As I carried her up the back staircase to my room, she never stopped torturing me. When I set her down, she looped her arms around my neck and started kissing me, open-mouthed and unrestrained, arching her body into mine. I couldn’t help responding, pul ing her up hard against me, exploring her mouth with my tongue, rediscovering the feel of her with palms and fingertips. We fel onto the bed, kicking off shoes, and I roughly dragged her on top of me.

Her skirt was bunched around her hips and my hands gripped her thighs, and she was practical y spil ing out of her deep V-neck top as she hovered over me, kissing me.

When her hand found the button fly of my jeans and tugged it open, I grabbed her wrists and choked out her name. “Dori.” She froze and looked at me, her dark, dark eyes glazed over and her lips swol en and wet. I’m getting hard now just thinking about how she looked in that moment. How I did what I did next, I have no idea. “Dori, sleep.”

She looked bewildered. “You don’t want me?” Her voice broke mid-sentence.

I groaned. “Yes, I absolutely do. But you don’t want this.” She blinked. “I don’t?”


A smal frown creased her brow. “Oh.”

Without another word, she lay down, curved against me and fel sleep. Her acquiescence was so quick I was almost insulted. I don’t know how long I lay there, wondering what kind of strung-out loser I’d turned into to refuse what she’d offered, even if she was unquestionably under the influence.

It felt irrational to let her sleep—to order her to sleep—

rather than turn her onto her back and run my hands and mouth over her until she was so hot for me she was begging me to finish what we’d started.

Once I’d suppressed the desire to coax her awake and to hel with my moral dilemma, I draped an arm over her abdomen and thought about what she’d done to me before she dozed off. Nothing we’d done was new for her… and I sensed that we hadn’t reached the limit of her experience.


I don’t know this Dori. Something happened between last night and the night I kissed her for what I thought was the last time and left her—sweet, respectable and tough as nails—standing in the middle of her parents’ sidewalk. I don’t know why she was at that club, dressed like a girl hunting for a hookup and drinking like her goal was oblivion, and I sure as shit don’t know what she was doing leaving with that guy.

Al I know is—I have to find out.

I left her alone in the bathroom, wearing a towel and an unintel igible expression. She isn’t angry and she isn’t happy. Beyond that, I can’t say. I hear her moving around, the faucet turning on and off. I think of that silky pink bra, imagine how she would have looked five minutes ago in my shower, hear the blow dryer switch on, think of her in that towel. Imagine it fal ing to the ground.


My agent sent a new batch of partial scripts a couple of days ago. Sitting on the unmade bed reminds me of last night, so I move to the club chair by the corner window and read through the scripts until I realize I’m not actual y absorbing anything I’m reading. Closing the laptop, I set it on the floor, hook my legs over one cushioned chair arm and lean back against the other. Arms folded behind my head, eyes on the bathroom door, I wait for her to emerge.


I feel strange dressing without any underwear, but at least I’m clean, and the clothes are soft and loose enough to be comfortable going without.

The cabinet Reid indicated is like a luxury beauty supply store, crammed with salon hair products, lotions, packaged toothbrushes and razors. Reid’s careful detangling left my hair in damp waves, so I blow-dry it a bit and then leave it to air-dry. I fasten and unfasten the tiny snaps on the blue over-shirt, final y settling on leaving a little of the soft white tank exposed at the top. One last look in the mirror, and then another, and then I’m doing little more than stal ing.

When I emerge from the bathroom, he speaks from across the room, calm and low, like he’s trying not to startle me. “My mom basical y has toddler feet, so her shoes won’t fit you. I sent Maya out to get you something. She’l be back soon.” He unfolds himself from the chair and moves towards me so sensual y a runway model would be jealous.

I frown. “Get me—shoes, you mean? As in b u y me shoes?”

He shrugs. “Do you feel hungry? I think you should eat something, even if you can’t stomach much yet.” He takes something, even if you can’t stomach much yet.” He takes my hand as he reaches me, as though I’m a blind girl in an unknown place, and I need to be conducted through rooms, doorways and hal s. “Let’s see if anything in the kitchen tempts you.”

As we move through the main part of the house, I’m in awe of the luxury he can’t help but take for granted.

Everything is refined and lovely, from the art on the wal s to the lighting to the cool marble floors between islands of plush rugs. There are no cracks in these wal s to camouflage with paint or plants, no worn flooring, no yard-sale furniture. The electronics are big and intimidating, speakers and components inset into wal s. He keeps my hand in his, which is good because otherwise I would probably walk into a wal or a post while gawking.

I do not belong here.

“Immaculada, just the woman I wanted to see.” We’ve entered the kitchen through paneled doors with beveled glass inserts. Stainless steel, granite and dark wood combine to make this room as stunning as the rest of the house. I snap my mouth closed and turn when I realize Reid has introduced me to someone.

