Isn't She Lovely Page 54

I take her free hand and lift it to my lips. Not because anyone’s watching. But because I want to.

“I’m glad.”

The moment is mushy as hell and out of character for both of us, but neither of us moves for several minutes, and it’s just us, the lights reflecting off the water, and some Frank Sinatra song from the band.

There’s a shift happening, and it’s crucial and dangerous, yet I want it anyway.

I kiss her hand again, letting my teeth lightly scrape her knuckles and smiling in satisfaction when she sucks in a breath.

“Don’t you dare try to seduce me on this boat, Price,” she says, plucking her hand away from mine. “Not until I get to try some of this caviar you’re always rambling on about.”

I grin, letting her lighten the mood. “You’ve never had caviar?” I say in mock affront. “What are you, an animal?”

“Well then,” she says, letting me link fingers with her, “educate me.”

And I want to. In more ways than just caviar.

But then we turn in the direction of the buffet table, and all my plans go out the window when I spot the tall blonde staring at me with wounded green eyes.

And suddenly I can’t breathe.


Chapter Nineteen


Olivia’s beautiful.

I don’t know why I didn’t expect that. Of course Ethan’s ex would be beautiful. And I don’t just mean pretty in a more-attractive-than-average type of way. She’s completely stunning. I knew she was blond, but I’d been thinking (hoping) that it’d be some fake platinum nonsense. Instead it’s this silky honey-wheat color that makes her resemble a really hot farmer’s daughter, but in a classy, sophisticated kind of way. She’s also tall and willowy, and she looks like one of those girls who’ve done ballet since the age of two.

Adding insult to injury, her eyes are startlingly green and almond-shaped, and just exotic enough to keep her from ever being the boring girl next door.

Next to her, I feel stubby, frumpy, and phony.

But that’s not why I hate her.

I hate her because of the way Ethan is looking at her. Despite his assertions just moments ago that he had no problems being at this party alone, when he’s looking at her his face says otherwise.

I was right about her being the reason he had to reinvent me. I may be the subject of this modern Pygmalion story, but she’s the motivation.

Suddenly I’m all too aware that I’m playing dress-up. That although I think I’m falling in love with him, the only reason he’s here is Olivia.

The air feels rife with pain. His. Hers. Mine. And it’s now that I realize how much I’ve come to care about Ethan. Because my pain fades to the background at the thought of him hurting.

And wasn’t this the entire point of our escapade? To help him through this?

I can’t take away his pain. But perhaps I can help his pride.

I fix a polite yet vacant smile on my face as though I have no idea who Olivia is.

“Ethan?” I ask, keeping my voice light and confused. As though he’s never told me about her, and she’s just some skinny girl blocking my way to the caviar.

My voice ends their staring contest, although it takes him a couple of extra seconds to look at me, and my heart twists just a bit, even as I keep my face the perfect picture of innocent confusion.

He blinks down at me, his familiar gold eyes so lost, I find myself squeezing his fingers in reassurance, even as I want to tell him that she is not worth it.

Ethan glances down at our linked hands as though confused as to why he’s touching me, before he finally—finally—gets his shit together.

“Right. Right. Um, Olivia, this is Stephanie.”

She tears her eyes away from Ethan long enough to give me a little ghost of a smile. I have to give her credit, because she has to hate me, but she looks polite and non-bitchy considering I’m holding the hand of a guy she’s been dating for the majority of her life.

“Hi,” she says, extending a hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Liar, I think as I shake her hand, never once letting my smile slip. For a second I consider asking how they know each other, but that seems like it might be a little over the top in the he’s-never-mentioned-you game.

Her dress is white like mine, but it’s a simple drape-necked sheath that’s completely flattering and simple and leaves me feeling like I’m wearing a cookie-cutter bridesmaid dress.

“I heard you were seeing someone,” she says softly to Ethan.


Both she and I wait for him to say something more. At this point I don’t care whether he’s using me as a flat-out set-down or simply as a polite excuse to end this awkward encounter; I just want him to do something. Something other than stand there like a guy who’s facing the love of his life.

I run my hand up his arm. “Maybe we should get some of that caviar before it’s gone, hmm?”

He turns to look at me again, his brow furrowed, and I catch Olivia as she gives a little blink of confusion.

I immediately see my mistake. Of course this type of shindig wouldn’t run out of caviar. The possibility doesn’t even cross these people’s minds. And I am not one of these people.

“Sure,” he says, giving me a smile that I’ve never seen before. It’s wooden and distant and horrible.

Oh, hell, no.

It’s clear that he wants to stay and exchange longing glances with his cheating ex, and I’ll be damned if I give either of them the impression that I’m dragging him away. I don’t need a pity escort to the caviar table.

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