you, Danny.”
Reggie had to be
uncomfortable with the words she was hearing.
“E, I should get going.
I’m on the street and it’s noisy here.”
“Okay. Remember. I’ll be at Zac’s later.
Reaching me will be difficult.”
I nodded. “Eli, have fun at the party.
Take the Porsche.”
“Seriously?” I loved the glee in her voice. “Danny, you’re the best!”
I laughed, picturing the shock her arrival would cause.
“I love you,
baby. Text me when you get home. I want to know you’re safe.”
I hung up the phone and shoved it into my pocket before
turning to Reggie. Shit! If she didn’t stomp off in a huff after listening to my end of this conversation I would rate her as the most tolerant woman I had ever met.
“Girlfriend?” she asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah.” What else was there to say? It was so painfully obvious.
“Her name is Eli?” Reggie appraised my seemingly neutral reaction.
I had avoided revealing anything personal to Reggie, so I answered carefully.
“It’s a nickname.”
Reggie looked directly at me. “She must be very pretty to be your girlfriend.”
don’t ask me these questions. But yes, she’s very pretty.”
I made an immediate decision; today would be my last spent with Reggie.
If she were asking about Eli, her fishing expedition wouldn’t end there. Reggie, knew little about me, which was just the way I wanted it. The last thing I wanted was for a fling to discover I was Steven Newman’s son.
“Don’t trust girls,” was Dad’s m
antra. At times it seemed extreme, but I listened. Dad’s implied warning was not to unintentionally father any babies. Too many girls had the goal of landing a wealthy baby daddy. Even if you wouldn’t marry them, when the DNA tests came back positive, they’d be set for life.
I might be flying solo, but I wanted everyone to see that the shy, geeky Elizabeth they remembered was dead. I was the vivacious woman Danny Newman proudly called his girlfriend.
But first I was meeting Steff and Emma for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Marina del Rey.
“Oh my god!” Emma exclaimed when the valet brought the Porsche up after our meal. “Danny gave you his car!”
“I can’t believe it!” Steff echoed. “You’re like married?”
“I’ve been telling you,” I complained. “I don’t know why it takes a car for you to believe we’re serious.”
“Because it’s Danny,” Steff answered. “He’s only LA’s most notorious playboy.”
The Hartman’s lived in Santa Monica Canyon, one of those small, rustic enclaves that only locals know about.
The roar of the turbo-charged engine preceded me to the valet stand in front of Zac’s tree-house styled home on a curvy, narrow road. Several recent arrivals stopped in anticipation. Even in this crowd, few owned a Porsche.
“Must be Newman,” someone said as I stopped the car. The “DMN” vanity plates made identification obvious. Wouldn’t they be surprised when I stepped out of the driver’s side? Already I was having fun.
Dean was standing in the driveway, smoking a cigarette, a bad habit I had hoped he’d have dropped by now.
“Elizabeth?” Dean greeted me warmly.
“Dean!” I answered, and we exchanged air kisses. I wouldn’t get any closer. Ugh, the stench of tobacco. He reeked. Did Dean realize what a turn-off that was?
“Isn’t that Newman’s most-prized possession?”
“No,” I answered and a playful smile lit my face.
“But that’s his Carerra,” Dean said with authority.
“It’s Danny’s car, but Dean, it’s not Danny’s most-prized possession.”
“Did his parents buy him a Cessna?”
“Are you kidding? Danny’s blind as a bat,” I laughed. “He could never get a pilot’s license.”
“Then what’s more important to Newman than that car? It’s all he talks about.”
I looked at Dean directly. “The girl driving the car,” I answered.
“So it’s true? You and Newman. It’s like an arranged marriage. There’s something almost incestuous about it. It’s like you’re sleeping with your brother, Elizabeth.”
“That is so gross, Dean! Disgusting, actually.”
“So, Miss Prized Possession, where is he?”
