by Jaine Diamond
Book 1 in the Vancity Villians Series
A scorching-hot enemies-to-lovers romance, featuring a strong, feisty heroine and the billionaire boss she’d love to hate, an unforgettable kiss, a whole lot of lies, an irresistible battle of will… and a twisted deal that just might save them both from losing it all.
Dane Davenport was the most gorgeous, popular, and hatable guy I went to high school with.
And now? He’s the one thing standing in the way of my dream: to own the talent agency I’ve devoted my career to. Because he just bought it.
I don’t care how hot he looks in a suit. Or how many times he wants to remind me about that stupid kiss when we were teenagers.
(So what if I kissed him back? He started it!)
He’s the bosshole from hell, and now I’m stuck with him—unless he decides to fire me.
I loathe that he has the power here, and he knows it.
Well, I am not going down without a fight.
But instead of firing me from the job I love, he does something even more evil: he asks me to help him—to save his reputation and his fortune.
I might be willing to make a deal with the devil—if it means I get my agency.
I might even be able to pretend I can stand the man who has the power to ruin me.
It’s a diabolical plan. But my hatred of him will protect me.
My heart isn’t part of this bargain.
So why does it pick up speed every time we fight?
Why is that ice-cold look in his eyes starting to thaw… and getting hotter than hell?
And when I discover someone’s out to ruin him, why do I want to fight for him so bad?
If I put everything on the line, including my heart, will Dane finally win this war between us?
Or could the devil from my past really be my Prince Charming?
If you are a regular here, you may know that I am a big fan of a certain Canadian author, Jaine Diamond. I loved her Dirty series. I loved her Players series even more. After a small break from her work, I decided to start her Vancity Villians series. Now, I will fully admit, I didn't love this book as much as I loved her past series'. I think its because those books center of musicians, and their is a certain swagger I am used to for them. This series definitely deviates from the Rockstar romance, and centers more on characters we have met in past books. Handsome Devil centers around Devi, Katie's best friend who set her up with the job that led to her meeting Jesse way back in the first Dirty book, and Dane, her high school nemesis.
The only thing I didn't like about this book, was Devi holding on to a grudge way too long. Frankly, the fact that that is my only issue with this book, means its pretty damn good. I was just frustrated because I wanted to jump in the book, grab her by the shoulders, and tell her to stop being stubborn and accept that he is a good person. But alas, jumping into books remains a fantasy, and obviously, she comes to the conclusion on her own.
What I loved about this book is the writing. Jaine Diamond is a great romance writer. She writes interesting, dimensional characters. The chemistry between the characters is felt, and not told. The romance is hot, intense, and full of sexual tension that is just delicious when it combusts. In that regard, Handsome Devil is no different from her other books.
If you enjoy a good enemies to lovers romance, with great banter and some hot sexual tension, you will enjoy Handsome Devil - as well as all of Jaine's work.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who hated me. True story. She showed up out of nowhere on the first day of senior year at my high school, bearing down on the student parking lot like Cruella de Vil on a puppy hunting spree.
Text: Dane: If you schedule one more meeting for me today, send it along with a bullet to the head.
Velma: What calibre would you prefer? Velma: “Uh… should I be worried?”
Dane: “Not in the slightest.”
She sighed a little.
Velma" “Am I sensing that someone is about to get fired?”
Dane: “Why, Velma, is that the only possible reason I could have for wanting to meet with a subordinate after hours, at her office?”
Velma: “Pretty much. Also, I know that tone you get when you’re about to fix a problem that’s bothering you.”
Dane: “Hmm. What tone?”
Velma: “I’d call it happiness, but it’s not. Maybe the closest to gleeful you ever get?”
Dane: “Remind me to reduce your pay.”
Velma: “Good one.” Chaz: “What’s wrong?”
he demanded, equal parts concerned and riveted.
Devi: “Nothing. As long as you don’t mind that we’ve been bought by the devil.”
Chaz hummed in agreement.
Chaz: “I’d sell my soul for seven minutes in Hades with that.” Was it cold in Hades? Because really, this whole fire-and-brimstone thing made no sense to me. I grew up in Canada and if you asked me, true hell was ice fucking cold. And it lived right there in the eyes of one of this country’s wealthiest men. Finally, he looked up at me again. I was still standing back, just inside the door.
