Title: This Love
Author: Hilaria Alexander
Release Date: Aug 4, 2015
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Running off to Amsterdam is the best decision Ella ever made in her life. In just a few months, she’s been able to put her past behind her and has found a new family and friends. She can almost ignore the voices in her head telling her this idyllic scenario is temporary.
When Lou Rivers shows up in Amsterdam, he’s the constant reminder of the life she led and the mistakes she made. As the two of them embark on an emotional and musical journey across Europe, Ella will have to face her own insecurities and make a decision that might break them apart forever.
“You know what I was thinking…” he said, lowering his head and looking down before staring at me again. He was all smiles and furtive looks today, even more than usual. I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about his kisses or his hands on me all morning. Every look he gave me just made it worse. It was so difficult to act normal around him.
“What were you thinking?”
“You should be my guide.”
“Your guide?” I asked, confused.
“Yeah, you know. There are so many things I haven’t seen yet and you do know Amsterdam pretty well. Take me to see all the cool places. Like that coffee shop we went to the first time we hung out.” I wasn’t that naïve; I knew what he was trying to do. Taking him around meant spending more time alone with him. Spending more time alone with him meant falling into patterns I should have steered clear of. I knew what he was aiming at.
“You have been here for weeks, Lou. I’m pretty sure you have seen plenty of cool places!” I said, dismissively.
“Yeah, but not as much as I would like. I kind of got distracted,” he replied, giving me a hooded look that made my stomach flip. “And I haven’t gone to the Van Gogh museum yet.”
“YOU HAVEN’T?” I asked him, too surprised to be able to contain the shock in my voice. “What, why?” I babbled for a moment before I asked, “Why haven’t you gone yet?” my voice sounding exasperated.
“Well, I was hoping we could go together…you told me how many times you’ve been…I thought it’d be fun to go with someone who knew the place well,” he said shrugging.
When I saw him this morning, I blushed a deep red, and he seemed equally bashful. The make out session that had followed our musical escapade last night was something out of a dream. After I had gotten upstairs, my phone chimed, and I found a text from him that just said:
“You did it.”
I was still questioning the events of last night, and it was hard not to think about his fingers in my panties and my hands roaming his body. I also couldn’t stop thinking about the fact Ally had been right all along with her finger porn comment. I kept zoning out and staring at his lips and thinking about his kisses. I had it bad, real bad. I came out of my daydream while he was talking about windmills.
“I also heard of this place in the countryside, where you can hang out between the picturesque windmills of the Netherlands…” he said with the theatrics of an announcer from a travel commercial. He grinned at me, aware of how ridiculous his pitch sounded.
“Yeah, I heard of that place too…and?”
“Well, I think you should take me to see the windmills,” he teased in a low voice, his face just a few inches away from mine.
“Why does it sound like something dirty when you say it like that?” I asked, mimicking the tone of his voice, moving my face closer to his, balancing myself on the bar with my hands.
“It’s because you have a dirty mind, Ella,” he replied in a low, teasing voice, drinking a sip of coffee. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him and his lips, and the image of the two of us on the floor flashed in front of my eyes, and I blushed again.
“If you guys are done flirting all over this counter,” Ally said, popping up at the other end of the bar, “there’s someone here that would like to order some food. As long as you two are done, otherwise I am going to gag!”
We both turned to her without saying a word. I hadn’t even seen her come in, which was crazy, considering we weren’t even busy.
“Why don’t you guys just do it and get it out of your system?” she asked as if it was the most normal thing to say.
Lou chuckled and looked down, shaking his head at Ally’s forwardness. I rolled my eyes, sighed and decided against saying something I would regret. But I wasn’t letting her off easy.
I held my imaginary tiny violin and said, “Ally, this tiny violin is playing just for you.” She gave me the “Friends” fuck-you salute. Fair enough.
“What do you want to order, you brat?” I asked, trying to keep a serious, annoyed face. She gave me her order—to go—and then I proceed to take it to Helga in the kitchen. When I got back, she and Lou were sitting next to each other, deep into conversation. At the same time, the door opened, and I saw a familiar face peek in.
“Hendrick, you’re back!” I threw the towel I was holding on the bar and ran to him, as he made his way through the tables, smiling.
I launched myself at him and hugged him tight. He spun me around, laughing.
When he put me down, I took a better look at his face. He looked great, just as handsome as I remembered, maybe just a little bit skinnier, which made him look more grown-up. Besides Ally, Hendrick was one of my closest friends—and former lover.
“It’s good to see you again, Ella! I missed you!” he said looking at me.
“I missed you too!”
Johan and Helga joined me in saying hi to him.
“Helga! Johan! Het is goed om terug te zijn!” he said, hugging them. They were happy to see him too, and the three of them started chatting, talking a little too fast for me to grasp anything. I still watched the whole interaction and took a better look at him. His blonde hair was shorter in the back and longer in the front, falling on his forehead. His eyes were just as blue and bright as I remembered.
Behind me, I could hear Lou ask Ally, “Who’s Hendrick?”
