Home > Ugly Love(6)

Ugly Love(6)
Colleen Hoover

Oh, wow.

That was an oddly sexy sentence. So was his presence in delivering it.

Still no smile, though. Jesus Christ, this man. Does he not realize that facial expressions are supposed to accompany speech?

I don’t want him to see my disappointment, so I turn back toward the sink. I use the sprayer to wash the remaining suds down the drain. I find it quite fitting, considering the weird vibes floating around his kitchen. “How long have you lived here?” I ask, attempting to alleviate the awkward silence as I turn and face him again.

“Four years.”

I don’t know why I laugh, but I do. He raises an eyebrow, confused about why his answer caused me to laugh.

“It’s just that your apartment …” I glance toward the living room, then back to him. “It’s kind of bland. I thought maybe you just moved in and haven’t had a chance to decorate.”

I didn’t mean for that to come out like an insult, but that’s exactly how it sounded. I’m just trying to make conversation, but I think I’m only making this awkwardness worse.

His eyes move slowly around his apartment as he processes my comment. I wish I could take it back, but I don’t even try. I’d probably just make it worse.

“I work a lot,” he says. “I never have company, so I guess it just hasn’t been a priority.”

I want to ask him why he never has company, but certain questions seem off limits to him. “Speaking of company, what’s up with Dillon?”

Miles shrugs his shoulders, leaning his back completely against the refrigerator. “Dillon’s an as**ole who has no respect for his wife,” he says flatly. He turns around completely and walks out of the kitchen, heading toward his bedroom. He pushes his bedroom door closed but leaves it open just enough so that I can still hear him speak. “Thought I’d warn you before you fell for his act.”

“I don’t fall for acts,” I say. “Especially acts like Dillon’s.”

“Good,” he says.

Good? Ha. Miles doesn’t want me to like Dillon. I love that Miles doesn’t want me to like Dillon.

“Corbin wouldn’t like it if you started something up with him. He hates Dillon.”

Oh. He doesn’t want me to like Dillon for Corbin’s sake. Why did that just disappoint me?

He walks back out of his bedroom, and he’s no longer in his jeans and T-shirt. He’s in a familiar pair of slacks and a crisp, white shirt, unbuttoned and open.

He’s putting on a pilot’s uniform.

“You’re a pilot?” I ask, somewhat perplexed. My voice makes me sound oddly impressed.

He nods and walks into the laundry room adjacent to the kitchen. “That’s how I know Corbin,” he says. “We were in flight school together.” He walks back into his kitchen with a laundry basket and sets it on the counter. “He’s a good guy.”

His shirt isn’t buttoned.

I’m staring at his stomach.

Stop staring at his stomach.

Oh my word, he has the V.Those beautiful indentations on men that run the length of their outer abdominal muscles, disappearing beneath their jeans as if the indentations are pointing to a secret bull’s-eye.

Jesus Christ, Tate, you’re staring at his damn crotch!

He’s buttoning his shirt now, so I somehow gain superhuman strength and force my eyes to look back up at his face.

Thoughts. I should have some of those, but I can’t find them. Maybe it’s because I just found out he’s an airline pilot.

But why would that impress me?

It doesn’t impress me that Dillon’s a pilot. But then again, I didn’t find out Dillon was a pilot while he was doing laundry and flaunting his abs. A guy folding laundry while flaunting his abs and being a pilot is seriously impressive.

Miles is fully dressed now. He’s putting on his shoes, and I’m watching him like I’m in a theater and he’s the main attraction.

“Is that safe?” I ask, finding a coherent thought somehow. “You’ve been drinking with the guys, and now you’re about to be at the controls of a commercial jet?”

Miles zips his jacket, then picks up an already packed duffel bag from the floor. “I’ve only had water tonight,” he says, right before exiting the kitchen. “I’m not much of a drinker. And I definitely don’t drink on work nights.”

I laugh and follow him toward the living room. I walk to the table to grab my things. “I think you’re forgetting how we met,” I say. “Move-in day? Someone-passed-out-drunk-in-the-hallway day?”

He opens the front door to let me out. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Tate,” he says. “We met on an elevator. Remember?”

