• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 16


The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

By the time we get back to Paradise Inn, my clothes are almost soaked through on account of insisting that I didn’t need to dry off in the sun before putting on my T-shirt and jeans. With the air-conditioning blasting in the car back to the resort, I’m not just wet, I’m cold, too. I can’t wait to get into a hot shower and some clean, dry clothes.


We pass the spa on our way to the rooms, and of course Crystal and Sally pick that exact time to walk out. Crystal gives me a disdainful once-over and shifts her focus to Cole, who’s not far behind.


“What have you been doing? Playing Marco Polo? I thought you were supposed to go zip lining?”


“We did. Then we went swimming.”


“Oh. You should just have come back here. The hot tub is amazing.”


“I’m sure.”


“We should check it out together later tonight.”


Bile rises in my throat and I try to count how many steps are left until I can slip into my room and be rid of Crystal’s grating voice.


“Yeah, maybe,” Cole mumbles.


“Perfect,” Crystal purrs and I wonder, not for the first time, how much of her infatuation with Cole is an act and how much is real.


I jam the key in the lock with a bit more force than what is strictly necessary and let out a sigh of relief when I can close it behind me. Derek won’t be far behind, but at least I can call dibs on the bathroom. I’m halfway there when there’s a knock on the door.


I could just ignore it – pretend like I’ve already gotten in the shower – but as I’m still deciding what to do, the door opens and Derek walks in, holding it open for Cole to follow.


“I’m just gonna grab my-“ Derek says, trailing off when he sees me just standing in the middle of the room like a fool. “Oh, hey, sorry, I just need to get some stuff from the bathroom. I’ll just be a sec.”


“Sure,” I mumble as he brushes past me. “Take your time.”


“You went off in a hurry,” Cole says quietly, studying me. “You okay?”


“I’m just looking forward to a hot shower and some dry clothes. Are you and Derek heading out, or are you going to go for that soak in the tub with Crystal?”


I try to sound casual, I really do. I don’t want to be affected by him hanging out with Crystal, but she just rubs me the wrong way. And it worries me that she might be after more than a fake relationship with him.


Cole glances over my shoulder before answering, “Just hanging out with the guys. I need to keep up appearances.”


I nod. “I know.”


“If-“


“Good to go,” Derek announces and Cole cuts himself off, turning his attention away from me.


“Great. Let’s move.”


“Do you want to come?” Derek offers as an afterthought, pausing in the doorway, and I shake my head.


“Thanks, but I’m just going to rest up before dinner. See you later.”


As soon as the guys leave, I head into the bathroom for my long-awaited shower, hoping to warm up. Right now, it feels like I’m chilled to the core.


I wake up when Derek shakes my shoulder and I blink, trying to remember where I am. After my shower, I changed into pajamas and crawled into bed, hoping to feel a bit better once I’d rested a bit. I must have fallen asleep.


“Are you okay? You look pale.” Derek is frowning at me and I push myself into a sitting position. That’s when I feel the room really spin.


“I don’t think I’m going to make it to dinner,” I say, rubbing my now aching temples.


“What’s wrong? Should I get someone?”


“No, I think I just overdid it – too much sun, too cold of a swim. You go on ahead, I’ll just try to sleep it off.”


He frowns. “You’re sure?”


“Yes, I’m sure. Enjoy dinner.”


I slide back down under the covers and close my eyes. I’m out before I can hear Derek leave.

The next morning, I’m in agony and feeling feverish. Derek is really sweet about it and brings me breakfast and snacks to last me at least a day, before asking if it’s okay if he stays with Nick and Cole for the remainder of the trip – limiting his contact with germs and all that. I tell him it’s fine and promise not to hold it against him – or to tell any of his prospective hookups about his lack of chivalry in the face of illness. I swear I will stand idly by and let the poor girls find out the cold, hard truth for themselves. Friendship: 1 – Sisterhood: 0.


Bedridden as I am, I focus all my energy on watching TV and surfing the Internet. And, since I’m a glutton for punishment, I check social media. More specifically, I stalk Crystal and Cole on social media.


Sure enough, Crystal has Instagrammed, tweeted and Facebooked pictures of herself in workout gear, in a spa bathrobe, in her bikinis, and in semi-formal wear. Most are selfies, but for some I suspect Sally has had to play photographer. Never once does Crystal mention who she’s with. Until the photos from last night, that is.


For once, there’s a photo Crystal isn’t in herself. Instead, it’s Cole, in a hot tub. From what Derek told me, they were all there, but Crystal makes it sound like she’s on some romantic getaway with her ‘leading man’. Ugh.


I check Cole’s profile, and he doesn’t have any pictures from last night. He does, however, have one from today, featuring a headless woman’s body in a bikini with the caption Awesome views on #THHL cast getaway. It’s Crystal in the shot. Lauren’s skin is slightly darker, more of a copper tone, and – not to be a bitch to Crystal or anything – Lauren has much nicer curves.


Crystal has already liked the photo, making it clear to the rest of the world that she is, indeed, sunbathing right alongside Cole Parker. I don’t even bother to look at the comments.

Overcome with exhaustion, I put my phone away and pull the covers over my head.

It’s late afternoon and I’m back to watching TV when there’s a knock on the door. I groan as I heave myself out of bed and shuffle across the room.


When I open the door, Cole is standing there holding a box.


“Hey, how are you feeling?” Cole says, sounding almost apologetic. It’s not like he gave me the cold. And he texted me last night to check in, so he’s done his part.


“Not great,” I say, a little hoarse. “Just a regular cold, though. It too shall pass.”


