Chapter 17


Ugh.  Ick.  Oh God, why couldn’t the fucking Hangover Fairy forget me, just once?  I don’t even want to open my eyes with the sun blazing through the windows.  All I want is some water, some Advil, and to go back to sleep.  But I can’t.  I stretch, making my head hurt even worse, sit up, and wonder why I’m so cold.  Daring to peek, I open my eyes just a little and see I’m not wearing anything but my bikini bottoms and am covered by a quilt I’ve never seen before.  This isn’t right…

I pull the quilt back up to cover myself and look suspiciously around.  Wood and stone interior… warm, neutral accents… a dark gray couch with huge, overstuffed cushions… FUCK!  Last night comes rushing back to me.  I give a little horrified squeak and cover my eyes with the memories.  Sam cheating, me jumping Eric… and then falling asleep on him.  I chance one more glance around and see the clock… it’s almost ten!

“I called Mr. Norris and told him you were helping me clean up after the party.  He’s given you the day off,” a deep voice says from behind me.  I whimper and bow my head deeper; I don’t know if I’ve ever been so mortified in my life.

“Thanks,” I groan and feel something cold and wet tap against the back of my hand.  I peek between my fingers and see a glass of ice water and hear the rattle of a pill bottle.

“You could probably use these,” Eric says dryly and I can just imagine what he’s not saying:  I look like shit.

I take the offering and thank him.  Without asking, he picks up my sundress and bikini top from their landing spots on the floor and hands them to me.  He’s not making eye contact… that’s not good.

“Eric, I’m sorry about… last night…” I say softly.  Honestly, “I’m sorry” doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I just don’t know what else to say.

“What do you have to be sorry for?  We were both drunk and lost our heads for a little while.  No harm, no foul…  I fly to New York in a week; you go back to your boyfriend.”  I can’t help but notice the smallest hint of bitterness in his voice.

Huh?  “What are you flying to New York for?”

Eric sighs and sits next to me on the couch.   “Publicity about the new season.  I spend a week in New York, a week in LA, then we start shooting the movie at the end of June.  The party yesterday was kind of my last ‘hurrah’ since I’m going to be running non-stop until the end of August.”  That’s right… only part of his time here was for vacationing.  He does have a job to do.  He stands back up at my lack of a response.  “I’m going to take a shower.  You can use the other bedroom to freshen up and get dressed, then I’ll take you home.”

Nodding silently, I hold my discarded clothes to my chest.  When I hear the door close, I stand, grab my purse from where I dropped it at the front door and shuffle quickly to the second bedroom and go into the bathroom there.  I look in the mirror and see that I do truly look as bad as I feel.  My face is slightly red and puffy, just like my eyes.  My hair is standing out all over the place. And is that… oh fuck… is that a hickey?  Thank God I have some stage-quality concealer in my make-up drawer at home.  I do what I can with the little travel size brush and the touch-up cosmetics in my bag, tie my bikini top back on, and pull the dress over my head.  When I come out, Eric is standing in the kitchen with two steaming mugs, a small smile… wearing nothing but a damn towel.  Someone up there hates me.

“You look like you feel a little better.  Here,” he says, handing me one of the mug.  “I’ll get dressed and we can go.  I’m sure you want to get out of those clothes and go to bed,” he says with no hint whatsoever of a double entendre.  Why do I feel slightly disappointed by that?

I nod and he smiles again, disappearing with the other cup of coffee.  Slumping (rather inelegantly) into one of the kitchen chairs, I pull out my phone.  I see a missed call from Mr. Norris, a call and text from Holly, a text from Kennedy… and four missed calls and ten texts from Sam.  Shit.

Holly’s text just asks why I’m not in today.  I fire off a reply.  Kennedy just sent me a winky-face emoticon.  I send her a kissy face back.  Taking a deep breath, I open up the messages from Sam.

Sam: Hey babe, the party over yet?

Sam: Sook, you okay?

Sam: Where are you?

Sam:  Are you okay?  I’m coming over.

Sam: Why aren’t you home yet?  Where the fuck are you?

Sam: I’ve been here for an hour.  Why aren’t you answering?

Sam: Wake me up when you come in.

Sam: Who are you with?

Sam: You aren’t even going to work today?  What the hell?

Sam: Call me ASAP.  We have a problem.

That fucker. I don’t reply to any of his messages; he deserves to hear what I have to say in person.  And just like that, my rage is back up and I want to lay into someone.  Even with my temper simmering getting ready to boil, I won’t let that person be Eric.  He’s been too nice to me this morning and he certainly doesn’t deserve it.

When he comes out to get me and his keys, he looks better than is fair to us mere mortals: tight, plain white t-shirt hugging his ripped physique and highlighting his newly acquired tan, slightly baggy dark blue jeans that hang perfectly low on his narrow hips, and, surprisingly, black flip-flops.  For some reason, I find him in flip-flops funny.

He sets the security system and leads me to the Corvette.  I’m glad I have my bathing suit on under my dress because getting into the low bucket seat modestly is a challenge.  Once we get out of the lake-side neighborhoods, I start giving him directions to get me home.

My little subdivision is nothing fancy, but I’m proud of owning my own home.  My little two-bedroom ranch house is perfect for me.  He smiles when he pulls up the slight incline of my driveway.  “This looks like you, you know?”

I grin and nod.  “It does.  It should.  I chose a plan from the builder and picked everything from the exterior to the blinds.  It’s only about two years old.  Do you want to come in?”

I offer as a courtesy, not expecting him to take me up on the invitation.  He kills the ignition and gestures for me to wait while he comes around to open the door for me.  I need his hand to stand gracefully.  Digging my keys out of my purse, I apologize in advance for any mess.  I’m pretty neat, but if Sam was killing time waiting for me to come home, I can’t be sure what state my house will be in when I never did.

It’s not too bad: some dirty dishes in the sink and the TV left on, which really pisses me off.  I shut it off and give Eric the quick tour, which takes about 90 seconds.  He follows me back to the kitchen, where I offer a drink.  He declines, and I grab a bottle of water.  He again follows me to the living room and sits next to me on my couch.  “Why’d you come back last night?” he asks bluntly.

“Umm…” I stall… sounding incredibly articulate.  “Sam’s cheating on me.”  His eyes widen as he stares at me.  I decide to let that sink in.  “Let me grab a quick shower and change clothes.  Don’t go anywhere, ok?”  He nods dumbly and I run to my room.

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