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The Interview: Chapter 12

WHIT

“You’re in a rotten mood.” Lavender halts in the action of licking yogurt from the back of her spoon to complain.

“I’m trying to work,” I mutter, unable to completely ignore her as I continue physically abusing the keys on my laptop. I’m working from my dining table and while I wish I could say I usually keep my work life from bleeding into my personal life, it would be a lie. The lie being I have a personal life. Work is all-consuming, and I often work from this space on the weekends and evenings. More so since a certain off-limits blond bombshell became a permanent fixture in the office.

A permanent fixture = a semi-permanent hard-on. A semi-permanent semi?

In other words, I can’t seem to concentrate when she’s around. My brain seems to revert to its teenage state, becoming a morass of pornographic thoughts and perpetual fucking longing. It’s not even like I can send her away because she does her job brilliantly. Other than that one report I was a complete dick to her about, I don’t have to ask her for anything. She pre-empts my work needs; everything is as it should be. She hasn’t slipped up once.

She’s impressed the fuck out of me for someone so young. Impressed me with the quality of her work, her diligence, and her work ethic. Then last night, she impressed me in an entirely different way.

I’m worried I’ll never get this chance again.

Her honesty cut right through me, slicing me to my very core. Mimi, I’m sure, is pure, sexual alchemy. She’s honesty and naivety, mixed with blatant desire. I’ve fucked some women in my time, women who’ve owned their own desire, who know that they want and go for it. But they had nothing on this woman. Nothing for me.

But she can be nothing to me.

“Why are you working from there and not your super posh home office?” Lavender doesn’t make actual air quotes, but I hear her sneery intention anyway.

“A change of scenery,” I answer without biting. Working here feels like a concession of sorts, not that I bother explaining it to her. I can’t spend all my waking hours in one office or another. I know I’m probably just fooling myself, but work is all I seem to do these days. I mean, I haven’t even made it to a certain club I’m a member of. A club where I find like-minded women. Women who are down for a session of no-strings fucking.

“Could you just, like, not ignore me? I said I was sorry.” The spoon clatters against the granite as Lavender drops it. Her shoulders suddenly hunch over the kitchen island as she rubs the heels of her palms against her eyes.

“Apologies don’t count when you don’t mean them.” I continue taking my frustration out on my email. “You’re just hungover and feeling sorry for yourself.” Not at all regretting your ridiculous life choices or any kind of stress or inconvenience you might’ve caused.

“I am sorry,” she retorts, not quite shouting. “Sorry I dragged you away from your very important job.”

“My very important job pays for your university fees along with your accommodation,” I grate out as my volume increases, “the car that was impounded last week, not to mention your fucking love rival’s window!”

“She’s not my love rival. She’s just some skank I caught blowing my boyfriend.”

“Such wonderful choices you’re making, Lav.”

“Fuck you, Whit. Just because you’re a cyborg who lives his life above the need for human contact.”

I shake my head. I get all the fucking human contact I can take from this family. It’s little wonder I’m not interested in relationships given the shit I put up with from my siblings.

“Life is supposed to be messy. We’re emotional beings—you should try it sometime.”

“I’d rather you try not to drown your emotions in a bottle of Belvedere. Maybe next time, try an adult conversation before you decide to commit criminal damage.”

“Talk?” She verbally holds the suggestion between her thumb and index finger. “I’m not talking to him after what he did to me.”

“Did you catch him, or was this intel from your so-called friends?” She glowers my way. “I thought so. You just got drunk instead, then lashed out. Again.”

Why do people have relationships? Why do they get involved? I can barely deal with what I have on my plate already.

“Why do you have to be such a—”

“Watch it, Lavender. I suggest you choose your next words very carefully.”

“Or what?”

“I’ll cut you off,” I answer simply. “You can do what everyone else does, what I did, and work to pay yourself through university.” Though I did a proper degree, not the ridiculousness she’s studying. The Psychology of Fashion. What’s she going to do with that? Help a Vivienne Westwood dress deal with its existential crisis when it goes out of style?

