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The Distance Between Us
  • Текст добавлен: 26 сентября 2016, 17:55

Текст книги "The Distance Between Us"

Автор книги: Kasie West

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Текущая страница: 11 (всего у книги 14 страниц)

Chapter 33

I open the shop door while holding the bell steady and yank Xander inside.

“What the—?”

“Shh.” I listen for several heartbeats to make sure my mom didn’t come back inside through the back door. She had just left . . . late. I had told Xander to come at six thirty, a whole half an hour after she was supposed to leave, but as the minutes ticked by I realized it would be a close call. It actually worked out better this way because now we can follow her. Before, I was just thinking we’d have to find her.

When I finally take a breath and look up at Xander, he’s staring at me in the dark room. I have one hand on his chest and have him pushed up against the wall just inside the store. My breath falters.

His breath shouldn’t smell so familiar already. I let it wash over me, closing my eyes. Then I feel his lips brush against mine. I want to get lost in his kiss but I know we don’t have time.

“Come on.” I grab on to the front of his shirt, pull him to the back door, then open it a crack. Luigi’s is one block behind us, and I see my mom round the corner at the end of the alley.

“Caymen,” Xander says from behind me. “Can you fill me in here?”

“A little detective work. Private investigators or something.” I reach into my back pocket and pull out the few pictures I had taken of Matthew with Xander’s camera. I’d printed them out. The quality is really bad since our printer is ancient, but the image is clear enough.

“What am I looking at?”

I slip outside and he follows. “I need to find out everything there is to know about that guy.”

“Okay . . . what do we know so far?”


He clears his throat. “Miss Scientific Observer has no concrete facts?”

“I have a feeling.” That if my mom is pregnant I need to know everything I can about the potential father.

“Do feelings prove theories now?”

“Shut up.”

He laughs and grabs hold of my hand. It surprises me and I must jump because he squeezes it with a chuckle. It’s weird holding his hand. I think about the picture I saw in the magazine of him and Sadie holding hands and wonder if someone is waiting in the shadows now to take a picture of us.

Almost as if he read my mind he says, “We moved here to get out of the spotlight. Los Angeles is awful. We had no privacy there whatsoever.”

I nod, not sure what the proper response to that is.

“But considering this isn’t exactly the thriving metropolis of California and how spread out our business is, we travel a lot. My father drags me along on some occasions. Like tomorrow. I have to go to Florida until Friday and then I have the benefit on Saturday.”

He’s not asking my permission . . . is he? He’s just telling me because . . . because why? We’re together now?

“I guess my point is when can I see you again?”

“Oh. Next week?”

“You’ll pencil me in on the really big calendar?”

“I don’t know. It might be booked solid. My super busy life and I will have to check.”

When we round the corner I can see the red and white awning of Luigi’s Italian Restaurant . . . and the back of my mom as she closes the door behind her. Hmm. That’s not what was supposed to happen. She was supposed to meet up with tall, dark, and creepy.

“What now?” Xander asks.

“We wait.” I walk to a small patch of grass on the corner of the block that gives us a good view of Luigi’s but isn’t in full view of the window. I sit down. “Worried about ruining your jeans?” I ask when he hesitates. “It’s not wet.”

“No . . . it’s just . . . are we spying on your mom?” He sits down next to me.

“Yes,” I admit with a wince.

“Caymen, I know you’re upset, but is this really the right way to go about it?”

I point to the pictures he’s still holding. “I need to know about him.”

He flips through the pictures again. “Is this him? The father of . . .” He can’t even finish the sentence. It’s like he’s as ashamed as I am. I wonder if he’s ever known anyone who got pregnant out of wedlock.

“Yes.” I lean back on my palms.

He nods once then looks around. “So how long are we going to wait here?”

I glance toward Luigi’s. “I don’t know.” Maybe she’s going to see Matthew after the meeting. I take the pictures he’s still holding back and look through them again.

“So you think I’d make a good detective?”


“Tonight. Your ‘career night.’” He actually does air quotes and manages to make them look somewhat classy. “That’s what you said tonight was, right? You’re supposed to be finding me suitable options to explore. Is detective work something you think I’d be good at?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

“Because I’m so good at observations and reading into clues and interpreting signals?” He picks at the grass, pulling a few blades free. He looks so hurt.

My warning light goes off, telling me to back up, fix this; tell him, “No, it was about me and my mom and I just needed your help.” I open my mouth, but it’s too late.

He stands up and brushes off his hands then holds one out to me. “I’ll walk you back.”

“I’m staying.”

“Okay.” He starts to walk away.

