She’s a little overprotective, my mama. I’m her only child and she had me when she was just a child, barely sixteen. Dumped by the boy who got her pregnant, she raised me on her own. We’re close. Sometimes too close. It feels like she’s more a friend than my mother but then something will happen and she’ll turn into that snarling mama bear that both embarrasses me and makes me proud.
I love her fiercely but I need independence. When this opportunity came about, I knew I needed to do it, despite Mama’s protests. Spending the summer at this gorgeous mansion, pretending that it’s mine, I’ve never felt so free.
Glancing up, I’m oddly disappointed to find Mr. GQ isn’t on the balcony anymore so I start to swim laps, going as fast as I can, back and forth across the pool. I need to lose weight. My curves are too…curvy. Sometimes those curves get me in trouble, causing unwanted attention that always embarrasses me.
Not from GQ though. I like the way he stares. And he’s so pretty. His entire family is pretty, unnaturally so. They look like they belong in a fancy slick magazine, like that boring ass Town & Country I found in the house when I first got here. A whole stack of them sat in a basket close to an overstuffed chair in the immaculate living room and I flipped through them, weirdly fascinated. All those perfectly polished rich people with their sparkling jewels and expensive clothes, the broad, fake smiles stretching their faces as they clutch a drink or each other.
It’s a life I both covet and despise.
After ten laps I’m breathless and I stop in the shallow end, hanging onto the edge of the pool as I catch my breath, the sun warming my shoulders. The water is cold, the air warm and the contrast makes me shiver as I lean my head in, pressing my forehead against the concrete edge. I close my eyes and focus on my breathing, my inhales deep and even, slowly calming my racing heart.
I really need to get out and exercise more. I’m totally out of shape.
The deep male voice startles me and I jerk away from the pool’s edge, water splashing everywhere as I push myself halfway across the pool. I lift my head to find Mr. GQ himself standing on the other side of the fence that separates our houses.
Well, it’s not really my house, but I’m thinking of it as mine for the summer.
“Um, yeah. I’m fine.” I stand straighter, barely finding my footing on the bottom of the pool. I tell everyone I’m five-foot-one but it’s a lie. I’m barely over five feet. Being so short and extra curvy, most of the time I look fat. Sort of dumpy.
I don’t like it. At all.
He leans his forearms on top of the low fence, casually gorgeous as the sun shines down on him, casting him in a golden glow like he’s some sort of god. Now it’s my turn to stare in rapt fascination, feeling a little breathless at having him so close. I never look at him for too long for fear he’ll know I’m staring—I leave that particular talent up to him—but now I look my fill.
He’s even prettier than I thought. Though it’s not fair, calling him pretty. He’s handsome. Striking. Square jaw and chin, straight nose, angular cheekbones and soft, full lips that offset all those sharp edges. I can’t tell what color his eyes are, he’s still too far away but I imagine them a bright, sparkling blue or maybe even green.
So ridiculously good looking, I wouldn’t doubt if he just walked out of a magazine ad or a fashion runway. It almost hurts to look at the guy.
“Swimming laps?” He states the obvious.
I nod, lifting my arms to smooth my hair back, feeling self-conscious. I must look a mess while he just stands there like some sort of flawless statue. He’s not wearing a shirt, his shoulders are broad and smooth, his chest sculpted, though I can’t check out his abs thanks to the fence.
His gaze drops to my chest for a lingering moment and I fight the urge to shield myself. I drop my arms to my sides and start treading water, thankful I’m covered from the neck down. “You don’t usually swim laps in the afternoon,” he says.
“Decided to change up my routine.” He just made it painfully obvious that he actually knows my routine but I don’t bother pointing it out.
“You here for the summer?” he asks.
“Yeah.” I pause, clearing my throat. I need to speak properly. I’m among the rich and classy. They don’t say yeah and uh huh in response to questions that require a yes. If Mama were here she’d slap me upside my head. “How about you?”
Nodding, he stands up straighter, his arms falling away from the fence. “We should hang out sometime,” he says casually. Too casually. His gaze is intense, his body stiff and I wonder if he’s…
Impossible. I mean, look at him. He’s just so…GQ. Like stepped straight out of a magazine ad. Why in the world would he be nervous to talk to me?
My heart rate speeds up. Is he asking me on a date? Of course not. He just wants to hang out. “We should,” I say with a little shrug. Like it’s no big deal. So the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever set eyes on is talking to me, says he wants to spend time with me. I can handle this. “Though don’t people usually know each other’s names before they hang out?”
His lips curve in a closed mouth smile. “Good point. So what’s your name?”
I flick my chin at him. “I asked first.”
His smile grows. “You did not.”
I raise a brow. It’s a look I’ve perfected over the years, one I picked up from my mother. I’ve scared many a boy away in the past with this signature move but GQ doesn’t even budge. “Tell me your name and I’ll tell you mine.”
“Gabe,” he says without hesitation.
“Short for Gabriel?” When he nods I continue. “I’m Lucy.”
“Lucy.” He says the name as if he’s testing it out, his voice deep and measured, making me shiver. “Nice to meet you, Lucy.”
“Nice to meet you too, Gabriel.” I roll the r a little bit like I can’t help myself, and he raises his brows but doesn’t say a word.
So stupid. I should act like a white girl. Like a proper, well-spoken, polite white girl who lives in a mansion and doesn’t have a care in the world.
In other words, I shouldn’t act like myself.
“What are you doing tonight?” he asks.
Oh, you know. Sitting around in this gargantuan house all alone, watching really bad TV, bored out of my skull.
Yeah, I can’t say that. I’ll sound like a complete loser.
“Nothing much.” I tilt my head to the side. “Why? You wanna hang out?”
He smiles, showing teeth this time and all the air gathers in my throat, threatening to choke me. How can I possibly spend time with this guy when all he has to do is smile and I feel like I’m going to faint from lack of oxygen? I don’t know if I can stand it.
“We should. I’ve got nothing going on.” He glances over his shoulder at his house before returning his gaze to me. “And I really need to get out of there.”
“Away from the family?” When his smile fades, I continue. “You seem to spend a lot of time with them.”
Gabe makes a face. A cute face. “They’re all driving me crazy.”
“I get it,” I say softly, though I don’t really get it at all. I don’t have much family. No siblings. I’ve only ever had my mother.