Addicted for Now / Page 6

Page 6


Lo isn’t so quick to let Connor go free. “Did you tell anyone?” he asks.

“No one,” he says calmly.

Lo scratches the back of his neck. “We spent years without anyone knowing Lily’s secret. Then she tells you guys, and a few months later, she’s being threatened about it. I may have dropped out of college, but I can f**king add those pieces together.”

Connor looks him over once. “You were expelled from college, but it’s nice to hear that you’re taking accountability.”

Somehow that insult didn’t seem so bad. It’s all true.

Penn kicked Lo out after he stopped showing up to class, and he could have attended another college, but he decided to go to rehab and work on getting sober instead.

Lo sighs heavily, frustrated. He just wants answers. I think we all do.

“You’re missing a piece,” Connor tells him.

Lo tenses, and a little bit of hope surges through me. If anyone can uncover this mystery, it’ll be Connor Cobalt. And most likely Rose too.

“Lily just started seeing a sex therapist that specializes in addiction.”

“You think someone saw her go into the office?” Lo asks.

“It’s probable. Why don’t you try tracing the number?”

“It’s unknown.”

“So?”

“I’m sorry. Hacking into phone numbers just isn’t in my repertoire. Lily, you?” He looks to me, and I shake my head. “Didn’t think so.”

“Oh, no,” Connor says quickly, “I know you can’t do something that difficult. I just thought maybe you knew someone who could.”

Ryke cuts in, “You’re actually admitting you can’t do something, Cobalt?” He looks about ready to jump off the Queen Anne and call the press. Oh wait, he is the press. Maybe he’ll write an article about it tomorrow in The Philadelphia Chronicle and title it: “Connor Cobalt Doesn’t Know Everything!”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Connor says, poker-faced. “I know how to do it. But I won’t. It’s illegal.”

Ryke rolls his eyes and grips his water bottle tighter. I guess that article won’t be happening.

Rose takes a dainty sip from her tea and says, “It’s still illegal if you pay someone to do it for you.”

“And if you’re smart about it, you won’t be caught.”

That thing I said about Connor being moral? Scratch that. He masks his emotions so much that I didn’t see his cunning ways. Still, I don’t think he would risk losing Rose for a seat at Wharton. At least, I hope not.

“Lo and I already discussed tracing the number,” I speak up. “All my contacts know my family. My parents would start asking questions if I hired a private investigator.” And the whole goal is to keep them in the dark as long as possible. I’m thinking forever is a good amount of time.

Lo nods. “We also don’t want to involve any unreliable third parties. I don’t want to be screwed over by them.”

I perk up as I think of an example. “Like a hacker that lives in his parent’s basement.”

“Yeah,” Lo says. “I don’t see that going very well.”

“I have a trustworthy PI that I can hire,” Connor says. “That’s not a problem.”

Rose smiles into her last sip of tea.

“I’ll pay you back,” I tell Connor.

“I prefer favors.”

Okay, that sounds sexual. When I think of favors, I picture bl*w j*bs.

My face immediately heats, and I try looking away but everyone is already staring at me. I’m doomed.

“Lily!” I hear three voices in varying pitches chastise me. Lo puts an arm over my shoulder and I restrain myself from hiding in his bicep. I will not cower.

I point to Connor accusingly. “He said it, not me!”

“I wasn’t talking about sexual favors,” Connor refutes calmly.

I point to my chest now. “Sex addict, here. My brain has an automatic setting. I’m not going to be thinking party favors.”

Bringing up the words sex addict was a bad idea, and I regret it as soon as Ryke says, “Speaking of being a sex addict.” I could punch him. “How’s your recovery going to work now that Lo’s back? Are you two allowed to have sex together?”

“It’s complicated,” I mutter. “And I don’t think I should be discussing it with you.”

“She can have some sex,” Lo clarifies, apparently un-complicating it.

I want to disintegrate just a little.

“What is some sex?” Ryke asks.

Okay, a lot—I want to disintegrate a lot, a lot.

“I can’t talk about it,” Lo says evasively. But really he means: I can’t talk about it in front of Lily. Because I have no idea what “some” entails either. It’s going to drive me bonkers.

I also don’t like that Lo is so quick to share intimate details of our private lives, but I guess he’s trying to be better about opening up. And it must be easier to focus on my addiction than his own.

“What happens if you start enabling her?” Rose asks, setting her teacup on the table.

“I won’t,” Lo says with an added glare.

I wish I could conquer my addiction by myself, but my therapist already explained that abstinence isn’t the answer since sex is a natural part of life, unlike alcohol. A person can go forever without tasting liquor, but almost everyone has sex when they reach a certain age. And sex involves two people.

