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Authors: Layla Hagen

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College

Lost in Us (6 page)

BOOK: Lost in Us
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“What are you doing?” Jess exclaims the moment the video starts.

“Trying to pick up tips so I don’t suck so badly at my next interview,” I say, searching for a notepad so I can jot down anything the on-screen fake interviewee does that might come in handy.

She whistles. “I still can’t believe you seriously want to work in investment banking. You do know you’re selling your soul to the devil?”

I smirk. It’s impressive how the (very true) rumors about the crazy working hours in banking have reached the ears of all the students, not only those studying Economics.

“I’m used to working hard,” I say.

“You won’t even have time to spend that ridiculous paycheck they’ll give you. And anyway, having money doesn’t mean your life will be perfect.”

I agree, it doesn’t. But having money will help. A lot. It might have saved Kate if my parents would have had enough funds to put her in a drug rehab center, where she would have received help. I heard the doctor reprimand my parents after her death for not sending her to one. I could hear my Dad tell the doctor they couldn’t afford it, between my mother’s heartbreaking sobs.

“Can you—“

“Jess, if you don’t let me concentrate, I’ll be getting my paycheck from McDonald’s. Or Wal-Mart.”

The second the video stops, she says, "So how was the sex?"

I turn bright red. "Don't you have anywhere to be?" I mumble. "You said you want to take more shifts in the cafe this month."

"I took everyone's shifts for the weekend so I'm free today. Please tell me something. Anything. How was it?"

"Fantastic," I say without hesitation. There is no other way to describe it. Especially when I compare it to what Michael and I were calling sex.

I have been trying not to think of that night for the past week, because every time I do I drown in guilt and shame. Not because I regret it, quite the opposite. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, but I can't because James hasn't shown any signs that he's aware of my existence. Why should he? He made it clear from the get-go that he wasn't committing to anything. I had just hoped this didn't automatically translate into a one-night stand. Several one-night stands, yes. But not one. That's just cruel.

After introducing me to true passion and all of its wonders, robbing me of them shouldn't be legal.

But there's another reason for the guilt.

It was the first time I lied to my mum. I told her I spent the day playing volleyball on the beach, like I'd planned. Telling her the truth, even only a part of it, would have upset her beyond words. Actually not beyond words. I'm sure she would've lectured me on my unethical and unacceptable behavior (something I would have whole-heartedly agreed with her a mere week ago) for at least half an hour before hanging up, leading to my first fallout with her.

And that would be one too many firsts in such a short time.

I look up and find Jess staring at me with an ear-to-ear smile.

"Must be really fantastic if you have that expression just from thinking of it. So are you two now—"

"I haven't heard from him since. I think that makes us exactly nothing."

"Have
you
called him?"

"What?"

"I think the next Zuckerberg needs a reminder," she says, turning her tablet. I can only make out the title of the Forbes article, which is indeed “The Next Zuckerberg,” and James's picture next to it. I refused to look up any info on him, thinking I'll forget the whole thing faster. "You do have his number, don't you?"

"Yeah, but—" 

"So give him a call."

"Which place does this occupy on your dating advice list?" I ask sarcastically.

"You wouldn't be asking him on a date." She rolls her eyes then arches her eyebrows. "Booty call."

"No way." I grimace. "I have tons to do for Monday anyway," I say and start looking for the assignment on the Stanford intranet.

"Oh stop being such a good girl, you give me the creeps. It's your last semester. Have some fun. Anyway I'm sure Aidan will let you copy it from him if you smile nicely."

Aidan has the second highest GPA in my class after me. He also has zero social skills, which makes him turn a violent red and babble incoherently every time a girl pays attention to him. It wouldn't take much to convince him to let me copy the solutions.

"If you show him a boob he might copy it for you," she snorts. "In addition to coming in his pants."

"You disgust me," I say.

"You need to get laid again."

I only realize what she's up to when I hear a distant dialing sound. I leap from my cross-legged position, sending my laptop crashing to the ground in the process, and launch myself over the table.

