Saturday, May 1, 2021

Such a Pretty Face, Chapter 6

I wouldn’t say I’m a Facebook addict or anything, but I have several hundred friends and I usually log on a few times a day. My profile photo is just my face, and it’s one from college, when I was quite a bit lighter. As I’ve said, I’m way better on the internet than I am in real life. Out of all the Facebook friends I’ve got, only a handful have ever been my friends in real life.

For days after my trip to the zoo with Brody, I’m in a great mood. But then, a few days later, I’m sitting in my room, singing Celine Dion to myself, when I log onto Facebook and see a disturbing update on my friend feed. Apparently, “Nadia Patterson wrote on Brody Nolan’s wall.”

Nadia Patterson is a girl I knew in high school. She was in my class, but we weren’t friends—not even close. Nadia wasn’t the most popular girl in the world, but she was sexy. She had long, straight blond hair that was always streaked with several other colors, and you could always see more of her legs than you could of her skirts. I heard she got suspended once for refusing to change into something less revealing.

I wasn’t friendly with Nadia in high school. I remember we worked on some project together for social studies class during junior year. We went to the park to work, and most of the time, I was working while Nadia was smoking a joint in plain view of everyone. But she was nice—at least she offered to share with me. (I said no, good little girl that I was.) Anyway, a few years ago, Nadia sent me a friend request and I accepted.

And then I became her.

Nadia takes a lot of photos of herself. A lot. Getting a new shade of lipstick is a cause for Nadia to post like twenty selfies. She’s an aspiring actress, so she loves being photographed and I think she’s hoping if she takes enough pictures of herself, she might be “discovered.” Anyway, when guys I met online asked to see a photo of me, it was only too easy to go into the cache of Nadia’s seductive photos. Needless to say, most of the guys enjoyed the photos.

But I couldn’t figure out why she’d be writing on Brody’s wall. How would she even know Brody? As he pointed out to me once, he was a junior when we were freshmen. Then again, Nadia seemed like the kind of girl who hung out with hot upperclassmen guys.

I look at Brody’s wall and I can almost hear Nadia’s sexy voice: “Brody Nolan!!!! Is that you? Where have you been hiding yourself, Brody???? I hope you remember me! If you don’t, I’ll give you a hint: NYE in Times Square! Now THAT was a night I’ll never forget!”

Okay, what the hell is that? What went on between Nadia and Brody on some New Year’s Eve that was so memorable? I don’t even know what to think about it. Christ. I skim to Brody’s reply:

“Hi, Nadia. Of course I remember you. Who could forget that tattoo? Wow, it’s been a while. Married with kids yet?”

I stare at the screen. Tattoo? Nadia had a tattoo? When she was in high school?

And here’s the part that freaks me out. I don’t remember any visible tattoos from any of the many, many photos of Nadia. And in some of those, she was really scantily clad. So that means that Brody got to see her body in a place that isn’t generally clothed.

Which means…

I try to push that next thought out of my head as I read Nadia’s response: “Haha, nope. Still living the swinging single life. And I see from your profile that you’re still single yourself, Mr. Nolan!”

Of course, I immediately click on Brody’s profile, and sure enough, Nadia’s right. Brody has not switched his relationship status from “single.” And now he’s flirting with Nadia freaking Patterson.

I switch back to their wall conversation, but I don’t see any response from Brody. Of course, that doesn’t mean he never responded. Maybe he just responded privately.

I get this horrible sick feeling in my stomach. Camille has called me a few times since our last conversation about Brody, but I haven’t been taking her calls. I’m just not in the mood to hear her tell me what a horrible guy he is. Brody is a nice guy. I trust him.

Except I admit, there are some times when I’m not entirely sure.

Why didn’t Brody change his relationship status on Facebook? Why is he pretending to be single? And why is he flirting with Nadia Patterson?

None of these things are good signs. If he could have someone like her, why would he want me?

Screw it, I’m calling Brody.

It takes half a dozen rings for him to answer. I’ve nearly given up when I hear his voice: “Hello? Emily?”

“Hi,” I say, suddenly feeling shy.

“You never call me.” He doesn’t sound suspicious, just pleased. “I got excited when I saw your name on the screen.”

Aw, he’s so sweet. And cute.

