Surprise! My next book is coming early!

This is a super short post, but I want to let all the wonderful bloggy people know that I finished A Holland and a Fighter much sooner than I expected and decided to release it nearly a month early on Sunday, June 16.

As I’ve said in other social posts, this one is a love letter to the most devoted of readers. This isn’t a stand-alone by any means. To get the most out of it, read all the other books. The get quite a lot out of it, you at least need to read the Emi Lost and Found and Choisie series.

Now… the thing I must ask of all the readers is to NOT spoil this book for the ones who come behind you. Not in social posts, conversations on my page or ESPECIALLY in reviews. I’m begging you. And don’t read ahead, either. You’ll want to work your way into this organically and experience all the love and warmth and comfort that these characters will deliver.

So, if you haven’t preordered yet, make sure you do to be one of the first to read it when it goes live late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

If you want to talk about it, buddy read or send me a private message on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or shoot me an email. I’ll be away from work next week doing family things but will likely have time to chat.

Lastly, brace yourself… and remember I love you all! This is one hell of a ride. ❤️

A look back at young Will


I’ve had a little trouble writing recently. I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. So I decided to write something that was a little self-indulgent. Something that would make me feel good. I was happiest when I was writing Will, so I returned to him.

This is just a little short story in what may become a compilation. I have this title… Belong: Love Letters to the Hollands. The concept is that different characters would write about the moment that they were accepted into the Holland family. Since so many of my recent stories are about characters outside the family, yet so close to them, I thought it would be interesting to think of those solitary moments. Those days or nights that changed their lives.

I’m impulsively posting this tonight, and it’s not edited. I just wanted to share a little love with all of you. So here is Will’s love letter. 🙂 Enjoy.

[Spoilers ahead!]
Continue reading “A look back at young Will”

Excerpt: In the Wake of Wanting – “Dinner with the Hollands”

I mentioned (in my previous post) in the description of my upcoming book, In the Wake of Wanting, the flustered freshman that Trey Holland would meet. I didn’t mention that the flustered feeling would be contagious.

This excerpt brings back some of your favorites, if you’re a current reader of mine. (Livvy, Jon, Jack and Emi are all at dinner with Trey.) If you’re new to me, don’t worry. This novel is written as a stand-alone, so you’ll be given all the info you need to have. The ‘scene’ told from Trey’s perspective is below the graphic! Meet Cole–er, Coley!


“Hey,” my sister, Livvy, says. “Isn’t this when you get to mentor someone? Be an editor this semester to a newbie?”

“Yeah. I’m surprised you remember that.”

“So? What do you think of your mentee? Give me some details… name, qualifications, first impression.”

“Name is Coley…” I half-mumble.

“Cole?” my dad asks.

“Yeah,” I answer reflexively.

“And what do you think of him?”

“I, uh… I think he’ll be good,” I say. Fix it now, Trey. “He’s from Virginia. His dad’s a secret service agent assigned to the president, actually. His mom’s a cop in DC. They’re divorced, apparently.”

“How’s his writing?”

“He wouldn’t let me see his work. But he has to do that first impression assignment on me, so I’ll get to see something Wednesday. He’s obviously good enough to get on the Wit staff.”

“So, Trey, did he know who you were?” Mom asks.

“I mean, yeah, I guess so,” I answer vaguely. “He didn’t make a big deal out of it.”

The waiter delivers our salads. I stare at mine, knowing that I’m not going to be able to maintain a lie of this magnitude for an entire semester. I’m surprised they’re believing what I’m saying now, since I haven’t given anyone eye contact since I started answering them.

As soon as our waiter leaves, I continue the conversation. “She has a twin brother who’s deaf.”

“Who does?” my brother-in-law, Jon, asks.

“Cole.” I shake my head, still mentally berating myself for being unable to say her name.

“I thought you said she.”

I clear my throat. “Coley. Her name is Coley Fitzsimmons. It is a girl. She is a she.”

All the adults look at me curiously. “Is she, um… gender fluid?” Livvy asks, trying not to make a big deal about it. “Or transgender?” Everyone at the table smiles, showing their open-mindedness as they await my response.

“No,” I say as I exhale the breath I’d been holding in. “She’s a female, feminine girl. I don’t know why I was lying. Why I was saying he. Coley. That’s her name. And yes, she knows who I am, too. Everything else is true.”

Of course, my face is most definitely the color of the tomatoes in my salad. When I look up, everyone is still staring at me. “Is she getting under your skin, there, Trey?” Jon asks.

“What?” I ask, adamantly denying that she is. “No! No, no. She’s just my… I’m just her editor. That’s all it is. It’s just weird to be partnered with a girl. You know, we’re going to be working together a lot this semester. I don’t know how it’s going to go, that’s all. I expected a guy.”

“You were with a girl when you were the mentee, though,” my mom says. “It’s no different, right?”

“It’s very different,” I say defensively, having no rational reason why, though.

From In the Wake of Wanting ©2016 Lori L. Otto • unedited • content subject to change

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A Max and Callen Christmas


This is a special little (6,000-word-little) scene I wrote for Glass Paper Ink Bookblog’s Christmas Extravaganza. It was featured there over the weekend, but I thought I’d go ahead and share it on the blog now for all the world to read. This little extra goes with my Love Like We Do series, and would take place after the books, chronologically.

It’s a little sexy, and yes, it’s about a relationship between two guys, so chill. It’s love and it’s sweet.

I stare at Nolan sitting in the big, cushioned chair, his red suit stuffed with pillows, and ponder the little girl’s question to me. Shouldn’t Santa already be delivering presents to kids in other parts of the world by now? She’d made sure to remind me that it’s already morning in Asia.

Matty should have prepped us better for this volunteer gig for A Kinder New York.

“I’m pretty sure this is just a layover,” I tell her, swallowing. “Have you taken a plane before?” I ask her.


“It’s just like that.”

“But doesn’t Santa make his own schedule? Who’s he waiting on?” she asks.

This girl’s too smart to be in line for Santa. I look to her mother for help, but she’s busy reading something on an iPad, not even listening to us. I could just be honest with her now… rip off the Band-Aid.

“Reindeer,” I say suddenly, a stroke of brilliance coming to me. “The reindeer can’t go non-stop. Sure, Santa gets to sit on his ass and–”

“Ahem.” I glance up at the little girl’s mom glaring at me. Sure, now she listens to me.

“He gets to sit on his assss-tronomically big sleigh that holds all those toys all night, but the reindeer have to do all the work. So, yeah, they’re up on the roof right now, noshin’ on some reindeer kibble and stretchin’ their hooves.”

“Hooves don’t stretch.”

“Lookie there, Santa’s ready for you,” I say, walking her up to Santa-Nolan. “She’s a smart cookie,” I whisper in his ear.

“Amber, give the elf your toy for the poor kids.”

Before I help her up into Nolan’s lap, she gives me a colorful box that she can barely hold. “It’s a construction set for girls. Girls can build things, too.”

“Of course they can,” I say, nodding and taking the toy set from her. “Some little girl’s going to love this. Thank you!” After taking her place and starting to list the things she wants, I stand back with her mother for a second before delivering the gift to the tree.

“She can’t just like princesses like all the other girls,” her mom says to me, clearly disappointed.

“Just disown her at sixteen, like my dad did. Problem solved. Merry Christmas,” I tell her curtly.

“I didn’t mean… that.” She puts her tablet away and looks at me, horrified.

“I think Amber’s pretty cool. Nothing wrong with being different.”

“I’m sorry,” she says, and I can tell she genuinely means it. She moves closer to her daughter and listens to the list she gives to Santa. “Merry Christmas,” she says to me as I walk away.

“Easy there, Mascot,” Zaina says, setting down the gift under the tree that she’d collected at the same time I do. “That was a little harsh, wasn’t it?” she asks me, fixing my collar as I adjust her matching one. The costume shop obviously didn’t iron the tops we’re wearing before handing them out.

“I call it like I see it. I don’t bring a filter on holidays. Not even Christmas Eve,” I tell her with a wink.

“Fair enough.” She links her arm with mine and we walk back to the line together, undoubtedly looking completely ridiculous in our identical unisex elf outfits. It’s okay, though. As long as I’m in it with her, I’m having fun doing it.

I open my mouth to greet the next person in line, but she interrupts me before I can say anything. “Are you Max? The guy who’s dating Callen McNare?”

“On any other day, yes. Today, I’m Mascot the Elf, workin’ hard for Santa.”

“Oh, my God!” she squeals, rallying her tween friends to do the same. “So it’s true? Callen’s here?”

“I want to see Callen!”

“Callen’s here?”

I guess the fact that I–a guy–am dating Callen–another guy–doesn’t speak to the hormones of twelve and thirteen year old girls. They’re still going nuts over my boyfriend.

“What am I? Chopped reindeer liver?” I tease them, knowing I’m just as good looking as Callen. Screw that, I’m hotter than Callen any day of the week. Except today, when I’m dressed like an actual fairy. Today, I’m just cuter.

“We love you, too, Max!”

“Is Trey Holland here?” one of the girls asks. I glance over at Zaina. She’s heard her boyfriend’s name, and is already walking toward the conversation.

“Hey, look, here comes Zany the Elf!” I say, introducing her to the girls.

“He and Callen are working in the back today,” she answers for both of us apologetically.

“Can we see them? Pleeeeease?” they beg.

I scoff at their plea. “Trust me, you’ve got their better halves right here.” A few of the girls giggle.

“I like you better than Callen,” one of them says. “You’re funnier.”

“And I like you,” I tell her. “You get to see Santa first. Oh, and here, have a reindeer cupcake.” I take my favorite design off the stack and hand it to my admirer.

“I want a cupcake,” the other girls start to whine.

“Everyone gets a cupcake,” Trey’s uncle, Matty says, breaking up our conversation. “Hey, elves, let’s keep the line moving, please.”

“Nothing like being a second-rate significant-other, huh?” Zaina says as we walk to the next group of visitors with toys for the displaced children we’re collecting gifts for.

