When he came back to bed and kissed me, his minty breath echoed mine. I giggled when he rolled me flat on my back and smiled. “Good morning,” he said, mischief in his eyes.

“Do I snore? Or talk in my sleep? Or drool? Or something worse?” I asked.

He laughed. “Not that I know of. As far as I know, you’re perfect.”

Turning my head back and forth, I stared up at him. “No, I’m not.”

Intertwining our fingers, he pushed my arms above my head, holding me prisoner. A bolt of pure liquid fire shot through me and pooled where our bodies pressed together. “Oh yes. You are,” he said, kissing me.

By the time he left the room and I got into the shower, I had only half an hour to get ready. My hair is wavy and damp now because I didn’t have time to dry it, let alone style it.

“Emma.” Brooke snatches my attention back to the lobby and my costars. She arches a flawless brow as her eyes dart over my hair. “You could have borrowed my flat iron if you needed one. I owe you, as I recall.”

As was her intent, I’m reminded of the night she borrowed my straightener in Austin, when Reid took me out to dinner and I thought I was falling for him. I glance over at him, and he smiles like he knows exactly what night I’m thinking about. Sliding his eyes away, he greets Meredith and MiShaun.

He must be over our breakup last fall, and our exchange in Austin just a few weeks ago—when he said I could be different with you and I refused to be that girl. This is the third time we’ve seen each other since then, and he doesn’t seem at all resentful. He hasn’t really flirted with me, either—not any more than he does with everyone. Maybe the coming month won’t be so bad.

When I turn back to Brooke, she’s staring at Graham as he listens to Quinton relate some amusing story in his usual animated manner. Graham laughs, arms crossed loosely over his chest, and Brooke’s eyes roam over him in a way that makes me want to stomp on her foot. She and Graham have been close for years. He says she’s never been more than a friend, and there’s no reason for me to distrust that. I can’t tell Graham who to keep as friends; I wouldn’t accept any guy doing that to me. Despite all of these reasons, I don’t think I’ll ever be relaxed around her. Not when she’s looking at him like he’s a steak and she’s starving.

I clear my throat and her ice blue eyes snap to me. There’s no guilt in them, but maybe she’s just incapable of feeling any. I remind myself that she was sympathetic, even supportive, when everything blew up in my face with Reid. “How’ve you been, Brooke?” She’s a couple of inches taller than me, plus she’s wearing spiked heels—a true LA girl. Not for the first time, she reminds me of my stepmother.


Her smile is pretty and calculated, like a magazine cover. “Very well, actually. I’ve got a little rom-com thing lined up for the end of the summer, and my agent’s gathered new scripts for me to look at after that’s done. How about you?”

I’m sure she and I discussed the fact that I’m going to college in the fall, but people seldom remember personally unimportant things. Although, Reid remembered. “I decided on going to college. I’m starting this fall.”

She laughs in that throaty way some girls do that attracts all male attention within hearing distance. “Oh that’s right. Personally, I wouldn’t want to back up and do college now... but I forget how young you are.”

Graham hears this last bit, and his lips flatten just barely. What the hell does she mean by how young you are? She seems to be ridiculing my age in relation to her own—or Graham's, but I don’t know if he’s even told her anything about us. As new as this all is, we haven’t discussed who to tell or when. Emily and Dad know, of course—and Chloe by association. Graham’s sister knows, and possibly the rest of his family…

They’re both staring at me and I realize I zoned out. “Oh. I’m sorry—what?”

“Hmm, looks like someone didn’t get much sleep last night…” Brooke’s grin is full of comprehension, and my eyes flick to Graham, who shakes his head almost imperceptibly. Whatever he’s told her didn’t include where he spent the night. What exactly is she assuming I was doing? And with who? My face burns as I scramble for something to say.

“Hey, baby,” MiShaun says, touching my arm. I smile and turn to hug her, grateful for the interruption. “I hear you’re going off to college in the fall?”

“Yes, I am. In New York.”

“That’s awesome! I expect to see you on Broadway in no time, headlining, dating some hot leading man, or maybe some sugar daddy Wall Street type.” My glance bounces off of Graham’s. Judging by the semi-smirk of his lips, he’s amused. When he catches me staring at his mouth, his eyes heat and I have to look away.

“So, MiShaun… are you still visiting Austin occasionally?” I ask with a conspiratorial smile, and she waggles her brows.

“I’m actually considering a permanent relocation there,” she says, tapping her chin with the index finger of her left hand.

“Ohmigod, MiShaun! Is that an engagement ring?” Brooke grabs her hand and squeals as though she’s just won a beauty pageant and the rhinestone-studded crown to go with it.

MiShaun’s ring finger sports a near-flawless marquise-cut solitaire.

I know this because Chloe dragged me along to shop for a tenth anniversary gift Dad didn’t know he was giving. After hours of babbling cut-color-clarity basics, she found the perfect diamond, and then pouted until he bought it. I borrowed Blood Diamond from Emily that weekend, but Chloe totally missed the insult. What a depressing movie, she commented, yawning as she left in the middle of it to take a bubble bath. Nice try, Dad smirked at me.