Devi: “Harder for the executioner to land the ax, if I don’t stick my neck out.”
Dane: “But not impossible.” Devi: “You’re happily married, right? And it fills you up. I know you have your art, too, but your relationship is the heart of your life.”
Devi: “But I’m not the romantic you are, Katie. I’m happily married to my job. I’m fucking in love with it, actually. I’d take it on dates if I could. I’d rub its back. If this agency was a man, I’d be sucking it off daily. I’m talking blowjobs around the clock.”
Katie: “Lucky guy.”
Devi: “I know. I’m totally smitten with this dude.”
Katie: “Are we still talking about the agency…?”
Devi: “Yes. And I feel like Janelle went behind my back and hooked it up with someone else.”
Katie: “Ouch.” Dane: “You can ask Sir Frowns-A-Lot, if you don’t believe me.”
Mom: “Be respectful of Corben, Dane.”
Dane: “Is that his name? I forgot. I just call him Sir Stick-Up-His-Ass. You know, in my head.” Devi: “It was high school. Nothing that happens in high school matters.”
Huh. I used to tell myself that that was what unpopular kids told themselves to feel better. Now, I wanted it to be true.
I got right in front of her, looking down into her eyes.
Dane: “Not even that kiss?”
She made a little tshht sound.
Devi: “That kiss was less than nothing.”
Dane: “Really? Because it looked like it scorched you.”
I glanced at her mouth now, and I could picture it perfectly. The way she touched her lips afterwards like I’d burned her, and her pupils dilated.
Devi: “Don’t flatter yourself.”
I met her dark eyes again.
Dane: “Pretty sure I saw blisters forming on your lips…”
Devi: “I guess that’s what happens when pure evil kisses you.”
I licked my lip, and her gaze flicked to my mouth. Chaz: “Oooh, late night,”
he said, lowering the volume with the remote. He looked over at me as I was slipping on my sexy boots and added,
Chaz: “Who’s on the receiving end?”
I looked up, annoyed, though not with him.
Devi: “Receiving end of what?”
He swished his hand up and down, indicating my dress and… me. I stood up straight and planted a hand on my hip.
Devi: “Whoever gets in my way.”
He scrutinized me.
Chaz: “Are you pissed off or horny? I can’t tell the difference anymore.”
Both. I groaned sympathetically.
Devi: “Being a teenager sucked.”
Katie: “Especially for you. You were born thirty years old. I’m sure of it.”
Devi: “You know, that is really gonna be my year.” Devi: “You are sympathizing way too much with the devil in my story,”
I warned her.
she said brightly,
Katie: “that’s a Stones song.”
Devi: “Does our entire existence have to be a Stones song?”
I said dryly, knowing the answer to that.
Katie: “Yes. Unless it’s an Aerosmith song, a Police song, a David Bowie song, or a Dirty song.”
Devi: “Of course.”
Katie: “I forgot Queen.”
Devi: “You’re annoying me right now. Jesse: “Hey, where you going?”
Devi: “I’m going to wage war on an adversary,”
I informed them.
Katie: “She’s going to negotiate,”
Katie amended. Jesse chuckled.
Jesse: “Well, good luck to your victim.” Devi: “I’m surprised they allow you in public without a warning label from Health Canada. ‘May cause cold flashes.’”
He sipped his drink.
Dane: “What the hell are cold flashes?”
Devi: “Ask someone else who’s been in your vicinity for a few seconds and cares to educate you.”
Dane: “I’m asking you.”
Devi: “Okay. You know that feeling when you walk through a graveyard at night, alone, and there’s no one there, but you hear someone whisper your name?”
He just gazed at me, unmoved.
Devi: “There. I just felt it.”
I shivered dramatically.
Devi: “Chilling.” Jude: “He wants to drive you home, darlin’. This a bad idea?”
Devi: “Yeah. Very bad. You might be putting someone in danger. And that someone will not be me.” Dane: “I’m asking you. Don’t fight with me, okay?”
I considered what he was asking me. And why. Then I met his eyes again.
Devi: “Because you like it?”
