Page 43 of Hot Mess

I wished I could make it easier for her. Take some of that turmoil away.

Shit.

Blaire was right.

There was something about Elle that made me want to know her, and now I was here, that I had this time, I was going to do just that.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN – ELLE

“Why don’t we take a walk? Get out of the house?”

I frowned at him. “How can that possibly help me right now?”

“Because you’ve done nothing but talk on the phone for two days. Is twenty minutes walking up the beach with me going to kill you?”

“No, but what if someone calls me?”

“You’re leaving your phone here.” He stood up and held out his hand. “Come on. Fresh air will do you good. Think about something else. Get some perspective.”

“I guess. You’re going to make me, aren’t you?”

“Even if I have to haul you over my shoulder, grab your keys, and lock you out.”

Well, there were worse ways to be forced into a walk on the beach.

“Settle down, Prince Charming. I’ll go willingly.” I spun on the stool and followed him to the back door. I locked it behind us, then stepped down after Theo onto the beach.

He offered me his arm, making my heart skip a little. I hooked my hand through his elbow and let the sand flow between my bare toes. It was hot, but not so warm that it was too much to bear.

It was nice to walk and get fresh air. The fact that Theo didn’t ask any questions nor expect me to speak was even better, and we walked the entire length of his stretch of the beach. I listened to nothing but the crashing of the waves, the cawing of gulls as they flew over the coastline, and the occasional shout from the tourists who were staying in his other properties.

We turned at the end and went back in the direction of our houses. Since we’d switched sides because we’d literally turned around, I slipped my hand from his arm and walked the six or feet to the water. It was cold as it crawled over my feet, and I kept my head down to follow the coastline.

Theo stayed close to me, but he still didn’t speak. It was almost as if he knew I needed the silence, but that I also needed company.

It made my heart swell.

That kind of understanding… it was a rare thing.

I stopped when we were close to my house. “Did Blaire really kidnap Ari?”

“Yep.” He stepped into the water right next to me, hands in the pockets of his shorts. “Bribed her with spaghetti. She makes the best spaghetti in the world.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Her mum is Jamaican, but her dad is half-Italian. She’s one the best cooks I know. Her spaghetti is like this weird Italian-Caribbean fusion that sounds gross, but is amazing.”

“Remind me to invite myself to dinner one night.”

Theo laughed and nudged me with his elbow. “Adalyn—her daughter—is obsessed with you. Unless you want another risky nine-year-old running around town…”

“I’m sure it’ll get out sooner or later. I’d prefer later, but…”

“Then don’t tell Adalyn. Besides, I’m pretty sure Blaire is girl-crushing on you, so all you’d have to do is ask her, and she’d probably show up with an entire pot of it for you.”

“I don’t see the issue here.”

“I’ll ask her if you promise to share.”

I snorted. “Get your own.”

“I keep trying. She tells me she wants me to wash her car as payment, even if I buy the ingredients.”

“You have a weird friendship.”

“No kidding. I don’t know how I’ve put up with her for fourteen years.”

“Fourteen years? Wow. When did you meet?”

Theo cupped my elbow and gently pulled me back as the waves came up a little higher. “I was the weird English kid in school, and she adopted me. That was that.”

“A bit like she did to me at the bar.”

“Exactly like what she did to you at the bar. It’s kind of her thing, and I’m used to it. Also, I knew she was going to do it to you.” He peered over at me with a ghost of a smile on his face. “What about you?”

“What about me?” I looked down and kicked at a small pebble.

“You’ve only mentioned your family and He Who Shall Not Be Named.”

“Okay, now you’re just insulting Voldemort.”

Theo chuckled. “Don’t you have any friends missing you?”

The pit of my stomach dropped. “You might find this hard to believe, but I don’t really have any friends.”

“Seriously?”

“Yep. I live a pretty solitary life. Don’t get me wrong, I know tons of people. Both in and outside of my business, and I guess I consider a few vloggers my friends, but nobody I can call up for drinks like you can.”

“That’s… sad.”

“Basically. I’m kind of lame. And believe me, millions of views doesn’t make up for a lack of a social life.” I kept my eyes on the waves as they crept up higher, well above my ankle now. “A lot of my friends moved in Mitch’s circle, and when I broke up with him, they went with him.”

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