Home > The Idea of You(6)

The Idea of You(6)
Author: Robinne Lee

“Max, this is Solène Marchand.”

Max cocked his egg-shaped head, trying to place me. “You with Universal?”

“No.”

“42West?”

I shook my head.

“Solène owns an art gallery in Culver City.”

“Oh … Nice.” He did that thing Hollywood people did when they learned I wasn’t in the industry: he tuned out. “Well, okay, I won’t keep you.

“Hayes, good luck tonight, buddy. We’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll have two squealing teenagers with me. But I guess you’re used to that, huh? Just girls … everywhere … Enjoy it.” He winked. “Solène, nice meeting you. If you two haven’t ordered yet, get the halibut. It melts in your mouth.”

“So, Max Steinberg…” I said once he was out of earshot.

“Max Steinberg,” Hayes chuckled. “I’m sorry, that was rude. That ‘girls’ comment was completely unnecessary … I don’t know what he was thinking.”

“I don’t know that he was,” I said. “I find in this town men don’t even see women over a certain age. And if they do, they register them as either ‘mom’ or ‘business.’ I’m guessing he thought I worked for you. Which should show you just how inappropriate this is.”

Hayes’s mouth was agape. “I don’t even know what to say to that … I’m sorry.”

“Yes, well, good thing this is just lunch.” I smiled. “Right?”

He didn’t say anything then. Just sat there looking at me with an inscrutable expression etched into his features. I had the impulse to reach out and stroke the side of his youthful face, but already I was mixing my messages.

“What are you thinking, Hayes?”

“I’m still processing.”

“It’s okay. It’s not too late to turn back.”

Just then the waiter arrived with our plates.

The second we were left alone Hayes turned to face me. “Look, I’m not going to ask you how old you are because it’s impolite, but I want you to know there’s very little you could say that’s going to deter me. And I really don’t give a damn what people like Max think. If I did, I wouldn’t have asked you here. So no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not turning back.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay,” I repeated.

“Good. Cheers.”

“Thirty-nine. And a half.”

Hayes lowered his glass of Pellegrino, revealing a huge smile. “Okay. I can work with that.”

Dear God, what was I getting myself into?

* * *

“So,” he began, not two minutes into his grilled jidori chicken, “how did your ‘very French’ parents end up in Boston?”

I smiled. He’d remembered. “Academia. My father’s an art history professor at Harvard.”

“No pressure there.”

“None,” I laughed. “My mother was a curator.”

“So it’s the family business, art?”

“Sort of, yes. And you? Is this your family business? Was your dad a Beatle?”

“A Rolling Stone, actually…” Hayes laughed, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “No, nothing could be further off the mark. Ian Campbell is a very highly respected QC, Queen’s Counsel. I’m descended from a long line of highly respected people. On both sides. And then somehow something went wrong.”

“Something in the water in Notting Hill?”

He smiled. “Kensington. Close. Yes, perhaps. I came out singing. And writing songs. They were not amused.”

He shifted then, and his leg rubbed up against my bare knee—casual, but there was no mistaking it. For a moment he left it there, and then just as casually he drew it away.

“Did you attend Harvard?”

“I went to Brown. And then Columbia for a master’s in arts administration.”

“Did that piss the professor off?”

“A bit.” I smiled.

“Not as much as blowing off Cambridge to start a boy band, I bet.”

I laughed. “Is that what you did? Did someone put you together?”

“I put us together, thank you very much.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. Does that impress you? I’m going to print up some calling cards: Hayes ‘I Put the Band Together’ Campbell.”

I laughed, setting down my fork and knife. “So how did you manage that exactly?”

“I went to Westminster, which is this pretty posh school in London where half your year ends up going to Oxford or Cambridge. And instead of that route, I decided to convince a couple of mates who I’d sung with there to join me in forming a group. We were initially supposed to be more of a pop band, but we kept losing our drummer. And Simon’s bass sucks … and we all wanted to sing lead,” he laughed. “So it was quite a bit of an interesting start. But we were lucky. We were really, really, truly lucky.”

His eyes were dancing. He was so comfortable, animated, happy.

