Wicked Sexy Liar: Chapter 16


Luke

I WAKE WITH A start, still in last night’s jeans and with the remote resting on my stomach. The room is bright, the other side of the bed is untouched, and there’s no sign of London anywhere. The clock shows it’s almost eight and I sit up, fumbling for my phone and squinting at the screen, wondering why London isn’t here and why she didn’t text when she got off like she said she would. I do a quick scroll through my messages but don’t see the name I’m looking for, and it occurs to me that something could have happened to her, like maybe she didn’t make it out of Fred’s or even to her car.

I’ve never called someone so fast in my life.

It rings three times before London answers, the sound of wind whipping through the line.

“Are you okay?” I practically shout.

“What? Yeah, I’m fine. I’m up at Black’s.” She pauses for a moment before adding, “Are you okay?”

I fall back against my pillow and press my hand to my chest, only now realizing how fast my heart is pounding. “Yeah, I just—you said you’d text when you left and I must have fallen asleep. I woke up and . . .”

London is silent for a moment and I can hear the sound of seagulls overhead. “I did text you—twice, actually—but you didn’t answer,” she says. “You didn’t get them?”

I roll to my side and close my eyes. “Yeah, I didn’t see anything.”

“Did you actually read your messages, Luke?”

“I started to,” I say, putting her on speaker so I can take a closer look. There’s . . . well, there’s a few.

Michelle: Wanna hang out?

Dylan: Did you know that polar bears aren’t actually white?

Call me if ur bored. 619-555-3344? I have no idea who this person even is.

Tonya: Did I leave my bra at your place on Valentine’s? The one with the LED lights?

Leiah: I’m in town next weekend . . .

Scroll . . .

Scroll . . .

CALL ME. Who is Brunette With Great Rack?—And did I really put that as a contact in my phone?

“Still reading?” London asks, and I can hear the hard smile in her voice. “Must have been a busy night.”

“Quiet, you,” I tell her, but wow, she’s sort of right. I get a lot of texts on a normal day, but I don’t think I ever realized how many of them were quite so . . . suggestive. I rarely reply to any, and when I do it’s only the girls I might have somehow managed to become friendly with over time, or hook up with again . . . on occasion.

But this is . . . eye-opening.

I’m about to call it quits and give London the big I told you so, when I see her name in the middle of a few others.

Leaving in about ten. You still up? And then about twenty minutes later: Headed home. Exhausted. Let’s talk tomorrow.

“Oh.”

“I guess you found it?” she asks, voice a little tighter now.

I frown. I don’t like that London was right about this, and I don’t like the way I feel right now. I don’t feel proud or like a big swinging dick with girls texting me like this. I feel sort of sleazy.

“Yeah, I didn’t see it, I guess,” I mumble. “Sorry.”

London laughs, but still, it’s a little off. Has this always bothered her? “You’re a popular guy.”

I opt for a subject change. “Well, anyway, I missed you last night.”

There’s a moment of silence before London answers. “I missed you, too.”

I am so fucking crazy for this girl that such a simple admission and my chest is filled with helium. “What are you doing today?”

“I’ll probably finish Lola’s site, maybe run some errands. Right now I’m just hanging out, thinking.”

“Just thinking?”

She pauses. “Yeah . . .”

I don’t like the way all of this makes me feel. “Need some help?”

“Some help thinking?” she says, and I close my eyes, imagining the way her dimples are probably denting her cheeks when she says this.

“Don’t you need to get to work today? Or are you taking another personal day?”

“I’m meeting one of the partners down at the courthouse later this afternoon. I have some time this morning.”

“You want to meet at Black’s? We could work on your pop-up,” she says.

“At Black’s?” I clarify, brows raised.

“Sure, why not?”

“I know next to nothing about surfing, and even I know Black’s does not have a bunny hill, Logan.”

“There’s a section of nude beach here. Maybe I just want to get you naked.”

I press my hand to my dick and close my eyes with a groan. “I’ll be there in twenty.”

TAKING THE WOODEN stairs that lead down the cliffside, I spot London’s bright orange bikini top almost immediately. She’s amazing, just a neon speck in this massive blue ocean, and surrounded by guys who look almost twice her size. I stop and watch her for a minute, noting how patient she is as she waits for just the right wave, how determined she becomes when she finally finds one. It’s hard not to want to run out and save her when she gets knocked into the surf, but I realized a long time ago, London doesn’t need me to save her from anything.

I continue down to the beach and take a look around. London’s right: for someone who’s lived most of his life near the beach, I’ve spent shockingly little of that time at any of them—this one included. From the sand, Black’s is nothing but ocean and giant cliffs all around, and it’s easy to forget there’s a city just beyond it.

London sees me from the water and I watch as she paddles in, all long arms, strong shoulders, and tan skin. I find a place for my board in the sand—carefully, just like she showed me—and sit down to wait for her. She makes it to the shore and tucks her own board under her arm, crossing the beach and stopping close enough for water droplets to land on my feet.

