I woke up at 3 a.m. last night, dreaming about him. In the dream, I didn’t turn my head away. His mouth landed on mine rather than grazing my jaw. My hands pul ed him closer rather than pushing him away. And instead of backing away with a mocking grin, he moved closer, pressing me to the wal in a kiss that went on and on until I woke with a start, breathless.

Esther raised her head from the end of my bed as I sat up, her ears lifting in a canine question and her head angling when I pounded the bed with one fist and whispered, “Son. Of. A. Biscuit.” I touched my lips, half expecting them to be swol en because they were tingling, and then threw the covers off and stomped to the kitchen to make a cup of chamomile tea. Esther jumped down and fol owed out of either curiosity or solidarity.

I cal ed Roberta early this morning and told her they needed me at VBS and I couldn’t report for Habitat duty the rest of the week. It wasn’t exactly a lie. It wasn’t exactly the truth, either, so I find myself clinging to the uncomfortable gray zone in the center. She was great—al no problem and of course those kids miss you, and I felt ashamed until I thought about Reid and that almost-kiss. I need a break from this temptation, because that’s al it is for me.

Temptation. For him, it’s nothing more than gaining the upper hand, and I’m not about to let him do it.

I’m supervising pool time and thinking about what we have left to do at the Diego house when I catch myself daydreaming about him again, as though al thought patterns eventual y lead to Reid. The earthy smel of him in that enclosed space. The contradiction of him shoving me to the wal with one firm hand while cradling the back of my head with the other. The deep blue of his eyes right before he dipped his head closer. Right before I pushed him away.

With effort, I force my thoughts to the kids and their impending performance, Deb and the chal enges of residency, my col ege checklist, Nick. Dad’s waterproof watch on my wrist wil beep when it’s time to go inside. If I could get it to zap me when my thoughts wander to Reid, I’d be golden.

Forcing him from my mind isn’t working so wel . I think I need an exorcism.

When I’m finished for the day, I scrol through my texts. A couple are from Aimee and Kayla, friends from school I’ve only seen twice since graduation. The two of them have been BFFs since junior high. They al owed me within the circle of their friendship during the first month of tenth grade. I’ve never been as close to either of them as they are to each other, but that’s okay. Neither of them have a sister like Deb.

Aimee: so when were you gonna tel us about REID


Kayla: Srsly, there are pics al over the internet of you two at that habitat place and you are ful frontal ON TOP OF HIM


I cal Aimee, knowing there’s a ninety-nine percent chance she’s with Kayla after their coordinated texts. At school, everyone cal ed them the twins because they did everything together. They took the same classes, joined the same groups, dated boys who were friends—or brothers. In a few weeks, they’re starting at UCLA.

Rooming together, of course.

“Dori!” Kayla answers Aimee’s phone. “Are you friends with Reid Alexander? Are you more than friends?

Ohmigod, the parties we could get into… you will take me and Aimee, right?”

“We aren’t actual y friends, and we’re certainly not more than friends.”

“But that picture! You’re stretched across him like he’s wearing you!”

Ugh, I can’t believe she just said that. Can the photos be that bad?

The phone jostles and Aimee’s hyper no-punctuation voice takes over. “Dori I know you don’t real y trust guys and Reid Alexander is the last guy on the planet to trust but honestly this is not a trust or not trust sort of moment this is a once in a lifetime sort of moment!”

I don’t trust guys? What?

I sigh, knowing they would strangle me with their bare, perfectly manicured hands if they knew what happened in private a few minutes after I landed on top of Reid yesterday. “You guys know how the press manipulates things to look a certain way…”

“Dori need I repeat myself you were on top of him!

Unless you are suggesting superb photoshopping that was not press manipulation.”

Wow. This is not good. “I fel . He caught me. That’s al that happened.”

She sighs, as though I’ve just confirmed a passionate affair. “That’s what the stories are saying—that you tripped off the edge of the patio—freaking brilliant by the way! And then he caught you. So romantic…”

My head stil feels bruised, my knee is abraded, and I’m pretty sure I got felt up when we were going down, even if Reid wasn’t aware of doing it… not exactly my idea of romantic.

“Dori.” Kayla has taken the phone back. “You honestly aren’t friends with him?”

“No, I’m real y not.”

“Wel , crap.” I hear Aimee saying something in the background, and then Kayla’s voice returns. “Could you make friends with him?”

I can’t help laughing. Aimee and I grew up with Hol ywood down the street, and Kayla moved here when she was a kid. We should al be a little less easily starstruck. “I’m not even going to be there again until next week, and I leave for Ecuador the week after that. Besides, he’s a bigheaded celebrity. He’s not interested in ordinary girls.”

“Hmph.” Her tone is sul en. “I guess we’l just have to look forward to regular col ege boys, then.”

