That’s not true either. I was scared not long ago. Terrified. Someone—who I will not name—put his thumb in my mouth. And I think I liked it.
My phone buzzes on the counter, and I wipe my hands on a towel before I swipe the screen. I have two new texts.
The first: 5 months and 20 days until the wedding – Mom
I’m not even surprised at this point. I receive a daily countdown from her, reminding me that I’ve taken responsibility of planning Lily’s wedding.
I open the second text to distract me from all the things I still have to do.
Prince Charming, Robin Hood, Beast – Connor
Really? I texted him three brilliant female authors and he gives me Disney characters to choose from? Oh, he’s starting a war.
I type quickly, not even having to think twice about my choices. Kill. Marry. Fuck.
Less than a minute after I hit send, I receive another message.
You would f**k the Beast over Robin Hood? Explain.
You’re not even going to mention me killing Prince Charming? Deflection in a text is my specialty.
Not surprising. I would kill Prince Charming as well. Always believing every girl needs to be rescued from a tower. He’s an asshat.
I smile, my stomach fluttering at his words.
“Is that Connor?” Lily asks, eyeing my smile suspiciously.
My lips level and she peers over my shoulder to try and read the text. I hold it close to my chest, and her eyes twinkle in amusement.
“Are you texting naughty things?” she asks with glee.
Should I be? What couple texts about killing off Prince Charming? If I seriously evaluate my relationship with Connor, it will rank somewhere closer to strange than normal.
My phone buzzes again, but I don’t pull it away from the security of my blouse. “What do you and Lo text about?”
Her face wrinkles in thought. “Well, I text him things I’d like to do. And he usually replies with a generic okay even if at times he’s a big fat liar and we don’t do it anyway.” She shrugs. “He’s a brief texter.” Her smile brightens at another thought. “But sometimes he’ll randomly send me messages like this…” She holds up a finger for me to wait while she opens her flip-phone with her other hand. The old device doesn’t have internet or apps. The less temptations for her to look at porn, the better. “This is what he texted me last week.”
She raises the phone to my face. Brett and Ben’s cameras try to zoom in on the screen. Lily cups her hand around it protectively.
I read the text quickly. I miss your p**sy. – Lo
How eloquent. Lily practically beams. “He doesn’t do foreplay texting,” she explains. “So whenever he sends something dirty, it’s like Christmas.”
She motions to my phone. “What does yours say?”
“Just work stuff,” I answer evasively.
I type back: Robin Hood is a manwhore. I’d want to join the Merry Men, not join a notch on his bedpost. The Beast is probably a virgin.
As soon as I hit send, my stomach falls. What the f**k did I do? I blame Lily who peers over my shoulder as I type, distracting me from rereading the message.
I basically just admitted to wanting to have sex with a virgin.
Connor is not a virgin.
I don’t have time to think. The doorbell rings. I pad across the kitchen and living room to answer it, leaving Lily by the refrigerator. I glance back for a quick second to make sure she doesn’t crumble without my presence. I relax when I see her focused on my salad, slicing cucumber.
Ben follows me with his steadicam contraption, and without Lily constantly eyeing the lens, I have an easier time pretending he’s invisible.
When I open the door, my entire mood shifts. I hope I’m giving off the “I’d rather murder an entire bale of sea turtles than be near you” look. Scott Van Wright’s lips upturn into a cocky, holier-than-thou smile.
I must be doing something wrong.
“Most girls answer the door with a hello,” he tells me.
“Don’t you have work?”
“You are my work, Rose.”
Great. I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around the fact that Scott lives with us. I woke up at five in the morning with Connor just to use the showers when no one else (mainly Scott) was up to view the outline of my nak*d body. I know you can see shadows through the misted glass doors. I’m not an idiot.
And now he’s here.
He will always be around, I realize. I just have to f**king deal with it.
He holds up plastic grocery bags. “I come in peace.” His eyes dip down to my dark blue blouse with gold buttons on the shoulders. The cut is just slightly lower than the one I wore for the psychic party, but a gold necklace disappears between my br**sts, the chain accentuating my small C cups more than usual.
“I see you changed your wardrobe. We’re out of the nunnery and now in grade school. Not perfect but we’re getting closer.”
I try to slam the door back on him. His hands are filled with groceries so he has to use his hip to keep it open.
“Talk about my clothes again,” I seethe, “and we’ll just see how close my foot is to your ass.”
“Fair enough,” he says easily, no snarky retort. I think he’s just trying to buy time to avoid spilling milk on the floor.
I let out a strained breath and open the door wider, leading him into the kitchen.
Lily looks up from the salad bowl, eyes big with questioning. She hasn’t been alone with Scott without Loren present. But it was only a matter of time before it happened. Everyone has places to be during the day.
Me: Calloway Couture in New York. The commute is killing me, so I rented an office in Philly. But I drop by the main office once a week to check in.
Connor: Penn or Cobalt Inc. in Philly.
Loren: His comic book business in Philly.
Daisy: Prep school in Philly.
Ryke: Well, I’m not quite sure where the hell he is. Maybe indoor rock climbing at the gym. He graduated last year like me but has made no move to do anything with his journalism degree. He even stopped working for The Philadelphia Chronicle.
And then there’s Lily.
Now that she takes online classes from Princeton, she’s the only one home alone. I’m nervous about Lily spending so much time with Scott. Maybe I can convince her to come to the Calloway Couture offices with me.
Scott sets the plastic bags on the kitchen counter, and Lily scoots out of his way, avoiding his eyes, his body, anything that belongs to him.