“Wow, you call yourself significant?” I tease her, finding a little boy with a big, plastic dump truck filled with a bunch of pieces in the back of it. After talking to him, I drop him off with Nolan and take the toy to the side of the tree where there’s room for it.

“Who’s making your toes curl?”

Unaware that anyone else was around, I drop the toy dump truck on the black and white marble-striped floor of The Mark Hotel lobby when I feel his hot breath on my neck.

“Damn it, Callen!” I exclaim, getting my red and green cap caught in the Christmas tree as I try to stand up.

He shushes me, laughing as he nods toward the families standing in line fifteen feet behind me. “Good thing you’re the elf. My big feet wouldn’t fit in those shoes.”

“For the millionth time,” I say, standing up straight to speak to him directly, “my feet are one size smaller than yours.” Zany looks over at me curiously as the white, fluffy ball at the end of her cap flops over her right eye. “And it’s no indication of the size of anything else,” I say loud enough for her to hear.

She presses her lips together to stifle a giggle, returning to the crowd after she places a few stuffed animals under the tree.

“I know, Max,” he says. “You’re just such an easy target in that costume.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not wearing it for you, okay?” I look down at the red, white and green striped tights that tuck into the black boots that coil at the toes and wonder how Trey convinced me to do this in the first place.

“They couldn’t get you a longer… shirt-thing?” he asks, looking around to make sure no one’s watching before he puts his hand at the top of one of the zig-zagged hems and tugs it down. “I can see your package, you know.”

“Well, the sign out front does say to bring unwrapped packages…” I tell him, looking up at him with a straight face. “Why are you out here bugging me, anyway? Shouldn’t you be in the back room, organizing toys and shit with Trey?”

“Can you try to watch your language?” He smirks at me, knowing I can’t help it.

“What are you gonna do about it?” I ask him, quirking a brow. “You gonna hurt me?”

“Shut up, Max,” he warns me, looking beyond me and turning red.

“Do it, Callen. Hurt me. Hurt me good.” I get turned on when I say it, even though I was just teasing him. The fact is, it’s been too long since I’ve said it for real. When his eyes settle back on me, the look in them is a direct reflection of mine. His tongue juts out of his mouth to moisten his lips, and for a a second, I forget where I am and start to take a step toward him.

“Move behind the tree, Callen.”

“The line goes behind the tree,” he says, shaking his head and running his hand through his short, blonde hair, clearly frustrated.

“Boys,” Matty says as he claps us both on the shoulders. “What’s going on?”

Callen’s eyes dart below my waist quickly. When I look down, I can see that the stupid triangular cut of the shirt is sticking straight out parallel to the floor.

“Matty, these fucking shirts–”

“Oh, Jesus Christ, Mascot, put that thing away,” he says, “and Callen, get to work. Stop being a distraction and doing… that… to my elf. It’s completely inappropriate.” He pushes my boyfriend toward the back room. “It’s Christmas Eve.”

I look at Matty. There’s no way in hell I’m facing the crowd like this. “Kids are gonna be frightened by this oversized candy-cane, man.” I angle my hands toward it as if I’m trying to show off a prize on a game show, causing Matty to swat frenetically at my arms to get me to stop.

“Take five minutes, but if I find out you went somewhere with Callen, I’ll make sure you’re taking the subway home in nothing but those pantyhose and that hat. You understand?”

“Yes, Matty.” He sure is uptight when he’s running the show.

Immediately, I go to find my boyfriend in a private room just off the lobby that they’re using as a staging area. Without being too obvious, he follows me. I make a gesture toward the men’s room, but he shakes his head. Turning a corner down an empty hallway, I lean my head against the wall and bang it four times, just wanting two minutes alone with him.

“Don’t do that,” he says, taking my hand and leading me farther down the hall to a small area where the wall juts in for two ornate doors. Taking one final look around, he pushes me against the wall, removes my glasses and hangs them on his long-sleeved St. Ignatius Spartan t-shirt, and kisses me roughly.

His skin is salty from sweating. He and Trey have been doing manual labor all afternoon while Zaina and I have been traipsing around in face paint and our silly costumes, looking like Christmas pixies and making little kids–and older ones, too–laugh.

“Watch out for my cheeks,” I say, not wanting Matty to know I was with him. Matty’s husband, Nolan, had meticulously painted red circles and black freckles on my face, and I didn’t want them to be smudged when I went back out there. Our Santa doubles as our makeup artist. He’s even busier than most.

“These?” Callen asks, grabbing my ass. The thin fabric of the tights allow me to feel every movement of his fingers, and they explore freely.

“This sucks, Callen,” I complain, running my hands through his hair. “I don’t think we’re ever going to get to be alone again.”

“I don’t either,” he says.

“Twice,” I remind him. “Twice, we’ve played our parents. Twice, we’ve been together. In four fucking months.”

“If it was just our parents, you know this wouldn’t be so hard.”

I’d still be this hard.”

“You’re an idiot, Max,” he says, but he can’t hide the sexy smile I bring out of him.

“You love me this way,” I say, shrugging. “And you left it wide open for that comment, come on,” I say. The fact of the matter is, we can’t go anywhere without people following us around, taking pictures of us, or posting our whereabouts on tabloid sites. It’s the most stressful relationship of my life, no doubt, but he’s still one of my best friends. We have so much fun hanging out and talking to each other that I have no regrets in dating one of the most well-known guys my age in Manhattan… but I still go mad sometimes with how badly I want to be with him. “It’s kind of sick that you’re turned on by an elf, by the way.”

“You always have an elfish look to you,” Callen says. “It’s your long lashes… and your nose.”

“Fuck you, my nose is cute,” I argue with him, touching the tip of it.

“I never said it wasn’t. It is cute. A little button nose. You have very youthful features, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Yeah, because my ears are anything but pointy.”

“Your ears are perfect, Max,” he says softly, kissing my right one.

“I know they are.”

“Careful, your vanity’s showing.”

“Callen McNare!” I hear my best friend, Trey, yelling from the end of the hallway. “I know your parents have hundreds of missing posters left over at your house, and the only reason I’m not calling them right now to have them deliver some to this hotel is because I can smell your Dolce & Gabbana cologne from here!”

I stick my arm out to my side and point my middle finger skyward, saluting Trey.

“Hey, Mascot!”

“Hi, Trey! Thirty seconds!” I holler back to him. “And don’t say a word to Matty!”

“Fine,” I hear him say stubbornly.

I bring my hand to the back of my boyfriend’s neck and start to massage his tense muscles. “When I sit on Santa-Nolan’s lap–”

“Please don’t,” he says, interrupting me.

“Well, if I did, I’d tell him the only thing I wanted was one night alone with you. And not a night at your house where we pretend to have a sleep-over with Trey, and he finds something to occupy his time for a few hours in another part of your mansion… I mean a real night alone with you.”

“I’ll return the Diamondback.”

“Wait. What?” I ask him, looking up at him with wide eyes.

“That bike you wanted?” He smiles and takes my hands into his. “Yeah, I bought it. I got one for me, too.”

“Well, shit, that may solve all our problems! We’ll just ride until no one can find us…” I say dreamily. He laughs. “I can’t believe you got me the bike…”

“Why wouldn’t you get what you wanted for Christmas?” he asks me.

My eyes shift to the floor. “I don’t know… a lifetime of disappointment has prepared me for that, I guess.” I can count on one hand the number of Christmases I’ve actually received what I asked for. Granted, I was born into a poor family, so I was predisposed to be set up for that sort of let down. Fortunately, the past few years have been better since Jon’s been making money.

“Well, you’re at least getting the bike. I can’t promise you the night alone… but the first opportunity I see, I will seize it, trust me, Max. I want it, too.”

“Thanks, Callen.”

“Love you, Max.”

“Love you, too.” We kiss again, this one sweeter.

“You okay to go back out there?”

I look down and check myself. “Yeah.”

“I’ll try to leave you alone…”

“Please don’t,” I tell him, taking my glasses from his shirt and putting them on. He bites his lip. He’s developed this thing for me in my glasses these days, which is why I only wear them now instead of my contacts. I think he likes my sexy, nerdy vibe. He really likes it when I’ve got them on and my shirt off. Something about the juxtaposition of my newly defined muscles and my geeky specs.

“Okay, I won’t.” He gives me another quick peck on the lips and walks next to me back to his temporary stock room, holding my hand the whole way. I pull down my elf shirt, cursing it under my breath, before I return to the ornately decorated lobby to continue meeting kids and taking their toys.

“You’ve been with Callen,” Zany accuses me, eyeing me suspiciously.

“How can you tell?”

“You have that dumb smile on your face.”

“Nothing dumb about this smile,” I tell her, grinning about as big as I possibly can.

“No fair. Did you see Tria?”

“Don’t think he wanted to see me,” I comment, walking up to the next family in line. “He’s all business, your boyfriend…” I whisper to her.

“That’s Trey,” she says to me as she walks back by me, stopping to readjust her grip on two video gaming systems.

“That’s you, too, come to think of it,” I tease her as I take my gift to the tree.

She meets me there. “Well, we are here to work. We’re volunteering for A Kinder New York. Matty’s counting on us, you know? So are all the kids who wouldn’t have a holiday without our help.”

“I know, I know. That’s how Trey suckered me and Callen into this all-night gig.”

“It’s for a good cause, and it’s the organization that brought Callen home. Don’t forget that.”

“I would never forget that,” I tell her. “Hey,” I say, looking toward the check-in counter. “Zany, look.”

“What?” she asks, taking my hand and pulling me back toward the line.

“No, look! Is that my brother?”

“Where? No,” she says, not even stopping to check.

“That looks like Jon from the back.”

“Why would Jon be at The Mark Hotel on Christmas Eve?” Zaina asks, blowing me off. “He’s home with Livvy and the baby. Or didn’t you say they were doing something with the Hollands tonight?”

