Home > Ugly Love(4)

Ugly Love(4)
Colleen Hoover

Miles nervously clears his throat as he washes the glass and places it back in the cabinet. His discomfort with his lapse in memory makes me laugh. I like that he has no idea what happened last night. I even kind of like that the thought of being with me seems to unnerve him. I might keep this façade going for a while for my own sick enjoyment.

Corbin looks at me as if he knows what I’m trying to pull. Miles steps out of the kitchen and glances my way, then looks back to Corbin.

“I would have gone back to my place by now, but I can’t find my keys. You have my spare set?”

Corbin nods and walks to a drawer in the kitchen. He opens it, grabs a key, and tosses it to Miles, who catches it in midair. “Can you come back in an hour and help me unload Tate’s car? I want to shower first.”

Miles nods, but his eyes cut briefly to mine as Corbin starts walking to his bedroom.

“We’ll catch up when it’s not too morning,” Corbin tells me.

It may have been seven years since we’ve lived together, but he apparently remembers I’m not much of a talker in the morning. Too bad Miles doesn’t know this about me.

After Corbin disappears into his bedroom, I turn and face Miles again. He’s already looking at me expectantly, like he’s still waiting for me to answer whatever questions he asked me earlier. I just want him to leave, so I answer them all at once.

“You were passed out in the hallway last night when I got here. I didn’t know who you were, so when you tried to get inside the apartment, I might have slammed the door on your hand. It’s not broken. I checked it out, and it’s bruised at best. Just put some ice on it and wrap it for a few hours. And no, we didn’t hook up. I helped you into the apartment, and then I went to bed. Your phone is on the floor by the front door where you dropped it last night because you were too shitfaced to walk.”

I turn to head to my room, just wanting to get away from the intensity in his eyes.

I spin around when I reach my bedroom door. “When you come back in an hour and I’ve had a chance to wake up, we can try this again.”

His jaw is firm. “Try whatagain?” he asks.

“Getting off on the right foot.”

I close my bedroom door, putting up a barrier between me and that voice.

That stare.

“How many boxes do you have?” Corbin asks. He’s slipping on his shoes by the door. I grab my keys off the bar.

“Six, plus three suitcases and all my clothes on hangers.”

Corbin walks to the door directly across the hall and bangs on it, then turns and heads toward the elevators. He pushes the down button. “Did you tell Mom you made it?”

“Yeah, I texted her last night.”

I hear his apartment door open just as the elevator arrives, but I don’t turn to watch him walk out of it. I step in, and Corbin holds the elevator for Miles.

As soon as he comes into view, I lose the war. The war I didn’t even know I was fighting. It doesn’t happen often, but when I do find a guy attractive, it’s better when it happens with a person I want it to happen with.

Miles is not the person I want to be feeling this for. I don’t want to be attracted to a guy who drinks himself into oblivion, cries over other girls, and can’t even remember if he screwed you the night before. But it’s hard not to notice his presence when his presence becomes everything.

“Should just be two trips,” Corbin says to Miles as he presses the button for the ground floor.

Miles is staring at me, and I can’t quite judge his demeanor, because he still looks pissed. I stare back, because no matter how good-looking he may be with that attitude, I’m still waiting for the thank you I never got.

“Hi,” Miles finally says. He steps forward and completely ignores unspoken elevator etiquette by stepping too close and holding out his hand. “Miles Archer. I live across the hall from you.”

And I’m confused.

“I think we’ve established that,” I say, looking down at his outstretched hand.

“Starting over,” he says, arching a brow. “On the right foot?”

Ah. Yes. I did tell him that.

I take his hand and shake it. “Tate Collins. I’m Corbin’s sister.”

The way he steps back and keeps his eyes locked with mine makes me a little uncomfortable, since Corbin is standing only a foot away. Corbin doesn’t seem to care, though. He’s ignoring both of us, preoccupied with his phone.

Miles finally breaks his stare and pulls his phone out of his pocket. I take the opportunity to study him while his attention is off of me.

