Home > Right Where I Want You(16)

Right Where I Want You(16)
Jessica Hawkins

“She had under five days to prepare and Vance is that impressed?”

I ran my hands over my face and looked at the ceiling. “Ay, dios mío. Give me strength to deal with the women in my life.”

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic. What’s the matter?”

“The same thing that’s always the matter.” Something I would never admit to Georgina after the way I’d peacocked over my experience with women. “One minute, I think I understand your gender perfectly, and then? I realize I don’t know women at all.”

Libby wore what looked like a secret smile. Surely she was amused by the fact that Georgina had stumped me. “I’m guessing this Georgina falls into the latter half.”

“I just don’t get her. I don’t know how to work with her.”

“Do you think Vance will ask her to stay on permanently?”

“God, no.” It hadn’t even occurred to me. “I’d quit.”

“She’s that bad?”

No, she wasn’t. I knew that. But there was no reason for Georgina to stay on as co-manager, except if I was doing a shitty job on my own. And then, why wouldn’t Vance just give her my job? He’d already unofficially warned me I was on thin ice. Was it possible that was Georgina’s endgame?

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s that bad.”

“Well . . .” Libby sighed as she handed me a pan to dry. “If you really want her gone, I can tell you exactly how to make it happen.”

I massaged the headache forming in my temples. How the hell did some people have all the answers? I’d been mulling this over since the day I’d heard Vance was bringing in a consultant. “Tell me.”

“I will, once you answer my question.”

“Which one?” I asked.

“Is she pretty? Or better yet, do you find her attractive?”

Who wouldn’t find a girl like Georgina attractive? She was small but mighty, ambitious but not malicious, and feisty with a streak of sweet, both in her personality and manifested as freckles on her delicate nose. But so were lots of women in this city. I just had to find out where else to meet them.

“Like I said, she’s not like the girls I typically go for,” I said with a firm nod.

“What concerns me more than the fact that you think you can deflect with me, is that you think you’re good at it.”

“You’re full of constructive criticism today, aren’t you? What do they serve you at that synagogue?”

She shut off the faucet and leaned her hip against the counter to face me. “Walk me through it. What popped into your head when you first saw her?”

How my hands would feel in her silky auburn hair. That was before I’d caught her post-thunderstorm scent. Then, of course, the way she’d shivered when I’d barely touched her leg. All that’d been enough to make me forget I was on the phone with Justin. But if I was honest, now I was most captivated by the fact that I’d have her pegged one moment and then doubting everything I knew about her the next.

Happy hour, for instance. Georgina, a pick-up artist? She’d been convincing. And quick. And creative.

From chumptohump-dot-com . . .

Far from where Georgina could bust me for it, I smiled. It’d been a good prank. She’d pulled it off seamlessly, then had looked so vulnerable at the bar when she’d thought I’d win the bet anyway. Just when I thought I knew her, a softer, shyer side of her personality surfaced. The side I’d seen those first few moments at the café.

“Okay, scratch that question,” Libby said, turning her back to put away drinking glasses. “The way you’re smiling, clearly your first thought was not PG.”

I sighed. “She’s attractive.”

“Mom didn’t mean for you to find someone quiet and meek, Sebastián.” She dumped the remainder of Aaron’s Bloody Mary into the sink and submerged the glass. “If this Georgina has a little spice and can put you in your place, that’s not the same as being rude and vapid.”

Spice. That was one way of describing Georgina. Cinnamon, spice, and everything nice. One of the most irritating things about her was the smattering of goddamn freckles across her nose and cheeks. They were cute and innocent when she was anything but, and it made me angry. At her for having them, and at myself for wanting to know where else they peppered her body.

“Maybe she’s been trying to impress you,” Libby said. “Have you considered she might be interested in you?”

“She’s not. In fact, she’s apparently going on a date,” I said. “A Yankees game with some finance bro.” With a look from Libby, I added, “And no, I didn’t say it that way because I’m jealous.”

“Sure. Sounds completely platonic.”

I’d never admit it to Libs, but there was a chance I was a little jealous. Watching Georgina exchange numbers with the wannabe vampire had annoyed me, and it’d had nothing to do with our bet. The bet had been bullshit anyway. What Georgina hadn’t known, and what Justin had suspected, was that I’d thrown the game. I’d actually caught up with Isabella outside the bar, and within minutes, had her hanging on my tie, asking me to walk her to her subway stop. In New York, that was an intimate thing after a date and could end with a kiss. All I’d been able to think about was Georgina back in the bar, mostly how nervous she’d looked about losing in front of everyone. So, I’d straightened my tie, put Isabella in a cab, and lied about calling her later.

The worst part wasn’t even that it was my own fault Georgina had gotten the date in the first place. What really annoyed me was that I cared, and it was partly why I’d been steering clear of her since happy hour. Maybe I couldn’t help being attracted to Georgina’s hot and cold personality, but acting on it wasn’t an option. Not only was she the first person to threaten my career in a long time, but I’d vowed to remove any ice from my life. It was only warm, nice girls from here on out.

“I haven’t seen you this worked up in a while,” Libby said in her maddening know-it-all tone. “Don’t rule her out yet.”

“I don’t see the logic in that,” I said, hoping to annoy her back. “If Georgina was interested in me, she wouldn’t be going out with another guy.”

That made Libby laugh with a little too much enthusiasm. “Oh, Sebastian. If you’re treating her like she’s got the plague, why wouldn’t she go out with someone else? It’s her only option.”

I ran the dishtowel through my hands. “How do you figure?”

“Either she’s not interested in you and randomly accepted a date from a nice guy, or she is interested in you and wants you to notice. You better hope that date doesn’t go well, or it’ll mean you blew your shot.”