No wait, I’m mad at him.

“Brody,” I say. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure. Anything.”

I take a deep breath. “How do you know Nadia Patterson?”

“Who?” I have to say, maybe he’s a great actor, but he genuinely sounds like he doesn’t know who she is.

“Nadia Patterson,” I repeat. When he doesn’t say anything, I add, “She wrote on your Facebook wall.”

“Oh! Nadia, right.” He still doesn’t sound upset or guilty. “She went to high school with us. Hey, wasn’t she in your class or something? She was, like, really young.” He laughs. “Not legal.”

I can’t stand this another minute. “What happened New Year’s Eve at Times Square?”


It all comes out in a gush of words: “She wrote… Nadia asked you if you remembered New Year’s Eve like it was important. And then you said you did. And then Nadia said that your Facebook status is still single. Which it is.”

There’s a long pause on the other line, then finally Brody busts out laughing. “Holy shit, Emily. Are you jealous?”

I don’t know what’s so funny. I mean, he was flirting with an attractive blond on Facebook. I have a right to be jealous.

“No,” I say defensively.

“I think you are.” He sounds amused. “Wow, that’s… adorable. And flattering.”

“Well, you were flirting with her,” I point out. Although I do feel a little dumb right now.

“Come on, that wasn’t flirting,” Brody says. “And even if it was, so what? You really think I’m going to cheat on you with Nadia? First, I would never ever do that to you. Second, you think Nadia would be overcome with lust when she laid eyes on me and she’d just have to be with me? You think that’s a realistic thing that might happen?”

“I… I don’t know,” I mumble. “You’re pretty cute.”

“Well, I’m glad you think so,” he laughs. “But objectively, I mean, come on.”

I do feel reassured that he’s not planning to cheat on me with Nadia. But what he’s saying is a little unsettling. I had convinced myself that he asked me out because he found me attractive, as crazy as that sounds. But now I wonder if he just asked me out because he found me unattractive. So unattractive that he thought I might say yes to a date with a quadriplegic guy.

Then again, he certainly acts like he thinks I’m attractive.

Maybe Brody realizes he said something wrong, because he adds, “Emily, you’re so wonderful. I’d never cheat on you in a million years. I’d have to be a complete idiot.”

He sounds like he means it. Maybe I’m the idiot, but I believe him. “How come you don’t change your Facebook status then?”

“I don’t know,” Brody says. “Because I’m twenty-nine years old, and the first thing I do when I meet a great girl isn’t rush to change my stupid Facebook status? Seriously, I’m not even sure I know how.”

“Oh,” I say. “Well, it’s not that hard.”

I changed my Facebook status the day after our zoo date. I debated for like an hour if I should do it, if I would be jinxing myself, but ultimately, I couldn’t resist, even though I refrained from saying who I was in a relationship with. I’ve never had a boyfriend before, and I just wanted to scream it from the rooftops. You know what’s crazy? When I changed my status, tons of people “liked” it and posted congratulations. It was a little embarrassing.

“I’ll do it right after we get off the phone,” Brody says. “I promise.”

We talk for another hour, then I go get some dinner. When I get back home, I check on Facebook and see his status has changed to “In a relationship with Emily Davison.” He didn’t just tell the world he’s in a relationship—he told everyone that he’s in a relationship with me. Which is just about the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me.




It’s obvious Camille is determined to get in touch with me. Tonight she calls me at six o’clock and I let it go to voicemail. Then she calls back at seven o’clock. And then at eight o’clock. At that point, I finally take pity on her and pick up.

“Hi, what’s up?” I say as casually as I can.

“You’ve been avoiding me.” I can hear the pout in her voice. “Don’t deny it.”

“Fine. I just don’t want to hear about how horrible Brody is.”

“So you’re still dating him?”

“Yes. In fact…” I can’t suppress a smile. “We’re… you know, in a relationship. He’s my boyfriend.”

Camille groans. “Seriously?”


“I’m sorry, Emily,” she sighs. “Don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s him. I’m telling you, he’s not a good guy. I went to school with him for four years. And I just can’t imagine the two of you together.”

I chew on my lip. I have to tell her what happened to Brody. Then she might understand why he’s changed. “Listen,” I say, “he’s not… the same as he was in high school.”

