She turns, arms crossed under her breasts and wearing her patented I-know-better-than-you expression, stopping when her eyes flick over my bare chest. I haven’t yet buttoned the shirt I threw on after my shower. Clearing her throat and averting her eyes to anything in the room but me, she retorts, “Last time, he was fighting falling for her. Now he’s not. The only way he’ll give her up is if she falls into bed with you. And since you were a big fail on that last fall—before she even knew what a man-whore you are, I think we can safely assume that isn’t going to happen easily.”

I take a slow breath. No way am I letting her know how much I want to test the challenge she just threw down, just because she tossed it at me. She’s probably correct, though—neither of them is going to cave easily. “Shit, Brooke, if you think it’s so impossible, why bother?”

She glares at me. “I told you. I want him. I’m right for him, and it’s not impossible. It’s just going to take shrewd planning and careful execution, and I don’t want you screwing it up.”

The combination of a hot ex-lover alone in my room and the cleavage-flaunting way her arms are crossed is killing me. With effort, I cut my eyes away from her heaving chest and deceptively flawless face and pour a shot of whatever the hell is sitting on my dresser.

“How much attention have you been paying to following your own orders, Brooke? Emma has definitely noticed the fact that you can’t keep your hands off of him. As far as condemning your ingenious plan before it gets off the ground, that will do it. If she feels threatened and talks to him about his relationship with you, this whole little plot could be toast.”

I watch her face in the mirror over the dresser. A crease appears between her brows, her self-confidence slipping faintly. “How do you know? That she’s noticed anything, I mean.”

What I wonder is how Brooke hasn’t noticed. I thought girls were better tuned to each other than that. “I was standing right next to her, and I’m observant.” She makes a noise of derision I choose to ignore. “She’s noticing. So cool it yourself, or you may have to give my bed a try if you want to get laid.” If the objects of our affections weren’t showing up in five minutes, I would give that proposition a more enthusiastic effort.

“Another offer to sleep with you? How sweet. I’m flattered. Have you forgotten what I told you last time?” It’s almost impossible to associate this Brooke with the girl she was when I met her. Almost.

“I remember.” I saunter closer, but she doesn’t budge. She’s always been tall and thin—willowy, George would say. When I was fourteen and she was fifteen, we were almost eye to eye up close. I’ve got several inches on her now. With her arms locked under her breasts, the view from my vantage point is greatly improved. “I also remember what we were like together, even if we were just inexperienced kids.” I shrug. “Well, one of us was inexperienced.”

She’s silent, but her eyes are furious. Every time we start to get into it, I want her to feel what I felt when I saw the photos and read the story that ended us. But that’s not possible. She has no heart, and she managed to stomp the shit out of mine years ago. I’m playing games with a viper and I damn well know it. I should feel sorry for Graham, but I don’t really know him, he’s got a girl I want, and I’m in the mood to be petty.

“Look. We’ve got time before the premiere. She and I have an interview schedule from hell, but that means we’ll be around each other, a lot, without Graham’s interference. I suggest you work on him from the same angle. He can’t hang around LA—he’s got school. Isn’t he graduating or something? Why don’t you show up in New York for that. Hang around after.”


She nods, her poker face firmly in place. “I’d already considered doing that.”

“Good. Let’s do it, then. Divide and conquer.”

She’s so outwardly cool, but her breaths are too shallow. “I still say don’t push her until I get to Graham. She’ll turn you down on principle.”

“Gotcha.” We’re six inches apart, and still she isn’t backing away.

“I’m serious, Reid.” She puts one hand up, to stop me, I suppose, but her hand is on bare skin and her eyes widen and I know we both feel the surge.

“So am I.”

She stares up at me like I’m some sort of twisted riddle, and then a knock sounds on the door and she jumps, muttering, “Jesus,” under her breath.

I button the shirt as I walk to the door. There’s something gratifying about making an ex want you, even for a second.

Chapter 13


I didn’t sleep in Emma’s room last night.

There were no let’s-get-hammered games in Reid’s room since we have the final photo shoot today, but Brooke had no trouble convincing Tadd to man the bar and shake up margaritas. Even though straight-up shots were out, everyone had enough tequila to tamp down inhibitions and loosen tongues. And Emma and I had just enough to be hazardous.

I took one look at her half-mast eyes and knew I’d fail any test of having her in bed with nothing but boxers and t-shirts between us. Worse? I wanted to fail it, and we’d spent the whole evening not touching.

My sexual history began with Zoe, followed by a self-imposed dry spell waiting for Cara to be born, and Zoe to come back around—which didn’t happen. Next up, a sampling of indiscriminate college hookups. Nothing has been ultimately satisfying, and while I was capable of feeling turned on and wanting a physical connection, I never felt anything more intense. Nothing deeper, nothing emotionally linked. Not until Emma. By the time I left her standing in that airport last October, I wanted so much with her that it scared the hell out of me. I hoped it would fade with time, and after the VF photo shoot in March, I felt confident I was getting over it.

