*Nota*: Le parti in giallo corrispondono alle parti dell'originale che sono  state tagliate in fase di traduzione, le parti in verde NON sono state scritte dall'autrice ma inventate dalla traduttrice o da chi per lei.

Prologo P.7 CIRCA 
“You’re welcome.” Cocking his head, he tapped a finger against his lips. “You single, Lena?”
“And you want to know, why?”
“Just curious. Judging by the frown, I think the answer there is yes. And shame on my brothers everywhere for overlooking such a fine girl as yourself.”
Quite a number of his “brothers” hadn’t overlooked me. They’d chosen to screw me over instead, hence the frown. But no way in hell was I telling him that.
“Uh, Mal?”
“Just a sec, Adrian.” Mal gave me a slow looking over from top to toe, eyes lingering on the swell of my breasts. Big boobs, a lack of height, and childbearing hips ran in the family. My mom was exactly the same so there was really very little I could do about it. The lack of luck in love seemed more exclusive to me, however. Mom and Dad had been married nearly thirty years and my sister was about to be wed, not that I’d be attending. Long story. Or a short and shitty one, you pick.
Either way, I was just fine and dandy as I was, flying solo.
“Sadly, not.” He shook his head.
“Yeah, I know. You’re really missing out.” He sighed
“Tell me, Lena,” said Mal, his grin splitting his face. “How do you feel about Portland?”
“Doesn’t it rain there constantly?” I asked. In all honesty, the idea of heading quite that far up into the Pacific North West did not appeal.
Mal groaned. “I know, lovely Lena, I know. Trust me, I’ve tried to get them to move back to LA, but they won’t budge. Portland’s where the Ferris bros be hanging these days. Even Benny boy’s settled in up there.”
Ben, the bass player, opened one eye and gave us both a tired look. Then he closed it and went back to sleep.
“C’mon, Jimbo,” said Mal, bouncing about on the spot again. “Help me convince her Portland doesn’t completely suck ass.”

«Che ne pensi di Portland?».   Finalmente, dopo tanto tempo, Jimmy fece un sospiro e mi guardò.    Momenti come quelli dovrebbero essere memorabili. Bisognerebbe sentire il fato che si muove sotto i piedi. Un po’ di luci d’atmosferaper esempio, e una bella musica drammatica ci starebbero da Dio. E invece, mi toccava lo sguardo scontroso di un tizio con un completo elegante. Aveva due occhi blu ghiaccio, i capelli scuri gli scendevano sul viso e sul collo, incorniciando gli zigomi di un angelo ma la bocca di un bambino cocciuto. Ogni altro centimetro visibile era decisamente quello di un uomo virile, ma quel modo di serrare la mascella… be’. E sebbene non fosse il mio tipo, dovevo riconoscerlo, era proprio un bell’uomo. Sconvolgente come può esserlo soltanto qualcosa di talmente fuori dalla propria portata che non passa nemmeno per la testa di provare ad afferrarlo.    Perciò anch’io lo guardai accigliata, dritto negli occhi. Jimmy Ferris, leader della band. Ex tossicodipendente. E colui che mi avrebbe spezzato il cuore.    Il suo sguardo si posò su di me. Lo sostenni.
   «Ebbene, penso che sarebbe una buona assistente per te», disse Mal. «Diglielo tu, Lena»
Finally, at long last, Jimmy sighed and looked up at me.
What Mal couldn’t do to me, this one did with ease. Everything paused, apart from my pulse, beating loud behind my ears. The man was beautiful in much the same way as the stars. I could only look upon him with longing, he was so far out of my reach. Still, moments like these are meant to be momentous. Fate shifting beneath your feet should feel big. But instead of mood lighting and dramatic music, I got a cranky cold blue stare from a guy in a razor sharp suit. Dark hair fell over his face and collar, framing the cheekbones of an angel but the jaw of a stubborn child. Every other discernible inch of him appeared to be fully grown male. The way he held his jaw, however … well.
And the man might be pretty, but he sure as hell wasn’t nice. I’d met enough not-nice men to know. Trust me to find him attractive.
So I frowned straight back at him.
“Why, you two are getting along like a house on fire already! It’s like you’ve known each other for years. I think she’ll make you a wonderful live-in assistant,”


CAP.1  DA P 12
It was temptingAll of this was my own damn fault, I should have been dust weeks ago. The facts were, despite the great money, me and this job didn’t mesh. Every time I opened my mouth to tell him I quit, however, the words disappeared.
I couldn’t explain it.
The band and their entourage had been in Coeur d’Alene for just over a week and Jimmy’s mood had been black since our arrival. Worse even than normal.
Apparently, it was one hell of a story, though I hadn’t managed to hear it all yet. Ev had asked me to go out with her and her friends a couple of times, but I always made excuses. Not that I didn’t appreciate the gesture, it just didn’t feel right with me working for her brother-in-law.

Carpet burned knees would not have been nice. Also, the minute we got back to Portland, I was either finally quitting, demanding hazard pay, or both
Dall’altra parte della stanza, Jimmy camminava avanti e indietro, con i pugni stretti. I capelli scuri gli ricadevano sui tratti affilati del viso e un accenno di barba gli delineava la mascella. Di solito quell’uomo era un capolavoro, un cavallo di razza, la perfezione in persona. Tutto firmato e con i capelli tirati indietro. Troppo raffinato per i miei gusti. Quel giorno, però, si accordava bene alle condizioni della stanza
Across from us, Jimmy paced back and forth, hands balled into fists. Normally, the man was a princess, a show pony, put together with perfection. Hair slicked back and designer everything. As eye candy went, his superior rock god status made him ideal. I was safe to fantasize and indulge my libido while remaining well beneath his notice.
(Sadly, my sex drive hadn’t died when I’d taken my vow of no men. How much simpler life would be if it had.)
Today, however, Jimmy seemed all too human, only half dressed with his dark hair falling over the sharp angles of his face and matching stubble lining his jaw. His usual airtight control was nowhere in evidence. The state of him and the room was shocking. Nothing seemed to have been left unharmed. I must have looked like one of those clowns at the fairs, the ones you where you lob a ball in their mouth to win a prize. My head kept turning this way and that, trying to take it all in.
p.14 “What’s going on?” I asked, stopping in front of him.
No sign of blood though his knuckles were scratched and pink, tender looking. Legs apart, he braced his elbows on his knees and hung his head. 

p.15 «Solo un bicchiere, cazzo», ruggì. Mi arrivò in faccia la sua saliva, calda e umida.

 “We’re going to put her in the ground.” His voice cracked and he slumped back onto the chair. “She fed us, Lena. When there was nothing at home, she sat Davie and me down at her table and she fed us. Treated us like we were her own.”
“Oh, Jimmy …”
“I-I can’t do this.”
Apparently, neither could I. And to prove it, I stood there utterly useless, my heart breaking for him. I’d wondered what had happened to make him so hard. Of course I had. But I’d never imagined anything like this. “I’m so sorry,” I said, the words not even beginning to be enough.
.....RESO CON ......«La seppelliremo». Gli si strozzò la voce e si accasciò di nuovo sulla sedia. «Merda».    Cosa potevo dire?
Truth was, Jimmy needed a therapist or a counselor or someone. Anyone but me, because I didn’t have a fucking clue how to handle this. The man was cracking before my eyes and watching him come apart felt like torture. I’d been so careful the last few years, sticking to the fringes and keeping to myself. Now suddenly, his pain felt like my own, tearing up my insides, leaving me raw. The room swam blurrily in front of me.
What the hell was I still doing here?
“I’m going to go find your shirt,” I said, blinking like crazy, doing my best to pull my shit together. Qualified or not, I was all he had. “We need to finish getting you ready and then we’re going to go.”
He said nothing.
“We’ll get through this, Jimmy. We’ll get through today, then things will be better.” The words tasted sour. I just hoped they weren’t lies.
«Vado a prenderti la camicia», dissi, nascondendo le mani dietro la schiena perché mi tremavano. «Devi finire di prepararti».
    Non disse nulla.
p.18 circa
“No, really. Just talk from your heart.”
He took a shuddering breath, resting his forehead against me. “To top it off, she called.”
“She?” I gave the top of his head a sharp look. Damn it, he had seemed okay. Certainly not delusional. “Who called you?”
“Oh.” This couldn’t be good news. Better than him imagining phone calls from the recently deceased, but still. “What’d she want?”
“Same fucking thing she always wants. Money.” His voice was harsh and low. So low that I had to strain to hear him. “Warned her to stay away.”
“She’s in town?”
A nod. “Threatened to crash the funeral. Told her I’d have her fucking arrested if she did.”
Hell, the woman sounded like a nightmare.
“Davie doesn’t know,” he said. “That’s the way it stays.”
“All right.” I don’t know how wise that was, but it wasn’t my choice to make. “I won’t tell him.”
His shoulders hitched beneath my hands, his misery surrounding us like an impenetrable shell. Nothing else existed.
“You’re going to be okay.” I bowed my head and hunched over, sheltering him with my body. 
Mi seguì come un bambino ubbidiente (come se esistessero)
He followed behind me like an obedient child. The lights in the white bathroom were blindingly bright a
“We have to hurry,” I muttered, mostly to myself.
I placed his shirt and tie on the counter, grabbed a facecloth and wet it. If I hadn’t already done my make-up I’d have splashed my face with the bitingly cold water, let it wake me up from all this weirdness. Meanwhile, Jimmy stared off into the distance, his mind obviously far away once again. When I held up the cloth he didn’t react at all. Forget it, we didn’t have time for this, I’d do the job myself. The cold damp cloth made contact and he reared back, nostrils flaring.

“Great. I just need to get my bag and jacket.”
His chin jerked and his gaze skittered over me. “You look nice, by the way.”
“Ah, thank you.”
“Just stating a fact. You look good.” He turned away.
Lips fine, he studied the slowly drying patch on the front of my blouse. “You definitely won’t tell anyone?”
“No. Never.”
The air hissed out between his teeth and his expression calmed. “Okay …”
I nodded, giving him a small smile.
“Listen, Lena?”
Hai intenzione di andare prima o poi?». Mi guardò scocciato, con gli occhi che sembravano voler dire a gran voce che ero una delle più grandi imbecilli dei nostri tempi. Ringraziai Dio per questo. La sua palese irritazione mi rianimò. Eravamo tornati alla normalità

Cap 2
Still, I swear I could feel his pain bearing down on me, threatening to snap me in two. Some sort of empathy overlord had begun back in the hotel room and now I couldn’t separate my feeling from his. Worse, I didn’t want to. He’d let me in whether he meant to or not and I couldn’t leave him alone with all this.
Tomorrow I’d take a nice big safe step back. Today he needed a friend.
* * *
“Hi,” he said, his deep strong voice carrying perfectly. “My name is Jimmy Ferris

All sorts of things, really. But every time I went there from then on, she made time to talk to me, even if it was just for two minutes. Our own mom had taken off by then, so it wasn’t something I got at home. Now, I wasn’t Lori’s kid. I probably wasn’t even a kid she wanted around her kid. Still, she always made a point of giving that to me. She kept an eye on me and Dave, made sure we were clothed and fed, that we had what we needed. She cared when no one else gave a shit.” He grimaced, cleared his throat. “She cared when no one else did.”