“Senorita,” the woman says, her accent familiar from my side of LA. “Nice to meet you.” She’s got that middle-aged heaviness around the midsection and her hair is pul ed into a coiled braid. She’s wearing a uniform. Though she’s polite, there’s something unreceptive in her manner, and my ears grow hot because of course she must know I was here overnight.

“Yes ma’am, it’s nice to meet you, too.” I’ve never felt so out of place. Wel , no—I felt equal y out of place at the nightclub. I didn’t just step out of my comfort zone, I’ve catapulted myself from it. I want nothing more in this moment than to find it and scramble safely back in.

Immaculada leaves the room, and Reid tugs my hand and seats me at a smal table near a window. At the high back wal of the property, a man trims a flowering shrub to picture-perfect roundness—not one blossom, stem or leaf outside of the visual sphere. Another man whisks the pruned bits from the lawn and into bags, which are loaded onto a motorized cart. This is what people mean when they speak in terms of “grounds” rather than a “back yard.” Holy cow.

Toast and a smal , plain omelet are arranged on the embossed white plate in front of me, and orange juice in a heavy tumbler sits just behind the folded napkin and silverware. As Reid seats himself next to me, I swal ow nervously, unsure I can get anything down. But the juice tastes fresh-squeezed from actual oranges, the toast has been lightly buttered, and I even manage a bit of the omelet.

We eat in silence, except for the sounds of silverware on china and chewing, and I feel a little better after. Reid is clearly not the slightest bit hungover—he’s ingested three times the amount of food I had on my barely-touched plate, plus coffee, the thought of which makes my stomach turn.

The moment I wipe the soft napkin across my mouth, he pushes his plate away and folds his arms in front of it. “Are you going to tel me what happened?” he asks without preamble.

I look at him directly for the first time since I left his bathroom, and in the sunlit cheeriness of this room, his face stil takes my breath away. There are so many ways to answer his question that I don’t know where to begin. “What do you mean?”

“I worked my ass off next to a girl for a month, almost daily, and though that girl looked like the spitting image of you, she and the girl I rescued last night are poles apart. I can’t help but wonder—what occurred to cause that sort of change?”

I start to speak and have to clear my throat. “Rescued?” His expression doesn’t change, except for an almost unnoticeable tic in his jaw. “You were sloppy drunk and about to go home with some douchebag—and I’m pretty sure he was a complete stranger. I can’t say for sure what would have happened, but I have an idea none of it would have been in your best interest.”

“Oh.” My heart is hammering. I’m not a girl who wants to be saved by a boy. I have never been that girl. Even when I fel for Colin, I fel for the myth of thinking we were in love.

That we were on equal terms within that relationship. Yes, I was oh-so-aware that he was older and popular, and I was dazzled by these facts at the outset, but that wasn’t what mattered to me. The loss of that status when we ended didn’t faze me. The loss of what I thought was love, the realization that it was al a lie, was what ground my heart to a slow stop.

If what Reid says is true… but I have no reason to believe it isn’t, from the snatches of last night that I remember. I know it’s the truth. And I know that he did rescue me, simply because I’d neglected, or refused, to save myself. I feel like a child who carelessly ran across a busy street without looking—a child who’s been shaken and asked What were you thinking? I have no good answer. I wasn’t thinking last night, beyond the desire to numb myself.

“So.” His gaze is steady on mine, his voice stil low, but firm. “What’s going on?”

I force myself to think about the thing from which I spent last night trying to escape, and tears wel up for the first time in a while. He seems to stop breathing, fingers curling into his palm, but he doesn’t make a move or look away. I take a deep breath. “My sister, Deb?” He nods once, encouraging me to continue. I stare down at the cold egg and toast crumbs on my plate. “She had an accident—she fel and hit her head, and is mostly unresponsive now. She can’t walk, can’t feed herself, blinks and makes some facial gestures but never looks anyone in the eye, never speaks.

Her doctors say that any vocalizations are al involuntary, not reactive.”

A tear blinks out of my eye and lands in a splat on the plate, gets soaked up by an adjacent scrap of toast. I press the napkin to my eyes, glad the makeup from last night is gone.

“Were you—very close? I’ve never had a sibling,” he stumbles over the last word, “so I wouldn’t know what a normal degree of intimacy would be. She’s several years older, right?”

“Eight years. But we’re very close.” The effort of keeping the tears dammed inside is excruciating—my throat feels bruised, my entire neck hurts as though someone has pummeled my windpipe just under my jaw. “She’s my best friend.”

He places a hand on top of one of mine, runs the other through his hair. “Man. That sucks.” He looks at me, exhales heavily. “I’m sorry, I’m not very good at this.” My mouth turns up on one side, because somehow Reid has said the one weird, true thing no one else would think to say. “No. I think that sums it up pretty wel . Thanks.” Another uniformed housekeeper zooms into the room then, this one short and thin, so energetic that my head aches just trying to fol ow her with my eyes. “I have the sneakers and the thongs,” she says, and my face goes hot.

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