Closing the library door, I shut everything out. Kate should be flirting with someone else, I tell myself. It’s better this way. The thing between us was just supposed to be sex. Nothing more. She isn't supposed to be drawing page after page of pictures of me. I’m not supposed to be thinking about her, dropping everything to rescue her at parties, turning down sex when she throws herself at me because I don’t want to hurt her.
It’s like I don’t even know who I fucking am anymore.
I’m sure as hell not whatever Kate thinks I am. I’m not a good guy.
There’s a liquor cabinet in the library, and I pour myself two fingers of bourbon. Sinking into the reading nook, I try to ignore the party below, but find myself looking out over the lawn anyway.
I wonder if that disgusting lacrosse player is dancing with her, sliding his hands over her ass, whispering into her ear the things he wants to do to her. The thought makes me want to kill him.
Instead, I swallow the rest of the liquor in one gulp, letting the warmth settle down my throat into my belly, and lay back with my head against the wall and my eyes closed.
When the door opens, I look up.
A redhead closes the door behind her, saunters across the room, and unzips the back of her black dress, letting it fall to a pool around her feet. A natural redhead, by the looks of things.
Well, hell. Generally the only thing better than a redhead is twins. She looks at me expectantly, her hands on her hips, clad only in black heels. "Well?" she asks.
I don't move. "Well, what?"
"I expected a better reaction than that. Well, I heard you were a dick." She stands there motionless, proudly displaying her nakedness like some kind of peacock. Not that she shouldn't. Her body is flawless. Except for the tits. I can't help but think about Katherine's perfect pair. These are...less than.
"That's what they say."
"So, what?" she asks. "You don't like what you see? Or you get so much pussy that a woman walking in and dropping her dress on the floor is old news?"
Her voice repulses me. I can't stand it. I rise, picking up the dress that lies in a crumpled heap on the floor, and hand it to her. "I'm not interested."
But she reaches for the collar of my shirt and presses her body against me. "Come on," she says. "Caulter Sterling not interested? I've heard you're always up for a good -- "
"I said, not interested. Do you have a hearing problem?" I push her away, and look up to see the library door swing open.
Kate stands there, unmoving, her eyes going back and forth between me and the naked redhead standing not more than two feet away from me. She blinks a few times, and for a minute I think she might cry. But she just shakes her head and turns.
"Kate!" I toss a dark look at the redhead, who seems to have no shame about standing there naked in the library with the door wide open. "Put your fucking clothes on and have some self-respect."
Rushing out the door, I head after Kate, but she's already outside. I'm cutting through the back, the same way I came in, through the kitchen, but I stop short. A few of the catering staff wander through to refill trays with hors d'oeuvers and disappear outside again, while Rose comes in through the swinging door that adjoins the dining room.
Rose gives me a look. "You're upset."
"Don't you know that I'm Ella's sullen child?" I ask. "I'm always upset."
She puts her hand on her ample waist. "I didn't say angry," she says. "I said upset."
"Is there a difference?" I'm irritated and I don't want to discuss word choices with her.
"There's a difference between angry and hurt."
I force a laugh. "I'm certainly not hurt," I say.
"Sure you're not," she says, wiping her hand on her skirt. "But in case you're looking for her, she went running past the dining room. I assume she was headed back out to the party."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Sure you don't," she says. "Now get out of here. There's too many people in my kitchen, with the staff running around like this. I need to make sure things stay in order."
Exhaling heavily, I step back outside, walking zombie-like through the partygoers, the Senator's political buddies with their suits and tuxedos and protruding stomachs. Their middle-aged wives have faces frozen in semi-permanent looks of surprise, the result of overzealous plastic surgeons. My mother's invites, the stars and starlets, are sprinkled through the crowd.