Jimmy carefully picked up the piece of paper in front of him, folding it back up. It didn’t matter, he didn’t need it. The poetry was in him, in the way he was baring his heart to these people. He stood tall, facing the crowd. His truth might not be pretty, but there was strength in his stance, pride. Warmth bloomed in my chest at the sight. A sense of satisfaction I hadn’t experienced in the longest time. Not that I’d made the eulogy, I know, but still …

I slid into the pew and retook my seat. Jimmy deposited himself next to me, the leg of his suit pants brushing against mine. I waited for him to grouse at me to move over, not that there was any room to be had due to of the sudden appearance of some woman’s handbag. But he didn’t. Honestly, after all the drama and emotional upheaval, sticking close seemed a good idea.
For him, of course. I was fine.
His gaze dropped briefly to where we connected before moving away. “You okay?”
“Yes. You?”
He made a noise. It sounded agreeable enough.
“Good.” I settled my hands in my lap.
Up in the pulpit the preacher started talking. Jimmy’s leg leaned a little more firmly against mine. He looked straight ahead, however, apparently unaware of what his thigh was doing. Nothing showed on his face. Maybe it was his way of acknowledging me, of saying thank you. Or maybe the man had a cramp. Whatever. A small smile curved my lips, my shoulders sagging with relief.
We’d done it. We’d made it through.


whispering sweet nothings and making out right in front of us. They were cute. Yes, I could admit to missing having someone special sometimes. Though the men I’d dated were more inclined to cause trouble than comfort. Hence my vow to stay sexless and single. I had to protect myself from my own shitty taste in men, even if I did find my own hugs somewhat lacking.
“Lena?” Ev laughed. “Hello?”
“Sorry. Ah, Jimmy … he’s outside with Mr. Ericson. I think he was in need of some ‘Lena free’ time.”

Thanks.” I studied my empty plate.
“He hasn’t had a lot of women around that he can depend upon,” she said, her voice dropping volume. “Like he said, their mom took off early. Though I think that was probably a blessing. From what little David’s told me, she wasn’t someone you’d want around.”
“Jimmy doesn’t tend to talk about her. He doesn’t tend to talk about anything much at all, usually.” I frowned off into space again. I’d learned more about him in the last couple of hours than I had in the last couple of months. It was a lot to take in. The way I saw him was altering today in all sorts of ways.
“Yeah, Jimmy’s not what you’d call chatty.”
I snorted. “That’s putting it mildly. If I can get two words out of him about his appointments I’m doing well.”
“And yet you’ve survived the longest of them all.” With a small sigh, Ev settled her hands over her tummy. She too had tried several of the desserts. “You’re obviously doing something right.”
“Huh. I wonder what?” I stared at the ceiling some more, thinking deep thoughts.
“I don’t know. Maybe he likes you. Maybe he’s lonely and just enjoys having you around.”
“Yeah, right. We are talking about the same Jimmy Ferris here? The rock star?”
“Shame on you, Lena,” she said, her smile belying her words. “You’ve been around long enough by now to know that being a rock star doesn’t always mean what you think it does.”
“Maybe …”
“If he’s guarded, it’s for a reason.”
“He’s talked to you about it?” I asked curiously.
She barked out a laugh. “Ha, I don’t think so. I’m pretty much kept at a polite distance like everybody else. But you never know, ask him nicely, he might just talk to you.”
I wrinkled my nose. Despite today’s unprecedented events, the thought of Jimmy talking to me on a more regular basis as opposed to just barking out orders now and then seemed highly unlikely. “He might also just fire me for sticking my nose in his business.”
“True. These are the risks we take when we care about people.”
Something in the way she said that set me on edge. “Oh, no. Jimmy and I are strictly a business relationship.”
“I know.” Her smile? I didn’t trust it.
“Mom, this is a funeral. Get out of here,” said David, taking a stand beside his brother. “Davie, you were always sweeter to me than he was. You’ll help your poor old mom out, won’t you?” Her voice was noxious, falsely sweet. “Justa loan, baby. I just need a little help getting back on my feet.”
The man’s shoulders straightened. “From what I hear Jim’s loaned you more than enough money and you’ve flushed it all down the toilet. Haven’t you?”
“I need my medicine.”
“Your medicine, what bullshit,” sneered Jimmy. “What you need is to get your ass out of here before we call the cops.”
“Leave, Mom,” said David. “This isn’t right. We’re here to say goodbye to Lori. Have a little respect, huh?”
The sight brought the cold rushing back in. “We need to get your face cleaned up. Let’s get inside.”
“You knew she was in town? Last I heard she was still in LA.” David watched the retreating form of his mother, her long dark hair flying wild in the wind.
“She tracked me down to the hotel, rang this morning.”
David’s lips flat-lined. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“Got enough going on without worrying about her,” said Jimmy.
“Fuck’s sake, man. She’s my mother.”
“Yeah, mine too.”
His brother’s forehead went all wrinkled. It must be a Ferris thing, they both did it at times of stress, bewilderment or just about any other emotion. Meanwhile, Jimmy hadn’t moved an inch. He just stood there, bleeding.
“It’s cold,” said David.
Jimmy turned, giving their mom one last look. To all the world, his gaze must have looked bored, irritated. But the fingers fussing at the bottom of his jacket gave him away, to me at least. He wasn’t nearly as unaffected as he’d wish everyone to believe. “What do you wanna do, put her in a shelter? She won’t stay. Should we buy her some warmer clothes? She’ll have them traded for booze and drugs in under a minute. It’s all she cares about and all she wants.”
“Yeah, but …”
“But what?” asked Jimmy, blood slowly dripping from his face.
“Shit.” His brother shoved a hand through his shoulder length hair. They really were similar in so many ways. “Is it really that easy for you to just turn away?”
“I know it’s cold, Davie. I know.”
“Fuck man, you okay?” Mal asked
“I had this made especially at Saville Road in London. You have any idea what something like that costs?”
Please. The man had more money than god. “You hitting me up for a loan?”
He snorted.
“Because honestly, I don’t know if I like you enough for that.”
“Wasn’t aware you liked me at all,” he said, smoothing down his shirt as if that would help matters. He was right, the thing deserved a one-way ticket to the ragbag.
“Hmm. You’re not so bad. I’ve met much, much worse.” And we didn’t really need to get into that anytime this decade. I snapped my mouth shut and pushed up my glasses, got busy digging in the medicine chest. “What have we’ve got here.”
“Listen, Lena, about today …”
I waited for him to finish. And waited. “What?”
He scowled at the wall, avoiding my eyes completely. “I just … I just wanted to say, ah …”
“Well, that um, you were useful.”
“I was useful?” My brows rise to dangerous heights, I could feel them. After everything we’d been through today, useful was as good as it got?
A shrug. “Yeah, mostly.”
“Mostly? I was mostly useful.” Slowly, I shook my head, biting back an incredulous grin. Lucky my sense of self-worth wasn’t dependent on him or it’d be a sad, shriveled wreck hiding out in the corner by now. This man, he did my head in. It seemed only fair to repay the favor in kind. “I think that’s just about the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me, Mr. Ferris. It was just beautiful, like poetry. I’ll never think of the word useful the same way ever again.”
He sniffed disdainfully, giving me a dour look. “Great. And it was mostlyuseful.”
“Yes, sorry, mostly useful. Wow. I just don’t know how to thank you.”
“Less talk’d be a good start. Let’s get this over with.”
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir.” I stopped short of saluting, but only just.
Down the hallway drifted various noises as the wake slowly started winding down. There was the clink of plates and cutlery being gathered. I could hear Mal saying goodbye to someone followed by the hair-raising bang of the front door. It must have been caught by the wind. Some old Bob Dylan tune played low beneath it all.
“You’re welcome by the way,” I said, softening my voice, cutting him a break. His day, after all, had been far worse than mine. Plus, it obviously wasn’t easy for him to say thank you. Not that he’d exactly managed to. “I’m glad I was here to help.”
He looked up at me, eyes unguarded. At least, they weren’t cold and hard for a change.
“Me too,” he said quietly.
For a moment, I actually forgot myself. We just stared at each other in near silence, like we were waiting for something or trying to figure  something out. I don’t know. It was weird.
Then he turned away.
“Lena, hello?” He pointed to his cheek. “I’m still bleeding here.”
“Right,” I ripped into a fresh pad of gauze, then got busy wrestling with the lid on the disinfectant. Stupid childproof locks. “Let’s see if we can’t fix you.” When I sneaked a look he was staring off into infinity again, I’d apparently been tuned out.
“This’ll sting,” I said, liberally dousing the gauze. “Who knows how dirty her nails were. We need to clean it really well.”
He wrinkled his nose at the smell. “Don’t pretend you’re not going to enjoy it.”
I laughed softly. If I could just keep things light and easy everything would be okay. Or at least, as light and easy as things ever got between us. The air of misery around him, however, made it impossible to keep a distance.
“It wasn’t your fault,” I said.
He turned away, hands tight around the first aid kit making it creak again. “Finished?”
Carefully, I kept rubbing the cream in. The main problem with me is my mouth. In that I have one and use it far more than I probably should. It’s especially irritating when its hell-bent on bringing forth information that only serves to make me look dumb. “I dated this guy once who sold my car to score weed.”
Jimmy leaned back, away from my fingers. “Lotta weed.”
“Yeah.” I braced my palms on my hips, keeping my greasy fingers away from my body. “Sometimes you have to cut people loose for your own good.”
“You think I don’t know that?” he asked in a deceptively calm voice.
“Out there, you couldn’t bring yourself to hit her,” I said. “But she needed to leave. Seemed the least I could do was give her a shove in the right direction. And I don’t regret it.”
“Next time, stay out of it.”
Ask if he’s got a plain white shirt, yeah?”
“And hurry.”
No please. No thank you. No nothing.
Reso cosi’ : «Chiedigli se ha una semplice camicia bianca, okay?»    «Certo».    «E sbrigati».    Nessun “per favore”, né “grazie”. Niente. Come sempre.    Che testa di cazzo.
No surprise at Jimmy’s response registered on David’s face. Instead, he smiled. “Sure. I’ll find Ev and Ben.”
David paused. “Listen, earlier about mom. I didn’t mean—”
“Its fine,” cut in Jimmy. “Let it go.”
“I just … I didn’t give up on you. Seems harsh not to give her the same chance.”
Jimmy inhaled sharply. “You were ready to give up on me. Hell, you threatened to, remember? You all did. But that’s beside the point. I’ve given her every opportunity over the last few years. All she did was hit me up for more money every fucking chance she got. She doesn’t want help.
She’s perfectly happy living in the gutter.”
David winced.
I studied my feet and stayed silent. You couldn’t have cut the air with a knife, it would have taken a chain saw at the very least.
Awkward as hell.
If David hadn’t been blocking the doorway I’d have made a swift exit, given them some privacy to sort this out. But I was stuck, forced to bear witness. I highly doubted Jimmy would appreciate me seeing quite so much of him in one day. Not him as in the physical, but him and his secrets, his past. Such information had a way of binding people and my boss was one of the least likely people to want such a thing. He made my efforts at staying separate and solo over the last few years seem like child’s play. The strained relationship he had with his brother, whom he also worked with, was a prime example.
“Yeah,” sighed David, turning to go. “Guess she doesn’t.”
I waited till Jimmy and I were alone to speak. For a long moment the only sound was the dripping of the tap. Time to break the silence.
“He’s right,” I said. “The speech was perfect.”
Jimmy looked up at me from beneath his dark brows. His eyes were like ice storms, his jaw rigid.
“You did a brilliant job,” I said, concentrating on the positive part of his talk with his brother. “Really fantastic. Just like I said you would.”
The edge of his mouth twitched. Something inside of me lightened at the sight.
“You had to get that in there, didn’t you?” he asked.
“Yes, I did.”
He shook his head. “Great. Didn’t I tell you to go away?”

