I shift on his doorstep, not used to entering his place by the front door. I usually go through the window. Much cooler. Having to wait on the stoop of the enormous mansion just reminds me that tonight is a little different than most. I raise my knuckles to the door but decide to use the lion metal knocker instead. I slam it a couple times and twiddle with the strap to my backpack. Waiting.
After a solid minute, the door swings open, more lights streaming onto the stoop. And my mouth falls and my face scrunches. Lo stands before me, but he’s…
“What are you wearing?” we both say at the same time.
What am I wearing?! He has on black slacks and a white button-down, looking nearly twenty-two. His light brown hair is still a little messy, but it’s systematically disheveled. He’s clean-shaven, and his cheeks sharpen, pouting his lips as he stares from my toes to my head.
“What the fuck?” he says lightly, shrugging at me like I’ve turned into an intergalactic alien. I am exactly the same. He is the one who’s different.
“I didn’t know there was a dress code tonight,” I refute.
He crosses his arms and cocks his head to the side.
“Don’t give me that look,” I snap back, pushing my way through the door since he has rudely not invited me in yet. The living room awaits to the right of us, the vaulted ceiling and crystal chandelier shining a great deal of light onto leather furniture and expensive animal-skin rugs. I try not to think about what animals I may be stepping on when I’m at his house.
He locks the door, and I throw my backpack on the nearest couch. When I turn back to face him, he still wears that same crazy look. “What?” I say.
“You’re wearing dinosaur slippers and long johns,” he says like I’ve gone crazy.
I glance down at my nightly wardrobe. My baggy long johns sag at the crotch, and my green dinosaur slippers make my feet look huge. I also wear one of Lo’s long-sleeve shirts that he left at my house the other day—the Philadelphia 76ers logo printed on the front. I shrug. “I wear this all the time when I spend the night here.”
“That was before,” he tells me.
I hear his unspoken words: that was before, when we weren’t dating and in a fake relationship. Two weeks ago, Lo was suspended from school, and his father went apeshit, threatening to ship Lo off to military academy, actually showing him the forms. I spent the whole day anxiously pacing my room as we tried to find solutions on how to pacify his father.
And this was it. Make his father believe that Lo is a changed man by dating a girl he thought he’d never be worthy of. Me. A Calloway. When in fact, I’m just as f**ked up as his son. Go figure.
When we made the announcement of our new relationship status, his father hadn’t really believed it. Which is why I’m in Lo’s living room tonight instead of his bedroom where we usually pour over comics and I watch him drink himself to sleep. Tonight, we’re supposed to prove how in love we are.
And then everything will be okay again. Lo will stay here. He’ll be a “changed man” and we’ll both continue to go on as normal. Except for the fake relationship part.
I shift anxiously. “Sorry,” I mutter, all of a sudden self-conscious. He dressed nice for me, and here I am, in baggy long johns and his oversized tee. The slippers are still cool.
“You’re right,” he tells me, his amber eyes grazing my whole body. “It doesn’t matter.” He undoes the top three buttons of his shirt.
My breath sticks to my throat.
“You look cute,” he says. A smile plays at his lips, and he laughs at my long johns again. “Are those mine?”
I’m still frozen on the you look cute part. I can’t tell if that was all show or not. I mean, no one is here to witness the performance of our romantic rendezvous, but at the same time, we are supposed to be practicing before his father walks through the door.
“Yeah,” I manage to say. “I stole them after the camping trip in October.” Almost a full year ago. He didn’t notice then, so I’m surprised that he does now. Or maybe he just never mentioned it before.
“That’s my shirt too,” he says, pushing through his last button. My eyes rake his lean muscles, and I realize that I’m going to be given permission to touch them for the first time since we had sex. And that was a long, long time ago. Well, almost three years to be exact.
“Good eye,” I whisper as he nears me. Usually I’m in complete control during sex. I know how it will end and how it will start, but with Lo and this new arrangement, I am at a total loss for where this will go.
I take a few steps back, down a couple stairs into the living room. He follows, as though he is the hunter and I’m the little doe he wishes to ensnare. My breathing deepens, not used to the way he’s staring at me. As though I am his and he’s mine.
This has to be pretend, right? Of course it is, I remind myself. The deal, don’t ever forget. It’s all pretend. But that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to enjoy it.
The back of my knees hits the mahogany leather couch. “You’re wearing my clothes,” he says, his voice husky and deep.
I swallow hard. I want to wrap my arms around his neck and run my hands through his hair, bringing him close. This is wrong. But it feels right. And the way he’s staring…
His fingers slip into the waistband of my long johns, tugging me to his chest. His forehead nearly rests against mine, his warm breath entering my parted lips.
He folds down the band, discovering my hipbones, and his body stiffens against mine. My hand quickly clasps his, my eyes bugging all of a sudden.
