Authors: R.S. Grey
Tags: #Comedy, #Romance, #new adult
2015 R.S. Grey
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This book is a piece of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
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Published: R.S. Grey 2015
Editing: Editing by C. Marie
Cover Design: R.S. Grey
Stock Photos courtesy of Shutterstock
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
– Martin Buber
Five Years Earlier
Grayson watched the lights dance above his head. Neon blue, green, pink. He was two drinks past sober and the club’s lights were starting to become more interesting than the dancers below.
Brooklyn took a seat beside him and he nudged her with his shoulder.
“How ya holding up, champ?” he asked, eyeing the young pop star as if she were about to pass out on the spot.
Everyone else had deserted them for the dance floor a few minutes earlier, so he hoped she’d speak the truth for once.
“Fine,” she said.
He nudged her again, a little harder this time.
“I’m really worried about my sister,” she said, hiding her face against her shoulder.
Before Grayson spoke, he surveyed the crowd around them. They were the young Hollywood type: sons and daughters of media moguls. The most they had to worry about in a day was whether they wanted their $8 coffee with or without an extra shot of espresso. Not Brooklyn.
After she lost her parents at eighteen, she’d become the sole guardian of her little sister, Cammie. It was obvious that she felt the weight of that burden every day, even though it’d been nearly ten years since their death.
“What’s wrong with her?” Grayson asked. The few times he’d been around Brooklyn’s little sister he’d seen a wild streak lurking beneath the surface. She was beautiful and sharp; there was no denying it. Something about her had Grayson enamored from the very start—a fact he tried to deny every time she slipped into his thoughts.
“I have a lot of people supporting me—my managers, my assistants, and my friends—but it seems like Cammie has no one. She ditched her old friends one by one after our parents’ accident and I’m just scared that I’m not enough for her.” By that point, tears were slipping down Brooklyn’s cheeks and Grayson wrestled with how to best console her. They were just friends, nothing more, but he’d known her for years and it still hurt to see her upset.
Brooklyn turned to him with determination in her eyes. “She’s so smart, Grayson. She wants to study architecture, just like you did, but I think it might be too late. She’s been so... unfocused these past few years.”
Grayson nodded, already appraising the answer starting to claw its way to the front of his thoughts. Immediately following their parents’ car accident, he had thought about stepping in to help Brooklyn and Cammie, but he hadn’t had the resources to affect any real change. Now things were different. He had the connections to really make a difference in Cammie’s life.
A few drinks later, Grayson’s mind was made up. He’d step in and help Cammie. He told himself that he was doing it for the right reasons, though deep down he knew that not to be true. He wanted to be close to Cammie any way that he could, but taking advantage of a young, vulnerable girl wasn’t something his morality would let him get away with. To keep temptation at bay, he made a pact with himself to help Cammie from afar and keep his distance whenever possible.
Even with the utmost precautions in place, he knew his morality was bound to fail him one day. After all, the moral high ground does get awfully lonely.
I dreamed of leaving. I dreamed of filling a giant backpack with the essentials (my sketchbook and my favorite Black Keys album) and setting off for destinations unknown.
I was one week out of college, where I’d completed a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program in architecture. After all the long nights, I wanted to change gears and travel, finally check off a destination or two on my bucket list.
I already had a plan in place. I just had to work long enough to save up a little nest egg. From my calculations—
assuming I didn’t turn to prostituting myself in Europe
—I’d need to work for about three months before I could purchase a one-way ticket to Paris.
Technically, I didn’t need to save at all. My parents had left Brooklyn and I with plenty of money after the car accident, but I hadn’t touched my portion yet, and I wouldn’t. I wanted to board that plane to Paris knowing that I was doing it completely on my own.
While my plan seemed to be coming together, I had no clue what I’d do with myself once I actually got to Paris. There was a 50% chance that I’d immediately cave and fly back home… right back into Brooklyn’s waiting arms.
Brooklyn was my big sister, mother, father, sidekick, best friend, and most importantly, my security blanket. She didn’t know about my plan to leave for Paris, but there was no way around the deceit. If she found out that I was planning to move across the world, she’d lock me up inside of her condo. (
Which, for the record, wouldn’t be that bad. She had satellite TV and her fridge was always stocked with fancy cheeses.
“Have you been practicing any interview questions for tomorrow?” Brooklyn asked as she bent over to finish painting my toenails.
I sighed and sunk into the couch cushions even further.
My interview at Cole Designs—one of LA’s largest architecture firms.
I’d managed to forget about my impending interview for all of five minutes, but now it was right back to the forefront of my mind.
“Yes, I’ve practiced, but I doubt Grayson will even bother asking me questions. He’ll just stare at me from across his desk hoping that I’ll spontaneously combust… or start crying.”