Cap 4 (tre italiano)
What?” asked Jimmy in a terse voice, never taking his eyes off the TV. On screen, a hockey game raged on, the someones against the someone elses. No, I honestly didn’t care enough to figure out who was playing.
We’d been back in Portland for two days and had mostly returned to our usual routine with only one or two minor behavioral differences.
Huh?” I asked, finger toying over the screen of my e-reader.
“You keep looking at me weird.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yeah, you do.” He bristled, giving me impatient side eyes. “You been doing it all day.”
“I have not. You’re imagining things.”
He wasn’t imagining things. Ever since that day in Coeur d’Alene, things had been different. I’d been different. I couldn’t seem to see, hear, or be near him without reacting in ways I sincerely wished I did not. Contrary to my hopes, the feelings had not dissipated. Instead, they seemed to have settled in for the duration, sinking further and further into my heart and mind. All of those glimpses into his psyche and his troubled past had changed things irrevocably. Both in how I looked at him, and how often. The truth was, this horrible idiotic crush, or whatever the hell it was, probably showed on my face every time I turned his way. It certainly felt like it did.
“I’m not gonna freak out again or anything, Lena,” he said. “Relax.”
Tradotto …riassumendo alla bene meglio …così
Ti dico di no». Mi misi a ridere, ma dentro di me ero terrorizzata a morte. Oh, Cristo santo, aveva fiutato qualcosa, si era accorto della mia sciocca, insensata adorazione per lui e per ogni suo minimo particolare. Chi volevo prendere in giro? Me lo si leggeva sicuramente in faccia ogni volta che lo guardavo. Io perlomeno avevo quella brutta sensazione. Non sarei mai riuscita a tenerlo nascosto, mai. La sbandata che mi ero presa era troppo grossa, troppo struggente…
p. 37 italiana
A pause. “No, I know. I’m not worried about that.”
“So stop looking at me already,” he grouched.
“I’m not!” I protested, sneaking a look.
He slumped further down in the corner of the couch, a frown embedded into his handsome face. Jeans and a black Henley were Jimmy’s casual home attire. I highly doubted a male model could have worn them as well. The man just had innate style and show. With my hair messily tied up on top of my head and glasses sitting on the end of my nose, I probably looked like an early candidate for a crazy cat lady. Give me a litter of kittens and I’d be set.
I put my e-reader aside, giving it up as a lost cause. With him in the room, I apparently had the concentration span of a four-year-old loaded up on sugar. But also, I had in fact come down here for a particular reason. “You didn’t call your brother back.”
“He’s called twice now.”
A one-shoulder shrug.
Tiny rivers of rain trickled down the outside of the window and a street light shone in the distance. Typical cold wet weather for this time of year. Just the thought of what it would be like outside in it was enough to make me shiver.
“I could grab the phone for you if you like,” I said. “I was just about to go get a drink.”
He slicked back his hair with the palm of his hand. “Why are you down here? You normally hang out in your room at night.”
“Is my being here a problem?”
“Didn’t say that. Just wondering what’s changed?”
Lots had changed. Lots and lots and then a bit more besides, the bulk of which I was still figuring out. No neat conclusions had yet presented themselves. I might have lied a smidgeon about not being worried about him. He did seem fine. Didn’t mean it wasn’t still my job to keep an eye on him. The funeral and his big blow-up still felt fresh.
“Nothing’s changed,” I lied. “Just got bored on my own, I guess.”
I pulled my comfy big old green cardigan tighter around me, feeling self-conscious. Plus the headlights were on high beam for some reason. Let us not explore why. But my annoying him was a given, I could probably manage it simply by breathing, such was the glory of Jimmy’s disposition. It’d never actually worried me before, however. I must be getting soft. Perhaps I shouldn’t have come down. Maybe I should just abort the spend-time/check-up-on-him mission and retreat back to my room.
“’kay,” he said.
That was it. All of that inner turmoil and he couldn’t even be bothered saying an entire word with regards to my presence. I guess he really didn’t mind.
“You cold?” he asked.
His head lay against the back of the couch, slowly looking me over. Nothing changed in his face, but his eyes seemed to heat somehow. Or maybe I was just imaging things.
“You’re all bundled up,” he said. “Need me to turn up the thermostat?”
“No. Thanks.” I might need to put some padding in my bra so my nipples were less obvious in their like for him. The room however was lovely and warm as the couch beneath my butt was beautifully comfortable. Jimmy didn’t stint on life’s luxuries. He wasn’t cheap.
“I’m good,” I said.
A chin tip.
“So, who’s winning the hockey game?” I curled my skinny jean clad legs up beneath me.
“I’m not really that into it. You can pick something to watch if you want.”
“Okay.” I held out my hand for the remote.
A soft chuckle came out of him, a rare, delightful sound indeed. It tickled over my skin in the strangest yet nicest fashion. If he actually ever laughed out loud I’d be in trouble.
“Not a chance, Lena. Only I operate the remote. I’ll flip through channels and you can tell me if anything appeals.”
“Only you operate the remote?”
“Control freak.”
“It’s a state-of-the-art home entertainment system, Lena. I had it shipped from Germany, special.” He waved the funky black remote around like it was his scepter. King Jimmy. He wished. “No way I’m risking it with you.”
“What?” My mouth fell open. “What do you mean, you’re notrisking it with me?”
“The coffee machine.” He grabbed a cushion and stuffed it behind his fat head, changing through to the first channel. A cooking show.
“Keep going.” I liked food. I just didn’t particularly want to be the one to have to make it. My mom had always done the cooking at home, suited me fine. “I barely touched the coffee machine. That was some weird random mechanical fault on the part of the universe.”
Next was some old 80s made-for-TV movie. You could tell by the hair, it was so high and dry looking. What wonders a keratin treatment would have done for those poor women. And the ginormous shoulder pads, yikes.
“Keep going, please,” I said. An old episode of Vampire Diaries flickered on next. “Ooh, Ian, you’re lovely. But I’ve already seen this one so keep going.”
“Thank fuck.” Jimmy punched the button and on came a nature documentary. Or at least I hoped that’s what it was given a shiny black stallion mounting a slightly terrified-looking mare took up the screen.
“Hey, it’s just like that shirt you borrowed off Mr. Ericson!” I clapped with joy and a slight amount of malice. “Horses humping, that’s beautiful.”
“You like that, do you?” his sly voice asked.
With the press of a button, miles and miles of bare and bouncy flesh filled the wide screen. With the exception of the woman in the man sandwich’s boobs. Those puppies stayed eerily gravity-defying still. And unlike mine, they weren’t the least bit pointy.
“That’s so sweet,” I sighed. “Nothing says true love like D.P.”
Jimmy sniggered and changed the channel, cars roared around a racetrack.
“Why is it so many men have the sense of humor of a smelly, pimple-faced, barely pubescent little jerk?” I pondered aloud.
“You don’t find that charming?” He asked, brow raised.
“Weird of me, I know.” I snagged a cushion and cuddled it to my chest. “I had this boyfriend once who thought it was amusing to … actually, no. I don’t want to tell that story. Ever.”
“Go on.”
“No. I’m happier pretending he never existed. Let’s leave my shameful dating choices in the past.”
“That’s hardly fair,” he said. “You know enough of my shit.”
Before I could form a reply Formula One turned into Downton Abbey and I squeed with excitement. “Stop here. Stop!”
Jimmy winced, rubbing his ear. “For Christ’s sake, use your inside voice.”
“This is a great show.” Two of the show’s lovers were chatting, decked out in the usual glorious English-gentry-type gear. Awesome. “And particularly pertinent to our situation, I think.”
“Huh?” Lip curled, he stared at the screen, distinctly unimpressed by the splendor. Plebian.
“It’s all about life in a turn-of-the-century noble house in England.”
“Yeah. The castle and what they’re wearing kind of gave it away.”
“Aren’t the dresses beautiful?” I hugged my cushion happily. I’d live and die in jeans, but it was nice to dream. “See, there are the wealthy lords and ladies who have everything and their servants, who have zilch and have to run around after the lords and ladies, catering to their every whim with barely a thank you all day long. I mean, they’re basically treated like second-class citizens and completely taken for granted by their bosses. Isn’t that barbaric?”
My irony-laden comment garnered a lone grunt. Though to be fair, he could put a lot of emotion into a grunt, quite a variation of tone and character. The way Jimmy did it, it was almost a sentence, a story. He turned being a caveman into an art form.
“And that’s Lady Mary.” I pointed at the screen. “She says all sorts of horrible things that she doesn’t mean, always hiding behind this snotty, rude persona. When really underneath she’s got a tender warm heart and a conscience just like everyone else. Doesn’t that sound similar to someone we know?”
“You talk a lot.” He yawned. “We watching this or what?”
“You’ll watch this with me?”
“It’s kind of nice having the company.” He kept his eyes on the screen. I thought I detected a hint of somber to his voice. Perhaps Ev had been right and he was lonely. Often the guys were coming and going during the day, but with Mal spending some time in Idaho with his family, the band was on a break. Jimmy had been more fidgety than normal, at a loss for what to do with himself. Even normally, however, nighttimes were quiet in the big house.
“Yeah, it is,” I said.
We sat in silence for a while, both of us studying the screen. Well, with the exception of me occasionally slyly studying him. I’d be an expert in covert relations by the time I finally left Portland.
He’d shoved his hands back behind his head, face relaxed and eyes open. Interestingly enough, he apparently got caught up in the period drama. Went to show you shouldn’t judge people. It was nice—companionable—sitting there with him as opposed to hanging alone in my room. I’d have to do it more often. For his sake of course.
“Sure you don’t want to call David?” I asked.
The edge of his mouth turned downward. “I can put the game back on real easy if you like.”
“None of my business, you’re right. Let’s just enjoy the show in silence, shall we?”
“Let’s,” he said in his deep voice.
# # #
Pag 38 italiana
“For goodness sake, what do you think, Jimmy? That I stole it to sleep in or something?” I laughed bitterly. Sure as hell, the truth deserved a good mocking. I’d sunk so despicably low.
I hadn’t even meant to steal the stupid thing, but the shirt had been mixed up with my laundry a few days ago. It’d been the first top I laid my hand on after stepping out of the shower, ready to go to bed. Without thought, I’d put it on and it’d been so soft, the scent of him lingering beneath the laundry detergent. Every night since, I’d found myself in it come bedtime. My shame knew no limits. And no, I still hadn’t quit. The words still hadn’t come even close to leaving my mouth.
He frowned. “No.”
“That I have some deep secret longing to feel close to you resulting in my stealing your shirt like some creepy perv?” “Course I don’t fucking think that,” he replied crankily

Pag 40 italiana

Jimmy, seriously, nothing’s going on.” I wound up my long hair and tied it into a loose knot, keeping my hands busy less their shakiness betray my guilt, the bastards. “And have you called David back yet? He called again. I’m getting tired of making excuses for you.”
“I’ve been busy.” He turned his back on me, staring out the window. “And I pay you to make excuses for me.”
“I think I’m going to start charging you extra for lies. Someone needs to pay for the stain on my soul.”
No reply. His broad shoulders seem to be bent beneath some weight, his spine bowed. Not good. This was a mood I apparently couldn’t joke him out of.
“You know you’ve been really tense lately,” I said. “Why don’t I book you a massage? Wouldn’t that be nice? And then afterward, we could chill out and watch some TV.”
He watched me over his shoulder, a muscle twitching in his jaw. “Sure, sounds good. I’m going for another jog.”
“It’s raining.”
“I won’t melt.” Without further ado he left, disappearing into the hallway. He was right of course, something was going on with me. What was going on with him and his brother concerned me much more.