I come to the conclusion that his appearance is completely contradictory. It’s as if two different creators were at war when he was envisioned. The strength in his bone structure contrasts with the soft, inviting appeal of his lips. They seem harmless and welcoming compared with the harshness in his features and the jagged scar that runs the length of the right side of his jaw.

His hair can’t decide if it wants to be brown or blond or wavy or straight. His personality flips between inviting and callously indifferent, muddling my ability to discern hot from cold. His casual posture is at war with the fierceness I’ve seen in his eyes. His composure this morning contradicts his inebriated state from last night. His eyes can’t decide if they want to look at his phone or at me, because they waver back and forth several times before the elevator doors open.

I stop staring and step off the elevator first. Cap is seated in his chair, ever so vigilant. He glances at the three of us exiting the elevator and pushes up on the arms of his chair, coming to a slow, shaky stand. Corbin and Miles both nod at him and continue walking.

“How was your first night, Tate?” he asks with a smile, stopping me midstride. The fact that he already knows my name doesn’t surprise me, since he knew what floor I was going to last night.

I look at the back of Miles’s head as they continue without me. “Kind of eventful, actually. I think my brother might have made a poor choice in the company he keeps.”

I look at Cap, and he’s staring at Miles now, too. His wrinkle-lined lips purse into a thin line, and he gives a slight shake of his head. “Ah, that boy probably can’t help it none,” he says, dismissing my comment.

I’m not sure if he’s referring to Corbin or Miles when he says “that boy,” but I don’t ask.

Cap turns away from me and begins shuffling in the direction of the lobby restrooms. “I think I just pissed on myself,” he mutters.

I watch him disappear through the restroom door, wondering at what point in a person’s life he becomes old enough to lose his filter. Although Cap doesn’t seem like the type of man who ever even hada filter. I kind of like that about him.

“Tate, let’s go!” Corbin yells from the far end of the lobby. I catch up with them to show them the way to my car.

It takes three trips to get all my things up, not two.

Three entire trips where Miles doesn’t speak another word to me.

Chapter four

MILES

Six years earlier

Dad: “Where are you?”

Me: “Ian’s house.”

Dad: “We need to talk.”

Me: “Can it wait until tomorrow? I’ll be home late.”

Dad: “No. I need you home now. I’ve been waiting for you since school let out.”

Me: “Fine. On my way.”

That was the conversation that led to this moment. Me, sitting in front of my dad on the couch. My dad, telling me something I don’t care to hear.

“I would have told you sooner, Miles. I just—”

“Felt guilty?” I interrupt. “Like you’re doing something wrong?”

His eyes meet mine, and I begin to feel bad for saying what I said, but I push the feeling down and keep going.

“She’s been dead less than a year.”

As soon as the words leave my mouth, I want to throw up.

He doesn’t like being judged, especially by me. He’s used to my supporting his decisions. Hell, I’mused to supporting his decisions. Until now, I always thought he made good ones.

“Look, I know this is hard for you to accept, but I need your support. You have no idea how hard it’s been for me to move on since she died.”

“Hard?” I’m standing. I’m raising my voice. I’m acting like I give a shit for some reason, when I really don’t. I could care less that he’s already dating again. He can see whoever he wants. He can screw whoever he wants.

I think the only reason I’m reacting this way is because she can’t. It’s hard to defend your marriage when you’re dead. That’s why I’m doing it for her.

“It’s obviously not very hard for you at all, Dad.”

I walk to the opposite end of the living room.

I walk back.

The house is too damn small to fit all of my frustration and disappointment.

I look at him again, recognizing that it’s not so much the fact that he’s seeing someone already. It’s the look he gets in his eyes when he talks about her that I hate. I never saw him look at my mother that way, so whoever she is, I know it’s not a casual thing. She’s about to seep into our lives, intertwining around and through and between my relationship with my father like she’s poison ivy. It’ll no longer be just my father and me. It’ll be me, my father, and Lisa. It doesn’t feel right, considering my mother’s presence is still everywhere in this house.

He’s sitting with his hands folded in front of him, clasped together. He’s looking down at the floor.

“I don’t know if this will go anywhere, but I want to give it a shot. Lisa makes me happy. Sometimes moving on is … the only way to move on.”

