Authors: Adriana Locke
Tags: #Wherever It Leads
“Pres . . .”
“This is the universe trying to repay you for all the shit it’s thrown at you. Think about it. Karma just tossed the sexiest man I’ve ever feasted my eyes on, and I’ve seen some cute guys in my time, your way. He. Wants. You. If karma had fingers, she’d have put a bow on it.”
A depressed sigh escapes my lips. “I really do have to work, for one thing. And for two, it’s the way he propositioned me. It’s not that I don’t want him,” I groan. “It’s . . . he offered me money, Presley.”
“Can’t you just look at it like he knows you’ll be missing work and he’s just trying to be a nice guy? I mean, was he a dick during dinner? Was he ever rude or condescending?”
“See?” she exclaims, her eyes lighting up. “You probably just mentioned that you were saving for school or something, so he feels bad about taking you away from work. And money isn’t an issue for him . . .”
My head whips to the side. Guilt is heavy on her face. “What did you do?”
“I just called Nick, my daddy’s security guy, and had him run a check on Fenton.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Do you really think I was going to let you scamper off not knowing anything about him at all? Come on, Brynne.”
I don’t want to ask what Nick found, but I’m way too curious not to. “Well?”
“He just did a quick check because I caught him in the middle of something . . . and it wasn’t me going on the date, no offense,” she cringes, “But Fenton owns Ruma—”
“He owns the restaurant?” I gulp. I knew he was loaded, or I assumed that, anyway, but Ruma is the hottest place in the city. That’s
“Yup. I didn’t know that either. Apparently he’s a silent partner or something. But he owns that, is a shareholder in a Vegas casino, and something else. Maybe a fishing boat?”
“A fishing boat?” I laugh.
She giggles. “I may not have been paying a lot of attention after Nick said he was clear. But the point of the matter is that he has a completely clean record. There’s nothing but good marks or whatever on his record, so he’s safe.”
Presley wrestles around in the sheets until she’s on her side and facing me. She presses her lips together. “You can feel good about this. He’s . . . your rebound.”
“I don’t want a rebound, P.”
“Everyone needs a rebound. And you haven’t really done much of anything since Grant. You need a good fling to ease you back into the dating world again. And what better way to do that than to get bent with Fent?”
My jaw drops and I shoot her a look of disbelief. “Did you really just say that?”
“I did,” she laughs. “Do you see what I’m saying though? It’s just a mini-vacation with a super hot guy.”
I squeeze my eyes shut and let my memory settle on the way the corner of his lip quirked as he watched me talk. The intensity of his gaze and the way it made my body heat from the inside out washes over me. My skin nearly burns with the memory.
“It’s a rebound,” I hesitate, tasting the words.
“Just a rebound . . .” she echoes.
A rebound I can handle. A rebound I’ve done before. It’s just a segue from one guy to the next. I have had a hard time moving on from Grant’s trashing of my self-esteem. If I’m being truthful, there’s not a better way to forget Grant than with Fenton.
When I look at Pres, she’s grinning ear-to-ear. “It’s just a way to boomerang from before,” she motions with her hand, “to after.”
“It’s not a bad idea . . .”
“Not a bad idea?” She collapses onto her back and sighs dramatically. “It’s the best idea I’ve ever heard! Every girl needs a rebound, and you, naturally, are rebounding better than anyone I know. Most people pick a decent looking guy in a bar covered in tattoos that’s the antithesis of the guy she had. You go all out and get the smokin’ businessman. I have to say,” she laughs, “I’m proud. Jealous as feck, but proud.”
“So what do I tell him? Do I just call him and say, ‘Hey, take me with you this weekend but don’t pay me to go so I don’t feel like a whore’?”
“Or just go.”
“Nope. Deal breaker.”
“Okay . . .” She chews on her bottom lip. “Tell him you used vacation days. So you’re getting paid the shifts you’ll miss. It works.”
“Then I just have to figure out what to do if they fire me . . .” I fight a grin as a course of excitement takes flight. Even though this feels right, I don’t want to jump the gun just in case I wake up in the morning with a different feeling about it. “Okay. I’ll call him in the morning.”
“Why not now?”
“Just in case I have second thoughts.”
The blankets rip away and she jumps off the side of the bed. “You need to be more instinctive. Fenton is not going to give you swoon regret.”
“Swoon regret? Seriously?”
“It happens,” she sighs. “I swooned over this rocker guy once, let me tell you. Hot and sexy and a voice—not cashmere, more whiskey—and in the morning, I regretted my swoon. He wasn’t that cute in the daylight and he had a smoker’s cough, two things I didn’t see in the strobe lights of the bar.”
Laughing, I climb out of bed too. “Want to watch a movie?”
“Let’s order Italian and watch Netflix.”
“I’m not hungry, but go ahead and order. Just get me some breadsticks.”
“Is that some Freudian slip?” Presley laughs.
“Probably,” I say, shaking my head and realizing I might be a little more affected than I even realize.
The sun trickles through the curtains, casting a cheery glow through the kitchen. Perched on a barstool at the island, my third cup of coffee at my side, I easily check off the crossword puzzle in front of me.
After talking through what to do about Fenton with Presley last night and vegging out in front of the television, I slept like a baby. The fresh air on my walk this morning helped too. Although everything Pres said was right and all her points legit ones, my final decision to go with Fenton came after I remembered something Brady said about making decisions.
“When you aren’t sure, imagine you’ve already said yes and then pretend you’ve already said no. Choose accordingly.”
Thinking that I’d said yes made me feel excited on a level I haven’t felt since I was accepted into the college of my choice. Pretending I’d said no makes my spirits sink, a continuation of the doldrums that have hovered over me for months. Looking at it like that, the choice was easy—I go. I enjoy myself. Rebounding at its finest.
