So this is what it’s like to have someone to watch over me.
Don’t get me wrong—my sister would take a bullet for me and still manage to beat the shit out of the person who fired the shot. But this is totally different.
Hotter. More Tarzan-y. More comforting. I’m this tough, handsome guy’s priority. He’ll care about me, protect me . . . like it’s his motherfucking job.
I know from Liv that Nicholas finds the constant protection stifling. But to me, it just feels . . . really nice.
A truck rumbles up the back alley.
“That’s the Danish delivery,” Marty says. “If he tries pushing squashed-to-shit pastries on us again, I’m going to have to bust some skulls.” He cracks his knuckles. “I’ll be back.”
As he goes out the back door, my friend Marlow slips through it, into the kitchen.
“Hey, bitch. You ready to go?”
“Yeah, five minutes.”
Marlow’s from a wealthy family. Her dad’s a hedge-fund manager and kind of a dick. Her mom is very beautiful and very sad, and I’ve never seen her without a glass of Pinot Grigio. They don’t send Mar to a private school, even though they can afford it, because they want her to have “grit.” Street smarts.
I don’t know if it’s the result of the public school system or if it just comes natural to her, but if I were to bet on the girl most likely to run the world? I’d put my money on Marlow.
“The front door is locked—what’s up with that?”
“Logan fixed the lock,” I tell her.
Her bright red, heart-shaped mouth smiles. “Good job, Kevin Costner. You should staple the key to Ellie’s forehead, though, or she’ll lose it.”
She has names for the other guys too and when her favorite guard, Tommy Sullivan, walks in a few minutes later, Marlow uses his. “Hello, Delicious.” She twirls her honey-colored, bouncy hair around her finger, cocking her hip and tilting her head like a vintage pinup girl.
Tommy, the fun-loving super-flirt, winks. “Hello, pretty, underage lass.” Then he nods to Logan and smiles at me. “Lo . . . Good morning, Miss Ellie.”
Marlow struts forward. “Three months, Tommy. Three months until I’m a legal adult—then I’m going to use you, abuse you and throw you away.”
The dark-haired devil grins. “That’s my idea of a good date.” Then he gestures toward the back door. “Now, are we ready for a fun day of learning?”
One of the security guys has been walking me to school ever since the public and press lost their minds over Nicholas and Olivia’s still-technically-unconfirmed relationship. They make sure no one messes with me and they drive me in the tinted, bulletproof SUV when it rains—it’s a pretty sweet deal.
I grab my ten-thousand-pound messenger bag from the corner.
“I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before. Elle—you should have a huge banger here tonight!” says Marlow.
Tommy and Logan couldn’t have synced up better if they’d practiced:
“No fucking way.”
Marlow holds up her hands, palms out. “Did I say banger?”
“Huge banger,” Tommy corrects.
“No—no fucking way. I meant, we should have a few friends over to . . . hang out. Very few. Very mature. Like . . . almost a study group.”
I toy with my necklace and say, “That actually sounds like a good idea.”
Throwing a party when your parents are away is a rite-of-high-school passage. And after this summer, Liv will most likely never be away again. It’s now or never.
“It’s a terrible idea.” Logan scowls.
He looks kinda scary when he scowls. But still hot. Possibly, hotter.
Marlow steps forward, her brass balls hanging out and proud. “You can’t stop her—that’s not your job. It’s like when the Bush twins got busted in that bar with fake IDs or Malia was snapped smoking pot at Coachella. Secret Service couldn’t stop them; they just had to make sure they didn’t get killed.”
Tommy slips his hands in his pockets, laid back even when he’s being a hardass. “We could call her sister. Even from an ocean away, I’d bet she’d stop her.”
“No!” I jump a little. “No, don’t bother Liv. I don’t want her worrying.”
“We could board up the fucking doors and windows,” Logan suggests.
’Cause that’s not overkill or anything.
I move in front of the two security guards and plead my case. “I get why you’re concerned, okay? But I have this thing—it’s like my motto. I want to suck the lemon.”
Tommy’s eyes bulge. “Suck what?”
I laugh, shaking my head. Boys are stupid.
“You know that saying, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’?—well, I want to suck the lemon dry.”
Neither of them seems particularly impressed.
“I want to live every bit of life, experience everything it has to offer, good and bad.” I lift my jeans to show my ankle—and the little lemon I’ve drawn there. “See? When I’m eighteen, I’m going to get this tattooed on for real. As a reminder to live as much and as hard and as awesome as I can—to not take anything for granted. And having my friends over tonight is part of that.”
I look back and forth between them. Tommy’s weakening—I can feel it. Logan’s still a brick wall.
“It’ll be small. And quiet—I swear. Totally controlled. And besides, you guys will be here with me. What could go wrong?”
Everything goes fucking wrong.
By ten thirty the dining room of the coffee shop is wall-to-wall people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. And I don’t know any of them. There are empty beer bottles and liquor bottles all over the tables and the kitchen smells like a weed dispensary.
How do I get myself into these situations? Why does this happen to me? And where the hell is Marlow?
A sailor pushes past me.
Yes, an actual fucking sailor—like Popeye—in full dress whites. And it’s not even Fleet Week!
“Do you see him too?” I stutter to Logan, who’s glowering so hard beside me, his face may actually freeze in place. And he’d still be sexy as hell.
“I told you this was a bad idea,” Logan growls.
I stomp my foot.
Because I am a grown-up. Almost.
“You’re not supposed to say that! You’re not supposed to say, ‘I told you so’—it’s rude!”
“I don’t give a fuck what’s rude; you need to listen to me. Do what I say from this point on, understand?”
It’s on the tip of my tongue to ask what he’ll do if I don’t. Spank me? Tie me up? Handcuff me to his side? If those are the consequences for disobeying Special Agent Sexy-Face, I’m about to become a very naughty girl.
Before I can pose the question, a crash from the kitchen pulls me out of my sultry kink-laced fantasy and back to my sucky reality.
The music is so loud, the wooden chairs are vibrating and it’s only a matter of time before a neighbor calls the cops. I’m tired and—son of a bitch—they’re eating the pies! I spot three—no, four—people standing, talking and shoveling tomorrow’s pies into their mouths with their hands. Dickheads!
“You’re right. I’m calling it. Let’s pull the plug.”
Logan’s dark brown eyes roll to the ceiling. “Finally.”
I twist my hands together, working it all out in my head. “So, maybe you could do that whistling thing with your fingers to get everyone’s attention? And I’ll stand on a chair and say, ‘Thank you all for coming. This has been great. I hope you—’”
That’s when I realize Logan’s not listening. Because he’s not standing next to me anymore. He’s over by the sound system—cutting off the music, then cupping his hands around his mouth. “Get the fuck out!”
Subtlety, thy name is not Logan St. James.
“You could help, you know.”
After the party cleared out, Logan had sent Tommy home—said he would take the night shift and one of the other guys would relieve him in the morning. That he wanted to make sure everything was “set to rights.”