“No, they’re doing their family thing tomorrow, since Trey’s going to be here all night. They figured Edie’d never know Santa came the day after on her first Christmas.”

“That’s right. And you guys did your family thing last night? Here, help me with these scooters,” she says, giving me a task. I swear that’s my oldest brother.


“You didn’t tell me what you got.”

“I did, too,” I tell her, stopping her and looking in her eyes. “We had a very long conversation about the red leather jacket Jon got me. And remember I told you about the rainbow-colored dart board Will found while he was on tour?”

“Oh, right.” I finish pushing the scooter to the tree and step toward the counter, looking for the man I saw a minute ago. He’s gone. “Were you distracting me?” I ask her suspiciously.

“I don’t know what you mean. Go help that little boy with the broken leg, Mascot. He’s struggling with his crutches.”

“Fine, Zany.”

After finding out Cary injured himself playing hockey, I have a ten minute side conversation with the seven-year-old about his burgeoning sports career before Matty gives me his death stare and I take the kid up to see Santa. As he hobbles up the red carpet-lined path, he confesses to me softly that he doesn’t actually believe in Santa Claus, but he doesn’t think he’ll get big presents anymore if he admits that to his parents. He found out three years ago, but Santa’s the only one who gives him the “good stuff.”

I wish him luck and take the wagon that his mother had been towing behind her to the tree. In it are about thirty new baseballs. I remember a number of Christmases when just waking up to one of those balls would have made it the best holiday of my life.

“Santa’s sick today, Max.” I’ll never forget that feeling. I’d believed my mother, and actually felt bad for the jolly old man for the rest of my Christmas vacation. It wasn’t until I went back to school that I started questioning things. Santa had been well enough to visit all the other kids in my class. When I’d asked Will and Jon about it that afternoon, they’d both produced for me presents that they said they’d found waiting on the doorstep for me when they’d gotten home from school. There was a card, too. Santa apologized that my gifts were late.

I don’t remember what the gifts were now. The only other thing I remember from that day was that when I asked Will what he got from Santa, he’d said, “that old fat man doesn’t give a shit about me.” Jon had smacked him on the back of the head.

“Daydreaming about someone’s balls?” I blink twice out of my reverie and chuckle at Callen, who’s collecting more toys from the tree.

“You know it.”

“Let me have that wagon.” He deliberately closes his fingers around mine before I let go of the handle. His taut arm muscles strain, his grip purposefully tight. I trace my finger up his arm quickly and smile coyly at him. “I’m sure we’ll find a few more minutes tonight to do a little fooling around.”

“Not if Trey and Zany and Matty have anything to say about it,” I argue.

“I’ve got to take these things to the back. Looks like your line’s almost clear. Then you get to come help us organize and wrap presents.”

“And I get to put on normal fucking clothes, thank God.”

“That room is almost entirely full. I have no idea how we’re going to get everything done. We’ll definitely be up all night.”

“Yeah, there’s no way we’re getting out of doing any work,” I tell him, dejected. “See you in a few.”

After handing out the final cupcakes, we say good night to the last of the kids and ceremoniously wave goodbye to Santa, letting Nolan leave before the rest of us since he has a sleigh to catch. Once all the kids are cleared out, Nolan corrals all the volunteers from the back, bringing everyone to the lobby where we’ve been staged all night.

“Alright, everyone. You guys have done an amazing job so far. All of my elves were perfect!” Matty exclaims, coming over to me–of course–and pinching my cheek. I glare at him, which just encourages him to pinch the other one. The only good thing that comes out of it is that he now has makeup caked in his fingers. “Everyone give yourselves a round of applause.”

We all clap for the hours of work we’ve put in today for Matty’s organization.

“We’ve literally collected hundreds of toys today,” Nolan says, looking at a clipboard that Trey has handed him. “Our back room staff has been keeping everything organized in different areas in a meeting room on the second floor. Everyone who’s working the overnight, you’ll be assigned a section to work in. We’ll bring you wrapping paper and bags and ribbon and tape and scissors and everything you need to make things pretty.”

“And if you can’t wrap pretty,” Matty says, “you need to learn quick, or you’ll be on trash and box duty. Wrapping’s easy. Just slow down and take your time. Remember that we have all night. Vans will start picking up the gifts at seven in the morning. You’ve got ten hours.

“So, everyone who’s only signed up until nine, you’re free to go! Get one of the reserved cupcakes on your way out, and have a very Merry Christmas, happy holidays, etcetera… Thank you for your kindness!

“Overnighters, let’s take fifteen. Elves, feel free to change into something less… elven.”

“Max, Callen,” Trey says, grasping Zaina’s hand, “can you guys help us with a few boxes of supplies? We need to take them to storage on another floor to make sure they don’t get mixed in with the rest of the gifts.”

“Can’t Zany and I change first?” I ask.

“After,” Trey says. “This will just take a minute, I promise.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t be making people wait if it was your junk squished in peppermint hooker stockings.”

“My poor Mascot,” Callen says, laughing as he puts his arm around me.

“Zai, you look hot,” Trey says to her as they push a hand truck of boxes toward one of the elevators.

“Yeah, clearly this unisex outfit is geared more toward the ladies,” I comment, following my friends and wondering what they need help with since they’re pushing everything on a cart. “What’s my purpose here?” I ask when we get on the elevator. Callen taps the button for the third floor, but Trey hits a different one.

“What’s on twelve?” Callen asks.

“The storage room we’re going to.”

“It’s on one of the guest room floors?”

The elevator opens on the third floor, but no one makes a move to get out, since we’re still trying to figure out where exactly we’re going.

“Yeah,” Trey says, turning around to face the wall of the elevator.

“You lie.” I grab him by the shoulder and turn him around as the elevator starts moving again. He’s the worst liar I know. “What’s on the twelfth floor, Trey?”

“A storage room, Dyo,” Zany says sweetly, stepping in between me and my best friend. She hasn’t called me that nickname since Mascot took its place a few months ago. She’s lying, too, and she’s normally a damn good liar.

“What’s going on?” Callen asks. Both of our friends stay silent until we reach the twelfth floor. When the doors open, Trey hurriedly pushes the dolly out, leading the way for the rest of us.

“Twelve-oh-seven,” he murmurs, rounding a corner. “There we go.” I stop walking when I see a crowd gathered at the end of the hallway.

“Whaaaaat the fuck are our siblings doing here?” I ask Trey, seeing Will, Jon, and Livvy all standing in front of a room. “Callen, what’s going on?”

“Don’t ask me!” he says, walking a step behind me when I finally start moving again.

“Holy shit, what are you wearing?” Will asks me, running his hand over his stubbled jawline and eyeing me from head to toe.

“A fucking superhero costume, what does it look like, genius?” I ask him, the actual genius of the family. I guess, technically, both of my brothers are. “Why are you here?”

“Merry Christmas, Max and Callen,” Trey says, opening the largest of the boxes on the push cart and pulling out two suitcases.

“Merry Christmas,” my family chimes in, and Zaina does, too, adding a little applause to her greeting.

“I’m not quite sure I get what’s happening,” Callen says.

“Yeah, me, neither, because your uncles are waiting for the two of us to come back downstairs and wrap presents for the next ten hours.”

“Is he?” Zaina says with a funny grin.

Trey picks up a clipboard and hands it to me. “You see, I convinced you guys to sign up for the overnight. You told your parents you were doing the overnight… but I told Matty you were only staying until nine. So your alibi’s solid.”

“No way…” I say, grasping Callen’s hand tightly. I can’t believe what I’m hearing.

“The room’s under my name,” Jon tells me. “Please don’t wreck the place.”

“I didn’t even have to sit on Nolan’s lap!” I exclaim. Callen backhands me in the chest. “Fucking best Christmas present ever. But please still give me the bike.”

“You’re getting the bike,” he assures me.

“I packed you some clothes,” Will tells me.

“And I stole some stuff from your house when I was at your family’s Christmas party last weekend, Callen,” Trey admits. “I really thought I was going to be arrested or chased down by your guard dogs.”

“Yeah, I guess we need to tighten up security,” Callen jokes with him.

“I don’t ever want to go through your underwear drawer again, though.”

“Sorry, man, but thanks for doing that.”

“And I packed you both a little present,” Zaina says. “Just something special for Christmas.”

“You didn’t have to do that, Zany,” I tell her.

I go to both of my brothers and Livvy and give them all hugs, thanking them for the gift.

“You’re welcome, but this was all Trey’s idea,” Livvy says.

I smile at my best friend and hold my arms out wide. “Come give your peppermint hooker fairy a big hug.”

“Oh, Max, really?”

“I owe you one!” I say, grabbing him in a bearhug and squeezing him tightly. “Thank you so much for this.” Callen descends on us both, getting in on the action.

“Wanna join us?” Callen teases Trey.

“Fuck that, Callen, I said ALONE,” I remind my boyfriend, messing with him.

“As tempting as your offer is, I do have to go wrap presents for the next ten hours.”

“Man, when you could have finagled your way into something like this for you and Zany?! It’s brilliant!” I say, stunned that he wouldn’t take advantage of his own master scheming. Granted, it’s way beyond what I thought innocent, rule-abiding Trey Holland would have come up with.

“You know it’s not like that with us,” Zaina says, taking Trey’s hand in hers. “When we’re ready, we’ll find a way to be alone–”

“And we won’t have to hide it from anyone,” my best friend adds.

“My sweet, little brother,” Livvy says, throwing her arms around his waist and looking up at Trey. He’s nearly a full foot taller than she is.

“Unlike our cursing, obnoxious, sexually-active one…” Jon says.

“He’s barely sexually-active,” Will says as an aside to our oldest brother. “Cut the kid some slack.”

“Can we go back to the obnoxious part?” I interrupt, holding my finger up, but no one’s listening to me.

“No, but we’re helping him along here now,” Jon says.

“They’re in a committed relationship,” Livvy cuts in.

“Yeah, none of us had a problem with this when we were sixteen,” Will says.

