Authors: Francine Pascal
Ever since she'd slept with Liam O'Connor, Jessica had wanted to forget it ever happened. Even now, as she sat in her living room watching Lila back out of her driveway, she couldn't even remember all the details.
So far, it was the only sticking point in her plan to win Todd back, and her mind kept going back to that night. If Todd ever found outâ¦Well, she was pretty sure he'd never want to be with her again.
She could barely remember most of what had happened. She knew that his growing fan base in Los Angeles and elsewhere would be shocked to hear that she'd barely even registered his lean and muscled camera-ready physique. She had closed her eyes, allowing her body to respond to the sexual sensations, and lost herself in the moment.
She'd lost herself so much that she didn't even really remember what it had felt like. Jessica should've been thrilled to be with Liam, who had just landed on
's Sexiest Men Alive list. His title? Sexiest Import. He'd even sounded ridiculously close-up worthy when he murmured in a hint of an Irish brogue, “I love you, Jessica.” But those words hadn't made her heart soar like they should have.
She saw clearly now that she never should have slept with him at all.
But she knew why she had.
Because she had thought about Todd and Sarah fucking like rabbits all night, every night. She thought of them in all the positions of the
and then some. Jessica's imagination was relentless and horrible, and then the anger came, and there was really nothing to do but have sex with Liam.
She thought he would cure her of Todd.
Isn't that what rebounds were for? Like sorbet between courses in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Cleanse the palate and move on.
But that's not what had happened. Instead of helping her forget, everything Liam didâfrom the way he touched her to the faint smell of his strange, so-not-Todd cologneâonly served to remind her of all the many, many ways he was
Todd and never would be.
And it was Todd she wanted. Forever and always.
Jessica glanced at the phone in her hand, scrolling through Todd's texts for the hundredth time. There in those sentences she saw everything she'd ever wanted to hear from Todd since he'd moved out several months ago. It had been what she had been waiting for this whole time. He was sorry for the awful things he'd said. He loved her. He wanted her back. He didn't think their love was a sham.
THERE'S NOTHING BETWEEN SARAH AND ME.
I DON'T WANT HER OR ANYONE ELSE. I ONLY WANT YOU, JESSICA.
Just reading those words made her heart singâand then sink like a rock. Why hadn't she known this
she'd slept with Liam? If only she'd insisted on turning back and getting her phone that night instead of letting Liam talk her out of it.
Her phone dinged. She looked at the face, hoping to see Todd's name, but instead saw Liam's. She exhaled a frustrated sigh. It was yet
message from Liam. He seemed to be texting her every hour on the hour. It was getting annoying. She'd gotten two from him while Lila was here. The rest had been related to Bruce's PR, but Liam was moving into a close second for demands on her time.
HAVEN'T HEARD FROM YOU. HOPE EVERYTHING IS OKAY?
She clicked delete and pulled up the messages from Todd again. She had to play this just right. She didn't want to blow it. He
she'd gone out with Liam. He'd begun with his heartfelt apologies, and then it ended with the phone call to Liza, her nanny.
She knew Todd. There had to be anger, jealousy, and suspicion. With good reason. He knew.
Or did he?
That night, she'd almost texted him immediately and begged his forgiveness. Even though, she reminded herself, they
separated and he was screwing that lying, cheating excuse for a journalist. Jessica had been the one to discover Sarah Miller had plagiarized her newspaper storiesâbasically taking quotes from Jessica word for word and trying to pass them off as her own writing. The fact that she revealed the information to the
which subsequently fired Sarah, happened to be a short-lived victoryâmainly because Todd had gone ballistic and accused her of making it all up.
Really, when she thought about it, she had every right to fuck Liam.
She knew that. But she also knew that if Todd ever found outâ¦Well, that would be bad. She felt she would be able to forgive him. At least right now that's what she thought because right now, he was the only one she wanted. But would he forgive her? She didn't know and wasn't going to take the risk to find out.
So Jessica hadn't texted Todd back right away. She'd waited. And plotted and planned. After all, Jessica Wakefield didn't leave anything to chance. She couldn't afford just to play it straight and hope everything worked out. That was for perfect and purely blessed and talented people like her twin, Elizabeth.
Some people might have thought she was a manipulator, but Jessica knew the truth: If she didn't have a plan, she would never have anything or anyone. Todd included. She'd learned that a long time ago. She had to be smart about what she wanted and have a plan. And a plan needed a scheme.
Now she had one. The first part was simple: She would quit her job. She would give up her career so Todd would be able to see just how much she loved him.
And in return for that sacrificeâwhich wasn't a small oneâshe was going to allow herself the gift of pretending that night with Liam had never happened.
Lila had given her the idea when she'd said, “Who cares about drinks and dinner? So what?”
Exactly. So what? Only she and Liam knew what had happened that night, and there was no reason Todd would ever need to know.
The important thing was that she and Todd get back together. They were
to be together. They were made for each other, and what he didn't know couldn't hurt him.
In this case, the end would justify the means. What was a little lieâreally just an omissionâif it saved true love?
