Max was smug when I told her about Mr. Maddison giving me a reporting job. I usually hated it when she got condescending like that but I was too excited about my promotion to care at the moment. She invited me for a celebratory dinner at her place which I was more than happy to attend.
“So how awesome is your big sister?” she teased.
I rolled my clear blue eyes. “She’s all right, I guess. She’s really annoying though,” I added with another dramatic eye roll.
Max slapped my arm and narrowed her hazel orbs at me. “Oh well aren’t you so funny.”
She bounced Mac on her knee and turned away from me. Mackenzie cocked her head to the side and looked between Maxine and me. She put her tiny hand on her mother’s cheek and pushed her face back toward me. “Mommy, you’re not supposed to hit,” the little girl scolded.
I laughed. “Yeah, Mommy, don’t hit. How can you teach my niece manners if you’re mean to your favorite little sister?”
She glared daggers at me. “Lyra, shut up. You’re really annoying when you do that. It’s not very attractive to act like a smug little bee-yotch.
“Anyway, what are you going to do your first article on?”
My eyes widened dramatically at her. “Maxi, watch your language! My little baby is only three for crying out loud! And talk about a subject change.”
“Lyra, will you please answer your sister’s question?” my brother-in-law asked in a feeble attempt to avoid an argument between my sister and me.
I scoffed but went along with it. “I’m really not sure yet. There’s a press conference with the mayor at City Hall tomorrow and Delia didn’t have anyone covering it. I might just start with something easy like that.”
Max nodded and shifted her daughter to the other leg. “If I hear about anything else that you could do a story on I’ll let you know.”
As much as I appreciated the offer, I didn’t want to rely on my big sister for a good story topic. I really wanted to make it on my own but I didn’t want to say anything to her. I just smiled at the older girl and she grinned back ecstatically.
Mackenzie watched some mindless cartoon while the adults had some dessert and talked. We discussed my new job for a while before Ethan got up to take Mackenzie to bed. The second they were gone, my sister turned on me with the biggest smile I’d ever seen plastered to her face. “So word around the office is that you had a very special visitor in today. Who was it?”
My jaw locked in annoyance. I hated gossip, especially when it was about me. “It was nobody, Max. Some guy I met at the coffee shop this morning was returning my flash drive to me at the office. End of story.”
She arched one black brow. “Oh really? Then what was it I was hearing about you having a date with Mr. Handsome on Friday? And don’t say that it was just a rumor because it was your friend that told me and I know he wouldn’t lie about something this serious.”
My round eyes grew to be wider than the saucers under the teacups on the table. “God, I’m going to kill Randall,” I muttered under my breath. “That guy was being a complete ass to me this morning at Starbucks so he invited me to dinner to try and make amends. Randall’s the one that agreed and he’s the one that gave Mr. Pain-in-my-ass my number. It was nothing, Maxine.”
Her hazel eyes narrowed. “Mm-hmm. Well I think you should take him to Family Night this weekend. I want to meet him.”
I let out a laugh. “That’s so not happening. I am going to suffer through dinner on Friday because Randall butted in and then I’ll never see that A-hole again. It’s going to be as plain and simple as that. Got it?”
The corners of her mouth curled up arrogantly. “It’s never that simple, Lyra. Unless you do something to sabotage your date it’s going to be more complicated than one dinner and then he disappears. You’ll see him again.”
Why was it that everyone else was so excited about me having a date? Sure, I’ll admit that it’s been a while, but I wasn’t completely innocent so I really didn’t see the big deal about me going out to dinner with some guy.
“Whatever, Max,” I muttered darkly as I stood and gathered my black coat and zebra-print tote bag. “I’m going to get through Friday night and then I’m going to kill you and Randall for getting involved in my love life.”
“What love life?” she murmured.
I glared at her and practically slammed the door on my way out. I felt rude for not at least saying goodbye to Ethan but there was no doubt in my mind that my older sister would fill him in on my temper tantrum and tell him why I’d stormed out so quickly. Maxine was so damn nosy sometimes and it bugged the crap out of me, making me wish that I had a different sister.
Having a gay best friend can sort of suck sometimes. Randall showed up at my little two story house around noon on Friday and stayed there for the rest of the day. He was having way too much fun trying to get me ready for my stupid dinner with Michael. I was wondering if murdering my best friend would have been enough to get me out of dinner but then I realized that no one would visit me in jail if he was dead. He laughed when I told him as much. Randall was too much sometimes but he was the one person in my life that was always there for me not matter what.
