Elastic Hearts: Prologue

Prologue

“We can’t do this anymore,” he said. Those were not the words I’d expected to come out of his mouth given the last time I’d been here, he’d growled my name against my throat, telling me to be quiet so nobody would hear us. I blinked, swallowed, and blinked again, trying to focus on his intense hazel eyes as they studied my face, as if to make sure I understood him. “Okay,” I whispered. I wanted to ask why, but held my tongue. I knew why. Or at least I felt like I knew why. Instead I gave myself a pep talk. We’d become friendly. We’d hooked up a couple times. It was no big deal for things to be over. No big deal at all. But if that were the case, why did I feel like he was ripping out my heart? “It’s not…” he paused, sighing and running a hand through his hair. The hair I’d run my hands through a couple weeks ago. “I was going to say it’s not you, but that sounds lame. You know why we can’t do this anymore.” “Because you’re scared of what would happen if my dad found out,” I said. He nodded. I figured as much. It wouldn’t look right if the new add-on to the firm was caught hooking up with the boss’s daughter, never mind the fact that we hadn’t even met here. “It’s in bad form,” he said. “If we hadn’t met at the bar that night I would have never let it get this far.” “No, I get it,” I said, not wanting to hear the excuses he was sure to fire off. “I need to focus on my career.” I swallowed. My eyes drifted over his features taking mental snapshots, which is all they’d become. In twenty-four hours they’d be grainy in my memory. In twenty-four days they’d be faded, I’d have to squint my eyes and rummage through boxes in order to remember how he looked, what he wore, where we’d been. The only things I’d remember would be his scent and how he made me feel. Important, and sexy, and smart. Victor was only four or five years older than me, but those were things boys my age didn’t have a clue about. “You’re just now graduating school. You have an entire life ahead of you,” he said. “I know.” I paused. “You don’t have to sit here and give me a pep talk. I totally get it.” He let out a long, relieved breath, closing his beautiful eyes, eyes I wouldn’t look into again on the brink of passion. I wondered if he’d even considered asking me how I felt about telling my dad. Probably not. Vic was too driven. Too much of a rule follower, and deep down I’d known he hadn’t wanted more. I’d known he’d just wanted to have fun with me. He didn’t want to settle down until he’d built his empire over the lies he construed in order to win cases. Just like my father. I always swore I wouldn’t fall for a guy like him. Like them. I always said I’d end up with a guy who fit my lifestyle. One that didn’t over plan or over calculate. One that followed his dreams, regardless of how crazy they were. Guys like Victor weren’t like that. They became consumed by work—real work—not creative, fun dreams like the ones I had. We’d never work. That’s right. We’d never work. Maybe if I said that enough times I’d believe it. “Well, it’s been… nice,” I said, standing up and walking toward the door. He stood as well, but stayed behind his desk looking like he had not idea what to do. I let out a breath. “Remember to water your plants,” I said, looking at the little bonsai on top of his desk that he never remembered to water. “I will. Remember to try out those tennis lessons again just in case,” he replied. I smiled at the mention of that. I’d sprained my ankle a few months back when I went to play tennis with a friend of mine. He’d teased me relentlessly, not because I sprained my ankle playing tennis, but because I sprained it on a water break, when I stepped on the box for the water fountain. Total freak accident. I closed the door and stood outside for a second, taking a deep breath to welcome air back into my lungs, wondering if I’d played it cool enough. When I felt settled, I left and drove to the set of a new sitcom where I’d been hired as a stand-in for a costume designer away on maternity leave. By the time I got there, I’d replayed Victor and my short-lived history in my mind nothing short of forty times. I tried to think back and figure out at what point he knew things wouldn’t work. Had it been when we went to the coffee shop downtown and ran into a friend of his? He’d introduced us as friends, which we were, but the tone in which he’d said it implied that it was all we could be. Was it because of my age? Or was it just him? We’d discussed marriage and relationships and our aversion to both. One of us had been dead serious; the other had made up lies along the way, because I wanted a relationship with real attachments and long-term goals. I parked my car and waved at the lot attendee on my way in, and in those seconds where I was looking back as I walked in, I bumped into the person walking out. “I am so sorry,” he drawled, a slight southern accent I hadn’t heard anywhere aside from movies. My eyes made their way up his body slowly until they landed on his face and got caught on striking blue eyes. Holy wow. He was the definition of Hollywood. “It’s okay. I wasn’t paying attention,” I said. We tired to sidestep each other three times, failed, and laughed. “Sorry,” I said again, my cheeks blazing. “The universe must really want to throw us together,” he said, turning up his charming smile. “I’m Gabriel,” he said, now blocking the door completely. “Nicole,” I responded, heart pitter-pattering. “Are you an actress?” he asked. I shook my head. “Costume design.” He nodded slowly, his eyes still on mine. “New?” “First day.” “Nervous?” “Very,” I said, but smiled. He opened the door wider. “I promise we don’t bite,” he said, his grin widening. “Well, some of us don’t.” I laughed as I stepped inside. For the remainder of the day and week, Gabriel looked for ways to find me all around set, and just like that all thoughts of Victor began to vanish. I accepted that Victor and Nicole were done, and that was vital, and because of Gabriel, it was completely probable.