Isn't She Lovely Page 67

“Never?” I prod, genuinely curious. “Because Michael’s a good-looking guy.”

“So are you,” she says loyally. But it’s still not an answer to the question, and she’s not meeting my eyes. Not really.

“Olivia,” I say more softly. “Do you have feelings for Michael?”


But she says it too fast, too loud, and I’m starting to feel a little enlightened.

“Olivia …”

I don’t know why I’m prodding. Don’t even know if I really want to hear the answer. But I’ve known Olivia for so long, and there’s something not adding up. She’s not the crazy type who falls victim to her hormones. If she kissed him, regardless of who initiated, there was something there.

It would also explain the expression I saw on Michael’s face when I interrupted them. I hadn’t let myself think much about that—I was too busy being the victim.

But beneath Michael’s shock at seeing me, beyond the guilt … There was something else there when he immediately moved in front of Olivia, as though to protect her from my wrath.

There was longing.

Jesus Christ. I rub a hand on my neck. Maybe my best friend had had a thing for my girlfriend the entire time, and I’d never seen it. I wish I could say I could look back and see various hints, but the truth is, I’d never bothered to notice.

“Ethan, you have to know how sorry I am,” Olivia is saying. “I’ve hated myself every minute of every day. I know it’ll be hard for you to trust me again, but we can work toward it together, if you’ll just give me a chance—”

Her hand is flailing all around, her panicked monologue a little disarming because it’s so out of character, and I reach to grab her trembling fingers, cupping her hand in both of mine and holding it still. There’s no shock at the contact. No zip.

Olivia’s eyes meet mine and I know she realizes it too.

There was something between us once. But it’s gone now. First because of Michael, and now because of Stephanie.


I think Olivia can tell the second I really, truly put us behind me, because her green eyes go a little bit sad before softening altogether.

“Okay, Eth,” she says softly. “Okay.”

I squeeze her fingers. “You’ll be all right.”

Olivia gives a harsh little laugh. “I can’t believe you’re the one trying to comfort me when I’m the one who cheated.”

“I know how it feels to lose someone you care about.”

She’s quiet for a moment. “You’re not talking about me.”

I don’t respond. But we both know the answer.

“One last question?” she asks, stretching her hands out behind her and tilting her face to the midmorning sun.


“You’re over me. Clearly. But you are so not over Stephanie.”

I don’t even know Stephanie. “You said you had a question. That’s not a question.”

She gives me a knowing look. “You only play word games when you’re trying to dodge a point.”

“And the point would be …?”

Olivia stares back at the water, her eyes serious. “You know, when I heard from my mom—who heard it from yours—that you were seeing someone, I didn’t believe it. I mean, I believed that they believed it. And I believed that you had in fact produced some girl and slapped the label ‘girlfriend’ on her. But I had it in my head that you were doing it as a way of saving face after I’d betrayed you. Or even just as a way of keeping our matchmaking mothers away, because we know how they can be.”

She’s so dead on, I almost smile. Ironic, really, that Olivia would be the only person to know what I was up to. But it made sense. We really had known each other. Almost more like brother and sister.

“But then I got here this weekend,” she’s saying, “and I watched so carefully for the crack in your charade. I kept looking for a tiny little cue that it was all fake.”

Her eyes meet mine. “But it never came. You two … you were the real deal. You are the real deal, because I can’t believe that much has happened since last night.”

I open my mouth to tell her that she doesn’t know shit. To stay the hell out of my business.

But Olivia holds up a hand, calmly stopping me before I can argue. “Ethan, what I saw between you two … that’s worth reaching through the social bubble for.”

It’s a simple statement, but it feels like she just hit me with an anchor.

She’s right. She’s so damned right.

“Liv, I’m an idiot.”

She gives a nod of agreement. “It shouldn’t matter if she lives in a cardboard box, if you care about her—”

“I do,” I say, cutting her off.

I care so f**king much.

I’m on my feet, already turning to race after Stephanie, when on impulse I plant a brotherly kiss on Olivia’s familiar head. “You always were a freaking genius,” I tell her softly.

Although really, I should have been the one to see it. I should have known that what Stephanie and I felt together was every bit as real when we were in pastels as it was when we were naked or wearing spikes and leather. Not that I have any experience with the last of those.

What Stephanie and I had had nothing to do with that fool Pygmalion or that stupid statue, and everything to do with two people perfectly right for each other.

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