Some Kind of Perfect - Krista Ritchie

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June 2018

Hale Co. Lobby

Philadelphia

LILY HALE

I’ve never been punched in the face before, but I imagine this is how it feels. Below my eye, the skin puffs and swells with constant throbbing pain. I cover the right one with my palm, afraid if I drop my hand, half of my face may fall apart altogether. Just like Mrs. Potato Head.

That’s me.

Lily Potato Head Hale.

For the moment at least. I’m a mess, and it’s not even my fault.

Lo clutches my wrist, attempting to tug my hand down, but I don’t relinquish that easily. Lest my eyeball pop out of the socket.

“Let me see, Lil.” His amber irises rage hot between concern and anger.

We’re not in private. We stand in the very center of Hale Co.’s pristine lobby, the waxed marble floors reflecting my discomfort back at me. I can’t hide behind the fiddleleaf fig plants, their ceramic pots stationed on either side of the shiny elevators.

I’m not a botanist or suddenly fascinated by foliage, but Connor mentioned their specific name one day. Apparently Cobalt Inc. has English Ivy in their lobby. I didn’t know someone could find a way to be conceited about houseplants, but Connor has lots of talent in making his belongings seem superior.

Maybe because they are.

I shake out the thought. I don’t need the fiddleleaf figs or Connor’s English Ivy. I can stand here. Right here. Out in the open. I know I can.

At the sleek entrance desk, a pretty blonde receptionist watches us like she’s tuned into a television show. She doesn’t even care as my sole eye meets her eye. And she’s not the only one. Hale Co. employees push through the revolving doors and depart from the beeping elevators, and their wandering gazes plaster onto us.

Loren Hale might be the boss, but I don’t show up at his offices that often. Let alone flanked by three bodyguards. They do their best to subdue the crowds outside, which start dispersing. Younger teens hoist posters like: kiss me, Loren Hale! and my cinnamon roll Loren Hale and we love you, Lily! They wait by the curb on the chance that we’ll exit, but they can’t see us through the tinted windows.

It’s not their fault my eye swells either.

My bodyguards couldn’t prepare for the one hostile stranger. It’s usually just one bad apple.

And this apple happened to throw a plastic penis at my face. Which, granted, has happened before, but none have ever made contact.

Now I’m suffering from being literally smacked in the face with a penis, and I’m not sure what hurts more: my face or my dignity.

Probably my face.

It fucking hurts.

Lo cups my cheeks, his features contorting through a series of emotions. “Are you crying?”

“No…my one eye is just watering.” I sniff before my watery eye morphs into full-fledged tears.

His cheekbones cut sharp. “That asshat is road kill.”

It sounds less like a threat and more like a character description. When Lo realizes that I am in no way dropping my hand, he tucks my gangly frame closer to his hard chest.

My tense shoulders nearly melt, but my palm stays its course, keeping my face together. I am one step away from a Picasso painting.

Lo fumes beneath his breath, “A goddamn disgrace to human kind.” His fury is radiating so much that I almost expect flames to shoot out of him like Cannonball from X-Men.

For some reason, I decide now’s a great time to bring it up. “You look like Cannonball.”

“I didn’t realize I have blond hair…oh wait, I don’t,” he says dryly. “And I haven’t checked my ass recently, but I’m really fucking positive fire isn’t shooting out of it.”

Talk of his ass distracts me. I almost sneak a peek, but my long-time bodyguard approaches us. Bald, burly, and extremely tall, Garth is the most experienced bodyguard of them all. As the head of the fleet, he has the unique job of ordering Rose and Connor’s bodyguards around. It’s one of the few things I can hang over their heads with pride.

My bodyguard is better than your bodyguard, ha!

Lo speaks first, his eyes narrowing to scalding pinpoints. “Did security get him?”

Garth nods. “They’re calling the police now.” To me, he asks, “Do you need to go to the hospital?”

Before Lo insists, I blurt out, “No! I’m fine. Seriously I just got punched.” By a penis. What is my life?

Lo stares down at me like I’ve lost my mind. I haven’t. I’m completely sane. None of the guys would go to the hospital for this, and I