Lavender turns her back to me, muttering about the injustices of her world and being treated like a leech. I don’t bother to answer, mainly because I have nothing pleasant to say. If I did answer, I’d tell her she leeches my bloody energy. The money means nothing. It’s not like I haven’t made enough not to share. Though sometimes I do wonder if we’d be better off living a normal life, paying off mortgages and car loans, being in thousands of pounds of university debts. It might’ve helped steer Lavender away from this self-destructive streak because she might be too busy growing up to act so ridiculously.

I roll my shoulders, trying to stretch out the kinks from spending much of the evening on a plastic bench in the Chelsea nick. Chelsea police station. Lavender’s accommodations were probably more comfortable than mine, not that it would’ve mattered as she’d spent the evening before her criminal damage spree cozying up with a bucket of top-shelf White Russians. Stupid enough that she got so drunk and behaved so recklessly, but then she’d also hung around to scream obscenities when the police turned up. She’s lucky the girl with the broken window accepted my offer of compensation. Whatever job Lavender ends up with, I can’t see her employers looking well on a criminal conviction.

The police had plonked her in a cell to sober up. Because they couldn’t tell me when she’d be released, and because Polly would freak if the coppers had called her, I waited until they kicked her out. And this is the thanks I get in return.

“Thank you,” she mutters examining her black-painted fingernails as her bottom lip begins to wobble. “I know you think I don’t mean it, but I do.”

I’m saved from answering (thank fuck, because I have no idea what to say) when my phone buzzes with a text. Like a teenager with a crush, my stomach flips. Then like an adult male who had lots of time to dwell on his inappropriate behavior last night, I push the excitement away.

I hope everything went okay with Lavender. Mimi x

This is the second time she’s texted me, but it will be the first time I’ve answered. Because I’m a dick.

She got a caution. They didn’t press charges, and we’re home now. Sorry I didn’t return your text last night. It was hectic.

No sign off. No kiss. No admissions of you’re all I can think of.

As well as a dick, I’m a fucking coward.

I feel like such a shit.

I should at least apologize for the way I left her. For not being there to take her home myself. I might also apologize for my cockblocking sister’s terrible timing.

Or maybe I should look at Lavender’s timing as perfect.

God knows I’d tried to resist her, but in that illicit dark space, I’d caved. I was moments away from dropping to my knees to bury my face in her sweet-smelling heat. My mouth watered as I’d anticipated the slide of my tongue through her soaked slit. I had fully intended on eating her out until her throat became hoarse and her legs weak. Until pleasure coated her thighs, my chin, and cheeks. I would’ve fucked her then, blind to consequences, blind to everything.

Is it relief I’m feeling or is it regret?

By the time I’d finished the call, Mimi had pulled herself together as best as she could. Kiss-swollen lips, wet knickers, and a torn skirt. I was the one leaving, yet she was the one consoling me.

“It’s fine. I’m okay. I get it. Go! Family comes first.”

I’d asked her to wait in the copy room, then ducked into my office, grabbed my jacket, and made a call. She’d looked shaken as I burst back through the door.

It’s just me,” I’d said, shaking out my jacket for her to slip on.

She’d laughed as she’d slid her arms into the sleeves, and I’d murmured something about her growing into it. She’d turned and I’d pulled on the lapels, bringing her body flush against mine.

“I look silly, right?” She’d looked up at me, her gray eyes suddenly shy.

You’d look gorgeous in a burlap sack,” I’d replied before pressing a kiss to her head. “Take the executive elevator down to the basement. George, the driver, is waiting to take you home.”

I wanted to squeeze her so tight one last time. In the moments we’d been apart, regular programming had resumed. I think she felt it, too. She’d protested, said there was no need to make a fuss. But there was no way I was letting her take the Tube home. I’d slid my hands into my pockets against the notion of squeezing her tight one last time, then she’d left me in that tiny room.

Fucking her would’ve been the pinnacle of my year. But it would’ve been wrong.

“Are you listening to me?” Lavender’s petulance pierces my unhappy musings.

“Not really,” I admit, putting down my phone and continuing with my email.

“You’re such an arsehole sometimes.”

