Some guy spots us from over near the bar and throws his hand in the air, calling out to Lola.
He’s shorter than I am by several inches, and is dressed so casually—in a T-shirt and jeans—in a roomful of meticulous people, it strikes me as a bit douchey.
“Loles!” he calls and comes up to hug her tightly . . . and for a while. Jesus. If my math is on, this is only the second time they’ve met. “I’m so glad you could make it!”
She thanks him for the invite and turns to gesture to me. “Austin, this is my friend, Oliver.”
“Oliver,” he says in surprise. It gives me no small pleasure that he has to tilt his head to look up at me. I can tell immediately from his little smirk that he’d planned to fuck Lola tonight, and I certainly hope he is recalculating his odds. I may not know if I claim Lola’s heart, but I sure as fuck know that this man could never claim a single inch of her.
He extends his hand, shakes it firmly. “Nice to meet you.”
There’s no more for us to say, really, and after a few more seconds endured of silent eye contact, he turns back to Lola.
“I want to introduce you to some people.” He scans the room, pointing out a few names we might recognize from where we stand.
The guy in the black pants and shirt is a screenwriter. The other guy in black pants and shirt is a director. The woman in the black cocktail dress is VP at some studio.
And Lola just fits in. The girls always joke that Lola looks like some kind of badass superhero, and it’s true. There’s a strength about her, a quiet confidence that comes from setting out to do something and getting it done.
“Now come on,” Austin says to her, and she grabs my hand. Her palm is clammy, fingers trembling. “Let’s go find Langdon.”
I hold back and because we’re now attached at the hand, Lola is gently jerked back, and looks at me.
“Go do your thing,” I tell her quietly. “I’m going to get a drink and something to eat. I’m fine.”
“Totally.” It occurs to me only now that it’s going to be late when we’re done, and neither of us may be up for the long drive home. “But should I book a couple of rooms at a nearby—”
“Already handled,” she assures me with a smile.
My heart starts to thunder in my chest, and Lola doesn’t immediately turn. “Thanks for taking care of that.” It feels right to bend down and kiss her jaw, just shy of her neck, so I do.
I may have just crossed a line, but I can tell when she smiles at me and squeezes my hand that she doesn’t mind.
It’s a fascinating study, and in such stark contrast to my everyday. I have the most casual of clientele; have always run in circles that were more comfortable with grub than polish. Literally no one I know other than Harlow and Ansel—and now Lola—would blend in here. But this is Lola’s new reality and so, in some ways, it’s also mine.
She finds me after about a half hour and slides onto the seat beside me. “Hey you.”
“Hey.” I put my drink down and take her hand, squeezing. I’m relieved to have her back. Despite my confidence that Lola would never go off with someone like Austin, I didn’t particularly relish being separated from her. “How did it go?”
She smiles and nods at someone across the room. “It was good,” she says through her grin, holding it. “I think. They have a lot of ideas. I sort of tried to listen.” She looks back at me, adding, “Without judgment.”
Shaking her head, she says, “Not all of it. It’s just weird when something so personal isn’t just mine anymore. Langdon already has a lot written, I guess. I’m trying not to knee-jerk all over the place.”
“Want to talk about it later?” I guess.
She nods, and when the bartender checks in with her, she leans in to order a drink over the din of the crowd. He mixes it in front of her while she watches in silence, looking like she very clearly needs it. She takes the glass from him with a smile that’s returned a little too enthusiastically for my liking, and turns back to me.
“So what do you want to talk about?” I ask.
“We’re at a pretty fancy party, and you just sat at the bar alone for a half hour while about fifteen executives checked you out and mentally took you home to their creepy L.A. sex dungeons.”
“Not lies,” she says, leaning in and making a funny face. “What’s your best pickup line?”
“I don’t really have a line. I just sort of sit there, like this.” I shift my knees apart and give her the blue steel.
“Wide stance,” she says, with a grin. “I like what that communicates to the room.”
I make a show of straightening my glasses and motion to myself. “I mean, you put out the honey, you’re going to get some bees.”
Nodding at her with a sexy little wink, I say, “Baby, I know we’re gonna fuck, it’s just a matter of how we get back to your place.” I lean in, for dramatic effect, whispering, “I don’t have a car.”
When Lola laughs, her head tilts back, exposing her perfect skin, long, slim throat, and the sound is higher than one would guess from hearing her sultry voice, more girlish. Her laugh, when she’s at ease, is adorable in a way Lola would never admit.