Tutto questo tradotto così:
Jimmy, sul serio, non sta succedendo proprio nulla». Mi attorcigliai i capelli e li legai in un nodo lento, più che altro per tenere le mani occupate e impedire al loro tremore di tradirmi, piccole bastarde. «Lo sai che sei molto teso ultimamente? Ti prenoto un bel massaggio? Non ti piacerebbe?».    Un piccolo muscolo si contrasse sulla mascella.    «Era un no?».    Non si degnò di rispondere.
# # #
Pag 42 italiana
The problem with the push-up lay within the way it pretty much mimicked the act of sex. (Lay. Heh.) All the sweating, straining, and up and down of the pelvic region. It was disgusting, shouldn’t be allowed. Also, I really needed to get laid or find someone willing to hold hands with me at the very least. Maybe I’d reached the limits of physical depravation and I was touch starved. God, I hoped that was all. Him holding me before the funeral had awakened certain needs I sadly couldn’t meet on my own. Nor was spending more time with him helping. We’d pretty much fallen into a habit of hanging out together each night, debating who got to choose what we’d watch.
It was nice. Too nice.
Last night when I’d wandered into the living room he’d actually almost smiled and shifted about in his corner of the couch. Like he’d been waiting on me or something, anticipating my arrival. I had to be reading the signals wrong. I’d given him a clumsy grin, sat down, and endured a quarter of football before my wits returned, I’d been so surprised. Even if I was wrong, it might just be time to break the ban on men, sex, and romance. Or at least with regards to the men and sex parts. I couldn’t keep mooning after Jimmy like a smitten teenager. Problem was, time spent with him just soothed something in me. Some need for companionship or a yearning for the friends I’d left behind when I’d decided to head out into the big bad world a few years back. When everything had gone to shit.
If only he wasn’t so nice to perv on. I crossed my legs, squeezing my thighs together. Sweat darkened the thin cotton of his shirt and the material stuck to him outlining each and every muscle. Man, he had a lot of them, his arms for instance …
“Stop it.”

Pag 44 italiana

The side of his mouth curled up the tiniest bit. Good god, was that a flash of dimple? My pulse rocketed like it was the Fourth of July. I fucking loved dimples. They were so lickable, so divine.
“Lena,” he growled.
Instantly, I got wet. “Sorry. I just … what is that?”
I stopped and sniffed at the air. There was a strange smoky smell in the room lingering beneath the musk of Jimmy’s sweat and the remnants of his cologne. I thought my imagination must be playing tricks on me, but no. My heart sunk to the depths of ….

Tradotto con 
«Lena», brontolò.    Mi ero bagnata in un nanosecondo. «Scusa, stavo solo…». «Vai».     Schizzai fuori dalla stanza.    Aveva ragione. Dovevo andarmene