“Danny’s in Miami with his roommates.”
“He trusts you to be here alone?”
“Of course he does,” I laughed.
“Maybe we can change that.” And Dean winked.
“Huh?” I was stunned. Was Dean coming on to me? That would be a first. He’d never even looked twice at me before.
I patted Dean’s shoulder. “In your dreams,” I said, and I skated past him.
What a raucous scene! Unlike Ali’s party, this was my crowd, not Danny’s. There was close to one hundred people, most of whom I’d grown up with; a fantastic reunion of the Westside’s most elite youth.
Everyone was dancing as a celebrity DJ spun the best tunes. The bar was open and flowing. Delectable munchies from a premiere caterer were being served. I regretted having eaten dinner. I wanted to be hungry!
As the evening progressed, I was enjoying myself. Being among old friends was such fun. Every time I turned I found myself exchanging squeals and hugs. These were the people who knew me the best.
The girls hadn’t changed much since last summer’s parties.
We reminisced and brought each other up-to-date with stories of our new lives. There were few secrets in this room. Soon I knew the minutiae of everyone’s love lives. Mine intrigued the most, and the girls fawned over me, wanting to know every detail.
I was having a blast! Then Dean caught up to me.
“Elizabeth, let’s dance,” he said innocuously enough.
Before I could answer, Dean grabbed me around the waist and practically carried me out to the dance floor. He held me so close I couldn’t push away. His tobacco-scented breath mixed with beer, was stale in my face and nearly made me ill.
I did not want to dance with Dean!
Dean had always been pleasant and well mannered. He was never a close friend, but when we crossed paths we had gotten along well enough. Not tonight. It was as though demons had possessed him.
“Dean, I don’t want to dance anymore,” I protested.
The song was over and I tried disengaging. Instead, as the next song began, Dean tightened his hold on me. He moved his hand to my bottom. I resisted, trying to pull away, but he pressed me against him. Was Dean drunk? Drugs? It didn’t matter. Either way I felt violated and tried my best to wriggle free.
“Remove your hand!” I ordered.
“I’m sure you let Newman do this.”
“Is that what this is about? Danny?” I said angrily, while trying to tear his hands off my waist.
“Newman’s not here. We could have fun, Elizabeth.”
“No, Dean we cannot!” More insistent, I tried pushing away again.
There were at least fifty people in the room. Why didn’t anyone see my struggle and come to my assistance?
“Let’s find a room,” he said in a low, lascivious voice that nobody else could hear. His eyes were glowing, possessed.
“Dean, stop it! Danny will not be happy,” I threatened.
Nobody here would want to incur Daniel’s wrath. He was the alpha. Piss him off, you might as well start hanging out with the transplants, or worse, move to the Valley.
“Then don’t tell him. C’mon, Elizabeth.”
“Let go! I’m Danny’s girl.” Dean grabbed my wrist, holding my hand toward my chin. He laughed derisively and then squeezed my bottom.
“Dean!” I exclaimed. That was it! I felt the adrenaline rush and pulled my free hand back. With all my strength I unleashed my power and smacked Dean’s face.
“Ouch!” he cried, startled. “Bitch!”
Glaring, Dean released me and I raced past him.
I ran to my car without saying good-bye to anyone, not even Steff or Emma. Shaking from the confrontation, I longed for Danny’s protective arms. Dean would never have gone near me if I were with Danny.
At that moment I missed him more than I had all week. In Danny’s arms I was safe. Frustration left me fighting for air. “Danny! I need you so badly.” But I couldn’t even call him. It was too late in Miami. The phone ringing would wake Cam and Shane.
Inside the Porsche, I inserted Danny’s favorite CD and raised the volume. I felt surrounded by him. Then the floodgates opened. I sat parked, gripping the steering wheel, my head hidden against my hands while I cried my heart out.
