Addicted for Now / Page 38

Page 38


I nod, but my feet are glued to the floor. I want to go outside and be with her, but Rose’s words…or Connor’s reiteration of them haunt me. I want Lily to be strong on her own. I can see her through the blinds, hiding in her body, and it doesn’t seem like she’s looking at the birds anymore.

She’s looking for a way out.

I turn to Connor, suddenly so relieved that he’s here. That I have someone that I can ask this, “Should I go out there?” I want someone to tell me what’s right. To put me on the correct path. I don’t want to keep making bad decisions.

“She needs you,” he tells me in a single breath. “Just don’t have sex with her. Easy enough, right?”

“Yeah, it’d probably be difficult on that chair,” I say, trying to smile, trying to lessen how much I empathize with her hurt.

“Not for you two.” He taps my shoulder, unfreezing me from my state and I find myself moving onward. Towards the door. Towards her.

{ 24 }

LILY CALLOWAY

The door opens and I don’t move, don’t breathe, don’t speak. I want to disappear from this chair, this country, this planet.

Lo walks in front of my view of the balcony ledge, where I had literally considered testing my ability to fly. He’s shirtless, but not even the curve of his abs could entice me right now. He remains a few feet away from me, not closing the distance that draws tension like a black hole.

I finally look up to meet his gaze, my body numbing.

His eyes have become glassy, and he grips the railing behind him for support. On a normal occasion, before rehab and before recovery, he’d be sweeping me up into his arms. I’d wrap my legs around his waist and wish for sex to take away my humiliation, to remind myself that I’m good at something. I’m not worthless or alone. With every thrust and every cli**x, I’d be gone.

But now, the thought of doing that drives a hammer into my heart. I know with certainty that it’s wrong. I wonder if he’s keeping distance, afraid of that path that I might choose for us.

I don’t want it.

So I say, “I don’t want sex.” Tears gather in my eyes. “I just want you to hold me.”

They are magic words.

In one quick motion, he is in front of me and then I’m in his arms and on his lap. He blankets me with his body, wrapping his arms around my small frame. I bury my head into his chest, the tears pooling out as he rubs the back of my head. I feel safe here.

We sit like that for a good while, until his heart steadies and my breathing evens. What happened feels like a failure on my part. I screwed up and let my addiction win.

“I’m sorry,” I say softly, breaking the peaceful silence.

“You don’t need to apologize to me, Lil.”

“I feel like I let you down…let us down,” I admit. “We’re supposed to be getting better.”

“And there will be roadblocks and setbacks,” he tells me, “just because you hit one doesn’t mean you let me down. If anything, I’m proud of you for handling it like this.”

“Because the alternative is me attacking your body.”

He smiles. “Something like that, yeah.” He tucks an escaped piece of hair behind my ear. “What did your therapist say?”

Connor must have told him more than I thought. I’m glad. It saves me from reiterating the most embarrassing moment of my life.

“She said that I need to start coming up with ways to stop myself from fantasizing. Like focusing on homework or American presidents.”

“Basically what every teenage boy does to avoid a hard-on.”

I frown. I didn’t think about it like that. “I guess…” Then I shake my head. “But it doesn’t sound that simple. I understand how to stop myself from looking at p*rn and from self-love, but how do I stop myself from thinking. How does someone control that?”

“Practice,” Lo says. “I’m trying too. Believe me.”

I nod, knowing it can’t be much easier for him. At least thinking about booze doesn’t lead to an involuntary orgasm. I flush at the memory and groan into my hands.

“Maybe I’ll just remember the look on Connor and Rose’s face. I think that will keep me from fantasizing about anything for the next solid two-hundred years.”

He pulls me closer, rubbing my back soothingly, and then he kisses my lips in one quick second, testing it out.

We’re worse together when things are out of control, and during these moments we have to be careful. It’d be so easy to enable each other just to make us feel better again, but being a couple also means being intimate. Comforting someone normally involves touch—a hug, a kiss, a hand on a leg—things that send me off the deep end. We just have to find a balance.

“How was that?” he asks.

It felt simple and right. “Good.”

“I have a question, and I want you to know that I won’t be offended if the answer isn’t what I want it to be. I just…I’d like the truth.”

“Okay.”

He takes a small breath and then his eyes drop to my lips again. He plants another soft kiss, longer this time. I don’t move or force it into something else. I let him take the lead, and I don’t wish for anything more either. What he gives me is enough.

He draws back and looks from my body to my lips to my eyes, taking in every detail. “You okay?”

I nod again. “Just waiting for your question.”

“Right.” He takes another trained breath. “Your fantasies—who was in them?”

“Me,” I say. “And you.”

“You answered so quickly,” he says in worry.

“That doesn’t mean I lied. I haven’t fantasized about anyone but you since you left for rehab. You’re like…the best I’ve ever had.”

