Isn't She Lovely Page 58

I don’t tell her how I feel, for fear she won’t feel the same way back.

I don’t ask her what’s going to happen when our screenplay’s done and she’s moved out, because I’m scared of the answer. Scared that what we’re experiencing now is a result of the atypical situation we’ve put each other in, and that we’re not cut out for the long haul.

But I don’t tell her good-bye, either.

Because I don’t think I can stand it.

Chapter Twenty-One


I’ve been in bed for almost an hour, and I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been staring at my phone. Lost track of how many times I’ve reread the same email.

I didn’t take my phone with me when I went down to the party, and the email came through sometime during the hours Ethan and I sat talking on the beach.

I reluctantly set my phone aside on the nightstand. I have the entire thing memorized anyway. But there’s only one line that keeps playing over and over.

Although I know it doesn’t begin to excuse what I did to you, you have to know that I would never have taken advantage of you in that way. We never slept together, Stephanie. I thought you knew that, and I’m so sorry for not making that clear.

Well, holy shit. I’m a virgin.

The rest of Caleb’s email is more or less crap. A lot of effusive apologies about how he wasn’t the one who actually put the shit in my drink, but he hadn’t “tried hard enough” to keep me from drinking it. That his friends never meant for anything to happen, just thought that I could “loosen up.”

Because that’s just the way every girl hopes to take the edge off when her mom’s dying. By completely blacking out.

He even claimed that he wasn’t the one to take my clothes off. That I’d been rambling incoherently about being too hot and had stripped off my clothes before immediately claiming to be too cold and crawling into his bed, where he’d apparently stayed watching over me the entire night.

There’s the chance, of course, that he’s lying. But I don’t think so. He may have temporarily fallen in with a rough crowd, but I remember Jordan telling me that Caleb completely cleaned up his act after my mom died. She said that he’d wanted to be there for me but that I wouldn’t let him.

Damn right I didn’t let him. I didn’t respond to a single missed call or text message, and there were dozens.

But now I’m thinking about what Ethan said earlier about trying to forgive Michael.

I don’t know that I can forgive Caleb. I just don’t. The dude is still a shit for letting his girlfriend or any girl get in that situation. He doesn’t get a freaking medal for not raping me when I was strung out on drugs.

I can’t forgive. Not yet. But I can move on.

And I know exactly whom I want to move on with.

I roll out of bed and head to the mirror, grateful that my status as Ethan’s girlfriend gives me access to one of the guest rooms with a private bath.

I stare at my reflection.

Not great.

The humidity down by the water has made my hair fuzzier than usual, to say nothing of what Ethan’s fingers did to it when he kissed me outside the bedroom door. And after I read the email I was too shell-shocked to properly take off my makeup. All in all, not a sexy look.

I quickly wash my face, debating reapplying makeup before realizing what a ridiculous idea that is at 1:00 a.m. There’s nothing I can do with the hair without washing and drying it, so I hope he’ll interpret the mess as sexpot instead of homeless.

The reality of what I’m about to do hits me as I’m brushing my teeth. I’m about to crawl into bed with Ethan Price.

And I’m pretty sure he’ll want me tonight.

But what about tomorrow?

The thought twists my stomach as I realize that despite the closeness between us this weekend, there’s been no talk about the real world. No talk of tomorrow or a few days from now.

If it were any other situation, we could just keep going as we are. Everyone thinks we’re dating anyway; nobody else needs to know that it’s only recently become real. But now we’ve trapped ourselves in the Pygmalion story. I may not be pretending anymore about my relationship with Ethan, but I am pretending to be a society girl. And I can’t keep that up forever.

The minty toothpaste does nothing to remove the bitter taste in my mouth from the very real fear that whatever Ethan feels for me has nothing to do with the Stephanie Kendrick he met and everything to do with the Stephanie Kendrick he created. He wants Steffie Wright, and I quit being that girl when I was eighteen.

Hell, the guy doesn’t even know that I used to go by Steffie, or that I adopted my mom’s maiden name, Kendrick, only as a big f**k-you to my father after he got married to Amy.

I spit and take a bracing breath, pushing my doubts aside. Ethan knows me in the way that matters. I have to believe that. He wouldn’t have held me and confided in me and kissed me if he didn’t.

Mind made up, I open the door as quietly as possible, hoping to God I correctly remember which room is Ethan’s. I always imagined “summer homes” as being cottage- or cabin-like, but this is a freaking mansion. Most of the party guests have access to their own lodging in the Hamptons (naturally), but the rest of them are staying here. Somehow I imagine they wouldn’t appreciate a booty-call-seeking college girl sneaking into their room in the middle of the night.

I pad silently down the hallway in the direction of Ethan’s room, mentally counting the doors. One, two … five … take a right.…

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