I run my hands through my wet hair, somewhat embarrassed that I brought her here. What will she think? That this was my plan all along? Avery smiles at me and looks around. It seems like she wants to explore, but her clothes are dripping on the tiled entryway and she hesitates.
“From what I can see, your house is gorgeous,” she says to break our silence.
“This wasn’t the plan, but I thought we should get out of the rain. Are you hungry?” I ask so she doesn’t get the wrong impression.
This was not what tonight was supposed to be like. I was supposed to take her out and take her home with no strings, but after a few hours of being with her, it’s like I’m craving her presence in a way I never craved Kendra’s. She gets what I’m feeling, having gone through something similar. She’s a balm to the broken parts of me.
Avery’s stomach rumbles loudly and I’m broken out of my reverie. I laugh as I walk towards the kitchen. She hesitates a second before following me, looking down at the puddle of water we left. Before I can assure her it’s fine, she shrugs.
I walk into my large kitchen. Avery seems to appraise it with a curious look on her face. I want to ask what she’s thinking, but perhaps it’s best I don’t know. I’m not trying to get attached to anyone right now.
I gesture for her to sit on a tall stool at the bar looking into the kitchen. She smiles and I catch her struggle a little to get seated into the tall chair. She’s pretty short. Like, shorter even than Allie, who’s only five-five on a good day. I try to hide my smile as I watch. Finally, she’s seated, and she puts her elbows on the bar with her chin in her hand as she watches me rummage through the kitchen.
“You making me dinner?” Avery asks jokingly.
“Actually, I am.”
I laugh at her astonished expression as I get vegetables out of the fridge. I place a cutting board in front of where she’s sitting so we can talk. I never had to cook my own food growing up. Being the son of one of the “Big Four”, we always had staff for that sort of thing in our family mansions. When I moved out here on my own after the whole Kendra fiasco, I took cooking classes, much to Kristie’s delight. I now have several meals that I can cook and cook well in my repertoire.
“This wasn’t supposed to be a first date sort of thing. I was going to save it for at least the second or third,” I say without thinking. I inwardly cringe because I didn’t think I wanted this to be more than a first date. I still don’t know.
“You thought there would be a second date?” she asks with a laugh.
“Well, I was going to see how tonight went. You could have been a complete witch,” I reply with a slight smile.
“Is there anything you aren’t good at? You managed to plan a wonderful first date and you can cook. I think I got lucky with my blind date,” she asks.
“I’m shit at skateboarding,” I say with a smile that doesn’t match what I’m feeling inside. I’m also thinking about my shitty taste in prior girlfriends or how much I disappoint my family. I’m shit at a lot of things. My whole life, really…
“Me too. I tried once and fell on my ass the minute it got going.”
“My brother was super into skateboarding when he was younger, and he was convinced anyone could do it because it’s so easy for him. I tried once at his insistence when I was ten and broke my arm when I fell,” I say, genuinely smiling at the memory. Avery laughs lightly at my misfortune.
Abel thought he was going to be a professional skateboarder because he had none of the same expectations that I had. He was the second son, the extra, as they are so affectionately called. Eventually, Abel gave up on his skateboarding dream because he actually does want to take over the family business when I do not.
I pull out a bottle of wine and two glasses. I motion to Avery, silently asking if she’d like some. She nods eagerly. I pour for the two of us and hand her one glass. I’d much rather be having something stronger like scotch, but I don’t need to be drunk off my ass tonight. Especially since I have to drive Avery home.
“I’m sorry. It’s not funny,” she says and takes a sip of the white wine.
“No, it is. I was in that damn cast for six weeks and my brother spent the entire time apologizing and giving me his desserts,” I say with a light laugh.
I turn to start sautéing some onions on the stove. I can practically feel Avery’s stare drilling into my back. I smile a little because at least women are still attracted to me. I’ve spent too many hours in my home gym for the last six months trying to burn away my anger and hurt.
“This looks amazing, Noah,” Avery says as I place a plate filled with the pasta dish I made. I sit beside her and we take a bite together. I watch her expression, and it’s hot. She’s moaning quietly, and it makes my dick twitch. Avery’s eyes are closed like she’s having the night of her life.
“Do you have any siblings?” I ask quickly before my twitching dick turns into a full hard-on.
“Since we’re basically on our second date, I think it’s time to learn the nitty-gritty about each other,” Avery explains, shocking me yet again tonight. Then she answers my question. “I have a sister. She’s older by a few years and has a perfect husband with a perfect job, a perfect house, and a perfect little baby on the way.”
“A bit bitter, are we?” I joke.
“I feel like my whole life has been lived in her shadow. She’s always better at everything and I get the whole ‘why can’t you be more like Harper’, ‘but Harper never did that’. The only thing I had on my own was the shows with my dad until that was gone too,” she explains.