I check off another answer to the puzzle when my phone rings. Lifting it up, I don’t recognize the number, but a flutter of worry ripples through me. I was the one to answer the unknown call when we were notified that Brady was first missing. It was me that answered the door when the uniformed man came to tell us about the “proof of life” video posted on the internet. The roll of bile will always find its way up my throat now when I get an unexpected call for the rest of my life. First hearing that he was at the mercy of some psychopaths, and then weeks later, seeing him bound and on his knees in front of two men with guns is something you can’t shake. It will haunt me forever.
“Tell them your name,” a hooded man said in broken English, waving the barrel of a gun near my brother’s face. Brady shied away from it, like a dog that scoots away from a foot after it’s been kicked too often. “Now.”
“Brady Stewart Calloway.”
He was clothed in light colored garb, his face half covered by facial hair. His voice was steady, strong, and when he looked in the camera, I could see the hope he was trying to give us. He was trying to tell us he’d be okay and not to break down. But that was impossible.
I held my mother all night that night while my father slipped outside to drown his tears in the stiffest liquor he could find.
My phone rings again, startling me. I pick it up. “Hello?” I ask, my voice wearing a slight tremble.
“Yes. This is Brynne.”
“Hello, Brynne. I’m Edie Stark from Fred Segal and I was asked to get in touch with you about your needs for this week.”
“My needs this week?” I place my pencil down on the counter. “I’m sorry, Edie. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Presley comes into the room and gives me a look, clearly seeing my confusion. I shrug and try to figure out what’s going on.
A soft laugh drifts through the phone. “Mr. Abbott said you’d be needing a few things—dresses, swimsuits, some leisure clothes. I just wanted to get a time you were available to swing by the store and—”
“Whoa,” I interject, hopping off my stool. “Let’s back up a second. Fenton told you to call me about things I’d need to go away with him?”
“Well, Ms. Calloway, I’m not sure what you need these things for. That’s between the two of you. He just asked me to arrange for it to be taken care of . . .”
“That cheeky fucker.”
I glance at Presley. Her jaw is grazing the tile on the floor.
Edie maintains her professionalism and if she’s thrown by my comment, she doesn’t let it show. “I can have a car come pick you up at any time. Just let me know what works for you.”
I’m at a loss for words. Even though I was going to say yes, I haven’t yet. He just assumes I’m going to. That rich, good-looking bastard.
“Edie,” I say, clearing my throat, “Can I reach you at the number on my caller ID?”
“You sure can. Just give me an hour’s notice, please, to arrange for transportation.”
“If it comes to that, I will. Thank you.”
I click the phone off and spin to see Presley’s startled face. “What the hell did he do?”
“Apparently, I have an appointment to go shopping for the week at Fred Segal?”
She yawns, stretching her arms over her head. “I knew I’d like him. That Guy Radar was lasered in on this one. What can I say?”
“I haven’t even told him I’d go!”
“You must have come across as a given. Or he isn’t used to being told no. Either way, it’s really hot, Brynne.”
It is really hot.
Presley pours herself a cup of coffee and takes my place at the bar. “I think you need to call him.”
“Probably,” I murmur. I thought I had it all figured out. The ball was in my court and I was in control. I was happy with that situation. And now he’s twisted it all up and somehow wrested the control back again. “I don’t want to seem like a shoe-in though.”
“I agree. Toss him some conditions. Let him know you aren’t just rolling over . . .
The look on her face makes me giggle. “Good idea. But if he acts like an asshole, I’m bailing. I don’t care how hot he is.”
She sips her drink and watches me over the cup, not saying a word. Taking a deep breath, I find his number in my contacts and head into my room, closing the door behind me. I can hear my pulse beating in my ears as I press the call through.
It rings twice before he picks up.
“Hi, Fenton. It’s Brynne.”
A chair squeaks in the background. I imagine him leaning back in some oversized leather chair, wearing that smirk of his that I’ve thought about for the last fourteen hours. “Well, good afternoon, Brynne. How are you?”
“Good. I just had a very interesting phone call.”
“Is that so?”
“It is,” I quip. “A lady named Edie called. We had a very enthralling conversation.”
“Those conversations are my favorites. You never know what you can glean from good dialogue.”
“What did she say?” he teases.
“She said you asked her to make arrangements for me to pick up things for this coming week.”
His chuckle resonates through me, bringing my body to life.
“Well, I just got off the phone with her a few minutes ago, so that’s a point for efficiency,” he replies.
“Fenton, I haven’t agreed to go with you.”
“Brynne, you know you’re not going to say no.”
My chest tightens. This is the moment of truth.
I go with you,” I say, my voice as stern as I can manage, “I’m not going as an employee.”
“Is that what’s holding you back?”
The chair squeaks again. “Brynne, I only offered to pay you to accompany me as a means to an end. You said you had to work, so I assumed you needed the paycheck. It was never my intention to disrespect you.”
My throat goes dry. The tone of his voice, so much rawer than I’ve heard it, blindsides me.
“You needed a vacation and I’m going away anyway. Why not go with me?” he asks.
“I barely know you.”
“But do you like me?”
“I think so.”
“Didn’t you say last night that sometimes that’s all that matters?”
I’m not sure if that is what I said. I can’t focus. I’m lost in his voice, in the way he seems completely unrushed to convince me to take this trip with him. All I know at this minute is that I want to be across from him, looking into those steely eyes, and feeling like
“I’m not taking your money.”
His laugh reverberates through the phone. “Fine. But if you can’t afford to miss work, I’m happy to compensate you. Money is no worry for me.”
I nod, then realize he can’t see me and laugh. “I’m not happy about you thinking I need to go shopping either.”