“You keep saying that.”

“That’s not what I mean.” I shake my head. “The thing is, he was in an accident. He uses a wheelchair now. He’s, like, a quadriplegic.”

I hear Camille inhale sharply on the other line. “Oh my God. Seriously?”


She’s silent for several seconds. “Wow. That’s… terrible for him… It’s hard to imagine.”

My shoulders relax. Brody was right that I needed to tell her. Maybe now she’ll lay off. “Right. So now you know.”

“He looked the same,” she murmurs. “I mean, in the photos on Facebook. He still looked…”

Hot. I finished the sentence in my own head. Camille’s reaction is a bit unsettling. She sounds more rattled than I thought. It makes me wonder if they knew each other more than they both let on.

“A quadriplegic,” she murmurs. “I can’t even imagine it.”

“He’s doing okay,” I say. “It’s not as bad as it sounds.”

She snorts. “It sounds pretty bad. So is he on welfare now or something?”

“No! He’s a computer programmer. That’s how I met him. We’re in the same night class.”

“I just…” She hesitates. “I’m sorry, Emily, but I still don’t trust him. I don’t know. You should be very careful around this guy.”

I grit my teeth. “Noted.”

“Don’t be mad,” she pleads with me. “You’re my little sister and I’m just looking out for you.”

“Then you should want me to be happy,” I say. “And Brody makes me happy.”

“Okay,” she says. “If you say so.”

But this is far from over.




I show up at Brody’s apartment at six o’clock on Saturday night, feeling some combination of terrified and excited. Tonight, Brody’s PCA Mike is going to be sticking around for the duration of the evening, to help with whatever we need. It’s a little awkward that we need a third party present for our date, but this will give us a chance to be physically closer. Which is something I’m… well, like I said, excited and terrified about.

The door opens much faster this time, and I’m greeted by a pleasant-looking guy in his mid-thirties with a crew cut. When he holds out his hand to me, there isn’t any judgment or surprise in his eyes. I wonder if Brody warned him I’m a big girl. “Hi, I’m Mike. You must be Emily.”

I shake his hand, which is strong and warm. A far cry from Brody’s hands. “Hi.”

Brody enters the foyer in his wheelchair, looking adorable as usual in a dress shirt paired with jeans. “Emily! I see you’ve met Mike.”

I nod shyly.

“Anyway,” Mike says, rubbing his hands together. “Dinner is all set up for you guys. I’m going to hang out in the bedroom so give me a yell if you need anything.”

“Oh,” I say. This feels so ridiculously awkward. He’s just going to be sitting in the bedroom, waiting around? “You don’t want to stay and have a drink?”

Mike laughs. “Thanks, but the whole reason I’m here is to help you two have a good time together. I don’t want to intrude. Really.”

“When do you need to leave, Mike?” Brody asks.

“I’ll stick around as long as you need me, Brody,” Mike says. He cuts off Brody’s protests, “Really. Don’t even worry about it.”

Mike dashes off to the bedroom. I wonder what he’s going to do in there. Watch TV? Play with his phone? Jack off? “Mike seems nice,” I say.

“He’s nice,” Brody assures me. “I’ve had some PCAs that were shit. But he’s great. The best.”

“What makes a PCA shitty?” I ask him.

“Lots of things,” Brody says. Spoken like someone who’s needed help with basic activities of daily living for the last decade. “Like not showing up on time. Or at all. I had one woman who had a son who was always getting sick. And she’d wait till the last second to call me and let me know she couldn’t make it. And I’d be stuck in my freaking bed, calling around for a back-up.”

“Yikes,” I say.

“That was the worst,” he says. “But there were others who were bad in other ways. Like they were always acting like it was some kind of race—everything was so rushed. Or just not treating me with any kind of respect, like I’m not a human being, you know?”

“I can imagine,” I say. It’s exactly the way people treat me sometimes.

“Anyway,” Brody says. “This is not the sexiest topic of conversation. Sorry. Come here, Emily.”

I lean toward him and he kisses me on the lips, then whispers in my ear, “I can’t wait to be close to you.” His breath makes my whole body tingle.

Sheesh, he is really sexy sometimes.

