“So you and Emma, huh?” She selects a Perrier from the ice bucket and fingers through the snacks, choosing nothing. “How long has this been going on?”

I shake my head once. “Not long.”

The photographer calls us for group shots, and I’m happy to end this conversation. Talking to Brooke has had a dual effect. I’m less tense, but instantly worried by the jealousy accusation. Alpha-male? Good God, no. Mom and Brynn would lecture me until my ears rang. Possessive men are at the top of their lists of to-be-scorned things. “A self-possessed man is what a psychologically healthy woman wants,” preaches my mother, the psychologist. “Not some guy who dispenses orders and punishment—whether physical or emotional—and distrusts her every move.”

She brought home enough codependent client stories, a few complete with stalking—two of which turned criminal—to scare my sisters away from those type of guys and scare me away from that type of girl. The type who wants—needs—the jealous boyfriend to prove she has worth. My eyes are on Emma as she talks and laughs with Jenna and MiShaun, and I know she’s not in that category. Compromising and generous, yes. Forgiving, too, I think, watching as Reid moves near her and joins the conversation.

Her response to being held too tightly would be a quick exit.

Her eyes swing to meet mine, and everything in me snaps and sings with pleasure. A slow burn begins at my core and I know it will build until we’re alone in her room again, the rest of the world shut out. There’s a line at the edge of possessive, and she makes me want to walk it. This three-second glance between us reinforces what I know. I love her. Everything else—the ins and outs of my feelings and hers in conjunction with what it all means—can be deciphered in due time. I love her. That’s all that matters, and in this moment, that’s all I am.


Well, shit. This is more serious than I thought. He may actually believe he’s in love with her.

I’ve put far too many years into this relationship to lose him like this, to her. I care about Graham deeply, but if he pairs up with Emma, what we have will be over. For some reason, I know this. My intuition is screaming it at me—that I’m losing him. I could be what he wants. I could be sweeter and softer with him. Not so hard. God, I’m tired of being so uncompromisingly hard all the time.

If I backpedal and stop this now, linger forever off to the side as his friend and confidant, I could convince Emma that I’m not a threat. I could hold onto his friendship, which means more to me than he’ll ever know.

But, no. Friendship isn’t enough. I want him. All of him. He’s exactly the type of guy I need, and all I have to do is get Emma out of the way and convince Graham that I can be what he needs. Somewhere between Reid and myself there’s enough deviousness to pull this off. And if this has to be an all-or-nothing battle, then so be it. No time to be squeamish. I’ve lied my ass off for worse causes than landing the perfect guy.


Chapter 12


Getting out of that tiny dress and the five thousand pins they used to fit it to me like a glove took forever, so I’m the last one out of the studio. Three black cars idle at the curb, waiting to transport the nine of us to the hotel. Brooke climbs into the first car behind Tadd, and I’m both relieved and annoyed at myself for being relieved that Graham isn’t with her.

Brooke is a force of nature. The last thing any sane girl would want is to get into a tug-of-war with her over a guy. Graham says they’re just friends, and I have to trust him if this is going to work. No matter how beautiful she is. No matter how familiar her casual touches seem to be. No matter how many times I catch her looking at him like he’s on her room service menu.

As I’m standing near the last car, scanning for Graham as covertly as possible, someone says, “Pssst.” I bite my lip to stifle a yelp when Graham snakes an arm around my waist and drags me into the car. MiShaun, chatting with Jenna a few feet away, raises an eyebrow as I disappear into the back seat, backwards. She bends to see who’s snatched me off of the sidewalk. When she spots Graham, her wide eyes tell me I can expect to be quizzed about this later.

“Graham,” I hiss, laughing. “You just made me look like that hapless character in every horror film who’s dumb enough to stand right next to the darkened basement doorway.”

Grinning mischievously, he kisses the back of my neck, withdrawing his arm before anyone else sees. Thank God for opaque windows. “So you’re the expendable cheerleader, and I’m the demon, or werewolf…?”

“Or the mentally unbalanced guy with the chainsaw, yeah.” Aware that I’ll have to sit up straight and keep my hands to myself once someone joins us, I press back against him for a moment, leaning my head onto his shoulder and tracing the top of his hand with my fingers.

“I was wondering if you’d want to check out Griffith Park in the morning.” His question is a breath in my ear as Jenna moves to stand by the open door, still talking to MiShaun. He flips his hand over and my index finger maps the lines of his palm. “We’d have to go early to get back in time to leave for the second shoot.”

I nod. “I’ve been to Griffith, but not for years. My family used to go hiking there.”

My memories of hiking in Griffith have been augmented with photos my parents took there when I was very young. Some are from weeks—days perhaps—before Mom began to get sick. To be honest, I’m not sure if my memories of Griffith Park—or my mother—are genuine. Almost every clear recollection I have of her was caught on film. Perhaps the real memories faded away long ago, supplanted by the unchanging photographs.