Dane: “Yes.” Had I ever pictured myself fucking a man while trapped in a car in a snow storm? No. But now I was. Because that was what sex with Dane Davenport would feel like, surely. Fucking for your life, to ward off freezing to death. Hot and cold at the same time. I went straight into the shower, where I cursed the stubborn and headstrong Devi Sereda to hell, while I basically hate-fucked my own hand. And blew a load so hard I thought I might tear something. A muscle? A heart valve? My heart was pounding so hard it was mildly frightening. Dane: “You look very acceptable,”
Velma: “Don’t gush all over me at once. It may go to my head.”
Dane: “The dress is beautiful,”
I tried again.
Velma: “Thank you. You bought it for me with my last bonus.”
Dane: “How generous of me.”
She gave me a brief once-over.
Velma: “You look ridiculous,” Dane: "I need to look good at this gala. You’re my emergency backup plan. If everything goes to shit, I need you to do that thing you do with my mother.”
Velma: “You mean, convince her that you turned out okay?”
Dane: “Yes. That.” Devi: “Oh. Trey. This is Dane,”
Devi said, sounding bored.
Devi: “I’m surprised you don’t know each other. Both being such titans of industry and all.”
Fuck, I was gonna regret the day I threw that term in her face. Dane: “I’ll have to get your card. In case I need a property on the west coast.”
I glanced at Devi just to see the fucking appalled look I knew I’d find on her face. I wasn’t buying shit-all on the west coast. Nice to see her so horrified, though. Bradley: “I’m Bradley,”
Bradley said, offering a hand to Devi.
Devi: “Nice to meet you,”
Devi said, shaking his hand.
Dane: “Get bent, Bradley,”
Grandmother: “She’s very smart,”
my grandmother said as Devi turned to speak to someone behind us. Her pale eyes met mine.
Grandmother: “Why is she angry with you?”
Mom: “Because she’s smart,”
my mother said dryly. Dane: “If you think Ms. Sereda is the right woman for me, you really may have missed something.”
Corben: “On the contrary. Imagine what a strong woman by your side, a woman like her, could do for your image. A woman who won’t abide by your most unsavory character traits and behaviors. Wouldn’t that be refreshing, for all concerned?”
Yeah. It would be incredibly refreshing, and no doubt entertaining, for my mother and my grandmother. Dane: “That was unprecedented. I’ve rarely met a woman who wasn’t instantly intimidated by my mother and my grandmother.”
Devi: “Whatever. I’ve been on the road with famous musicians. I’ve drank from champagne fountains with movie stars. I’ve gone shot for shot with bikers, I’ve backpacked through India, and I’ve partied with women so badass they’d make your grandmother blush. A rich old lady isn’t going to scare me.” Devi: “I know you.”
Her eyes flicked up to mine again, clear and dark.
Devi: “You’re the devil.”
She said it plainly, a statement of fact. Just like she did in high school. The sudden seduction was over, but my dick was thoroughly entranced. It stood at attention, swollen with need.
Dane: “No, babe,”
I corrected her, swallowing.
Dane: “I’m the hero.”
Did she really not know that by now?
Devi: “Oh, no. No, no. This is my story. And you, Dane Davenport, are the villain.”
Then she pushed past me and walked out the door. Devi: “Why do I feel like Jonathan Harker arriving at Dracula’s castle?”
Dane: “I have no idea.”
I looked around at the state-of-the-art kitchen, the beautiful expanse of the living room, the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the water.
Devi: “Where are the caves? The icicles? The bats? The frozen bones of the small children whose blood keeps you alive?”
Dane: “I’m confused. Am I supposed to be a vampire, or the abominable snowman?”
Devi: “Both.” He adjusted the knot in his tie a little, like it was choking him.
Dane: “Let me start by saying I’m not in love with you.”
Huh? As if I ever thought he was?
Devi: “Uh, what conversation ever starts like that?”
He stared at me.
Dane: “What I’m trying to say is, I’d like you to marry me.” Devi: “If I agree to this, there will be ground rules,”
Dane: “Of course.”
Devi: “For starters. If I don’t want you to touch me, you don’t touch me.”
His cool green eyes held mine. Somehow, just talking about not having sex with him was… sexy. I tried to ignore that fact.
Dane: “Obviously. I’m not a sex offender.”
Devi: “Even in public.”
He frowned a little.
Dane: “Remember that thing we just talked about? You have to pretend to like me or this doesn’t work.”
Devi: “Couples can fight,”
Dane: “Fine. Within reason. But the idea is we’re generally happy to be together, publicly, until it’s time to break the news that we’re headed for divorce.”