…..my chest. As signs went, this wasn’t a good one.
“What’s what?” he asked.
“The cigarette smell.” I stood, wandering around the table. “It’s coming from you.”
He sat back on his haunches. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It’s also coming from your jacket.”
His gaze jumped to the item of clothing in question, left hanging on the back of a kitchen chair. It was a gray all-weather one, nothing fancy though I bet it cost a bomb. Perfectly suitable for skulking about outside to have a smoke. He licked his lips, eyes suddenly cagey. “Lena…”
“You’ve started smoking again, haven’t you?”
“Don’t require your permission. I can do what I like.”
“Then why have you been hiding it from me?”
He jumped to his feet, brushed off his hands. “’Cause it’s none of your business.”
“Guess again, bud. You and your health is exactly my business.”
Hand extended, he reached for the jacket. Sadly, for him, I was well ahead of the game there. I clasped the coat to my chest, rifling through pockets one-handed. It couldn’t have been going on for long. Still, I should have been paying more attention, been on it the minute it began.
“Give it to me,” he said, tugging on a stray sleeve.
I liberated the gold cardboard box from a side pocket and held it behind me, out of his reach. “No more, Jimmy. You’ve worked so hard to get healthy, you are not losing ground now.”
“You going to bitch at me about drinking coffee next?” He tossed the jacket aside, well riled up. His damp hair hung in his face, eyes flashing fury. “It’s just the occasional fucking cigarette. I’ve given up everything else. Hand them over, Lena.”
“You know you shouldn’t be smoking. That’s why you look so guilty.”
“I do not look guilty,” he said, voice terse and face guilty as all god damn hell. “I’m a grown man and I repeat, this is none of your business.”
“I care about you.” I quickly dashed back away from him, putting some room between me and the angry rock star. The nice big eight-seater kitchen table made a suitable barricade. Though ideally an electric fence would have been best given the look on his face. A cattle prod wouldn’t hurt either.
“You gave these up for a reason,” I said. “What was it?”
“Give them back.” He held out his hand demandingly, mouth flat and unimpressed.
“You made the choice to stop using them months ago, didn’t you? Why did you do that, Jimmy? Tell me.”
He declined to answer. Instead, slowly he moved left. So I of course moved right, keeping the same distance and the bulk of the table between us. Safety mattered.
“Lena,” he said in a low voice. “I don’t feel like going out in this storm to buy another pack tonight so you are going to give those back to me. And then you’re going to keep your pretty little nose out what doesn’t concern you.”
“That’s an order, Lena.”
Did he really still think orders worked with me? By the firm set of his jaw, I guessed yes. Crazy wishful thinking on his part.
“Let’s compromise here,” I said, pulling a chair out from beneath the table. “I think we should sit down and talk about this like adults. Discuss the pros and cons, and make sure you’re 
making an informed decision.”
His big body held preternaturally still, strong fingers grasping the back of the chair in front of him. “Sure. We can do that.”
“Thank you. That’s all I’m asking.”
Slowly, he sat himself down in the chair. The he cocked his head, waiting for me to do likewise. Veins in his neck and arms stood out against the skin. Please, as if he wasn’t ready to pounce. The man must think I was an idiot. My breath quickened, breasts rising and falling beneath my shirt. For a moment his gaze stayed caught on them, color lighting his face. Boobs did make for an awesome distraction.
I might not be able to stop him smoking long term. I knew that. But I was sure as hell stopping him for tonight and then talking to him properly about it. Sadly, he sat between me and the garbage composter which would have made short work of destroying the things. I’d have to get inventive.
“Okay. I’m really glad we can be reasonable about this.” I pretended to start lowering my curvy butt onto the chair. “Thanks for agreeing to talk it out with me, Jimmy.”
Shiny sharp teeth filled in his handsome smile. “Course, Lena. Anything for you.”
“That’s so sweet.” I smiled.
And then I bolted.
Adrenaline surged through me and my legs were pumping for all I was worth. I’d flush the fuckers in the bathroom off the front hallway. Perfect. Lucky it wasn’t that far because even with the head start, he was gaining fast. Given he liked jogging and I liked pie, this was to be expected.
The chiming of the front door bell echoed through the house. It kept time with the pounding of my heart and the thumping of Jimmy’s heavy footsteps behind me. I grabbed hold of the edge 
of the bathroom door, socked feet slipping on the slick marble floor. So close now. Jimmy’s arm looped around my waist, drawing me back. But with his bare feet and my socked ones, neither of us had great traction. We did, however, have a lot of momentum. I flew forward, feet leaving the cold hard ground. If it wasn’t for Jimmy’s hold I’d have cracked open my chin on the hallway floor. As it was, my knees bore some of the impact, but he took the brunt. His palm smacked hard against the marble floor, breaking our fall and holding me up those few necessary inches to spare my face from meeting its doom. I lost my grip and the pack of cigarettes skittered across the floor, stopping.
Again the doorbell rang.
My hair had escaped its topknot, falling in my face in a dark tangle. I spied the pack a few yards out from the front door and scurried forward, clawing after the damn thing.
Jimmy put a halt to this by simply lowering his monstrous weight on top of me, trapping me belly down. Muscle made him approximately the same bulk as a baby elephant.
It turned out then when squished, I made a sound horribly close to “oomph-urgh.”
Jimmy laughed most evilly.
“Get off me,” I yelled, wriggling beneath him.
“Are you going to give this up?” His breath was warm against my ear, the length of his body pressed against my back. In any other situation, it’d be damn arousing. My ass accidentally rubbed against his groin and oh wow, holy hell. A hot flush swept straight through me.
Damn. So, it was arousing. “Never!”
“You’re not going to win.” Sweaty fingers wrapped around my wrist, holding it back from reaching the treasure. I could feel his cock firming, pressing against my rear. Hell, now he was enjoying it too much too. It had to be just a physical response on his part. “You’re being ridiculous.”
“Oh, and you’re not?” I panted, nipples drilling holes into the marble flooring.
Someone banged on the front door. Huh, that’s right, we had a visitor outside waiting in the storm. All while we wrestled it out in a pseudo-sexual manner on the front entry floor. Excellent.
Keys jangled and the lock turned, then David Ferris came in along with a gust of bitingly cold wet air. A damp late-autumn leaf slapped me in the face. Jimmy carefully peeled it off before I could react. The wind cut off as David shut the door behind him. He stood frowning down at us.
“Guys,” he said, eyes alight with laughter. “You taking up wrestling or what?”
“Why yes.” I tapped my short fingers nails against the floor, put my head in my hand. “It was too wet for Jimmy to go jogging, so … yeah. Had to improvise.”
David’s tongue played behind his cheek, his smile huge. “Right. Great.”
On my back, Jimmy groaned. “She was acting nuts about something. Long story.”
“I was doing my job and caring for your welfare,” I said. “Will you get off me already?”
Then David noticed the pack of cigarettes at his feet. Shit. The wrinkles on his forehead were too numerous to count. With the toe of his combat boot, he kicked them toward us. Lightning quick, Jimmy snatched them. Dammit.
“You start smoking again, Jim?” His brother’s voice expressed great displeasure and disappointment. Every inch of Jimmy tensed against my back.
“They’re mine,” I said.
“No, they’re not.” My boss’s gargantuan mass disappeared off of me. Before I could return myself to an upright position, hands gripped me beneath the arms. I was lifted back up onto my feet like I weighed no more than a dandelion.
Jimmy cleared his throat. “Something else for you to disapprove of about me, right Dave?”
“That’s not the way it is,” his brother said, face somber. “I’ve been trying to call you all week.”
“Yeah. Sorry, been busy.”
The two brothers just sort of stared at one another. This reunion was not going well at all. If Jimmy had his lips any more tightly pinned together they’d have disappeared from existence. Women everywhere would mourn their loss. Or at least I would.
The pain and regret in David’s eyes was horrible to see. Surely Jimmy would forgive him. He was family. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly the poster child for absolving siblings. But these two were different, they loved each other.
“It’s good you came over,” I said. “How’s Ev?”
“Fine. Thanks.” David nodded.
“We’re just in the middle of something here, Dave.” Fingers wrapped crushingly tight around the cigarette pack, Jimmy did his usual avoidance thing. He glared at the floor like it’d eaten the last Reece’s Pieces mini-cup in the pack. Not that he ate chocolate, but you get what I mean.
“I’ll catch you later,” he said dismissively, not even looking at his brother.
My spirits dived. “Jimmy—”
“Later okay, Dave?” His firm voice echoed through the room. 
he silence that followed it was awful.
“Don’t.” I stepped closer to him, keeping my voice low. “You two should talk.”
“It’s okay, Lena.” David scratched his head, gave me a mildly embarrassed look. Water dripped off his coat, forming puddles at his feet. “We’ll talk when he’s ready.”
Jaw set, Jimmy stared down at me, saying nothing.
Without another word David turned and opened the door, heading back out into the storm. Jimmy swung the door shut. Plastic crinkled as he crushed the pack of cigarettes into nothing more than mangled rubbish.
“Go after him. Now.” I jogged over to the hallway closet and threw open the door, grabbing the first jacket I found.
He hurled the mess of cardboard and tobacco onto the side table. The cigarettes had definitely met their end.
“Be quiet, Lena.”
“No. You only have one brother and he’s actually a pretty decent guy,” I said, the words tumbling out of me in a rush. “He messed up saying what he did and siding with your mom in Idaho, and I know it hurt you. But, Jimmy, he knows it too and he regrets it. It’s eating him up, you can see it in his eyes.”
“We’re not talking about this.”
“I have one sibling and we hate each other’s guts. It’s basically split my family in two. Trust me, you do not want this situation escalating into that.” I grabbed hold of his arm. “Jimmy?”
He shook me off. “Can we not do this?”
“Everyone screws up sometime. You of all people know that. But he’s your brother and he loves you. Give him a chance to apologize.”
“What, so you’re on his side now, are you?” He glared down at me. “Davie always was the pretty boy with the soft heart. 
irls love him. But you gotta know he’s taken, Lena. He’s not going to give you what you need.”
“Oh, please.” I shoved him hard in the chest with the coat, actually sending him rocking back a step. So damn frustrated I could have kicked him. “Are you for real? I am not interested in your brother. And I am on your side. Always.”
The man did not look convinced.
“I am only worried about you and how wound up you’ve been the last week, worrying over this and missing him. David was wrong, but he knows it. I promise you.”
For a moment he stared at me.
“Please, Jimmy.”
He looked away, Adams apple bobbing. Then, with a snarl, he twisted the door handle, dashing straight out into the pouring rain. The cold wind whipped up my hair and stung my face. I wrapped myself up in his forgotten jacket, hiding behind the partially open door. Jimmy ran across the front lawn and out to the black 4x4, sitting at the curb. The car door opened and David stepped out. At first they kept a good body length between them, David’s arms crossed and Jimmy’s on his hips. Then David reached out, clasping his brother’s shoulder and giving it a shake as if imploring him. Jimmy seemed to loosen up after that, they moved closer. Soon enough their heads were together, obviously having some sort of conversation despite standing out in a storm. Good. That was good. I think David nodded. It was hard to see.
A couple of gold and brown leaves blew past me into the house.
Jimmy turned to come back and his brother grabbed his arm, pulling him in for a brief back-thumping hug.
Yes. Thank you, baby Jesus.
Finally, Jimmy ran back to the house, soaked to the ever-loving bone.
“Careful, don’t slip with your wet feet.” I offered him his jacket but he shook his head and stripped off his shirt. Water ran off his wet hair, down his face and neck. “I’ll get a towel.”
“Don’t bother. I’m fucking freezing.” He made for the bathroom and walked straight into the shower, turning on the hot water.
“Everything’s okay with you two now?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He pushed down his sweat pants, baring his black snug-fitting boxer briefs with quite the parcel up front. Holy shit, his thighs, his washboard chest, his everything. What with all of the sudden sex fantasies filling my head, I was surprised there’s any room left in the building. My body went into shock, pulse rocketing. I could warm him. For certain, my face and other pertinent body parts felt on fire. Good god, I bet his skin tasted divine.
Jimmy raised a brow. “Lena?”
I blinked.
“What, you waiting to tell me you were right again?”
“Consider it done.” Jimmy stood, hands on hips, watching me. The look in his eyes, I couldn’t decipher it. But his lips parted and it seemed he was almost on the verge of asking me something. Then changed his mind. “C’mon, what are you doing in here? Unless you’re offering to scrub my back, you need to get out.”
My eyes went wide, as wide could be. “What? Are you serious?”
Gently, he grabbed me by the upper arm and marched me out of the bathroom. “Get out, Lena.”
“I was just trying to talk to you.” I was 
“I was just trying to talk to you.” I was so not trying to talk to him. But now, we very much needed to discuss his back scrubbing needs and how I, as employee of the month, could meet them.
“Talk to me later.”
And he slammed the door in my face.
Disappointment was a nasty big beast and it was sitting right on my heart. I wrapped my arms around myself, guarding against the chill. It seemed that standing in the doorway, I’d gotten a bit damp myself from the mist and the encroaching rain. Mostly, however, it was about being thrown out of heaven, a.k.a., the ground-floor bathroom. How was that for gratitude? I gave the door the finger.
“You did good,” he hollered from within.
I dropped my arm to my side. “Thanks.”
“Dave and me are all fine again.”
“Great,” I shouted back.
“Yeah, you told me so.”
I smiled. “I’m glad. Are you going to stop smoking?”
Muttered swearing. “Yeah, okay. And stop hanging around the door when I’m showering. That’s creepy.”
I rolled my eyes. It wasn’t like I could see anything through the keyhole.
Let’s pretend I didn’t try.
# # #
Two-thirty in the morning was kind of a bitch as times went. It  fell into the in-between, nowhere land. Too late to get a really good night’s sleep, but much too early to start the day.
I rolled over onto my back and stared at the ceiling. It remained every bit as entertaining and enlightening as it had for the last four hours. Over on my bedside table, my water glass was empty. This made sense since my bladder felt demandingly full. All of me was awkward, uncomfortable. I bet Jimmy paid top dollar for this mattress, Kings and queens probably slept on the same. And yet, it still did me no good.
With a groan I threw back the covers and dragged my sorry ass into the bathroom. I took care of business and washed my hands. Since I was already up and grumpy, I might as well go in search of chocolate.
Don’t question the logic. It made sense to my sleep-deprived mind and that’s all that mattered.
I trudged down the stairs. A flickering light came from within the living room, shadows playing across the wall opposite. I’d abandoned Jimmy to a documentary on Phil Spector hours and hours ago. Mr. Spector might have been a musical genius but considering where he wound up, it was all a bit too macabre for my tastes. I’d bid the rock star goodnight.
Tigers were mutely roaring and roaming the golden savannah on the wide screen. Jimmy lay passed out on the couch, fast asleep. The lines of his beautiful face were no less determined and harsh in repose. Yet they seemed softer somehow without his piss and vinegar going on. His long dark lashes lay against his cheek and his lips were slightly apart. They looked so soft. A feeling, a sensation worked its way up from deep in my belly, spreading right through me until it tingled in my toes. It was all about him. It was hot and cold, forever and never all at once. It was physical, but it was also more, much more. I wanted to know him, every last little thing about him. And I wanted him to know me. I wanted to be a real part of his life, not just his 
employee. To be the person he confided even his darkest thoughts in, the person he trusted.
It was insane.
Ever notice how the world seems different in the wee small hours of the morning, when you’ve been awake too long? Surreal somehow and yet clearer, quieter so you can hear the whispered truth of things you couldn’t bring yourself to face in the light. My feelings for Jimmy weren’t fading. I was a fool to imagine they would, living in his house and breathing the same air as him. They weren’t leaving anytime soon.
And if they weren’t, then I had to.
I couldn’t take another broken heart. Especially not when I could see it coming a mile away as in the case of Jimmy Ferris. He needed me to be a helper and a friend, not a lovelorn little twerp making starry eyes at him. He already had those by the bucket load.
I drew a deep breath, let it go. If only it didn’t feel like I was being slowly cut open at the thought of leaving him. Overly gruesomely dramatic, but true. But it was just the like the old ripping off the Band-Aid analogy. Better a smallish pain now than heartbreak and ruin down the track.
Still, the next few weeks were going to be hard.
Afterward, once I had my replacement settled in, maybe I’d go sit on a beach somewhere and feel sorry for myself. Get out of the rain and into the sun for a while, order frothy drinks with little umbrellas and fruit in them. I could wait out my sister’s wedding and then sneak home while she was away on her honeymoon. Yes, I had a plan.
Jimmy’s feet were bundled together, arms pressed against his chest. Poor, baby. He must be cold. Not good after his time out in the rain this afternoon. I grabbed a couple of throws from the cabinet, chucked one at his feet and spread the other out wide. 
The fine woolen material drifted down to cover him from shoulder to toe.
“Better,” I whispered.
“Yeah,” he whispered back, opening one eye to look me over. “Cute jammies.”
“I’ll have you know that flannel teddy bear print jammies are on the cutting edge of fashion.” I sat down, slumping tiredly. “What are you doing here?”
“Fell asleep. You woke me stomping down the stairs.” He sat up in slow motion, rubbing at his head. His dark hair stuck out every which way. The television cast shadows across his face. “What time is it?”
“Just past two-thirty.”
“What are you doing up?”
I shrugged. “Couldn’t sleep. Sometimes I just can’t get my stupid head to turn off.”
A nod and a yawn. “Pretty sure we can find something better than a nature documentary to watch.”
“You don’t have to keep me company. It’s late. Or early,” I amended. “Go on up to bed, I’ll be fine.”
He picked up the spare blanket and tossed it into my lap. “Once I’m awake I don’t tend to get back to sleep so easy.”
“Sorry I woke you. Pass me the remote?”
He chuckled darkly. “Lena, Lena. Shame on you. I’m half awake, not crazy.”
“Boys and their toys.” I wrapped the blanket around me, settling in.
He just gave me a half smile with the faintest trace of dimple. Actually, it was more of a quarter grin with a dash of the devil. But he was getting better at smiling and that’s what counted. It 
was going to be one of the regrets of my life that I’d never got to see the full thing. I bet it was lethal in all the ways.
We didn’t talk much. It was nice just having the company.
The last thing I remembered was being spread out on my half of the big couch, watching some cool old black-and-white movie about gangsters in the ’40s. I woke up in my own bed the next morning, carefully tucked in. So carefully, it was a struggle to get my arms out at first from beneath the blankets. Jimmy had obviously carried me up and put me to bed. When I tried to thank him, he just ignored me and changed the subject.
Same old, same old.

