I didn’t like it one bit. Why the hell would she wear a bikini?
I could understand a swimsuit. We were on yacht, on the ocean, but a bikini? Was she trying to get attention? What was the need in it?
As I got closer to the pool with my cousins, I overheard their conversation and it raised my hackles.
“Your hot, Arlee. Like, really hot. You could sell that shit.” The guy, I think his name was Ethan, was telling her.
I remembered him from school. He played drums in jazz, but I didn’t like how he was talking Arlee.
“I totally agree.” June told her.
“Okay, enough.” She shook her head, “I’m done talking about it.”
I took off my shirt, fully aware that their eyes were on me, and left it on a chair while I dove in the pool.
The cool temperature helped calm my anger, amongst other things, at seeing in her that swimsuit.
What was she thinking wearing something like that?
When I resurfaced Arlee had turned back around in her pool chair and wasn’t looking, but June obviously was as she smiled at Arlee.
“I’m gonna do it.” She teased quietly, “I’m gonna.”
“Shut up!” Arlee hissed, “Don’t you dare!”
“Hey, Ian,” I ignored them and teased my cousin, per usual, “You coming or is the water too cold and you’re afraid you won’t be able to find your dick?”
“Fuck you.” Ian laughed and jumped in.
“Hey, Noah,” When I looked over at June she smiled wickedly at Arlee, “You’ve certainly buffed up since graduation.”
I saw the back of Arlee’s head as she shook it, her shoulders were quaking with her suppressed laughter.
“I’ve been in the gym.” I shrugged with a crooked smile.
“Are you lifting weights or-?” She let the sentence hang and Arlee smacked her on the arm.
“Or.” Ian joked, “Definitely or. Notice how his right arm is more buffed than his left?”
“Shut up!” I laughed and pushed him. He fell back into the water with a splash that got the girls wet as we began to wrestle.
“Could you be anymore childish?” I heard Brianna groan from where the girls sat and stopped to hear what my oldest cousin had to say to Arlee.
“How are you, chickie?” She sat on the edge of Arlee’s chair and crossed her legs.
What did my press agent of a cousin want with Arlee?
Ian and I shared a look and I could tell that he was wondering the same thing.
Brianna was a huge deal out here in Cali. She was my uncle Jason’s kid and she was prim and proper just like her mom.
“I’m good, you?” I could hear the smile in Arlee’s voice.
“I was doing great, then little birdy played a song for me last night.” She smiled brightly. “Someone’s been playing in her dad’s studio.”
“I was just working on my Julliard piece.” I watched as her shoulders shrugged.
“It was phenomenal, Arlee.” She told her, “You have a real, natural talent.”
“I was just messing around. I don’t even know if Julliard will take it.” I could hear the sourness in her voice.
“If they don’t, you’ll always have an agent on your side here in Cali.” Her smile never faded, “I could get you into anywhere you wanted. Even some of our playhouses.”
“She’ll take it into consideration.” Ethan glared at Arlee, “Seriously.”
Why the fuck was he speaking for Arlee? Arlee had a brain, she could speak for herself.
Oh, I wanted to punch that guy in the fucking face.
“Thank you, Brianna.” I couldn’t see if Arlee was glaring back at him, but her voice made it sound like she was, “As you can tell, my friends are on your team.”
“Your dad said that you were very goal oriented and I admire that about you.” If possible, her smile grew wider, “Follow through with Julliard, if that’s what’s in your heart and don’t worry about anything else. I’ll always be around if you want to call me, okay?”
Once Brianna was off Arlee turned to her boyfriend and I could see her profile as she glared.
“Stop complicating things!” She snapped, “I have enough on my plate without your shit, Ethan!”
“But last night-” He began, but she cut him off.
“Last night was a mistake!” She raised her voice. I had never seen her rage before, but she was now, “I shouldn’t have done it! Just butt out of my life!”
My jaw tightened, what the fuck had happened between them last night? What had Arlee done with him?
She packed up and stormed off.
“She’s got a lot of stress right now.” June told Ian and I ruefully.
“Noah knows how to relieve that, don’t you Noah?” Ian cocked a brow at me and I glared in return.
