Charlie glanced at the condom wrappers on the floor and smiled. ‘Yeah. It was pretty fun.’
‘I wish you could see me right now,’ Piper said breathlessly. ‘I’m pacing. It’s six in the morning here, by the way. I woke up to go to the bathroom at three and glanced at my phone, and Jesus Christ, Charlie. Zeke Leighton?’
‘It’s strange, but he’s just kind of a regular guy.’
‘Yeah, and just kind of not! If that’s some BS move on your part to keep from telling me every fucking detail, well, it’s not going to work. Can you imagine if I just happened to fall into bed with Matt Damon and then claimed it was no big deal?’
‘I’m not saying it wasn’t a big deal, just that—’
‘How many times? What positions? Is he a generous lover? He always plays such sensitive roles, I imagine he’d be amazing in bed. Let’s start with that. You can tell me about your dinner after the good stuff.’
Charlie laughed. Part of her felt ridiculous sharing the intimate details with her friend, but it was too much fun to keep it to herself. This was what girlfriends did, right? Growing up, she’d missed it all: the games of spin the bottle and the movie theater make-outs and the sneaking out at night to meet a boy. She’d never had a best friend before Piper, never really shared her secrets with anyone besides Jake. It was too delicious to resist.
‘Oh, you know. It was pretty much what you’d expect,’ she said coyly, smiling in anticipation of Piper’s reaction. It didn’t disappoint.
‘I’m hanging up. Seriously, I’m hanging up right this second if you don’t start talking!’
‘Okay, okay. We got back here a little after ten. He went to his room first in case anyone was watching and then came down to mine a few minutes later. He brought a little speaker and his phone and a candle he found somewhere and—’
‘He’s a total pro. I bet he brings, like, a sex kit everywhere he goes. Did he have little airplane bottles of vodka to mix drinks? They’re always doing that in the movies.’
‘He’s recovering, remember?’
‘I thought that was for show? For his kids? Or his image? That can’t be real …’
‘I think it is. He didn’t have a drink at dinner, and I only had one.’
‘You had sober sex with Zeke Leighton? Is that what you’re saying?’
Charlie held the phone away from her ear. ‘Can you stop screaming? You’re killing my ears.’
‘Let’s just be clear on this: you were both stone cold sober?’
‘Oh my god. You’re getting married! Charlie! You’re marrying Zeke Leighton!’
‘Piper, come on. Except for that very first time with Marco in Palm Springs, I don’t think I’ve ever not had sex sober. I go months at a time without having a single drink. You did it once, too. Remember?’
Piper shuddered audibly. ‘Worst hookups of my life, hands down. I am, in fact, actually marrying Ronin – literally agreeing to spend my entire life with him and have his babies – and we both still want to split a bottle of wine before doing the deed. It’s human nature, Charlie.’
‘Well, I don’t know what to tell you. I had sex with Zeke Leighton sober. Three times. One of those was in the shower. Well, technically in the shower, although we ended up on the floor …’
Piper moaned. ‘I can barely breathe. You remember his shower scene in Around the World? Where he goes down on Rachel McAdams and there’s all that steam and water and it’s pretty much the sexiest thing you’ve ever seen? Because that’s what I’m picturing right now.’
Charlie glanced toward the shower, which was still wet, and felt herself blush. ‘Yeah, it wasn’t too far off from that.’
‘That is soooooo insanely hot! Okay, okay, let’s start from the beginning. You win Charleston – congrats, by the way – and you get a call from him? His people? Take me through the whole thing from the very first moment.’
Charlie knew she should get up and face the mayhem. Her father and Jake had both been calling nonstop since she’d been on the phone. Emails from Todd were popping up on her screen every three minutes. The maid had knocked twice. She still needed to straighten out her travel plans to Europe. There was the small matter of having her one-night stand plastered all over the place. And there was Marco, her semi-boyfriend on whom she’d publicly cheated, and who had cheated right back. And whose tennis rackets she was supposed to shuttle from JFK to Munich, on a flight she wasn’t sure she was going to make. But the pull of Piper’s interest and the pleasure of reliving the night was too strong. Screw it. The world wasn’t going to fall apart if she took another few minutes to talk to her best friend. She collapsed back into the tangled mess of cottony-soft sheets and fluffy down and stretched her legs. Toes pointed like a ballerina, she began slowly lifting each leg high into the air.
‘I knew the second I walked into the restaurant that something was up,’ she said, feeling calmer than she had any right to feel. Not thinking about what it meant, for once, to be the bad girl. Not thinking about how good it was to break a few rules. There would be fallout to deal with for sure – Marco, the tabloids, her family, just for starters – but Charlie told herself she’d think about it all later. Right now, there was a story to tell.
Charlie grinned. And then she talked and talked and talked.
better in bed?
PARIS, MAY 2016
Charlie spotted her father on the escalator before he saw her, but something about the way he stood kept her from running toward him. She hung back for a moment and watched as he stared off into space, looking barely aware of his surroundings. He wasn’t slumped, exactly, but he hunched forward in a way that made him look older. The worry lines looked permanently etched into his face – she could see them from where she was standing.
He shuffled off at the bottom and glanced around, clearly unsure of what to do next. When his eyes found Charlie’s, his entire expression changed. He instantly stood taller and his mouth turned into a deep, genuine smile, but his eyes remained distant.
‘Charlie! What are you doing here?’ Mr Silver asked, although his joy was apparent. He wrapped his arms around Charlie and she immediately smelled the smoke.
‘What, I can’t hang with my dad a little?’