“If Mom catches wind of this, we’re all dead. That’s all I’m saying,” Jon clarifies. “Use protection, that’s all I care about.”

“I packed some,” Will says, winking at me.

“Thanks, Will.”

“I’ve got you covered, Mascot.”

“Literally,” I say to him, earning groans from everyone. Callen puts his arms around me and pulls me into his chest.

“You left yourself wide open for that, Will,” he says, sticking up for me.

“I did,” my brother concedes. “Anyway.” He checks his watch. “She’s probably wondering where we are,” he says to Livvy and Jon.

“Yeah, we have reservations up the street. Oh, and room service is bringing you guys dinner in twenty minutes,” Jon tells me. “I figured you’d be starving.”


“Thank you.”

“So, you guys are expected downstairs at ten in the morning for the volunteer breakfast,” Trey says as everyone heads back toward the elevator. “Meet me on the second floor and I’ll put your suitcases in my car.”

“Have a good night, guys.”

“Merry Christmas!”

Callen and I had just enough time to shower before our food was delivered. After dinner, we open the cards attached to the wrapped presents that Zaina had stuck in each of our suitcases. There were explicit instructions on each envelope that said to read the cards first.

Go to a different room and put these on. Then let the games begin. Merry Christmas. What does yours say?” I ask Callen.

Go to a different room and put these on, then take the reins and have some fun. Merry Christmas. Shit. Why am I suddenly frightened by what’s in these boxes?”

“Suck it up. I’ll take the small bathroom,” I say with a smile, nearly running with my gift and tearing off the paper on the way. I can’t even contain my laughter when I see what’s folded inside the box. I take out the underwear and hold them up, examining both sides and feeling my cheeks turn the color of the plastic red nose attached to the front of them. “Oh, fuck!” I say as the little orb lights up when I touch it. “No fucking way!” I strip down to nothing and quickly put them on, looking at myself in the mirror and chuckling at the ridiculousness of it all.

“I’m not wearing these!” I hear Callen yell from across the suite.

“You’re wearing them or you’re wearing nothing at all!” I holler back.

“Nothing at all is fine.” He’s right outside the door now.

“Please just put them on so I can see what she got you. Are you a reindeer, too?”

“Oh, hell, no,” he says. “Get out here.”

“Let me know when you’ve got yours on and I will,” I bargain with him.

“I don’t want to, Max.”

“You really think we’re going to have these on for that long anyway?”

He’s quiet for a few seconds. “Good point. No pictures.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Wait, before you come out–”

“I came out months ago, love,” I tease him.

“Yeah,” he says, ignoring me and continuing his question. “Why in the world would Zaina even think to buy us shit like this?”

“You know she’s going through a guy-on-guy romance novel phase,” I say to him. “I told you that… she thinks we’re hot…”

“Oh, Jesus. To think she knows we’re wearing these…”

“We’re never admitting to wearing these, Callen. Gag gifts. We never took ‘em out of the boxes.” We have to get our lies straight.

“Wait, does Trey know she reads gay erotica?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Straight-laced Trey has a girl with a little kink.” I can hear the smirk in his voice. “Come on. Get your reindeer ass out here,” he says.

“You’re ready?”

“Yeah.” I turn around and open the door, showing him my ass first and saving the best asset for last. “Oh, my god, there’s a tail on yours.” He yanks it, attempting to pull me toward him by it. I stretch, glancing behind me to see his skimpy undies with a Santa face, a white beard hanging from the growing underside of them.

“Oh, those are bad,” I say. “What’d your card say? Take the reins and have some fun? Santa’s gonna get him some reindeer love tonight,” I say, wiggling my eyebrows and turning to face him. “And this isn’t just any reindeer.” I take a step away from him so he can see the full picture.

“I’m riding Rudolph tonight, huh?”

“Want to touch his nose?” I ask, looking down at the perfectly placed globe. Callen grins and reaches his hand out, ready to palm me, but the second his warm hand touches the reindeer nose, it glows red, and he shirks away from it, bursting out in laughter.

“I’ll guide your sleigh tonight, Santa,” I tell him, trying to flirt, but then shaking my head at how incredibly stupid that sounded. “Just come with me to the fucking bedroom.”

“Yes, deer,” Callen says.

“Ha!” I laugh, turning around and high-fiving him for the Max-worthy pun. He wraps his arms around my waist, slowing my gait to the bedroom, but I don’t mind as he starts kissing my shoulders.

When we get to the bed, we both look out the window and notice other windows across the street. I don’t think either of us have ever moved faster in our lives to close the curtains.

“That would have been the most embarrassing tabloid story we’ve ever been involved in,” he says, leaning against a chair. “I’m pretty sure we’d both have to quit school.”

“Fuck that, we’d have to move to another country.” I sit down on the bed.

“One without the internet.”

My eyes flicker down Callen’s body and linger. “It’s Christmas Eve,” I say to him.

“I know,” he says, walking toward me.

“I think Santa has better things to do than to be hanging around you.”

“Is that what you think?” I nod my head. “Like what?”

“Giving people what they want,” I say softly, looking him in the eye as I tuck my fingers under the black waistband of his underwear and push them down his muscular legs. His arms wrap around me and down my body, and I can tell his fingers of one hand are pinching the reindeer tail while his other hand tucks beneath my underwear. He angles his head to ensure full, deep kisses as he brings my body closer to his.

“And I already know what you want…” he says as he takes a breath.

“In case you didn’t, though, I think Rudolph’s giving a hint.” We both look down to see the red, glowing nose, getting up close and personal with Callen. He moves his hands to my side and plants kisses on my neck and chest, then drags them further down my body as he kneels in front of me.

Finally, he takes the orb in between his teeth and grips my hips tightly, moving me to the edge of the bed. I stop breathing in anticipation of his next move. His tongue encircles Rudolph’s fucking nose, driving me fucking crazy.

“Callen, Jesus,” I say, grabbing his blonde hair in my fists. “You’re killing me.”

“No more reindeer games?” he asks.

“Clever,” I tell him, hoping that particular Christmas carol doesn’t stay in my head while my boyfriend and I have our first true night alone. “And no.”

“Okay,” he says softly, removing Zaina’s gift from my body and standing up to kiss me.

I break away from his lips but hold him close, feeling my heart pound wildly against his chest. “Callen, this is already the best Christmas of my life,” I tell him. “I just want you to know that.”

“We haven’t done anything yet,” he says as he nudges me onto the bed. I scoot back, making room for him.

“I’ve got my night alone with you.” I reach my hand out to him. He gets on his knees and climbs on the bed toward me. “That’s what I wanted.”

“You wanted more than that,” he says, leaning over and taking off my glasses. After setting them on the nightstand, he returns to me, kissing my torso. “I guess I’ll have to top the best Christmas of your life with the best night of your life… in the same night. I bet I can do that,” he boasts.

“Hmmm,” I say, challenging him and laying back on my arms, watching him settle between my legs. “Good luck with that.”

His hands trace down my V muscle that he often admires when we’re swimming together. “No luck needed. Merry Christmas, Max.”

“Thanks for the best night of my life,” I tell him, “until I get the bike.”

He stops what he’s doing and glares at me, but one side of his lip curls up. I smile back at him playfully so he knows I’m kidding. “Either way, at least I’m responsible for giving you the best night of your life.”

“It’s tonight,” I whisper to him an assurance and push myself off the bed toward him. He sits up to meet me in another kiss. I don’t want there to be any doubt.

“Good,” he says, putting his hands on the back of my neck and dragging his thumbs against my cheekbones as he looks into my eyes.

“Merry Christmas, Callen.”

©2015 Lori L. Otto

You’re running out of time to read the Choisie series for free!

After October 27, the books in my Choisie series will no longer be in Kindle Select. That’s good news for iBooks and Nook readers because it means they will be back in those stores. If you’re a Kindle reader, though, you’ll no longer be able to read Contessa, Olivia, Dear Jon, and Livvy for free in Kindle Unlimited!


So… if you’ve started the series in KU, bump them up on your TBR list and finish them now! And if you haven’t started them… well, you do have time to start and finish them. Yes, three of them are long reads, but they’re quick reads. I have faith in you. 😉 Happy reading!

Contessa (Choisie 1)
Olivia (Choisie 2)
Dear Jon (Choisie 3)
Livvy (Choisie 4)

Get Contessa while it’s free!

I inadvertently put Contessa on sale yesterday–for free. I didn’t know it until I checked my stats, and it showed I had over a hundred free downloads. I thought about putting it back at its regular price, but then I decided I’d just let it be. Contessa‘s one of my favorites, and I want more people to read it. (Sadly, I know that most people don’t read the free books they download, which is why I’m not going to do free books anymore after this, but that’s another post for another day.) Anyway! How about a snippet from Contessa to go with this sweet little graphic? It’s one of my favorite Jon/Livvy kisses in the book. Enjoy!


“Hey, Ray!” Jon’s uncle comes out from behind the bar to give him a hug.

“Happy birthday and congratulations! Ivy League, man! I can’t believe it. Your dad would have been so proud of you.”

“Yeah,” Jon says. “I think so.”

“I know so. He’s smiling down on you right now, and he’d be buying you this drink if he were here. Derrick, I need three tequila shots down here,” Ray says to a younger bartender. “The best we’ve got.”

“Okay, boss,” he answers.

“Uncle Ray, this is my girlfriend, Olivia.”

“It’s a little dark for sunglasses, honey,” he says with a warm smile.

“She lives in those, Ray. I just don’t argue anymore,” Jon speaks up for me.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I tell him.

“I need to check your IDs,” he says quietly. “Just for show, but in case someone’s watching.”

“Sure,” Jon says after taking a deep breath.

“I don’t want anything to drink,” I say quickly.

“Honey, I gotta ID anyone who comes in here.”

“Uncle Ray, just… it’s fine, Liv. He’s not going to say anything.”