I’d come to Newton that weekend certain Georgina hated me. Now I’d gone and missed my shot with her? Did I even want a shot?

Libby focused on cleaning the skillet she’d used to make the chilaquiles. “I was thinking . . .” She hesitated. “You want to take a drive?”

I rubbed the bridge of my nose, knowing full well where this conversation was headed. “No.”

“The lawyer has been calling.”

“My position hasn’t changed,” I said. “We’re not selling Mom’s house. We don’t need to. I’m taking care of the mortgage.”

“It’s not about the money, Sebastian—if it was, we’d fix it up and rent it. We don’t need to keep it just to know where we came from.”

“It’s where we grew up. You’re the one talking about staying true to our roots.”

“There’s a difference between honoring your heritage and living in the past. Without Mom in it, it’s just a rundown pile of bricks.”

“It might not be all of this,” I said, gesturing around the custom kitchen, “but it’s all we have left of her.”

Libby turned off the faucet and tapped a foamy, rubber index finger against my chest. “She lives here,” she said, “not in that house. Not anymore.”

“I hear you,” I said, or else this conversation would continue in circles, “but my answer is no. I’m willing to pay the mortgage. I’m not willing to sell.”

“When was the last time you were even in Eastie?”

She knew the answer to that—a year ago. Mom had wanted to spend her final days at home, so we’d arranged it. I’d spent that week making sure she was comfortable, then maintaining my sanity by fixing rain gutters, cleaning out the shed, or touching up the exterior.

I couldn’t even attend her wake. I hadn’t been back to the house or anywhere near downtown since the funeral. “Any time I’ve come out, it’s been to see you. Here.”

Libby might’ve lived in Newton now with her white picket fence and driveway basketball hoop, but gritty East Boston was our home. Only a year after Mom’s death, I couldn’t understand how Libby was ready to give that up. Without that, who were we? Without my past, was I anything other than the New York City playboy persona I’d meticulously created?

“I’m glad she didn’t see the exposé,” I admitted.

Libby shrugged and wiped down the counters. “She’d have called the reporter a gringo, then turned around and given you an earful. She was the only person allowed to talk shit about us.”

I smiled. “Then she would’ve told me how to move on.”

She looked over her shoulder at me. “You know, good advice is genetic. Not for you, clearly your advice sucks, but I’m great at it.”

“And I suppose you’ll give it to me whether I want it or not.”

“Look at this exposé as an opportunity to make some changes, Sebastian. Both at work and at home. If you listen to this woman—Georgina—and do as she says, you win either way.”

“How do you figure?”

“Either she’s right and you’re better for it, or she leaves.”

I cocked my head. “Leaves?”

“That’s the secret.” She peeled off her rubber gloves and draped them over the lip of the sink. “You wanted to know how to get rid of her? Be so good that the magazine doesn’t need her anymore.”

Well, that was fucking simple. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it. I’d been putting up a fight about everything, even if it was just to disagree with her when I had a nagging suspicion she was right. But was getting rid of her still what I wanted? I couldn’t shake Libby’s suggestion that another guy had potentially taken my shot with Georgina.

Finally, I had exactly what I needed to take her out. Now I just had to ignore the disturbing thought that I might rather ask her out.

10

Georgina

Justin sat in front of his computer making a case for watching Netflix at his desk. And the strangest part was—I agreed with him. Then again, not much about this working environment had been routine.

It was the most engaged I’d seen him yet. Apparently, he’d even arrived before Sebastian today. I’d found him feet up at his desk halfway through season two of Ray Donovan. “It’s research,” he explained. “I want to profile Anthony Pellicano.”

“The private investigator,” I said.

“And real-life ‘fixer.’ His life story has sex, violence, and Hollywood scandal.”

I was glad I’d nixed Justin’s story on the manliest floaties to bring to a pool party. Even though it took a certain kind of skill to write fifteen-hundred words around Shamu references and breast implant jokes, I’d had a feeling Justin could do better. “You have my blessing,” I said. “In fact, we can make this a five-page spread.”

“We rarely do more than four pages,” he pointed out.

“I want to see more thoughtful, in-depth pieces that’re still sexy—like this—and less filler junk,” I said. “Quality over quantity.”

Justin ran a hand through his blond hair, and I thought I detected a hint of doubt, but he nodded. “I can do that.”

“Good.” I smiled. “And make it grizzly.”

“You got it, boss.” He leaned back in his office chair to see behind me. “Look who it is—boss number two.”

I glanced back. As Sebastian approached with his laptop bag slung over one shoulder, I crossed my arms to show my disapproval. In what I’d thought was a rare stroke of generosity, last week, he’d offered to order me a temporary desk from IKEA. That morning, I’d been pleased to find it built and ready for me—with a pink Girl Power mousepad on top and drawers stocked with purple stationery, Hello Kitty stickers, and multicolored gel pens. In the top drawer, a Post-it stuck to a box of Crayola glitter markers read “Harder to lose in a box” in block letters. Sebastian’s neat, contained handwriting made mine look like scrawl. It definitely belonged in the sleek black leather notebook where he was always making notes. Even Broadway tickets to the The Lion King sounded severe in there, with a sharp w, and the dots of his i’s perfectly aligned with their stems.

Yes, I’d stolen a peek at his playbook. As long as Sebastian treated me like an enemy instead of an ally, I’d have to resort to snooping for intel.

“Good morning,” I said, checking the clock to emphasize that it was already past ten.

“Morning.” He nodded at Justin. “Boss number two? Really, dude?”

Justin shrugged. “She lets me watch Netflix at work.”

Sebastian turned to me. “May I see you in my office?”

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