"Don't. Jess, I swear—"

It's futile. She holds my phone up in the air, too far away for me to grasp it. Jess is my best friend in the whole wide world, but sometimes—like now—I get the strange urge to throttle her. "Jessica Haydn, hand me that phone."

"Certainly," she says after a few excruciating seconds, and I know there can only be one reason for it.

He picked up.

"Hi…" I say, straightening up and struggling to even my breathing.

"Serena. To what do I owe this surprise?" The sound of my name in his mouth instantly brings back memories of all the other times he called my name and it has the devastating effect of erasing anything else from my mind.

Like why I am calling. 

"Umm," I look up at Jess, who mouths the word
plans
over and over. "I was wondering if you… already have plans for tonight?"

"What do you have in mind?" he says, sounding amused.

"Nothing special," I say quickly, feeling more embarrassed with every second.

"Then you can drop it?"

"Drop what?" I say confused and Jess slaps her forehead.

"The nothing special you had planned and join me." He sounds even more amused than before.

Jess gives a triumphant squeal. I'd do the same if I weren't on the phone.

"Where?"

"You really think I'll tell you?" he teases and I can feel his conceited smile forming at the other end. "Can you be ready in half an hour? I'll pick you up."

Jess desperately shakes her head, pointing to my hair and mimicking that she's applying lipstick.

I roll my eyes at her. "Sounds good."

"Perfect," he says and hangs up, leaving me breathing heavier than when I answered, though for quite different reasons.

"Help me pick something to wear," I tell Jess.

Half an hour later I'm waiting in the courtyard, wondering when exactly I lost my mind. Probably the same time I lost my decency.

I smile to myself. I'm so much better without them.

I check my outfit in my reflection at the front door. Jeans and a white top, a choice Jess vehemently criticized. She brought me an array of her shortest skirts, insisting that this is not the time to shy away from showing some leg. To me it just seemed like trying too hard.

The sound of a car roaring behind me causes something in my stomach to flutter violently. I turn around, expecting the familiar Rover and find a gray Porsche instead. The flutter in my stomach becomes almost painful as I open the door and slide into the car.

James looks even hotter than I remember, wearing a dark green polo and stylish Ray-Ban sunglasses. I'm glad I can't see his eyes, because that would make coherent thinking even more difficult.

"New week, new car?" I ask as he drives away.

He raises an eyebrow. "You thought I would arrive in a Range Rover with a driver? That is Dad's car. And Peter is his driver."

"So where are we going?"

"You'll see," he says and the corner of his mouth lifts in his trademark smile. "I promise we'll have a lot of fun."

The hair on the nape of my neck stands on end at the word
fun
.

I was expecting some awkwardness between us or mentioning the silent week that has passed, but it's like it never existed. 

"So how come the next Zuckerberg," I say mockingly, "gets to leave his office on Friday at five o'clock?"

He chuckles. "If you also mention the TechCrunch article from last Monday, I'll seriously consider reporting you for stalking activity. And by the way, I hate that comparison."

"Yeah, it's really unfair. You're much hotter than he is," I say without thinking. My face instantly feels like it's on fire and I look away, burying myself in my seat.

"That's very sweet of you." I can't tell from the tone of his voice whether he's mocking me or not but don't dare turn and check for fear my cheeks are as red as they feel. "We pitched to the last investors for this round today. It went well so I let everyone take off and celebrate."

"How high is the investment round?" I say, sitting up straight.

"You just read the title of that article, didn't you?" he smirks.

Damn.

"Sort of," I admit jerkily. I make a mental note to check what exactly he's doing when I get home. 

"Two hundred million."

"Impressive," I say. "What's your valuation?"

"Nine hundred million." 

"Wow," I say, stunned.

"We're hiring, by the way."

"I'll consider putting you on my long application list," I joke.

"Why not?" he says seriously.

"Because what you do is far too risky for me. I’ve heard of enough entrepreneurs going bankrupt.”

“True, but that’s part of the beauty in this. The risk.”