Cole chuckles. “Wow, listen to you, Miss Positivity. I brought you food,” he says and holds out the box. “There are some plastic utensils in there, too, in case you don’t feel like eating with your germ-ridden hands.”


“Well, I’m not now,” I cringe at his description as I take the box from him. “Did you have fun today?” I ask him, leaning against the doorpost for support.


He shrugs. “It was all right.” He steps forward to guide me over to the bed. “You look like you’re about to fall over. Don’t waste your energy on chit-chat.”


For some reason, I let him tuck me in, and then he sits down on the edge of the bed.


“Can I get you anything? Do you want someone to stay with you? I can ask Lauren, if you like? I’d be happy to stay with you myself, but-“


“But you need to spend time with Crystal,” I finish for him. “It’s cool, I understand.”


“Actually, I was going to say, ‘but Nick and Derek will wonder’.”


“I’ll be fine on my own. We’re going home tomorrow afternoon, anyway.”


“I’m sorry you’re missing out on your first cast getaway. Are you going straight to your parents when we get back?”


“Pretty much.”


“Are you going to stay there until we start shooting again?”


“Well, until we get the script, in any case. What about you?”


“Actually, I’ve been meaning to tell you; I spoke with my agent the other day, and I’m set to do a photoshoot for a sports and entertainment magazine, promoting fitness and the show.”


“That’s great! Just you?”


“Uh…no. They want me and Crystal together with Lauren and Tom…”


“I see.”


“It doesn’t mean anything. Next season, they’ll have you and Derek doing a shoot.”


I shake my head. “I’m not exactly the poster girl for fitness.”


“Don’t be ridiculous,” he says dismissively. “Anyway, aside from that, I’ll be guest starring in a soap I was on a few years ago.”


This perks me up. “Really? Yale is back on The Sun Sets and Rises?”


“You watch the show?” Cole raises his eyebrows at me, looking pleasantly surprised.


“I used to watch it every chance I got. I stopped when they killed off Yale, though. You were the last actor to play him.”


“Well, I guess ratings dropped after his unfortunate fall into that lake of piranhas, so now they’re bringing him back as a guest star. The screen writers are apparently hoping for the Taylor Kinney Effect.”


“The who-what-now?” I frown.


Cole laughs. “That’s what my friend’s sister calls it. She’s a writer for another soap, and when they write themselves into a corner, she puts up pictures of her favorite actor all over her study and pictures him as a new character, and it gets her creative juices flowing. Once, she killed off a character she’d modeled after him, and got so blocked that she had to resurrect him. Once she did, the writing flowed again.”


“Oh, I see. Well, I’ll have to tune in once it airs, then.”


“I’m likely to be pretty disfigured from all the bites, so you might not even be able to tell it’s me. I suspect they’ll have Yale undergo reconstructive surgery and recast him if the response to the guest spot is positive.”


“I’ll still watch.”


“Okay,” he smiles. “I’ll let you know when it airs. We might even watch it together.”


“Just not at your house.”


“I’ll see if I can make it paparazzi-free by then.”


“I have to say I’m looking forward to getting away from it all for a while. I’m thankfully not newsworthy enough to warrant a drive into the country.”


“You make it sound so peaceful, I might just join you on the farm.”


“I don’t know, you might draw them out. And Helga is camera shy.”


He frowns. “Helga?”


“Our cow,” I clarify. “Well, technically, there are five Helgas.”


“You named your cows?”


“Of course. Sure, they have numbers, too, to keep track of milk production levels and so on, but they’re also living, breathing creatures, and they deserve to have names.”


“Helga? What’d the poor cows do to deserve that name?”


“Hey!” I slap his arm. “I’ll have you know, that was my great-grandmother’s name. She was Scandinavian.”


“Sorry, sorry,” he chuckles. “So you’re part Scandinavian, huh?” This comment he makes with a suggestive raise to his eyebrows which just makes me roll my eyes.


“Very small part, and from a long line of farmers. Think butch masseur rather than blonde stewardess.”


Cole frowns as he obviously ponders this imagery and I take this moment to yawn. I really am exhausted.


“Sorry, I’ll let you get some rest,” he says and gets up, patting my hip through the covers.


“Text me if you need anything, okay? I’m just a few doors down.”


“Thanks. And thank you for bringing me food. I hope you have fun tonight.”


“Tonight?”


“Well, I assume you’re going out. It’s your last night on the island.”


“Oh, the others have already taken off. I told them I was feeling a little under the weather.”


“Oh no, I hope you didn’t catch my cold,” I gasp, covering my mouth, trying to subdue its germ-dispersing capabilities.


Cole laughs. “If I have, I’ve no-one to blame but myself. That’s a risk you take when you swap spit with another human being.”


“Maybe you should cut back on that, then,” I smile, teasing him.


“Hm… maybe you’re right. I wonder if bovines are safe – I hear there’s a Helga or two on the market – and that they’re Scandinavian girls, so you know what that means.”


“If I had the energy, I’d be throwing pillows at you right now,” I tell him, trying hard not to smile at the mischief dancing in his eyes.


“Don’t exert yourself,” he smiles and leans in to kiss my forehead. “We’ll have a proper pillow fight when you get back from your folks.”


I feel my cheeks glow as he lets himself out, but I can’t tell if it’s from the fever or from the wicked glint in his eyes. I hope it’s the former, because if this trip has taught me anything, it’s that I do not possess the kind of body that drives men wild. I will never feel confident taking bikini selfies with Cole.


To be continued...

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