Ally replied, teasing him. “Another one of her paramours. You didn’t think you were the only one, did you?”
Jesus, that lady! Always so damn feisty! Did she really have to say that? There was no need to make Lou jealous. There was nothing going on between Hendrick and me anymore. That was just a fling.
I had met Hendrick when I started working for Helga and Johan. He was one of the few usual customers that knew more English, and we hit it off right away. He was just a couple years older than me and was a deejay. Not only did he have a cool job, but he was also handsome and funny. Pretty soon, he invited me to go see him deejay at a club and it wasn’t long after that night that we started sleeping together, occasionally. He had made it clear though he wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, and at first I didn’t think I was looking for a relationship either. He also didn’t want to get involved, because he planned to go to London to study music production for a master’s degree. At first, it seemed that the attraction between us was enough—our arrangement suited me just fine—but later on I realized that even though I liked him, our relationship wasn’t going to grow or change into anything else, and it made me feel empty. We broke it off on friendly terms, and I still continued to see him as a friend when he’d be playing at a club. We kept in touch even now that he lived in London, but I had no idea he was coming back.
“Are you here for a visit?” I asked him when he was done talking to Johan.
“Yes,” he turned to me and paused for a moment before switching to English. His brow furrowed, and he said, “I’ll be here for a few days, but I’m going back to London. My master’s program isn’t over for another couple of months.”
Johan asked him something else, and I resumed whatever I was doing before he walked in.
When I went back to the bar, Ally and Lou were still sitting there.
“Lou is jealous,” Ally said flatly, without batting an eye.
“You’re terrible, you know that?” He rebuffed, trying to look unfazed by her words. He was blushing though, and I couldn’t deny I was tickled by the whole thing.
“Hendrick is just a friend,” I reassured him. “You know, that wasn’t very nice, Ally.”
“Oh, relax! Instead, let’s talk about what we’re going to do for your birthday next week.”
“My birthday? I have no idea. Doing nothing at all sounds wonderful to me.”
“Nonsense. These are the years that need to be celebrated. After thirty, you’re off the hook.”
“Okay,” I agreed without making a fuss. I knew it was pointless to argue with her. It was nice she remembered my birthday was coming up, but honestly I didn’t feel like making a big deal about it. It just made me think of my parents and our strained relationship. I probably should send them another postcard soon or make a phone call, just to let them know I was still alive.
When Ally left, I made the introductions between Lou and Hendrick. They chatted for a while and then Hendrick left, saying he had a few errands to run. Lou wasn’t supposed to meet with Hans Koll today, so he came with me to pick up Lieke at school, and afterwards we started playing. The number of songs he had was growing, and he felt like he finally had something to give to the record company when they’d try to check on him.
Things between us had been different since last night. All day he stole kisses from me whenever we were alone, and I didn’t stop him. In fact, I wanted more. I wondered why he never asked me to go to his apartment. I should have asked him. Maybe I should have told him plain and simple that I wanted him.
It seemed I could never find the right time to say those words though. My emotions were betraying me though, because Helga noticed something was different.
“What’s going on between you and the boy?” she asked with a sly smile when we were alone in the kitchen. I tried to dismiss it and cried, “Niets!” but the blush on my face betrayed me once again, and when I looked into her eyes, she just smiled and then proceeded to hug me for a good five minutes.
“You deserve to be happy, sweet girl,” she whispered. “Don’t let your fears make you miss out on something as beautiful as love.”
My fears. I felt like I was getting rid of some, since last night’s groundbreaking turn of events, but when it came to Lou, there was a whole chunk of fears I couldn’t let go of.
We had been making out pretty much all day, but when evening came he was quieter than usual, and he wasn’t joking around as much. I wondered what was up with him. Then, before we said goodbye, he told me he had to leave Amsterdam in about a week.
“A week?” I asked him.
His eyes were fixed on mine, and I tried really hard to hide the disappointment on my face, but I knew I wasn’t doing a good job at all.
“Josh has some tech booked for me for the next few weeks. The record company knows, so I can’t just blow it off.”
I lowered my head, unable to look at him. I didn’t want him to leave. I had been afraid of this moment for weeks, and it was even worse now, because during the last few days, the bond and the level of t between us had gotten even stronger. It wasn’t just a sexual attraction I had for him. I loved how he seemed playful and carefree most of the time, and then he’d surprise me by being deep and soulful. I loved the way he looked at me when I played; it gave me confidence and made me believe I was capable of anything. Shit, did I really just admit to myself I loved him? It didn’t really matter, though, did it? Because one way or another, I would have to get used to life without him.
Hilaria Alexander was born and raised in the south of Italy, where her family still lives. She attended college at the Instituto Universitario Orientale in Naples, Italy, and lived one year in Tokyo, Japan, as part of an exchange student program. She now lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and kids. When she isn’t at work, she is reading, catching up on her favorite TV shows and making up story-lines in her mind. She loves traveling and is a self-proclaimed concert addict. This Love is her second romance novel. She published her first novel, Prude, in January 2015.