“Is that all stuff I can find online?”

“Um, probably. Yes.”

“Hmm.” I returned to my omelet. “Tell me something I can’t find online.”

He smiled then, leaning back in his seat. “You want to know all my secrets, do you?”

“Just the big ones.”

“The big ones? Okay.” He was fingering his lower lip. I assumed it was an unconscious habit, but it worked wonders in drawing attention to his ripe mouth. “I lost my virginity to my best friend’s sister when I was fourteen. She was nineteen at the time.”

“Whoa…” It was both horrifying and impressive. “What … What did you look like at fourteen?”

“Kind of like this, but shorter. I’d just gotten my braces off,” he laughed. “So, you know, instant swagger.”

“Fourteen is so young.” I was doing my best not to picture Isabelle. Fourteen was around the corner.

“I know; it was naughty. I was naughty.”

“She was naughty. Nineteen? I assume that’s not legal in England.”

“Yes, well, since I spent two years hoping and praying it would happen, I didn’t exactly rush to file charges.” His smile was salacious. “Anyway, you’re not going to find that on the Internet, and if it ever got out it would ruin everything: friendships, the band—”

“The band?” It clicked. “Whose sister did you sleep with? Who’s your best friend, Hayes?”

For a moment, he didn’t speak, just sat there tugging on his lip, debating. And then, finally: “Oliver.”

He reached across the table for his Ray-Bans and placed them on his face.

The waiter arrived to clear our plates. Hayes declined dessert but ordered himself a pot of green tea. I did the same.

“Was it only once?”

He shook his head, a mischievous grin playing over his lips.

“Who else knows?”

“No one. Me. Penelope … that’s her name, Ol’s sister. And now you.”

It hit me, the weight of what he was saying.

“I need to see your face,” I said, reaching for his glasses. He surprised me by grabbing both my wrists. “What?”

He did not speak, lowering my hands to the banquette between us. He’d hooked his thumb inside the double leather band of my watch, and then slowly, deliberately, rubbed it against my pulse point.

“What?” I repeated.

“I just wanted to touch you.”

I heard my own breath quicken then and knew that he’d heard the same. And there I sat, transfixed, while he stroked the inside of my wrist. It was decidedly chaste, and yet he may as well have had his hand between my legs, the way it was affecting me.

Fuck.

“So,” he said after several moments had passed. “Did you come here to sell me art?”

I shook my head. Was this how he did it? The seducing? Subtle, effective, complete. They had rooms here, didn’t they?

He smiled, releasing my wrists. “No? I thought that was your intention, Solène.”

I loved the way my name sounded in his mouth. The way he savored the en. Like he was tasting it.

“You, Hayes Campbell … You are dangerous.”

“I’m not really.” He grinned, pulling off his sunglasses. “I just know what I want. And what’s the use in playing games, right?”

Our tea arrived just then. It was a flawless presentation. A still life.

“You’re on tour,” I said once we were alone again.

“I’m on tour,” he repeated.

“And then afterwards, you’re where? London?”

“I’m in London, I’m in Paris, I’m in New York … I’m all over.”

I took a moment to collect my thoughts, gazing out the window at the greenery. Nothing about this made sense. “How is this going to happen?”

Hayes slipped his hand beneath the table, grabbing mine on the banquette again, curling his finger inside my watchband. “How would you like it to happen?”

When I didn’t say anything, he added: “We can make it up as we go.”

“So I just meet you for lunch when you’re in L.A.?”

He nodded, biting down on his bottom lip. “And London. And Paris. And New York.”

I laughed, looking away. The realization of what I was agreeing to sinking in. The arrangement.

This was not me.

“This is insane. You realize that, right?”

“Only if someone gets hurt.”

“Someone always gets hurt, Hayes.”

He said nothing as he slid his fingers in between mine, squeezing my hand. The intimacy of the gesture threw me. I had not held a man’s hand since Daniel’s, and Hayes’s felt foreign. Large, smooth, capable; the coolness of an unexpected ring.

I shifted in my skirt, legs sticking to the leather cushion. I needed to get out of there, and yet I did not want it to end.

   
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