Drawn to You: Volume 2

By: Vanessa Booke







THREE


TRISTAN



FOUR YEARS LATER…



TWO A.M.

It’s the blaring echo of my cell phone that violently pulls me from my sleep. The sound resonates throughout my art studio with an intensity that could wake the dead. My eyes blink toward my nightstand as my hand fumbles in search of my cell phone. Who the hell is calling me now? Despite the cascading city lights that engulf the outside of my studio, the inside remains lost in darkness.

I find my phone barely hanging on at the edge of the nightstand. Curiosity gnaws at me as I swipe the screen and enter my passcode. There aren’t many people who have my personal cell phone number. Most of my clients contact me by email. To my surprise, along with the missed call from a private number, there’s a notification of a new voicemail. I hold the phone to my cheek and play the recording. A familiar voice floods the line.

Nicholas StoneHaven.

“Hey, I know you’re probably busy or asleep, but I was hoping you’d come out and have a drink with me. I really need to talk to you, buddy. All right, call me.”

My gaze lingers over my phone as I scroll through my contacts. Up until recently, keeping my distance from the StoneHaven family has been surprisingly easy with four years of school and then working on my art. I’ve never thrown myself into something the way I did with my paintings after the domino effect of destruction that followed my mother’s death. It took all my strength not to seek out Emily when I found out about her mother selling Alex’s death to the tabloids. I never liked Evelyn, but I didn’t think she would sink that low for money.

I thought, with time and distance, I could forget about the way I felt for Nicholas and Emily, but the truth is, I can’t. The bitterness I feel toward Stefan hasn’t gone away, and I’m not sure if it ever will, but I refuse to hate Emily and Nicholas. I won’t make them pawns. The anger I’ve carried since my mother’s death has already disintegrated enough.

I replay Nicholas’s message over again, and a wave of guilt washes over me at the sound of desperation in his voice. I should just delete the voicemail and pretend I didn’t hear it. If he asks me about it later, I’ll just tell him I never got the message. In the past four years, we’ve both kept in touch, but I’ve even kept him at arms length.

A text message flashes across the top of my phone in a bright green bubble.

Nick: Why haven’t you called me back, asshole?

I smile. He really knows how to sweet talk someone. Another text message buzzes in just as I unlock the phone screen.

Nick: I’m just going to keep texting you until you come have a drink.

He’s a persistent asshole. I’m fairly certain it should be considered a negative thing but, somehow, Nicholas makes it seem charming to women. I tap a text into my phone.

Me: Nice to hear from you too, Nick. Drinks tomorrow?

Nick: Too late. I started without you.

Me: Are you drunk?

Nick: Fffffuck yeah.

Me: Please don’t tell me you’re driving.

Nick: The hotel took my keys. Pick me up.

Me: You haven’t changed, buddy.

Nick: It’s been too long since we hung out. Shit. Paparazzi are here.

I stare at the text, and the memory of my mother’s words before she died come rushing back to me.

“They’ll ruin every good thing about you. Don’t let them.”

Against my better judgment, I text Nicholas back.

Me: What’s the name of the hotel?

Nicholas: The Somerset.

Me: Stay put. I’m coming to get you.



* * * * *



I pull into the valet circle in front of the prestigious Somerset Hotel. It’s not the hardest building to pick out, especially when it’s practically made of gold. As I curve the corner, I spot Nicholas in a heated discussion with a small group of paparazzi. This is not good. Before I have a chance to hand the valet my keys, Nicholas swings at the cameraman in front of him. FUCK. The valet gasps as I park my car, throw my keys at him, and rush out of my car.

I push past the other hotel guests just in time to stop Nicholas from doing any further damage. It takes him several seconds to realize I’m holding him back from beating the shit out of the cameraman in front of him. The look of surprise on his face quickly fades into a look of relief. His grip tightens on my arm as he leans in and gives me a quick hug as a flutter of cameras flash behind us. Even if Nick doesn’t say it, I knew he wasn’t sure if I would come tonight. I grimace at the barely cloaked smell of whiskey on his clothes as it soaks into mine.

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