Dear Diary, let’s catch up, shall we?
Since I last wrote, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this Derek guy. The problem is, he’s really nice, and I like him. Of course, this complicates everything where Ellie is concerned because while I would like to throw a plan into place to snatch her away from him, I don’t have the heart. Besides, who am I kidding? I’ve never had a plan in my life.
Chris and Jules really seem happy. Their baby is now a toddler and his name is Oliver. Paisley is really adamant other people not touch “her baby.” Julie thinks Paisley’s protectiveness comes from the fact that for a while, she was in foster care. They are a nice little family and they’re spending all of their spare time looking for their own house.
I’ve lived with Chris all my life, so it’s going to be strange not having him around but hopefully, they won’t live too far away. I’m really happy for them.
Catch up time was shorter than I thought it would be. I think I’ve made you aware of everything else going on.
As I said before, Derek is still dating my Ellie and it was their idea that we should meet them for a night out at a club. I needed a quick date, so I asked Zelda if she would come with me. She has a very understanding girlfriend who knows we’re only friends.
The club, though, was not what either of us expected. I’m not usually on this side of town. I know that sounds really snobbish but I don’t mean it that way. It’s just a fact. I like brightly lit places with loud music to get crazy with on the dance floor. I don’t drink, so that part is important.
Zelda is a nice person but she couldn’t stop her nose from crinkling. “Oh, my… I mean, I don’t know what I expected for a place called ‘La Brume.’ This place needs the entire mop and a dumpster!”
I tried not to laugh when I told her “brume” meant “mist” not “broom” in French.
Derek saw us enter and waved us over from the bar where he was getting drinks. Taking Zelda’s hand, we strolled over.
“I’m sorry, guys, I thought this place would be… busier.”
I smiled easily at Ellie and shrugged. “We’ll still have a good time unless you’d rather go somewhere else?”
Looking over her shoulder at Derek, she turned back and said, “Well, I wouldn’t want to make Derek feel bad. He picked this place and said he comes here a lot.”
A man entered and began playing music at the piano. What a drag.
But Zelda and I smiled at each other and she shrugged.
“We can liven this place up… maybe.”
As the girls spoke about where they got their dresses, I decided to admire Ellie’s. As if I could help it. I hadn’t expected her to wear one so short, but it wasn’t like she was in Winchester anymore. As usual, she was absolutely beautiful, a diamond in a dark cave.
Oh, yeah, Zelda looked good, too.
As Ellie joined Derek at the bar, Zelda and I had a chance to speak privately.
“You’re right, she’s very pretty. But, dude, you have to stop staring at her. She’s going to notice you are gawking soon and not in a good way.”
“I can’t help it. If you knew her, you’d see how amazing she is. She’s so smart – ”
” – I’ve already had the rundown of her stellarness, thanks. Just keep it together.”
I considered myself fortunate to have Zelda as a friend and that she agreed to help me not look so lame tonight. In a way, it was a lucky thing the club was nearly empty because, with her sultry eyes, pouty lips, and killer legs, she was a man magnet. I wanted to spend the evening figuring out how to get with Ellie, not fighting the guys away from Zelda.
“This is a really swanky club, isn’t it?” Derek asked as he and Ellie joined us.
My opinion is that Derek has no idea what swanky means but I was trying to rise above snarkiness, so I said, “Yeah, this place is great.”
Zelda grabbed my hand, pulling me away. “Let’s dance!”
The pianist was a fine player. Unfortunately, it was all slow music.
“Hey! You! Stop staring at Ellie.”
“You’re doing it again, Holden. Honestly, talk to me or something.”
I sighed, making a conscious effort to focus on Zelda. “Thanks for this.”
“Anything for you. For anyone else? No, I’d rather be at home, in my jammies watching Netflix with Donna.”
“I know. That’s why I appreciate you so much.”
“Dip me, do something fancy to make her wish she was over here in my place.”
Smoothly, I twirled her and then dipped her low, bending so my face was near hers.
Ellie suddenly squealed and jumped back. It seemed Derek-I-Can’t-Dance-Lawrence had smashed her toes. Even though I was worried the clodhopper had seriously hurt her, I smiled inside and twirled Zelda again.
“I hope she’s okay.”
“She’s fine. Girls get used to that, trust me.”
I laughed a little then paled. “Ellie’s looking at us!”
Zelda wasted no time. She grabbed me and yanked me closer to her, snaking her hands around my neck.
“Put your hand on my butt,” she said.
“No! She’ll see!”
“That’s the point,” Zelda grinned, her lips near my ear. “Besides you handle my butt on a daily basis, this is no different.”
“It kinda is.”
