Look - Zan Romanoff Page 0,2
“But no, I get that,” Cass continues. “That seems fair. I guess I just haven’t found the parts of it that I love yet, really.”
“Nothing?” Lulu asks.
She risks looking up. Cass is leaning forward again, intent, unembarrassed.
“There’s this one spot,” Cass says. “It’s sort of amazing, actually. I could take you, if you want.”
Lulu’s phone flashes with a message from Bea.
Where the hell are you girl??
Don’t make me wander through this whole horrible fake castle on a search. Come back!!!!!
And then: O says he might be leaving soon.
Lulu knows exactly how the rest of her night will go if she leaves Cass here and walks back downstairs to the living room. Owen will be drunk; probably a little sloppy. Maybe he’ll try to talk to her, or kiss her or something, and she knows perfectly well that she should let him. She should. That would be a big step toward normal: bringing Owen back into her life.
Lulu knows how to follow the rules, and she knows what happens when she does.
She feels the first edge of a hangover coming on: the throb of a headache, the curdle of nausea in her gut. It’s silly to think that leaving with Cass will allow her to escape her own body, much less her life.
But if she leaves, people really will have to wonder about her. They’ll ask questions, and they won’t know where to look for answers.
“Okay,” she says. “Why not? Let’s go.”
CASS’S CAR IS a few blocks away from Patrick’s house, taking up half of the street behind the bend of a blind turn and sitting directly under a NO PARKING ANYTIME sign. “Whoops,” she says as she unlocks it. The car is a boxy Volvo, not ancient but definitely not new. Cass grabs an armful of stuff off the passenger seat and gestures for Lulu to sit.
She doesn’t consult her phone’s GPS, which impresses Lulu. “You know your way around this neighborhood?” she asks.
Cass shrugs. “Reception sucks in the hills,” she says. “And I have a pretty good sense of direction.”
“Oh,” Lulu says. And then, to have something else to say: “I don’t.”
“You seemed to know your way around that house pretty well.”
Lulu steered them down the way she’d come up, taking a back staircase and then a side door, slipping them out the front gate without anyone seeing them go. She messaged Bea: hey feeling weird heading out talk tmrw? Though Cass is right about reception: When she looks down now, she sees that it didn’t send. She hits RETRY.
“I’ve spent a lot of time exploring at Patrick’s,” Lulu says. “And houses are different, anyway. There are walls.”
“Yes, there are,” Cass agrees.
Lulu knows that was dumb, and she moves to explain, to defend herself—there are limits is what she means, there are borders to guide you—but Cass doesn’t seem to be dwelling on it. Instead she keeps driving, fast and certain, taking them up and up and up.
She says, “We’re not far from where we’re going, by the way. I didn’t just, like, lure you into my car on false pretenses.” She keeps her gaze on the road but raises an eyebrow suggestively. “I’m not that kind of girl.”
“Me neither,” Lulu says. Which—whatever. Whatever. That isn’t a conversation she needs to have with Cass right now, especially if Cass doesn’t already know.
“See,” Cass says. “Look, we’re here.”
Here is a dark gate so tangled in vines that at first Lulu isn’t even sure that there’s anything underneath them. Someone has cut away a patch, though, to allow for the swing of the hinge, and the metal glints faintly in the car’s headlights. Cass leaps out to tap a code into the keypad. The gate swings open at her command.
Beyond the gate is a long, tree-lined drive. Unkempt branches laced together overhead turn the night’s darkness dense with shadow. It should look menacing, but instead it’s dreamy. Cass gets back in and eases the car forward, her foot light on the gas.
The gate swings closed behind them.
“So this is the hotel,” Cass says.
“The Hotel? Is that, like, its proper name?”
“For now. Do you want to hear a story?”
“Sure.” Lulu settles back in her seat and cranes her head up so she can look out the window at the trees. She can’t tell whether the flashes of light she sometimes catches through them are lights that have been woven through the branches, or if she’s high enough up that somehow, she can see the stars.
“Avery Riggs built this place around