This is particularly funny, considering the fact that I’ve listened to the two of them wax poetic about col ege guys for the past three years solid.

Chapter 15


The paparazzi swarm has bal ooned. George is fielding hourly cal s from journalists proposing in-depth, exclusive, one-on-one reporting of my rehabilitation. We both know they’re far more interested in digging up juicy info about my possible hookup with a member of the peasantry.

I wasn’t shocked when Dori didn’t show up yesterday, between our little interface in the bathroom and the fact that my fansites were going crazy over photos of the two of us looking like we’re making out in the back yard. I’m accustomed to groundless rumors and misinterpreted photos. You have to laugh that shit off or you could end up in handcuffs after decking some asshole photographer or stalker weirdo… or turn into a recluse, hiding from public scrutiny.

Stil , I was sure Dori would bounce in today, sporting a tshirt proclaiming her loathing of some vice I’ve reveled in at one time or another, if not on a regular basis. But Roberta just told me she won’t be back until next week.

“Was she that shaken up by al the photos online…?” I gesture vaguely to the surrounding yards ful of photographers after grabbing a bottle of water from the cooler. What I don’t say: Or was it the attempted kiss that freaked her the hell out?

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Roberta frowns, uncertain. “She’s working with her church’s VBS program, and they needed her this week.”


Roberta looks at me like I’m an alien because I don’t recognize the acronym. “Vacation Bible School?” she prompts.

No help. Those three words don’t go together in any way in my experience. “So what’s she doing there that’s so important?” I twist the cap off the bottle and drink as we move towards the line for lunch.

“Actual y, she co-wrote the musical portion of the parent night program with the music director, and she’s in charge of the kindergarten performance.” Roberta’s obviously proud of this accomplishment, but it’s out of my sphere.

Church musical programs are the lowest form of community theater imaginable. Directing a religious musical program for five-year-olds? Kil me first.

“Wow. That’s awesome.” (Seriously. Kil me first.)

“Hi, Reid.”

Ah, Gabriel e. Just the distraction I need. “Sitting with me today?” I say, smiling down at her. She must have forgiven me for that comment about wanting nothing to do with her.

Gabriel e tosses a look of defiance at Roberta before smiling and poking me in the chest. “Duh, that’s why I came over here.”

Roberta purses her lips, wracking her brain to come up with a reason why the two of us can’t fraternize at lunch.

When she comes up blank, I pretend not to notice.


Three days with no Reid, and I am so not conquering that temptation. I’ve alternated between wondering if he caused any trouble in my absence and wondering if he was disappointed that I wasn’t there—if he noticed at al .

Tonight, in the privacy of my room, and in opposition to any good judgment I’ve ever thought I had, I google Reid Alexander. First up: the sil y photos of the two of us, with me sprawled atop him like a linebacker sacking a quarterback.

There’s rampant speculation online about who I am, and whether or not I’m something more than just an uncoordinated girl from his volunteer site (I grit my teeth

— volunteer, my eye). His fans are also debating what we’re doing in the photo, but we had more than enough eyewitnesses, so real y, the worst anyone could say is that I stupidly fel on him. Or, as Kayla and Aimee think, bril iantly fel on him.

The majority view is that I’m a plain, unattractive nobody

—stated more harshly in most cases. I shrug it off because on one hand I am a plain, unattractive nobody, and on the other hand, none of these people know me personal y. They al base their verdicts on the same thing: what I look like in relation to him. Their assessments are superficial and excessive. Pretty similar to their appraisals of him, actual y

—based on little more than circumstantial evidence. (In his case, circumstantial y appealing.) I ignore further editorials and fan comments and go straight for the images link, because image is what Reid Alexander is al about. His beautiful face. His lean, muscular body. The blatant sex appeal that wel s up from that inner confidence and projects itself to the camera. I click on a cache of photos from a year-old GQ spread. He graces the cover shot and several outtakes in a dark pinstripe suit which was, I’m sure, precisely tailored for him and insanely expensive. He wears nothing but jeans in several shots, low enough to show off his chiseled abs. His chest and arms are defined and flawless without aid of computer graphics, as I know from multiple close-range shirtless encounters.

I click the arrow and the next photo appears—a mesmerizing close-up. My stomach drops and I exhale a dazed, “Oh.” Wearing a black tank, he grasps a tree branch angled just overhead. In the other shots, his expression is expertly arrogant—identical to his standard, now familiar veneer. But this one is the opposite. Open. Affectionate.


I snap my laptop closed.

Googling him was a very bad idea.

Chapter 16


I’m supposed to start filming in less than two months. Since I locked up the lead role by convincing the production team and the director that I could beef up and do the stunts, I can’t just be in decent shape. I have to be in prime form. My personal trainer commences the torture sessions tomorrow morning, so tonight ends early.

Most Popular