I just have to think about something else. Like how great it'll be to be back here for the summer. I love this place, with its white painted walls and airy spaces. I love the wraparound porch, and the little balcony outside of my bedroom where I sit and sketch when I want peace and quiet. I wish I could spend the summer here alone. I don't want Caulter and Ella here, intruding on this place that used to be my mother's and mine. I don't want their presence tainting my memories of her.
And I especially don't want Caulter here, reminding me of that night every time I look at him. I don't want him here, reminding me of the fact that he's awakened feelings in me, even if the feelings are simply lust. Ridiculous, inappropriate lust. It's ridiculous and inappropriate not just because he's about to be my step-brother, either. It's ridiculous and inappropriate because of who Caulter Sterling is. He's a crude, caustic prick who can't keep his dick in his pants.
The problem is, I just can't stop thinking about that prick.
I can't stop thinking about that kiss in the park, Caulter's lips pressed hard against mine, his touch rough and unyielding. The thought of it sends a shiver down my spine even now, and I try to banish it. I should want someone more appropriate. I shouldn't want Caulter, with his vulgarity and stupid rebel-without-a-cause attitude problem. I shouldn't want Caulter, who's obsessed with sex.
The problem is, I'm beginning to think he's done something to me, messed with my head. Because ever since that night, I can't stop thinking about sex either.
I need to get Caulter out of my head, and being here this week by myself is the best way to do that. Until Friday night, I'm rid of my father and Ella and their whole love-struck teenager act. I don't have to give my opinion on wedding plans, and I don't have to deal with Ella's perpetual cheeriness. And I don't have to deal with Caulter and any early morning encounters in the bathroom. Maybe Caulter will decide to stay in Hollywood, and he won't come with them on Friday night, just in time for the Saturday morning pancake breakfast.
I pause, my pencil on the page, mid-stroke. The Saturday morning pancake breakfast is a yearly tradition, this lame PR thing my father does at the beginning of every summer at this mom-and-pop cafe in town. We eat pancakes and smile and he kisses babies and talks about how meaningful this place is to him.
"Katherine," a reporter will inevitably ask. "Does he do this at home?" And I will smile sweetly and hold up a fork with a bite of pancake on it. "When I'm home from school, he does it every Saturday morning. Pancakes and hot cocoa, just like when I was a kid."
I fucking hate pancakes.
I lose myself in my thoughts, my charcoal pencil moving over the sketch pad, the sound of the short, smooth strokes almost like white noise. Art is like my version of meditation. It's what got me through after my mother died, and I have boxes in the bedroom closet, filled with my paintings and sketches from that time.
The knock on the door is what jolts me out of my thoughts. I slam the sketchpad closed, slipping it back into its hiding place underneath the mattress on the bed.
Rose stands in the doorway, clad in a dress and apron. She's the other reason this place feels like home. Rose took care of me when I was a kid before we moved to DC, but she returned full-time every summer. She took care of my mother when she got sick. And after my mother died, she's the one who stroked my hair and spoke softly to me as I sobbed, stretched out on the window seat in the library with my head in her lap.
When I look at her, I'm immediately afraid she'll be able to tell what I've been doing. I glance back at the bed as if the sketchpad filled with drawings of Caulter's naked body might have somehow jumped out of its hiding place under the mattress and displayed itself in full view. But of course it's hidden away.
"Kate," she says, wiping her hands on her apron. "It's two in the afternoon. It's not good for you to be hidden away up here all day."
I shrug. "I'm just drawing."
She shakes her head and makes a clucking sound with her tongue. "I'm making cinnamon rolls and bread. You should eat. Pretty soon you'll be skin and bones."
I laugh. "Rose, I gained weight during finals. I can barely button my jeans as is." But I follow her out downstairs anyway.
She clucks her tongue as we walk, and gives me a disapproving shake of her head. "Barely button your jeans," she mutters. "You kids these days."
"What about us?" I ask, sliding onto one of the tall stools surrounding the large island in the middle of the kitchen. The marble surface is covered with a dusting of flour, baking implements scattered across the countertop. Rose reaches into one of the kitchen cabinets for a plate, before presenting me with a cinnamon roll practically the size of my head, drenched in frosting.