Home > Headstrong Like Us (Like Us #6)(3)

Headstrong Like Us (Like Us #6)(3)
Author: Krista Ritchie

“Yeah, definitely.” I hold her phone since I have longer arms. They gather around me, and after I snap a few, they skip away, giddy and giggling.

Farrow blows and pops a bubblegum bubble, eyeing my backpack while I hold the thing again. My mind has blanked on literally half of what my family ordered.

I’m going to have to make multiple trips.

I rummage inside, sifting past a couple philosophy books. “I’ve been meaning to return something to you.” An avalanche of nerves flip-flops my insides. I stay more stoic as I find and hand him a folded black shirt.

The black shirt.

The one he threw off the yacht so I could staunch my bloody nose on the marina’s dock. All after a fistfight with Charlie.

Farrow stares at the shirt in his grip, and I sense his confusion brewing.

“It’s yours. From the summer bash—”

“Yeah, I remember.” He tucks the fabric nonchalantly in his back pocket. I thought he’d tease me about dry cleaning the shirt or folding it. He doesn’t do either. Instead, he says, “You forgot what I told you.”

“What?”

He smiles, one that flickers in and out. “On the yacht, I said you could keep the shirt.”

Yeah.

I couldn’t forget his words that night. My brain is too obsessed with him, but I don’t want to admit to Farrow that I remember everything. Down to how he stacked beer cans in his hand and walked backwards while talking to me.

Even if telling him now would reinforce what an astounding, earth-shattering memory I have.

And I’m in my head for too long.

He must think I need clarification because he says, “Man, you didn’t have to give it back.”

“I wanted to. You’re my mom’s bodyguard now.” I’m three people away from the front of the line. “It didn’t seem right keeping it. But thanks, seriously.” No sarcasm, I think he can hear my sincerity.

Farrow combs a hand through his hair. “You’re welcome.”

The air strains with something unspoken.

We both face forward.

He speaks hushed into his mic, radio and gun holstered on his waistband.

He’s a bodyguard.

Farrow Keene abandoned a medical career and changed paths with the snap of a finger, and here I am, miserable in college. Unable to move in a new direction.

When I know, deep down, that I’d be happier if I were back home in Philly and pursuing something other than a degree.

I breathe in, a weightless feeling rushing through me.

I’m going to drop out of Harvard.

I look to my left, almost about to tell Farrow. But he’s concentrating on bodyguard duties, and I’m just in my head.

I focus on my family, and I buy three caramel apples. As I fish out my credit card, I glance back. Farrow is climbing up the slope with my parents in tow.

I don’t know why, but I smile.

 

 

1

 

 

MAXIMOFF HALE

 

 

PRESENT DAY

 

 

“Can you wait like four seconds before you flip the page?” I ask my fiancé.

Farrow gives me a look. You know the one. You’ve seen it on hundreds of paparazzi photos, practically tabloid centerfolds. His eyebrows rise, and his smile slowly expands in an irritating, teasing wave. No matter what anyone tells you, here’s the truth…

He’s looking at me like he’s obsessed with me.

Yeah. That’s what I’m going with.

We’re sitting on the orange rug in my childhood bedroom, a binder opened on the ground between us.

“Farrow—”

He places a tattooed hand on the page. “Would you like me to count to four out loud, wolf scout?”

My mouth falls. “You can count that high?”

He lets out a laugh, almost rolling his eyes but they never really leave me. His growing smile sends my heart in a high-speed crash against my ribcage. “You want to be smarter than me so badly.” He gives me a once-over.

“You don’t even know who Empedocles is,” I combat.

“He’s definitely a Greek philosopher in your ear.” He wipes some white chalk off his palms, eyeing the black-painted walls. X-Men chalk drawings are half-erased and smudged to make room for Farrow’s handwriting.

He’s right. Empedocles is in my ear. Along with a lot of other philosophers, to-do lists, and concerns, but I try to employ Farrow’s easygoing attitude and relax this early-spring afternoon.

I extend my arm over his muscular shoulder, and my eyes fall to his lips.

He’s smiling knowingly, lovingly. “You want me to kiss you?”

“No, I want to kiss you—”

He closes the short distance, his large hand on my sharp jawline, and I move in with abrupt, hot force at the same time. Our lips crush together, and his chest melds against my chest. I clutch the back of his head, my pulse thrumming.

I’m going to marry the love of my life.

One day.

Someday.

Soon.

He smiles against my mouth while we kiss and play around for the lead. He tries to hook my leg with his ankle, but I careen my weight on him and wrestle for a better grip of his bicep.

And then I suddenly tear away—our lips breaking apart. “Fuck,” I swear as something wet laps my calf.

Slobber runs down my shin.

Farrow laughs while my family’s old Basset Hound jumps on my lap and barks in a carefree, overly joyous way like he did not just ruin one hell of a kiss.

“Hey, Gotham.” I scratch behind his floppy ears, and I glance at Farrow. “Sorry, man.”

His smile slowly turns to a frown. “Why are you apologizing? It’s not like I’m dog-averse.”

At first, I thought every time he played fetch with Gotham, it was so the dog would run away. But the more he’s around the Basset Hound, the more I realize he’s been training him to actually come back when he throws a ball. Because Gotham hasn’t always been great at fetch. Farrow will even reward him with treats or encouraging pets.

“I know you like dogs.” I tense. “It’s just…a lot. And by a lot, I mean all of this.” I gesture around my childhood bedroom. To the racks of comics, the family dog, and the twin bed with a goddamn Spider-Man comforter.

We haven’t even bought a queen-sized one. Some nights, we blow up an air mattress. Other nights, we squeeze together on the bed underneath Peter Parker sheets—sheets that I had as a teenager. Out of everything, buying a new mattress just hasn’t been a high priority.

For either of us.

But living back in my childhood house is weird.

Living back here with Farrow is like descending into the movie Labyrinth and I’m just waiting for David Bowie to pop out. Surreal. Bizarre.

The Rittenhouse-Fitler townhouse burned down less than two weeks ago. Still no news on the cause: electrical or arson.

The why doesn’t matter as much to me. We’re all alive. Everyone is okay, and I have the means to start over. But finding extra time between Farrow’s security meetings, his med calls, my job as a youth swim instructor, and wedding planning is harder.

We’ve only bought a few new pairs of clothes and keep tossing them in the wash.

I don’t want to task assistants to personal shop for me. They have better things to do than pick out jeans and tees and boxer-briefs.

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