Isn't She Lovely Page 45

How dare he kiss me if he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing!

He reaches down to pick up my bag and hands it to me. I snatch at it without saying thank you. I want it to be very clear which Stephanie he just kissed. It wasn’t the sweet, biddable fake Stephanie. It was the cranky, angry real Stephanie.

The one he can’t possibly be attracted to.

I tell myself to walk away with my dignity intact. Because I’m pretty sure there’s nothing he can say that I want to hear. But I hear myself asking the question anyway.

“Was that real? Or was that some sort of warped experiment that we can use in our screenplay?”

His eyes dart away from mine, and it’s pretty much all the answer I need.

“Got it,” I snap.


“Don’t call me that.” I move around him, giving him a wide berth so that there’s no chance of physical contact.

“Wait, just give me a minute, all right? I don’t know—”

“Well, figure it out, Ethan.”

I’m out the door, closing it behind me before he can say anything else that will just make it worse.

I lean against the door for a second, trying to catch my breath. To sort out my thoughts. But the only thought that comes to mind is the realization that I want to cry, which doesn’t make sense. I haven’t cried—haven’t wanted to cry—since that day I found out my mom had cancer.

And I hate that some superficial, gorgeous rich kid who’d walk away from me without a second glance was the one to make me feel desire and pain—two emotions I thought were long dead inside me.

Chapter Sixteen


If I was sort of dodging Stephanie after our too-friendly night at my cousin’s wedding, I’ve been all-out avoiding her after that kiss in the library.

A kiss that wasn’t about the game, or the movie, or anything other than the fact that I wanted her.

And she wanted me too.

At least I’m pretty sure she did. But then she totally flipped out and ran.

I don’t know what to think, or what to say to her. So I’ve been doing what any twentysomething dude with some common sense would do: I’ve been giving her a wide berth.

She seems to have had the same thought, because in the few words we have exchanged, she mentioned that she’s taken on a couple of extra shifts at the coffee shop. For my part, I’ve been spending a ridiculous amount of time at Price Holdings, considering I’m not even an official intern. I’m getting no school credit and no pay (not that I need the pay), and to be honest, I don’t know that I’m contributing much. Mostly I’ve just been shadowing my father, listening in on conference calls, observing the way he handles everyone from the staff to hotshot investors.

I keep waiting for the moment when it all freaks me out and I decide that I want to trade in my bespoke suits for hemp necklaces and linen drawstring pants and go be a tour guide in Costa Rica. In other words, I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and rebel against the expectations—and advantages—that have been heaped upon me since I was a kid.

But it hasn’t happened yet. It’s like I told Stephanie during that stupid two-truths-and-a-lie game: I really am excited about my legacy, or whatever. I may have signed up as a business major because it’s what my parents encouraged, but I’ve stayed there because I like it. I like the way numbers fit together if you work them just right. I like the way business is all about the balance between people and money.

And call me superficial, but I even like the whole modern high-rise scene that’s waiting for me.

Price Holdings fits me. Just like Olivia fit me.

Just like Stephanie, with her cargos and scowls, doesn’t.

Case in point: this morning when we exchanged a few curt words over coffee, I saw that she has some little skeleton decals on her nails. Skeletons.

Is it any wonder I’ve been hiding out at my father’s office? Why the hell didn’t I do what I’ve done every other summer and intern there officially, instead of getting some wild hair up my ass to take a film class?

Then I exit the elevator into the Price Holdings lobby and see him.

And I remember exactly why I’ve been avoiding the office.

“Ethan! Hold on a second!”

I roll my shoulders and debate exiting the lobby like I haven’t heard him. But there are enough eyes on us to make that obvious, and I must have just enough of my mother in me to care what people think.

So instead I turn and face the man who’s boning my mother.

But I don’t smile at him the way I would have a couple of months ago. At one time he was like a second father. Now he’s only the man who’s trying to replace my father.


He extends a hand, giving it the old man-to-man pump. “I haven’t seen you in weeks, son. Your dad tells me you’ve been busy with a summer school class?”

“Just sort of a fun elective course,” I hear myself mutter. I hate myself for not having the balls to tell him that I’ve been trying to avoid him. And his son.

But then, perhaps the fact that I’m doing just that is the proof that I don’t have balls.

“And a new girlfriend, I hear,” he says, keeping his voice low, as though we’re co-conspirators. I want to punch him.

“How’s Michael?” I ask instead.

Mike senior blinks, a little surprised that I’d be asking about his only son. Not so long ago, he’d probably have been asking me how Michael was. Back when Michael and I were inseparable.

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