I’m listening intently because I realize I actually want to learn more about Avery. She’s sorta a breath of fresh air. She’s so genuine in a way Kendra never was. I mean, I knew everything there was to know about Kendra because we’d grown up together, but still, she wasn’t genuine. Well, I guess I didn’t know everything about her…
“I’m sorry. That really is the nitty-gritty, isn’t it,” Avery says with a laugh.
“Hey, it’s better than the usual bullshit first or second dates consist of like what’s your favorite movie, color, song,” I reply without thinking, then I wonder if that was too harsh.
“Well, I’ll tell you. My favorite movie is Titanic, my favorite color is lime green, and my favorite song is Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen,” she says laughing again. We’re on our second glass of wine now, and I wonder if it’s too much for Avery. I don’t even feel it.
I can’t help the laughter that breaks out of me and Avery joins in. I haven’t laughed so much or this way in… Jesus; I don’t even know how long. Definitely not since I found out about Kendra and Zack.
When the laughing ceases, I put the plates in the sink and grab another bottle of wine. Avery follows me into the living room and we sit on the couch together, looking out the wall-sized windows at the cloud covered sky. Usually you can see the stars, but not tonight.
Our clothes have dried, but the rain splatters at the windows with alarming intensity. Thunder still booms and lightning flares in the sky brilliantly and often as we watch. The wind blows the palm trees nearly sideways.
“So what about you? What’s your favorite movie, color, song,” Avery asks. I can’t help my smile.
“Pretty much any Marvel movie, red, and I actually have the same favorite song,” I reply.
“Do you also have crippling inadequacy issues due to a sibling?” she asks.
“I have the one brother who, as you know, broke my arm. At least he was the cause of it. He’s two years younger, and he’s working for my dad right now,” I explain because I don’t want to get into the family dynamics of the wealthy. She’d probably get it after dating Rich, but I can guarantee his family is several echelons down from mine.
“I think in some ways, I was so comfortable with Rich because he would afford me a life that could keep up with Harper’s. It’s a shitty reason to be with someone, I know. Honestly, I think I would have ended up a prim and properly dressed Stepford wife wearing pearls and dresses even when no one was home. I would have been the wife who knows when to keep her mouth shut while her borderline alcoholic husband works in his study and screws the secretary,” she says.
I glance at her and smile. I can’t imagine her ever being like that. I’ve known many such women in my life. My mother, Evan’s mother, Allie’s mother, Brooke’s mother. Pretty much every wife of the “Big Four”. That’s what some magazine named our dads ages ago. I guess it’s only the “Big Three” now that Mr. Van Holsten is in jail.
Evan’s dad was the richest man in America and ran a big ass conglomerate before his arrest. Evan runs it now, and he’s doing a fine job. Mine owns thousands of hotels around the globe while Allie’s dad owns hundreds of hospitals around the country, and Kristie’s dad is a high rolling lawyer that makes a ridiculous amount of money. The four richest men in America and Kristie’s family’s probably the most normal. Evan’s the least. Mine and Allie’s riding somewhere in the middle.
“I’m glad you got out of there then. It would have been a shame for your witty personality to get smashed to be a Stepford wife. He already got the secretary, anyway,” I start. I realize I’m looking at Avery very intently when her breathing hitches and she looks away. “You don’t need to keep up with Harper. You’re fucking amazing the way you are and it’s bullshit anyone ever tried comparing you to her,” I finish looking down at her Converse thinking she’s probably got an insanely different style from pretty much every woman I know.
Without any warning at all, I feel Avery’s lips crash into mine. They are softer than I expected, and they fit perfectly with mine. The kiss is gentle at first, but whatever I’ve been holding back since Kendra pissed on my heart, I let out for Avery. I twist my hands in her wild hair and pull her closer to me, as I kiss her like there’s no tomorrow. There very well might not be for us.
We break apart and sit back against the couch. I pour us another glass of wine and we sip together. Avery sits against me, and without thinking, my arm snakes around her shoulders as we look out the windows again into the storm swirling outside. The wind rages and I can see the palm trees bend alarmingly. The rain gets worse to the point it would be painful on your skin. The thunder doesn’t let up and the waves crash onto the beach harder than before.
“It looks like a hurricane out there,” Avery notes just as the lightning flashes again. She looks concerned, so I switch on the TV. Immediately an emergency broadcast fills the screen.
“Weather advisory in place. Hurricane imminent. It’s advised that you shelter in place and not go outside. The shelter in place advisory will be in place for at least twenty-four hours. We will keep you updated as we learn more.”
The advisory repeats over and over. I look at Avery before finally switching off the TV. It’s almost ten, and it seems she’s stuck here until tomorrow at the latest. Anxiety rips through my chest at the thought. Half of me wants her to stay and the other half is panicking at being any closer to this girl. She’s everything Kendra isn’t and everything I’d probably want if I were thinking with a clear head. I just don’t know if I’m ready to be feeling whatever Avery’s dredging up in me.