“I am so not wearing this dress,” I grumbled as I shimmied out of the black sequence halter. “I’m good with my jeans and that cute tank I bought at Marcie’s last week.”
He gasped in horror. “Lyra, this is not a jeans and tank occasion. You have to look absolutely adorable. You’ve only got 15 more minutes before he’s supposed to come so just put the dress back on. I still have to finish your hair, silly.”
The chances of me actually getting my way were slim to none so I decided to be a little bit cooperative. “Fine,” I growled. “But I am so making your life miserable at Family Night tomorrow.”
My doorbell went off at exactly eight o’clock. My sky blue eyes widened for a second and I gaped at my best friend. “Doesn’t he know about being fashionably late?” I hissed. Randall yanked at my hair and shoved a couple of more pins in my curls before he ushered me out the door.
I stumbled down the stairs trying to put my flats on as I went and rushed to the front door, nearly falling flat on my face as I did. I wrenched it open and found Michael standing there looking pretty good. He wore some dark slacks and a simple navy button shirt that caressed his smooth muscles and enhanced his grey eyes. I mentally slapped myself when I caught myself gawking.
“Wow, you look amazing,” he murmured.
I blushed bright pink and the sudden assault of butterflies in the pit of my stomach made me start rambling. “Um, thanks. Randall made me wear the dress. I usually hate dresses but I guess since you look pretty fancy too it’ll work; he’s usually right about this kind of stuff. So, uh, where are we going?”
He smiled at me and I felt my heart start to pound to the rhythm of a jackhammer. “There’s a little Italian bistro close by that I was thinking about going to. Have you ever heard of Stelle?”
I froze. “Stelle? Everyone’s heard of it. I’ve been there a few times. It’s one of my favorite places but I can’t exactly afford it without asking my parents to take me and I don’t really like doing that. How the hell did you even get a reservation?”
He shrugged easily. “I have my ways. I really hoped that you would enjoy it. I thought it was a safe bet as it is Italian.”
I scrunched up my nose. “How did you know that I like Italian food?”
He froze up for a moment and a look of horror flashed across his face. “It was just a guess,” he answered after a moment of hesitation.
I scrutinized him for a second. “You’re lying. Listen, you don’t have to tell me how you knew, but just don’t lie to me. I can’t stand liars.”
He nodded solemnly. “I understand. No more lies, I promise.”
Dinner was surprisingly fun, although I’d never willingly admit that to anyone. Michael was really charming and he actually made me laugh a few times despite his serious demeanor. After we were done he took me to Put Put Palace for a round of miniature golf which was a blast even in the ridiculous dress. The night went by much more quickly than I would have thought possible and soon it was nearly eleven-thirty and he was taking me home.
“So was it completely terrible?” he asked at my front door.
I laughed. “Actually, I’d have to say no. I surprisingly had a nice time. Stelle for dinner and then mini golf,” I mused. “That’s a very interesting combination for a date.”
“Well I am glad that you had fun. I did not think that a simple dinner would have been very enjoyable for you.”
I giggled. “Oh you know me so well,” I half teased. Regular dinner dates weren’t exactly my cup of tea so Michael’s idea was pretty much perfect. Again, not something that I wanted to admit. “Well, good night, Michael.”
He smiled and leaned in to kiss my cheek. “Good night, Lyra-Rose.”
My eyes widened in shock at the kiss and my fingertips flew to the spot on my cheek. It was nothing too intimate but it sent sparks flying frantically on my nerves. I quickly scrambled through my front door and slammed it shut behind me before I sank down to the floor. I could feel the look of absolute shock on my face as I stared straight ahead. “Oh. My. God,” I mumbled weakly.
I spent most of the next day in my pajamas. I couldn’t seem to get Michael Page or the feel of his warm lips against my soft cheek out of my mind. That one little peck had seemed so familiar and in that instant I felt like I’d known him for an eternity. I tried to get him out of my head but failed epically each time and it annoyed me to no end. By four when Randall showed up so that we could get ready for Family Night at my parents’ together, I was in a foul mood from thinking about him all day.
“So how’d it go last night?” he asked cheerfully.
I shrugged nonchalantly. “Not too bad.”
“When are you going to see him again?”