“Later, Benny,” Jimmy said without taking his eyes off me.
“Right. Have fun, guys.” The big man ambled on out, not particularly bothering to hide his smile.
“I just … I got a bit moody last week.” He crossed his arms and said in a rush, “But it wasn’t nothing to do with you.”
“No, of course not. But I have to live with you. So when you get into these moods, it affects me. ”
Further scowling.
“Not that this is about us.” I shook my head. “I mean, there is no us. I don’t know why I even used the word. This decision is just about me. It’s time for me to move on.”
Jimmy’s jaw clenched. “I don’t like change.”
“We’ll make the handover as smooth as possible.”
“Because the record company and Adrian would still like someone around to keep an eye on things. I happen to agree it’s not a completely bad idea,” he said. “I don’t need you counseling me and messing with my head, giving me your version of whatever philosophical bullshit turns you on. I just need you to be here. How is that so hard?”
“It’s not. But it doesn’t explain why you’re so hell-bent on that person being me.”
“Look, you’re basically the best out of the bunch, okay? Someone else might be far worse. I’m not going to risk it. You have to stay.”
My nose wrinkled up, I could feel it.
“Hang on, is this about what happened before the funeral?” he asked.
My mouth opened but I had nothing. He didn’t mean when he clung to me, but thanks to my guilty conscience, it was all I could think of.

“You’re an idiot.” God, he was. He truly was. I gave him a look that hopefully conveyed this fact tenfold. “Don’t you think if I could just switch it off I would have done so by now? Do you think I want to feel this way about you?”
“It’s not about me, Lena. It’s the whole fame thing. Once you realize that, you can just get past it and move on.”
“That’s the problem. It is about you. And that’s why I can’t move on,” I said, pointing in the general direction of my bosoms which were, incidentally, heaving on account of my being worked up.
Jimmy’s gaze dropped to said cleavage before darting back to my face. His lips thinned in anger, like I’d tricked him into checking me out. As if.

«Che cazzo ne so, voi ragazze andate matte per le situazioni drammatiche».
 PAG 51
........... “I happen to like this job,” I said. “It paid well even before you started throwing more money at me. I get to live in your palace rent free and for the most part, the work is easy. It’s all good. But the thing is, sometimes, when you’re not being a jerk, I like you so much it hurts. I like the way your true self comes out when you think no one else is looking.”
“Lena …”
“But it’s the little things, really. Like the way you pretend not to remember whose turn it is to pick what we watch on TV so I get more turns than you. And the way you sit up with me sometimes when I can’t sleep.”
He grabbed at the back of his neck. “God, Lena. C’mon, that’s crazy. That stuff’s nothing.”
“You’re wrong. It’s something. I know you don’t take praise well, but you’re not half as horrible as you make yourself out to be.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’m a real misunderstood sweetheart. Shit.”
“I’m not saying you’re perfect. We both know you’re a long way from that, and hey, so am I. I’m just saying …” I searched for the words and frustratingly came up empty. Hell, what a conversation. “Gah! Again.”
“So, what? You’re worried your …” 


He faced me, hands on hips. “Yeah, after our talk today, I wanted to know where you were at?”
“So you accept that ordering me to stay doesn’t actually make it so?”
“Maybe.” He meandered on over to my desk and casually started sifting through the debris. Half of the contents of my purse were scattered across the table, along with a couple of magazines. Oh no damn it, one of them lay open. Shit. I’d already had about enough embarrassment today to last me a decade. Please God don’t let him see.
“Leave my stuff alone please, Jimmy.”
“What’s this?” He picked it up, of course he did. Then he began to read. “Guide to getting over him. Interesting.”
“Well you didn’t just expect me to turn tail and run without at least investigating alternatives, did you?”
He lifted one shoulder. “Pretty much.”
“Great. Your faith in me is heartening. So what have you been thinking about?”
“Your feelings,” he deadpanned, looking up from the magazine.
I took a breath. “Jimmy, I’m impressed. You almost managed to say it in a normal voice this time.”
“I practiced downstairs for a while.” He sat on the edge of my bed, legs spread wide, making himself completely at home. Which I guess made sense to a degree.
“So what about my feelings?”
“You know this isn’t half bad. Some of this advice is pretty sound.” He kept on reading.
“You’ve suffered from unrequited passions yourself, I take it?”
He snorted. “Course not. I always got whoever I wanted.”
“Of course you did.” I bowed my head, properly chided. Shame on me for thinking otherwise. Doubtless he’d left a trail of broken hearts behind him an ocean wide.
“Which was not always a good thing.” The arrogance slipped from his face and he frowned, his jaw taut. He stared into the distance, remembering what, I wondered? When he realized I was watching him, he swallowed, gave the magazine a shake. “We should do this.”
“What? Do what?”
“One. You need to get out and see other people.” He winced. “You’re obviously not so great at getting hookups, so don’t worry, I’ll help you out with that. Two. Try to focus on my flaws.”
“You want me to follow the list to help me get over my crush on you?”
“Yeah, stop interrupting. This is important. Two. Focus on my flaws.” He gave me a cursory glance. “I don’t see you having any trouble with that one. Three. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, needy and or angry.”
I pushed up my glasses. “I see.”
“Yeah. Honestly, it’s really unattractive, Lena. No one wants to see that shit.”
“Four. A bunch of them sort of rolled into one here, again. Go out with friends. Try something new. Get fit. Pamper yourself. Have fun. Enjoy life. Go on a trip. Paint your toenails, whatever the fuck. Blah, blah, blah. You get what I mean.”
“Mm.” I nodded.
“That’s pretty much it.”
“And I’m supposed to follow this?”
He gave me a long look. “You said you didn’t really wanna leave, that you liked the job. Prove it.”
I laughed ever so slightly manically. The decision had been made and it hadn’t been an easy one. Backtracking now did not seem wise. “Jimmy, please. It’s just some stupid magazine article probably written by a bored intern on their lunch break. This is not science. It’s not going to fix anything.”
“Then why was it lying open at this page?”
Good question. Strands of black hair hung over his forehead, hanging in his eyes. Without thought, he pushed them back. My fingers itched to do just that, to brush back his hair and sooth his fevered brow. Now that he seemed particularly hot in the temperature sense.
And he thought some wisdom out of a magazine could cure me.
“Never know, Lena. It just might work.” He dropped the magazine in my lap, gaze pinning me to the spot. “And I think you owe it to me to try.”
My chin went up. “I do, huh?”
“I gave you a chance. Gave you this job, and made every effort to accommodate you. Not fair you’d just take off after not even two months without giving it your best shot. You owe me”
“You hired me because you thought I’d be easier to manipulate than another actual counselor and because Mal and David harangued you. Let’s not lose sight of the truth here.”

Si mise di fronte a me, con le mani sui fianchi. «Ho riflettuto».
    «Riguardo?»    «A quello che provi», disse impassibile.
    Feci un respiro. «Jimmy, sono colpita. Sei quasi riuscito a dirlo con una voce normale stavolta».    «Mi sono esercitato un po’ prima di salire». Si sedette sul bordo del letto, appoggiandosi indietro sulle mani, le gambe distese, come se fosse tranquillo a casa sua. Cosa abbastanza comprensibile immagino, fino a un certo punto. «Comunque sia, ho fatto qualche ricerca sul tuo problema».    «Il mio problema, eh?».
    Recuperò un foglietto di carta piegato dalla tasca dei jeans. «Sì. Ho consultato un paio di siti e danno più o meno tutti lo stesso consiglio».
    «A che proposito?».    Mi passò il foglio e lo afferrai. Era una lista, ma oltre a quello, non avevo la più pallida idea di cosa ci fosse.    «Hai una calligrafia illeggibile», borbottai. «Ma è scritto in inglese, almeno?»    «Dammi qua». Riprese il foglio e si schiarì la voce. «Uno: esci con altre persone».    «Cosa?»    «Devi uscire e frequentare altra gente. È chiaro che non sei molto pratica nel rimorchiare, ma non ti preoccupare, a questo ci penso io. Due: cerca di concentrarti sui miei difetti».    Piano piano, iniziai a capire. «È una lista per aiutarmi a superare la mia cotta per te?»    «Sì, non interrompermi. Due: concentrati sui miei difetti». Mi lanciò uno sguardo rapido. «E qui non credo che ci siano problemi Tre: smettila di autocommiserarti, di dirti che hai bisogno di affetto e/o di essere arrabbiata. Confermo, è davvero poco attraente. Nessuno vuole sentire queste stronzate».    «O-okay».
   «Quattro: una specie di concentrato di buoni consigli. Esci con gli amici. Cerca situazioni nuove. Rimettiti in forma. Coccolati un po’. Divertiti. Goditi la vita. Fai un viaggio. Mettiti lo smalto ai piedi, o fai quel che cazzo ti pare. Bla, bla, bla, insomma hai capito».    «Mmh». Annuii.
    «È più o meno tutto qua». Ripiegò il foglio con cura e me lo offrì.    «E quindi dovrei seguire questa lista?».    Mi guardò a lungo. «Hai detto che non volevi davvero andartene, che ti piaceva questo lavoro. Dimostralo».    Risi debolmente.    «Non si sa mai, Lena. Magari funziona». Mi lasciò la lista sulle gambe e mi inchiodò con quegli occhi azzurri. «E penso che ci devi provare, me lo devi».    «Ah, te lo devo?»    «Ti ho dato una possibilità. Ti ho dato questo lavoro anche se non eri qualificata per farlo, come spesso hai sottolineato. Mi sembra scorretto che tu te ne vada dopo nemmeno due mesi, senza almeno provarci. Me lo devi, sì».    «Mi hai assunta perché pensavi che sarei stata più facile da manipolare rispetto a una vera assistente e perché Mal e Dave ti hanno fatto la ramanzina. Non perdiamo di vista la realtà, ora».  