“I’m sorry,” I say to his back. He stops. “I’ve been so self-absorbed and lame. You’ve done all these amazing things for me and I haven’t done anything for you. I took you grave digging. You took me to UNLV.”

He turns to face me.

I point up the street. “I was going to take you to Eddie’s. He was going to teach us how to make his famous muffins and tell us how he started his business and stuff. I thought you might like it because you love food and I could see you owning your own restaurant or something. But then this happened and . . .”

He closes the distance between us, takes my face in his hands, and kisses me.

I can’t breathe for a moment, and then all I want to do is breathe him in. Eat, sleep, and drink Xander Spence. I can’t get enough. I don’t know how I existed without him because his energy feels like my sustaining force in this moment.

He pulls away a little and I take a gulp of air. I lie back on the grass because my bones can no longer hold me up. He lies sideways next to me, propping himself up on his elbow.

“I bought a dress,” I say in my state of bliss.

“Um . . . how exciting.”

“If you want me to I can go to the benefit with you on Saturday.”

“If?” He shakes his head. “I would love for you to come to the benefit. I just thought you were dead set against it. Yes. Come.” He kisses me again and I laugh against his lips. I bury my fingers in the hair at the back of his neck. He squeezes my side and I laugh again.

I didn’t hear any footsteps or the jingling of keys. All I hear is someone clear their throat. I sit up too fast and blood rushes up the back of my head, causing the edges of my vision to blur for a moment. But blurry or not, I can still see my mom’s face staring down at us, filled with anger.

Chapter 34

For some reason I giggle. Maybe because I still can’t control the happy pounding of my heart. Maybe because I’m still so angry with my mom for all the secrets she’s been keeping that seeing her angry with me brings some satisfaction. Or maybe because I have absolutely no idea what to say. Whatever the case, a giggle sounds funny in the otherwise still night. “Hi.”

She looks at Xander, starting at his freshly cut hair and ending on his expensive shoes. Then her contemptuous look is back on me. “I’ll see you at home.” And with that she walks away. I suck in my lips to stop myself from laughing. When she rounds the corner I lie back and pull Xander down with me. I kiss him but he resists.

“Caymen, wait.”


“She doesn’t know about us?”

“You knew that.”

“No. I didn’t. I thought after I introduced myself to her that you would tell her.”

I feel awful. That’s exactly what I was supposed to do. What I was going to force myself to do before the answering machine message of doom. “Why would you think that? I pretended like I didn’t know you.”

“I thought you were joking around. I thought . . .”

I am not doing well tonight in the Making Xander Feel Special category. I run my fingers up his wrist and then push our palms together. “I’m sorry. My mom has a history that has jaded her a bit. And I was going to tell her but then everything happened. I’ll tell her.”

“I think you just did.”

I giggle again.

One corner of his mouth lifts into a half-smile. “So is Eddie’s open right now? Let’s go eat.”

Xander leans against his car, licking the last bit of muffin off his fingers. “I didn’t realize you had such an in with Eddie. The whole back-door-after-closing-secret-knock. You could’ve told me this months ago.”

“I don’t share the few advantages I have.” I toss the empty paper bag into one of the trash cans that line our street. When I turn back to face him he pulls me against him. I let out a little yelp of surprise.

He buries his face in the crook of my neck.

“I should probably go. My mom is waiting patiently to yell at me. Better get it over with.”

“Is she going to be okay with this? With us?” His voice comes out muffled against my neck.

I trace patterns in his hair with my fingers and smile. “She’ll be fine once she gets to know you. I mean, how can she not like Xander Spence?”

“This is true.” He kisses me once then releases me.

I start to walk away then turn back. He’s leaning against his car watching me go, a sweet smile on his face. I stumble but then catch myself with a little laugh. “Have fun in Florida.”

The doll store is dark but the stairs in the back are lit. I take a deep breath and walk up them slowly, not ready to face the anger I saw burning in my mother’s eyes. I’m too happy. I don’t want my mom to ruin this after-kiss high I’m on. Maybe she’ll be asleep. Maybe this will blow over. I laugh at myself. That’ll never happen.

The door lets out a whine as I open it. I can almost feel the tension hanging in the air waiting to combust. My mom sits stiffly at the kitchen table. The room is dim; only the under-cabinet lights shine onto the countertops. I flip on a light.

“How long?” is the first thing she says.

“A couple months.”

“He’s the boy you’ve been spending time with?”


“What about Mason? I thought you and Mason . . .”

I shake my head no. “We’re just friends.”

She stands to face me. “Where did you meet him?”

I know she’s no longer talking about Mason. She’s back to Xander. “Here.”

“You met here.” She points at the floor.

