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Billionaire With a Twist 3

Lila Monroe
ONE




I knew I needed to get off the couch.

It was just that getting off the couch seemed to require about a thousand more muscles than I had ever possessed.

Not to mention motivation.

I slumped back into the cushions and stared up at the dingy grey ceiling. It was a slightly less depressing sight than the melting, half-eaten carton of dulce de leche ice cream on the coffee table, or the many used tissues at my feet, or the tearstained face that would greet me if I sat up high enough to see myself in the mirror over the mantel.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Hunter.

His face when we had last spoken, so cold, so uncaring, so carved from stone as he told me that he never wanted to see me again—

No, no, no! I wasn’t going to do this. I wasn’t going to wallow. Maybe I couldn’t summon the emotional energy to get off this damn couch, but I could damn well make myself forget about Hunter Knox and my stupid, stupid mistake.

Somehow.

Alcohol was right out of the question; even the shittiest liquor just conjured up the taste of Knox bourbon in my memory, and the taste of Hunter’s lips following that. Sugar wasn’t doing such a hot job either, not that I hadn’t tried several variations on that: in addition to the ice cream that was rapidly turning to soup, my fridge sported stale donuts, brownies, a mostly-empty tub of chocolate chip cookie dough (don’t judge), and a churro I’d bought last week that was now so tough that I probably could have repurposed it as a chew toy for a pit bull.

I should probably throw it all away.

But that would mean getting off this couch.

And what use were ‘should’s, anyway? I should have never gotten drunk at that party. I should never have spoken to Chuck. I should have told Hunter right away, so he wouldn’t be blindsided, so he would have had time to forgive me.

Should, should, should.

It was all so fucking useless. Like me.

After the failure of alcohol and sugar, my next step had been to buy a handful of the supermarket tabloids with the silliest headlines I could find. WOMAN GIVES BIRTH TO BAT-APE HYBRID and ALIEN ARTIFACT REAWAKENS ELVIS and all that; Paige and I used to steal these from the local Publix and laugh ourselves silly. Mom would’ve died if she’d found out.

I picked up one of them half-heartedly, but its headlines were all celebrity hook-ups and break-ups—MADONNA SPOTTED IN SIZZLING ROMANCE WITH MEMBER OF SICILIAN MAFIA??, THE PRESIDENT’S SHOCKING SECRET, JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT TEARFULLY ADMITS HER HOARDING PROBLEM CAUSED WRECK OF HER MARRIAGE—and all they did to my stupid brain was remind me of my own hook-up and break-up, and how no one would ever really care about it the way millions of people apparently cared about these ones. No one would care about it except me.

Hunter would never care.

I let the magazine fall to the floor, to settle in with the rest of the debris of my life.

I picked up the phone, partly out of unthinking habit, partly on the off chance that somehow its ring tone had been turned off and Hunter had called me back fourteen times, finally ready to hear my explanations and apologies.

He had not.

In the two weeks since he’d told me to pack my things and leave, he hadn’t called me once. And he certainly hadn’t been taking any of my calls. And I had made calls. Sober calls, drunk calls, tearful calls, angry calls. Nothing had garnered a response.

I dug my spoon back into the melting mess of dulce de leche ice cream and glomped it into my mouth. It tasted like nothing at all, but it settled low and hard in my stomach, like a stone, like defeat.

Ring, ring!

My heart leapt in agonized joy, then fell again with a nearly audible thud as I looked at the caller ID. It wasn’t Hunter.

Of course it wasn’t Hunter. He’d made it clear he wasn’t interested in hearing from me again. Stupid, stupid, stupid to have imagined that he might have missed me, that he might have changed his mind.

Worse, the call wasn’t even from Paige or Martha, who had been checking in with me once every few days, trying to sound offhand and casual before inviting me out to ladies’ nights at local bars, or picnics with the historical society, or brunch with just the two of us—trying to pry me out of my protective shell and get me back into the real world, offers which I had all politely—and in a few more persistent cases, not so politely—declined. Couldn’t a girl just wallow in peace anymore?

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