I can’t tell if he’s kidding, because there’s no smile or gleam in his eyes.

He closes the door behind us. I hand him back his apartment key, and he locks his door. I walk to mine and open it.

“Tate?”

I almost pretend I don’t hear him just so he’ll have to say my name again. Instead, I turn around and face him, pretending to be completely unaffected by this man.

“That night you found me in the hallway? That was an exception. A very rare exception.”

There’s something unspoken in his eyes and maybe even in his voice.

He stands paused at his front door, poised to walk toward the elevators. He’s waiting to see if I have anything to say in response. I should tell him goodbye. Maybe I should tell him to have a safe flight. That could be considered bad luck, though. I should just say good night.

“Was the exception because of what happened with Rachel?”

Yes. I really just chose to say that instead.

WHY did I just say that?

His posture changes. His expression freezes, as if my words jolted him with a bolt of lightning. He’s more than likely confused that I said that, because he obviously doesn’t remember anything about that night.

Quick, Tate. Recover.

“You thought I was someone named Rachel,” I blurt out, explaining away the awkwardness as best I can. “I just thought maybe something happened between the two of you and that’s why … you know.”

Miles inhales a deep breath, but he tries to hide it. I hit a nerve.

We don’t talk about Rachel, apparently.

“Good night, Tate,” he says, turning away.

I can’t tell what just happened. Did I embarrass him? Piss him off? Make him sad?

Whatever I did, I hate this thing now. This awkwardness that’s filling the space between my door and the elevator he’s now standing in front of.

I walk inside my apartment and close my door, but the awkwardness is everywhere. It didn’t remain out in the hallway.

Chapter six

MILES

Six years earlier

We eat dinner, but it’s awkward.

Lisa and Dad try to include us in the conversation, but neither

of us is in the mood to talk. We stare at our plates. We push

around the food with our forks.

We don’t want to eat.

Dad asks Lisa if she wants to go sit out back.

Lisa says yes.

Lisa asks Rachel to help me clear the table.

Rachel says okay.

We take the plates to the kitchen.

We’re quiet.

Rachel leans against the counter while I load the dishwasher.

She watches me do my best to ignore her. She doesn’t realize

she’s everywhere. She’s in everything. Every single thing has

just become Rachel.

It’s consuming me.

My thoughts aren’t thoughts anymore.

My thoughts are Rachel.

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

I look at the sink. I want to look at Rachel.

I breathe in air. I want to breathe in Rachel.

I close my eyes. I only see Rachel.

I wash my hands. I want to touch Rachel.

I dry my hands on a towel before turning around to face her.

Her hands are gripping the counter behind her. Mine are

folded across my chest.

“They’re the worst parents in the world,” she whispers.

Her voice cracks.

My heart cracks.

“Despicable,” I say to her.

She laughs.

I’m not supposed to fall in love with your laugh, Rachel.

She sighs. I fall in love with that, too.

“How long have they been seeing each other?” I ask her.

She’ll be honest.

She shrugs. “About a year. It’s been long-distance until she

moved us here to be closer to him.”

I feel my mother’s heart breaking.

We hate him.

“A year?” I ask. “Are you sure?”

She nods.

She doesn’t know about my mother. I can tell.

“Rachel?”

I say her name out loud, just like I’ve wanted to do since the

second I met her.

She continues to look directly at me. She swallows, then

breathes out a shallow “Yeah?”

I step toward her.

Her body reacts. She stands taller but not by much. She

breathes heavier but not by much. Her cheeks grow redder but

not by much.

It’s all just enough.

My hand fits her waist. My eyes search hers.

They don’t tell me no, so I do.

When my lips touch hers, it’s so many things. It’s good and bad

and right and wrong and

revenge.

She inhales, stealing some of my breaths. I breathe into her,

giving her more. Our tongues touch and our guilt intertwines

and my fingers slide through the hair God made specifically

for her.

My new favorite flavor is Rachel.

My new favorite thing is Rachel.

I want Rachel for my birthday. I want Rachel for Christmas. I

want Rachel for graduation.

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel.

I’m gonna fall in love with you anyway, Rachel.

