The Heir(10)

By: Ellie Danes

"I just don't want anything you've got," Andrew called back.

"What have I got?" I asked my beer.

Andrew came back with a beer of his own and took a long sip before he said, "This place isn't even any good. Just ask your cousin. She had about eighty suggestions the last time she actually set foot in here."

"She’s had eighty suggestions for everything we do since we were kids. Remember trying to build a clubhouse with her when we were ten?" I tapped my pint glass against his and raised it. "Here's to burning the suggestion box."

"Hell yeah, that was a good day." Andrew grinned. "Though, I gotta say she had some really good ideas."

"Shhh, for god's sake!" I whipped my head around at the handful of other customers. "What if Lyla heard you? She'd make this place unrecognizable in minutes."

Andrew leaned his elbows on the bar and toyed with his pint glass. "Why wouldn't I take her advice?"

"No! Banish that thought. Take the private island. Get out while you still can." I grabbed his arm and gave him a beseeching look.

He shook his head and despite the thick beard, I could see his frown. "I figure a successful corporate manager who controlled multimillion dollar conglomerates before becoming your babysitter might know what she's talking about."

"My babysitter." I finished half my beer in a few gulps.

"Come on. Don't take it that way. You know what I mean," Andrew said.

"What, are you going to scold me, too?"

"For what?" Andrew plunked his beer down next to mine. "For having the grace to make your cousin a part of your life? For giving her the trust your father never gave her parents? We all know you did right by Lyla. She knows it, too."

I rolled my eyes. "Maybe you can remind her of that the next time she stops by."

Andrew laughed. "You mean when hell freezes over? Because that's when she said she'd be back."

"Well, you know she keeps her appointments." I picked up my beer. "Here's to Lyla. May she get over the resentments she inherited from her parents and help me get past the nightmares I inherited from mine."

"Let me guess," Andrew said. "You tried to tell her she was a better hostess, but she didn't take the bait?"

I scowled up at him. "She is the better hostess. I'm no good talking to these people. I'm better off in the kitchen gutting fish for Ruiz."

Andrew refused to give me any sympathy. "You gotta be there, Landon. People are not going to accept a substitute. Besides, it really can't be that bad."

"It's bad enough that I can't convince anyone to trade places with me, even for a private tropical island," I whined.

"Oh, the island's tropical now?" Andrew asked.

"Name anywhere in the world. How about that place off of Greece we went for Spring Break senior year?"

Andrew shook his head again. "Face it, man, you're going to that gala."

I finished my beer and held out the empty glass for a refill. "Fine. I'll see you there. Please tell me you don't have a date."

"Like my sister would ever let me go without her," Andrew snorted. "She's driving up from L.A. and she'll be here in the morning."

"Family tradition," I said with a sigh.

"Hey, don't knock it. It's how my parents met your parents."

"You tell your parents they are the only people I'm looking forward to seeing," I said.

"So, how about you?" Andrew asked. "You bringing a date to the big event?"

I took the refilled pint glass and drank deep. "Need I remind you that I am always, constantly, unlucky in love? So, no, there won't be a future disaster with me at the gala."

Andrew frowned. "It's been too long, Landon."

"Too long between getting my heart ground into the floor?"

"What about Trisha?" Andrew asked.

"Trisha called a cab to drive her back to San Diego in the middle of the night. A month later she sent me the bill. No explanation, no apology, just a very large bill from an angry cab company," I said.

Andrew winced but tried again. "Things were better with Laura."

"Laura pretended to break her leg and didn't want visitors during her recovery. I saw her two weeks later in a dance club in New York. On a tabletop. At least when she saw me she pretended to limp a little." I took another long drink of beer.