When I try the door again, his hand is gone. It opens and I’m flying across the porch, down the steps.
“Wait.” Logan’s hand grips my arm, not hard, but insistent.
And then James’s steely voice comes from where he’s standing by the car.
“Let her go.”
Logan’s head snaps up, and his eyes ice over.
“What’d you say?”
James moves nearer to us. “I said, let her go, Logan. Now.”
Logan doesn’t. And I suddenly feel like a gazelle wedged between two very pissed-off lions, just itching to rip each other’s throats out.
“Are you fucking serious, mate? You honestly think I’d hurt her?”
James’s tone is calm, but forceful—leaving no room for argument. “I think you’ve been hittin’ the bottle and you’re upset. And you’re grabbing her arm. If you were anyone else you’d be on the ground right now with my foot on your throat. I know you, Lo, I know you’d never want to hurt her. But I’m tellin’ you now, you need to back off, cool down and let her fucking go.”
Logan stares at his friend—his brother in arms—for a few long moments. Then he shakes his head and without another word or glance my way, he drops my arm, turns around and walks back into his house—slamming the door behind him.
THERE’S A POUNDING, POUNDING, FUCKING pounding in my head. It knocks around, echoing inside my skull like a bullet. There’s warm sunlight on my face, and when I finally creak my eyelids open, it feels like a laser beam shooting through my eyeballs, frying my brain.
I’m on the floor. And the morning sunlight has found me from the window above the sink. I should’ve hung Ellie’s bloody kitchen curtains.
After she left last night I drank myself stupid . . . stupider . . . in the kitchen. Apparently, I slept here too. I rub my hand over my aching face, remembering my argument with Ellie, almost coming to blows with James, how she left because of what I did—didn’t do.
Christ, how’d I turn into such a cunt so quick? It’s like magic.
The pounding sound comes again . . . more of a knocking now . . . and I realize it’s not coming from inside my head—it’s coming from the front door.
Who the fuck would come see me? Now, at—I check my phone—six in the morning? With my tongue feeling like sandpaper, I pull myself up and take the long, painful walk to the front door.
Why’d I buy a house that’s so bloody big? That’s right—’cause I’m a dickhead. Definitely.
I open the door and wonder if I’m dreaming. Or still drunk.
Because there’s a prince on my porch.
“Morning, Logan,” Nicholas says.
I consider bowing like I know I should—but no, not happening. I’ll fall the fuck over or puke on him.
“Morning, Your Highness.” I glance behind him and spot James standing beside the car. He waves jovially. I lift my chin in return, grateful that there are no hard feelings about my being an arse last night.
“What are you doing here?” I ask.
“I brought tea.” He hands me one of the two lidded paper cups “James thought you could use a strong cup.”
James was right.
“Thank you.” I finger the edge of the lid. “If you’ve come to talk about Ellie—”
“Actually, I didn’t. But . . . I would avoid Olivia if I were you. She brought her bat from New York and the growing belly hasn’t affected her swing.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
The Prince looks up at the porch roof, then glances around my shoulder into the house.
“I wanted to see how the house was coming along.”
He nods. “Yes. Ellie mentioned you’re doing all the interior work yourself.”
“I thought I could come by and lend a hand.”
No—too early. My brain does not compute.
“Lend a hand?”
Nicholas seems insulted. “I’ve built homes before, Logan. On three continents. I’m not totally helpless.”
I shake my head. “No, I know . . . I just—”
“And putting up walls is a two-man job. Unless one of the other boys is coming by . . .”
“No.” I shake my head, trying to clear the fog. “No . . . Tommy’s mum still won’t let him out of his room. Everyone else is working. So, I’m doing it myself.”
Then Nicholas says, in that tone that doesn’t leave any room for argument, “Not today, you’re not.”
After I give the Prince a tour of the house, we get to work. Hanging sheetrock and spackling isn’t exactly light exercise—and with it being an usually warm day, I’m drenched by noon, sweating out all the poison from last night. We order sandwiches from the market a few blocks over and after rehydrating and a hot shower, I feel less like a heap of trash somebody pissed on.
There’s a line from a movie—I forget which one—about how the perfect way to end a hard day’s work is with a bottle of beer. Whoever wrote it knew his stuff. Because later, Nicholas and I sit in the back garden, each of us with a cold bottle of beer, watching the sun go down.
It glows deep pink and bright orange—like God struck a match and lit the sky on fire. And I think of Ellie . . . of how I want her here watching the sunset, all wrapped up in my arms, on my lap, every single night.
“I’m going to tell you something I haven’t told anyone,” Nicholas says, his eyes on the sky. “When I came home for the first time after abdicating, and attended my first event, it was . . . uncomfortable.”
He braces his elbows on his knees, looking down at the bottle, picking at the label. “The way they looked at me had changed. You could feel it in the air. I don’t think I fully understood the respect I commanded previously, the power I’d had—until that moment. Until it was less than it had been. I felt . . . neutered.”
I nod, because that’s it exactly—less than.
Even with the family I come from, I’ve never felt looked down on, not since I was fifteen years old. I work hard, I’m the best at what I do, and that matters to me. The idea of people thinking I’m trying to weasel my way under a door, take something—someone—that I don’t deserve is . . . unpleasant. It lays in my gut like a rotten food—needing to be purged.
“Do you know how long it lasted?” Nicholas asks.
“About five minutes. That’s how long it took for me to spot Olivia across the room. And then I thought—I get to have her. Keep her. Love her and be loved by her . . . forever. This astounding, brilliant woman. Then I asked myself: Why do I give a shit about the opinions of people I’ve never given a shit about and still don’t?” He snaps his fingers. “And like that, the unpleasantness got knocked on its arse. And I felt like me again.”
I take a pull of my beer. “So it’s just that easy, then?”
Nicholas glances at me thoughtfully. “When you look at her, does the whole world just sort of . . . fade away? And she’s the only thing you see? The only thing you ever want to see?”
I smile stupidly. “Yeah . . . yeah, it’s just like that.”
“Then yes, it’s that easy.”
Nicholas drinks his beer. “Besides, when it’s all said and done . . . I’m still a prince and you can still kill anyone in the room with your bare fucking hands. So . . .” He taps his bottle to mine, “cheers.”
AFTER LEAVING LOGAN’S HOUSE LAST night, I didn’t go back to the party. I couldn’t. Couldn’t imagine having to slap on a smile and pretend that I was okay. That I didn’t feel like my chest cavity was filled with concrete. But although I was sad, I didn’t cry. Because it doesn’t feel like Logan and I are done—like we’re over—like I need to mourn. It’s more like we’re stuck, twisted up in vines that are holding us in place.
Olivia came to my room. She left the party early, because she was tired and even with the flats, her feet and ankles were swollen. Her toes look like ten overstuffed sausages—the kind that Bosco once ate a whole package of. Our dad’s coming to Wessco next week, so he’ll be here when the babies are born and he’s bringing Bosco with him—the little demon. It’ll be good to see them, to talk to my dad, hug him. I’ve missed him. He’s good at reminding me that even when life is difficult, we can figure it out, make it better.