Home > The Idea of You(9)

The Idea of You(9)
Author: Robinne Lee

It dawned on me that, sheltered in the Four Seasons fortress, he was probably not aware of the commotion he had caused on Fifty-seventh Street. “Have you seen what it’s like out there?”

He returned from the bedroom then with a pair of black boots in hand. The infamous boots, I gathered. “What? Are there a lot of fans? All right, so I’ll have Desmond take us over in a car then—”

“It’s not a matter of not walking, it’s … I don’t think you can leave the building.” The idea of trying to get through that throng accompanied by one of the objects of their desire terrified me.

“It’s really that bad?” His eyes searched mine before he made his way over to the window. But the window did not open and there was no way at that angle that he could see the street.

“Well, that’s crap,” he said, tossing the shoes aside. “They followed us over from Rockefeller after the show. Swarming the cars. Complete insanity.” He turned back to me. “I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be.”

“I really hate being locked up in here … All right, so, plan B, then? Room service? Bloody hell, that sounds not romantic at all.”

I laughed at that. “Were you trying to do romantic?”

“I was giving it a shot. Unless…” His eyes widened then. “Come with me.” He grabbed my hand, leading me toward the bedroom. Romantic, indeed.

I followed him into the room, past the bed and a wardrobe trunk marked AUGUST MOON/H. CAMPBELL, and out onto a large terrace. Spread before us was an unobstructed view of Upper Manhattan and Central Park in all her spring glory. A green oasis under a clear blue sky.

“So…” He squeezed my hand. “Lunch? Here?”

“Lunch here would be divine.”

* * *

Hayes wasted no time calling up our order, and then joined me at the railing, drinking in the view, the smell of spring, the sun. There was something so comfortable about being near him in that space. Bumping up against his tall frame. His closeness, now familiar.

“What would happen if we blew off the rest of the day and spent it together?”

“Your management would not be happy. And my partner, less so.”

“But think of the fun we could have.” His eyes lit up. They’d gone from green to blue in the sun. Mutable, like water. “Getting into trouble. Running amok in New York…”

“It’s not like we could leave. You’re like … Rapunzel up here. Locked away in your castle … with all your hair … Hayes Campbell, the new-millennium Rapunzel.”

“Rapunzel of the Four Seasons…” he said.

We laughed.

For a moment, he held my gaze and I felt that distinct rush. The realization that this attraction had ceased to be just physical. That somewhere I’d crossed over. That I liked him.

“When I was ten, I came here for the first time with my parents. We stayed in a hotel in Times Square and we visited the Statue of Liberty and did all these touristy things. We went to see Ground Zero and they were just starting to build again…”

I realized that this, what he was talking about, was only ten years ago. That I was living in Los Angeles by then, still somewhat happily married, and with a two-year-old. Our references were so far off. When the Towers came down, Hayes would have been in the equivalent of the third grade.

“There was this one afternoon,” he continued, “that we spent up in Central Park. Just walking around. And there was so much going on. These huge Latin families picnicking and playing music. People roller-skating. Blokes playing football … soccer. It was so alive and full of energy and happy. And I remember feeling it was wicked that for one afternoon I was a part of that.

“I was talking to Rory this morning, and I was telling him how brilliant it was to lose a day walking in Central Park because he’s never been. He’d never been here before the group. But then I realized, we can’t do that. I can’t do that anymore. He may never have the opportunity to do that. Which is weird, yeah? It’s a trade-off…” He was quiet for a moment, looking out toward the greenery. His stunning profile. His beautiful bones.

He turned in my direction suddenly, pressing his back up against the railing. “I’m rambling, aren’t I? Sorry. I just get going sometimes and—”

Hayes’s lips were still moving when I kissed them. This warm, wide, inviting pool that beckoned. I could not resist the bait. His youth, his beauty. And everything, everything about the moment, was wonderful.

“Oh-kay,” he said when he finally allowed me to pull away. “I didn’t see that coming.”

“Sorry. I just … Your mouth.”

“Really?” He smiled. “It wasn’t the hair?”

I began to laugh.

His large hands circled my waist, drawing me into him. “It wasn’t me waxing nostalgic about my childhood holidays? Because this one time we were in Majorca…”

“Shut up, Hayes.”