His face seems to glow at the last line, taking it as truth and fact. As it is. His hand glides to my neck, caressing me gently. For the first time, I feel in a different state of mind when he touches me. In part, it has to do with my talk with Dr. Banning. I asked her what I should expect when I see Lo, and she told me that he’d want to touch me, to comfort me. And that’s what I have to accept it as. Not all touching leads to pleasure.

A hug is just a hug, not the pathway to sex.

This type, it’s new to me because I’ve never allowed myself to be touched this way, at least not without the desire of it progressing to other things.

I think I like it.

His lips press against the tender skin below my ear, and I can feel the hesitation in his body when he pulls away. “How was that?”

“Good.”

“You don’t want anything more?”

“No,” I say sincerely, “not unless you do.”

He kisses my lips again, but this time parts them a little with his. I don’t deepen it. I wait, and he deepens it himself, his tongue gently slipping in. His thumb strokes the back of my neck. When he breaks the kiss, he slowly rubs my wet bottom lip with his finger. I don’t even shudder.

I’m letting him comfort me without hav**g s*x, without the fear of enabling me. We’re trying to be a better couple, and I think this is what progress feels like.

His eyes glimmer with possibilities. “Is this your new superpower, Lily Calloway?” he asks me sweetly. “I can touch you now without feeling guilty?”

“It may not last forever.”

“Then I’ll enjoy it for now.”

For now.

I like that too.

{ 25 }

LILY CALLOWAY

We remain on the patio to watch the sun set. The only time someone disturbs us is when Rose comes out to ask if we want anything from room service for dinner. I fear that they’re only eating-in because they’re nervous to leave us alone, but I don’t question her about it. Instead, I tell her to order us a couple burgers, and then she slips back inside.

Lo still has his arms wrapped around me as I sit on his lap. The sun fades into different shades of oranges and yellows. The opulence must spark my memory. “I forgot to ask how your run went,” I say.

“Oh…that.” His tone is dry and edged, not at all what I was expecting.

I swivel a little so I can see his face. He’s glaring at the sky. The pretty sky. This can’t be good. “What happened?”

He grimaces. “I feel like if I say it out loud it will come true. Can you try to inherit some telepathy in the next five minutes?”

“I can try to guess.”

“That doesn’t sound like a fun game either.”

I narrow my eyes at him and try to put the pieces together. He was on a run, a perfectly normal run, with Ryke, Melissa, and…oh shit.

“Daisy. What did she do?” My little sister has a habit of seeking danger. I know I land on the right answer because tiny stress-wrinkles crease his forehead. It takes him a quick minute to tell me about the bartering on the beach, but when he finishes, he doesn’t look relieved.

“There’s something else, isn’t there?”

“Yeah, and it’s the part that makes me want to jump off this balcony.” He stops before spoiling the news, which only makes me curious and nervous.

“Are you going to tell me?”

He lets out a long sigh and rubs his eyes in slight distress. “I don’t even know what to call it, Lil. There’s so many words for it, but none of them really describe the situation. Inappropriate and f**ked up are my favorite ones though.”

I frown. “Are we still talking about Daisy?”

“And Ryke.”

His eyes flicker to mine, taking in my reaction as he lets this sink in.

“Wait, what?” It can’t be what I think. That was all in my mind, wasn’t it?

“Daisy had cash in her bikini top,” Lo says. “Ryke made some offhanded comment about it and it led to…other comments.” His jaw tightens at the memory and then his eyes land back on me. “Why the f**k are you smiling? I just told you that my half-brother was flirting with your little sister.”

I press my lips together, to try and hide it, but I soon surrender to the fact that I’m happy. “Do you know how long I’ve thought it was all in my head?”

This doesn’t amuse him. In fact, he straightens up like he’s ready to go assault his brother. “How long?”

I put my hand on his chest to calm him. “January…but I didn’t want to worry you if it wasn’t true.”

He lets out an angry breath.

“Do you know how many times Ryke has called me a pervert?” I continue. “I thought this was just another illusion from my dirty mind, like I was interpreting something out of nothing and making it all up.”

“You’re not. Now move past that achievement and bring yourself down to my level.” He turns his body a little more, so that we’re looking straight on at each other. “My twenty-two-year-old brother is flirting, apparently not deliberately—I’m not even sure how that f**king happens—with your sixteen-year-old sister.” He waits for it to sink in.

“Shit.”

“Yeah, shit. So what are we going to do? I’m worried that your sister is going to like him in a bad way. I mean, most girls are like babbling fools around Ryke. The fact that she’s not…I can’t even.” He runs a hand through his hair. “All I’m saying is that Ryke is smart enough not to make a move on her, but Daisy probably doesn’t know any better.”


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