“No, actually it was down there,” I say, pointing to the door. Maybe now isn’t a good time for a joke because her whole face tightens.

“You know that the Daltons are . . .” It’s like she can’t even say the word.

“Beyond rich? Yeah, I know.”

“Caymen . . .” She lets out a long sigh.

“What’s the problem? We like each other.”

“People like him don’t end up with people like us.”

I sigh. “Mom, please. This isn’t the eighteen hundreds.”

She laughs an ironic little laugh. “The richer you are, the slower time progresses.”

I give a fake gasp. “So are you saying he’ll be seventeen forever?”

“Caymen, this isn’t a joke.” She runs her hand down her face. “What will Mrs. Dalton think?”

I stare at her now-clenched fist, my state of euphoria finally gone. “What does this have to do with Mrs. Dalton?”

“You met her grandson in the store. She’ll think we’re unprofessional.”

“I think Mrs. Dalton likes me.”

“She likes you as the girl who waits on her, not as the girl who is dating her grandson.”

I blink once, the words shocked from my mouth. It feels like my mom just said, “Xander’s family won’t think you’re good enough for him, and guess what? You’re not.”

“You knew I wouldn’t want you to see him and that’s why you lied to me about who he was in the first place.”

I can’t believe my mom, who has been keeping so many secrets, has the gall to even speak right now. “Mom, you’re being ridiculous. We have fun together. Can’t you just be happy for us?”

“That’s all it is for him, though. Fun. Can’t you see that? You are just a little bit of excitement for him, Caymen, something different, until he’s ready to settle down for real.”

“Wait, did I give you the impression that I want him to propose marriage? I was going to wait at least another three weeks before I asked him about that.”

She completely ignores my sarcasm. “He’s having fun. It’s exciting: date the girl who lives above the doll store. An adventure. But he’s not playing for keeps. He’s going to break your heart.”

“Wow, no wonder why my dad never came to see me.”

“Your father never wanted to see you! That’s my point, Caymen. Don’t you get that? He left us.”

I’m breathing hard, my chest rising and falling in large movements and yet it feels like no oxygen is reaching my lungs. “Awesome. You think I can blackmail him? Show up at his work screaming, ‘Daddy’? Like Will Ferrell in Elf?”

“Caymen, joking about it isn’t going to help either of us feel better.”

It feels like someone is squeezing my heart in her fist. “Elf is no joking matter. That movie is a classic.”

My mom lets out a heavy sigh. “I’m here if you’d like to talk about how you’re really feeling. And I can’t stop you from seeing Xander, but if you trust my judgment or care about my opinion at all, you won’t.”

She doesn’t want to know how I’m really feeling. She just wants me to stop seeing Xander. “Your opinion has been noted.” I leave the room hoping I can breathe again soon.

Chapter 35

Saturday I wait outside the store. My mom and I have barely acknowledged each other all week, and I don’t want her to use this occasion as an excuse to restate her horrible opinions about Xander so I’m intercepting that possibility. I shift uncomfortably on my heels (which are actually Skye’s heels). I don’t wear heels a lot. But there are sacrifices I’m willing to make for Xander, and apparently I can add “heels” to the growing list . . . right after “relationship with mother.”

He pulls up in a sleek black sports car and I bite my lip. I had been kidding about him having more than one car. Why does he have to fit some stereotypes so well and disregard the others? It’s like he’s bent on proving my mom right on the surface so she actually has to make an effort to realize she’s wrong. She’s not going to make that effort.

He steps out of the car, and my heart lets me know that it still likes Xander, a lot. He looks amazing in a suit. His hair is slicked back tonight, making him look older than he is. His skin has a healthy glow from his trip to Florida.

“I missed you,” he says.

“Me, too.”

“You look gorgeous.”

Even though the dress fits me well it makes me self-conscious, hugging me in all the right places. And the fact that I bought it at a thrift store isn’t helping. The dresses tonight are going to be twice as fancy and a hundred times more expensive. “I feel like a fraud.”

“Why? Haven’t you been to a lifetime’s worth of these?”

“Oh yeah, tons.” I hit his arm.

“Well, you’re lucky. My mom forces me to go.”

“She’s right to force you. It would be a crime to deprive the world of seeing you in a suit.”

He tugs on the bottom of his jacket. “You like?”

“Yes. A lot.”

He wraps one arm around my waist and pulls me close, showering me with an array of scents, from toothpaste to aftershave. My heels make me stumble a bit, but I lean into him and catch my balance. I hug him and for a second worry that my mom is watching through the window, but his scent and his arms remind me what I’m fighting for. This. Him. It feels good to have him hug me. All the things my mom said about him and me seem to disappear in his arms.

