“Can I ask you a question?” I say.

She barely has the energy to nod.


I wave my hand around the kitchen. “How did this happen? How in the hell did your entire house become spotless between the party last night and me waking up just now? Did you stay up and clean?”

She laughs. “We have people for that,” she says.


She nods. “Yep. There are people for everything,” she says. “You’d be surprised. Think of something. Anything. We probably have people for it.”


“People,” she says.

“Christmas décor?”

She nods. “People for that, too.”

“What about birthday gifts? Like for family members?”

-- Advertisement --

She grins. “Yep. People. Everyone in my family receives a gift and a card for every occasion and I never have to lift a finger.”

I shake my head. “Wow. How long have you been this rich?”

“Three years,” she says. “Marshall sold a few apps he developed to Apple for a lot of money. Every six months, he creates updates and sells those, too.”

The coffee transitions into a slow drip, so I grab a mug and fill it up. “You want anything in yours?” I ask. “Or do you have people for that?”

She laughs. “Yes. I have you, and I’d like sugar, please.” I stir some sugar into her cup and walk it over to her, then pour myself a cup. It grows quiet for a while as I mix in creamer, waiting for her to say something about me and Ryle. The conversation is inevitable.

“Can we just get the awkwardness out of the way?” she says.

I sigh, relieved. “Please. I hate this.” I face her and take a sip of my coffee. She sets hers down beside her and then grips the countertop.

“How did that even happen?”

I shake my head, trying my best not to smile like I’m love-struck. I don’t want her to think I’m weak, or a fool for giving in to him. “We met before I knew you.”

She tilts her head. “Wait,” she says. “Before we got to know each other better or before we knew each other at all?” “At all,” I say. “We had a moment one night, about six months before I met you.”

“A moment?” she says. “As in . . . a one-night stand?” “No,” I say. “No, we never even kissed until last night. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. We just had this sort of flirtation thing going on for a really long time and it finally came to a head last night. That’s all.”

She picks up her coffee again and takes a slow drink from it. She stares down at the floor for a while and I can’t help but notice she looks a little sad.

“Allysa? You’re not mad at me, are you?”

She immediately shakes her head. “No, Lily. I just . . .” She sets down her coffee cup again. “I just know my brother. And I love him. I really do. But . . .”

“But what?”

Allysa and I both look in the direction of the voice. Ryle is standing in the doorway with his arms folded across his chest. He’s wearing a pair of gray jogging pants that are barely hanging on to his hips. No shirt. I’ll be adding this outfit to all the other ones I’ve catalogued in my head.

Ryle pushes off the door and makes his way into the kitchen. He walks over to me and takes my cup of coffee out of my hands. He leans in and kisses me on the forehead, then takes a drink as he leans against the counter.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” he says to Allysa. “By all means, continue your conversation.”

Allysa rolls her eyes and says, “Stop.”

He hands me back my cup of coffee and turns around to grab his own mug. He begins to pour from the pot. “It sounded to me like you were about to give Lily a warning. I’m just curious as to what you have to say.”

Allysa hops off the counter and carries her mug to the sink. “She’s my friend, Ryle. You don’t have the best track record when it comes to relationships.” She washes out the mug and then leans her hip into the sink, facing us. “As her friend, I have the right to give her my opinion when it comes to the guys she dates. That’s what friends do.”

I’m suddenly feeling uncomfortable as the tension grows thicker between the two of them. Ryle doesn’t even take a drink of his coffee. He walks toward Allysa and pours it out in the sink. He’s standing right in front of her, but she won’t even look at him. “Well, as your brother, I would hope you had a little more faith in me than you do. That’s what siblings do.”

He walks out of the kitchen, shoving the door open. When he’s gone, Allysa takes a deep breath. She shakes her head and pulls her hands up to her face. “Sorry about that,” she says, forcing a smile. “I need to shower.”

“You don’t have people for that?”

She laughs as she exits the kitchen. I wash my mug in the sink and head back to Ryle’s bedroom. When I open the door, he’s sitting on the couch, scrolling through his phone. He doesn’t look up at me when I walk in and for a second, I think he might be mad at me, too. But then he tosses his phone aside and leans back into the couch.

“Come here,” he says.

He grabs my hand and pulls me down on top of him so that I’m straddling him. He brings my mouth to his and kisses me so hard, it makes me wonder if he’s trying to prove his sister wrong.

Ryle pulls away from my mouth and slowly rakes his eyes down my body. “I like you in my clothes.”

-- Advertisement --