A desert spoon was tossed into into my lap. “Will you stop throwing things at me? It’s bad enough you feel the need to start the day that way.”
Prendi».     Un cucchiaino da dessert mi rimbalzò sulle tette, facendole tremare. Né la mia maglia né la mia imbottitura naturale potevano proteggermi. «Ahi, ma la vuoi smettere di tirarmi le cose addosso? È già abbastanza difficile iniziare la giornata in questo modo


PAG 75
He might have a point there. It wasn’t my strong suit. “All right then, let’s change subjects. Tell me about the songs you write.”
“Didn’t say I wrote any.”
“You didn’t say you didn’t, either.”
“I’m just the singer, Lena. That’s all.”
“You play guitar. I heard you downstairs earlier.”
“Christ, you’re annoying.” He dug around, excavating another chunk of chocolate chip goodness. “I’ve been teaching myself how to play, all right? No more. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Does David know?”
he had more emotions than a brick and then there was seeing them up close 
Parlami delle canzoni che scrivi». Gli passai il gelato, prima di mangiarmi anche la vaschetta di plastica.    «Non ho mai detto che scrivo canzoni».     «E nemmeno che non lo fai».    «Dio, quanto sei noiosa». Scavò un po’ intorno e tirò fuori un altro bel pezzettone di biscotto. «È roba personale. Non mi va di parlarne».     «David lo sa?»
“It was your bright idea.” I smiled. “What other movies did you get?”
Titanic, Thelma and Louise, and Silver Linings Playbook.
Interesting mix. Put Thelma and Louise on, I think you’ll like it better. It’s got a happy, uplifting ending.”
“Done.” He fussed with the remote and Brad Pitt’s sexy voice came on the giant screen. Such a great film. But Brad Pitt really was a superb specimen of manhood.
“Can you put it back to the beginning please, King of the Remote? This is about halfway through.”
He did so.
“Blondes have more fun, everyone knows that,” I said. “You ever thought of bleaching your hair?”
He gave me a snotty look.
“Maybe I should go blonde instead,” I said.
“No, don’t,” he said shortly, face creased with concern. “I mean, you’re fine as you are. I’ve been telling you that for days.” He stole back the tub and hoed in. “You don’t listen.”
“I guess I thought you were just being kind.” Melted ice cream dripped off my spoon, onto my jeans. I scraped it up with a finger, licking it clean. This was why I couldn’t have nice things.
I looked up to find Jimmy staring at my mouth. His own lips were slightly parted, his eyes hazy. I froze.
No way.
He wasn’t having those sort of thoughts about me. Impossible, and yet the evidence in front of me told a distinctly different tale. A knot twisted and tightened deep in my belly, a thrilling sort of rush pouring through my veins. Just that easily, he’d flicked the switch, turning me on. I don’t think he even realized flicked the switch, turning me on. I don’t think he even realized what he was doing.
His gaze jumped from my mouth to my eyes and the frown descended. “I’m not kind. And I don’t say stuff I don’t mean. Stop fishing for compliments if you’re not going to believe them. It’s a waste of my time.”
A curiously snappy response, even for him.
“Thank you,” I said. “That’s really very sweet of you … in a strange way.”

«È stata una tua brillante idea». Sorrisi. «Che altri film hai portato?    «Titanic, Thelma e Louise, e Il lato positivo».    «Mix interessante. Metti Il lato positivo, mi sa che ti piacerà di più. Il finale è molto meno traumatico rispetto agli altri due».    «Okay». Trafficò con il telecomando e nello schermo gigante arrivò la voce sexy di Bradley Cooper, seguita da lui che correva vestito con un sacco dell’immondizia. Gran bel film. E Bradley Cooper era un esemplare eccezionale di virilità.    «Mi piacciono i biondi. E poi i biondi sono più divertenti, si sa», dissi. «Immagino che non ti faresti biondo per me, vero?».    Mi rivolse uno sguardo sprezzante.    «È un no?»
Ed ecco di nuovo quel muscoletto nella mascella, riuscivo quasi a sentire i denti che stridevano. Se snervarlo non fosse stato così divertente avrei forse smesso di farlo. Quell’uomo era il peggior nemico di se stesso.    «E va bene», sospirai. «Non c’è bisogno che ti tingi i capelli. Perché penso che sei perfetto così come sei. Su quante copertine sei stato, a proposito?»    «Tante. Hai finito? Possiamo guardare il film, adesso?»     «Non pensi che anch’io sono perfetta così come sono?»    «Quello che penso è che parli troppo».    Mi limitai a sorridere.    «È da giorni che ti dico che vai bene così come sei». Riafferrò la vaschetta e affondò il cucchiaio. «Ma tu non ascolti».    Eh?    «Forse perché credevo fosse la solita roba che uno dice per essere carino, anche se non lo pensa veramente». Un po’ di gelato sciolto mi gocciolò sui jeans. Lo raschiai via con il dito, che poi leccai per ripulirlo per bene. Ecco perché non potevo avere cose di valore.    Il suo sguardo si spostò dalla bocca ai miei occhi. Il cipiglio sembrò aumentare. «A me di essere carino non me ne frega niente. E non dico cose che non penso. Piantala di andare in cerca di complimenti se tanto poi non ci credi. È una perdita di tempo».    Mi sembrò che tutto quanto si fermasse.    E poi la mia mente si animò d’un tratto, cercando di ricordare quale fosse stata l’ultima cosa che mi aveva detto. È vero, spesso parlava sbadatamente. Ma non significava che non le pensasse. Bisognava forse filtrare le sue parole, anch’io avevo lo stesso problema a volte. E alcune persone molto disponibili, e soprattutto molto insensibili, me lo avevano fatto notare più volte.
    «Grazie, Jimmy. È davvero dolce da parte tua, in un certo modo»
“To answer your question, I’ve been on the cover of probably hundreds of magazines. I don’t know. Got a stack of platinum records and a current net worth of about sixty-two million,” he said, voice flat and unfriendly. “Messed up some product endorsements and part of a tour with the drug use or it’d be more. I own this house and another in LA. That’s where I keep my collection of cars. I also got a few paintings I took a liking to.”
«Per rispondere alla tua domanda di prima, sono stato su centinaia di copertine o giù di lì. Non ne ho idea. Ho una pila di dischi di platino e un patrimonio netto di circa sessantadue milioni di dollari», disse con voce fredda e ostile. «Ho fatto dei casini con alcuni sponsor e con alcune tappe della tournée per colpa della droga altrimenti sarebbero di più. Possiedo questa casa più un’altra a Los Angeles. È lì che tengo la mia collezione di macchine. Ho anche qualche orologio Patek Philippe che vale milioni e ho un debole per alcuni quadri pregiati».
Both of his hands moved from bullying the back of the couch to holding back his hair. He gave the dark strands a sharp tug. “You’re a friend I just happen to pay to hang around, which is incredibly fucking pathetic and messed up, but there you have IT.
“I can still be your friend. I would like to still be your friend.”
Another sharp tug. “It won’t be the same.”
My mouth opened but I didn’t know what to say. He was right, it wouldn’t be the same. No more seeing him and talking to him every day, hanging out with him nearly every night. This part of my life, the time spent with him, would become a memory. The sadness inside me felt huge, overwhelming. I couldn’t possibly contain it. Much more of this and I’d explode, decorating his pristine minimalist living room in messy emotional Lena.
Man, he’d be pissed.
My stupid tongue lay still for the longest time. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Did I ask for your opinion?” he snapped. “No.”
“Hey,” I growled warningly. “Watch it.”
He turned his face away, his jaw shifting restlessly.
Stuff happened on screen, none of it mattered.
“Lena, the point I’m trying to make is, the list is important. And it won’t work if you’re not committed to making it work. So don’t talk to me about us still being friends if you go, okay? Just … commit.”
I took a deep breath, studying his fierce features. Everything in life was so damn complicated, so confusing when it came to the heart. I don’t know when that happened exactly, probably sometime during the early teenage years when boys overtook my interest in ponies and glitter.
Resented the hell out of it some days.
“Fine, I’m committed,” I said, the only answer I could give.
Fine.” He relaxed back, crossing his arms over his chest, satisfied apparently. But I already knew, the list wasn’t working. 
Smise di maltrattare il divano e si ravviò i capelli, o più che altro li strattonò. «Sei un’amica che però pago per stare con me, ed è una cosa patetica e assurda, cazzo, però questo è».    Sentii un’immensa, travolgente, tristezza. Non riuscivo a contenerla. Se fossimo andati avanti così ancora un altro po’ sarei esplosa, decorando l’immacolato salone minimal con pezzi della vecchia Lena sparsi un po’ ovunque.    Cavoli, allora ci era rimasto male.    La mia stupida lingua restò immobile per un tempo infinito. «Non so che dire».    «Ho forse chiesto la tua opinione?», rispose bruscamente. «Non mi pare».    Intanto sullo schermo succedevano diverse cose, ma nulla che avesse importanza.    «Quello che cerco di dirti, Lena, è che la lista è importante. E non funzionerà mai se non ti impegni. Perciò non venire qui a parlarmi di restare amici se te ne andrai, okay? Tu… impegnati a seguire quella cazzo di lista e basta»Tenni gli occhi ben aperti, facendo del mio meglio per scongiurare le lacrime minacciose che sentivo salire, e respirai a fondo. «Va bene. Mi impegnerò».    «Bene». Si rilassò di nuovo e incrociò le braccia sul petto. «Ora possiamo chiudere il becco e guardare il film in santa pace?».    Mi tremava il mento.     Sbuffò. Poi recuperò il suo cucchiaio e mi strappò il gelato dalle mani. «E impara a condividere, porca troia.
“You’re not drinking it because of me, so that actually makes “You’re not drinking it because of me, so that actually makes no sense.”
I shrugged, gave him a half-hearted smile. “Sometimes things that make the least sense are the most true. Such is the mystery of life.”
He cocked an eyebrow at me, then looked down at his menu shaking his head. “You got that out of a fortune cookie, didn’t you?”

