“I can’t believe they went out for dinner,” Anna whispered from her position on my bed.
“I know. I thought it would never happen,” I whispered back, laughing. I felt almost delirious that we had the house to ourselves for the evening.
“I didn’t think it would be like this,” Anna sighed.
“It was all we could afford,” I mumbled, and we both stared at each other for a few seconds before lying back on the bed.
Anna and I were renting rooms from a family in an area called Streatham. It had been the only affordable option for us when we had decided to come and study abroad, but it certainly was a different experience.
“Why couldn’t we have been rich?” She turned and looked at me. “If Phillipa comes and asks me if I want to play tea party again, I may scream.”
“At least she doesn’t come and sleep in your room like Allison does,” I groaned, thinking of the little girl who spent as much time in my room as she did in hers.
“At least you didn’t find her lying on your bed, picking her nose.”
“You did not? Ewww,” I moaned in sympathy.
“It’s not the European experience I was looking forward to.” She laughed. “If I wanted someone else’s bodily waste in my bed, it certainly wouldn’t be a little girl’s bogeys.”
“Well, you know.” She jumped off of the bed. “I want to be woken up by a guy who can’t keep his hands off me, not by someone’s mom screaming at them to get up for school.”
“We should say something.” I yawned. “I can’t deal with being woken up every morning like that.”
“If you want to say something—”Anna made a face “—please feel free.” She laughed and walked to the door. “I’m going to take advantage of the fact that we have the house to ourselves right now.”
“Sounds like a plan.” I smiled at her and grabbed my journal from the nightstand.
“You want to watch TV?” Anna stopped at my door. “Come Dine With Me is on tonight.”
I looked up from my journal. “I thought that was on Friday nights?”
“Oh, yeah. Maybe there will be some repeats on.”
“I think I’ll skip TV tonight.” I sighed and rubbed my forehead.
“You can’t let him do this to you, Lola.” Anna walked back into the room and climbed onto the bed next to me. “He’s using his power to control you. Go to the dean or complain to Henrietta. She’ll know what to do.”
“I don’t know.” I shook my head. “I don’t want to do that. Henrietta seems like she’s enamored with him.”
“Look. You had a one-night stand. It’s not illegal. It’s not right for him to talk to you like that.” Anna’s voice was passionate and loud. “Tell him to stuff his assistantship and to take it up with the school administration if he has a problem.”
“It’s not that easy.” I looked away from her, and I knew from her groan that she understood why.
“Oh, God, Lola. You don’t like him, do you?”
“No, I don’t like him.” My voice rose. “He’s a pompous asshole.”
“Oh, Anna, I don’t know what it is, but when he looks at me, I feel like my insides are burning up and I’m going to catch on fire.”
“He was that good, huh?”
“It’s not that he’s hot. Or that he was good in bed. He’s just ... Oh, I don’t know how to explain it. He excites every part of me.”
“That’s called lust, Lola. And he’s your professor.” Anna made a face. “You could get into trouble.”
“He doesn’t seem concerned.” I shrugged.
“That’s even scarier. Why doesn’t he care?” She looked thoughtful. “We should ask Sebastian what his story is.”
“I’m not asking him about his brother. What if he asks why?” I shook my head. “No way do I want him knowing I slept with his brother.”
“Do you think he’s going to try and use his position to get you to do things?”
“Oh, Anna.” I laughed slightly, though I wasn’t really amused. “He wouldn’t have to use his position to get me to do anything. I can’t help myself when I’m around him. He’s so hot.”
“So just go for him, then.” She grinned wickedly at me. “Have a torrid affair with him.”
“He’s also an asshole.” I shook my head. “Not that makes much of a difference because it’s not really up to me. But he doesn’t want me anyways, and even if he did, it would only be for sex, because I can’t stand him.”
“You don’t like anything about him?”
“Well, he does seem intelligent and he does like art.” I sighed. “But let’s just say he’s no Prince Charming.”
“Oh, you’re still waiting for him, huh?” Anna smiled at me gently. She knew that all my life I had had a list of qualities I wanted in a man. In the man—the man who would become my Prince Charming. “He called a few hours ago. His horse broke down in the West End.”
“Tell him to hop on another horse then.” I laughed. “Tell him to forget the gentle white steed. He needs a stallion.”
“Yup. Let me call him now.” Anna grabbed my phone and pretended to make a call. “Hello, hello? Is that you, Prince Charming? Lola’s best friend Anna here. She’s waiting on you to arrive. And I’m waiting on your even handsomer cousin, Prince Even More Charming. We wanted to tell you both to get your asses off the slow white steeds and trade them in for some stallions. And don’t trot over to us. Please gallop. Crack that whip and gallop.” Anna’s voice rose dramatically as she got into the scene, and I started giggling. “We’re waiting here, kind of impatiently. My top’s about to fall off and Lola’s already on the bed waiting to welcome you.”
“I’m here! I’m here!” I fanned myself as I lay back. “Please hurry.”
“There.” Anna giggled as well. “That should do it. Both Prince Charmings should be on the way now.”
“That’s what I like to hear.”
“Do you think you’ll sleep with him again?” Anna blurted out, and I rolled my eyes.
“Are you excited for tomorrow?”
“No,” I lied.
“I can’t believe he lives in Knightsbridge. He must be rich.”
I shrugged. “I suppose.”
“I wonder if Sebastian lives with him?”
