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I shrug, then peer inside the bag. There’s a box wrapped in plain white paper and a big orange bow, my favorite color. I smooth the ribbon under my fingers and wonder what Sawyer is up to, because she’s right. I’ve never wandered into my room and found a Neiman Marcus bag waiting for me. There’s a card attached to the ribbon that simply says,
For Boots.
God, he’s given me a nickname and he’s sending me gifts. No one’s ever given me a nickname before. Well, romantically anyway. Finn nicknamed me Shortcake when I was six, but that was different. None of the guys I dated ever called me anything but babe or baby, which is the worst. It’s generic and kinda silly. I was always tempted to give a little infant wail in response, just to see what they’d have to say, but I never went through with it.
I tug the ribbon and it falls away, quickly followed by the paper. It’s a Christian Louboutin box. Chloe is watching with interest as I open the lid. Holy shit. It’s a pair of boots. The pair I’ve been admiring all fall, pinned to my fall wardrobe inspiration board on Pinterest. They’re a combination of leather and suede with a three-inch stiletto heel, the zipper concealed along the back. Totally impractical and totally out of my price range. Way, way out of my price range. Which doesn’t stop me from trying them on.
Remember the feeling you got when you were a little girl and slipped on your favorite princess dress? Stepping into a pair of Louboutins feels even better than that. Way, way better.
“You know you have to send them back,” Chloe says, watching me check myself out in the mirror on the back of the door.
“Do I?” I say slowly. “I mean, isn’t that the biggest cliché? Guy sends girl gift, girl fawns over the gift then insists she can’t accept it? Where did such a ridiculous practice begin, anyway? It’s quite stupid,” I add, sitting down to take the boots off.
“You said you weren’t interested in him, so you can’t accept gifts from him. That’s standard etiquette.”
Etiquette. Only Chloe would etiquette-check a girl with a brand-new pair of Louboutins. I shake my head as I step out of my jeans before pulling on a grey cable-knit sweater dress. Chloe tilts her head and raises an eyebrow as I slip the boots back on and admire my new outfit combination.
“Ohh, they look good with a dress too. They’re so versatile, Chloe! I can wear them with everything.” I turn to face her, hand on hip, waiting for her commentary.
She shakes her head.
“It’s rude to refuse a gift, Chloe.” I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere.
“In the south. That’s only a thing in the south, Everly, and you are not southern.”
I frown. How the hell did southern girls pull that off and why isn’t it a universal thing? I sit at my desk and watch Steve swim in his bowl. “Do you think he’s happy in there?” I ask, pointing a thumb at Steve. “Do you think he needs a little tank? Or a friend? That bowl is really small.” I frown, worried I am failing at fish parenting.
“I think he’s fine,” she says and, giving up on talking sense into me, goes back to her studying.
I should study too. I tap my toes on the floor, admiring the boots from this vantage, and open up my laptop. I’ll just take a quick peek at my Pinterest board first to see what else these boots would look good with. Everything. They look good with everything, I decide after a half hour of pinning. Which somehow ended with me pinning knitting patterns. I don’t knit, but Pinterest is a bitch that way.
Chloe’s right. I shouldn’t keep the boots. I’m not interested in Sawyer. I’m not. I’ve spent a long time thinking Finn was the perfect guy for me, and I’m not ready to give up on that. Just because Sawyer can kiss—and okay, just because I’m attracted to him—doesn’t make him the right one for me. Not for the long haul and that’s what I’m interested in. I can’t date them both. Once you date one brother, the other is off limits. For life. I don’t even need Chloe telling me to know that.