The back door opens.

I release Rachel.

She releases me but only physically. I can still feel her in every

other way.

I look away from her, but everything is still Rachel.

Lisa walks into the kitchen. She looks happy.

She has a right to be happy. She’s not the one who died.

Lisa tells Rachel it’s time to go.

I tell them both goodbye, but my words are only for Rachel.

She knows this.

I finish the dishes.

I tell my father Lisa was nice.

I don’t tell him I hate him yet. Maybe I never will. I don’t

know what good it would do to let him know that I don’t see

him the same way anymore.

Now he’s just … normal. Human.

Maybe that’s the rite of passage before you become a man—

realizing your father doesn’t have life figured out any more

than you do.

I go to my room. I take out my phone, and I text Rachel.

Me: What do we do about tomorrow night?

Rachel: We lie to them?

Me: Can you meet me at seven?

Rachel: Yes.

Me: Rachel?

Rachel: Yeah?

Me: Good night.

Rachel: Good night, Miles.

I turn off my phone, because I want that to be the last text I

receive for the night. I close my eyes.

I’m falling, Rachel.

Chapter seven

TATE

It’s been two weeks since I’ve seen Miles but only two seconds since the last time I’ve thought about him. He seems to work just as much as Corbin does, and while it’s nice to have the place to myself occasionally, it’s also nice when Corbin isn’t working and there’s actually someone to talk to. I would say it’s nice when Corbin and Miles are both off work, but that hasn’t happened since I’ve lived here.

Until now.

“His dad is working, and he’s off until Monday,” Corbin says. I had no idea he’d invited Miles to come back home with us for Thanksgiving until just now. He’s knocking on Miles’s apartment door. “He doesn’t have anything else to do.”

I’m pretty sure I nod after hearing those words, but I turn and walk straight toward the elevator. I’m afraid that when Miles opens his door, my excitement over the fact that he’s coming with us will be transparent.

I’m on the elevator, at the far back wall, when they both step on. Miles finds me and nods, but that’s all I get. The last time I spoke to him, I made things completely awkward between us, so I don’t say a word. I also try not to stare at him, but it’s extremely difficult to focus on anything else. He’s casually dressed in a baseball cap, jeans, and a 49ers T-shirt. I think that’s why I find him hard to look away from, though, because I’ve always found guys more attractive when they put less effort into trying to appear attractive.

My eyes leave his clothes and meet his concentrated stare. I don’t know whether to smile in embarrassment or look away, so I just choose to copy his next move, waiting for him to look away first.

He doesn’t. He continues to watch me in silence for the remainder of the elevator ride, and I stubbornly do the same. When we finally make it to the ground floor, I’m relieved he steps off first, because I have to inhale a pretty noticeable breath, considering I haven’t inhaled in at least sixty seconds.

“Where you three headed?” Cap asks once we’re all off the elevator.

“Home to San Diego,” Corbin says. “You have any plans for Thanksgiving?”

“Gonna be a busy day for flights,” Cap says. “Reckon I’ll be here working.” He winks in my direction, and I wink back before he shifts his attention toward Miles. “How about you, boy? You headed home yourself?”

Miles silently watches Cap in the same way he silently stared at me on the elevator. This disappoints me tremendously, because on the elevator, I had a small glimmer of hope that Miles was staring at me like he was because he feels the same pull to me that I feel when I’m around him. But now, watching his visual standoff with Cap, I’m almost certain it doesn’t mean Miles is attracted to a person simply because he stares unabashedly. Miles apparently just looks at everyone this way. A very silent and awkward five seconds follows, with neither of them speaking. Maybe Miles doesn’t like being referred to as “boy”?

“Have a good Thanksgiving, Cap,” Miles finally utters, not even bothering to answer Cap’s question. He turns and begins walking through the lobby with Corbin.

I look at Cap and shrug my shoulders. “Wish me luck,” I say quietly. “Seems Mr. Archer might be having another bad day.”

Cap smiles. “Nah,” he says, backing up a step toward his chair. “Some people just don’t like questions is all.” He falls into his chair. He gives me a farewell salute, and I salute him back before walking toward the exit.

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