Far From Home
by Lorelie Brown
About Far From Home:
My name is Rachel. I’m straight . . . I think. I also have a mountain of student loans and a smart mouth. I wasn’t serious when I told Pari Sadashiv I’d marry her. It was only party banter! Except Pari needs a green card, and she’s willing to give me a breather from drowning in debt.
My off-the-cuff idea might not be so terrible. We get along as friends. She’s romantically cautious, which I find heartbreaking. She deserves someone to laugh with. She’s kind. And calm. And gorgeous. A couple of years with her actually sounds pretty good. If some of Pari’s kindness and calm rubs off on me, that’d be a bonus, because I’m a mess—anorexia is not a pretty word—and my little ways of keeping control of myself, of the world, aren’t working anymore.
And if I slip up, Pari will see my cracks. Then crack. Which means I gotta get out, , before I fall in love with my wife.
Naturally, the entire party goes silent.
The bottom drops out of my stomach. What used to be pleasant, cooling condensation on my glass suddenly becomes lube-levels of slickness. I could drop my wine at any moment.
Worst of all, Pari Sadashiv is looking at me. In the small group of four people standing around the useless fireplace of an acquaintance’s apartment, Pari’s green eyes are the only ones that matter.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Rachel,” Krissy says with a laugh. “No one would believe you. You’d have INS on you in an instant.”
I manage to smile a little bit when Krissy and her friend Chase laugh. Pari doesn’t look away from me though.
“It’s not INS anymore, since the Department of Homeland Security took over. But why is it so unbelievable?” Pari’s mouth tips into a tiny smile. “I’ll have you know my amma would be happy if I married anyone at this point. She doesn’t even know I want to give up my H-1B visa just to be independently employed. If she knew that, she’d find the first breathing person who’d marry me.”
Krissy grins. “It’s Rachel. She’s not gay.”
“Weren’t you dating that one guy? Who ran that club?” Chase helpfully offers.
My cheeks are flaming hot. Krissy is talking about me as if I’m not even here. Or as if I’m a child. Not like Krissy would allow children in her ultramodern apartment. They might try to color the begging-for-it matte gray walls.
Why am I here, for that matter? It’s not as if I’m actually friends with Krissy. We went to film school together, though she had her daddy’s money funding her. The tiny production company I work with is too precarious to risk upsetting one of Hollywood’s inheriting golden girls, though. Showing up to her birthday party is mandatory if I don’t want to feel a knife in my back sometime in the next year. She’s that sort of girl.
“She could be bisexual,” Pari says calmly. “They aren’t required to wear signs any longer.”
I narrow my eyes. Had she just subtly compared our host to a Nazi? Not that it’s undeserved, but Krissy’s usual guests aren’t often so willing to throw shade.
Krissy giggles. “That’s so true. You know, I kissed a girl once. At a sorority party. I was sooooo drunk.”
I turn my wineglass in my hands. “Was that the night the Jell-O shooters wouldn’t set, so you bought a brand-new trash can and poured them all in together?”
“Wasn’t college the best?” Krissy sighs.
Well, no. That isn’t what I meant. More like how half our friends nearly gave themselves alcohol poisoning that night. Fifty grand in student debt well spent in order to learn to never mix alcohols. Lovely. Glad I tossed away my time on that.
It worked for Krissy, at least. After graduation she took a job as an assistant in her father’s studio and has spent the last three years making money, working her way up rapidly to assistant director. I stupidly went on to grad school to tack another twenty grand on my debt, leaving me too skilled to be entry-level. Who’s the smart one now?
I knock back the last of my red wine so I can say, “I’m going to get a refill.” I wave my glass as I leave.
Maybe I’ll live wildly and mix wines.
At least the kitchen is quiet. Krissy—or her catering company—set up a dizzying array of snacks and wine near the picture window in the living room. The sparkling lights of Los Angeles spread beneath the window as C-list stars compare casting call notes. No one wants to be so passé as to hang out in the kitchen. I like my wine cold, though.
To be honest, I like silence better, as well as not having to look at the orgy of food that’s laid out. I open the glass-fronted fridge and snag the bottle of wine I’ve hidden for myself. I hope Krissy has a drawerful of takeout menus somewhere, or that she has the DoorDash app loaded on her front page, because otherwise I’ll have to admit she lives on cucumber water and plain Greek yogurt. My jealousy probably isn’t healthy.
“Thank you for saying you’d marry me.”
I yelp and spin. Because I’m graceful like that. I try to clap my hand to my chest, but cold wine splashes over my knuckles instead. “Jesus.”
