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Love Like That
By Amanda Hill
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2005 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRoman didn't mind that Ava was waiting at the airport with me. He's not the kind of man who would think that was irritating. He hugged us both and kissed me and it was so good to see him. I don't see him very often because he lives on the other side of the country. Sometimes he goes and lives in other countries. Sometimes I forget about the wonderfulness of him because he's gone from me so often. But when I see him I always remember right away. I'm reminded that a smooth dark midnight sky is okay, but a sky with bright glittering stars is even better.
Ava talked most of the ride home about what had happened with Tim. How she couldn't believe he would ditch her when they started off as friends. Roman was good-natured about it and listened as if he was really interested, even though I knew he really wanted to be hearing about my life and not Ava's. He's very nice to her, though. He doesn't say cruel things about her like Jeremy does, like that she's fucked up and beyond help. He says she's just a sweet, wayward kid. I think she just gets involved with guys who are friends way too often, and there are risks involved in that situation. The same thing happens every time. A guy friend, most likely suffering from lack of a consistent lay, starts thinking his girl friend is a halfway decent piece and he should probably fuck her. The girl friend assumes that means he has fallen in love with her, so she falls in love with him. Then they're not friends anymore. I could tell Ava a few things about that, and do, but she never listens, and she never learns. She says I'm a hypocrite.
She says I'm a hypocrite because I try to give advice and then I act however I want to and don't even care at all. She says I'm a hypocrite for having a nice boyfriend like Roman and cheating on him when he's away.
But that's not what it's about. I think Ava just doesn't understand. She loves eternal. No questions asked. When she's in love, there could never be anyone else. Even if her man was on the moon.
It's not like I don't love eternal. It's just that I suppose I am more guarded at first. Ava dives right in without checking to see if the water is shallow. I guess what I mean is that when I met Roman, he was unbelievable in an almost ethereal sense ... like Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles. I thought for sure it would never last because it just seemed too good. So when Jeremy, who seemed much more like the kind of guy I should end up with, walked into my life about three seconds after Roman did ... I took a chance.
And now it's two years later. And I'm still taking chances.
Roman kept his hand on my knee while he drove us home. He's not the kind of man who would ever expect me to drive, even in my own car. We kept smiling over at each other. I felt warm and happy. It was good to have him home. L.A.'s not his home and he says it likely never will be, but I always feel like he's home when he's visiting because then he's home with me.
Electra was doing her toes in the living room when we got back to the house. She was wearing a turquoise-and-silver kimono with silky butterflies all over it. She got up to give Roman a hug. She highly approves of him. He doesn't drive her crazy hanging around like most other guys would.
"Hey, I like that new poster of Marilyn," Roman said appreciatively. Never mind the layer of dust coating the TV screen, the coffee table crowded with multiple nights' worth of discarded Del Taco trash. Never mind the array of empty bottles nobody's bothered to toss, the overflowing ashtrays. Roman only notices the new poster of Marilyn. I love how he looks on the bright side. I think that is a special quality in him.
"Thanks," I told him. I didn't tell him Jeremy gave me that poster for my birthday. He also gave me The Exorcist on DVD, which I suspected he purchased more for his own enjoyment than to celebrate the fact that I was turning twenty-five. He's twenty-seven already so the thrill was lost on him. The thrill usually is.
Roman kissed my neck. "Want me to make drinks, Dalton?"
"I can do it," I told him as I kissed his neck. I love my man. I think we are the perfect combination, just like peanut butter and jelly.
"So what's new with you?" Electra asked Roman as he settled down to relax and I went into the kitchen to fix us some drinks.
He leaned back against the cushions and looked content. "I'm waiting to hear about my next placement. I won't know anything definite until next week or so, but I've got a pretty good idea."
"Really? Tell me about it," she said. "I find your career so fascinating." Electra can be overly sarcastic, but she was actually sincere.
Roman's career is pretty fascinating. He works for the International Center for Relief and Advancement, which is a D.C.-based nonprofit organization. He and his colleagues are relief specialists who travel to nations with underprivileged economies and try to help them. Most of them have Dr. preceding their name, and a long string of impressive credentials to follow. At Roman's level they research countries to assess their assistance needs. Then they strategize and write proposals about how to go in and improve the quality of life for the people who are most affected. If a proposal is accepted, it becomes a project, and then a team is sent to carry it out. It's a far cry from event planning, which is what I do, but Roman says in many ways our jobs are similar. I think he is incredibly kind.
Roman lit a cigarette and tossed the pack to Electra. "Okay, so you really want to know? I have been busting my ass lately. I'm trying to get the director position for this next project so that Landon might finally start giving me the respect I think I've earned over the last six years that I've given my entire goddamn existence to ICRA. As it is, I'll be working out of our charming West Coast bureau during most of my visit so Landon doesn't think I'm just out here fucking around. That's the one good thing about L.A. - having an office to go to when I'm here."
I handed him a refreshing vodka tonic as I sat down on the couch with him. "That's the one good thing?" I asked skeptically.
He relaxed an arm around my shoulders and kissed my cheek. "Not the only good thing, baby. You know what I meant. Gets Landon off my ass if I say I'm coming out here for work and not just to see you. We both know I come out here just to see you, but Landon doesn't need to know that. If he did, he'd be imagining that all we do here is eat health food and go surfing, and that would horrify him, and then he'd give me a bunch of shit. Landon doesn't understand the concept of leisure - even if we hardly eat health food and have yet to catch a wave."
I laughed. Landon is Roman's totally demanding asshole boss. Roman says he still treats him like an intern even though everybody else knows Roman has fully reached big-cheese status. Roman says Landon is on his case all the time, which is one of the reasons he has to work so hard. He loves his work, he says, and loves working hard - but Landon says, "Don't just love it, Roman. Be in love with it."
"Where will you be going this time?" Electra asked.
"I put in proposals for three places in Africa."
"Africa's awfully far away," I said dubiously.
He jostled my shoulders. "It's really not when you think about it. You just get on a plane and go. Besides, I'm staying here for three whole weeks. Just to be with my baby."
I smiled. He wrinkled his nose at me as he smiled back.
"Can we go to Ruth's Chris tonight like we did the last time when you came, Roman?" Ava piped up. She was sitting on the floor, cutting out magazine pictures with pink-handled scissors.
"Just say when, bella."
I love that Roman is so generous without being grand or boastful about it. I love that he is so easy-breezy. He treats my friends as if they are special because he knows they're special to me. It's not like he's some walking, talking, ever-smiling human Ken. I've seen him get pissed. I've heard him yell. Sometimes he can be the biggest SOB. But he doesn't get put off very easily and that is really important to me.
Excerpted from Love Like That by Amanda Hill Copyright © 2005 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. . Excerpted by permission.
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