I open my mouth to respond to him, but my words are cut off by the doorbell. He looks up at me, hesitantly coming to a stand. He seems smaller. Less heroic.

“I’m not asking you to like her. I’m not asking you to spend time with her. I just want you to be nice to her.” His eyes are pleading with me, and it makes me feel guilty for being so resistant.

I nod. “I will, Dad. You know I will.”

He hugs me, and it feels good andbad. It doesn’t feel like I just hugged the man I’ve had on a pedestal for seventeen years. It feels as though I just hugged my peer.

He asks me to get the door while he heads back to the kitchen to finish dinner, so I do. I close my eyes and let my mom know that I’m going to be nice to Lisa, but she’ll always just be Lisato me, no matter what happens between her and Dad. I open the door.

“Miles?”

I look at her face, and it’s completely opposite from my mother’s face. This makes me feel good. She’s a lot shorter than my mother. She’s not as pretty as my mother, either. There’s nothing about her that can be compared to my mother, so I don’t even try. I accept her for what she is: our dinner guest.

I nod and open the door wider to let her in. “You must be Lisa. Good to meet you.” I point behind me. “My father is in the kitchen.”

Lisa leans forward and gives me a hug—one that I successfully make awkward after it takes me several seconds to hug her back.

My eyes meet the eyes of the girl standing behind her.

The eyes of the girl standing behind her meet mine.

You’re

gonna

fall

in

love

with

me,

Rachel.

“Miles?” she says in a broken whisper.

Rachel sounds a little bit like her mother, but sadder.

Lisa looks back and forth between us. “You know each other?”

Rachel doesn’t nod.

Neither do I.

Our disappointment melts to the floor and combines in a

puddle of premature tears at our feet.

“He, um, … he …”

Rachel is stuttering, so I help her finish her words. “I go to

school with Rachel,” I blurt out. I regret saying that, because

what I really want to say is, Rachel is the next girl I’m gonna fall

in love with.

I can’t say that, though, because it’s obvious what’s bound to

happen. Rachel isn’t the next girl I’ll fall in love with, because

Rachel is the girl who will more than likely become my new

stepsister.

For the second time tonight, I feel sick.

Lisa smiles and clasps her hands together. “That’s great,” she

says. “I’m so relieved.”

My father walks into the room. He hugs Lisa. He says hi to

Rachel and tells her it’s good to see her again.

My father already knows Rachel.

Rachel already knows my father.

My father is Lisa’s new boyfriend.

My father visits Phoenix a lot.

My father has been visiting Phoenix a lot since before my

mother died.

My father is a bastard.

“Rachel and Miles already know each other,” Lisa says to my

father.

He smiles, and relief floods his face. “Good. Good,” he says,

repeating the word twice as if it could make things better.

No.

Bad. Bad.

“That’ll make tonight a lot less awkward,” he says with a laugh.

I look back at Rachel.

Rachel looks at me.

I can’t fall in love with you, Rachel.

Her eyes are sad.

My thoughts are sadder.

And you can’t fall in love with me.

She slowly walks inside, avoiding my gaze as she watches her

feet with each step. They’re the saddest steps I’ve ever seen

taken.

I close the door.

It’s the saddest door I’ve ever had to close.

Chapter five

TATE

“Are you off for Thanksgiving?” my mother asks.

I switch my cell to my other ear and pull the apartment key out of my purse. “Yeah, but not Christmas. I only work weekends for now.”

“Good. Tell Corbin we’re not dead yet if he ever gets the urge to call us.”

I laugh. “I’ll tell him. Love you.”

I hang up and put my cell phone into the pocket of my scrub top. It’s only a part-time job, but it gets my foot in the door. Tonight was my last night of training before I start weekend rotations tomorrow night.

I like the job so far, and I was honestly shocked to land it after my first interview. It works out with my school schedule, too. I’m in school every weekday, doing either clinical or classroom hours, then I work second shift on the weekends over at the hospital. It’s been a seamless transition up to this point.

I also like San Francisco. I know it’s only been two weeks, but I could see myself staying here after graduation next spring rather than going back to San Diego.

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