“Yep. I’m the arsehole who bails you out of scrape after scrape. I’m the arsehole who also keeps vegan fucking yogurts in my fridge.” The arsehole who dropped everything, including the hottest yet most perplexing woman he’s ever encountered to bail his troublesome little sister out of shit again. Despite what they might think, I do like having my siblings around. I just wish they’d have a bit of consideration sometimes.

“They’re nice, the yogurts,” she qualifies. “Thank you for buying them.”

“You’re welcome.”

Honestly, I still don’t know whether to consider Lavender’s phone call a blessing or a curse. As much as I want to fuck Mimi, something tells me it would’ve been one night of pleasure followed by many more of grief because more and more lately, I keep remembering the last time I was with Connor.

I’d been in the States on business but had made time to catch up with him. On a whim, we’d headed to Utah to climb in Moab. If there’s anything that’ll get you thinking about the smallness of your existence, it’s spending a couple of days in a red rock canyon, hanging from a piece of sandstone sculpted by millennia of rain and wind. You want to contemplate your mortality? Be sure to rappel down a couple of vertical cliff faces while you’re there. Want to kick back after finding joy in surviving? Head from Utah to Vegas, which is exactly what we did.

Our weekend of debauchery began with a steak followed by a few drinks, which had then turned to getting laid, the peacocks that we were. Needless to say, neither of us had gone to our hotel rooms alone. But at breakfast the following morning, Connor had seemed unusually pensive.

If anything happens to me, look after Mimi, would you?” he asked out of the blue.

I’d barely looked up as I’d worked my way through my omelet. “Why not. What’s one more sister added to the pile,” I’d replied.

“At least your sisters have each other. If anything happens to me, Mimi will be all alone.”

“Are your parents also kicking the bucket in this scenario? Did you all die in the same car wreck? Maybe a grand piano or a supersized anvil fell on your heads.”

“Fuck, man. I know it sounds weird, but I just feel like, a girl like her needs someone to look out for her. Someone to make sure she doesn’t end up with some dick.” He’s swung a finger between us. Like us, he’d meant.

“Speak for yourself,” I’d muttered, reaching for my coffee. But then I realized he wasn’t laughing along with me. “What’s brought this on?

I don’t know.” He wiped his mouth with the napkin then tossed it down. “It’s just, that girl last night was kind of sweet.” He hunched forward in his chair. “I can’t think of Mimi—”

Then don’t,” I’d retorted, horrified. I had three times the number of sisters he did. I couldn’t afford to think of them as women with potential sex lives and all that entailed. I’d suffered a hard enough time when Heather met Archer. I was happy for them when he proposed, but it didn’t stop the urge to punch him in the face whenever he touched her.

I mean it,” he’d insisted. “My parents have no fucking clue what the world is like, and Mimi is so—”

“Young,” I’d put in. I hadn’t seen her for a while at this point. In my head, she was still the kid with white-blond pigtails and legs like pale toothpicks. “There’s loads of time before you start tying yourself up in knots.”

“She’s such an innocent. She’s kind and too sweet for her own damn good.” His words choked off, his expression flickering with something akin to pain.

I’d bit my tongue against saying that’s what we all like to think.

Jesus Christ, what would he say if he saw me last night? He’d doubtless want to rip off my head.

Fine.” I’d put my coffee cup down and folded my arms across my chest. “I’ll do it.” It was not like he was dying anytime soon, right? He was just hungover and regretting his choice of pussy.

“I mean it. No one like me, right?”

“Scout’s honor,” I’d said, giving him an ironic salute.

Or you.”

“Fucking charming!” I’d laughed.

“Aren’t you gonna ask me to look after your sisters?” He’d stretched in his chair. He’d seemed satisfied or at least lighter in his mood.

“That feral lot?” I’d asked with a huff. “I like you too much to saddle you with them.”

It wasn’t a declaration signed in blood, and he didn’t specifically mention me by name. Just someone like me. And who is most in the world like me? Me, obviously. But I reckon he’d include El and Brin in the same category.

I drag my mind from the past as my phone buzzes again.

I guess I’ll see you on Monday.

I don’t respond because fuck bro code, a decent man wouldn’t screw his best friend’s kid sister no matter what.


After Lavender takes a cab home, I go for a run through Hyde Park to clear my head. The early evening rolls around, and I contemplate ordering Thai in when Brin and Primrose, the baby of our family, appear in the kitchen.

