No One But Us
by Elizabeth O'Roark
She's my little sister's best friend. And exactly who I should NOT be spending a summer with...
The last time I saw Elle, she was a child. A Harry Potter-obsessed 13-year-old with a penchant for fan fiction and following me around. Six years later she’s on my doorstep. The braces are gone. The “Team Gryffindor” t-shirt’s been replaced with a bikini the size of my index finger. And I can’t get her out of my head, no matter how hard I try.
Except she’s still the girl I’m not allowed to have, the center of a secret I hope she never learns.
Resisting what I feel for Elle Grayson is the only way to protect my family. But am I willing to break both our hearts in the process?
Shocker! I love another Elizabeth O'Roark book.
I won't pretend that I've not noticed a trend in her writing. All of her books seem to follow a similar formula. Which is fine! Honestly, if an author finds a formula that works, thats amazing. As long as the storylines are different from one another, I don't care.
It just means that once I figure out the formula, I'm able to predict what's coming in the story. In order to keep myself on my toes, I think I will have to read other books in between reading Elizabeth's in the future.
That's not taken in consideration in my review.
Most authors, especially romance authors, have a formula they use for all their work.
That being said, I loved this book.
The romance is great. Main characters are interesting and likeable.
There was only one thing I hated in this book, and it's nothing to do with the writing, but how one character treated Elle. And my frustration with Elle - who was COMPLETELY INNOCENT - not standing up for herself after when she was put down over, and over, and over again, by someone who should have had her back.
I mean, it made sense. Elle is damaged from her upbringing.
But it was painful to read.
If that's my only complaint, that says something.
Once again, Elizabeth O'Roark writes a romance that is equally emotional, but sexy. I can't wait to read more of her work.
Elle: “If you’re not doing what you want, then you’ll always disappoint yourself. And if someone’s going to wind up disappointed, make sure it’s not you because you’re the one who has to live with the consequences.” Max: “I want to hear more about this ex-boyfriend of yours. I need to know what he did wrong so I don’t mess up when we’re a couple.”
I growl, and he looks at me and throws up his hands.
Max: “I’m kidding!”
He turns back to Elle.
Max: “But seriously, what did he do? So I’ll know once we’re a couple.” Elle: “Maybe not,”
Elle says, her voice quiet and certain,
Elle: “but just once in my life, I want someone who puts me first, and I knew right then that he was never going to be that person.”
Our eyes meet as she says it, and behind that set jaw I see something fragile about her that I wish I didn’t. It’s something I saw in her face even when she was little. I still remember the way her mother would simply forget to come pick her up from our house, the glance the housekeeper and nanny exchanged when someone finally showed up. I think of all this as our eyes lock, and I find myself hoping one day she will find someone who loves her the way she deserves. I know for a fact that person can never be me. Max; “What would you guys do without me? I’m guessing it would be all Downton Abbey re-runs and Scrabble tournaments.”
James: “I’d kick your ass at Scrabble,”
Max: “I’m sure you would, but the fact that you’d even brag about that is a perfect illustration of my point. We’re having a blow-out tonight, by the way, since you’re all off.”
Ginny: “As opposed to what you host every other night of the week?”
Ginny asks. Max’s parties irritate Ginny to no end. Actually, everything about Max seems to irritate Ginny to no end. Mostly, she’s just appalled that he’s not more like her—that he dropped out of college only one semester shy of graduation and appears to have no interest in returning, that he spends his winters as a ski instructor and his summers tending bar and seems completely content. These are decisions Ginny finds unimaginable.
Max: “I’m doing it for you, Gin Gin. To help you remove the large stick that seems to have accidentally been wedged in your ass.”
Ginny: “How do you think you’ll ever support a family, living the way you do?”
Max: “What part of my behavior has led you to think for one moment that I’m interested in having a family?”
Ginny: “So all you want out of life is to bang a different girl every night?”
he says with a shrug.
Max: “If we’re talking about ideal outcomes, I’d bang two or three.” Max: “I still can’t believe, that idiot boyfriend of yours told you he couldn’t go without getting laid all summer.”
Ginny: “Right, like you could? You wouldn’t even make it a week.”
Max: “I could for the right girl, Gin Gin. Why don’t you dump that tool you’re dating and find out?”
She rolls her eyes.
Max: “Oh, what’s that?”
asks Max, holding a hand to his ear.
Max: “Did you fail to write me into your 10-year plan? I think you might have forgotten the following bullet point: ‘sexual awakening that occurs once I suspect my high school boyfriend sucks in bed’.” This is why I can’t drink around her. Because I relax and find myself telling her things I shouldn’t. And then she makes me relax further, and I find myself thinking things I shouldn’t. Like just now, as I watched her throwing her head back to laugh. In one breath I’m complaining about babysitting this girl, and in the next I’m thinking of all the things I’d like to do with her mouth. Just fucking outstanding. James sees us and sits up, casting a narrowed eye at our yoga mats.
