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Sweet Filthy Boy(9)

By:Christina Lauren

Finally—mercifully—Lola seems to decide to move on. We all step back into the small semicircle the guys have made, and drink our cocktails in stilted silence.

Either ignoring or oblivious to the awkward, Ansel pipes up. “So what are you all celebrating this weekend?” he asks.

He doesn’t just speak the words, he pouts them, pushing each out in a little kiss. Never before have I had such an urge to touch someone’s mouth with my fingers. As Harlow explains why we’re in Vegas, drinking terrible shots and wearing the world’s sluttiest dresses, my eyes move down his chin, over his cheeks. Up close I can see he has perfect skin. Not just clear, but smooth and even. Only his cheeks are slightly ruddy, a constant boy-blush. It makes him look younger than I think he is. Onstage, he would remain untouched. No pancake, no lipstick. His nose is sharp, eyes perfectly spaced and an almost intimidating green. I imagine I’d be able to see the color from the back of a theater. There is no way he can possibly be as perfect as he seems.

“What do you do when you’re not riding bikes or juggling?” I ask, and everyone turns to me in unison. I feel my pulse explode in my throat, but force my eyes to hold on to Ansel’s, waiting for his answer.

He plants his elbows on the bar beside him and anchors me with his attention. “I’m an attorney.”

My fantasy wilts immediately. My dad would be thrilled to know I’m chatting up a lawyer. “Oh.”

His laugh is raspy. “Sorry to disappoint.”

“I’ve never known an attorney before who wasn’t old and lecherous,” I admit, ignoring the looks Harlow and Lola have trained on the side of my face. At this point, I know they’re counting how many words I’ve said in the last ten minutes. I’m breaking a personal record now.

“Would it help if I said I work for a nonprofit?”

“Not really.”

“Good. In that case I’ll tell you the truth: I work for the biggest, most ruthless corporate firm in Paris. I have a horrible schedule, really. This is why you should come to Paris. I’d like a reason to come home early from work.”

I attempt to look unaffected by this, but he’s watching me. I can practically feel his smile. It starts as a tiny tug in the corner of his mouth and grows the longer I pretend. “So I told you about me, what about you? Where are you from, Cerise?”

“I told you my name; you don’t have to keep calling me that.”

“What if I want to?”

It’s really hard to concentrate when he’s smiling like that. “I’m not sure I should tell you where I’m from. Stranger danger and all.”

“I can give you my passport. Will that help?”


“We can call my mom,” he says, and reaches into his back pocket for his phone. “She’s American, you’d get on fantastically. She tells me all the time what a sweet boy I am. I hear that a lot, actually.”

“I’m sure you do,” I say, and honestly, I think he really would let me call his mother. “I’m from California.”

“Just California? I’m not an American but I hear that’s a pretty big state.”

I watch him through narrowed eyes before finally adding, “San Diego.”

He grins as if he’s won something, like I’ve just wrapped this tiny piece of information up all shiny and bright and dropped it into his lap. “Ahh. And what do you do there in San Diego? Your friend said you’re here celebrating graduation. What’s next?”

“Uh . . . business school. Boston University,” I say, and wonder if that answer will ever stop sounding stiff and rusty to my own ears, like I’m reading from a script.

Apparently it sounds that way to him, too, because for the first time, his smile slips. “I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

I glance to the bar and, without thinking, down the rest of my drink. The alcohol burns but I feel the heat seep into my limbs. The words I want to say bubble up in the back of my throat. “I used to dance. Ballet.” It’s the first time I’ve ever said those words to anyone.

His brows lift, his eyes moving first over my face, then trailing down my body. “Now that I can see.”

Harlow squints at me, and then looks at Ansel. “You two are so fucking nice.”

“It’s disgusting,” Finn agrees under his breath.

Their eyes meet from either side of me and hold. There’s some sort of silent acknowledgment there, like they’re on the same team—them against us—each trying to see which one can mortify their friend the most. And this is when I know we’re only about an hour and a half from Harlow riding Finn reverse-cowgirl on the floor somewhere. Lola catches my eye and I know we’re thinking the exact same thing.