He turns around and opens a cabinet, eyeing the contents, then shuts it. He steps to the left and opens another cabinet, then takes out a glass. “Got any milk?” he asks while heading to the refrigerator. I pause from stirring and watch as he pulls the milk out and pours himself a glass like he’s right at home. He takes a drink and turns around to catch me staring at him, then he grins. “You shouldn’t offer cookies without milk, you know. You’re a pretty pathetic hostess.” He grabs another cookie and walks himself and the milk to the bar and takes a seat.

“I try to save my hospitality for invited guests,” I say, turning back to the counter.

“Ouch.”

I turn the mixer on, creating an excuse to not have to talk to him for three minutes on medium to high speed. I try to remember what I look like, without noticeably searching for a reflective surface. I’m pretty sure I’ve got flour everywhere. I know my hair is being held up with a pencil and my sweatpants are being worn for the fourth evening in a row. Unwashed. I try to nonchalantly wipe away any visible traces of flour, but I’m aware it’s a lost cause. Oh well, there’s no way I could look any worse right now than when I was laid out on the couch with gravel embedded into my cheek.

I turn the mixer off and depress the button to free the mixing blades. I bring one to my mouth and lick it, and walk the other one to where he’s seated. “Want one? It’s German chocolate.”

He takes it out of my hand and smiles. “How hospitable of you.”

“Shut up and lick it or I’m keeping it for myself.” I walk to the cabinet and grab my own cup, but pour myself a glass of water instead. “You want some water or do you want to continue pretending you can stomach that vegan shit?”

He laughs and crinkles up his nose, then pushes his cup across the bar toward me. “I was trying to be nice, but I can’t take another sip of whatever the hell this is. Yes, water. Please.”

I laugh and rinse out his cup, then slide him the glass of water. I take a seat in the chair across from him and eye him while I bite into a brownie. I’m waiting for him to explain why he’s here, but he doesn’t. He just sits across from me and watches me eat. I don’t ask him why he’s here because I sort of like the quiet between us. It works better when we both shut up, since all of our conversations tend to end in arguments.

Holder stands up and walks into the living room without an explanation. He looks around curiously, his attention being stolen by the photographs on the walls. He walks closer to them and slowly scans each picture. I lean back in my chair and watch him be nosey.

He’s never in much of a hurry and seems so assured in every movement he makes. It’s like all of his thoughts and actions are meticulously planned out days in advance. I can just picture him in his bedroom, writing down the words he plans to use the following day, because he’s so selective with them.

“Your mom seems really young,” he says.

“She is young.”

“You don’t look like her. Do you look like your dad?” He turns and faces me.

I shrug. “I don’t know. I don’t remember what he looks like.”

He turns back to the pictures and runs his finger across one of them.

“Is your dad dead?” He’s so blunt about it, I’m almost certain he knows my dad isn’t dead or he wouldn’t have asked it like that. So carelessly.

“I don’t know. Haven’t seen him since I was three.”

He walks back toward the kitchen and takes a seat in front of me again. “That’s all I get? No story?”

“Oh, there’s a story. I just don’t want to tell it.”

He smiles at me again, but it’s a wary smile when accompanied by the quizzical look in his eyes. “Your cookies were good,” he says, skillfully changing the subject. “You shouldn’t downplay your baking abilities.”

Something beeps and I jump up from my seat and run to the oven. I open it, but the cake isn’t even close to being done. When I turn around, Holder is holding up my cell phone. “You got a text,” he laughs. “Your cake is fine.”

I throw the oven mitt on the counter, then walk back to my seat. He’s scrolling through the texts on my phone without a shred of respect for privacy. I really don’t care, though, so I just let him.

“I thought you weren’t allowed to have a phone,” he says. “Or was that a really pathetic excuse to avoid giving me your number?”

“I’m not allowed. My best friend gave it to me the other day. It can’t do anything but text.”

He turns the screen around to face me. “What the hell kind of texts are these?” He turns the phone around and reads one.

“Sky, you are beautiful. You are possibly the most exquisite creature in the universe and if anyone tells you otherwise, I’ll cut a bitch.” He arches an eyebrow and looks up at me, then back down to the phone. “Oh, God. They’re all like this. Please tell me you don’t text these to yourself for daily motivation.”

I laugh and reach across the bar and snatch the phone out of his hand. “Stop. You’re ruining the fun of it.”

He leans his head back and laughs. “Oh my God, you do? Those are all from you?”

“No!” I say, defensively. “They’re from Six. She’s my best friend and she’s halfway around the world and she misses me. She wants me to not be sad, so she sends me nice texts every day. I think it’s sweet.”

“Oh, you do not. You think it’s annoying and you probably don’t even read them.”

How does he know that?