James: “When did the two of you become workout buddies?”
Max: “When the opportunity to stand behind Elle in downward-facing dog became a possibility,”
Max replies. I groan.
Elle: “That had better not be why you’re always behind me.”
Max: “Fine, tomorrow you can be behind me. I’ll be doing yoga in your cut-off jean shorts, FYI.” Max: “If you’d ever acted like a normal college student, rather than a 40-year-old soccer mom, you wouldn’t need to ask me that.” Elle: “She won’t admit it, but I think she’s starting to sense that she’s missing out, being with Alex.”
James: “She’ll get over it. They’re so well-suited for each other. They believe in all the same shit. Politics and all that.”
Elle: “You should write romance novels,”
I tease. My voice goes low and breathy.
Elle: “‘Oh, Fabio, I love the way you share my political views.’” Max looks at James and grins even wider.
Max: “Sure, he can stay,”
he says with slightly too much enthusiasm.
Max: “Any friend of Elle’s is a friend of ours, right, James?”
James turns his glare toward Max, and then back to me.
James: “He stays on the first floor,”
he warns. God, his voice is hot when he’s being bossy. It makes my insides completely liquid.
James: “He sets one foot on those stairs, and I’m throwing his ass out.”
I roll my eyes.
Elle: “You know, if you’re trying to preserve your sister’s chastity, I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed.”
Max: “Yeah, James. Stop worrying so much about Ginny.”
James; “Whatever. First floor or he leaves this house missing parts,” Elle: "He has these beautiful girls throwing themselves at him after his shows. He was just being realistic, more than anything else. But I don’t want the pressure of being with someone who always has a dozen other offers anyway.”
James’ eyes hold mine.
James: “Any guy who’s with you should be able to get a hundred offers and not think twice.” Max looks back and forth between us and then stops, pointing at this bush we pass every day, which is covered in purple flowers that weren’t there the week before.
Max: “You see that? That’s the New England aster. It doesn’t normally bloom until September or October.”
The depth of Max’s useless knowledge never ceases to amaze me.
Ginny: “What’s your point, Max? Because I feel sure there’s a point here.”
Max: “My point, is that things don’t bloom because they’re told it’s the correct time. They bloom because the conditions are right.”
Ginny: “What the hell are you talking about? Because the rest of us haven’t been smoking pot all morning, so we can’t decipher your cryptic little comments.”
Max: “James knows what I mean.”
Max grins, walking ahead. And based on the way James stalks off ahead of us, it appears Max is right. Elle: “Only you will be stuck with the life you choose, and you only get to choose once. So they don’t get a vote.” James: “You’re dangerous, Elle.”
Elle: “How so?”
I ask. He doesn’t open his eyes.
James: “You just are.” Elle: “She may be a keeper if she’s willing to put up with you looking like that.”
James: “So you’d have kicked me to the curb?”
he asks. I look over at him, tan and shirtless and unshaven, and before I can pull it back, I just tell him the truth.
I say softly. Our eyes hold, and I swear I see him shudder in response. James: “Any other hidden skills I need to know? Did you also climb Everest and go through sommelier training?”
Elle: “You mean you haven’t?”
His low laugh sends a trill of delight rocketing through my stomach.
James; “So are you going to order for me too, Elle?”
he asks, his mouth close to my ear, his voice quiet. It sounds dirty somehow.
Elle: “Do you want me to order for you, James?”
James: “I like hearing you speak Italian. Say something.”
Elle: “Hai dimenticato di comprare il latte.”
James: “That sounded dirty,”
Elle: “You just have a dirty mind. I said, ‘You forgot to buy milk’.”
James: “Say something else.”
Elle: “Il mio pastello e grande.”
James: “What was that?”
Elle: “My crayon is large.”
He gets a sly grin on his face.
James: “Je promets que mon crayon est plus grande,”
He says, close to my ear again. French, spoken too quickly for me to follow. He’s right. It sounds positively filthy.
James: “I promise my crayon is larger,”
he translates with a smile so dirty I find myself squeezing my thighs together. Elle: “If I’m so pretty,”
I blurt out,
Elle: “then why was kissing me such a mistake?”
James: “Elle, you’re 19. I just…don’t see you that way.”
I feel like I’ve been hit. Not that I hadn’t surmised as much by the way he practically ran screaming from the restaurant when it happened, but still… It hurts.
Elle: “So you’re not attracted to me?”
James: “There isn’t a straight male alive who isn’t attracted to you,”
he says hoarsely.
Elle: “So what’s the problem?”
I persist. I hate myself for pushing this, but on the other hand, it seems there’s nothing left to be lost. He pinches the bridge of his nose.
James: “You can find someone attractive and still not want to be with them,”
I say quietly.
