He frowned. “I’m too tired for Ellie the Bitch. Can you just try to be nice today?”
I jutted out my lip. “Aw, is Sterling on his period?”
He wasn’t amused. “I’m going to leave you here, alone at this table.”
“Don’t threaten me with a good time,” I said.
“And leave plenty of room for fire boy to join you.”
“What?” I asked, turning to see Tyler Maddox walk in with Zeke and a few more of his hotshot crew. I scooted down in my chair. “Shit,” I hissed. I sunk down in my seat. In my family, uncomfortable situations required something a lot stronger than orange juice, and the urge to go home and raid the liquor cabinet became overwhelming.
A warm pair of lips touched my cheek, and Tyler pulled a seat to the table. “Hi, baby. Did you miss me?”
“Are you mental? Do you hear voices?” I said, incensed.
“Just came in for lunch before we head back,” Tyler said, directing his crew to sit.
Zeke sat on the other side of me, looking uncomfortable. “We can find another table.”
“No,” Tyler said. “We can’t. Who’s your friend?” he asked, motioning to Sterling.
“Fuck,” I murmured. I’d meant to run Tyler off. Instead, he’d gotten jealous and saw Sterling as competition he could easily conquer.
Sterling held out his hand, but I slapped it away.
“That was some kiss earlier,” Tyler said. “Makes me reminisce about the time she kissed me like that. Last night seems so long ago.”
My face twisted into disgust. “Really? You’re going there.”
“Sterling doesn’t care that I took advantage of you in my parents’ bed last night.”
“That was your parents’ bed?” Tyler asked. “Had you already used yours once?”
Tyler glowered at Sterling, determined. “I like this one.”
Sterling cleared his throat, unsure how to process the situation. “What do you like about it … exactly?”
Tyler didn’t take his eyes off mine. “Your friend.”
I leaned in. “If you don’t find another place to feed that hole in your face, I’m going to stand up right now and announce to everyone that you have a tiny penis.”
He wasn’t fazed. “I can whip it out and prove you wrong.”
“I’ll start screaming at you for giving me chlamydia. You work here. This is a tight-knit town. Stuff like that gets around.”
“Part-time. And I don’t give two shits what the people here think of me.”
Chelsea brought Sterling’s plate and placed it in front of him, and then mine, along with our drinks.
I placed my palm against his face, my face falling, tears filling my eyes. “It’s going to be okay, Tyler. The dripping will stop after a couple of rounds of antibiotics, and the itching will go away.”
Chelsea made a face, looked at Tyler in disgust, and then stumbled over her next words. “I’ll, um … be … I’ll be right back.”
Sterling poked around on his plate, tuning us out.
Tyler glanced back at Chelsea, who was whispering to the other waitress and the cook. They were looking at our table, repulsed. “Wow. You just sunk my battleship, Ellie.”
I used my fork to cut into my omelet and took a bite, quite pleased with myself.
“Maybe I just want to be friends,” Tyler said.
“Guys like you can’t just be friends with someone who owns a vagina,” I said.
Tyler stood, gesturing for his crew to stand with him. They did, their chairs whining against the tile. “We got rid of all the idiots trashing your house last night, and this is the thanks I get?”
I smiled up at him. “Under the douchebag façade, you’re actually a nice guy. I was drunk last night, so my radar was a little off, but I can smell you from a mile away. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to reminisce about that one-night stand we had that one time. I don’t have time for nice guys, Tyler, and I can’t imagine a more powerfully dirty hell than to be forced to spend time with you sober.”
He nodded to Sterling. “He looks like a nice guy to me.”
The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I was being the meanest I knew how, and Tyler was acting like we were trading pleasantries. “Sterling is a self-loathing, wretched piece of shit.”
Tyler’s team traded glances, and then Tyler watched me for a long time. “Enjoy your eggs.”
“Will do,” I said, making sure not to watch him leave.
Sterling waited a second or two before leaning in. “You must like him. I’ve never seen you so brutal.”
I waved him away. “He might be an overconfident prick, but he’s not a bad guy. He shouldn’t get mixed up with us.”
“True,” Sterling said, shoveling another bite into his mouth. He patted his mouth with his napkin, and then looked at me from under his manicured brows. “Since when are you accountable?”
“Oh, honey … I hope your day is as pleasant as you are.”
He chuckled quietly, and then took another bite.
Finley ruffled her mink coat and tossed her Chopard Grey glasses on the marble entry table. Finley wasn’t careless; she just wanted everyone to know that the six hundred dollars she’d spent to shield her eyes from the sun didn’t concern her—never mind they would likely be knocked off a leased yacht into the South China Sea the next week.
She turned her diamond nose ring one-quarter turn counter-clockwise, and then popped a mint into her mouth. “I’m going to have to charter from now on. Even first-class has become filthy. And the airports … ugh.”
Marco, filling out his charcoal Henley like a Banana Republic model, set their luggage down in the foyer, greeting Maricela and José in Portuguese when they came to collect the bags.
Marco took off his glasses, grinning at me like he knew a story or five he would tell me later, in front of Finley, when we were all drunk. “It’s close enough.”
I glared at Finley. “You brought him,” I said in an accusatory voice.
“He’s staying in a hotel,” Finley said, barely noticing that Marco was removing her coat. He bent down to untie her fluffy snow boots.
Marco slipped off her second boot and set them perfectly side by side, standing up and waiting with want in his eyes—not the sort of desire a woman my age would want an exotic, gorgeous man like Marco to have. He was waiting to oblige me, please me, take care of any need I had, and not for me—for Finley. He didn’t simply take pride in indulging his employer and anyone who surrounded her—it was his obsession. Appeasing Finley and her entourage at once was his specialty, and he loved to show off his talents.