I snorted. “Never, if I can help it. Going out with him the first time was just because you set it up and made me go. Can we just go to my parents’ now and drop the subject?”
Randall’s lips pulled out in an adorable little pout. “But you two were so cute together. It was like destiny brought you together.”
It felt like the wind had been knocked from me and I froze in place staring at him like an idiot. “Wh-what did you say? You think that it was fate that we met?”
He blinked in surprise and his dreamy look vanished. “Lyra, don’t freak out. I was just kidding, okay? I’m a sucker for romance, remember?”
I shook my head slowly. Of course he was just being a hopeless romantic but I had the creepiest sense of déjà vu when he said that. “Y-yeah, I know. Can we just stop talking about him? Let’s just get to the party.”
As if my day hadn’t been bad enough where Michael Page was concerned, Randall’s stupid destiny joke left my head spinning. I spent most of the time on the peripheral of my parents’ Family Night. Their house was big enough for me to hide out without running into all of my crazy relatives that had gone to my mother’s bimonthly cocktail party.
I was playing pool with Randall in the game room when my mother finally found me. Her green-brown eyes narrowed at me and she frowned. “Lyra-Rose, what are you doing in here? You’re supposed to be mingling.”
I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes. “I’m here, Mother. Isn’t that good enough?”
She eyed me up and down. “Stand up straight. Turn around. Let me see that outfit.” She barked orders at me like a drill sergeant.
I didn’t bother hiding the eye roll this time. I stood up and spun in my dress to show it off. It was a simple lavender mini-dress with spaghetti straps that crisscrossed in the back. I had a pair of black strappy heels and a little bit of make-up. My mom’s eyes narrowed at me. “Lyra-Rose, this is a formal party and you came dressed in a cocktail dress?”
“I like this dress, Mom. It’s cute. Besides, this is kind of a cocktail party.”
“What about that baby blue Jovani one that I got for you? I liked that one.” My mom always thought that every event she had was a debutante ball and she wanted everyone to follow her insane rules.
“I can’t even walk in that one; I trip over the hem every step.”
She crossed her arms tightly over her chest. “I’m not arguing about this anymore, Lyra. Wear your ratty little dress but I don’t want you to be a hermit and embarrassing me this evening. Go out to the party and mingle with the rest of the family. I cannot believe that you came to the party just to play pool,” she muttered icily under her breath.
My mother all but shoved me out of the game room and locked the door for added measure. I let out a huff and stormed back to the ballroom of their mansion. Randall followed me, laughing at me the whole way. I elbowed him in the ribs and grabbed a cocktail from the bar. “You’re driving me home tonight because I’m having like five more of these before the night’s done,” I mumbled.
I definitely had more than five cocktails. At a little bit before midnight I was stuck in the upstairs bathroom puking my guts out while Randall went to get me some water and aspirin. I knelt on the ground with my head practically inside the porcelain bowl as I waited for the gross sick spell to be over. For the first time ever I was actually glad that Randall had pinned my long hair back for the event.
I was so drunk that I hardly noticed someone knock on the door until it opened. I glanced up from my feeble position and wiped my mouth with a wad of toilet paper. The girl standing in the doorway was petite with a perfect hourglass figure. Her reddish-blonde locks were wavy. She had a heart-shaped face, light skin, and rosy cheeks. Her turquoise-colored eyes glared at me disdainfully. “Well, it’s you.”
I coughed and wiped my mouth again. “Hello, the bathroom’s occupied. Do I even know you?”
Her full lips pulled up into a smirk. “Oh, it’s definitely you. Mother will be so happy to know that I found you.”
I heaved but my stomach was already close to empty. “What the hell are you talking about? Are you a cousin or something? Did my mom send you to find me?”
She giggled. “Well, in a way you could say that your mother sent me to find you, but we would be talking about two completely different entities. I’m Vega, Lyra, and after all these centuries I’ve finally found you.”
I tried to stand up but swayed on my feet and quickly sat back down. “Look, I’m really smashed so I have no clue what the hell you’re talking about right now. Do you need something from me?”
She shook her head and her long locks swayed by her butt. “Don’t worry, Ly-ly. I’ll be back soon.”
I felt sick when she called me that and my head was instantly back in the toilet bowl. I had the creepiest sense that I knew her and something told me that she wasn’t good news. Vega made me even more nauseous than I was in my inebriated state.