I glare at Jon, but he can’t see my eyes through the sunglasses. I think about walking out of the bar, but he truly is happier than I’ve seen him, and I don’t want to be the one to spoil it. I pull my wallet out of my bag and give the bartender my ID card. He flashes a light on it to see it clearly. He studies mine for a few seconds, and then looks up at Jon. “Well, look at you. Ivy League and high-society.”

“Whatever,” Jon says, taking my ID back from his uncle quickly.

“Livvy Holland,” he says to me. “Your daddy know you’re here?”

“Absolutely not,” Jon answers again. “Mum’s the word. I just want her here to celebrate with me.”

“Got it,” Ray says. “Is this your first time in a bar, Livvy?”

“Yes,” I say with a small smile.

He picks up the three shots at the bar and hands one to Jon and one to me.

“Well, welcome. And congrats, Jonny. Good job, all around.”

“Thanks,” Jon says. “This is for you, Dad,” he adds, looking up toward the ceiling, caught up in the moment. The guys set their glasses down on the bar first before shooting them. I take a taste, cringing at the flavor.

“Olivia,” Jon says as I sip it down.

“Ow, that burns,” I croak.

“That was a lot for you, baby. I’m not sure that was a good idea.”

“Well, why’d you give it to me?” I ask with a shrug. “Plus, you’re not going to get accepted into Columbia every day. So you’re right, we should celebrate. Another?”

“Not for you, Missy,” Ray says. “Two more down here, Derrick.” He and Jon do one more shot each. The younger bartender has set down a large glass of water with a lemon in it, too–next to another shot of tequila. He winks at me as he walks away. I take it quickly, while Jon isn’t looking. The liquid sloshes onto my shirt sleeve as I drink it. This one burns even more.

“Liv!” Jon says, surprised. “Where’d you get that?”

“That other guy–Derrick. He gave it to me!” I laugh. “What, was I supposed to decline it? That would have been rude!”

He groans loudly, picking up the glass of water. Jon takes a sip of it before handing it to me.

“Please, drink this now,” he says, clearly worried. “This was so not my intention. Your dad will murder me. Forget Columbia. I’ll be in jail by morning.”

“Jon,” I giggle.

“Drink,” he repeats the order, serious. “Thanks, Ray.”

“You’re welcome, kid. I’m so proud of you.” His uncle hugs him once more.

“I think we’re gonna go get a quick bite to eat,” Jon says as he watches me suck down the water. “Have you eaten?”

“No. We’re supposed to have dinner together tonight, remember?”

“I was just wondering how drunk you’re going to be before we make it to the restaurant.”

“I’m not drunk.”

“You will be.”

“It was two drinks!”

“Drink,” he instructs once more. “They were two potent drinks on an empty stomach of a tiny girl.” He pokes me in the stomach as I gulp the water down, then takes the half-empty glass from me and sets it on the bar.

“I’m not a little girl.”

“I didn’t say that, first of all. And I certainly didn’t mean it that way, Olivia.” He stares at my lips. “Don’t get all pouty. There just aren’t a lot of places that alcohol can go in there except straight into your bloodstream.”

“I. Am. Fine.” In truth, I feel a little uneven, but I like it.

“There’s a taco shop two doors down,” Jon’s uncle suggests. “Tell them you’re my nephew. They owe me.”

“Thanks.” He guides me out of the bar, and I take his hand and start walking back the way we came. “This way,” he says with a soft tug. I trip into him, feeling a little unsteady. He wraps his arms around me tightly. “I wish you hadn’t done that,” he says softly.

I look at him curiously. “You watched him hand it to me,” I argue with him.

“The first one, yeah, but you said you didn’t want anything. I thought that meant you wouldn’t drink anything.”

“I thought you wanted me to.”

“Liv, what have I told you? I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with–”

I stop him from saying anything more by kissing him with no restraint. He takes a few steps backward to get out of the middle of the sidewalk, never letting up on the grasp around my body. He picks me up and sets me down on a step so we’re standing at nearly exactly the same height. He quickly takes off my cap and sunglasses, throwing them haphazardly onto the ground behind me. His arms return to hold me, his hands move down my back, finally settling deep into the pockets of my jeans, and he pulls me into him. I whimper quietly as I hold his head next to mine, one hand playing with his ear, the other toying with the short hair at the nape of his neck. I press my fingers into his scalp.

A slight moan forms in the back of his throat as he kisses my neck, then ducks his head next to my shoulder, taking quick breaths.

“Are you okay?” I ask as I softly run my fingers through his hair.

“No,” he whispers.


“New rule, Liv. No more tequila for you until you tell me we can go back to my apartment. Or better yet, Donna’s apartment.”

I laugh quietly to myself. “I don’t think it’s the tequila.”

“And I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”

Contessa ©2012 Lori L. Otto

Choisie Series book availability news!


Beginning this week, I will be removing all of my Choisie series books from Nook and iBooks for a few months. They will only be available in the Kindle store. This means that if you’re a Nook or iBooks reader, and you’re mid-series and haven’t bought the rest, this is the time to buy. Purchase links are here.

If you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, this means that the Choisie Series will soon be available for you to read for free! Amazon Prime customers will also be able to select any book in the series as their KOLL book each month.

For now, this is a test run to see how sales do. As you all know, I’m working hard to fulfill my dream of becoming a full-time author, and in August, I’ll have the month to devote to writing, strategizing, and marketing. This is step one in the strategy.

I’m not a big fan of limiting the distribution of my books. I’ve done it before with varying degrees of success. But what I’m currently doing won’t pay the bills, so I have to mix things up a little bit. The program with Amazon has changed since I last tried it a few years ago, so I have to see what it may do for me.

The good thing about Kindle is that they do offer a free e-reader app that works on any computer and nearly any handheld device, so they are very cross-platform. Although I, myself, don’t use a Kindle, I read 95% of my books on the Kindle app on my iPad.

Please spread the word to any of your Nook or iBooks friends!

Jon – From Love Like We Do (Side A)


  • Narrator: Jon
  • Characters: Jon, Livvy, Edie, Will, Damon
  • Timeline
  • Medium Spoiler Risk

“Jon, she’s been crying ever since you left,” Liv says the second I get home from Trey’s soccer game. It was the third week in a row I’d been able to go. Trey’s team won again, and they dominated even more this week, seemingly invigorated by the fact that school was over and summer vacation had officially begun.

“Did you try to rock her?” I ask, taking Edie in my arms and swaying her gently from side to side. I don’t get a verbal response; just a frustrated glare from two exhausted brown eyes. “Okay, okay, baby,” I say as softly as I can over our crying daughter. I lean over and kiss Livvy on the forehead, rubbing her tense shoulder briefly before she walks away. “Why don’t you go lie down, and I’ll take her for a drive? I’ve still got an adrenaline rush from the game, so I’ve got a few hours left in me. Let me work on Edie, and you get some sleep.”


“Really. Have you fed her recently?”

“On schedule,” she answers. “She should be good for awhile. Maybe you could take her to Mom and Dad’s,” she suggests.

“Nah,” I say, getting my keys. “I won’t bother them. They have the house to themselves for the first time in weeks. Trey’s ungrounded tonight, remember? I’ll let them have some peace and quiet for a few hours.”

“Maybe your mom wants to see her?”

“Liv, don’t worry about us. Take a bath. Put on some music. Light some candles. Get some rest. I’ll bring home a sleeping baby.” I gather up some blankets and a pacifier–not that she’s ever taken one.

“You may never come home,” she says sarcastically.

“We have to figure out what works eventually.”

“You keep saying that…”

“We’ll figure it out. Come here.” She slouches as she walks toward me. I put my fingers under her chin and bring her lips to mine. She puts more energy into her kiss. “That was nice,” I whisper into her ear.

“Make sure you cover her if you take her out of the car. No pictures,” she says.

“I know, Liv.”

“Okay. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I call down to the doorman and ask him to have the car brought around for me.

By the time I get downstairs, two valets are standing next to the open back door of my car. Their only purpose is to block the sight of my daughter from onlookers. We haven’t avoided paparazzi altogether, but none of them had been able to get a photo of her beautiful face, and we have done everything possible to keep that from happening. It’s not going to happen on my watch.

I settle Edie into the carseat and lower the canopy over her before shutting the door. The tinted windows make it nearly impossible for anyone to look inside, anyway. Nothing can block out the sound, though. She’s wailing now, even louder than before, and I hope the car ride soothes her like it did the last time I tried this. It seems to have about a fifty-percent success rate.

“Good luck, Mr. Scott,” one of the valets says to me before shutting my door. I should have brought some aspirin with me.

“Bunny, what’s the matter?” I say to her in my calmest tone, reaching back and touching her tiny palm with my finger before pulling out of the drive. “I came home for you, Edie. And you have me for the whole weekend. I won’t have to leave you again until Monday morning. Are you sad Daddy left you for the soccer game tonight? I had to go see your uncle play. Someday you’ll get to see him play.”

She seems to calm down as I talk to her, so I keep doing it. I tell her about my work meetings today. I tell her about the intern who spilled her soda on my renderings today, and I explain that one of the partners was pushing to get her fired. I talked her into giving the young girl one more chance, but passed off some of my administrative work to the intern so I could focus on redoing the renderings at home this weekend. I also explain to Edie my confusion about the assumed love triangle that is Trey, Zaina and Max.

The noise she makes now sounds like a laugh. I laugh, because as far as I know, it’s the first time she’s done that. At the very least, it’s the first time I’ve heard her.

“Are you laughing, Edie? You think that’s funny?” I pause, hoping to hear her again, but she just starts to fuss again at my lingering silence, so I continue talking. “Oh, no. That’s not funny. Those are your uncles, and I’m afraid they’re about to be fighting over the same girl. That wouldn’t be good at all. That means one of them would get hurt. That means they’d probably mess up a lifelong friendship… over a girl. And she seems nice, but I can’t figure her out.