“I shouldn't have spoken for her.” Ethan cleared his throat and sat up, “I’m gonna go talk to her.”
“I’ll go with you.” June told him and they both packed up and left.
“Sounds like Arlee found a guy to give it up to.” Ian scoffed, “That explains that little bikini.”
I jumped out of the pool and grabbed a towel and my shirt.
“Where are you off to?” Ian called after me.
“Again?” Gina asked.
“Yeah.” I could feel my blood boiling at the thought of Arlee giving herself to that kid.
I had to remind myself that I wasn’t right for her. Nothing about me was right for Arlee Ford.
I spent my afternoon in my room, ignoring the world outside. Although it killed me to not enjoy the sunshine and ocean while I had it at my fingertips, I couldn’t even look at my friends right now.
June had teased me about Noah and both her and Ian were hellbent on me using my vocals.
What if Julliard didn’t accept my vocal application? What if they didn’t like my style? Could I do Broadway? What would happen if I bumped into my birth father?
I was being told to do what was in my heart, but everything I had done in that studio was in my heart. What if Julliard didn’t accept it as my application piece? What if they didn’t like my style? What if they Shut me down?
Julliard had been my goal for forever, what would I do without it?
My mother was happy, so utterly happy. For once in her life, she had someone to help her, someone who loved her and us girls.
She was proud of me, everyone was proud of every one of my accomplishments. I couldn’t mess this up and take my father’s route. Not now.
How did I know what was really in my heart? How did I get so far down one road to be sidetracked by another?
A knock sounded on my door, followed by it opening to reveal Colby, standing all imposing.
“You missed dinner.” He closed the door behind him, “So, your mom wanted me to bring it to you. She thinks your working down here.”
“Tell her I am.” I scoffed, looking at the plate of food in his hands. I was hungry and it was grilled chicken and some of my favorite veggies. Leave it to my mom to put a plate together of my favorite foods.
“How did you get in here?” I asked him as he set my plate up on my little desk, “I locked the door.”
“I’m security.” He smiled impishly, “I get keys to wherever you go.”
“Brilliant,” I scoffed, getting up and sitting at my desk, “Let me put that in my notes.”
“I know what your issue is, Ace.” He pulled up the second chair and sat next to me as I pushed my food around on my plate.
“Don’t call me that.” I glared at him.
“It has a nice ring, don’t you think?” He cocked his blonde brow at me, “Plus it’s fitting. You ace everything. Things come easy to you and you never seem to be challenged.”
“Tell me then, Colby.” I put a clump of broccoli in my mouth, “What is my issue?”
“It’s all in the name.” He shrugged, “You’ve been set on one thing your entire life, because it comes easy to you. It’s side of the blood that you love and covet, and your afraid to change it up and be challenged with something.”
I paused. He wasn’t wrong. Violin and piano? That was a breeze, but changing the script could get complicated. It could challenge me.
“And how did you figure this out?”
“Because I watch you all day.” He sighed and looked at the desk, “And no, I don’t report everything to your parents.”
“Because, your a teen. Making mistakes like falling for the wrong guy, changing your options and dabbling in things- complicating things- is a part of growing up.”
“You didn’t always want to do this, did you?”
“No, but that’s another story for another time. Right now, you need to eat and get your ass out there, everyone is partying on the second deck and your presence was requested.”
“Gina,” He sighed heavily, “Chloe, June and god knows who else.”
“I like them.”
“I know you do.” He smiled, “So hurry and eat and I’ll walk you up there and do my job so you don’t fall overboard when your drunk.”
“You’re going to let me drink?”
“I may have watched as Ian and Noah snuck a bottle of vodka, whisky and something else. I’m 22 and you are the most boring almost adult I have ever met. So, with that, I will add that it’s not my job to stop you, just my job to watch you and keep you safe.”
“So, if I wanted to drink?”
“Arlee, just go with it, you turn 18 in two days.” He ran a hand through his blonde hair, “Stop worrying about your uptight goals. It’s your mom’s wedding and your kind of boring the fuck out of me.”
“You want to drink don’t you?” I smiled and dug into my food.
“Just one good one.” He chuckled.