«Non lo stai bevendo per colpa mia, quindi quello che hai appena detto non ha molto senso».    «Non per te, forse». Scrollai le spalle, facendogli un sorriso esitante. «Non posso cambiare il modo in cui mi sento».    Strinse le labbra. «Spero che ti sbagli»

“How much time you going to need off for the wedding?”
“None,” I said, searching his face for some sign, some acknowledgement of what he’d been doing. But he just gave me the scrunched-up face of disapproval, brows tight and eyes narrowed.
No, come on. He had to know he’d been looking me over like a sex thing. I mean, like I was a person he wanted to have sex with.
God damn it, my heart and hormones. Both were being stressed right the fuck out.
“I’m not going,” I said, concentrating on re-arranging the clutter on the counter. If I could just have a moment to pull my shit together I’d be fine.
“Why not?”
“Next few months before the tour are going to be out. I’m too busy. You can’t possibly do without me here.”
“Bullshit. I can spare you for a few days.”
“Ah, but they don’t know that. Move, please.” I tapped him on the nose with the tip of my finger.
He stepped back, frowning. “So you got family issues? I wondered when you didn’t ask to go home for Thanksgiving. I take it this is about that sibling hate you mentioned when I was having issues with Dave?”
“Indeed it is. But I get on fine with the rest of my family. I call my mom a couple of times a week, chat with my dad too.”
“What’d she do to you?”
“Why so curious?” I picked up my coat and purse, switched off the light. “I thought the goings on of the little people didn’t interest you, oh mighty Mr. Ferris.”
«Quanti giorni liberi ti servono per il matrimonio?»    «Nessuno».    Ed eccoti la faccia della disapprovazione, sopracciglia severe e occhi stretti.    «Non ci vado», continuai.    «Perché no?»    «Mancano pochi mesi alla tournée e c’è un casino di roba di cui devo occuparmi. Non ce la faresti mai senza di me».    «Stronzate. Riuscirò a sopravvivere per qualche giorno».    «Ah, ma loro questo non lo sanno. Spostati, per favore». Come immaginavo, si ritrasse dal tocco, facendo un veloce passo indietro. «E così hai problemi in famiglia? Mi è sembrato strano infatti che non mi abbia chiesto di tornare a casa per il Ringraziamento».    «Non ce li hanno forse tutti? Comunque no, andiamo piuttosto d’accordo. Chiamo mia mamma un paio di volte a settimana e chiacchiero anche con mio padre. Solo che non parteciperò a questo matrimonio. La prossima volta che deciderà di fare il grande passo sarò lì con tutto l’entusiasmo del mondo».    «Perché non a questo?»    «Perché tanta curiosità?». Presi il cappotto e la borsetta, spensi la luce. «Pensavo che le vicissitudini della gente comune non ti interessassero, oh potente signor Ferris»
He followed me down the stairs. No suit tonight, instead, he wore black jeans and yet another fitted black T-shirt, hair unstyled, hanging around his face. Hard to say which was more potent, suited Jimmy or relaxed. They were both hot as hell. QUI  “So, what do we know about this Reece character apart from the fact that he’s a friend of Anne’s?” 
Mi seguì al piano di sotto. Nessun completo quella sera, portava invece un paio di jeans scuri e una maglietta nera aderente, e aveva i capelli in disordine, con le lunghe ciocche che gli incorniciavano il viso. Difficile dire quale versione preferissi, il Jimmy elegante o il Jimmy casual. Erano entrambi sexy da morire.    Sì, i giorni in cui cercavo di negare il suo fascino erano andati.    Perché prendermi tanta pena?    La mia anima reclamava onestà, e alla fine la ottenne. Fingere che non fosse così era un’inutile perdita di tempo. Si può mentire solo a se stessi per così tanto tempo, e comunque senza nessun risultato. La negazione non era una buona strategia, a lungo termine.    Volevo che Jimmy Ferris fosse il mio coniglietto del cuore, il mio personale parco giochi del sesso, il mio uomo. Certo che lo volevo. E mi era già capitato di fare cose stupide in passato, ma quest’ultimo desiderio incontenibile le superava tutte. Sì, alla fine, avevo raggiunto il nadir del mio cuore.

“The movie was fun. Lots of explosions.”
“Get along with him all right?”
“Sure, he’s a nice guy. He’s in love with Anne though so not prime dating material.”
“Oh.” Face contemplative, he came up beside me, leaning on the railing. He hadn’t shaved today and the urge to run my fingers over the prickle of his stubble seemed insurmountable. My fingers dug deep into the leather of my purse, fighting for control. Everything about him called to me, the guarded but curious look in his eyes, his rarely seen softer side.
Maybe if his mom hadn’t messed him up when he was a kid he’d have been different, less world weary and damaged, more open. Or maybe if I was more super-model, less cute and cuddly. What would it take, how many changes would have to be made for him to see me differently? Because he stood less than two feet away from me but it felt like forever. My heart broke ever so slowly and I felt every piece of it shatter and fall.
Nothing I could do about it, not a single damn thing.
I fixed a tired smile to my face. “It was still an okay night.”
“Does Anne know?” he asked.
“I doubt it or she wouldn’t have suggested I go out with him.”
I don’t really think we should say anything either.”
His brows rose. “Why not? Wouldn’t she want some warning?”
“He’s harboring feelings for her, Jimmy, not planning a surprise attack. It’s not our secret to share and it’s not like it’s going to change anything.” I hugged my coat and bag to my chest. “Reece doesn’t stand a chance. She’s just not interested in him that way. He’s been friend zoned and he knows it.”
The poor schmuck.
“I don’t know if I’d feel right not telling Mal,” he said.
“I think it would only cause trouble. Though honestly Mal probably already knows. It’s not like Reece is particularly effective at hiding it.”
He stared over my shoulder at the wall. “Stupid of him, hanging onto a thing for Anne when he hasn’t got a chance.”
“Who ever said the heart was smart or that it followed directions?”
Jimmy just shook his head. “That’s fucking dumb. He needs to wise up and get over it. It’s pathetic, no wonder Anne doesn’t want him.”
And I just kind of needed to walk away before resorting to violence. This conversation was doing my head in. “Wow. Those are wise words indeed.”
The man’s eyes flashed in sudden understanding. “I don’t mean that you … ah, well obviously you’re not in the same category as him.”
“No, of course not.” He put his hands on his hips, then changed his mind and linked them behind his head. All the while looking at me like I was just one small step away from the loony bin. At least we’d moved on from him laughing at myfeelings.
“I mean, hello! Different situation entirely,” he said.
“That’s a relief.”
“Yeah, you haven’t realized yet that it would never work out between us.” He looked up at me and I could almost see the cogs and wheels desperately working overtime in his head.
“Talk me through it, Jimmy.”
I’m reasonably certain sweat broke out on his forehead. “Well, do I look like the kind of guy who takes relationships, seriously? No, I’m a player.”
I cocked my head. “Except you’re not, you don’t have sex at all these days.”
“True. But when I do, I’m not the kind that goes back for round two. Been there, done that. It’s like they said at dinner, I don’t pretend I’m interested in more.” He wrapped his hands around the railing, holding on tight. “And they shouldn’t be either. I’m a hell of a bad bet, Lena. Fucked up home life, reformed addict. I mean shit, my issues have issues. I don’t want any of that. I just wanna be left alone, you know?”
“If you want to be left alone, then why don’t you want me to leave?”
“This I can handle. We give each other shit, there’s some give-and-take. It’s good. But I can’t do more. I just can’t.” His voice held such absolute heartbreaking certainty.
“How do you know if you’ve never tried?”
“No.” He looked up at me from beneath dark brows, fingers white, he held onto the railing so tight. “There’s too much to lose.”
I just stared at him stunned. “I think that’s probably the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”
He pinned his lips shut, apparently not happy with the news.
So much information whirling around inside my head. I needed time to make sense of it all, to figure him out. Things were changing again, I could feel it, but I didn’t quite understand how yet. The situation was as complicated as the man.
“Anyhoo, I don’t think I’ll keep dating people,” I said, sucking in my stomach. “Let’s just concentrate on the other stuff. If anything can convince me you’re a monster, the jogging alone should do it.”
“Lena, you need to keep dating.” Little wrinkles appeared beside his eyes, his jaw tightened. “The next one’ll be better. It’ll be fun, I promise.”
“I don’t think god wants me to date. The signs have been quite clear.”
“One more,” he said, voice dropping to a highly persuasive rumble. “C’mon, just give it one more go then I’ll drop it, I promise.”
“I don’t know …”
“Please? See, I used my manners.”
“That’s great.”
“Lena …”
“All right, one more then that’s it. And I do have a condition. Next date, you’re banished to downstairs. You don’t meet him and you sure as hell don’t interrogate him. In fact, I don’t even want to see you. I catch sight of you, its home on the sofa all night watching TV. No excuses. No ifs, buts, or maybes. Do we have a deal?”
His jaw tensed, shifting beneath his skin. “All right. And the next date’ll be better, you won’t regret it.”
I already did.

Il film era divertente. Un sacco di esplosioni».     «E con lui?»    «È un ragazzo molto carino»«Allora perché sei giù?». Mi venne accanto, si appoggiò al corrimano e si mise a contemplarmi. Non si era rasato e sentii il desiderio impellente di accarezzargli la barba. Le mie dita affondarono invece nella pelle della mia borsetta. Ogni centimetro del suo viso mi attraeva, anche quello sguardo circospetto ma curioso che gli leggevo negli occhi.     Forse se sua madre non lo avesse rovinato quando era piccolo sarebbe stato diverso, meno stanco del mondo e meno devastato, più aperto con gli altri. O magari se io fossi stata una super top model, meno carina e coccolosa… Cosa ci sarebbe voluto, quanti cambiamenti erano necessari perché mi vedesse in modo diverso? Perché era a meno di mezzo metro da me ma la cosa non sembrava turbarlo minimamente. Il mio cuore continuava a spezzarsi sempre di più e riuscivo a sentirlo mentre andava in frantumi. «Lena?»     «Non ci siamo trovati, Jimmy, non c’è molto da dire. Lui è innamorato di Anne e io… provo qualcosa per te», dissi con una voce che andò calando fino a sparire. «Che modo stupido di dirlo».   Strinse le labbra con chiara disapprovazione.     Alé, l’avevo fatto di nuovo.    «Mi spiace». Risi, come se la cosa fosse divertente. «Immagino che avresti dovuto aggiungere un quinto punto: mai più esternare i propri sentimenti».    Fissava il muro oltre le mie spalle. «Non mi preoccupano i tuoi sentimenti. Vorrei solo che non fossero per me».    «Capisco. Oh, cavolo, sto anche infrangendo la regola del non essere patetica, vero? A nessuno piace una ragazza patetica».    Strinse forte il corrimano e io aspettai che parlasse. Non lo fece. La cosa folle era che se mi avesse dato una minuscola speranza, lo avrei aspettato in eterno.    Dovevo mettere un punto a quella situazione.    «Non credo che continuerò con gli appuntamenti», dissi tirando dentro la pancia. «È troppo deprimente in queste circostanze. »È troppo deprimente in queste circostanze. Concentriamoci sul resto. Se c’è qualcosa che mi può convincere del fatto che tu sia un mostro, ti assicuro che il jogging è già più che sufficiente».    «Lena, devi continuare a vedere altra gente». Gli apparvero alcune rughe intorno agli occhi, mentre la mascella ebbe un piccolo spasmo. «Il prossimo andrà meglio. Ti divertirai, te lo prometto».    Non risposi.  La sua faccia era sempre più tesa. «Non puoi mollare già adesso».    «Non credo che Dio sia d’accordo. I segnali sono stati piuttosto chiari».    «Hai accettato di impegnarti con la lista», disse, protestando. «E dài, è una cosa seria».    «Okay, okay, piantala di strangolare la ringhiera prima che si rompa». Sfortunatamente il mio istinto di autoprotezione non aveva alcuna possibilità contro il desiderio di compiacerlo.    «Come? Oh». Rilassò le dita, che ripresero colore.    «Però a una condizione. Al prossimo appuntamento ti è vietato l’accesso al piano terra. Non lo conoscerai e, cascasse il mondo, non gli farai nessuna domanda. Anzi non voglio proprio vederti. Ci stai?».    Serrò la mascella, il movimento era percepibile sotto la pelle. «Va bene. E il prossimo appuntamento sarà molto meglio, non te ne pentirai».    Me n’ero già pentita.


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