The dining table is set up in the living room, although I get momentarily distracted by a book in Brody’s bookcase. It’s been removed from the shelf and is lying on top of the other books. “Hey,” I say. “Is that your high school yearbook?”

“Oh, yeah.” He grins crookedly. “I took it out a while back so I could get ideas for conversation topics with you. But it was too heavy and I couldn’t get it back on the shelf on my own.”

I pull the book out of the shelf and lay it down on the dining table. The book is heavy, but not that heavy. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to not even be able to lift a yearbook—but he doesn’t seem upset about it, just matter-of-fact. I flip through the pages of portraits until I come to the N’s. And then I see him at the bottom of the page: Brody Nolan.

“Wow, you were cute!” I can’t help but exclaim. He really was. He has this adorably goofy grin in the photo. He looks pretty similar to the way he does now, although there’s something different I can’t put my finger on. Well, his hair is shorter now. In the photo, his brown hair wasn’t long, but it was pretty shaggy. It’s almost hanging in his eyes.

Were?” Brody acts mock offended.

I look under his name, where honors and clubs are listed. He has none. I read off the quote attributed to him: “Dude, where’s my homework?” I look up. “What does that mean?”

“Oh Christ,” Brody says. “I was a little… immature back then. Maybe you should just put that back.”

I flip through more of the pages, looking for familiar faces. Some kids look vaguely familiar, but they were so far ahead of me that I didn’t know any of them. Finally, I get to the unlabeled photos, which were snapped in the hallways of school, at dances, or at other special events. I pause over a photo that I’m almost positive is of Brody. Brody leaning against the lockers, kissing a cute blond girl.

I stare at the photo for a few seconds. He looked different in the portrait photo, but here he looks really different. For one thing, he’s standing. He’s wearing a T-shirt and you can see his forearms and hands, and they look totally normal. Brody looks totally normal. Not just normal—he looks hot. Miles out of my league, if I’m being honest.

I point to the photo. “Is that you?”

Brody cranes his neck. “Oh, yeah. I think so. Man, that was a long time ago.”

“Who is the girl?”

He shrugs. “I don’t know. Just a girl.”

“You were kissing her,” I point out to him. “You don’t remember who you were kissing?”

“It was twelve years ago.” Brody crinkles his nose. “Do you remember everyone you kissed twelve years ago?”

I’m not going to tell him it’s pretty easy to remember everyone I kissed twelve years ago when I didn’t have my first real kiss until a few weeks ago. Of course, maybe if I looked as good as Brody did in high school, I’d have kissed more guys than I’d be able to remember.

“I guess not,” I finally mumble. I can’t win this argument.

Brody reaches over and manages to shut the yearbook. He reaches over and slides the book onto his lap, then he tries to lift it to get it back on the shelf. He gets it about six inches off his lap and then the book falls to the floor, bashing him in the knee. That sets off a muscle spasm in his leg, which starts jumping like crazy. I’ve seen his legs do that a few times before, and he explained it’s something he can’t control.

“Are you okay?” I ask him. “Do you need me to get Mike?”

“No. No way,” Brody says. He grabs onto his leg and the spasm quiets. “Let’s eat, okay? Enough reminiscing. Please.”

The way he says “please” makes me feel incredibly guilty. I guess if I were Brody, I wouldn’t want to look at photos of myself before I got hurt either.

We finish our dinner quickly because we’re both eager for what’s going to come next. For once, I don’t have much of an appetite. All I can think about is being close to Brody. After about fifteen minutes, Brody puts down his fork and his eyes meet mine.

“Do you want to sit on the couch and… cuddle?” His cheeks turn pink as he asks the question. “I can go get Mike.”

I, on the other hand, feel my whole body turning pink. The thought of being physically close to him makes me excited. And terrified. But mostly excited.

Also, pretty terrified.

“Sure,” I say casually.

I go to select a movie while Brody gets Mike to help him onto the couch. I try to find a romantic movie, so we can set the mood, but he literally has no romantic movies in his collection. I end up picking Elf, because it’s seriously the most romantic movie he’s got.

Brody returns with Mike by his side. Brody wheels over beside the couch, and undoes the Velcro on his belts. Then he leans forward and wraps his arms around Mike’s neck. Mike grabs him by the waistband of his pants and heaves him onto the couch in one swift movement. Mike helps Brody adjust his legs, and then it’s over. It was far less involved than I thought it would be.

