Book Lovers by Emily Henry



            “I can’t control how I feel,” he says coolly.

            I bristle. “That’s like Charles Manson saying he’s not the one who committed the murders. It might be true on a technical level, but it’s hardly the point.”

            The server drops off my martini, and Charlie grumbles, “Could I get one of those too?”



* * *





            Later that night, my phone pings with an email.


Hi, Nora,


Feel free to keep me in mind for Dusty’s future projects.


-Charlie



            I can’t help rolling my eyes. No Nice meeting you. No Hope you’re well. He couldn’t even be bothered with basic niceties. Gritting my teeth, I type back, mimicking his style.


Charlie,


If she writes anything about lifestyle guru Charlie Manson, you’ll be the first to know.


-Nora



            I tuck my phone into my sweatpants’ pocket and nudge open my bathroom door to start my ten-step skin care routine (also known as the best forty-five minutes of my day). My phone vibrates and I pull it out.


N,


Joke’s on you: very much want to read that.


-C



            Hell-bent on having the last word, I write, Night.

            (Good night is decidedly not what I mean.)

            Best, Charlie writes back, like he’s signing an email that doesn’t exist.

            If there’s one thing I hate more than shoes with no heels, it’s losing. I write back, x.

            No reply. Checkmate. After a day from hell, this small victory makes me feel like all is right in the world. I finish my skin care routine. I read five blissful chapters of a grisly mystery novel, and I drift off on my perfect mattress, without a thought to spare for Grant or his new life in Texas. I sleep like a baby.

            Or an ice queen.





1




            TWO YEARS LATER


THE CITY IS baking. The asphalt sizzles. The trash on the sidewalk reeks. The families we pass carry ice pops that shrink with every step, melting down their fingers. Sunlight glances off buildings like a laser-based security system in an out-of-date heist movie, and I feel like a glazed donut that’s been left out in the heat for four days.

            Meanwhile, even five months pregnant and despite the temperature, Libby looks like the star of a shampoo commercial.

            “Three times.” She sounds awed. “How does a person get dumped in a full lifestyle-swap three times?”

            “Just lucky, I guess,” I say. Really, it’s four, but I never could bring myself to tell her the whole story about Jakob. It’s been years and I can still barely tell myself that story.

            Libby sighs and loops her arm through mine. My skin is sticky from the heat and humidity of midsummer, but my baby sister’s is miraculously dry and silky.

            I might’ve gotten Mom’s five feet and eleven inches of height, but the rest of her features all funneled down to my sister, from the strawberry gold hair to the wide, Mediterranean Sea–blue eyes and the splash of freckles across her nose. Her short, curvy stature must’ve come from Dad’s gene pool—not that we would know; he left when I was three and Libby was months from being born. When it’s natural, my hair is a dull, ashy blond, and my eyes’ shade of blue is less idyllic-vacation-water and more last-thing-you-see-before-the-ice-freezes-over-and-you-drown.

            She’s the Marianne to my Elinor, the Meg Ryan to my Parker Posey.

            She is also my absolute favorite person on the planet.