“I’m sorry to startle you.” Pari’s standing in the doorway. Even though her dress looks like silk, she doesn’t seem to mind that the flared skirt brushes against the doorjamb. Her dark brown hair spills around her shoulders, turning the dark-blue boatneck into a bejeweled setting.
I shrug. “Awkward is my personal brand. I probably shouldn’t have said that. About marrying you. I’m sorry if it was weird.”
“It wasn’t weird. I promise.” Pari tips her head enough that long hair slides over her shoulder. “I’m the one who was crass enough to talk about my visa difficulties.”
I love her voice. It isn’t only the lilting cadence of her native India mixed with crisp Britishness, it’s the sweet kindness that is absolutely letting me off the hook.
I lift the wine bottle I’m still holding, only to realize there’s some on my fingers. I transfer the bottle to my other hand and lick my knuckles. “Would you like some? I’ll let you pour so I don’t make any more of an ass of myself.”
“I’ll take some, but not for that reason.” Her charm flashes as she moves, like she carries a bubble of rarified air.
As Pari stands next to me at the slate counter and reaches for one of the hanging glasses above us, my breath catches. Pari has the elegance that I have always lacked and always admired.
“So are you bisexual?” Even the question that would have been unbelievably rude from someone else seems mildly curious from her gentle tone.
“Oh! Um, no. Sorry?” My heartbeat drowns all my other senses out.
“You certainly don’t have to apologize for that. Though I have to admit I’m a little disappointed.”
The tips of my ears tingle, and my stomach takes a funny swoop. “Disappointed? Why?”
Pari glances sideways at me. Her throat is long and lovely. “I’m sorry if this is forward, but Krissy said you have large bills and a job that doesn’t keep up.”
“They’re student loans.” The swoop of my stomach turns into the hot coals of embarrassment that Krissy has implied I’ve been recklessly spending. “I have a master’s. I didn’t have any family to help.”
“A master’s,” Pari echoes. She nods. “A master’s is excellent.”
“Not when it’s an MFA in film. Even with a job, I can’t afford to make my minimum payments.” I try to make my smile wry, but based on how awkward I feel, it’s probably somewhere on the pitiful spectrum.
“Which makes me wonder if we could come to a mutual understanding after all.”
It’s my turn to echo Pari. “Mutual understanding?”
“You see, I’m not rich per se,” Pari says as if those words make perfect sense in that combination. “But I’m comfortable. I wouldn’t be considering entering consulting and giving up my work visa if I didn’t have a cushion.”
“Uh-huh.” I nod as if I have even a slight hint where this is heading.
“And I am a lesbian.” Pari turns and leans a hip against the counter. “A gold-star lesbian, as a matter of fact.”
“It works for me.” Her pale-green eyes glow with amusement. Especially against the rich, clear brown of her skin, they’re magical. “No one would be surprised if I marry a woman.”
“I’m not sure what you’re . . .” Except I do know. I have an idea I know exactly where this is going in that split-second way where I could shut it all down or maybe change the entire course of my life with one conversation.
It’s happened once before, when I admitted to my friend Nikki soon after graduation that I had a problem. A problem with a big old capital P, a life-changing Problem. That had been the right choice too. I’m not one to shy away from change.
I hold up a hand. “No. Wait, that is . . . Will you marry me, Pari?”
“Why don’t we start with a first date? A chance to talk about it in depth?” She grins, suddenly more minxish than elegant. “After all, if we get married, we’ll need to get our stories straight. And we really ought to find out if we can be friends at least.”
Pari has the most beautiful smile. Her teeth are perfectly straight and even. I’m dazzled.
I lift my glass in a toast. “To first dates that aren’t first dates.”
“And to the American immigration process.”
About Lorelie Brown:
After a seminomadic childhood throughout California, Lorelie Brown spent high school in Orange County before joining the US Army. After traveling the world from South Korea to Italy, she now lives north of Chicago. She writes her Pacific Blue series of hot surfers in order to channel some warmth.
Lorelie has three active sons, two yappy dogs, and a cat who cusses her out on a regular basis for not petting him enough.
In her immense free time (hah!) Lorelie cowrites award-winning contemporary erotic romance under the name Katie Porter. You can find out more about the Vegas Top Guns and Command Force Alpha series at www.KatiePorterBooks.com or at @MsKatiePorter. You can also contact Lorelie on Twitter @LorelieBrown.
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To celebrate the release of Far From Home, Lorelie is giving away a ring!
That’s right, a size 7 ring, similar to the one Pari buys for Rachel in the book.
Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest.
Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 6, 2016.
Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
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