And she knew exactly how she would
tell him. She would
tell him about Liam over a romantic dinner at their special restaurant, tomorrow night after the huge MeanGreen gala.
Jessica heard her nanny, Liza, and son, Jake, come rumbling in through the front door, back from the park.
“Mommy!” Jake cried, bounding into the room. Jessica scooped him up in her arms and gave him a snuggle. Instantly, he gave her a full report on his time at the playground.
“Fast slide, Mommy! Fast!”
He beamed with excitement and pride. Jessica could imagine Jake wobbling up the stairs to the toddler slide. As he spoke, she saw that expression he got on his face that was pure Todd, the one when he couldn't wait to tell her about something new. It was the same way Todd looked when he talked about covering some fast-break play in the NBA playoffs.
Jessica gave Jake another big squeeze before she handed him back to Liza. Seeing Jake gave Jessica a renewed determination to reconcile with Todd, whatever it took. She wanted her family back together again.
Jessica pulled up Todd's cell number and dialed it. Butterflies danced in her stomach as she counted the rings.
“Hello?” Todd's voice sounded hurried, or maybe it was just his haste to pick up his phone. “Jessica?”
The way he said her name, with hope and warmth, caught her by surprise. It had been so long since she'd heard him say her name like that. Without anger. Or bitterness. His voice went straight to her heart and warmed it.
“Todd, I gotâ¦”
They both spoke at the same time.
“I'm sorry, you first,” Jessica said.
“No, you.” Todd gave a nervous little laugh. They sounded like awkward teenagers out on a first date.
Jessica decided to take charge. Lila was right. Why sit around and wait for the boys to come to them? Girls rule, right, BeyoncÃ©?
“Todd, I got your messages and I think we should talk. Really talk.”
“But you and Liamâ¦”
“We're nothing,” Jessica added quickly.
“But you went outâ¦?”
“For dinner.” This was the omission part, leaving out the sex that came after.
“Hey, that's great. I mean, dinner, who cares?”
Just what Lila had said. Jessica tried not to feel guilty about the relief in Todd's voice. She was doing what she had to do.
“Unless it's us having dinner together. Like maybe a late dinner tomorrow night at Le Bouchon?”
There was a pause on the other end of the line, and Jessica wondered if she'd overplayed her hand. Le Bouchon was
restaurant. Their life together as a couple officially started there. At least, their open, nonsecret, nonaffair life.
“We haven't been there in a long time,” Todd said.
“Is that a yes?” Jessica's heart hammered hard in her chest as she waited for his answer.
“Definitely a yes.” Todd couldn't keep the excitement out of his voice.
Jessica laughed. She knew she had him. Everything was going to be all right.
When Elizabeth arrived at Jessica's town house the next day, she found her sister in party-prep mode, gearing up for the big MeanGreen gala, a Bluetooth handless receiver accessorizing one ear and a diamond chandelier earring dangling from the other. Jessica's makeup artist and stylist were just leaving. On big gala days like this one, Jessica left nothing to chance.
Jessica wore a glittering diamond choker necklace on loan from Tiffany and a sleeveless red slinky gown and strappy heels. Her hair was blown dry straight and fell long past her shoulders. Elizabeth felt dreary and dull, the left-at-home sister in her jeans and flats and her hair thrown up in a hasty ponytail. She never knew how her twin could make walking in six-inch stilettos look as easy as meandering around in Keds, but she managed it.
was what she thought when she looked at her twin.
Everything I'm not.
“The models are used to marathon makeup sessions, or they should be, so I wouldn't worry about that,” Jessica said into her hands-free set as she gave Elizabeth a quick hug hello. “I'll be there in twenty, but make sure to put the
photographer front and center. He gets to set up first. I knowâyou have this covered. Thanks, Katy.”
Jessica clicked off the phone.
“Is now a bad time?” Elizabeth asked her sister.
“What? No. I've got ten minutes before I have to hit the freeway. I went over there this morning and just came back to change. The models are still in prep mode. They're not getting the body paint until tonight, and Katy has things under control.”
The body paint was the kicker for the show. It would look like all the models were wearing was green paint, but the giveaway would be the zippers and buttons that couldn't be hiddenâ¦. except that the zippers and buttons were trompe l'oeil. The models really were naked.
Jessica's eyes shone as she spoke about the MeanGreen gala, and Elizabeth saw that familiar spark whenever Jessica talked about work. It was like a whole other Jessica. Elizabeth was surprised but happy that her sister loved her work. It hadn't seemed like that would ever happen.
“I'm glad you're here, actually, because I didn't get a chance to tell you I'm having dinner with Todd tonight,” Jessica said.
“He's going to the gala?” Elizabeth sounded surprised.
“No, no. I'm meeting him after. At Le Bouchon.”
When she heard the name of the restaurant, the darling French bistro known for romantic, candlelit dinners, she felt a little twinge of something close to jealousy. “The bistro where he proposed?” Elizabeth asked. She knew that because Jessica had told her. Sometimes, Elizabeth wanted to believe that she truly was fine with Jessica and Todd as a couple, and yet there were moments like these when she was reminded she might not ever be completely fine.
