Home > Dating You / Hating You(9)

Dating You / Hating You(9)
Author: Christina Lauren

Brad seems to delight in the leverage it gives him postbomb. But, like any good underling, I never remind him how many times he praised the movie’s potential as “like Bull Durham meets Avengers—sports hero gold.”

As if on cue, Brad walks around his desk and props himself on the edge of it. “A bad decision like Field Day would’ve killed most agents, let alone one who hasn’t proven herself yet. But did I let that happen?” he asks, pinning me with an expression that from an outsider’s perspective would read a lot like genuine concern.

I swallow back a snide retort because he’s right, Brad did come to my rescue. He stuck up for me when others thought I should be let go. But he’ll never let me forget about it, either.

“No, you had my back,” I say, not pointing out that I had proven myself by then. I’d been an agent nearly eight years at the time.

“That’s right. Because your failures are my failures. And your wins . . . ?” He pauses, waiting expectantly.

“Are your wins,” I finish for him.

“That’s my girl.” Those three words send a blazing shiver of rage down my spine, and he rounds the desk to sink back into his chair again. “Keep me updated and go ahead and close the door on your way out.”

And I’m dismissed.

• • •

After my last meeting of the day, I hook up with Daryl and Amelia at Café Med for dinner. It has to still be at least seventy degrees where we sit on the patio, but Daryl is wrapped in a giant beige sweater and wearing sunglasses even though the sun set nearly an hour ago. Los Angeles, man.

Café Med is a cool little restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, which means it offers some of the best people-watching around. On the sidewalk just on the opposite side of the green railing, a woman walks by in a pair of three-inch platforms and a silk kimono. A car pulls up at the corner with an entire desert diorama built in its rear window. We’re just as likely to see a celebrity walk by as we are to see a man in a tutu pushing a baby carriage full of aluminum cans.

“Heard you were in with Brad today,” Amelia says to me, and then adds with a giant grin, “Bet that was fun!”

“He’s always such a dick to you,” Daryl says.

“I don’t know,” I hedge. “I think he probably has his own version of dick for everyone. He’s smart. He knows all of our buttons.”

We all look up as Steph dodges the hostess with a smile and jogs over to the table.

“Sorry I’m late.” She hangs her purse on the back of the empty chair next to Daryl and takes a seat. “Longest client meeting ever.”

“We haven’t even ordered yet.” I hand her a menu. “But wine is on the way.”

“And the angels sing hallelujah,” Steph mumbles, looking at the food options.

“Did you guys have a good time Friday night?” Daryl asks.

“I did,” I say honestly.

“Does this mean I’m forgiven for missing it?” she asks.

Steph nods emphatically, but I pop a piece of bread in my mouth and tilt my head, chewing. “Still thinking about it.”

Daryl pretends to take a bullet to the chest.

I open my mouth to tell both her and Amelia all about the party when I realize that if Steph is twenty-seven, and Mike is twenty-seven, and Carter is the same age they are . . . then Carter is six years younger than I am.

Six years.

As if she’s read my mind, Steph puts her menu down and says, “Carter seemed to really like you.”

I don’t know why the age difference didn’t occur to me at the party, but it seems to be a deal breaker, like a knee-jerk instinct. I’ve never really dated a significantly younger guy. And twenty-seven versus thirty-three feels pretty significant. We’re not going to date, obviously, but if I happen to drop him a text and maybe think about him naked while doing so, does six years make me a cougar?

I thank the waiter when he puts my wine down in front of me, then turn to Steph. “Oyyyy, Steph. I just realized he’s your age.”

“Who’s Carter?” Amelia asks. “I don’t remember hearing anything about a Carter.”

“He’s a friend of Mike and Steph’s,” I tell them before sipping my wine. “He was fun. Daryl might know him, actually. He’s in TV-Lit at CTM?”

“Carter Aaron? I’ve never worked with him but hear he’s good.”

“He is good,” Steph says before looking back to me. “And ‘fun’? He’s hot, Evie. Carter is great-looking, and smart, and he’s a genuinely good guy who might even be good enough for you.”

I ignore this suggestion that I’m picky. “He’s young,” I say. “A fact you neglected to mention.”

“He’s twenty-eight!”

“Oof,” I groan. Okay, so I’m only five years older than he is. “I was already in school when he was born.”

“In kindergarten,” Steph says.

“Those feel like important years.” I remember being twenty-eight, and watching my guy friends then was like watching Muppets in adult male bodies try to navigate the world.

“Well, guys on the East Coast mature earlier,” Steph reasons.

Amelia and I exchange a skeptical look. “Twenty-eight is everyone’s fake age once they turn thirty,” she says.

I nod. “And I’m three years past thirty.”

“That just means you’re in your sexual prime!” Daryl sings. “Come on, live a little.” She does a little shimmy and leers in my direction, adding, “A younger guy.”

I groan.

“Honestly, Evie,” Steph says, “I feel like you’re always looking for reasons why you can’t date someone.” These words seem to reverberate in my head, even as she continues, “He had fun. You had fun. Why not call him?”

“I do not look for reasons not to date someone.” I frown, mildly offended.

“Actually,” Daryl interjects, “you do. You’re picky and impossible.”

I give Daryl a dubious glance. “Says the also-single girl.”

“Okay, now look.” Amelia holds up her hand. “I get what you’re saying about the age, but five years doesn’t seem that bad. Would you give a second thought to dating a guy who was five years older than you are?”

“Stop being smart, Amelia,” I mumble.

She laughs. “I think you should call him.”

“Did you not hear the part where he’s also an agent? A younger agent.”

Amelia winces.

“This reminds me.” Daryl finally slips off her sunglasses. “You never said what Brad wanted to talk to you about.”

“Oh, he wants me to help John Fineman, to make sure he stays busy.” I laugh. “In what universe does that make sense? John’s the one who showed me around when I started at P&D.”

I look out to the patio area, just to be sure nobody we know is around, then turn back to the girls. “You know when someone’s up to something, but they’re questioning everything everyone else is doing? That’s how I feel about Brad lately.”

“Like when someone’s having an affair and suddenly suspicious of what their partner is doing,” Daryl says, nodding.

“Maybe.” I shrug. “Something’s definitely up.”

“I know he’s been having a lot of earnings reports sent to his office,” Amelia adds. “I don’t know what it means, but it’s unusual enough that some of the girls in Finance had to scramble.”

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