“You know this means I win, right? Because I held out longer.”

“I didn’t know it was a competition.”

He shrugged. “I didn’t know it wasn’t.”

“That’s because you’re twenty.”

“Yes, well … You seem to like that.” He stopped talking and leaned in to kiss me again. Deliberate, intense. God, I had missed this. This exploration of someone new.

Eventually, he withdrew, a grin plastered across his exquisite face. “Soooo, lunch?”

* * *

Our meal passed all too quickly. Time bending and behaving in unpredictable ways. And him, sucking me in.

“Where’d you spend your childhood holidays? France?”

“Mostly.” I was watching his finger trace the lip of his glass. He had barely touched his sandwich. “Christmas in Paris with my dad’s mom. And summers in the South with my mother’s family.”

“Are they still there?”

“My grandparents have all passed away.”

“I’m sorry…”

“It’s okay. It happens when you get to ninety.”

He smiled then. “Yes, I suppose that makes sense.”

“I have cousins in Geneva. I don’t see them as often as I’d like.”

“That’s not entirely a bad thing,” he croaked, his voice still hoarse from the morning’s show. “Mine serve as a brutal reminder that I’m not doing something more noble with my life.”

I smiled. “You still have time.”

“You’ll remind my parents of that, won’t you? Not that they’re not proud. I do think they’re genuinely proud. But I believe they see this as a temporary thing. Sort of ‘Oh, Hayes and his little pop group. Isn’t that nice?’”

“The burden of being an only child…”

“Yes. Sole bearer of all their dreams. Utter torture.”

I smiled at that. And yet I understood. If I calculated the time and energy Daniel and I had put into Isabelle thus far, cultivating this extraordinary person—French-immersion toddler programs, private school, fencing lessons, sleepaway camp, ballet, theater, all of it—I imagine it might be a bit of a shock if she decided to quit school and run off to join the circus. (Despite the fact that we’d footed the bill for trapeze lessons.)

“What?” He’d pushed away the dismantled turkey club and was reclining in his chair. “Your expression tells me you’re siding with them.”

“Not siding exactly…”

“But?”

I laughed. “I’m a parent. We have expectations. This is not to say I never went against my parents’ wishes, or went after things solely for me, because I did. And some of it I lived to regret and some of it I didn’t. But I think you kind of have to do that. That’s what growing up is all about.”

He was quiet for a moment. “What did you live to regret?”

“Getting married at twenty-five … which isn’t ridiculous, per se, but for me it was too young…”

“Is that why it didn’t last?”

“Partly. We were young. I was young. I was still figuring things out: who I was, what I wanted. And ultimately we wanted different things. I don’t think it was anyone’s fault. We’re just really different people.”

He nodded. “What is it you want, Solène?”

I hesitated. There was more than one way to interpret the question. “What everyone wants probably: to be happy. But I’m still defining that for myself. I had to redefine myself. Because I didn’t want to be just ‘Daniel’s wife’ or ‘Isabelle’s mom.’ I wanted to go back to work, and Daniel did not want that.”

“Did you resent him?”

“Eventually. And still … I don’t want to be put in a box. I want to do things that feed me. I want to surround myself with art and fascinating people and stimulating experiences … and beauty. I want to surprise myself.”

Hayes smiled then, slow, knowing. “It’s like unfolding a flower.”

“It’s what?”

“You, revealing yourself. You, who vowed to share as little as possible.”

I sat there for a moment, not speaking.

“That sounds totally corny, doesn’t it?” His cheeks flushed. “Okay, pretend I never said that.”

I laughed then. “Okay.”

* * *

Hayes walked into the crowded bar at the Crosby Street Hotel looking every bit the “swagger one.” Tall and slender in his impeccably cut suit and coiffed hair. Turning heads, per usual. We’d made plans to meet late that night after my dinner and his gala at the British Consulate. He offered to make the trek down to where I was staying in Soho. I did not doubt he would keep his word, but still there was something about his showing up when he said he would that thrilled me.

“I know why you chose this place,” he said, sidling up to me on the candy-striped banquette tucked away in the back corner.

   
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