Devi: “Right. And it will go a long way to helping me appear happy if I’m actually happy. So, if I’m not happy here, you’ll buy me whatever house I want.”
Devi: “And if Chaz has any trouble finding a new roommate to replace me, you’ll cover the rent.”
Devi: “And if I need a car or clothes or want a trip with my girlfriends, or any other damn thing, the answer is yes. You’ll treat me like your actual wife. Like you would’ve treated Tina. I’m your partner and your equal, in your eyes and in the eyes of the world. And you don’t show up in any more sex tapes.”
I pointed a finger at him.
Devi: “Are there more sex tapes?”
I dropped the finger.
Devi: “And you give that nice taster of yours a generous bonus. We’ll call it the bosshole bonus. Hazard pay for having to work with you here, in the ice tower.”
Devi: “The gentleman with the wine. You know, how royalty had people taste their food before they ate it in case someone was trying to poison them? I assume that’s his role here, since there are probably many people who want to murder you.”
He sighed a little.
Devi: “Also, you don’t speak ill of me. You don’t treat me badly, or you’ll end up with that divorce a lot sooner than you expected, and you can try to get some other girl to make you look good for your family. You treat my family and my friends with respect. You leave me alone to eat ice cream and binge watch Sex and the City when I have my period. If I want to have my girlfriends over or go out for dinner or order myself a pair of ten-thousand-dollar shoes, the answer is yes. It’s always yes, Dane.”
Dane: “Okay. You get that. All of it.”
He held my gaze, steady. Undeterred. For another man, that all might’ve been a large ask. But for a billionaire… what did he care if I wanted ten-thousand-dollar shoes on a whim?
Dane: “And I get you, as my adoring wife.”
Devi: “Fine. For four months. And then the agency is mine.” Katie: “How did Richard and Chandra take it? I can’t believe your parents didn’t freak out about this.”
Devi: “Oh, they did. Mom yelled at me last night over the phone and cried. I had to basically promise her I’d have a real wedding one day for her to come to, and to just think of this as a weird life choice she was never going to understand. You know, like when their only baby girl decided that instead of going to college she was going to work at a modeling agency, and instead of marrying some nice doctor or lawyer she was going to move out of their house at twenty-seven to move in with a gay roommate.” I rolled over and spooned up to Katie, wrapping my arm around her waist over the sheet.
Devi: “If this is a huge mistake,”
Devi: “you have to catch me when I fall.”
Katie stirred slowly. Maybe I’d woken her up. I wondered if she’d heard me. She reached her arm out of the sheet and laid it over mine. She squeezed my hand.
Katie: “Always,” Devi: “I can’t believe I’m marrying someone I haven’t even kissed yet. I mean, other than that stupid kiss in high school.”
Katie: “I know.”
Devi: “I never thought I’d save myself for marriage.”
Katie: “I mean, you’re not a virgin. And I’ve seen you kiss guys. You’re a good kisser. I can tell. If you ask me, he’s getting a pretty sweet deal.”
Devi: “I know. And I’ve got a pretty nice butt.”
Katie: “You’ve got an adorable butt.”
Devi: “I really hope he has a nice dick.”
Katie laughed. Shane: “Don’t be so hard on him. You’d marry someone your family liked too if it meant you got thirteen billion dollars out of it.”
He flicked his chin at me.
Shane: “Just divorce her later if you need to. Or see whoever you want on the side.”
He eyed me, considering.
Shane: “Is that your plan?”
Lex: “Nope. He likes this one. Just like he did in high school.”
Dane: “You know nothing,”
I muttered, to neither of them in particular, or maybe both of them.
Lex: “I know you,”
Shane: “So you think the plan is to stay with her?”
Shane asked Lex, like I wasn’t even there. Lex was silent for a minute, as he took a final drag and then pinched out the end of his joint.
Lex: “It’s worse than that,”
he said, flicking the roach into the night.
Lex: “He doesn’t have a plan.” Devi: “Am I really doing this?”
Katie: “Well, I mean, if you don’t want to—”
Devi: “Katie! You’re the worst at this!”
Katie: “Well, what am I supposed to say?! I married for love. You married for… what did you marry for again?”
She squinted at me.
Devi: “Please stop drinking those.”