“Oh, Thai food. Yummy!” Prim claps her hand like a cute performing seal.

“I’m having Thai,” I say, taking the menu back. “In peace, if I’m lucky.”

“Meanie.” She pouts and puts down her bubble tea, which probably means she’s been wandering around China Town with her mates all day. “I’m starving.”

“You’re always starving,” Brin says, pulling open the fridge.

“I’m a growing girl,” she protests.

“Yeah, growing dafter.” When the fridge door closes, Brin is holding a beer.

“Make yourself at home,” I mutter.

“Do you want one?”

“Do I want one of my own beers? Chance would be a fine thing.” Despite the building having a shopping service, which operates a bit like the minibar in a hotel with a member of staff checking stock levels daily somehow, I rarely get more than a couple of beers down my throat each week. “To what do I owe this pleasure, anyway?”

“I was shopping and too tired to go home,” Prim says.

“Same,” Brin says, pulling out a bottle opener. “But I’m tired because I haven’t been home since last night.”

“Ew,” Prim exclaims, scrunching her nose. “You dirty fuck boy! I bet you’re wearing the same clothes.”

“Yeah, but to be fair, they’re pretty clean. I was out of them most of the time.”

“Double ew! I can’t believe you got in the elevator with me. I’ve been breathing in your sex particles!”

“Not sure it works like that.”

She swings around and ducks under the kitchen sink. When she stands again, she’s holding a bottle of some kind of organic Febreze alternative. “That’s what they said before Louis Pasteur discovered germ theory.” She begins to spray Brin with the bottle. “Be gone, vile sex particles! Out, damn spot, out!”

“I never let a lady sleep in the damp spot,” he says with a laugh, dodging around the kitchen island.

“You’re such a dirty ho bag!”

“A dirty ho bag the ladies love.” He makes a dash for her, snatching the spray bottle out of her hand. “This suit cost me five grand!” A tussle ensues. Squealing. Tickling. Profanity.

I sigh. There goes my evening.

“Am I ordering Thai for three, or what?” I yell over the din.

“Oh yes, please. I want dumplings,” Prim says, abandoning the sanitation of her brother. “And some of those yummy noodles you got last time.”

“Not for me.” Brin pours half the contents of his beer down his throat. “I’m going out.”

“Burning the candle at both ends.” Prim tsks. “You’ll never make as much money as our illustrious leader.”

“Who’d want to,” he says. “Look at him. At thirty-six, he’s going gray and eating takeout with his little sister on a Saturday night.”

“Someone has to be with him,” Primrose says, not exactly rising to my defense.

“No one has to be with me,” I protest. “I’m not ancient!”

“Besides, I’m his favorite sibling,” Prim continues as though I haven’t spoken.

“Suck-up.” Brin snickers.

“It’s all part of my life plan. I’m going to look after him in his dotage, and then when he dies, he’ll leave all his money to me.”

“Charming.” Neither of them looks my way. “Go ahead,” I say, folding my arms across my chest. “Discuss me as though I’m not here.”

“There, there, Leif.” Primrose pats my arm. “Try not to get too wound up. The stress you’re under is already immense.” She grins.

“The stress I’m under is suddenly increasing.”

“It’s all part of the plan,” she says, laughing. “We’ll knock a few more years off your life yet.”

“I’ll cancel your food.”

“No, you won’t,” she says with the kind of smile you see nurses wear in care in retirement homes. “Look, we all know you’re at home on Saturday night because you’re just far too busy mastering the universe to be interested in love.”

“I have a date,” Brin pipes up. “That’s nothing to do with love.”

Primrose spins around. “Don’t make me get the spray bottle again.”

“You might need to take it home with you. Mum’s doing a roast for lunch tomorrow, and I’m not the only one out tonight. El’s bound to turn up reeking of sex particles.” He wiggles his finger in the air as though sex particles were an actual thing.

“Urgh, why are my brothers so gross?”

“Looks like I’ll be leaving my money to the cat and dog’s home.”