Brooklyn rolled her eyes and twisted the lid back onto the red nail polish. She liked to play devil’s advocate when it came to Grayson, but I knew better. He actually was the
, with no advocate to say otherwise. He might have been her friend for the last ten years, but he was
a nice guy. He’d proven that to me on multiple occasions, and I was content with where our relationship was. I.e. non-existent.
“Give him a chance. He’s under a ton of stress. Don’t take his curtness personally.”
Curt was putting it lightly
“All right. No more Grayson talk. I need food,” I said, patting my stomach like a jolly Santa Claus. “When is that man slave of yours getting back with the fajitas?”
“Jason is my
, not my sex slave,” she corrected with a threatening stare.
“Whoa Ms. Freud, you dropped your slip,” I said, reaching for my phone so I could check my email for the one-thousandth time that day. There was probably nothing new, but I didn’t want to miss any last minute changes concerning my interview in the morning. For the last week I’d kept my phone attached to my hip as if it would alert me about the apocalypse at any minute. Seriously, I’d been in the shower earlier, trying to talk myself into actually shaving my legs, when my phone vibrated on the bathroom sink. I scrambled for it, slipped, and ended up inches away from hitting my head on the bathroom tile. (
Thank goodness I missed, because the paramedics would have had to use the Jaws of Life to hack through my leg hair to save me
To say that I was nervous about my interview with Grayson Cole was an understatement. Homeboy held the keys to my future. Landing a job at his firm would be the crucial first step in my plan to move to Paris. See detailed outline below:
1. Land a job.
2. Work until I have a nice little nest egg.
3. Ignore the fact that Grayson Cole is the sexiest architect in all the land.
He’s my boss, he’s my boss—
I’d have to just keep repeating that mantra until it stuck.
4. Buy my ticket to Paris and fly far, far away - thus proving that I can go through life on my own, without living in Brooklyn’s shadow.
5. Gloat with sexy Frenchmen.
6. Eat lots of French bread.
Later that night, I laid out an outfit for my morning interview. I had more than enough clothes to choose from since Brooklyn had taken it upon herself to surprise me with a work wardrobe earlier in the week. She was annoyingly confident that I would land the job. I, on the other hand, was happy to have the new designer duds. If nothing else, I’d look killer as security hauled me out of the building for karate chopping Grayson in the face.
I slid my hand over the fabric of a dark red wrap dress. I’d already tried it on earlier, loving the fit. It fell a few inches above my knees and the soft belt knotted to the side of my stomach, just above my hip. The sexy color would afford me at least half the confidence I’d need to step into Grayson’s office. The other half would come from my sky-high nude heels.
After checking that my four cell phone and two clock alarms were turned on and set to the exact pitch of a wailing newborn, I crawled into bed, willing sleep to take me fast.
Shocker: it didn’t
Instead, I laid on top of my sheets, tossing and turning for hours, replaying every encounter I’d had with Grayson from the very beginning. My goal was to pinpoint the exact moment when he’d started to despise me.
The first time I’d ever laid eyes on Grayson, I was a senior in high school—a baby in his eyes considering he was already two years out from completing his master’s degree at MIT. Brooklyn had dragged me to a dinner with some of her friends. He’d been there, at the opposite end of the table, his brown hair long on top with a bit of wave he didn’t bother trying to tame. His dark eyes were focused on the girl beside him, but I didn’t mind. I had a perfect vantage point to take him in. His wardrobe was far more relaxed in those days. Even still, he somehow made dark jeans and a gray t-shirt look edible.
There were plenty of other people to focus on, but my gaze kept landing on Grayson. I’d catch a hint of his smile or hear the tale end of his laugh and lose myself in imagining what it would be like to date a guy like him.
We didn’t speak once at that dinner, yet over the following two months, he morphed into the perfect hero in my mind. He was the Mr. Darcy to my Elizabeth Bennet, the Prince Charming to my Cinderella, and most importantly, the Ron Weasley to my Hermione Granger. I’d find myself thinking of him, recreating his appearance from that dinner, pretending I was the dark-haired girl sitting beside him. My fantasies were more than enough to tide me over until one day when Brooklyn brought him over to our condo and I didn’t have to imagine him anymore.
The front door of the condo opened and Brooklyn breezed inside with Grayson on her heels. He looked effortlessly cool with two-day stubble, a flannel shirt, jeans, and worn brown boots. I was in my pajamas, stuffing popcorn into my gullet when he glanced through the doorway and saw me. I wanted to melt into the couch from embarrassment. Brooklyn, of course, hadn’t warned me about his arrival. With an eight-year age difference, we shouldn’t have even been on each other’s radar, but he was the only person on mine.
He came to sit down on the chair beside the couch and turned toward me just as a popcorn kernel got lodged in my throat. I turned away and tried to pound my chest to get it out.
