Authors: Rachel Hollis
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Humor & Satire, #Humorous, #Literary, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction, #General Humor, #Literary Fiction, #Humor, #Romance
“But did you find a place?” Charlie attempts to steer the conversation back to more suitable topics.
Malin smiles happily. “We sure did. You’re looking at future residents of Culver City. Try to control your jealousy.”
“Culver City is great,” I tell them both.
“And it’s safe,” Taylor adds.
“Yes, whatever you do, don’t consider anything so distasteful as Hollywood,” Max adds with fake disgust.
Her parents still haven’t gotten over her living east of La Brea.
“Wait, you two are moving in together?” Liam asks.
So far he’s been sipping a beer and only observing, a rarity for him since he’s usually carrying the conversation.
Malin and Casidee share a confused look.
“We are,” Malin tells him.
“So Landon lives with Max. Landon dates Brody, Max’s brother. Then Max dates Taylor, Landon’s friend. Now our little sister and Taylor’s little sister are becoming roommates. Have I got that right?”
The girls nod and grin.
Liam lifts a finger from his beer bottle and uses it to point at everyone in the room. “This whole group is getting a little incestuous, if you ask me.” His eyes find mine for a single second before he continues. “I’m just going to tell you right now, Tosh, I am in no way interested in being your life partner, no matter how much you look like Jesus in human form.”
Everyone laughs, but I have to force the sound from my lips. At the mention of his name, Malin realizes she hasn’t met Tosh yet and greets him with the same hug she greets everyone else with. She must get that from her mom. When it’s my turn I go through the motions of filling my plate up, but the implication in Liam’s look makes me uncomfortable. He played it off as humor, but I feel like the declaration was for me.
you have on that taco?”
I’ve been moving so slowly down the buffet line that Liam and I are the only ones left in the kitchen. I look down at my plate along with him. The tortilla is barely visible around the heap of toppings. I’ve never met a taco ingredient I didn’t like.
“Was that little announcement for me?” I ask the pile on my plate.
His sigh brings my gaze up to his stormy blue eyes.
“You’re not very good at this, you know. You’re not supposed to ask me things like that. It just confirms why I need to make that comment in the first place.”
I look away from him.
“Was it a warning?”
“Just a statement of fact. I can see what you’re hoping for every time you look at me. I worry that everyone else can see it too.”
I shrug helplessly.
“So what if they do?”
His sigh is louder this time. I can actually see him trying to think of something to put me off. “I’m dating someone.”
I’m mostly sure my flinch isn’t as pronounced as it feels. It’s like when Kate Daniels finally lets herself love the Beast Lord, Curran, and she makes him dinner, but he never shows up, even though he promised he would. She’s devastated, because she doesn’t know that he was actually being attacked by shape-shifters, but when she sees him again, she pretends to be totally unfazed.
Yeah, just like that.
I force myself to face him and to sound as indifferent as possible.
“You’re always dating someone, usually multiple women at once. This isn’t news.”
His eyes narrow. “Don’t pretend to be indifferent to my lifestyle, Miko. I know you’re not the kind of woman who dates casually.”
I’m fairly certain it will always come back to this with him. He’s selling any relationship short by not even giving it a chance. More than that, he’s selling himself short. How does he know he wouldn’t like a relationship if he’s never actually had one? And even if I hate that he’s using it to create another barrier between us, he’s right about the way I feel. I hate his lifestyle. Over the last year I’ve seen him with too many women to count. It wouldn’t be as terrible if I thought he was looking for forever. But what he has in mind is fleeting, the absolute opposite of what I believe in.
I believe in love and monogamy. I believe in the way Brody plays with Landon’s fingers when he thinks no one is watching or the way Taylor can’t seem to stop kissing that same spot behind Max’s ear. I believe in a lifetime of love like that of my parents, who I still find slow-dancing in the kitchen to Nat King Cole when I visit home. I believe in all of that, and I want it from Liam so badly that it makes me feel frantic. But I also believe he’s convinced himself not to want any of those things. For whatever reason, he’s blindly averse to the idea of a committed relationship, and I don’t stand a chance with him if he thinks that’s what I’m looking for.
“You don’t know anything at all about the kind of woman I am.” I let the lie fall right out of my mouth. Because of course it’s a lie. He does know what I want; he can see it in my eyes.
He opens his mouth to respond, but Max interrupts.
“What are you guys doing?”
My gaze flies to hers across the room and then back down to our full plates. How long have we been in here? I screw up some courage and actually sound pretty convincing when I smile and head towards her.
“Oh, Liam was just regaling me with stories of his latest conquests.”
She looks surprised. “No wonder you’ve been in here all this time.” She smiles. “That’s a long list.”
“Yep,” I agree. “And growing longer by the second.”
I throw a wink over my shoulder and don’t wait around to see his reaction.
See, all I have to do is keep up the pretense that I’m totally chill about this whole thing. All I have to do is act mature and worldly so he takes a chance on us. If he’d just take a chance, then I know he’d eventually fall for me. It took Bella ages to convince Edward to let down his guard. Why should my own love story be any different?
“I’m not falling for this,” Liam says a couple of hours later as he swings the passenger-side door to his Mercedes open for me to get inside. I stumble but catch myself in time—mature and worldly, remember? I stop short of getting into his car and turn to flash him a smile.