She laughed and kissed my cheek.
I’m not sure how we managed it, but we stayed until last call. Huddling outside to chat for a moment before we went our separate ways, Zelda (who does drink) kicked off her strappy high heels and jumped into the fountain.
“C’mon, Zel, it’s time to go.”
“Come in here with me,” she said, splashing icy cold water at me.
I laughed as Ellie and Derek looked on. “You’re going to catch something or die from hypothermia. C’mon, Sweets.”
She took my proffered hand, made her lips extra pouty and stepped out.
“You’re a party pooper,” she complained even though she was grinning.
Once she was out of the water, I put my jacket around her and gave her back her shoes.
“Do you need help with these?” I asked.
She winked at me and said, “No, why don’t you get a cab?”
I shrugged helplessly at Derek and Ellie. “Thanks for inviting us out tonight.”
“We’re glad you could come,” Derek said as we shook hands.
A few days later, Ellie stopped by as I was raking leaves.
“Hi there,” I greeted as I leaned the rake against the bench around the tree. “What brings you by?”
“I’ve been thinking and there’s something I want to talk to you about. Do you have time?”
“Sure. What’s going on?”
Instead of answering me, she said, “Raking leaves is good exercise.”
“I suppose so.”
“I thought you’d have people that do that kind of thing for you?”
“Uh, no. I don’t mind doing it, though.”
After a long pause, I finally asked, “What did you want to talk about?”
“I’m a very forthright person normally, but there’s something that’s been bothering me and I wanted to clear the air.”
Her words sent an iron fist to my stomach to beat me from the inside like a boxer does with a speed bag. I couldn’t help but freak out because it sounded like she was going to break up with me and we hadn’t even gone out yet.
“I just don’t know how to start.”
“My grandma would tell you to just start talking and get it out,” I said, almost hoping she would change her mind.
“Yeah, she would say just that.” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other like a little bird. “Okay, well, here it is. When I ran into you the other morning in the city and you found out I’d been here for a few months without letting you know, it felt like you were offended. And I’m sorry about that but I had my reasons.”
“What were your reasons?” My stomach clenched tighter and I held my breath.
“There’s something you need to know about me. I’m going to succeed and I’m going to do it by myself. I like being independent and I like school. Whatever I might accomplish in this life, I want it to be my accomplishment, my success. So, before I contacted you, I wanted to have where I was going to live, work, and go to school figured out.”
“That’s all really commendable, but you thought somehow I’d stop you? Or support you?”
“I know you come from money and lots of it. Not just from your mother’s side of the family but from your father’s side, too.”
It suddenly dawned on me and slowly, I let my breath out. “You thought I’d offer you money left and right.”
She nodded, tears coming to her eyes. All I wanted to do was pull her into my arms and comfort her, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out it wasn’t the time. Not yet.
“I may be able to put your mind at ease,” I told her. “Now, I realize, it’s not every day someone gives you a brownstone in a busy city without a mortgage payment. I lucked out on that because I was born into this family, it’s true. This house was a part of my great-grandfather’s estate and was given to Rosetta, me, and Chris as our inheritance from him. My grandparents obviously haven’t taken anything from the estate and seem happy to stay in Winchester. On my father’s side of the family, I don’t work for them in the family business and I told my parents not to pay my way. So, that means bills, repairs, property taxes, that falls on me and Chris. Rosetta works for The Neptune Foundation and at the Off-White House as Chief of Staff, so, she’s basically made of money. She would pay my share of it all if I asked her, but I, like you, want to depend on myself and make my own way. Oh, and when Chris moves out, Rosetta and I have to buy out his third of the house. And there, you have it.”
“I didn’t know,” she mumbled.
“Well, you know what they say about making assumptions.”
There was the laugh I missed. It had the ability to soothe my nerves and caress my soul. “You’ve got me there.”
“Would you like to come in for coffee or something?”
Now she was smiling from ear to ear. “I have a surprise for you. Go inside and I’ll meet you there.”
When I got inside, I explained to Rosetta that Ellie was there and had a surprise for me.
“This, I have to see,” she said.
As Ellie entered, my eyes were drawn to a little dog that came click-clacking in beside her.
“Tada!” Ellie said with a grin. “I went to a flea market and this guy was just giving these puppies away. I couldn’t resist but since you said you’d never had a dog of your own, I thought you might like him. If not, I’ll sneak him into my apartment.”
“Oh, dear,” Rosetta moaned, “I don’t even want to know what a flea market is.”
Ellie laughed and I could tell she thought Rosetta was kidding. “Don’t worry, this little guy doesn’t have fleas.”
“Good heavens, you’re not suggesting we take in this mongrel and let him live inside with us.”