“God, I hope not.” I shuddered at the thought. “I can’t even believe that they are brothers. Sebastian is so sweet and polite, but Xavier is so rude and hateful.”
“Date Sebastian then.” Anna grinned. “That would show him. Imagine him telling you to stay away.”
“I suppose he doesn’t think I’m good enough.”
“Because you’re American?”
“No, because he thinks I’m a slut.” I stood up and stretched, letting my journal to fall to my bed. “Anyway, I don’t want to talk about him anymore. Let’s go watch TV?”
“You done writing for the night?”
“No, but I’ll finish before bed.”
“I can’t believe you’ve kept up journaling all these years.” Anna linked her arm through mine as we walked to the living room in house we were living in in Streatham. It wasn’t the most fun living with a family, but we made do.
“It helps me to process my thoughts.”
We sat on the couch, and Anna turned the TV on. I looked around the room and smiled when I looked at the radiator in the corner, and it hit me once again that we were in London.
“OMG, Anna, can you believe it? We’re finally here.”
“It’s like a dream, isn’t it?” She sat back and pulled a blanket over her legs. “I do have to admit that I miss the Florida weather, but there’s nothing like being in London in the fall.”
“I know. This is so different from Palm Bay.”
We both laughed, but then silence befell us both as we thought about what we had left behind. It was true that it had been both of our dreams to study in London—really, anywhere in Europe. We’d always wanted to explore the world, but neither of us had ever had the money. We didn’t really have it now either, but loans were our saving grace. That was why I’d applied for the assistant position.
Anna finally spoke up. “I wonder how my mom is.”
“We should get a phone card tomorrow and call.”
“How are you?” I squeezed her leg and gave her a look of concern.
“As good as I can be.” She shrugged and looked at the screen. “Now let’s see what’s on.”
“Okay.” I sat back, unsure of what to say next, so I didn’t say anything.
Anna’s father had recently lost his job and her parents were worried that they were going to lose their house. The stress had been really hard on Anna, and she had been working two jobs as well as going to school to help save the house. It had been a hard decision for her to come here, but her parents had been supportive of her coming over here with me. They knew how much she needed a break from all of the stress.
The next morning, I rang the doorbell with my heart in my mouth. I didn’t want to see Xavier again—or rather, I didn’t want to hear his insults.
“Good morning, Lola.” He opened the door and ushered me in with a gracious smile.
I looked at him in confusion. What was going on here? Why was he being nice?
“Morning, Xavier,” I replied slowly and uncertainly.
I looked around the entryway as I walked in, taking in his house with extreme curiosity. It wasn’t as I’d expected it to be. It seemed homey, with the small wooden console to the right and a coat stand next to it. There were letters on the console and some newspapers, all in a mess.
“Excuse the mess.” Xavier smiled as he noticed that I was looking at the console.
“Maid off today?”
“I don’t have a maid.”
“Oh.” I was surprised again. “What about a housekeeper?”
“No housekeeper.” He ushered me to follow him down the hallway, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t peek into any of the rooms because the doors were shut.
“You look surprised?” He smiled at me and I nodded. “This is my home, and I prefer for it to be just me. I have enough people trying to take care of me back in my country. While I’m in London, I like to live like a normal person.”
“Uh, okay.” I tried not to laugh. I had no idea what he was talking about. Like a normal person? Wow. He really did think he was something, didn’t he?
“Thank you for being on time. I find many people your age don’t seem to know how to read a clock.”
“Yeah, well, it’s my first day. I didn’t want to be late.”
“You look very chirpy this morning.”
“Chirpy?” I couldn’t resist giving him a look.
“Chirpy. Fresh. Beautiful.”
“Oh. Thanks.” I looked down and blushed.
“And this is my office.” He paused outside of a room with an open door. “I hope you don’t mind, but we’ll be working in the same room.”
“That’s fine.” Why was he being so nice?
“Have a seat and tell me about yourself.”
“What?” I yawned. “Oh, sorry about that.”
His eyes narrowed as he surveyed my face. “Late night?”
“No, not really. Not any later than usual.”
“On a date?” he asked casually.
“No.” I tried not to roll my eyes. “Sebastian hasn’t asked me out as yet.”
“Funny.” He sat back in his chair and just studied my face. “You’re a very funny girl, Lolita.”
“Like I told you, it’s Lola, and I’m not going to be doing stand up anytime soon.”
“So you like my brother?”
“Is this really how we’re going to start? Is that any of your business?” I leaned forward and stared him directly in the eyes. “I’m here to be your assistant, not your patient.”
“I like my assistants to be my friends.”
“I don’t really see that in the cards.” I lifted my nose up in the air and looked down at him. “For one, you’re my professor, and for two, you’re a pompous ass.” I bit my lower lip as I realized what I had just said. Fuck, I was going to get fired.
“You’re still mad at me because we slept together.” He stood up and walked over to me. “Stand up.”
“Stand up.” He grabbed my hands and pulled me up.
I stumbled slightly and fell against him. His arms held me against him for a few seconds before letting go of me.
“What are you doing?” I gasped as he started unbuttoning his shirt.
“You are annoyed and upset because we had sex and I’ve seen you na**d. You do not know how to act now because you are immature and unsure.”
“Not at all.” I glared at him as my heart raced. I could see the hair on his chest as he kept on unbuttoning his shirt, and I felt heat rising up from my belly.