“All set,” Brody says. He smiles shyly at me.

I settle gingerly on the couch next to Brody while Mike works the controls on Brody’s wheelchair to get it out of our way. “You good then?” Mike asks. “Need anything else?”

“No, we’re fine.” Brody clears his throat. “You know, it’s going to be a two-hour movie. If you want to go out for a while or something, and just come back later, that would be fine. I mean, I don’t want you to feel trapped in the bedroom.”

Mike looks dubious. “But what if you need to get back in your wheelchair?”

“I’ll be fine,” Brody says again.

I have to admit, I’m nervous about the whole thing. As easy as it is for Mike to help Brody in and out of his chair, I’m not sure I could do it if I had to. I mean, what if there’s a fire and we have to get out of the building? Okay, that’s pretty unlikely. But what if… “What if you need to use the bathroom?” I blurt out.

“He has a catheter,” Mike says.

Well, that finally explains the bathroom thing that I’ve been wondering about since Brody and I have been dating. It baffled me why he never needed the bathroom.

I look over at Brody, who is blushing. “So we’ll be fine,” he says to Mike. “You can go out. Really.”

Mike finally agrees. As we hear the door slam behind him, Brody and I exchange looks. Despite everything, he looks nervous. “We’ll be fine,” he says for the millionth time. Although he looks at his wheelchair like he wishes he were still in it.

“I know,” I say.

He nods toward the TV. “Do you want to get the movie started?”

It’s a relief to get the television on and break some of the awkwardness since Mike mentioned the catheter thing. I settle down next to Brody on the sofa, about a foot away from him.

“Hey,” Brody says. “You’re way too far away from me. Come closer.”

I scooch over about half a foot.

Brody raises his eyebrows. “That’s the closest you can get?”

I finally scooch over so that I’m practically right on top of him, which seems to satisfy him. He reaches over and puts his arm around me, which is sweet. Bob Newhart comes on the television screen, but I’m having a lot of trouble focusing on the movie. I keep wondering what’s going to happen between Brody and me. I mean, he didn’t go to all this trouble of having Mike stick around just so he could put his arm around me.

Sure enough, about ten minutes into the movie, Brody kisses my forehead. I lift my face to look at him, and then he kisses me on the lips. This is the closest our bodies have been since we’ve been dating and that makes the kissing so much more intense. He’s a really good kisser, although admittedly, I don’t have any basis for comparison. In any case, what we’re doing feels really good.

Brody’s arm moves against my breasts, although he stays respectfully on top of my shirt. At first. Then he tries to get his arm under my blouse, but it’s a struggle for him. Finally, he whispers in my ear: “Do you think you could take your shirt off?”

My first instinct is to panic. I’ve never taken my shirt off in front of a man. I think about the rolls of fat in my belly and my flabby arms, and my stomach clenches. There’s no way Brody will like me if he sees all that. And I can’t help but think of that cute blond girl he was kissing in that photo. She had a killer body—not an ounce of fat.

“Please,” he whispers, stroking the side of my face with his forearm.

I swallow hard. I remind myself that Brody hasn’t been with many women in the last decade, and his standards aren’t all that high anymore. Maybe it’ll be okay…

Slowly, I undo the buttons on my shirt, until it hangs open, and he has a clear look at my breasts under my bra as well as my big fat stomach. Even though my breasts are pretty big, I’m wider in the middle and ass than I am at the bust. My mother says I’m “pear-shaped.”

Brody inhales sharply when he sees my breasts and his eyes widen. “Holy crap,” he says. “Your tits are so freaking sexy.”

I undo the buttons on his shirt now. Brody has a thin red-brown layer of hair over his chest. His abdomen bulges slightly under his rib cage—he’s skinny, but he’s got a gut. He looks at me almost apologetically. “I’m a quadriplegic, so obviously I have zero muscles in my chest,” he explains.

I run my hand up from his belly button to his nipples and he just watches me. “I can’t feel that,” he says.

Oh. I guess that makes sense. “So what should I do for you?” I ask him.

He grins at me. “You know what I’d love to do?”

I’m afraid to hear. “What?”

He runs his curled hand across my breasts. “I would love to get your nipples in my mouth.”