“Anyway. Where do you want to go, Bunny?” Jack and Emi’s place is out of the picture. My mother has probably already gone to bed for the evening. Rarely does she wait up for Max to get home anymore, which doesn’t make me happy. Fortunately, my youngest brother has always been pretty trustworthy and stays out of trouble most of the time. I can thank Trey and the Hollands for that, I’m sure. I could always go back to the loft and see if Matty and Nolan are around, but they help so much with us and Edie, and I don’t want to take advantage of them.

I do have my brother Will’s address. He’s never invited us over, but I’ve been wanting to see the apartment he shares with his friend over a recording studio in Brooklyn. I decide to at least drive by it to see the neighborhood. If it looks like someone’s home, I’ll stop in for a minute or two.

Instead of continuing to talk, I turn on the radio, first to a local news channel, but when Edie loudly voices her disapproval, I start testing different genres of music, trying to find something that calms her down. Nothing seems to work. I finally give up, turning off the radio and going back to talking to her, telling her the story about my first day at Nate’s Art Room, when I saw Livvy for the first time.

Now, even my voice doesn’t seem to have any affect on her crying.

Finally, I reach the recording studio. Seeing lights in the apartment above, I hurry out of the car, now just wanting to escape my little enclosed concert hall featuring a tiny creature with some of the most advanced vocal chords to ever grace the planet.

“Maybe we could record some of your racket here, Bunny,” I suggest softly in her ear, not convinced she’d even hear me over the volume of her cries.

I’m surprised I’m not greeted by my brother or his roommate, Damon, before I even reach the steps to the second floor with the amount of noise we’re making. Will and Damon met in high school, and have been playing music together ever since. Damon’s released his first album, and I’ve actually heard some songs on the radio. The last time I talked to Will, he told me Damon was preparing for a nationwide tour and trying to convince my brother to go with him. At this point, Will won’t commit to anything more than the local weekend gigs that he’s been playing for years. From what I understand, my brother’s a well-respected musician here in New York.

Carrying Edie in her covered car seat, she’s still crying when we finally reach the front door. One of the windows is open, and I can hear Damon singing inside. Almost instantly, Edie stops crying, and then starts cooing. Before I knock, I pull back the canopy and check on her to see what she’s doing. She’s smiling as she struggles to keep her eyes open. I’m tempted to simply stand on the porch and listen to the song, letting Edie sleep to Damon’s music, but I’m not sure how long that will last before someone calls the cops on us.

When I see that my daughter has fallen asleep, I knock on the door. That doesn’t wake her, but she’s roused when Damon stops singing. I watch her, hoping she’ll stay quiet.

Will’s roommate opens the door. I hold my finger to my lips, signaling for him to speak softly. It doesn’t work.

“Can I help you?” he asks. It’s been a year or so since I last saw him, and with my baseball cap, I’m not surprised he doesn’t recognize me.

“I’m Jon,” I whisper. “Will’s brother.”

“Yeah, man!” he says jovially, loudly.


Edie starts crying again.

“Listen,” I say quickly, urgently, over the crying. “I was driving around. My daughter wouldn’t stop crying. I thought I’d see where Will lives, and when Edie heard you singing, she fell asleep, so… I mean. Can you keep singing? Just for a few minutes?”

“Sure, yeah,” he answers

“Great,” I say, following him inside. I take a seat on a leather couch and set the baby carrier down on the coffee table in front of me next to a few empty beer bottles. I start to rock Edie, waiting for Damon to start singing.

“Who’s the baby?” a drunk woman in a short skirt and tight bustier asks as she comes out of an adjoining room. My brother follows her, adjusting himself, dressed only in his boxers.

“Oh, shit!” Will says, seeing me. “Kelly–”

“It’s Keely–”

“Keely, go put on the rest of your clothes. You have to leave.” He pushes her into what I assume is his bedroom. I stare at him, surprised.

“Is this why you haven’t invited us over?” I ask over Edie’s noise.

“Jon, you should have called.”

“You never answer,” I tell him.

“No, let me see the baby!” the woman says, trying to get past Will. He pulls her back, this time going into the room with her. I look at Damon, wanting answers. To avoid my questions, he simply starts singing into his microphone.

“Maybe without the mic,” I suggest. “It’s kind of loud, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, man, anything you want,” Damon says, looking at me like I’m crazy. He clicks off the microphone and sets it down, continuing to sing while Edie is quickly transformed into a sweet, silent, sleeping baby again. I tuck the blanket around her, smiling at her tear-streaked face.

The door to the adjoining room opens once again. The woman now has on a buttoned-up blouse and stilettos, and is carrying a tiny purse that could probably only fit her phone and a tube of lipstick. And hopefully a condom. I shake the thought from my head.

“What a minute!” she yells.

“Shhh!” both Damon and I signal to her.

“I know you!” she continues in the same volume. “You’re Livvy Holland’s husband! Jon… Scott! Jon Scott! Aren’t you?”

I glare at Will. On the one hand, I’m glad he didn’t tell her who he was. On the other hand, I’m not thrilled to have my daughter here with this woman. Maybe I should have called.

“It’s time to go, Keely,” Will says, pushing her toward the door.

“No way. Isn’t that Jack Holland’s grand baby?” She walks toward Edie. I lean toward the carrier, watching the woman intently.

“Please don’t touch the baby,” I say quickly, not knowing her intentions.

“I don’t want to touch her,” Keely says, squatting down next to the coffee table and spinning quickly on her heels as she lifts her phone. “I just want a picture with her!” Before I know it, she’s snapped a picture of herself with my daughter.

“No, no, no,” I say, too late. “Livvy will murder me.”

“Keely, give me the phone,” Will says.

“Five hundred dollars,” she demands. “You owe me five hundred dollars.”

“Is she a hooker?!” I ask my brother, unable to hide my disgust.

“Make it eight,” she says, obviously annoyed with my question. Damon stops singing and walks toward Keely. Edie starts crying again, and I angle her carrier away from the woman, cover it with a blanket, and start rocking her again. I’d take her into the next room, but I don’t really want to think about what was going on in there.

Damon’s an imposing figure, but as he stands next to Keely, she grins flirtatiously, liking that she got the rock star’s attention.

“Keely, baby,” he says, taking the phone out of her hand easily.

“Give it back, Damon,” she says, smiling.

“Unlock it, delete the picture, and I’ll give you a better souvenir.”

“Promise?” she asks.

“I promise.”

Unable to silence Edie, I pick her up and tuck her into my chest, keeping her covered with the blanket. I talk softly into her ear, trying to tell her that her uncle Will is really a good guy… that he has a good heart… that I have no idea who this woman is and why she’s here. There’s no way anyone could hear me over the wailing, anyway. I watch the interaction between Will, his roommate and their guest, hoping she’ll leave soon.

Damon watches as Keely deletes the picture. She shows Will for proof, then flashes her phone at me so I can see, although she doesn’t hold it long enough for me to see anything. I just have to trust Will at this point, and because he’s my brother, I do. Damon then holds the phone up to take a selfie of him and Keely just as he kisses her–tongue and all. And she is into it.

“Oh my god!” she squeals, sending Edie into an even louder fit, which I didn’t think was even possible.

“Good God, Will,” I mutter, glaring at him once more.

“Thank you, Damon! Maybe next week, Will?” she asks my brother, pointing at him. Will doesn’t respond until after Damon shows her to the door and shuts it after her.

“Not likely,” Will says.

“Calamity,” I say with little emotion, again not likely to be heard over the vocal stylings of Edie Sienna Scott.

“Dude, you owe me,” Damon says. “I don’t know where her mouth has been.” He promptly heads to the bathroom.

“Probably a good idea,” my brother says after him. I cringe.

“Seriously?” I can’t help but judge him.

“Where’d you get this address?” he asks.

“Livvy coerced it out of you to send you a thank you card… you know, for the baseball and metal bat you got for my newborn daughter?”

“I’m a 24-year-old single man. How the hell am I supposed to know what to get a baby?”

“I don’t know. Look at our registry?”

“Said like a married pussy.”

“Language, please. At least in front of her.”


“At least try to help me calm her down, Will. Please. Do you have any of Damon’s music we can play for her? She seemed to like his voice.”

“Sure, I can get you a CD to go. He may even have a censored one for her delicate ears.”

“What, you’re gonna kick me out? I’ve seen how you live now. It can’t get any worse, can it?”

My brother goes over to a laptop on a shelf hooked up to some speakers and turns on some music. He comes to sit next to me on the couch. His loose-fitting boxers reveal more than I want to see of him.

“C’mon, man, I don’t want that thing peeking out at me. I saw enough of it when we were kids. Go put some clothes on.” He rolls his eyes at me and leaves the room, and I realize I’m probably wearing out my welcome very quickly. I come over with a crying baby. He makes his girlfriend–or whatever she was–leave. And he has to put on clothes in his own place. I kind of feel bad for inviting myself now.

Edie starts to settle down again hearing Damon’s music, so I put her back in her carrier, cover her with her blanket and begin to rock her again. A conversation between Damon and Will escalates quickly.

“What have I told you? The one thing I’ve asked of you?” Will is shouting. “Do not let my family in when I have girls over!”

“Man, it’s your brother, and he was holding a screaming baby and he looked desperate. Plus, he didn’t even ask to see you. He just asked me to sing.”

That is exactly how it happened, even though I would have asked to see Will eventually.

“I didn’t mess this up for you. Groupie number five screwed you over by coming to see what was causing the noise.” I cringe again. The more I hear, the less I like.

Groupie number five.

Screwed him over.

Is this why he never answers the phone at night?

I kind of feel sick to my stomach.

When Will comes back into the room in jeans and a t-shirt, I can’t keep my curiosity in check.

“Please tell me she’s not the fifth girl you brought back to your place tonight,” I plead with him.

“Yeah, the other four are still hiding in my room,” he says.

For a second, my heart stops, and then I pick up on the sarcasm. He sees the uneasiness in my reaction, though.

“Shit, calm down. We just had a lot of options tonight at the bar. She was the fifth.”

“You number them?”

“We don’t know their names when we’re on stage… so yeah, we number them. It’s easier to hand-signal who we, uh… you know what? Never mind.”