He kisses my cheek. “You smell good.”

“You, too.”

He glances over my shoulder to the shop. “Are we going in?”

“No . . . no.” I hug him tighter. I wish I could take him inside. I wish my mom would get to know him, accept him like she did Mason.

“Okay.” He walks me to the other side of the car and opens the passenger-side door, helping me in.

After he climbs in as well, he starts the engine and then gives me a long look. “What’s wrong, babe?” Xander grabs my hand and puts it on his knee.

“Is that the pet name we’re going with? Babe?”

He backs out of the parking stall and starts driving. “You don’t like it?”

“It’s okay. It makes me think of the pig, though.”

“Are you putting in a request, then?”

“I’ve always been partial to sweetie, mostly because I’m not sweet so it makes me laugh.”

“How about dollface?”

“Ha! Only if you want me to cringe.”

“Okay, how about Subject Changer. That fits you well.” He squeezes my hand. “Nice try, but what’s wrong . . . dollface?”

I sigh. “My mom and I had a huge fight.”

“About me?”

“So arrogant. Do you think everything is always about you?”

“What was it about?”


He smiles. I love his smile. I don’t want to talk about my mom. I want to talk about his smile or kissing. I could talk about kissing.

“What is it about me your mom doesn’t like?”

“Mainly that you’re rich. If you could just change that one thing, it would make my life a whole lot easier.”

“I’ll work on that.”

“Thanks. You’re so accommodating.”

“So she wants something different for you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Different than her past?”

“Right. Basically she doesn’t want me to meet a rich guy, get pregnant, and have the rich guy run.”

“She attributes that to his money?”

“I know, it’s ridiculous.”

“So is that what started the whole living-above-a-doll-store thing?”

I think about how my father’s parents gave her the money to start the doll store. “Yes, actually.”

“So wait, have you lived there your whole life, then?”


“Wow, she’s extreme.”

What does “extreme” have to do with living above a doll store? “In some ways, I guess.”

“I thought my mom was, but your mom wins the prize.”

The ballroom at the hotel is the most beautiful room I have ever seen in real life: big chandeliers, patterned tile floors, thick ceiling-high curtains. Xander steers me toward a table at the front and I take a deep breath. What was that lame advice Henry gave me before I met Mason? Oh yeah, be myself. I wasn’t sure that was going to work here. Maybe I could pick someone else to be for the night.

Then I see Mrs. Dalton, and I want to run and hide. Any other time in any other situation and her presence would’ve put me at ease, but after what my mom said, my hand feels hot in Xander’s, like a spotlight is being shone on our clasped fingers.

I stare at her too long because our eyes meet. Sweat beads along my forehead and I wipe at it. She smiles and waves.

“I think we’re being beckoned.” He winks at me with his word choice. I want to be playful back but I’m too nervous.

“Caymen,” Mrs. Dalton says. “I didn’t know you were coming. It’s so good to see you. I’m glad to see that Alex has worked his charm on you.”

“It was hard, Grammy. This girl wasn’t easy to sway.” He kisses my hand.

“Most things worth having aren’t.”

It might just be me, but that doesn’t sound like the response of someone who is mad her grandson is dating the help.

“You treat her nice or else.” She points at Xander with the warning.

“Aren’t you supposed to be saying that to her about me? I am your grandson, after all.” He bends over and kisses her cheek and whispers something that makes Mrs. Dalton laugh.

“What did you say to her?” I ask after we walk away.

“I told her that you are fully capable of giving and carrying out your own threats and you didn’t need additional bodyguards.”

“This is true.”

“I’m supposed to mingle for a little while before we sit down, but instead I will dance with you then we’ll find our table.”


“You don’t want to dance with me?”

“No, I mean, sure, I’ll dance with you, but don’t pick tonight, your mom’s special night, to be the bad son. She’ll blame it on me.”

He laughs. “No, she won’t. My mom has actually commented recently about how much more responsible I’ve been. She attributes that to you.”

“I didn’t realize I was such a good influence on you, considering I’ve been the queen of irresponsibility lately.” According to my own mother.

“Come on, they’re playing our song.”

I listen for a minute. A live band in the corner is playing some classical piece, and as Lucas had mentioned there is no lead singer. “This is our song?”

“Well, it’s your band, remember? So really any song they play is ours.”

“So true.” Wearing heels makes me the perfect height to nuzzle against his neck. I unbutton the three buttons of his suit jacket and slide my hands inside to his back as we sway to the beat along with some other couples.

He starts making up ridiculous words to the song and singing them badly in my ear.

“You should grab a microphone. The band needs you.”

“What? You prefer the smooth voice of Tic?”