“I’m not wearing any…” I trail off, more nervous with a guy than I think I’ve ever been.
My words only cause his chest to fall heavier. “You forgot your panties or you just realized you forgot to steal a pair of my boxers to wear?”
My eyes fall to his lips. I want to kiss them so hard that they’ll swell and redden, where he’ll feel me on him for days. “You don’t wear boxers,” I say, breathless.
“I don’t?” His lips brush my ear. “Then what am I wearing, love?”
Oh God. My body throbs and pulses, and I desperately want his hands to run over every inch of my skin. I should take his invitation, but I hesitate, worried about crossing a line even though I know that’s why I’m here. We’re stepping into brand new territory, all for the purpose of declaring our “fake” love. But for some reason, this feels so, so real.
He watches me waiver and decides to help me by gathering my hands in his. He places my fingers on the band of his black slacks and the other on his zipper, guiding me to the right actions. I unbutton, my heart beating wildly in my chest. I’ve never been this anxious, this excited, and this f**king scared all at once. I’m riding a rollercoaster at high speed, and any second now, I may run off the tracks.
I begin to tug his pants down, and my eyes refuse to peel away from the bulge in his black boxer-briefs. If that’s how big his c*ck looks now, I can’t imagine what it’ll look like when he’s hard. But I know I want to see.
I open my mouth to ask how far we’re going to go, but the words won’t form. I’m afraid if I say them, then he’ll stop. And a part of me wants him inside of me again. The other, more reasonable part, is screaming about keeping things as chaste as possible. So he’s not like all the guys I’m with. So I don’t break his heart when I undoubtedly will seek out another man in the future.
And then all thoughts whoosh out of my head. He cups my face in his hands and kisses me so forcibly that air pushes into my lungs and locks there. That my legs quake beneath me, and my arm wraps around his waist, gripping for dear life. I am succumbing to his body, to this passion that he pours with each kiss. He parts my lips, his tongue exploring my mouth, his chest thrumming against mine.
I moan, and the sound drives him deeper. He hikes both of my legs around his waist and pushes me to the couch cushions. Lo hovers on top, but his pelvis digs into mine, my whole body ignites with something foreign and yet so familiar. I can barely breathe.
I kiss back with the same urgency, as though this will poof away in a matter of minutes. As though it will all disappear before our eyes, and I’ll be left without this feeling tomorrow. He pulls off my shirt, leaving me in a blue bandeau and cold skin that he warms with his hands. His fingers find their way to my breast, and I lose myself to the way he flicks my nipple. I need his mouth on…and then his lips find the same spot, licking a circle around the tender place of my breast.
“Lo,” I gasp. “Lo…” I moan and writhe beneath him. This can’t be real. I have to be dreaming.
His hardness presses near the wet spot between my legs. Only fabric keeping us apart. I ache for him to move it. I silently plead for him to fill me, even though I know it will be so, so wrong. This is pretend. But why does it feel so good? Why does it seem so f**king real?
And then I hear the click of the door. We both freeze. Lo lifts his head and adjusts my bandeau so my br**sts are covered. Expensive loafers clap against the marble floor, and keys jangle as they’re slipped into a pocket.
Jonathan Hale stands right in the foyer with a full view of the living room—our couch angled in perfect sight. He sets down his briefcase and begins to take off his tie, and then his head turns and he solidifies as much as we have. This is what we’ve waited for, but it doesn’t make it any less awkward.
I turn cherry red, and shield my face behind my hands, looking at Lo’s father through the cracks in my fingers.
“Dad,” Lo says, sitting up only a little. My legs still wrap around his waist. His pants still lie in a heap on the ground. Maybe this was a bad idea… “I thought you weren’t coming home until late.”
“It is late,” he says, scrutinizing our position on the couch. I want to disintegrate into it. “So you two are together now?”
“Yeah,” Lo snaps. “I told you that five days ago.”
“Don’t talk to me with that f**king tone, Loren,” he retorts with the same hostility. “I heard you before. I just didn’t think you two were serious. When you were seven, you said she was your f**king wife.”
I blush, remembering our “pretend” wedding. Rose told me I was stupid during the whole ceremony. I suppose not everything changes.
“I’m not seven anymore,” Lo tells him.
“I can see that.” Jonathan eyes me for a little longer than I like, and I shrink further in the cushions. Lo shifts so my half-naked body is hidden better from his father’s view. “Do you agree with what my son did, Lily?” he asks. “You think it was right of him to f**k with another person’s property?”
I shake my head repeatedly. “No, sir. In fact…” I clear my throat, willing on a bit of confidence. “I’ve told Lo that if we’re going to be together, he’s going to have to change.” The lie tastes gross in my mouth, but I better get used to it. There will be far more from here on out.