I set the phone down and cross my arms over my chest. “She means well,” I say, still not admitting that the texts are annoying the living hell out of me.

“They’ll ruin you. Those texts will inflate your ego so much, you’ll explode.” He grabs the phone and pulls his own phone out of his pocket. He scrolls through the screens on both phones and punches some numbers on his phone. “We need to rectify this situation before you start suffering from delusions of grandeur.” He hands me back my phone and types something into his own phone, then puts it in his pocket. My phone sounds off, indicating a new text message. I look down at the screen and laugh.

Your cookies suck ass. And you’re really not that pretty.

“Better?” he says, teasingly. “Did the ego deflate enough?”

I laugh and set the phone down on the counter, then stand up. “You know just the right things to say to a girl.” I walk to the living room and turn around. “Want a tour of the house?”

He stands up and follows me while I point out boring facts and knick-knacks and rooms and pictures, but of course he’s slowly soaking it all in, never in a rush. He has to stop and inspect every tiny thing, never speaking a single word the whole time.

When we finally get to my bedroom, I swing open the door. “My room,” I say, flashing my Vanna White pose. “Feel free to look around, but being as though there aren’t any people eighteen or older here, stay off the bed. I’m not allowed to get pregnant this weekend.”

He pauses as he’s passing through the doorway and tilts his head toward me. “Only this weekend? You plan on getting knocked up next weekend, instead?”

I follow him into my bedroom. “Nah. I’ll probably wait a few more weeks.”

He inspects the room, slowly turning around until he’s facing me again. “I’m eighteen.”

I cock my head to the side, confused as to why he pointed out that random fact. “Yay for you?”

He cuts his eyes to the bed, then back to me. “You said to stay off your bed because I’m not eighteen. I’m just pointing out that I am.”

I don’t like the way my lungs just constricted when he looked at my bed. “Oh. Well then, I meant nineteen.”

He spins around, then walks slowly to the open window. He bends down and sticks his head out of it, then pulls back inside. “So this is the infamous window, huh?”

He doesn’t look at me, which is probably a good thing because if looks could kill he’d be dead. Why the hell did he have to go and say something like that? I was actually enjoying his company for a change. He turns back to me and his playful expression is gone, replaced by a challenging one that I’ve seen too many times before.

I sigh. “What do you want, Holder?” He either needs to get his point across about why he’s here, or he needs to leave. He folds his arms across his chest and narrows his eyes at me.

“Did I say something wrong, Sky? Or untrue? Unfounded, maybe?” It’s obvious in his taunting remarks that he knows exactly what he was insinuating with the window comment. I’m not in the mood to play his games; I have cakes that need baking. And eating.

I walk to the door and hold it open. “You know exactly what you said and you got the reaction you wanted. Happy? You can go now.”

He doesn’t. He drops his arms and turns around, then walks to my nightstand. He picks up the book Breckin gave me and inspects it as though the last thirty seconds never even occurred.

“Holder, I’m asking you as nicely as I’m going to ask you. Please leave.”

He lays the book down gently, then proceeds to lay down on the bed. He literally lays down on my bed. He’s on my damn bed.

I roll my eyes and walk over to where he is, then reach down and pull his legs off my bed. If I have to physically remove him from the house, I’ll do it. When I grab his wrists and lift upward, he pulls me to him in a move that happens faster than my mind can even comprehend. He flips me over until I’m on my back and he’s holding my arms to the mattress. It happens so unexpectedly; I don’t even have time to fight him. And looking up at him right now, half of me doesn’t even want to fight him. I don’t know if I should scream for help or rip off my clothes.

He releases my arms and brings one of his hands to my face. He brushes his thumb across my nose and laughs. “Flour,” he says, wiping it away. “It’s been bugging me.” He sits up against my headboard and brings his feet back onto the bed. I’m still flat on the mattress, staring up at the stars, actually feeling something other than nothing for the first time ever while looking at them.

I can’t even move, because I’m sort of afraid he’s crazy. I mean literally, clinically insane. It’s the only logical explanation for his personality. And the fact that I still find him so incredibly attractive can only mean one thing. I’m insane, too.

“I didn’t know he was gay.”

Yep, he’s crazy.

I turn my head toward him, but say nothing. What the hell do you say to a crazy person who literally refuses to leave your house, then starts spouting off random shit?

“I beat him up because he was an asshole. I had no idea he was gay.”

His elbows are resting on his knees and he’s looking right at me, waiting for a reaction. Or a response. Neither of which he’s getting for a few seconds, because I need to process this.

I look back up at the stars and give myself time to analyze the situation. If he’s not crazy, then he’s definitely trying to make a point. But what point? He comes over here, uninvited, to defend his reputation and insult mine? What would be the point of even going forth with the effort? I’m just one person, what does my opinion matter?


Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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