I plucked the coconut from her hand and put it aside.
Devi: “There is way more booze in that than you think.” Katie: “What if it’s not a farce?”
Katie: “What? What if you end up falling for him?”
Devi: “Oh, God. That never happens, Katie. People don’t get married first and then fall in love.”
Katie: “Uh, actually, they do. Did you know that arranged marriages have the same success rate as other marriages?”
Devi: “Is that even true?”
Katie: “I don’t know. I just made it up.” Devi: “Oh, Katie. Stop it right there.”
Devi: “Because Dane Davenport is so not Jesse Mayes. I keep trying to tell you this.”
Katie: “I know he’s not Jesse. There is only one Jesse Mayes.”
Devi: “Don’t gloat.”
Katie: “But so what? I didn’t love Jesse either when I agreed to be his pretend girlfriend. I didn’t even know him. And now I love him with the force of a thousand suns. And that part came pretty quick, actually.”
Devi: “Well, I met Dane Davenport twelve years ago and the thousand suns are taking their sweet time rising on this one.”
Katie: “I think you like him more than you’ll admit.”
Devi: “I think I should’ve let Chaz be my maid of honor.” Katie; “You’re gonna be a kick-ass wife,”
Devi: “I know.”
Katie: “Maybe he’ll be a kick-ass husband.”
Devi: “I highly doubt it.”
Katie: “You’re gonna compete with him, even in that?”
Devi: “Especially in that. I’m gunning for bride of the century tonight.”
Katie: “Whoa. Devi Davenport. Are you gonna screw your new husband tonight?”
I raised an eyebrow. I wasn’t ready for the new name, even though it was already mine. It was stipulated in the contract. I was, officially, a Davenport.
I said cooly.
Devi: “It’s too soon to fuck him.”
Katie: “Is it?”
Devi: “Katie. Something happens to a guy’s head when he gets his dick inside a woman’s vagina and feels her reactions from the inside-out, with that most prized possession of his. It’s like a dipstick. A divining rod. Gives up way too much information.”
Katie: “What kind of information?”
my drunk best friend probed, amused.
Devi: “You know. Physiological clues. Of the hot, wet, orgasmic variety. Clues he interprets as points in his favor. Just because I find him physically attractive and my body might respond to his touch doesn’t mean the kinds of things he might take it to mean. In other words, fucking him would give him way too much power. Not happening.”
Katie looked unconvinced. Or maybe it was just the rum. But she was not getting onboard with me here like I needed her to. Obviously, she wasn’t buying that I wasn’t going to touch him tonight.
Devi: “Okay, the truth is, I’m not going to fuck him, but I am going to blow his mind. Right out his dick hole.”
Katie: “Gross.” He glanced at me as I considered that.
Dane: “You’re judging me. I can feel it.”
Devi: “Frankly, Dane, I’m always judging you. You’ll get used to it.” Devi: “Right. So, I’m really glad the matchmaker hooked us up. You are just my type.”
Dane: “Am I?”
His eyes met mine over his wine glass.
Devi: “Oh, yeah. Built…”
My gaze drifted over his shoulders.
Devi: “Beautiful… And dumb as a stump.”
He laughed shortly. I didn’t think I’d ever heard him laugh like that before. Did he actually laugh?
Dane: “I am pretty fucking dumb. Had a little trouble getting my fly open earlier. Maybe you could help me with that later.”
Devi: “Oh, and he flirts like a dumb jock too. Delicious,”
I said sarcastically.
Dane: “And is this the part where you move things along by asking me what I’m really thinking, and I blurt it right out like the dumb jock I am?”
Devi: “Yes. Absolutely. What are you thinking right now? I’m a busy woman. Don’t waste my time.”
Dane: “I’m thinking I’d like to bend you over, slide that dress up over your gorgeous hips, and lick you front to back.”
Ohhhh-kay. I was pretty sure he actually meant that. I crossed my legs as the flesh between my legs pulsed, trying to cover it as I leaned over my plate a little to continue eating.
Devi: “I might just let you do that,”
I said, continuing on with the role-play.