“So this is a regular occurrence?”

“No, a regular occurrence is when Damon has multiple girls in his room. Or in the living room. I don’t partake in that shit.”

“Then what happened tonight?” I ask, not sure if I really want to know.

“Groupies number two and seven were both underage.”

“It’s good to know you have standards.”

My brother doesn’t respond, so I take a minute to digest the information. Seeing the beer bottles again, I ask another question I’d had on my mind since I came in. Will has never been one to drink, even a little.

“You started drinking?”

“Not mine,” he says. “Still don’t mess with the stuff. Gotta be sharp for work.”

I laugh, shaking my head.

“You actually lead a double life, don’t you?”

My brother laughs a little, too, nodding. “She finally asleep?” he adds, looking at Edie.

“Finally. You’re witnessing a miracle,” I tell him. He smiles the sweet Will smile I remember from our youth. I’ve missed that smile, and get suddenly sentimental. “So is this what happened when I left New York?” I ask, feeling guilty.

“Jon, I made the decision to be the way I am. It has nothing to do with you not being around for me. You’ve always been here for me, no matter where you lived or what you were busy doing. You always had time for me.”

“Then what happened?”

“Nothing happened. I just like taking advantage of the perks of being a musician.”

“You like having sex with strangers.”

“I like the way I said it better,” my brother says.

“That’s broken, Will.”

“It’s human instinct, Jon. Being in a monogamous relationship is what’s fucked up. It’s unnatural.”

“Oh, Mom messed you up so badly. And Laila and any other girl I don’t know about that may have broken your heart–”

“No one else had the chance.”

“You need to get back into therapy. I’m not kidding.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me!”

“Shhh! Aside from the fact that you risk contracting God knows how many STDs–”

“I’m picky about who I’ll sleep with, and I get tested all the time. I’m clean. I’m careful–”

“Mistakes happen.”

Will glances away momentarily, but I don’t miss it.

“Any kids?” I ask him, wondering what he’s hiding.

He folds his hands in his lap and looks down, shaking his head.


He releases two fingers quickly, holding them between his knees just long enough for me to see.

“Will,” I whisper, swallowing hard.

“I can’t even be certain they were mine. I’ve worn a rubber every time. Every Fucking Time.

I stare over at my brother until he finally looks back at me. I don’t really know what to say to him. “I’m sorry.”

He nods, and I decide I’ve said the right thing. I don’t figure an abortion’s an easy thing for anyone to go through.

“But…” I start cautiously. “You still bring home drunk women?”

“No,” he corrects me quickly. “They’re never drunk. They may be tipsy, but they’re not drunk.”

“You’re telling me that woman wasn’t drunk?”

“She wasn’t. She was a little vacuous. Maybe you’re confusing that with being buzzed.”

“Possibly,” I concede. “But you know these women for, what, five minutes before you bring them here? How do you determine their level of drunkenness?

“I have a… uh…” Damon joins us in the room. “A personal test I give them. It’s an ice-breaker, really.”

“You’re gonna love this,” his roommate says, opening a beer and sitting in a recliner on the other side of Will.

“Show me,” I say, peeking under the blanket at Edie. She’s sound asleep. Damon’s music seems to be doing the trick. Livvy will be so happy when I bring this home.

“Stand up,” Will commands, his voice tempered, considerate of the sleeping baby. I do as he asks. “We’re starting the test… now. Take off your shoes.”

I look at him, confused. “You make them take off their shoes?” He nods at me, so I do it. “What do you look for?”

“I’m not looking at their feet. Just listen.”


“My name is Will Rosser. What’s yours?”

“Jon Scott, but don’t they know who you ar–”

“Jon?” he interrupts. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Again, I’m Will. To answer your question, Damon’s the famous one. Some know me, some don’t. Now, back to it.” He reaches out to shake my hand.

“Wait, did you miss this step tonight? The introduction? Because you didn’t seem to have her name down.”

“Sometimes it takes awhile for my hearing to kick in fully after a show. I was close. Anyway, I’m continuing. Do you know why you were asked to come backstage?”

“No clue.”

“Because I find you attractive and I’d like to take you back to my place.” Will watches me after he says this. “This is where you react.”

“How the hell do they react?! This sounds like a business transaction!”

“Normally, they laugh and blush and say okay. In that order.”

“Okay,” I say simply.

“Are you over the age of eighteen?”


“Have you ever accepted money in exchange for sex?”


“Do you have any weapons on you?” His questions are quick, and would catch most people off guard, forcing them to answer honestly.


“Do you have any known STDs?”

“No, but Will–” He lifts his hand to silence me.

“Have you been drinking?”


“Say yes. They always say yes.”

“Then yes.”

“Have you maybe had a little too much to drink?” he asks in a way that would encourage a woman to admit that she had, if she truly had.

“Yes?” I guess the expected response.

“It was nice to meet you, Jon. Have a great night. Then you’re escorted out and our manager brings in the next one, if there is one.”

“What if she lies? Or she hasn’t and says no?” I ask.

Will nods, ready to continue the roll-playing. “Great. That’s what I like to hear. What’s another word for drunk?”


“What’s another?”



“You ask them this?”

“Yes,” he says, urging me to answer. “Another?”


“Good. Now, the next one… and this is very important. Don’t answer this out loud. Just keep the answer in your head. As soon as you know it, I want you to take that many steps in a straight line with your heel touching your toe, just like this.” He demonstrates the walk.

“So this actually is a sobriety test,” I comment.

He continues without acknowledging me. “What’s the square root of sixty-four, multiplied by two, minus seven?”

“And a math test. What if she’s just bad at math?!”

“I have standards!” he says, his eyes wide. He’s smiling, but I can tell he’s dead serious. “I’m a physicist for fuck’s sake. She should be able to do sixth grade math!”

“By the way, if she answers aloud here, or if her answer is wrong, she fails the test, and Will asks for another,” Damon adds.

I shake my head as I take nine steps, heel-to-toe. I look up at him when I’m finished.

“What is my full name, Jon?”

“Will Rosser.”

“And what was the first thing I asked you to do after we started this test?”

“Take off my shoes.”

Will claps softly.

“At this point,” Damon begins, “Will leans in for a kiss. If she welcomes him, that’s when she actually passes.”

“And then I tell her… Last thing–I don’t have girlfriends. I’m not going to fall in love with you tonight. You’re beautiful and worth loving, I’m sure, but I’m not capable of it. That being said, would you still like to come back to my place with me for a bit?”

“How often do they actually say yes to that?”

“Once they’ve made it that far? One-hundred percent of the time.”

I shake my head again, thinking back to Keely. “I still can’t believe that woman wasn’t drunk.”

“She wasn’t. She just wasn’t the brightest woman I’ve brought home.”

“But she passed the test…” I say, but it’s more of a question.

“I let her take it twice.” I give my brother a disapproving glance. “What? Did you see how hot she was?”

“Wow. I worry about you, Will.”

“Man, I’ve got this down to a science,” he says, and he does. “Max is the one you need to worry about.”

“Why do I need to worry about him? The kid doesn’t even have a girlfriend.”

“No? Then why’d he have me go pick up condoms for him earlier this week?”

My heart sinks. “He didn’t.”

“Yeah, he did.”

“Did he tell you why?”

“Well, he wasn’t going to have a water balloon fight with them, Jon. They pretty much have one use, so I didn’t think I needed to ask why he wanted them.”

“Have you talked to him about sex?”

You had that talk with him,” he reminds me.

“I meant recently… maybe he mentioned a name or something.”

“No,” he says.

“Have you ever heard him talk about a girl named Zaina? Or Zany?”

“Yeah, she’s a friend of his. He talks about her a lot… probably more than any other girl. So it’s probably her,” he says, not thinking anything of it.

“Zaina’s my brother-in-law’s girlfriend, Will. So it sure as hell better not be her.”

“Oh,” he says, unaware. “I’ve seen him texting someone named Allie. Maybe it’s her.”

“I haven’t heard of her. I can only hope.” I check on Edie, and decide it’s probably time to head back home. “Sorry I just dropped by like this, Will. I promise to call from now on.”

He nods and grins. “It’s good to see ya. Next time, we can watch a game or something. Or maybe take the little one for a walk if you come in daylight. There’s a park down the street with a lot of hot single moms.”

“Like you need any help picking up women,” I tell him with a laugh. “Do you think I could get a CD of yours, Damon?” I ask Will’s roommate.

“Sure, yeah. I may have just found my youngest fan.”

“You’ve found one in me. Livvy’s going to love you even more. We were beginning to think she’d never sleep.”

“Bring your wife to a show,” he says. “I’d love to see her again. It’s been years.”

“I will. We’d love to come. Thanks.”

After I get the music, Will walks me to my car.

“So, am I on Liv’s shit list for the bat and ball?” he asks.

“Well… actually, she stopped the whole shower, started a video chat with her dad, and showed him the gift.” I shut the back door quietly after placing Edie inside, surprised that she’s still sleeping. “And he was so excited. I think it was her favorite thing. But… why the metal bat?”

“It’s a girl’s bat!” he exclaims, as if trying to convince me it was a good idea. “It had a pink handle! Plus, it’ll be easier for her to hold. Lighter, you know?”

“She’s my daughter, Will. She won’t be a delicate flower. She’ll be tough as nails.”

He stops me before I get into the car. “Jon, she shouldn’t have a life as hard as we had it. It should be much easier.” He smiles that wonderful Will smile. “You can give her that.”

“Thanks, kid.”

©2015 Lori L. Otto • Distribution or duplication is strictly prohibited without written permission from the author.


My visit to Hollandtown (aka New York)

Many of you know that I spent the weekend in Manhattan with my father. It was my birthday present from my parents, and we had a great time doing all kinds of tourist-y things. Along the way, though, I was astute enough to sneak in some pictures of places that appear in my Emi Lost & Found and/or Choisie series books!