James: “You can’t take it personally. You can have anyone alive.”
Elle: “Not anyone,”
I say, meeting his eye.
Elle: “Not the person I want.” James: "I never thought I’d hear the kid who could name every single My Little Pony character tell her dad to go fuck himself.”
I laugh, a little unwillingly.
Elle: “Not my finest moment.”
He smiles then, reluctantly, before turning away.
James: “It was one of them.” Max: “I can’t believe I’m the one reminding you, but here it is: she’s 19. And I don’t know why you’re pretending nothing is going on, but you’d better realize that all the pretending in the world won’t mean it’s not real for her. So if you don’t like her well enough to admit you’re with her, then you don’t like her enough to sleep with her. That girl likes you, and it’s going to fuck her up if you just take off at the end of the summer like it didn’t mean anything. And if you do it, I’ll fucking kill you.”
James: “You can’t kill me. I’m taller, and I weigh more.”
Max: “For her sake, I’d manage it.” James: Can you come back down?
Elle: When she falls asleep.
James: I can’t wait that long.
Elle: You Campbells are very demanding.
James: You have no idea how demanding I can be. Elle: “I feel like every time I bend over now you’re looking at my ass,”
I tell him quietly as I pick up my drinks. It’s different, working with him now. His eyes follow me everywhere I go, with a tension between us that is intoxicating and grueling in the same moment.
James: “Every time you ever bent over I was looking at your ass.”
I lean over the bar so my mouth is close to his ear.
Elle: “Stasera voglio vederti nudo,”
I whisper. Tonight I want to see you naked.
Elle: “Two gin and tonics.”
James: “You did not just ask for gin and tonics.”
Elle: “Reply in French,”
James: “Mon crayon est grande.”
I lean toward him again, keeping my voice low enough that we won’t be overheard.
Elle: “Yes, James. I’m well aware of how large your crayon is. I think it’s the biggest crayon I’ve ever seen.”
James: “You haven’t seen it.”
Elle: “Some things are pretty easy to assess in other ways,”
I reply, glancing at his crotch.
Elle: “Although maybe I should see it, just to be sure.” Elle: “Stop grabbing the sheets like that,”
I tease, bringing my mouth back where it was.
James: “It’s the only thing keeping me from grabbing your hair,”
he pants. I take as much of him as I can in my mouth, once, quickly, and then grin up at him.
Elle: “Maybe I want you to grab my hair.” James: “You have no idea how many times a day, an hour, I’ve thought about doing this,”
he says, moving against me until he’s in the exact right place.
James: “I have some catching up to do.” Max: “When did you turn into such a grumpy fucker?”
asks Max, rising and heading inside.
Max: “I’m going to have to buy you some female companionship if your dry spell keeps up.”
I grin at James when Max is out of sight.
Elle: “We wouldn’t want your dry spell to continue.”
He leans close, his low voice near my ear.
James: “My dry spell is about to end in a big way.” James: “I know you’re upset. I just didn’t know what to say.”
Does he really think that explanation helps his case?
Elle: “Yeah, it’s pretty clear that you didn’t know what to say.”
My voice is slightly hoarse with the need to cry, which I won’t do in front of him.
Elle: “And it seems pretty clear to me that by now, you probably should.” Elle: "You want some fling you don’t have to feel guilty about? Fine. But don’t for one second act like you have the right to know anything about what I’m doing. That right will be earned by someone who likes me enough to admit we’re together.”
James: “It has nothing to do with how much I like you,”
Elle: “Of course it does! When you meet the right girl, you’ll feel the way you did about quitting law school,”
I tell him, and my voice breaks as I realize the truth of what I’m saying.
Elle: “You’ll want her so much that you won’t care about the consequences. I just don’t happen to be that girl.” Elle: “After everything he went through to get there? How could he give that up?”
Ginny: “He did it, because he’s apparently in love with you. But I probably ought to let him tell you that himself.” James: "I’m in love with you. Since the moment you walked out on the deck, nothing has been the same.”
I refuse to cry, because I put on mascara while Ginny drove us back, and I don’t want to look like Alice Cooper. My eyes well in spite of my best efforts.
Elle: “I love you too. But I think you’ve known that since I was about four.”
James: “I was 10. It meant slightly less to me than it does now.” Max: “I think there was some kind of break-in on the street last night,”
says Max. For a moment I believe him, but when I turn, he’s grinning broadly.
Ginny: “Yeah. I heard all the screaming. It sounded like someone was being murdered.”
Max: “You know, Elle,”
says Max thoughtfully,
Max: “if that whole broadcast thing doesn’t work out, I think you could totally make it in porn.”
James: “And now,”
says James, turning his angry brows toward the table,
James: “you’ve carried it too far.”
Ginny: “You deserve it. I’m going to be scarred for life. On the bright side, it’s good that you finally lost your virginity.”