Home > Ugly Love(7)

Ugly Love(7)
Colleen Hoover

I can’t tell if Cap excuses Miles’s rude behavior because he likes Miles or if he just makes excuses for everyone.

“I’ll drive there if you want,” Miles says to Corbin when we all reach the car. “I know you haven’t slept yet. You can drive back tomorrow.”

Corbin agrees, and Miles opens the driver’s-side door. I climb into the backseat and try to figure out where to sit. I don’t know if I should sit directly behind Miles, in the middle, or behind Corbin. Anywhere I sit, I’ll feel him. He’s everywhere.

Everything is Miles.

That’s how it is when a person develops an attraction toward someone. He’s nowhere, then suddenly he’s everywhere, whether you want him to be or not.

It makes me wonder if I’m anywhere to him, but the thought doesn’t last long. I can tell when a guy is attracted to me, and Miles definitely does not fall into that category. Which is why I need to figure out how to stop whatever this is I feel when I’m around him. The last thing I want right now is a silly crush on a guy when I’ve barely got time to focus on both work and school.

I pull a paperback out of my purse and begin to read. Miles turns on the radio, and Corbin lays his seat back and kicks his feet up on the dash. “Don’t wake me up until we’re there,” he says, pulling his cap over his eyes.

I glance at Miles, and he’s adjusting his rearview mirror. He turns around and looks behind us to back out of the spot, and his eyes briefly meet mine.

“You comfortable?” he asks. He turns around before getting my answer and puts the car in drive, then glances at me in the rearview mirror.

“Yep,” I say. I make sure to tack a smile onto the end of that word. I don’t want him to think I’m upset that he came, but it’s hard for me not to appear closed off when I’m around him, since I’m trying so hard to be.

He looks straight ahead, and I look back down at my book.

Thirty minutes pass, and the movement of the car accompanied by my attempt to read is making my head hurt. I set the book down beside me and readjust myself in the backseat. I lean my head back and prop my feet up on the console between Miles and Corbin. He glances at me in the rearview mirror, and his eyes feel like they’re hands, running over every inch of me. He holds his stare for no longer than two seconds, then looks back at the road.

I hate this.

I have no idea what’s going through his head. He never smiles. He never laughs. He doesn’t flirt. His face appears as if he keeps a constant veil of armor between his expressions and the rest of the world.

I’ve always been a sucker for the quiet types of guys. Primarily because most guys talk too much, and it’s painful having to suffer through every single thought that goes through their heads. Miles makes me wish he were the opposite of the quiet type, though. I want to know all the thoughts that pass through his head. Especially the one thought that’s in there right now, hiding behind that unwavering, stoic expression.

I’m still staring at him in the rearview mirror, trying to figure him out, when he glances at me again. I look down at my phone, a little embarrassed that he caught me staring at him. But that mirror is like a magnet, and dammit if my eyes don’t shoot back up to it.

The second I look into the mirror again, so does he.

I look back down.

Shit.

This drive is about to be the longest drive of my entire life.

I make it three minutes, then I look again.

Shit. So does he.

I smile, amused by whatever game this is we’re playing.

He smiles, too.

He.

Smiles.

Too.

Miles looks back at the road, but his smile remains for several seconds. I know, because I can’t stop staring at it. I want to take a picture of it before it disappears again, but that would be weird.

He lowers his arm to rest it on the console, but my feet are in his way. I push up on my hands. “Sorry,” I say, as I begin to pull them back.

His fingers wrap around my bare foot, stopping me. “You’re fine,” he says.

His hand is still wrapped around my foot. I’m staring at it.

Holy hell, his thumb just moved. Deliberately moved, stroking the side of my foot. My thighs clench together and my breath halts in my lungs and my legs tense, because I’ll be damned if his hand didn’t just caress my foot before he pulled it away.

I have to chew on the inside of my cheek to keep from smiling.

I think you’re attracted to me, Miles.