“Not at all,” I said as I scooped the little dog up into my arms, “she’s suggesting I do that.” I didn’t hear what Rosetta said after that because I was busy making kissy faces to my new buddy.
“Hey, little boy, do you like the name Murphy? Whaddya think of that?” I found that I could sound quite schmoozy when I talked to him.
“I think Murphy is a great name!” Ellie said.
“I think you two are crazy if you think I’m living here with that thing!”
“Too bad, Sis, I can’t afford for you to move out just yet. Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?”
“You’re just my darling little boy, aren’t you?”
“Well, I can see it makes you happy,” Rosetta said, her nose still scrunched in disgust. “Keep him out of my bedroom. If he pees on anything – ”
” – I’ll clean it up,” I finished for her.
“I know that’s right,” she muttered as she grabbed her purse. “I must go. Please watch him closely, he makes my skin crawl.”
“You make my skin crawl,” I said to her.
She made a fed-up noise as she left.
“Spoken like a true brother,” Ellie said with a laugh.
Things were starting to get back to normal and it felt good. Because of Ellie, I had my own dog now, too.
“Thank you so much,” I told her as I pulled her into my aching arms.
She rested her head on my shoulder for just a moment but it was moments like those that would carry me through until the next.
“Will you go somewhere with me?” I asked her.
“It’s a surprise.”
“I like surprises!”
“I can’t believe you perform on this stage in this huge building!”
I couldn’t help but smile as I looked out across all the floor seats and up into the balcony of the opera house. It was empty except for a few people cleaning and the lighting guys who were going over some things in their booth.
“It’s exciting performing on this stage.”
“And you’ve never brought anyone else to see this except me?”
Shrugging a little, I said, “I guess it was an experience I wanted to keep to myself until now.”
“I’m so pleased you brought me.”
“Look at how many seats there are. I would faint!”
Laughing, I said, “You can’t see the audience real well when you’re up here because they turn the house lights off while we perform. But being up here in front of them, dancing… it’s my favorite thing in all the world. It’s what I was meant to do.”
“I’m so glad for you. Some people go their entire lives and never know their purpose.”
“Holden, will you dance for me since we’re here?”
“Oh, umm, I could get you and Derek great seats for our next show, if you want.”
She shook her head. “This is your calling, it’s a big deal. I’ve seen you run and do pilates so that you are in shape to do what you do, but I’ve never seen you dance.”
Giving in, I took her hand and led her into the wings. “You owe me a new pair of pants if they split.” Which was a good possibility.
As she giggled, I warmed up a little bit. I wasn’t in the right clothes and I wasn’t warmed up properly, but I would do the best I could for my Ellie. Taking my place, I began to dance a piece from Star of the Gods, briefly explaining the plot as I went along.
When I finished, she clapped vigorously.
“It’s better with music.”
“Oh, it was wonderful! I can’t wait to see this with the music and costumes!”
She was a girl after my own heart.
When I’d shown her the rest of the opera house, it seemed like something might be bothering her.
“Are you okay, Ellie?”
She appeared to be deep in thought as I gazed at her. She didn’t meet my eyes with her own and one arm was wrapped around her middle.
Gently, I touched her arm. She still didn’t look at me. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said, barely above a whisper.
Tenderly, I lifted her chin with the tips of my fingers. “I don’t believe you. Can’t you tell me?”
“I want to but I can’t. Not right now.”
Not wanting to disturb the moment of closeness but also filled with concern, I gingerly rested my forehead against hers.
“You make it so difficult,” she whispered.
“What’s so difficult?”
I brushed my lips across her forehead then kissed her there. “Do you have to?”
Resting her hand on my chest, she must have felt the thumping beat of my heart. A heart that longed only for her.
“Derek is really sweet and kind but… but the truth is, he’s not you.”
My heart leaped at her words and relief coursed through me in euphoric waves. Was this really happening?
As I pulled her closer to me, she touched my lips with her fingers. I wound my fingers into her silky hair and drew her mouth close to mine. I couldn’t keep my emotions in check any longer.
“I don’t want anyone but you, Ellie. Ever.”
She sighed, her lips finally against mine. There was an intense tingling at the touch of her mouth that sent warm waves through me, awakening my desire even more. Little Ellie Duberry from an island called Winchester had given me the most erotic kiss of my life.
You may have noticed last week that comments were broken. This happened because of a Jetpack update which they have since fixed. Thank you for your patience. xo You are all truly the best.
I cannot wait to see what you think of this chapter! By the time this is posted, I expect to be at the Farmer’s Market but I’ll get to your comments ASAP!
As always, thank you for reading, commenting and liking,