“I don’t bite,” Scott tells her.
“I know, I just…” Her gaze stays firmly planted on the ground.
Frown lines crease his forehead.
I’m sure he imagined my sex addict sister to be this confident, unabashed girl who falls on her knees at the presence of a cock. Most people do. All it takes is a five-minute conversation to understand that my sister is none of those things. She is shy, nervous, and plagued with social anxiety. Her confidence is only in sex.
Sometimes, I believe we’re opposites.
“She’s shy,” I say for her. “Don’t take it personally.”
“A shy sex addict?” He stares at Lily like she can’t possibly exist. “Are you f**king with me?”
She flushes almost instantly, and I glower. “Leave her alone.”
Lily raises her hands. “No, it’s okay. I want to explain myself…” Her eyes flit to the cameras.
“Don’t look at the lens,” Scott scolds like she’s a child. “It’s not a hard concept, honey.”
“Can you say anything without sounding like a pig?” I ask.
He grins like I offered to blow him. Ughhh. I am a challenge, I get that. I am the bitch he wants to ensnare. But my insults really, really shouldn’t turn anyone on this much. If I started complimenting him, would he suddenly be disinterested?
Lily gives Scott her attention. “I want the viewers to have a real, honest portrayal of sex addiction. At least one story. My story. So maybe if there’s another girl who’s like me, she won’t feel so alone.”
“All right,” Scott says with a nod. “I’ll bite. Why the hell do you look scared around me? Shouldn’t you want to get on your knees about now?” He opens the refrigerator and shelves the sour cream and milk.
“I’m in recovery,” Lily refutes. “I have a boyfriend. I don’t want to have sex with anyone but him. So, no, I don’t have any desire to drop on my knees. And I’ve always been shy. Just not…during…it.”
She’s told me that she feels like a completely different person during sex: empowered, strong. It’s the only thing she believes she’s good at, and she’s taken the knowledge to heart. After sex, she’s flooded with shame, thinking she’ll never amount to anything more—that she’s truly just a slut, that her one talent in life is f**king. And she’s compulsive with the act to the point of being unhealthy. A female who’s great at sex—who has it five times more than the average male—is not something she can gloat about. Not in a society that easily labels her as a whore.
Lily’s lifestyle is filled with humiliation. There’s no triumph in that.
And I wish I could protect her, but you can’t shield a girl from the world without taking her out of it.
“You can’t even say the word sex?” Scott says with a laugh. “Jesus Christ.”
She tucks a piece of hair behind her ear and turns to me, trying to ignore him but I see the hurt shadowing her face. “I’m going to start some homework,” she says in a small voice.
“Hey…” I wipe my hands on a towel and touch her shoulder before she leaves. “Don’t listen to him,” I whisper. “He’s disgusting.”
“I know. Connor told me the same thing this morning.”
I frown. “He did?”
“Yeah, he said that Scott would make fun of me and I just had to remember that everyone hates Scott and loves me.” She laughs but her eyes brim with tears. She wipes them before they fall. “I don’t mean to cry so much this week, honest. I think I’m on my period. I can use that excuse, right?”
I give her a hug, even if mine are the rigid kind. My heart breaks for her every time someone condemns her addiction. As if it’s a stupid joke. It’s not. And she’s not gross or weird or pathetic for how she feels. If the world slandered my name every day on social media sites, I’d be worse off than some tears now and then.
“Will you call Lo?” I ask. Even though he irritates me, he always seems to say the right things to brighten her mood.
“Yeah, I think I might.” She gives me another hug before leaving to her room. And leaving me alone with Scott.
My anger boils inside of me, and I have the impulse to slam open drawers and find a serrated knife to wave at his dick. I spin back towards the double-door refrigerator and notice that Scott has almost emptied all of the grocery bags.
“You’re a vile human being,” I tell him coldly, “and I could rip you apart right now, but I actually pity you.”
“Why is that?” He narrows his eyes and shuts the pantry door.
“Because you just insulted the only girl you should have never picked on. Once you’re on Loren Hale’s shit list, you generally don’t ever get off.”
“The guy with the sharp cheekbones, right?” Scott muses, as if he doesn’t know the twenty-two-year-old guy all over the news, who he’s met and lives with. “He doesn’t look that threatening.”
“He’s going to make your life hell,” I say with a smile, “for six long months.”
“Well, while you’re celebrating my demise…” He reaches into the last bag and then hands me a chocolate bar. “I bought you this. I heard it’s your favorite.”
My smile only widens as I turn the dark chocolate over in my hands. Connor. My eyes rise to Scott. “I despise dark chocolate. But nice try.”
He clenches his jaw as I shove the chocolate bar back in his chest.
I head to the staircase, and I can feel his hot gaze plastered to my ass during my short trek there.
I don’t dare look over my shoulder to verify.
No way is he stealing my win.
[ 8 ]
The crew is on a lunch break, so the only cameras that film us are attached to the walls and ceilings. It’s a slight relief not having to ignore someone in the room.
Ryke, Lo and I are on the lowest level of the townhouse. A few days ago, Daisy found two rats squeaking in her closet, feces inside her boots. If that had been Rose, the house would have been flipped upside down. But Daisy was quiet about the whole ordeal and just mentioned it to Ryke. She wanted us to handle the issue without alarming her sisters.
So I lean against the wall while Lo squats in front of the crawl space with a trash bag. Ryke has disappeared inside the three-foot tall basement, the surface a brown soil, and the strong stench of mold and mildew permeates from the small square door.