And then there she was, a month later—standing in that damned coffee shop, our eyes locked over Cara’s head. My daughter had demanded hot chocolate after her dance rehearsal, shoving her cold little fingers under my sweater to prove her need for it. If we’d not stopped exactly there, exactly then, Emma and I would have never crossed paths when I didn’t have my guard up. I’m not sure if I believe in fate, but this could be evidence of it.

They call it falling in love because it’s less like stepping and more like tripping. Tripping is the part where you’re still trying to remain upright. I hadn’t fought it with Zoe. I just fell right in, head first. With Emma, I fought it all the way down, and now, I’ve lost.

Emma: Are you sleeping here?

Me: Not a good idea tonight

She didn’t answer for several minutes, during which I called myself all sorts of idiot, because that was an open invitation, as was the progressively unreserved look in her eyes all evening. I only wanted to be sure of her feelings, not make her wonder about mine.

Me: This has nothing and everything to do with how much i want you. If i was in your bed tonight…after the alcohol…i want you. Trust me.

Emma: I kind of feel like a hussy now

Me: NO, that isn’t what i mean. It’s me. It would be too difficult. Tomorrow night, no drinking, and i can be good.

Emma: Well dammit you should have told me this before margaritas. I would have practiced my just say no. To alcohol that is. :(

Me: God how do you make me laugh through this. Hussy, indeed. I’m one nudge from coming to your room and ravishing you to hell.

Emma: I want you to

Me: OMG emma…

Emma: I’m sorry

Two rings. Three rings. Please don’t go to voicemail was running through my head. She answered talking. “Graham, I’m sorry, really, I—”

“No, please don’t be sorry. That’s why I’m calling you.” I lay back on my bed, eyes closed. The alcohol buzz was diminishing but not gone. “Don’t be sorry, Emma.” My voice was almost a whisper. “Do you remember those things I said I wanted to do to you?” A few of our calls and Skype conversations over the past couple of weeks had reduced both of us to mush.

Her reply was an exhalation of a pant. “Yes.”

“None of that has changed. Increased, maybe. Some of those things are looking quite tame, in fact.”

“Oh, God. I’m not even sure what that—what that means…”

I pictured her lying back on her bed exactly as I was on mine. “Yes. I know. Which is why we’re waiting a bit.”

“But you’re going back to New York.”

Her sulky tone made me chuckle. “Yes. And I’m coming back to LA in three weeks.”

Her sigh was faint. Not relieved, or exasperated. Just… accepting. “Okay,” she said, sounding so much like Cara when she doesn’t get her way and she knows she isn’t going to.

“I just don’t want to take advantage of you, or push you—” Lies, lies, lies—I wanted her so bad I could conjure up her scent, imagine the feel of her skin under my fingertips...

“But Graham, I’m pushing you.”

“Yes.” My voice is like a growl—so appropriate to the feral hunger coursing through my body. “And in three weeks, I’m going to let you. If you still want to.”

“I will.”

At 5:30 a.m., we meet in the lobby—which is deserted except for a bored desk clerk who gives us a disinterested once-over. Flashback to our mornings in Austin, up before everyone and heading out to run. I remember stepping out of the elevator and seeing her waiting in the lobby, or getting there first and waiting for her, looking up at the soft chime, stainless steel doors swooshing open and delivering her to the ground floor. I loved those mornings.

I hand her a thermos when she comes to stand next to me, fighting the urge to slip my arms around her and kiss her. “Ready?” I ask, and she nods. Tossing the backpack onto one shoulder, I take her hand. This is a risk, if only to cross the lobby. I don’t want her mortified over stories of multiple hookups like she was in Austin, so we have to remain a secret until after the premiere. I get that, but it still sucks. “I packed water, bagels and a blanket. I figured this morning was more about watching the sunrise and less about exercise.”

Her hand squeezes mine. “Sounds perfect.”

The Jeep is ideal for the early morning drive and the cool weather but not conducive to quiet conversation. We have to yell over the road noise to hear each other. Falling silent after a few minutes, we just hold hands and watch the street lamps start to pop off as the sky begins to lighten. I spent an hour on the Internet last night, making sure of the route to Griffith and the trail to take once we get there. The sun is already a half-orb above the horizon by the time we get to the spot I mapped out and spread the blanket.

Pressed together, we sip the coffee and watch what’s left of the sunrise. Perhaps I should say she watches it while I watch her. I’ve seldom been this close to her and allowed myself the pleasure of staring, of drinking her in—all the seemingly trivial details. The indistinct image of a webcam never revealed the fine blondish hairs at her temple, and the darkness of her bed hides the freckle behind her ear and the blush across her cheeks when she realizes I’m examining her.

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