“If you climb high enough, you can see all of Hollywood,” I say. “And the sign.”

My childhood scrapbook contains a series of photos Mom took of me near my birthday every year, standing in the same exact spot on some unspecified trail of Griffith. In each of these, the Hollywood sign is stark white against the hill in the background, my own personal growth chart. In the last one, I’d turned six. Her quick downward spiral didn’t allow her to return, and Dad either forgot the tradition or didn’t have the heart to keep it up.

“That’s what I read—sounds cool. I’ll rent a car and have it brought around at, say, 5:30? We can pack coffee thermoses and catch the sunrise.” He takes my hand in his, fingers stroking the back of my arm. His eyes catch and hold mine. “Unless it would be too painful for you to go there.”

I shake my head, twisting my mother’s ring around and around on my finger. “No. I’d like to go with you.”

When Jenna starts to get in, I straighten from leaning against Graham, my hands folding primly in my lap. I feel more than hear him chuckle at my suddenly proper posture. Just before Jenna sits down, I hear Reid’s voice. “Hey, Jenna—Brooke wants you to ride with her. Wanna switch?”

“Oh. Okay, sure.”

I’m wondering at the oddity of Reid delivering a message for Brooke as he slides in next to me. Graham’s thigh tenses against mine.

“Hey,” Reid says, sticking a hand out to Graham. “How’re you doing, man?”

“Good,” Graham answers, reaching over. I sit for two surreal seconds with their hands clasped just above my lap, tension radiating from them both, though neither one’s expression betrays it.

Swinging his hair from his eyes, Reid glances at me and winks before returning his attention to Graham. His knee presses against mine as he leans forward. “Got any new projects lined up?”

My face warms as Graham’s fist clenches and unclenches once before settling on his leg. “Not right now. I’m finishing up my last semester at Columbia. You?”

“Nothing ’til fall—just trying to get into decent shape before then. I’m supposed to do some of my own stunts in the next flick. Hopefully the ones that won’t kill me.” One side of his mouth turns up and he glances at me again.

“Cool,” Graham says.

Reid clears his throat, looks back at Graham. “So—theatre degree?”

“English Lit.”


Having reached the end of conversable topics, Reid sits back and they both fall silent while I sit mutely between them, contemplating how the hell I got myself into this incredibly awkward position.

When we reach the hotel, Reid slips out, turning and offering his hand. Without thinking, I take it. Pulling me alongside him, he places his opposite palm at my lower back as he smiles for the paparazzi gathered around the entrance while our bodyguards ensure that we get to the door unmolested. I have no chance to look back for Graham until we reach the lobby, at which point Reid drops his hand from my back. “We’re all meeting in my room in a little while—you’re coming, right?”

Before I reply, he turns and looks past Graham, whose eyes connect with mine. Our hours to be alone are dwindling down. Brooke walks up behind Graham, her hand coming to rest on his arm, arguably unintentional, if she didn’t do it so habitually. “Hey,” she says.

“Brooke, you told Emma and Graham about tonight, right?” Reid asks no trace of the hostility—let alone the desire to maim each other permanently—that usually colors every word they say to each other.

Graham appears as astonished as I am at this friendly exchange, especially when Brooke replies, “Oh, shit, I forgot,” without biting Reid’s head off first. Linking her arm with Graham’s, she smiles up at him, her perfect faux-tan and red-nailed talons standing out against his paler skin. “Mixer in Reid’s room! You have to come.” She turns her toothpaste-ad smile on me, saying, “Oh, and you too, Emma,” like an afterthought.

The desire to stomp on her foot returns, a hundred times stronger than it was this morning. Worse, her calculating smile says she’s more than aware of it.


Watching Brooke and Emma face off is possibly the most involuntarily hot thing I’ve ever witnessed. They’re subtle, and perfectly civil to each other, while under the surface lurks a murderous biting, kicking, hair-pulling, bitch-slapping violence. The only thing that would have made it better—much better, in fact—is if I was the inspiration for those vicious feelings. But no. It’s all for Graham.

I sort of get it. I mean, he’s good-looking. And he’s got that mysterious element about him that chicks are drawn to. I know his protectiveness is attractive to Brooke. When she and I were together and I got the slightest bit possessive of her—which, granted, has never come naturally for me—she loved it. In fact, the more jealous I was, the more controlling I acted, the more she liked it. Kind of freaked me out a little, actually.

“You’re flirting with her too much in front of Graham.” Brooke walks through my door a quarter hour early, issuing unrequested critiques of my progress. “If you make him jealous before anything happens between Graham and me, you’ll never get her away from him.”

I smirk. “Thanks for the vote of confidence. And that’s not what happened last time.”

Most Popular