I ignore how my gut twists at the thought of her leaving. Better to not get attached than start liking someone, and then spend a night in a stranger’s place crying into a pillow. With that pep talk, I shove my feet into a pair of sneakers and tiptoe down the hall and over to the sectional. The waif’s asleep with one small hand tucked under a plump cheek. She looks sweet and vulnerable. My dick twitches in response. I give myself a punch in the groin and head for the gym. A smoothie awaits me when I reach the glass structure overlooking the pool. As I gulp it down, I spot my dad sweating away on the elliptical as he watches his latest fling doing laps in the Olympic-sized pool. The tiled mosaic of Neptune shimmers under the water.
“Good game last night,” he says when I step onto the treadmill next to him. “You should call your mom. She said she tried to reach you last night.”
“Haven’t seen the messages,” I reply. I turned my phone off, as I always do, before the game. I have a specific routine that I follow before the game and it does not include reading texts from my absentee mother. As for afterwards, I’m not in the mood to speak to her then either.
“Don’t want to talk about your mother, eh?” Dad says. “Then how about your guest? Ben said you had a guest last night.”
“Can your security team pay attention to what happens inside your house instead of mine?” I point to the swimmer. “She could be robbing you blind, but you wouldn’t know it because your nose is stuck in my business.”
“We’re able to multi-task,” Dad declares. “Besides, of course she’s stealing me blind. Why else is a girl her age in bed with a man of mine? Money, Carter. It’s all money.” He rubs his fingers together. “Don’t forget that when your pretty thing is between your legs sucking your dick. She’s only doing it because she wants something from you. As long as you understand that going in, no one gets hurt.”
And people wonder why I’m antisocial. “Thanks for the advice,” I reply flatly. I pull on my headphones, crank up the speed, and ignore my old man. He leaves halfway through my two-hour workout. After I’m done, I order another smoothie to take upstairs. By the time I’m out of the shower, it’s ready. I thank Gertie, our chef and nutritionist, and discuss a few other changes to my menu before jogging up the stairs to my loft. There I find the waif at the stove.
“What’s that?” she asks when I slide the glass in front of her.
She makes a face.
“You don’t like mangoes?” I’m surprised. What person doesn’t love mangoes?
“Never had them.” She shrugs. “Sounds like a rich person’s food.”
I start to protest and then stop because I have no idea how much a mango costs. Maybe she’s right and it is a rich person’s food. I’ve never gone to a grocery store. I tell Gertie what I want to eat whether it’s tacos and beer or Wagyu steaks and asparagus or, in this case, mango smoothies.
I nudge the glass closer to the waif. “Try it. If you don’t like it, I’ll drink it.”
“I don’t think I should.”
“I didn’t put drugs in it,” I say irritably. Fuck me. I try to do something decent in my life and she rejects it. Maybe Dad is right and I need to pull out my wallet.
“Fine.” She slaps down the spatula and takes a big gulp of the drink, grimacing slightly when the cold beverage hits her tongue.
“Good, right?” I want her to like it for some reason that I don’t understand.
She eyes the glass and sets it far away from her before returning to the pan.
“What? You don’t like it?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“The mango tasted good.” She acts like it was poisonous and for the life of me, I don’t understand it.
“Is that code for something because this shit isn’t making any sense. If you like it, keep drinking it. There’s more where that came from.”
“Not for me. It’s not going to be around in my future and I don’t want this to be the highlight of my dumb life.” She flips off the burner angrily and stomps down the hallway to the bathroom. A second later, I hear the door slam shut.
I stand with my back to the door for a few moments after slamming it until I calm down. It’s then I decide that I officially hate mangoes and smoothies while I’m at it. It’s not the taste that has me disliking them but the fact that those are luxuries that I can’t afford. A life that I could never have. One Carter is trying to get me to want. He might not know it but he is. That realization has me in a foul mood. I proceed to the sink and turn the water on. I begin to wash my face rougher than I normally would.