Like many of her fellow New Yorkers, Olivia is an animated talker—her hands flutter and weave like two graceful, translucent doves.
“There’s just enough now for Ellie’s first semester at NYU. I’ll worry about the second semester when the time comes. She wants to live in the dorm—to get the ‘full college experience.’ But I worry about her.
“I mean, I think she could change the world—I really do—cure cancer or invent whatever comes after the Internet. What she can’t do is remember where she put her house keys or understand that a checkbook has to balance once in a while. And she’s gullible. Phishing emails were invented for people like my sister.”
I lean forward, nodding. “I understand completely. My brother, Henry, has so much potential, and he’s happily pissing it away. After that video you mentioned, the press christened him the boy who couldn’t walk the walk. Who would never measure up. It’s a prophecy he’s gone out of his way to fulfill.”
Olivia raises her glass. “To little brothers and sisters—can’t live with them, can’t have them banished from the kingdom.”
We tap our glasses and drink.
After dinner, I suggest we go back to my hotel suite—said the horny spider to the scrumptious fly. And she agreed.
The ride in the lift to the top floor is silent, with James and Logan in front and Olivia beside me in the rear, giving me secret, sneaking glances. The doors open into the foyer of the penthouse and the hotel butler—David, I think his name is—is there to take our coats.
“Thank you.” Olivia smiles and David gives her a silent nod.
As we step into the main living room, I watch her—the reactions and emotions that play over her features. How her lashes flare when she looks up, taking in the enormous crystal chandelier and the hand-painted, golden mural on the ceiling. The way the corners of her mouth rise with a bit of wonder at the furniture and marble floors—all the little signs of luxury. When she turns to the full wall of glass that offers a breathtaking view of the twinkling lighted city, Olivia gasps.
And lust surges through me like I’ve been struck by lightning.
She glides toward the window, gazing out. And damn, she makes a pretty picture—pale, bare arms, rivulets of long, black hair that fall just above the swell of a perfect, tight arse. I like the look of her here—in my rooms—amongst my things.
I’d like the view even more if she weren’t still wearing her dress.
“Can we go outside?” Olivia asks.
I nod, then open the door to the large stone balcony. She steps out and I follow her. The temperature was milder today and the snow has been removed, of course. Olivia’s gaze dances over the full potted evergreens that bookend the beige cushioned furniture, and the glow of the burning fire pits in the corners casts the area in a warm orange light.
“So this is like, your prison yard?” she teases.
“That’s right. They let me out for fresh air and exercise—but only if I behave.”
“Not too shabby.”
I shrug. “It’ll do.”
We walk side by side along the walled edge, holding hands. And I’m reminded of my first social event—I’m all worked up and exhilarated, and at the same time mildly terrified of screwing up.
“So what’s it like,” she asks softly, “having everything set, knowing exactly what you’re going to do for the rest of your life?”
“You have the coffee shop. It’s not so different.”
“Yeah, but my family needed me to run it. I didn’t choose that.”
I snort. “Neither did I.”
She thinks that over, then asks, “But are you excited? Like Simba, are you all, ‘I just can’t wait to be king’?”
“Simba was a fool.” I shake my head and push at the hair that brushes my forehead. “And considering me being king would mean my grandmother was dead—excited wouldn’t be the word I’d use.” I slip into interview mode. “But, I look forward to fulfilling my birthright and leading Wessco with honor, dignity and grace.”
Olivia tugs my hand to a stop. Her eyes flicker over my face, her lips curled. “I call bullshit.”
“Total bullshit. ‘Honor, dignity and grace,’” she imitates, accent included. “Those are pretty words, but they don’t mean anything. How does it really feel?”
How does it really feel?
I feel like a fawn trying out its legs for the first time—wobbly and strange. Because no one’s ever dug past my pat answer. No one’s ever asked me for more. For real and genuine.
I don’t know if anyone’s ever actually cared.
But Olivia wants those answers—I can see it in the soft curves of her face as she waits patiently. She wants to know me.
And my chest tightens desperately—because I suddenly want the exact same thing.
“The best way to describe it, I guess…” I lick my lips. “Imagine you’re in medical school, studying to be a surgeon. You’ve read all the books, observed the surgeries being performed, you’ve prepared. And for your whole life everyone around you has said what an amazing surgeon you’ll be. It’s your destiny. Your calling.”
My eyes are drawn to hers. And I don’t know what she sees in mine, but I find comfort in hers. Enough to go on.
“But then that moment comes—the day when it’s your turn to go it alone. And they put the scalpel in your hand and…it’s all up to you. That, I imagine, is quite a ‘holy fuck’ moment.”