Isn't She Lovely Page 41

“Olivia was invited to the wedding?”

My fingers tighten reflexively. “Yeah. But her cousin’s getting married to some Swiss billionaire this same weekend. She’ll be at the party, though,” I say, wanting to warn her.

“This big fancy Hamptons party, yeah?” she says.

I nod and take a deep breath. “Michael will be there too.”

Her eyes search my face. “That’s why you really initiated this plan, isn’t it? Not just to get your mom off your back. But because you don’t want to go to that party alone. Not when they’ll both be there.”

I pull her closer again so I don’t have to meet her eyes. “Maybe. Honestly, I’m not sure at all anymore why I’m doing this.”

It’s a loaded statement, and I’m talking about more than just Olivia and my mother. I suspect she knows it, because her fingers tighten slightly around mine.

I’m beginning to think this is the longest song in the world, and I’m torn between wanting to pull away and not wanting it to end. I turn my head slightly, my chin brushing against her hair. It smells as good as it looks. For the life of me, I don’t know why I ever thought I preferred blondes.

Stop sniffing the girl, for God’s sake.

Stephanie shifts slightly, and the movement causes my hand, which is already low on her back, to dip lower until the tips of my fingers slide just under the fabric of her dress. We both freeze, and I order myself to move my hand. And I do, but not in the direction I should. Instead my fingers stroke just slightly, moving against the small of her back in a heated little caress.

There’s nothing indecent about the touch. It’s not like I’m palming her ass or anything, and nobody around us even notices.

But the fact that nobody notices is exactly what makes it indecent. Because I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing it for me.

I leave my hand where it is for a few heated moments in which the two of us barely move. I start to shift to safer territory, but my hand doesn’t seem to move as far as it should, and I let my pinky finger hover just beneath the fabric.

The distinction between harmless and not-so-harmless touch is infinitesimal here, but I’ve definitely crossed the line. Anyone who might dance with Stephanie would touch the exposed part of her back. But only a boyfriend’s fingers should stray beneath the fabric and linger. And mine are definitely lingering.

The song finally ends, and when we pull back, I don’t think it’s my imagination that she looks a little shaky. I should be relieved that she’s not immune to me. That I’m not alone here. But instead all I can think is, Danger!

The music starts up again, and it’s one of those poppy, girl-power type of songs that has every female on the dance floor letting out a squeal. Even Stephanie.

I find myself grinning at the sight, unable to reconcile the happily bopping party girl with the gloomy film student I met just a few weeks ago.

A couple of my other cousins swoop toward Stephanie, pulling her into the fray of dancing women as they all begin belting out the chorus, which I’m pretty sure will be in my head until the day I die.

I hold up my hands in surrender, giving her a little wink before backing off of the estrogen-dominated dance floor. She gives me a happy wave before turning her back and yelling something in my cousin Tiffany’s ear.

I shake my head, unable to figure out when she managed to make friends with the entire Price clan. There must have been some girly powwow in the bathroom that I’m thrilled to have missed.

I help myself to a piece of cake—my third of the evening, but who’s counting?—when I feel a hand on my shoulder.

I smile at my dad, who looks as relaxed and happy as I’ve ever seen him. I scan the room for my mother, but there’s no sign of her. I remember a time when my parents were glued to each other’s side. Not because they were supposed to be, but because they wanted to be. Or at least I always assumed they wanted to be. Maybe kids just see what they want to see, and I wanted to think my parents were perfectly happy together.

But even a kid wouldn’t have been able to excuse seeing my mother and Mike together. And an adult child definitely can’t.

“Having fun?” I ask as the two of us watch the female dance party.

“Always did love a good wedding. And Paige and Aaron seem happy together. A good-looking couple.”

Despite the fact that my dad’s almost as cluelessly snobbish as my mom about most things—he once said he couldn’t understand why everyone in Manhattan didn’t just get a driver so the city could get rid of the damn taxis—he’s been developing this sort of jolly-old-man persona over the past few years, at least in social settings. In the office, he’s still the business-minded tyrant I remember from my childhood.

As though reading my mind, he takes a sip of his drink—whisky soda, unless he’s been changing it up lately—and turns to face me. “You haven’t been in the office much.”

I resist the urge to sigh. “I told you, Dad. I just want one summer off. I’ll be spending my entire adulthood at Price Holdings. I don’t want to burn out before I even get started. And I drop by whenever I can.”

I hate that I sound like a whiny little boy, but I mean what I say. I really do want the family company. Someday.

But today I just want … hell, I don’t even know. I don’t remember ever having questioned my path before, but I guess my breakup with Olivia was the catalyst for everything turning upside down.

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