My heart speeds up. “You want me to take off my bra?”

Brody nods. “If you’re all right with that…”

How can I say no? All he wants me to do is take off my bra. We’ve been on more than enough dates now for that to be a reasonable request. Hell, most girls would have been naked five dates ago. Brody and I are moving at a snail’s pace.

I need to get over this. I need to take off my bra.

So I summon all my courage, pull off my shirt entirely, and take off my bra.

I feel so exposed. Nobody’s seen me entirely topless in… I can’t remember how long. But Brody gets this huge grin on his face and murmurs, “Christ, Emily… you are so hot…”

He guides me closer to him with his arm, and starts kissing my neck, then makes his way down to my chest. The easiest thing at this point is to straddle him, which I do while being careful not to put any weight on his legs. Brody’s lips are on my nipples, and damn, that is nice! He’s really going at it—kissing, sucking, licking. He gets an A+ for enthusiasm. He gets an A+ for a lot of things.

While he does that, I run my hands through his hair, over his neck, and over his upper chest. I’m trying to stick to the parts of his body that he can feel. He seems to appreciate it. At one point when he takes a break from my breasts, I suck on his earlobe and neck and he goes nuts.

We fool around intermittently for a few hours, abandoning any pretense of watching a movie. Finally, we end up the way we started, with Brody’s arm around me as I cuddle against him as the movie concludes.

“Hey,” he says, “you want to listen to some music?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. Do you?”

“I don’t care. But I know you’re pretty into music.”

I raise my eyebrows at him. “What do you mean by that?”

He grins sheepishly. “Well, whenever you go off by yourself, like to the kitchen, I hear you singing.”

My cheeks burn. “Oh. Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize! I would apologize if I were singing, but you’re really good. You could be a professional or something. Have you ever taken lessons?”

“A long time ago,” I mumble. I don’t want to tell him the embarrassing story of why I quit singing.

“I think you’re great,” he says earnestly. “You sound like… Kelly Clarkson.”

I roll my eyes. “Come on.”

“You do!”

I’m not going to argue with him about whether or not I sound like Kelly Clarkson. If he wants to believe that, then fine. And Kelly Clarkson is pretty awesome, so I don’t have a problem with him believing that.

We don’t end up listening to music though. Instead, we watch an old episode of The Office. And the entire time, his shirt is open and mine is still off. I still feel self-conscious, but I also feel comfortable in a way I’ve never felt before while naked.

Around ten o’clock, Brody’s cell phone rings on the end-table next to the couch. He answers it on speakerphone. “Hey.”

“Hey, it’s Mike,” comes the voice from the phone.

“Hey, man.”

“Listen,” Mike says. “I don’t want to rush you guys or anything…”

“No, that’s okay,” Brody says. “Come on back.”

When they hang up, Brody apologizes to me. “It takes him a little while to get me ready for bed, so I feel bad making him wait around. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I say. I don’t waste a second grabbing my shirt and bra from where I abandoned them on the couch, then putting them back on. Brody looks disappointed.

“Maybe soon you could…” He takes a breath. “Stay the night? I don’t know. It’s tricky.”

“Yeah,” I mumble. I don’t know how excited I am over that prospect either.

“I had a great time tonight though. A really great time.” He looks up at me as I hurriedly button up my shirt. I don’t mind Brody seeing me half-naked, but I’ll be damned if Mike gets a show. “Did you?”

“Yes, definitely,” I say. I reach out and touch the side of his face. He’s so impossibly cute.

“You’re going to fix my buttons, right?” Brody asks.

“Isn’t Mike getting you ready for bed anyway?” I point out.

“Yeah, I guess,” Brody says. “I don’t know. I just feel stupid sitting here with my shirt open. Please?”

I bend down and do up the buttons on his shirt. I can never resist the way Brody says “please.” As I do up the buttons, I’m more observant than I was earlier and I notice several scars on his chest. There’s a large dimpled scar just below his ribs, which I finger just briefly. “I couldn’t eat for a while after my injury,” Brody says. “So that was my feeding tube. The one on my neck is from my trach.”

I stare at the oval scar at the base of his neck. “You had a trach?”