Please, God, take me.
This is the worst moment of my life.
“You okay?” he asked, drawing my attention back toward him. There was a hint of a smile hidden somewhere beneath his hard exterior.
The first time we’d met, I hadn’t seen his features up close. From my seat on the couch, every contour of his sculpted cheekbones, straight nose, and angular jaw were like my own personal siren call. Dark brows framed distant eyes—the sort of eyes that did a better job of keeping people out than letting them in. But it was his lips,
that completely did me in. When those lips hitched into a suggestive half-smile, I realized I’d failed to respond to his question.
“I’m fine,” I muttered, my face enflamed with a blush that didn’t want to recede.
“Oh, Grayson. This is my baby sister, Cammie!” Brooklyn cooed, reaching over the back of the couch to grab my shoulders. “She’s a senior in high school this year.”
I’d never wanted to strangle my sister more than I did in that moment. Sure, I was wearing pajamas pants with baby sheep jumping around on them, but she didn’t need to drive home the point that I was practically a toddler in Grayson’s eyes.
His brow arched as he regarded me from his armchair and I inwardly groaned at what he was probably seeing. Had I brushed my hair
my teeth yet that day?
Before the situation could get any worse, I stood with my popcorn bowl and left the living room with a whispered grumble about needing to get my homework done. Brooklyn was probably seconds away from telling him that I’d wet the bed until I was six or that I’d only had my braces removed the year before; I was
going to stick around for that kind of mortification.
I locked myself in my room, pulled out my sketchbook, and started to draw Grayson on the first few pages. Every single detail of his appearance was still fresh in my mind and I didn’t want them to fade before I finished.
I sketched with my back against my bedroom door so that I could be sure to hear if Brooklyn was approaching my room. I’d have rather eaten my entire sketchbook than let her see the drawings I was working on.
Just as I was almost finished, I heard Grayson speak up in the living room, his deep voice penetrating my bedroom walls. He was talking about his job as an architect at a firm downtown. He explained to Brooklyn how he wanted to branch out on his own and design things without some failed architect-turned-manager constantly hovering over his shoulder. I sat there with my ear pressed to my door as he talked about what his firm would be like and the kind of buildings he wanted to design.
At the time, my future career hadn’t been my top priority. I was too busy trying to grasp onto anything I could find easily: boys, partying, alcohol, drugs—none of which had succeeded in replacing what I had lost when my parents had died. I kept floating further and further away from my old life while Brooklyn tried desperately to reel me back in. Just three weeks before I’d told her that I didn’t want to graduate from high school knowing our parents wouldn’t be there to watch me walk across the stage. I didn’t want to move away to college knowing our parents wouldn’t be there to help me unload my car, so I’d pushed everything out of my mind.
It’d been incredibly easy.
Until that moment
I remember sitting against that doorframe and daydreaming about becoming an architect, just like Grayson. I loved to draw. I had sketchbooks filled to the brim, and when I was younger I’d dreamed of going into a creative field.
Was it too late?
I grabbed my laptop from my bed, slunk back down onto the floor, and researched architecture programs in Los Angeles for hours. My options were limited, but I still had time to make something happen before graduation.
I hadn’t realized it then, but that night was the first time I’d started to think about my future since the day my parents had passed away… and I had Grayson to thank for it.
For the next few months, I brushed off requests to party. I pushed aside the bad influences and locked myself in my school’s art room after the final bell rang each day. I had a portfolio to build and hardly any time to do it.
The next time I saw Grayson after he’d unknowingly changed my life was at Brooklyn’s twenty-second birthday party. I knew he’d be attending, so I’d tried to dress up my seventeen-year-old frame in a way that screamed “precocious chic”. I had too much make-up on and wore a dress that was fighting to cut off circulation to my lungs. I teetered along in high heels I had no business wearing.
When we arrived at the party, Grayson was already there with a gorgeous blonde girl hanging on his arm. She looked like she’d just stepped off the catwalk in Milan and as she smiled wide, pressing her palm to his chest, my hope deflated. I paused at the front entrance of the restaurant as every question I’d planned on asking him, every conversation starter that I’d brainstormed over the last few days slipped away along with my naive hope. I remember feeling so silly standing there in a dress that gapped around my hips where seductive curves should have been.
I’d done a stupid thing by putting my faith in an absolute stranger. For those last few months, since he’d first appeared in my life, I hadn’t done a single reckless thing. I’d made curfew, I hadn’t sneaked out at night, and I’d told my sister exactly where I’d be when I was going out. Grayson had been my reason for changing, but as I stood there and watched him with that woman, a beautiful woman
his own age
, I had a sudden yearning to do something crazy, to get out of my own head for a few hours.