Oh, wait, I did. But I hadn’t used it. I was fine. For the moment.
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why he wanted to be with me. Hudson Pierce held celebrity status. He could date supermodels and pedigreed women—why would he want me? The lack of an answer kept me doubting what had really occurred between him and me.
And then there was his ridiculous offer to pay off my student loans in exchange for hanging on him like arm candy. How on earth did I qualify for that? If I were another type of girl, one with dollar signs in the eyes, I’d be all over his—what did he call it?—proposition. Fortunately, money didn’t speak to me beyond what I needed for survival. The only temptation was the opportunity to spend more time with that delicious specimen of a man. But I’d already been through this—it was not a good idea.
Besides, if I’d understood him correctly, the option to spend time with him stood with or without accepting his job.
Not an option, Laynie!
It was a confusing idea anyway. Sleep with him without a relationship but pretend to have a relationship. Why not just have a relationship?
And there I was, already trying to make his offer more than it was.
I sighed and stretched my arms above my head. Clearly I wasn’t going back to sleep and Hudson was too much to contemplate without coffee. I turned over and grabbed my phone to read my text, secretly hoping it was from him.
It was from my brother. “Be there in twenty.”
I sat up, panicked. Did I forget a visit from Brian?
Scrolling through my texts I saw he’d sent one at seven in the morning. “Court cancelled. Taking a fast train to NYC. We need to have lunch.”
I threw my phone onto the bed next to me and groaned. As my only living relative, I loved Brian with extreme depth and neediness. But his role in my life had transformed from sibling to caretaker when I was sixteen after the death of my parents, and in an effort to compensate for all he knew I’d lost, he’d alienated me in many ways.
He’d also saved me, and I’d be eternally grateful.
Plus he paid the rent for my apartment. So when Brian trekked out from Boston on a weekday to have lunch, I better be ready and waiting. Even though I knew a surprise visit couldn’t mean anything good.
I took a deep breath and jumped out of bed. I didn’t have time for a shower. Brian and the patrons of whatever swank place he took me to would have to settle for the smelly version of me. I pulled on a pair of taupe dress slacks and a cream blouse and sprayed myself with a generous amount of Pear Blossom Body Spray before throwing my long brown hair into a messy bun. I’d just located my keys and purse when my phone rang.
I pulled the door closed behind me and stepped toward the elevator as I answered.
“I’m outside your building,” Brian said.
“Hello to you, too.” Never any small talk for Brian. I hit the elevator call button and waited.
“Whatever, sassafrass. We have reservations in fifteen minutes at The Peacock Alley. Are you ready?”
I rolled my eyes at his restaurant choice. How unoriginal of him to pick the Waldorf. “Already on my way down. You know, you could have used the apartment buzzer instead of calling.”
“But then you couldn’t walk and talk like you are.”
“And I’m about to lose you now as I get in the elevator. See you in a sec.” I wasn’t certain that the elevator would cause our call to drop, but I was facing a whole lunch hour with Brian. I needed the fifty-second reprieve.
“There she is,” Brian said to no one when I walked out of the front door of my apartment building. The apartment had been Brian’s pick since he was footing the bill, and I was sure that its proximity to the Waldorf had been half of the reason he’d chosen it. No one could mistake the place as classy, but the location was killer. My only gripe was the lack of a subway to the west side, but that only became a problem in bad weather.
“Hey, Bri,” I said throwing my arms around him. “It’s good to see you.”
“You too.” He pulled away and looked me up and down. “You look terrible, Laynie. Like you need more sleep.”
“Gee, thanks.” We started toward the restaurant. “I didn’t get off work until five. Yeah, I’m a bit tired.”
“Isn’t it time you started working a more normal job? Something nine to five like?”
“I work nine to five. Just not the same nine to five you work.” As if Brian worked nine to five. He was a workaholic, often burning the midnight oil working on his latest case. If his paralegal hadn’t been his type, he never would have gotten married. The man had no social life. I’d be surprised to learn he had a sex life, even with a new wife.
“You know what I mean.”
We’d only been together five minutes and he was already picking. If that was an indicator of how lunch was going to go, I’d rather skip the meal and get right to whatever bug was up his ass. “What brings you out here, Brian?”
He studied me, deciding whether to show his cards yet or not. He chose not. “Can’t a brother come visit his only sister on a whim? I still feel bad for missing your graduation.”
I hid my eye roll. He could have made my graduation if he’d wanted to, and we both knew it. But we had to play the game of happy family. “You’re a busy hotshot lawyer. I get it.”
“I sense the sarcasm in your voice, Laynie.”
My brother excelled at reading people, making him a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom. “Okay, I was pissed you didn’t come. Does that make you happy?” Actually, I’d been hurt. He’d had the date for almost nine months. How could I not feel low priority? “I’m over it now, though, so forget it.”
We’d reached the hotel, which gave us the perfect chance to drop the subject. At the restaurant, we were seated right away, and I let the new environment transform me from outwardly brooding to introspective.
I deliberated for a long time about my menu choice, annoying Brian who knew what he wanted instantly. When the tempo of his leg bouncing under the table accelerated, I settled on a house salad. God, the man had no patience. He should take a lesson from Hudson.
The thought of Hudson brought warmth to my body and a furrow to my brow. Something was poking at the edge of my thoughts, something I couldn’t quite grasp.
Brian chatted with me casually, keeping me from focusing on what perplexed me about Hudson. He briefly told me about a case he was working on and about the renovations he and Monica had done to their brownstone.