Isn't She Lovely Page 72

I’m about to go over and join them when I realize that the buzz of the party has changed. It was cheerful and mellow, and now it’s hushed. I scan the group, trying to figure out what’s got everyone’s attention.

“Is he lost?” I hear someone whisper.

“I bet he has a motorcycle,” someone else says.

The crowd shifts slightly, and suddenly I see what they see.

Oh. My. God.

I’m frozen in place, my eyes taking it all in. The leather pants. The boots. A leather vest, for God’s sake. The hair is a tousled mess, and completely at odds with his pretty-boy features.

“Is that a spike in his ear?” Chris mutters. “The dude wasn’t joking around when he said he was going all out.”

His words manage to penetrate my shock. “Chris,” I say out of the corner of my mouth, “tell me you don’t know who that is. That you haven’t been in communication with him.”

“Ehhh …”

He’s slowly shifting away from me, guilty-like. I make a grab for his shirt, but he’s already blending in with the crowd, all of whom are staring at the newcomer.

But the newcomer is staring only at me.

He stops in front of me, and even though I hate him, even though he hurt me, and even though he’s barely recognizable in this ridiculous get-up, my stupid heart still gives a ridiculous flip of joy.

“Ethan,” I say, keeping my voice low. “Tell me this is a bad dream. Tell me that you didn’t seriously hunt me down in North Carolina looking like you got separated from the rest of the Hell’s Angels.”

He grins, and his smile is so familiar that I want to weep. “You like?”

“You look ridiculous.”

His eyes skim up my body, taking in the boots, the dress, the jewelry … the changes. “You look wonderful,” he says.

I fold my arms over my chest. “Careful, someone might think you’re actually interested in someone like me.”

“Stephanie, I—”

“Ethan, don’t you think I’d have answered my phone if I wanted you to find me? How did you find me?”

“Stalked your brother,” he says, not looking the least bit guilty.

I knew it.

“But if it’s any consolation, the guy totally put me through the wringer. Made me send him a reference from Jordan, and send a picture of my ID, and prove that I know you personally, which of course was as simple as saying the words ‘totally scary’—”

I put up a single finger to stop his rambling. “You have about thirty seconds to walk yourself off the property before I call my dad over and ask him to remove you.”

“I finished our screenplay,” he says, as though he didn’t hear me.

I blink a little in surprise at that. “No, I finished our screenplay. I’m emailing it to Professor Holbrook tomorrow.”

“Too late. I already handed my version in.”

I feel my jaw drop. “Tell me this isn’t part of it. Tell me it doesn’t end with Tyler showing up at Kayla’s house dressed like a Halloween character.”

“That scene’s in there. But it’s not the end.”

There’s something in his eyes then as he searches my face. It’s vulnerability.

Don’t ask him how it ends.

“How does it end?” I ask. Damn it. My voice is all breathy.

He swallows, then takes a step closer. He raises his hands as though to touch my shoulders, but drops them immediately when I shift back a step. He has the nerve to look hurt at my rejection. As though he’s not the one who shoved me away. Who walked away from me because I wasn’t wearing the right thing.

“The screenplay, Price,” I say. “How does it end?”

He starts to rub a hand across the back of his neck but stops, glancing down at his fingerless gloves. Yeah. He’s wearing some.

“After the guy spends eight hundred dollars on leather pants, you mean?”

I suck my cheeks in to stop from smiling. “Let me guess. They’re designer? From Saks?”

A corner of his mouth turns up. “Guilty. I didn’t know where else to go.”

I shake my head. “You wouldn’t. Go on. What happens after Ethan-slash-Tyler spends an obscene amount of money on clothes he’ll never wear again?”

“Well, see, turns out he’s not done swiping his credit card. Because then he has to go buy a last-minute plane ticket from JFK to Charlotte.”

I roll my tongue around in my cheek. “Business class, I assume.”

Ethan tilts his head. “I didn’t realize there was any other way to travel. Not when the private jet’s in use.”

“Okay, so our big-spending movie hero is in Charlotte because …?”

“Honestly, Kendrick, it’s like you’ve never been to the movies. He’s in Charlotte because his girl’s in Charlotte.”

“Well if she’s his girl, why is she in Charlotte?”

He takes a tiny step closer, and this time I don’t back away. “Because he was an ass. And he f**ked up. Big time.”

He doesn’t bother to lower his voice, and a quick scan behind him reveals that every single person at this party has gone perfectly still and is watching this unfold. I wonder if Ethan has any idea just how movie-like this actually is.

“And he thought the apology would go over better with a little leather?”

Ethan moves then, taking off his jacket and rolling up his sleeve to show me his biceps. “And this.”

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