As soon as we arrive at my parents’ place, my father puts Corbin and Miles to work hanging Christmas lights. I take our things into the house and give Corbin and Miles my room, since it’s the only one with two beds. I take Corbin’s old bedroom, then head to the kitchen to help my mom finish prepping dinner.

Thanksgiving has always been a small affair at our house. Mom and Dad didn’t like having to choose between families, and my dad was hardly ever home, since a pilot’s busiest times of year are the holidays. My mother decided Thanksgiving would be reserved for immediate family only, so every year on Thanksgiving Day, it’s always just been me, Corbin, Mom, and Dad, when Dad is home. Last year, it was just Mom and me, since Dad and Corbin were both working.

This year, it’s all of us.

And Miles.

It’s strange, him being here like this. Mom seemed happy to meet him, so I guess she didn’t mind too much. My dad loves everyone, and he’s more than happy to have someone else helping with the Christmas lights, so I know the presence of a third person doesn’t bother him in the least.

My mother passes me the pan of boiled eggs. I begin cracking them to prepare them for deviled eggs, and she leans across the kitchen island and rests her chin in her hands. “That Miles sure is a looker,” she says with an arch of her eyebrow.

Let me explain something about my mother. She’s a great mom. A really great mom. But I have never been comfortable talking to her about guys. It started when I was twelve and I got my first period. She was so excited she called three of her friends to tell them before she even explained what the hell was happening to me. I learned pretty early on that secrets aren’t secrets once they reach her ears.

“He’s not bad,” I say, completely lying. I’m absolutely lying, because he is a looker. His golden-brown hair paired with those mesmerizing blue eyes, his broad shoulders, the scruff that lines his firm jaw when he’s had a couple of days off work, the way he always smells so fantastically delicious, like he just stepped out of the shower and hasn’t even towel-dried yet.

Oh, my God.

Who the hell am I right now?

“Does he have a girlfriend?”

I shrug. “I don’t really know him, Mom.” I take the pan to the sink and run water over the eggs to loosen the shells. “How is Dad liking retirement?” I ask, attempting to change the subject.

My mother grins. It’s a knowing grin, and I absolutely hate it.

I guess I never have to tell her anything, because she’s my mom. She already knows.

I blush, then turn around and finish cracking the damn eggs.

Chapter eight

MILES

Six years earlier

“I’m going to Ian’s tonight,” I tell him.

My father doesn’t care. He’s going out with Lisa. His mind is

on Lisa.

His everything is Lisa.

His everything used to be Carol. Sometimes his everything was

Carol and Miles.

Now his everything is Lisa.

That’s okay, because my everything used to be him and Carol.

Not anymore.

I text her to see if she can meet me somewhere. She says Lisa

just left to come to my house. She says I can come to her house

and pick her up.

When I get there, I don’t know if I should get out of the car. I

don’t know if she wants me to.

I do.

I walk to her door, and I knock. I’m not sure what to say when

she opens the door. Part of me wants to tell her I’m sorry, that

I shouldn’t have kissed her.

Part of me wants to ask her a million questions until I know

everything about her.

Most of me wants to kiss her again, especially now that the

door is open and she’s standing right in front of me.

“Want to come in for a little while?” she asks. “She won’t be

back for a few hours, at least.”

I nod. I wonder if she loves my nod as much as I love hers.

She shuts the door behind me, and I look around. Their

apartment is small. I’ve never lived in a place this small. I think

I like it. The smaller the house, the more a family is forced to

love one another. They have no extra space not to. It makes me

wish my dad and I would get a smaller place. A place where

we’d be forced to interact. A place where we’d stop having to pretend

that my mother didn’t leave way too much space in

our house after she died.

Rachel walks to the kitchen. She asks me if I want something

to drink.

I follow her and ask her what she has. She tells me she has

pretty much everything except milk, tea, soda, coffee, juice, and

alcohol. “I hope you like water,” she says. She laughs at herself.

I laugh with her. “Water is perfect. Would have been my first

choice.”

She gets us each a glass of water. We lean against opposite

counters.

We stare at each other.