Look what the cat dragged in!” Shane exclaimed.
isheveled from a night spent with Reggie, I straggled into the condo early the next morning. Shane was in the kitchen buttering a freshly toasted bagel as Cam was pouring coffee.
“I’ll take a cup,” I told Cam as I passed through.
The guys were a blur until I dragged myself into the bedroom and returned wearing my eyeglasses. It was a marvel that I’d found my way back to the right apartment. I hadn’t planned on sleeping out. When I woke, my dried out lenses had to be thrown away.
“Thanks,” I said on my return as I took a hot, steaming mug from Cam.
In sharp juxtaposition, my roommates were decidedly chilly. I took a seat at the counter where Shane was biting into his bagel, and I yawned. A hot shower would be very welcome after the coffee. A nap would be nice, too.
The silence in the kitchen was deafening. Had Cam and Shane had an argument?
“Danny, what the hell are you doing?” Cam’s accusation startled me.
y spit coffee back in the mug. Nobody ever talked to me that way. How dare he. And Shane looked as sour as Cam sounded.
“What are you talking about?” I shot
back. “I’m drinking coffee.”
“Did you and Elizabeth break up?” Shane asked more calmly.
“Of course not. I love Eli.” Cam and Shane knew that.
“Then why are you with Reggie?” Shane asked.
“What’s your problem Shane? I’m just having some fun. It’s called vacation!” Jeez. What was his problem?
“What about Elizabeth?” Cam pressed.
“What about her? What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” I answered crossly. “What happens in Miami stays in Miami,” I warned them with a steely stare.
“When it was a one or two night fling maybe, but you’ve been hanging around Reggie like she’s your girlfriend.”
“Cam, it’s not your business.” They were pissing me off. Nobody ever questioned me.
“Danny, it is our business,” Shane started in his calm, Zen-like demeanor, which I usually
enjoyed but right now I hated. “You’re our roommate and our friend. We care about you, and Elizabeth, too. Cam and I like her very much. She’s a great girl. We don’t want her to get hurt.”
“I would never hurt Elizabeth.”
“If Elizabeth finds out about Reggie, she’ll be devastated,” Shane said.
I pictured Eli, her head buried in a pillow crying her heart out. I shook my head to clear that vision. Eli trusted me and I had spent the break abusing that trust.
“I don’t want to hurt Elizab
eth. I love her. I miss Eli terribly.”
Cam’s laugh stung.
“If this is how you treat people you love, don’t ever love me.”
“I’m serious. Danny, you’re treating Elizabeth like crap. You’re a fool.”
was entirely out of line and he was entirely correct. No one but Elizabeth had ever challenged me like Cam and Shane were now doing. Usually my peers feared me. I was Steven Newman’s son. No one dared risk losing my friendship.
ering thought crossed my mind. If Cam and Shane felt they could criticize me, did this mean they were my only true friends? I was not ready to accept that.
“If you miss Elizabeth, what are you doing with Reggie?” Cam asked.
“Trying to forget how much I miss Elizabeth.”
bullshit, Danny,” Shane declared. “There’s nothing wrong with missing your girlfriend. Sure you’re used to getting laid every night, but is it that difficult for you to go without for two weeks? I’m sure Elizabeth isn’t cheating on you.”
“Of course she isn’t.
Eli would never do that. She loves me.”
“You are such a hypocrite, Danny.”
“Shane, ease up. I get your point. I’m an idiot who made a fool of himself.”
“Glad you realize it.”
“I’m learning. Anyway, Reggie left for Germany.”
“Good,” Cam said.
“Don’t say that. This was my doing.
Reggie’s a nice girl.”
Reggie’s poison, Danny,” Shane concurred with Cam. “Reggie knew you were taken. She heard you on the phone talking sweet to Elizabeth and it didn’t stop her.”
paused for a moment, glad to have the guys back. I smiled above the rim of my mug. “Reggie’s poison,” I agreed. “But Reggie’s the sweetest poison I ever tasted,” I smirked.