“Drink up, Rose girl,” he says. “The night is young.”
Out of politeness, I take a sip. It’s bitter on my tongue and smells like a more expensive version of the canned beer my father drinks after a weekend overtime shift.
“You sure you don’t want to go back downstairs?” I ask.
He takes a sip. “Positive.”
“Everyone’s here to see you, you know.”
He rolls his steel-gray eyes. “They’re not here to see me. They’re here because they want to know what it’s like to be me … if only for a night.”
“Really?” I tease. “All of them? Every last person downstairs is here because they want to be you, August?”
“Yes. Even if they’re too stupid to realize it.” He doesn’t flinch, doesn’t miss a beat. Doesn’t seem the least bit amused. “On the surface, they want free beer and some pictures they can post that makes them look cooler than they are. But deep down, they’re curious. Maybe a little jealous. Completely unaware that they’re in the midst of hitting their peak.”
“That’s no way to talk about your friends.” I take a sip, letting the bubbles play on my tongue.
“Friends? I wouldn’t know. Never had any.” He tosses back a mouthful of beer, holding my gaze captive.
I roll my eyes. “Whatever. Weren’t you, like, prom king at your school or something a couple years back? You can’t tell me you don’t have friends.”
“They’re void-fillers. Nothing more, nothing less.” He captures my wrist in his hand, gentle. And his thumb circles my pulse, forcing it to quicken in response.
I pull away.
“Am I supposed to feel sorry for you? Poor little rich guy? Is that your schtick? Is that how you get ass?” I keep my words soft and light, but I very much mean every last one of them.
“Last thing I need is your sympathy. And I’m definitely not poor—or little. I don’t have a … schtick and even if I did, I wouldn’t need to use it to get ass.”
Without warning, he cups the side of my cheek. A tender move for someone so dark. I rake my teeth over my bottom lip—a protective move because I’m quite certain he’s seconds from attempting to devour me.
I don’t have a chance to tell him no though, because the second he leans in, the bedroom door flings open and Adriana appears in the doorway.
“Oh, my god. I’ve been looking all over for you,” she says, oblivious to what this looks like. “I thought you left or something.”’
“What’s up?” I ask.
August takes a step back, raking his hand through his hair and exhaling.
“That Isaac guy is a douche. I want to leave.” She pulls out her phone, the screen lighting her face in the dim room. “My cousin is on her way to get us. She’ll be here in twenty. You ready?”
August and I lock eyes, and I swear there’s a silent plea for me to stay. But even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. I came here with Adriana. I’m leaving with Adriana. But more important than that, I would never so much as think about staying for a Monreaux.
“She’ll meet you out front in a second,” August tells her, though he’s looking at me.
Adri’s dark brows rise, as if she’s finally realizing we were up here alone together, separated by mere inches before she barged in.
“Oh,” she says. “Oh. Um, okay …”
“I’ll be down in a sec,” I promise her. “It’s fine.”
Adriana disappears, closing the door behind her.
“You’re not actually leaving, are you?” he asks.
“Of course I am …”
“I can get you a ride home.” He takes a sip of his beer.
“It’s not about that.”
He releases a hard breath, his stare narrowing and his full mouth pressing flat.
“Well, that’s too bad,” he says. The moonlight from the window behind me paints soft shadows on his face. In this light, he doesn’t look so intimidating. “Was hoping I could get to know you a little more.”
“Really? You wanted to get to know me?” I laugh, using air quotes and rolling my eyes. “Because something tells me you were looking to score,” I continue. “And you and I both know that’ll never happen in a million years.”
“Because you’re you and I’m me. I don’t think I need to elaborate.” I place the barely-touched beer bottle on top of a nightstand and head for the door. “It’s nothing personal.”
“Don’t insult my intelligence, Rose girl.”
“I’m just stating the facts. We can’t help the family we’re born into. We have no control over what our parents did or didn’t do.”
“So why should we suffer the consequences?” he asks.
He has a good question. I pause for a second. “Because we love our parents. And we respect their wishes.”
I reach for the door knob when he comes closer.
“Must be hell,” he says.
“What?” I stop in my tracks.
“Living by other people’s rules all the time. Never doing what you want. What a fucking waste.” He takes a drink, letting his tongue caress the bottle mouth for a split second.
“Give me your phone.”
“Give me your phone, Rose girl.” He holds out his palm.
“I’m sorry, but no. I have no need for your number. I have no reason to ever text you. I’m flattered by your confidence and your drive to defy authority or whatever you’re going for with this, but this is me kindly passing,” I say.
“For the shirt,” he says, his words staccato’d. “If you could text me when it’s ready, I’ll arrange to pick it up.”
“It’s a four hundred dollar Baccarin,” he adds. I can’t help but feel it’s his bruised ego’s way of making me feel like an expensive shirt matters more to him than seeing me again. “And I’d like it back.”
Without another protest, I dig my phone from my bag and hand it over. When he returns it, I discover he’s programmed his name as ENEMY DEAREST.