I shouldn’t have kissed her last night.

“I shouldn’t have kissed you, Rachel.”

“I shouldn’t have let you,” she tells me.

We stare at each other some more. I’m wondering if she would

let me kiss her again. I’m wondering if I should leave.

“It’ll be easy to stop this,” I say.

I’m lying.

“No, it won’t,” she says.

She’s telling the truth.

“You think they’ll get married?”

She nods. For some reason, I don’t love this nod as much. I

don’t love the question it’s answering.

“Miles?”

She looks down at her feet. She says my name like it’s a gun

and she’s firing a warning shot and I’m supposed to run.

I sprint. “What?”

“We only rented the apartment for a month. I overheard her

on the phone with him yesterday.” She looks back up at me.

“We’re moving in with you in two weeks.”

I trip over the hurdle.

She’s moving in with me.

She’ll be living in my house.

Her mother is going to fill all my mother’s empty spaces.

I close my eyes. I still see Rachel.

I open my eyes. I stare at Rachel.

I turn around and grip the counter. I let my head fall between

my shoulders. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to like her.

I don’t want to fall in love with you, Rachel.

I’m not stupid. I know how lust works.

Lust wants what lust can’t have.

Lust wants me to have Rachel.

Reasoning wants Rachel to go away.

I take Reasoning’s side, and I turn to face Rachel again. “This

won’t go anywhere,” I tell her. “Thisthing with us. It won’t end

well.”

“I know,” she whispers.

“How do we stop it?” I ask her.

She looks at me, hoping I’ll answer my own question.

I can’t.

Silence.

Silence.

Silence.

LOUD, DEAFENING SILENCE.

I want to cover my ears with my hands.

I want to cover my heart with armor.

I don’t even know you, Rachel.

“I should leave,” I say.

She tells me okay.

“I can’t,” I whisper.

She tells me okay.

We stare at each other.

Maybe if I stare at her enough, I’ll get tired of staring at her.

I want to taste her again.

Maybe if I taste her enough, I’ll get tired of tasting her.

She doesn’t wait for me to reach her. She meets me halfway.

I grab her face and she grabs my arms, and our guilt collides

when our mouths collide. We lie to ourselves about the truth.

We tell ourselves we’ve got this … when we don’t have it at

all.

My skin feels better with her touching it. My hair feels better

with her hands in it. My mouth feels better with her tongue

inside of it.

I wish we could breathe like this.

Live like this.

Life would feel better with her like this.

Her back is against the refrigerator now. My hands are beside

her head. I pull away and look at her.

“I want to ask you a million questions,” I say to her.

She smiles. “I guess you’d better get started.”

“Where are you going to college?”

“Michigan,” she says. “What about you?”

“Staying here to get my bachelor’s, and then my best friend,

Ian, and I are going to flight school. I want to be a pilot. What

do you want to be?”

“Happy,” she says with a smile.

That’s the perfect answer.

“When’s your birthday?” I ask her.

“January third,” she says. “I’ll be eighteen. When’s yours?”

“Tomorrow,” I tell her. “I’ll be eighteen.”

She doesn’t believe that my birthday is tomorrow. I show her

my ID. She tells me happy early birthday. She kisses me again.

“What happens if they get married?” I ask her.

“They’ll never approve of us being together, even if they don’t

get married.”

She’s right. It would be hard to explain to their friends. Hard

to explain to the rest of the family.

“So what’s the point of continuing this if we know it won’t end

well?” I ask her.

“Because we don’t know how to stop.”

She’s right.

“You’re going to Michigan in seven months, and I’ll be here in

San Francisco. Maybe that’s our answer.”

She nods. “Seven months?”

I nod. I touch her lips with my finger, because her lips are

the kind of lips that need appreciating, even when they aren’t

being kissed. “We do this for seven months. We don’t tell

anyone. Then …” I stop talking, because I don’t know how to

say the words We stop.

“Then we stop,” she whispers.

“Then we stop,” I agree.

She nods, and I can actually hear our countdown begin.

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