“Fall for what?” I ask innocently.
He shakes his head in exasperation even as a small smile plays across his lips.
“You’re a terrible actress.”
I acknowledge that this is probably true by sinking down into the leather seat. He gets into the driver’s side and pulls his obnoxiously expensive car out onto the road. I stretch my legs out into the line of heat wafting out from the vent and wiggle my toes in my boots.
“Do you mind if I put my feet on your seat? I’ll keep my socks on.”
He looks startled, as if I’d asked if I could take off my clothes instead of my shoes. I’m guessing worldly and mature women don’t ask to sit crisscross applesauce on men’s butter-soft Italian leather seats. I must remember this.
“No, go ahead,” he says warily.
I slip out of my boots and wiggle my toes in freedom.
He eyes my brightly colored Avengers socks. “You have a thing for superheroes?” he asks.
“I have a thing for Stan Lee.”
I cross my legs in the seat and cover them nearly to the knees with the billowy skirt of my dress. It’s a twenty-minute drive to Santa Monica. I figure I should at least be comfortable.
“It’s actually kind of incredible.”
His arm muscles move and stretch underneath the sleeve of his shirt as he shifts the car into one gear after another.
“What’s incredible?” I murmur.
“The way your brother got mysteriously called into work and couldn’t give you a ride home.”
“Oh, there’s nothing mysterious about that. Tosh has a new app coming out. He works almost nonstop.”
“And everyone else?”
“What about them?”
“Everyone else couldn’t give you a ride either?”
I give him a huge smile.
“You know you’re the only one who lives on the Westside too, Liam.”
I like saying his name so much that the single word comes out a whisper. I worry about using it all of the time, so rather than sound like a deranged parrot, I save it up and use it sparingly like rations on a desert island. The only problem with this is that my emotions usually spill out with it.
“And what if I had plans?”
The demand in his question pulls me back into the moment. I look out my window at Beverly Hills sparkling just outside of the glass.
“You don’t have plans,” I answer confidently.
We come to a stop at a red light, and I can almost feel him pulling on his arrogant persona.
“Don’t assume that just because it’s late on a Sunday that I don’t have any plans to meet up with a date—”
“You meet your mother every Monday morning for breakfast.” He freezes, utterly still. “You told me, remember? How you have to get up early to drive to Santa Barbara and how she looks forward to it all week long, because you’re the only one who—”
“Don’t.” His tone has a hard edge. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I look right at him now, absolutely refusing to be denied this one truth.
“Sure I do.” I touch the scar on the back of his hand gently with my index finger. “You just wish I didn’t.”
He pushes into first gear, effectively dislodging my hand. I’ve managed to piss him off again, just like the last time. So it’s on to plan B, which is to back off. Being alone in the car with him for the next half an hour feels intimate enough. I look out the window, remembering the night he got that scar.
Liam and the leggy redhead he brought to New Year’s had been arguing for most of the night. I doubted anybody else noticed, since they weren’t sitting at our table, but I was fascinated by it. I knew he was Brody and Max’s brother, and I knew he was a big deal at Barker-Ash, because our company did so much work with them at the time. I knew his handshake was solid from our one brief introduction. I also knew that he was beautiful. That was the end of my knowledge about him, and I was intrigued enough that I couldn’t stop staring.
It was New Year’s Eve, the DJ was awesome, the club was alive with energy, and everyone around us was having fun. Everyone except for Liam and the Amazon woman. He kept having to take calls on his cell phone, and I watched her grow more and more frustrated as the night went on.
It was nearing midnight, and he’d just sat down with her again, only to have his phone ring for the millionth time. I saw him apologize to her and watched her snap enough to chew him out. Having never had any kind of public tiff, I was kind of mesmerized watching it go down, even if I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Her red hair was flying this way and that, and just when it seemed like she was really narrowing in on her central thesis, he looked down at his phone. I’m guessing it was buzzing again. She tossed out a line, something that made his eyes narrow. But just as quickly, his face cleared of all emotion and he shrugged. On his way out of the room he had his phone to his ear, but he stopped long enough to say something to the general manager, who had shown us to our seats. Jessica Rabbit got up in a huff and grabbed her bag, and when she passed him, the GM followed her out—I assumed to get her a cab.
Before I could think better of it, I was following Liam as he retreated down a long dark hallway, past the kitchen and towards the office. Because we’d done events here in the past, I knew where he was headed, and I followed him right to the door. He didn’t close it entirely. I stood outside in the shadows, straining to hear his voice over the bass that shook the walls even all the way back here.
“No, it’s OK. I wasn’t busy.” He moved back and forth like he was pacing. “Did you really? That’s wonderful,” he said patiently. For a moment he disappeared from view. He resumed his pacing with a full bottle of whiskey in his hand. He’d already had multiple cocktails tonight, and I wondered how he could remain standing. At some point he leaned against the wall near the door; in the dark, empty hallway I did the same. The conversation continued with him answering softly and gently, almost as if he were speaking to a child. I didn’t hear him hang up, but I did hear the crash when the mirror broke into a million pieces. I rushed into the room without stopping to consider what I was doing. Liam spun around wildly when he heard the door slam behind me, his bloody hand dripping onto shards of the broken whiskey bottle beneath his shoes.