“Hey,” she says, smiling down at me.

I can’t help but let my eyes skim the curves and lines of her body, before meeting her smile with one of my own. “Hey, yourself.”

She wrings out her hair and then, after a moment of hesitation, straddles my lap.

I let out an intensely feminine high-pitched squeak. “Cold!”

“Oops, sorry.”

I fight halfheartedly against her attempts to press her wet, cold chest against my dry, warm one. “You don’t look very sorry.”

“Because I’m not. I like you in your swim trunks, though,” she says, fingers teasing down my sides to tug at the waist of my shorts. “I didn’t get to tell you that last time.”

With my hands bracketing her ribs, I brush my thumbs along the skin just below her breasts . . . because this is a thing I can do now. I think.

“You mean when you tried to feed me to the sharks?” I ask. She nods and I lean in, kissing her chin. “I liked your suit, too. It took superhuman strength not to get hard every time you touched me.”

“I could barely concentrate; I’m surprised you didn’t drown.”

I laugh against her skin, running my nose along the column of her throat. She smells like the ocean and sunblock, and I wonder idly how much convincing it would take to get her to blow off whatever it is she’s thinking about and come home with me.

I tug a little on the string tying her top together and brush her wet hair over her shoulder. “I want to apologize again for not seeing your texts. I really would have liked to have seen you last night.”

“It’s fine. Your phone is crazy, I totally get how you missed it,” she says, and I feel the vibration of her voice against my lips. She scratches my scalp and tugs on my hair and I moan, almost missing it when she says, “Are you a good monster, or a bad monster, Luke Sutter?”

I close my eyes and lean into her touch. “Can’t I be both?”

She runs her finger from my hair to my forehead, down my nose, and over my top lip. Opening my mouth, I take her fingertip between my teeth, and bite it.

“You make me sort of crazy,” she says, eyes a little unfocused, mouth slightly open.

“Crazy is good.”

“You’re like junk food.”

I suck a little, and then smile, speaking around her finger. “Junk food?”

“Yeah,” she says, tongue peeking out to lick her lips. “Pizza. Chips.”

Her words scrape up my spine and my heart falls several inches in my chest. I tilt my head to see her face. “I wasn’t confused about the term ‘junk food,’ Logan. Rather, the choice of metaphor.”

She pulls her finger free, and touches the tip of my chin. “Like I want to shove you in my face but I worry I’ll feel awful afterward.” London scrunches up her nose in adorable frustration but then sighs, leaning into me.

So she means pretty much exactly what I thought. I close my eyes again, jaw tight, trying to ignore the visceral pull I feel when she’s this close, and instead let the anger and hurt boil up and out.

She wants me but will feel awful afterward.

I’m not only unhealthy, I’m regrettable.

“London?”

“Hmm?”

I move her off my lap and stand, looking down at her. “That comparison makes me feel like shit.”

She seems to realize exactly what she’s said, and her face falls. “No. Luke—”

“I haven’t been with anyone else. I want to be with you all the fucking time. I told you I love you, and you call me junk food? How is this any different than Daniel referring to girls as snacks?”

She stares up at me, surprise melting into regret. “You’re right, it’s not,” she says. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”

“But you think it.”

“Luke.”

She can say my name as many times as she wants but fuck this. I stand and brush the sand from my shorts, grabbing my board before I start to walk away. A hand wrapped around my forearm stops me, pulls me around to face her.

“I already don’t trust my judgment and now I’m falling for the most terrifying person possible,” she says. “You know why you missed my texts last night? Because they were buried in there with twenty other messages. You think I don’t realize that? How many women texted you last night, Luke? Forty? More? You used to bang anything with a pussy.”

She jolts, like her using such words surprised her, too. Which only makes me wonder how long they’ve been simmering just below the surface.

I hesitate, scowling at her even though I know exactly how right she is. I want to tell her she’s a pain in the ass, has no idea what the fuck is going on here or what I’m doing with who, but the first words out of my mouth are the most trivial: “Not anything.”

“Fucking hell, Luke.” She runs her hands through her tangled hair and stares up at me, exasperated. “Really?”

Maybe I should have gone with my first instinct—to tell her she’s right, but that isn’t me anymore. “London—”

“Have you considered that the reason you want me is because I’m resisting?” she asks. “Is it the cliché of the challenge? I mean, if we do this, and we’re together—”

“I know how to commit,” I growl. “I know what it looks like.”

“Fine,” she says, low and flat. “But before, Mia was all you knew. Now you’re used to that thrill of discovery, the chase. What if sex between us grows familiar? What if we’re together five years and you get bored? The thought of being with you, and you taking home some other—”

“Stop.”

I turn away. I can’t listen. It reminds me of the betrayal I felt when I slept with Ali. The idea of being with someone else when I could have London, of her being with another guy, actually shoves a spike into my head.