When I’d originally visited the city, I’d never met Emi before… or Nate, or Jack, or anyone else yet. Any landmarks I saw, were just generic, historic landmarks. There was no special meaning behind them yet. Just a few years later, though, who knew so many would mean so much? And it was surprising how many of them brought actual tears to my eyes this weekend.

I wanted to share some of the images with you, so you could see some of these special places.

1 – The Loft. In Emi Lost and Found, owned first by Nate, then by Emi, then sold. In the Choisie series, purchased by Donna, then gifted to Livvy.

00_The Loft

2 – The cell phone store that Nate went to when Laney dropped his phone into the marinara sauce. (The store was not called out by name, but it was the store open 24 hours that could replace phones. For the fact-checkers of the world, this could actually not have happened because the story began in January 2007 (not that most of you would even know that), and the iPhone wasn’t released until June of that year. But that’s the awesome thing about fiction… I can bend the facts a little.)

01_Apple Store

3 – Cipriani. The restaurant where Donna took Nate on January 2nd. This is also the place where Nate met Sam.


4 – Concert poster exhibit at the MOMA… (so they aren’t indie posters, but it’s close, right?) Sam and Nate went on a private date at the Museum of Modern Art to see an exhibit similar to this one.

03_MOMA Posters

5 – St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This church was featured multiple times in the books, hosting a few somber occasions that I don’t want to go into detail about in case people haven’t read the books.

04_St. Patrick's Cathedral

6 – Grand Central Terminal (Lost & Found edition). Emi wandered to the terminal to drown her sorrows in a sour cream apple walnut pie from Little Pie Company after a confusing night out at a bar. Jack met her there, returning a ring that she’d left behind.

05_Grand Central

7 – Build-a-Bear. In my favorite chapter of the entire Emi Lost & Found series (Chapter 11, Time Stands Still), Jack asks for Emi’s assistance when buying a gift for his niece Jacqueline. She always wished she was a twin, and now, turning six, she wants to be a mom of twins when she grows up. (Jack is her mother’s twin brother.) They go to this store to build twin bears: a boy and a girl.


8 – St. Patrick’s Cathedral candles. Also from Chapter 11 in Time Stands Still, Jack and Emi go in to light candles for lost loved ones.

07_St. Patrick's Candles

9 – Harry Winston. A certain ring was purchased here.

08_Harry Winston

10 – The Flatiron. From Chapter 1 in Contessa, 12-year-old Jon is teaching 10-year-old Livvy about perspective, and wants to show her the Flatiron building, nearly giving Jack a heart-attack.


11 – Shake Shack. Also from Chapter 1 of Contessa, Livvy asks Jack to take her there for ice cream.

10_Shake Shack

12 – New York Public Library. Mentioned often in the Choisie series. Livvy and Jon spent many hours there studying.

11_New York Public Library

13 – New York Public Library study room. Used often in the Choisie series by Livvy and Jon.

12_Study Room - Library

14 – Li-Lac. Mentioned in Livvy, the fourth book in the Choisie series. Livvy and her roommate, Katrina, stopped by the chocolate store before Thanksgiving to pick up some snacks.


Anyway. I also went to Central Park, but there was a huge Greek Orthodox parade happening, and SO MUCH CHAOS that I literally never thought to take pictures. Also, everything was in winter-dead mode, so it wasn’t very pretty anyway. To make up for it, I’ll post the prophetic picture I took back in 2006 in Central Park.

Central Park

Livvy Excerpt: “Date with Manny”

Livvy Excerpt: “Date with Manny”


As he pulls into the parking lot of the restaurant, I fix my hair in the vanity mirror before getting out.

He opens the door again for me, offering me his hand to help me out of the car. “So, do you like my hair like this?”

“It’s sexy,” he says. “The way it exposes your neck and your shoulders is incredibly sensual. I didn’t think you should be hiding them last year when I photographed you. Remember? I moved your sleeve.”

“I remember,” I tell him with a blush as we go inside. I stand in front of him just inside the door, waiting for the hostess. I feel his thumb on the hollow beneath my ear.

“That part’s begging for attention,” he whispers. The blush from before spreads across my body in a flash of heat. That was sexy. I’m grateful when the hostess shows up and directs us to our table. He holds my hand loosely as we walk through the restaurant.

“Emmanuel, what can I get you?” a woman asks. She has high cheekbones and overly-plumped lips. I assume she’s one of his models.

“Let’s see… Spanish tapas? I have to go for a margarita, I guess. On the rocks.”

“And your date?”

I look at Emmanuel first, unsure if I should order anything. He nods subtly. “Ummm…” I have no idea what to even ask for. I’m about to order a rum and Coke, but the waitress speaks up before I can.

“The red sangria here is wonderful,” she suggests. I shrug my shoulders and tell her that’s fine.

“What’s sangria?” I ask when she walks away.

“It’s red wine with fruit and juice. I bet you’ll love it.”

“If someone recognizes me, they’ll know I’m not old enough,” I tell him.

“That’s why we got this table… and why you’re seated with your back to everyone here.”

“Oh,” I say shyly. “Thank you.”

“Do you get that a lot here in Connecticut?”

“Not really. People don’t make such a fuss here.”

“It must be weird, living your life.”

“I wouldn’t know. It’s the only life I’ve ever led.”

“Do you think you’ll go back to Manhattan after college?”

“Of course,” I tell him. “I love it there.”

“Even with no privacy?”

“I have some privacy,” I explain. “It’s just when I make a scene in public that photographers start to swarm like blood-thirsty sharks.”

“Do you do that often?”

“More often than I’d like to admit. I don’t think I make a scene more than any other person does.” I hear my phone ringing in my purse, but ignore it. “It’s just that when I do it, people gravitate toward me instead of turning the other way.”

“Tell me the last time you made a scene,” he says laughing. The waitress brings our drinks, and Emmanuel holds up his hand to stop me from answering. He picks up both of our drinks, handing me mine, and offers a toast. “To a fun night.” His toast is definitely a let down from all other toasts in my life, but I can’t expect everyone to be as eloquent as my father.

“To a fun night,” I return, touching my glass to his. We both look over the menu quickly after taking a drink, picking out a few different dishes to try.

“Okay, you made a scene…” He urges me to continue.

“You know,” I say, shaking my head, certain that he’s already familiar with the story. “After my graduation.”

“No, I don’t know. What happened?”

“Really? You haven’t heard this?”

“There’s a reason why you don’t get bombarded in New Haven, Liv,” he says. “You’re really not news here. Yet.”

“You have family in Manhattan, though, right?”

“Sure, but you’re not really news with them, either. Yet.”

“Oh. Well. I’d rather not get into it then.”

“No, now you have to tell me. I presume this is something I can look up on the Internet, huh?” He takes his phone out of his pocket and starts to type something into it.

“Okay, please don’t, Emmanuel.” I put my hand on his, stopping him.

“Will you tell me?” My phone rings again.

“Hold on. Let me see who’s bugging me.” I pull out my phone, stunned to see the name on the display. Camille. She hasn’t spoken to me since the day I graduated. “I have to take this.” Emmanuel nods, looking back down at his phone. “Camille?”

“Hey, Livvy,” she starts hesitantly.

“Can you hold on a second, Camille?” I don’t wait for her to respond before I cover up the mic and address my date. “Emmanuel, please don’t look it up. I promise I’ll tell you in a second.”

Sensing the urgency in my voice, he agrees and puts his phone away.

“Sorry, ummm. What’s going on?”

“How are you?” she asks.

“I’m good, Camille. How are you?”

“Great, Livvy. I’m really great.”


“Yeah,” she says. “Listen, if you’re busy–”

“Yeah, I’m just out with a friend,” I tell her.

“Well, I’d love to catch up, but I have a reason for this call, and I hope you don’t mind.”

“Sure, go ahead.”

“I’m failing chemistry,” she says. “I need a tutor.”

“Oh, well… you know I went to Yale, and not Columbia, right? I don’t think I’d have the time during the week, and my weekends are pretty up in the air.”

“No, of course, I know you chose Yale. I wasn’t suggesting that you be my tutor. I remember you had one last year that helped get you the best grade in your class… I wanted to see if Jon would be available to work with me some afternoons. Do you think he could? I’d pay him.”

“I, um…” I can’t believe she thinks we’re still on good terms. “I’m not sure if he has time.”

“But could you ask him?” Could I ask him? He didn’t even want to talk to me the last time I saw him. And he hasn’t answered any calls from me or returned a single voicemail since, well… since the last time I made a scene in public.

“Sure,” I tell her, regretting my answer as soon as it comes out. I should tell her no. I should change my response, but I don’t. To have a legitimate reason to call Jon is too tempting for me. I wonder if I’d be brave enough to give him a piece of my mind. I wonder if he’d just hang up on me. I’ll have to find out now. “It may be a few days before I get back to you.”

“That’s fine,” she says. “I’d call him myself, but I deleted his number. Honestly, I deleted yours, too. I had to call your dad’s office to get it.”

“I understand, Camille. I’m really sorry. I’d love to have a chance to explain.”

“We can talk when you get back to me.”

“Sounds good. I’ll call you soon.”

“Thanks, Liv.”

“You’re welcome, Camille. Thanks for calling me.” I hang up and stare at the phone. What in the world will I say to Jon? In a daze, I look across the table to see Emmanuel staring at me. “Huh?” I ask, assuming he’d said something to me.

“You were going to tell me about the last time you made a scene.”

“Funny thing about that,” I tell him. “The last time I made a scene, I kissed a friend of mine, and lost my best friend in the process. That was her on the phone. I haven’t talked to her since then.”
“That’s weird.”

“Yeah,” I say, finally deciding to put my phone away.

“So you had a boyfriend when you visited. What happened to him?”

I’m sure my regret shows in my expression. “I kissed a friend, and lost my boyfriend in the process, too.”

“You cheated…” He raises his eyebrows and purses his lips, as if this intrigues him. “Livvy Holland, I didn’t think you were the type.”

Livvy ©2014 Lori L. Otto

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