She could tell herself all she wanted that Jessica taking Todd turned out to be a life changer for her. It had made Bruce possible, but sometimes, she wondered, would she ever, truly forget the way it had happened?
“Yes. Our place.” Jessica was beaming, her eyes brimming with excitement. Elizabeth realized it wasn't just the MeanGreen gala that had brought the color back into her sister's face.
“What's your plan?”
“What do you mean?” Jessica tried to sound innocent.
“Don't play coy. I know you have a plan. You always do.”
Jessica shrugged. “Well, you know what we've been fighting about. You know how Todd feels about me working. So, I've come to a decision.” Jessica took a deep breath. “I'm going to quit my job.”
Elizabeth just stared. She couldn't have been more surprised than if Jessica had told her she planned to join NASA's space program to Mars.
“I'm sorryâdid you say
“Todd doesn't like me working, and he can support us all, so I'm going to tell him tonight that I'm going to stop working. I'm going to be there for him and Jakeâone hundred percent. That way, he will see how much I love him and how much I'm willing to give up for him, and, well, how can he say no to an offer like that? Don't you think it's perfect, Lizzie?”
No, Elizabeth did not think it was perfect. It was about as far from perfect as you could get. Jessica had only just found this career where she was not only a valuable member of a team but was also supremely competent. Elizabeth thought of the magic her sister had worked with Bruce's PR nightmare, and she knew it wasn't just a fluke. Jessica had serious talent. To give that all up for Todd? Was she crazy?
“Have you thought aboutâ¦” Elizabeth began softly, trying to figure out a way to say what she thought needed to be said without upsetting her sister.
“How I'm going to do it?” Jessica cut her off, eager to tell her all about her plans. “I'm going to resign tonight, right after the gala. By the time I meet Todd for dinner, I'll be able to tell him it's already done.”
“Are you sure you want to do that today? You could wait.”
“Why wait? My mind is made up. I'm doing it tonight.”
Elizabeth thought Jessica was making a huge mistake, but as she looked at her sister's face, her twin, and saw the happiness and hope there, she knew she wouldn't be the one to burst that bubble. Besides, when Jessica had a plan it was almost impossible to derail her. And Elizabeth could be wrong.
Not to mention, Elizabeth didn't trust her own motives. She did want Jessica and Todd back together for Jake's sake and for everyone, really, but maybe part of herâ¦Well, maybe a very small part of her hoped they wouldn't. The smartest thing would be to stay out of it, she decided.
Jessica failed to notice the doubt on her sister's face. She was busy scooping up a spare lipstick and compact and sliding them into her clutch. “But here I am going on about Todd. Did you find out anything about the lying skank who is accusing Bruce?”
Elizabeth flinched at the harshness with which her sister dismissed Robin Platt's claims. If she knew how scared and sincere the girl really seemed, she doubted Jessica would be so heartless.
Elizabeth remembered the girl's shabby place and the fear in her eyes when she'd talked about Bruce nearly raping her.
Elizabeth didn't know what to think or whom to believe anymore.
And as much as she tried to forget, all she could think of was how Robin seemed to know such private things about Elizabeth that only Bruce could have told her. Plus, there was the little tidbit about him saying that the sex with her was boring. It was hurtful, horrible actually, and it tapped right into Elizabeth's lack of confidence, her fear that she was just the way she looked tonightâdreary and dull, the boring, do-gooder sister, plain old Elizabeth, without any of the sparkle and excitement of her fabulous sister.
Standing in her jeans next to Jessica's sequins and platform stilettos only seemed to underline this point.
“Umâ¦No, nothing moreâ¦butâ¦” Elizabeth couldn't meet her sister's gaze. She didn't like lying to her about Robin, but she wasn't ready to tell her or anyone else what she'd found, either.
“But what?” Jessica's radar was up and sharp.
“Wellâ¦the more I dig, the more I talk to the bartender and â¦ Everyone else. I don't know, Jess. Some things just don't match. I have doubts.”
“Doubts? What do you mean? About Rick Warner being behind this?”
“No. There are inexplicable holes in Bruce's story, Jess. Like the bartender saying he was really trying to pick up this girl. And how he supposedly had had too much to drink andâ¦”
“You can't honestly be suggesting that Bruce tried to rape an intern.” Jessica's voice was stony. Elizabeth could see her mistake. Jessica was firmly in Bruce Patman's camp and there was no budging her. Of course, she knew only part of the story. “We've known him most of our
. You can't doubt him now. And you
with him. Come on, Elizabeth. You can't let some random bartender talk you into something that's just not true. You know Bruce.”
“I know.” But did she? Did she really? After all, he'd been kind of a jerkâactually worse than a jerkâin high school. What if, after all this time, he still was that guy? Maybe the new Bruce personality was just some kind of put-on for her, a cover story to hide the real Bruce underneath.
“So? Don't let the story get to you,” Jessica said. “I know in the end he'll be vindicated. Just you watch.”