She grabs my arm again. “Stop walking away from me. All I’m saying is it’s hard, okay? I shouldn’t have said what I did back there, but I’m scared.” She takes a step closer, voice quiet when she says, “I’m trying not to be, but I’m terrified of what it could be like with you.”

“God—” I start, squeezing my eyes closed and digging both hands into my hair. I want to focus on what she’s telling me, but my fuse has officially run out. “Don’t you think this is scary for me, too?”

“Luke—”

A wave crashes, and the edge of the surf touches the very tips of our toes. The tide is coming in, and in a dramatic rush I want to see it crash over me. “Don’t you think I’m already in too deep?” I tell her. “If you decide now that we aren’t doing this, it’s going to hurt. But that was true a while ago and I decided to roll with it. I decided you’re worth it. That’s the difference. Fuck, I think I finally figured it out: falling in love isn’t about who makes you feel the best, but who could make you the most miserable if they leave.”

I HEAR A key in the lock about ten minutes after I get home from work and close my eyes, letting my head fall back against the couch. “No,” I say, and my sister’s response is immediate.

“Yes.”

“I’m not in the mood for this, Margot.”

I hear her drop a bag near the door before she flops on the couch next to me. “What makes you think I’m here to give you shit for something?”

“One, because you’ve been giving me shit for one thing or another my entire life. And two, I had a fight with London and I can only assume that through some form of female tele­pathy, you’ve found out and are over here to hand me my ass.”

“Wow,” she says.

I tilt my head to look at her. “So I’m wrong?”

“Well . . . no.”

I nod my head and take another pull from my beer.

“But I did run into Lola earlier, and she mentioned that London came home upset.”

I know London is upset. I’m the reason why she’s upset, and yet hearing it is like a punch to my gut. The thing is, I’m upset, too.

“Right,” I say.

“She didn’t tell me why—I’m not actually sure that Lola knows why, because London isn’t apparently the most forthcoming when it comes to emotions—just that you two had an argument.” I don’t say anything and she continues. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Nope.”

“Luke.”

I sigh, knowing I’ll never get out of this. “Sometimes . . . I wish I’d never brought her home.”

Margot stays silent, staring forward at the TV.

“I wish I’d never brought her home and then I’d never know how great she is. I’d never realize that I want someone ballsy and self-sufficient. If I never brought London home that night, I’d never realize that I had it all wrong and Mia was never the girl for me. Ignorance is bliss, right?”

Beside me, my sister sighs. “So let me guess, London is still having some trust issues with Luke the manwhore.”

I press my fists into my eyes until I see nothing but stars. “So even if that’s not me anymore? If I’m not with anyone but London, if I still only want her, I’ll still be branded that forever?”

She tilts her head. “Well, no. Not exactly. But . . . like, how does she know that?”

“Because I told her, that’s why.”

“Okay, but—maybe that’s not actually enough. Doing something is a lot harder than just saying it. She has no idea what you’re doing when you’re gone, or who’s texting you God knows what. I don’t even know, and I’m rude enough to ask.” She stands from the couch and walks over to the front door, where she’s dropped a heavy bag. “And I didn’t actually come over here to lecture you. I came over here to use your washing machine. Playing bossy big sister was just a bonus, I guess.”

I’m silent and she steps up behind me, dropping a kiss to the top of my head.

“I love you,” she says, “but straighten your shit out.”

I have nothing to do but think, and Margot’s words play on a loop in my head. London’s worry that I’m only interested because I think she’s some sort of thing I have to conquer makes me crazy. The thing is, I know myself. I’ve fucked scores of women, but only loved two. When I love, I do it to the center of the earth. To the part that’s liquid, soft, terrifying. I understand why she’s scared, because so am I. Losing Mia was like losing a limb. I had to relearn how to do things without a part of me that had always been there. But I worry that losing London would be like losing something vital, some beating, living part of me.

I can hear Margot crashing around in the laundry room, singing some emo song at the top of her lungs, and as if on cue, my phone vibrates on the coffee table in front of me. With a sigh, I reach for it, unsurprised when the screen lights up immediately, a handful of messages already waiting. There’s one from Dylan asking if I want to go to Comic-Con this summer, but there are a few from girls, too. Some girls I remember, and some I don’t.

I never thought much of all the texts and propositions for booty calls—it was always funny, a bit of a game and easy to ignore—but London was clearly frustrated that I didn’t see her text last night in the sea of notifications, and she’s never even read some of these. What would she think if she saw them? How would she feel? How would I feel? It doesn’t take a genius to know how I’d react if it were London’s phone full of messages from guys—so full that she would miss a message from me in all of the noise—and it’s enough to pull my spine straight and zap any last bit of humor from this whole thing.

This was exactly what Margot meant when she said it wasn’t enough. It’s not enough to tell London I’ve changed. I have to actually show her.


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