“Not you, Leif, obviously. You’re my favorite.” Prim flounces away, snatching up the TV remote as she throws herself into the middle of one of the sofas. “I’m going to catch up on Love Island. Is that all right?”

“Go ahead. They’re your brain cells to lose.”

“I’d rather eat my own feet,” Brin says, lifting his beer bottle to his mouth as the panel concealing the TV begins to slide automatically apart. The monied classes don’t like to admit to owning idiot boxes, it seems, despite there being one in almost every room of this house. Even in the bathrooms.

“Where’s El off to tonight?” I pull out a stool at the kitchen island.

“You mean you don’t know?” He puts the bottle down, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Would I be asking if I did, arsewipe?”

“He’s taking Mimi out tonight, the bastard.”

“What?” Something pinches between my shoulder blades, forcing me to sit straight.

“You know why, don’t you?” Picking up his beer, he tips the base my way. “It’s because he heard I was taking her out to lunch on Monday.”

“You were what?”

“I brought her coffee and offered to take her to lunch. Speaking of which, you know,” he adds, shifting his weight to his left leg, “it’s not right, making her work through her lunch hour. A girl’s got to eat.”

“I didn’t—” Fuck it. What’s the point in arguing when there are more important matters at hand. “I thought they weren’t going out until next week.” That’s what Mimi said, hadn’t she? Something hard and cold settles in my belly, and I begin to wish I hadn’t been such an avoiding prick and called her after yesterday. She probably thinks the worst of me, feeling her up like that, then ditching her to make her own way home. This family sometimes…

I realize Brin is still talking.

“I told him, you’re just jealous because she smiles at me.”

“She smiles at everyone,” I mutter. Sunshine is second nature to her, but what neither of my brothers is conscious of is that she also burns in my arms hotter than the sun.

“Yeah, but she smiles at me more.”

And she tells me she’s curious. That she enjoyed my direction. That she wants to know more. She playfully suggests she takes me shopping and accuses me playfully of being everything from a grump to a voyeur. I see so much more of her than they do, and I’m not just thinking about her arse in that skirt.

But that doesn’t mean anything. It can’t mean anything. I have to let this go. El is nearer her age, and he’s fun. If you have a thing for gormless idiots, I suppose. Hell, Brin’s even closer to her age. Maybe they’d be better for her.

“Anyway, he only brought the date forward because he wanted to get in before me.”

In?” I sort of growl, the connotation making my blood boil.

“Yeah, you know. In with a chance.” He makes a rough gesture with his fist, the kind that pisses me right off.

“If either of you lay a finger on her…” I mutter, rapidly changing my stance. This pair is unworthy of her attention, let alone her kisses. Or more.

“Come on, bro. You can’t blame us. Mimi’s fucking gorgeous—she’s banging!”

“Urgh! Can you actually hear yourself?” We both turn to the sound of Primrose’s disgust. “That’s an actual human person you’re talking about!”

“Yeah, a gorgeous human. Anyway, what are you griping about? Banging is a compliment!”

“You’re a sexist pig!” Prim launches a pillow at him before turning back to the TV.

“Calm down, Frieda!” Brin says with a stuttering laugh. “I’m a feminist.”

“Yeah, right. I have an even funnier joke. A male feminist walks into a bar. Because the bar was just that low.” Folding her arms, she swings around with an audible huff.

“What’s up with her?”

“She has a point. Not only is Mimi an actual human person,” I murmur, “but she’s also my PA.”

“That sounds like a you problem, brother dearest. And a reason for you not to dip your wick.” Brin pokes me lightly in the shoulder. “I’m barely ever in the office.”

That’s a discussion for some other time. “She’s also my best friend’s little sister.”

“Again with the you problem. I never knew the bloke, so what do I care? He’s dead now, anyway.”

“I’m not sure what that has to do with anything.”

“Well, what’s he gonna do about it? Haunt me?”

“Have some fucking respect.” I rake my hand through my hair because what I want to do is slap him across the back of the head.

Unaware of my simmering temper, Brin drains his beer then sniffs, running the back of his hand under his nose. “Anyway, her brother would be rattling his chains at the bottom of El’s bed, not mine because he’s the one who’ll probably get into her knickers tonight.”

The fuck he will.


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