Brody nods. “For a few months. Not fun—believe me. My first wheelchair in therapy had a portable vent hooked up to the back. You have no idea how hard it is to talk around a vent. You have to, like, time everything you say so it comes out at the same time as the air from the vent. I hated it.”

Seeing that scar makes me realize how much more impaired Brody could be. I know some quadriplegics use a vent. What if he needed help to eat? What if we needed Mike here for everything? Would I still be willing to date him under those circumstances? I probably would. But it would be hard.

I have to tug a bit to get the shirt to button over Brody’s belly. He looks a little embarrassed as I’m doing the buttons, but obviously, between the two of us, I have a much larger gut. His is a joke compared with mine. It isn’t even fat—just a lack of muscles.

Once I have his shirt adjusted, I run to the bathroom. My head is still spinning, and when I look in the mirror, my cheeks appear flushed. My hair is disheveled, and the effect is a little sexy. I feel sexy right now, maybe for the first time in my life.

But when I get out of the bathroom, Brody isn’t smiling.

“Is everything okay?” I ask him.

He frowns. “Who’s Norm?”

I freeze. “What?”

He nods at my phone, which is lying next to the couch, on the side table. “Some guy texted you. Hey, it’s Norm. I really want to see you, Emily. Please talk to me.”

My stomach sinks. How am I going to explain who Norm is to him? I met him on the internet, we talked for a year, and I ghosted him before he could find out what I really look like. “Norm was… sort of my… boyfriend.”

His eyes fill with hurt. “Are you still seeing him?”

“No!” I rush over to sit beside him on the couch. “We broke up a long time ago. He just… I don’t know, I guess he wants to get back together.”

He glances down at the phone again and back at me. “But you don’t want to get back together with him?”

“Of course not!” I snatch my phone off the table before Norm can send me another unfortunate text. “That’s why I deleted his number from my phone.”

“Okay.” Brody stares down at his curled hands resting on his lap. “I believe you.”

“I’m going to tell him not to bother me again,” I say.

I quickly type into my phone: It’s over. Please don’t contact me again. I show Brody the screen, then I send the text. It’s only after I send the text that his shoulders relax.

“Sorry I got jealous,” he says. “I trust you. I really do. I just saw that text message and thought…”

He thought the same thing I thought when he was messaging Nadia. But I’m not upset. I’m flattered. I’ve never experienced a guy being jealous over me before.

I lean in to kiss him, but we get interrupted by the sound of Mike’s key in the lock. Brody pulls away from me and swears under his breath.

“I guess I should head out,” I say.

“Yeah…” Brody eyes his wheelchair. It’s about five feet away, but it may as well be on the moon. “I wish I could escort you out.”

“It’s okay,” I say.

Brody gets this crease between his eyebrows. “Emily, you’re… I mean, you’re okay with all this, right? I know it’s a pain in the neck having Mike help out, and I’m sorry. I’m just trying to figure out the best way to be close to you. Maybe next time we can—”

“It’s okay,” I reassure him. “I promise.”

He offers me a small, nervous smile. “Okay. I really like you, Emily. I just don’t want to mess things up.”

I love that he said that. Before Mike can interrupt us, I kiss him deeply on the lips. I should tell him I like him too, but it sounds like such a stupid thing to say. I mean, I’m kissing him. Obviously, I like him. Although it doesn’t sound stupid when he says it.

 To be continued...



  1. This chapter was soooo sweet and sexy. So glad they had more intimate time! Also, why do I get the feeling that Norm is still gonna be a pain in the ass in the near future, just like Brody's and Emily's siblings?
    Amazing chapter, Annabelle!! Thank you so much for sharing. Your posts really make my week ��

  2. Great chapter! I love Brody. I can't remember how the original story went, but it's fantastic! Love it.

    1. Thanks... it has similar scenes but more of a plot than the original.

  3. Yes! Sexy time for Brody and Emily!! Really wanna see how she's gonna take everything once they start getting more intimate. I like Emily, she's a very realistic character. Drfinitely no Alice in wonderland.
    And Brody is a cutie, as always. I think he might be one of my favorite characters by you??? Haha Thank you for sharing.

  4. A wonderful chapter! Thank you so much!

  5. Ahhh thank you for posting this! I loved it and can’t wait to buy the book
    Thoroughly appreciate you continually posting here all these years :,)