Addicted to You(5)

By: Krista Ritchie & Becca Ritchie

His jaw tightens, pissed that I don’t know a fib from a truth. Normally I do, but sometimes when he’s so nonchalant, the lines blur. “I bought lemon meringue pie. Your favorite.”

I internally gag. “You shouldn’t have.” No, you really shouldn’t have. I hate lemon meringue. Obviously he wants Nola to think he’s an upstanding boyfriend, but the only girlfriend Loren Hale will ever treat well is his bottle of bourbon.

We stop at a traffic light, now only a few blocks from the apartment complex. I can taste freedom, and Lo’s arm begins to feel more like a weight than a comforting appendage across my shoulders.

“Was this a casual event, Miss Calloway?” Nola asks. What? Oh…shit. Her eyes plant on the muscle-tee I snatched from the frat guy’s floor. Stained and off-white with God knows what.

“Umm, I-I,” I stammer. Lo stiffens next to me. He grips his thermos and chugs the rest of his drink. “I-I spilled some orange juice on my top. It was really embarrassing.” Was that even a lie?

My face flames uncontrollably, and for the first time, I welcome the rash-like patches. Nola gazes sympathetically. She’s known me since I was too shy to say the Pledge of Allegiance in kindergarten. Age five and timid. Pretty much sums up my first years of existence.

“I’m sure it wasn’t that bad,” she consoles.

The light flickers to green and she redirects her attention to the road.

Unscathed, we make it to the Drake. A towering chestnut-brick structure juts up in the heart of the city. The historic 33-story complex boards thousands and teeters into a triangle at the apex. With Spanish Baroque influences, it looks a cross between a Spaniard cathedral and a regular old Philly hotel.

I love it enough to call it home.

Nola offers a goodbye and I tell her thanks before hopping from the Escalade. My feet no sooner hit the curb than Lo clasps his hand in mine. His other fingers run over the smoothness of my neck, and his eyes trail my collar. He sets his hands on the openings of my muscle shirt, touching the bareness of my ribs but also concealing my breasts from Philly pedestrians.

He observes me. Every little movement. And my heart speeds. “Is she watching us?” I whisper, wondering why he suddenly looks like he wants to devour me. It’s part of our lie, I remind myself. This isn’t real.

But it feels real. His hands on me. His warmth on my soft skin.

He licks his bottom lip and leans closer to whisper, “In this moment, I’m yours.” His hands run through the armholes of my shirt and he settles them on my bare shoulder blades.

I hold my breath and immobilize. I am a statue.

“And as your boyfriend,” he murmurs, “I really hate to share.” Then he playfully nibbles my neck, and I smack him on the arm but fall victim to his teasing.

“Lo!” I shriek, my body squirming underneath his teeth that lightly pinches my skin. Suddenly, his lips close together, kissing, sucking the base of my neck, and trailing upward. My limbs tremble, and I hold tightly to his belt loops. He smiles, in between each kiss, knowing the effect he has on me. His lips press to my jaw…the corner of my mouth...he pauses. And I restrain from taking him in my arms and finishing the job.

Then he slips his tongue inside my mouth, and I forget about the fakeness of his actions and believe, for this moment, that he’s truly mine. I kiss back, a moan caught in my throat. The sound invigorates him, and he pushes closer, harder, rougher than before. Yes.

And then I open my eyes and see the absence of the Escalade on the curb. Nola’s gone. I don’t want this to end, but I know it must. So I break the kiss first, touching my lips that swell.

His chest rises and falls heavily, and he stares at me for a long moment, not detaching.

“She’s gone,” I tell him. I hate what my body eagerly aches for. I could so easily hike a leg around his waist and slam him against the building. My heart flutters in excitement for it. I am not immune to those warm amber eyes, the ones that a functioning alcoholic like Lo carries. Endearing, glazed and powerful. The ones that constantly scream fuck me! That torture me from here until eternity.

With my spoken words, his jaw hardens. Slowly, he peels his hands from me and then rubs his mouth. Tension stretches between us, and my very core says to jump, to pounce on him like a little Bengal Tiger. But I can’t. Because he’s Loren Hale. Because we have a system that cannot be disrupted.

After a long moment, something clicks in his head, horrified. “Tell me you didn’t blow some guy.”

Oh my God. “I…uh…”

“Dammit, Lily.” He starts wiping his tongue with his fingers and dramatically takes what’s left of his flask and swishes it in his mouth, spitting it out on the ground.