He laughs. “Me, too.”

A woman’s voice cuts through our banter. “Hello again, Caymen.”

Xander stops and turns. “Mother.” He hugs her.

Then she surprises me with a hug of my own. Her hair is blond and styled. Her eyebrows are shaped to perfection, and she must get something injected into her skin to make it so smooth. “It’s good to see my son smiling so much. A smile looks good on him, don’t you think?”

“I call it his secret weapon.”

Xander furrows his brow. “You do?”

“Mostly in my head but sometimes behind your back.” I give Mrs. Spence a sideways glance. I’m being myself; hopefully she isn’t put off by sarcasm. She has a smile on her face so I think I’m safe.

Xander pulls me against his side. “Oh well, that explains a lot.”

“I just came by to say hello. I can’t stay, though. Someone has to run this event.” Then she trails a hand down my shoulder. “But let’s talk later, you and me. I’d love to get to know you better.”

I nod and smile even though I want to say, “That sounds like torture.”

As she leaves Xander takes my hand and pulls me close again, swaying with the music. “Now, not that I expect you to remember their names, but let me point out all of my family members.”

Not only does he start naming off a lot of people in the room, but he assigns a ridiculous short story to each. “And that,” he says, pointing across the room, “is my cousin Scarlett.”

“Ah, the doll.” I tilt my head. “Yes, she does look a lot like that doll.”

“Right?” He laughs, and it’s almost as if she knows we’re talking about her because not only does she see Xander, but she starts walking our way.


She gives him a limp-looking handshake and then kisses the air by his cheek.

“This is Caymen.”

“Hello. I’ve heard so much about you.”

I give Xander a sideways look. Does he talk about me all the time? And what is the appropriate response to that statement? “Sounds like Xander needs to get out more if I’m the topic of interest.”

Scarlett offers a smile about as wide as her doll counterpart and then squeezes Xander’s bicep. “Did you see who your brother brought tonight?”

“No, we haven’t been over there yet.” Xander cranes his neck, obviously trying to scope out his brother’s date.

“Don’t if you can avoid it. Major Cinderella complex.”

Xander laughs. “Seriously? Lucas?”

“It doesn’t surprise me with where he goes to school.” She curls her lip.

Has Xander not told anyone in his family that I’m poorer than dirt? But if he had wouldn’t he try to cover up what Scarlett just said instead of sounding like he agrees with it?

“Anyway, good to meet you, Caymen, but Bradley just walked in and I have to go.”

We watch her walk away, and I wait for him to smooth things over now that she’s gone. Maybe say his cousin is a total stuck-up snob (which she obviously is). But he doesn’t. He offers me his elbow and says, “Let’s go sit.”

He leads me straight toward Lucas and I say, “I thought Scarlett said we should avoid them.”

“We can’t avoid them all night. It’s assigned seating and I’m hungry.”

“Caymen,” Lucas says, standing and giving me a one-armed hug. “I didn’t think you were coming tonight. You thought you’d give boredom a try after all?”

“Yeah, well . . .” I don’t even know what to say. I’m still in shock from what Xander and Scarlett just said.

He gestures to a girl on his right. “This is Leah.” Leah doesn’t stand but smiles up at me.

“Good to meet you.”

Xander pulls out a chair for me and I sit numbly.

“Where’s Samuel?” Xander asks, looking around. There are two name cards left at the now two empty seats.

“He’s on his way.”

Samuel arrives less than five minutes later, and like when Lucas and Xander saw each other at the airport, Xander and Samuel hug like they haven’t seen each other in ages. Lucas joins in. Next Samuel introduces his date and we exchange pleasantries.

“Samuel,” Xander says, putting a hand on my lower back. “This is Caymen Meyers.”

The Caymen Meyers?” He smiles big and I’m struck by how different each of the brothers looks. Xander definitely got his dad’s darker looks and the others look fairer, like their mom.

“I’ve heard so much about you,” Samuel says.

“I’m sorry.”

We all sit down, and Samuel holds up his empty glass and gestures for a passing server who comes and fills it. “So, Caymen, you’re related to the Meyers of SCM Pharmacy?”

I start to say no, but Xander beats me. “Yes, they’re her grandparents. They’re on the guest list tonight.” He looks around. “They haven’t arrived yet, but as soon as they do I will force Caymen to introduce me.”

Samuel continues, “My dad has a lot of respect for your grandfather. He says any man who can turn a profit like that on mid-level stores must be a genius. I’d like to pick the brain of a shrewd businessman like him myself.”

I’m too stunned to think. Is this why Xander’s family has been perfectly fine with me? He’s been pretending I’m rich?

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