So I have to learn how to have a healthy sex life with Lo instead of the one where he feeds into my compulsions. And I can work on being more self-reliant without turning to self-love.

I sigh. It’s all so complicated. It all feels so hard.

“This isn’t the same as Lily giving you a glass of whiskey, Loren,” Rose says. “We’ll all be able to tell if you drink, but none of us will have a clue if you’re enabling her.” Because that means he’ll let me f**k him exactly how I want, when I want. I’ll be so high and so full of Loren Hale that I won’t ever want to leave the bedroom and meet real life.

It sounds so much better than it should.

“You didn’t know I was an alcoholic for years,” Lo refutes. “Believe me, you won’t know if I fall off the wagon one time. It’s the same.”

“I’ll be able to tell,” Ryke says.

“And me,” Connor adds. “I had no clue Lily was addicted to sex, but it didn’t take more than a day for me to figure out that you had an alcohol problem.”

Ryke scratches his hard jaw, cut like stone. “You knew he was addicted, and you drank beer with him? In fact, I saw you buying him Fat Tire at a bar.”

“He’s a true friend,” Lo says with a bitter smile. He says things just to agitate people, I swear.

Ryke looks like he wants to stand up and smack the back of his head.

Rose spins on Connor, and he doesn’t cower beneath her penetrating gaze. “You knew and you drank beer with him?”

“I just met him. I wasn’t planning to revolutionize his life.”

“You mean you saw what made him happy, and you gladly enticed him with it to become his friend.”

Lo cuts in, “You’re acting like he shot me up with her**ne.”

“He may as well have,” Ryke retorts.

Okay, when did this meeting become a platform to gang up on Connor?

“Just drop it,” Lo snaps.

Connor stays quiet, and Rose doesn’t look like she’s ready to forgive him so easily. I’m sure they’ll have a whole philosophical discussion about it later.

And unfortunately, she remembers the source of our argument.

“Your addiction, Lo, is not the same as Lily’s,” she says. “When you weren’t here, supporting Lily was simple. Now that you’re back, I feel like you’re the only person allowed to be involved in her recovery process. And how healthy is that? You just got out of rehab.”

Should I even be here for this conversation? It feels beyond me, even though they’re talking about me.

His voice softens considerably, losing the usual edge. “I don’t know what you want me to do. I’m her boyfriend. She’s a sex addict. Of course I’m going to be the most involved in getting her healthy. I know what you’re saying. I know what you’re all saying.” He looks to Ryke and Connor. “I can’t tell you to just trust me, not when I have twenty-one years of being a shitty person on my record. But this situation is weird and unconventional and really, really f**ked up. And we’re going to have to figure out how to do it.”

I stare at my hands, a little uncomfortable but also a little grateful they’re not talking behind my back.

“All I want,” Rose tells him, “is for you to not close us all out. If you think you’re doing something wrong or you can’t handle it, don’t just ignore it. You have to tell someone, and it doesn’t have to be me. If you feel more comfortable talking to Ryke or Connor or even the therapist, whoever. I just don’t want Lily to suffer because you can’t reach out.”

I understand her fears. We’ve isolated ourselves for so long that closing everyone off would be a natural regression. I just never really thought about it outright.

“I promise.”

She looks a little taken aback by how easily he relented.

“We both want the same thing,” Lo reminds her.

For the first time Lo and Rose seem to agree on something, but it only puts an insane amount of pressure on me. They may think Lo will enable me. But I fear I’ll screw everything up all on my own.

{ 4 }

LILY CALLOWAY

Ryke and Connor leave after we establish a plan to track down the texter. Connor will call his private investigator and then the rest of us will start making a list of Lo’s enemies. I just hope I don’t see my face on the cover of People tomorrow.

Lo is already in bed when I shut the bathroom door. The lamp bathes him in a warm light, and he looks content as he scribbles in a journal. The nightstand seems so bare without his glass of whiskey. We’re both going through a monumental change, and we haven’t even discussed our futures or anything serious since he’s been back. The texts kind of sent us into an immediate tailspin.

His gaze rises from his journal, and he studies me as I stand in the middle of the room, unsure about what to do. Back at Penn, after we became an official couple, I slept in his bed almost every night. But we didn’t cuddle. He didn’t whisper sweet-nothings in my ear until I dozed off. We f**ked until I passed out, and then he’d finish off his drink and follow suit.

I’ve lasted three months without sex, but I also didn’t have him here, in bed with me. The equivalent for Lo would be snuggling with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. Cuddling with my own vice seems dangerous, but I can’t be abstinent forever. I have to figure how to do this the right way.

“What’s wrong?” he asks and closes his journal, the pen sticking from the pages.

“We’re not going to have sex tonight?” I ask for the third time today.


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