“Lola!” Benny answer-yells through the speakerphone, and I cringe, staring at the screen as if it burned me. It’s not even nine in the morning; how is he so chipper?
“I bet I know why you’re calling,” he sings. “People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive is playing Razor and you want to come up to Hollywood to celebrate tonight.”
Oliver turns to look at me, eyes wide. I hold up a finger, indicating I’ll update him in a second.
“I’m already up in Hollywood,” I say. “But I’m headed home. Austin didn’t mention the script last night when I saw him.”
“Probably because he knew you’d ask to read it on the spot, and then would request edits before it went out, but it was already out.”
“I release a statement on your behalf,” he says. “How’s this? ‘Management has confirmed Lorelei Castle is absolutely delighted with the casting news.’ ”
I wait for the rest of it and realize that’s all there is. Across the room, Oliver seems to go through the same process before tilting his head like, Eh, not so bad. It accurately shows my level of engagement on the media side.
“That’s perfect, actually,” I say. “I am delighted with the news. I also don’t really think I need to be interviewed. But Benny, can you really push for them to send me the script today? If they want my polish on it—and I hope that’s code for letting me at it with a scalpel—then I should see it sooner rather than later. I have other things due and will need to get my time organized.”
“I’m already on it. Go do your thing. You’ll be mobbed at your signings from here on out, and all I ask is that you kick ass when you’re expected to.”
I thank him, blow a kiss through the phone, and set it down on the bed. My hand is shaking. “I wasn’t sure I loved Benny,” I tell him. “But I do. I don’t know what I would do without him right now.”
When Oliver and I left the party, we mostly left the subject of the movie behind. “Austin mentioned they were talking to people. Langdon said he’s tinkering with a draft. I guess when these conversations happen, things move quickly. Or,” I add, thinking on it some more, “they never really gave me the full story to begin with.” I lift my hands in front of my face and watch them, still shaking like leaves. It feels like my brain needs a moment to catch up.
“Come on,” he says with a calming smile. “Get dressed and let’s talk about this downstairs. I’m starving.”
I grab my clothes from my overnight bag and slip into the bathroom, pulling my hair up in a bun, dressing simply in jeans and a white T-shirt.
When I come out, Oliver is standing at the window, looking out. He’s wearing a dark blue shirt that’s worn over time, making it thin and soft on his back. I can see the muscles defining his shoulders, can see the sturdy lines of his torso. My heart does this dipping-squeezing thing that nearly makes me cough.
He turns at the choking sound and smiles, walking toward me.
I look up at him but I can’t hold my eyes there for very long. He shaved this morning, but even so, I can already see the stubble shadowing his jaw. He’s at least six inches taller than me and so I get a good view of his neck, his throat, the curve of his bottom lip.
We walk down the carpeted hallway in silence, and Oliver reaches forward to press the elevator call button before stepping back, putting his hand on my lower back. His instincts are so tender.
“Do you have a finance person?” I ask him. “I need help.”
“Yeah, but he’s sort of more business? I guess that would work for you,” he says, gesturing that I lead us in when the elevator opens for us.
He nods, watching the floors tick down. “I remember that feeling when my dad died. It’s a good thing but terrifying. I felt like I had to go from being a slacker living with his grandparents and eating tinned baked beans to being a bona fide adult. I didn’t really have the mental tools to know how to budget or plan or save.”
“Yeah,” I agree, slumping into him a little. Oliver makes me feel so . . . safe.
“So, I put it aside until I was ready. Until I knew what I wanted to do with it.”
He nods. “You’ll figure it out. Just leave it alone until you do.”
The elevator stops at the third floor and we get out, following a sign to the restaurant. “I should probably get a new car,” I tell him.
“And I do know I want to get my own place.”
Oliver goes quiet for a few steps and then asks, “A house?”
“I think so.” And then my brain trips on the thought, because Oliver has his own house, and if anything happened with us, and it became more, would we live together? Would we want to own two houses?
“I can help you look,” he says, popping the rapidly expanding balloon of my thoughts.
We walk into the restaurant, and are seated at a table facing Santa Monica Boulevard. Oliver and I have had meals together dozens of times but it’s different right now, and I’m terrible at this kind of situation so I have no idea if it’s all in my head. Maybe because I’m letting in this floodgate of feelings, everything feels loaded and special.