Devi: “Let me finish my dinner first.” I pulled up my pants and did up my belt. Then I leaned over her and said,
Dane: “Good girl,”
in her ear. Mostly because she was being a good girl right now. And I liked it. But also to annoy her, maybe. Just a bit. She didn’t want to fuck me? Now that I wasn’t so stupid with arousal that I didn’t care… it kind of bugged me. If that was another power play of hers, I didn’t even know who’d won. Her eyes flashed when they met mine. Fire. But also, satisfaction. I slapped her ass casually as I stood up and fixed my shirt, and my heart rammed in my chest.
Dane: “Now go clean up,. I’m hungry.” Shane: “Nothing. Okay, something. My bestie is here just buying up new offices, and he won’t come see me fight? I’m hurt, Davenport, truly.”
Dane: “I didn’t buy it. It’s a lease. And you’re not my bestie. Females have besties. I have a bad decision at age fifteen that’s still following me around.” Chaz: “What fight?”
Chaz whispered, and I realized he’d been standing there, listening to the whole thing.
Chaz: “I’ll go to a fight. Hot straight boys punching each other and stuff? I’m in.”
Devi: “You make assumptions. They may not all be straight.”
Chaz: “Can’t they be? It’s my fantasy. Don’t ruin it.”
Devi: “Sorry. I didn’t know you were so into straight guys.”
Chaz: “I didn’t know I was either. Until I saw your husband in that hetero porno.”
Devi: “Please don’t,”
Chaz: “I can’t stop watching it…”
he whispered. How twisted was this man? And was he as twisted as me? Devi: “Do you want me or do you hate me right now?”
Dane: “Both, I think,”
he said, which surprised me. Despite the few sexual acts we’d already indulged in together, I didn’t think he’d admit to wanting me at all.
Dane: “Do you want me? Or do you hate me?”
Devi: “I want you. I hate you.”
I sipped my wine.
Devi: “I want to hate you.” Dane stared at me for a long moment, and little tingles ran down my spine at that look in his eyes. Angry. Irritated. Aroused. Then he said,
Dane: “Get down on your knees.”
I licked my lip.
Devi: “Show me your dick first.”
He returned my gaze with a cold, penetrating look that made my nipples harden. He set his drink aside on the table, then unzipped his jeans and peeled them open. He shoved down his underwear, showing me the monster between his legs. So. Hard.
Devi: “Looks painful,”
I noted. It did. Angry and swollen and seeping pre-come.
Devi: “Is that mine?”
Dane: “Yes. Every angry inch of it.” But then it was done. I was done, and gravity yanked at me. I slammed my hand down on the floor next to her and hung my head.
Dane: “Jesus Christ. Gonna… fall over…”
I wasn’t kidding, but Devi kind of laughed. She shifted her hips and pulled herself off my dick, and as soon as she kind of rolled out from under me and sat up, I put my other hand on the floor. I was on all fours, completely wrecked. My heart was thudding and I couldn’t seem to feel my face.
Devi: “Good boy,”
she whispered. When I raised my head just enough to look at her, her dark eyes met mine.
Devi: “Now go clean up. I’m hungry.”
She slapped me on the ass as she got to her feet. Katie: “Are you okay? Where are you?”
Devi: “I’m at the penthouse. We did it. We did the devil’s dance.”
Devi: “Dane stormed the castle,”
I told her, pacing.
Devi: “It was gland-to-gland combat. Assault with a friendly weapon.”
Devi: “The dirty deed, Katie! We did the nasty. The wild thing. Do I need to start singing Tone-Loc?”
Katie: “Ohhh. You had sex.” Devi: “Katie! You’re fucking terrible at this. Help me. I always help you.”
Katie: “I know, but you’re never the one falling apart. I’m not prepared for this.” Devi: “Katie, come on.”
Katie: “I’m trying! Let’s see. Okay, why was it the best sex you ever had?”
Devi: “Because he’s hot, Katie. I’m pretty sure he may actually be Lucifer. And I don’t even care, that’s how good it was. When he’s inside me, I’d be willing to hand over my soul for eternal damnation as long as he just keeps doing what he’s doing.”
Katie made a little noise.
Devi: “Did you just swoon?”
Katie: “Um, I may have. Just a little.”
Devi: “You are not allowed to swoon over my husband!”
Katie: “Why not? That sounded amazing.”
Devi: “Because he’s the devil. Am I not pronouncing it properly? He’s evil. He’s a bad, bad man who does bad things.” Mom: “And how do you know she doesn’t love you?”