“This settles it—we’re all going out after the shoot is over tomorrow night—we have to celebrate!” Brooke beams at her.

Graham and I glance at each other. Tomorrow night is our last night together until the premiere, and it appears we’ll be spending the evening in a group, out in public. Crap.

Chapter 11


The first shoot is in the studio—the layout: a stylized schoolroom. Everyone is made up, hair is runway-model-styled, and the clothes are exclusive labels—fitted to us with pins and clips. If people got a 360-view of us, we’d all look a hell of a lot sillier.

Like the shoot in Austin, the majority of pics are Reid and Emma, separate or together. Emma’s hair is teased and coiffed and I can tell by the set of her mouth and the way she holds her head that she hates it. Her eyes are darkly lined and shadowed, her lips filled in, and she looks closer to twenty-eight than eighteen. I know she hates this, too, though she looks beautiful. Not as beautiful as she did this morning when I woke up to her face snuggling against my chest, but beautiful in a different way—aggressively sexy. The photographer has her biting on the string of pearls around her neck, invoking the memory of her nipping my earlobe last night.

I’ve never in my life gone over so many sports statistics in my head so frequently. I didn’t know I knew so many sports statistics.

Batting averages for Jose Reyes become unnecessary mental fodder a few minutes later, when Reid joins Emma and I’m trying to psyche myself for the positions in which they’re about to be placed. They’ve put him in a navy pinstripe suit, crisp white shirt and loose red tie. Next to him, Emma’s outfit is an elegant compliment—a very short, very tight, strapless red dress, which she hitches up at the bodice between shots until the photographer’s assistant pins it tighter down her back.

Why do photographers insist on putting her in his lap? The guy from Vanity Fair had her wrapping her legs around him, though her posture screamed how uncomfortable she was doing it. Now, she perches on his thighs with his hands splayed at her waist, and then he leans her back like he’s about to kiss her. My entire body is rigid with irritation. The audible photographer instructions would negate this if I wasn’t imagining—if I didn’t know—that they’ve done this before, in private. All illusions that I’m keeping these deliberations under control are shattered when Brooke leans closer, her brow knit, and whispers, “You okay?”

I nod, failing at pretending to be unconcerned as Reid pulls Emma up and turns her so that she’s facing out from him, her legs straddling one of his. His arms are wrapped around her, his head on her bare shoulder, their faces jammed together as the photographer hops around, babbling words like sexy and hot and baby. Is this photo shoot for a PG-13 movie, or an ad for high-priced escort services?

Emma’s eyes find me and her gaze immediately falls to my thigh, where Brooke’s hand sits. She stares, puzzled, her brows furrowing until the photographer asks her in an annoyed whine why she’s frowning and she wrenches her eyes from my leg.

I’m smoldering from my head to my toes, watching Reid’s hands move over her body like they belong there, and she’s annoyed that Brooke’s hand sits passively on my leg.

I suppose one could argue that there’s no photographer ordering the placement of Brooke’s hand. Removing it to her own knee, I shoot up and walk to the back corner where bottles of water and snacks are located. Grabbing a bottle and twisting the cap from it, I wish I could just pour it over my head. It’s not that I don’t trust her. I don’t trust him. And I don’t trust his history with her.

“Hey,” Brooke says, appearing next to me, one hand on my back, stroking down. I take a deep breath, her touch calming me. “What’s the matter?”

I shake my head and laugh once, turning and looking down at her with a grim smile. “Nothing out of the ordinary. I just really hate photo shoots. The makeup. The crap in my hair. The clothes.” I gesture to the black suit that screams either “church” or “funeral,” depending on your mood. Anyone could guess mine right now—at least Brooke certainly can. I hope it’s because she’s known me for so long and not because I’m so ridiculously transparent.

She tilts her head to the side a bit, glancing back at Emma and Reid. I don’t follow her gaze. I’m still just trying to breathe while Reid Alexander practically makes out with my girlfriend in the live version of photos millions of people will see. Many of those people already think they make an attractive couple. Against all better judgment, I glance towards them and get confirmation of this fact. They’re both beautiful. Of course they look good together. How could they not?

“Is there… something going on between you and Emma?” Brooke asks, her LA-smile, as I call it, firmly in place.

“Why do you ask?” I hedge, and she does that low-laugh thing, still smiling up at me.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen jealous Graham before.” She squeezes my bicep and arches a brow. “Mmm, very alpha-male.”

When I scowl, she laughs at me again and I take a deep breath, feeling years less mature. “God, am I that obvious?” I start to run a hand through my hair, but can’t. The styling for the shoot looks better than my Bill Collins helmet-do during filming, but it doesn’t matter. Either way, it’s untouchable. “Aauuugh,” I say, and Brooke laughs again.

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