“I'm a corporate girl," I say, thinking that I’ll prefer the security of a paycheck to reckless risk any day. Of course, I’ve yet to receive any kind of positive answer from any bank I’ve applied to, so I hope that paycheck won’t just remain wishful thinking. I fist my palms tightly, hoping the usual anxiety over my future won’t show up now.

“So where did you apply?” he asks.

“To every investment bank I could find.”

He laughs softly. “I remember you saying you also take computer science classes along with economics. Not applying for a job in that area?”

I look at him, truly stunned that he remembers that, since I just mentioned it in passing when we first met at the bar. “Computer science is just my minor. And I’m not very fascinated by it.”

“I see. So you really want to work in investment banking?”

“Yeah.”

"Have you ever worked in investment banking before?"

"I did an internship at Merrill Lynch last summer," I say proudly.

"Christ, I did one at Goldman Sachs before my senior year. Most boring three months of my life."

"I liked it," I say briskly.

"Really?"

No, not
really
. But then again, what do I like? I've been having this dilemma ever since I started jotting down on a piece of paper names of banks to apply to back in October. Jess handed me a second piece of paper (with the title
What I Want to Do in My Life
written in pink tones with a little heart-shaped cardboard attached to it), insisting that I fill it with the things I love doing most. I looked up professional chocolate-tasting jobs for a few hours before giving up.

The
What I Want to Do in My Life
paper remains a blank page.

But the page with the list of banks I plan to apply to is anything but blank. It keeps growing every day. It was embarrassingly short in the beginning—I only looked at cities close to San Francisco, so Michael wouldn't have to commute to work once I got a job and we moved in together. Which I was sure was going to happen once I graduated. I almost snort at the thought now. Once he left me, I found out the world was much larger. New York and Washington made my list the night he broke up with me. I could put London on the list too, since it’s one of the best cities for a job in investment banking. But the thought of returning to the other side of the ocean, of being in London again, is still one I cannot bear. I think I never will.

"What makes you so sure I'd be of any use to you?" I ask.

"Dean Kramer," he answers.

My jaw drops. "Who's the stalker now?" I ask in a strangled voice, but fact is, I'm elated that he talked with someone about me. Dean Kramer, no less. So James hasn't altogether forgotten I exist.

"He called to ask me to give a talk next week and I casually told him we're looking for people. He wouldn't shut up about you."

I smile brightly, despite the sting of disappointment. As much as I like Dean Kramer, I wish James had been the one not shutting up about me.

The feeling of disappointment increases exponentially when I look out the window. The vast, perfectly cut fairways of the golf course lie on our left.

"You've got a really low standard for fun activities."

"We're not going golfing, Serena," he chuckles.

This time the effect of him calling my name goes way beyond emptying my mind. Shudders run through me and I sink into my seat again, hoping he will blame the chilly air in the car for the light tremor in my body. I keep my eyes firmly on my knees and take a few deep breaths. Why does he have such an effect on me? He hasn't even said it in a flirty or alluring way.

He hasn't even kissed me today.

I turn to him, prepared to rectify this right away when he announces, "We're here." One second later we turn left down a narrow street, and the sight of two dozen small aircrafts in the distance momentarily distracts me.

I have flown three times before, but I have never used the Palo Alto Airport. It's small and only for private use.

"We're flying?" I ask, stunned, as he parks in front of the wire fence that marks the ending of the airport.

He turns the engine off and removes his glasses.

"Still not interesting enough for you?" he asks with a smile more conceited than ever, and gets out of the car. I hesitate for almost a minute before pushing the door open and stepping into the dry, evening air with an uneasy feeling.

"You don't look happy," James says, closing my door and looking at me with genuine concern.

"Not a fan of flying," I admit. "It makes me sick."

"You won't get sick, I promise." He wraps one arm around my waist and silences my protest with a kiss. Soft. Sweet. Short.

But enough to awake the torturous, almost painful craving that overcame me at the party.

BOOK: Lost in Us
12.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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