Dane: “I told you. She left.”
Mom: “Hmm. So you assume because a woman leaves you that proves she doesn’t love you? As I said. Boys. With so much left to learn.” Mom: “I would try to make up for it now, but I know I’m too late. And the truth is I’ve never known how to be a mother. I’ve never known how to love someone more than I love the name. Davenport.”
She smiled wryly.
Mom: “It used to mean everything. It was supposed to. But the closer you get to the grave, the less it means. And yet it’s pretty much the only thing that’s carved into that stone above your bones. It’s what you leave behind. And… this.”
She cupped my face with her gloved hand.
Mom: “I just hope I get the chance to be a better grandmother than I was a mother.”
My breath lodged in my throat. I felt stiff and strange. My mother never touched me. Her kisses were air kisses. Her hugs were non-existent.
Mom: “Don’t be like us, Dane. Be better than us.”
Text: Devi: You just left your brother like this? Shit faced and half naked?
Lex: Where is he?
Devi: In my lap.
Lex: Sounds like you’ve got it covered. (Smirk emoji.) He gazed up at me. My boobs were kind of in his face, but he wasn’t looking at those. His gaze cleared a little as he focused on my face.
Dane: “I love your face.”
I looked out the window.
Devi: “My plastic surgeon would appreciate it.”
When he didn’t reply, I looked at his face again. He was frowning.
Dane: “I loved it anyway. You were so fearless in high school.”
Devi: “Too bad your friends didn’t share that opinion,”
Dane: “Lex always thought you were hot.”
Devi: “Johnny said I was fugly.”
Dane: “Johnny’s stupid.”
He frowned again.
Dane: “Johnny’s fugly.” As she turned on some lights and took off her coat, then went to get me a glass of water, I followed her around. And a lot of weird, nice things fell out of my mouth, like, “It smells like your beauty in here,” “Did I ever tell you that the highlights in your hair shine like cognac under the kitchen lights?” and “I wish I was shorter so you didn’t have to look up at me.”
Devi: “Okay, let’s maybe not say the exact everything that comes into our heads,” Devi: “What were you doing in Australia?”
Dane: “Surfing. And you know what I learned about that?”
Dane: “I am not a good surfer.”
She didn’t look amused. I studied her face. Those big brown eyes looking back at me. And in that moment, I knew it. We were both idiots. She’d been too strong to ever admit any feelings for me. And I’d been too weak to admit my feelings for her. Dane: "But with you… I could never find any weaknesses. No matter how deep I got.”
Devi: “Well, I guess you just found some.”
She didn’t say the rest, but I could see the fear all over her face. Are you going to leave me now?
Dane: “Yeah, I found them. There they are. And I just love you more.”
Devi: “You love me?”
Dane: “I loved you when I cornered you in a hallway and kissed you, and you called me the devil. I hated it that you hated me. Because I already loved you. I was fucking enamored with you from the moment I met you.”
Devi: “I didn’t really hate you, Dane,”
she whispered. But she still hadn’t told me she loved me.
Dane: “Would you love me more if I was poor?”
I asked her. I was dead serious. I needed to know. She looked stunned.
Dane: “Would you love me more if I wasn’t white?”
Devi: “Oh my God, Dane.”
Dane: “Would you love me more if I was kind?”
She took my face in her hands.
Devi: “Because I couldn’t possibly love you more than I already do.”
I choked out.
Devi: “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you just tell me that you loved me? All that time you were in Toronto…? Before you took off like that. You could’ve reached out and told me.”
Dane: “I mean, what was I supposed to do? Send you a text? ‘Hey, I love you’?”
Devi: “Yeah. Maybe.”
I said softly, looking into her eyes. I pushed my hands into her hair and pulled her face close to mine.
Devi: “I love you.” I smacked his chest, but grinned, then shook my hair back out of my face.
Devi: “I think you’re supposed to pick me up in your arms. You know, like precious cargo. Not heft me over your shoulder like a sack of sugar.”
He arched an eyebrow at me.
Dane: “But you are a sack of sugar.”
I rolled my eyes.
Devi: “Romantic.” Dane: “You still insisting that I’m the devil in this story?”
I slid into his lap, sliding my arms around his neck.
Devi: “You’ll always be my devil, Dane. That’s what I like most about you.”