“Liam.” Michael Jamison, one of my closest buddies since we met at freshman orientation at NYU fourteen years ago, blocks the door, preventing me from entering his new apartment in downtown Manhattan. His scowl suggests that I’ve come strapped with explosives and begun waving the detonation button in his face. “What the hell are you doing here?”
I shrug and try to look harmless as I pass him the nice bottle of wine I brought as a gift.
“Unless I’m mistaken, you’re throwing your little housewarming tonight.”
I gesture over his shoulder, where a sizable crowd has assembled and appears to be happily enjoying cocktails and jazzy music against the panoramic backdrop of the Hudson River with the Jersey skyline in the distance. He and another college friend of ours, Jake Quinn, recently went public with the medical device company I started a few years back. I should mention that I got a degree in chemical and biomedical engineering before I went to Harvard Med and became a cardiac surgeon. Hey. I’m brilliant, ambitious and talented. Don’t expect me to apologize for it. Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details, but I invented a couple of devices that make cardiac procedures a hell of a lot easier. Michael and Jake were my early investors. I combined money I inherited on my father’s death together with their money. Which means that we’ve all experienced a significant uptick in our bottom line this year, although I still practice because that’s my first love. Now we all try to out-apartment and out-car each other. And I plan to start dabbling more in the real estate market when a good opportunity presents itself.
“I thought I’d check the place out,” I continue. “You know I’m interested in real estate.”
“Cut the bullshit,” he says, his scowl deepening as he snatches the bottle. “You’re here because you want to see my sister.”
I arrange my expression into something that hopefully suggests that the idea never crossed my mind.
“I just want to catch the view you’ve been bragging about.” I crane my neck, trying to see past his big head, but there’s no sign of her. Mia, his twin, was also in our class at NYU, by the way. “Looks nice. Your apartment could almost be a boat that sits directly on the water. Not as nice as my view, though. You letting me in?”
“No. I’ve been walking a tightrope ever since the two of you imploded back when we graduated. You think it’s easy for me to be Switzerland all the time when the two of you have avoided each other for years? Now she’s going to think that I set this whole thing up so you could ambush her.”
“Yeah, well, now I’m back in town.” I moved back last year during my mother’s final illness. Now that I’ve settled her estate, it’s time for me to settle things with Mia. “It’s past time for Mia and me to stop avoiding each other. We’re fully grown adults now. Not hotheaded kids. The city should be big enough for both of us.”
“Couldn’t agree more. Why don’t you text her and see if she wants to grab coffee or drinks like a normal person?”
“Because I’m here now.” The part I don’t mention? That I’ve worked up the courage to show up tonight and doubt I’ll be able to produce any new courage if I leave without seeing her and then need to text her. I decide to drop the act. “Is she here?”
“She’s here,” he says grimly.
I feel a tremendous surge of adrenaline. And something that feels strangely like triumph.
“What’s it going to be?” I ask.
“Fine.” He jerks the door all the way open and lets me pass. “Just make sure she knows that this was your idea. I didn’t want you here, and you know it.”
“That’s not strictly true,” I say, now scanning the room for any sign of her. “You said you were having your housewarming tonight. You also said that Mia would be here. I took that as a warm invitation to enjoy your hospitality.”
“Huh. Funny. Because I’m positive I stated it as a dire warning for you to stay away.”
“Semantics,” I say, then catch sight of Jake, who materializes out of the crowd with a scotch and soda for my benefit. I receive it with a grateful one-handed hug and a pointed look in Michael’s direction. “Finally. A true friend.”
“Fuck you,” Michael says mildly.
“Saw you coming,” Jake tells me as I take an appreciative sip to shore up my nerves. “What’d I miss?”
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