I’m sitting next to you with a directory balanced on my knee, watching you sleep and striving to compose something profound and passionate that will express how I feel. Something that will make you breathless waiting for me to return. Instead, I’m the breathless one, recalling the feel of your mouth opening to me, the stroke of your fingertips everywhere you touched me, the perfect weight of you in my arms. The thought of time away from you is torture. I haven’t even left your room and I already miss you. Tonight, we’ll talk, and I’ll tell you a story of exactly what I plan to do to you in three weeks. Or perhaps you’d prefer to tell me what you want—like a list of resolutions, or a treasure hunt, or crumbs along a pathway… I’m very good at following crumbs. Or instructions, directions, entreaties…



Reid: Are you still at the hotel?

Me: Yes, leaving for the airport soon

Reid: I’ll drive you and we can talk about the interview schedule on the way

Me: k

“Your car is really… yellow.” Yellow or not, this is the fanciest non-limousine vehicle I’ve ever been in. This even beats out Marcus and his Sacramento-rich-kid Volvo. I’m afraid to touch anything.

Reid’s eyes are invisible behind the sunglasses, but I can tell he’s rolling them. “Ugh! Don’t start, woman. I’m replacing it soon anyway.”

I click the seatbelt in place and he takes off. “Why? It looks brand new.”


Smirking, he says, “Because it’s yellow.”

I laugh, confused. “But didn’t you choose it?”

Shrugging, he looks at me and smiles. “Semantics.” Taking a sharp right at the corner, he says, “Hold on,” and I’m suddenly glad for the molded seat and multiple interior handles.

“Were you a race car driver in a past life?” I ask after he weaves through several cars like he’s James Bond.

“Too fast for you, Emma?” he asks, laughing. “Damn. I’m always going too fast for you. I’ve gotta learn to rein it in…”

Lips pressed tight, I glance at him, and he flips me a patented Reid Alexander smile, decreasing his speed and moving into the right lane, his hand smoothly working the gear shift between us. “I’m just teasing, you know.”

I shrug in reply, hoping we aren’t going to rehash what happened last fall, hoping he isn’t going to renew his request for another chance. Everything with Graham is too new, and I’m not ready to share it, or defend it to Reid.

He’s quiet for several minutes, tapping his fingers on the wheel along with the beat of the music. Finally, he clears his throat and says, “So, we have a few semi-local radio and TV appearances to do—something scheduled every day next week.”

I sigh, relieved at the change of subject. “I guess I’ll be back in LA Monday, then.”

He nods once. “Most are morning shows beginning at totally unacceptable times of day—starting with Monday morning at six.”

“Six a.m.? Crap.”

He shakes his head. “That word is nowhere near strong enough for anything that begins at six a.m. The first one’s at a local LA station, though. I’ll drive, or get a car, and pick you up at your hotel, so don’t worry about transportation. Actually I might as well handle that for all of them. We don’t want anyone talking to us separately if at all possible, what with our romantic charade.” He smiles at me again, but playfully. No reason for alarm.

The coming week will include lots of one-on-one time with Reid. Not long ago I’d have been euphoric over a chance like that. Now it makes me nervous in a whole different way. Though I no longer want a relationship with him, he’s still charismatic and curiously easy to be around—most of the time. I should feel more distrustful and wary. That’s the problem, really—I’m not totally on guard when every logical cell in my body tells me I should be. But then that’s the sort of thing at which Reid Alexander excels—faking trustworthiness.

The rest of the trip is filled with small talk. He asks what I’m planning to study in college, and I ask about his upcoming project—an action film opposite Chelsea Radin, small-town weathergirl turned hot celebrity. He doesn’t bring up last fall or our conversation in March. When we arrive at the airport, he hops out to retrieve my bag from the trunk. Pulling the handle up and out, he presses it into my hand, and before I can react, he leans in close and brushes my cheek with a kiss.

He’s sliding his sunglasses back on and getting into his car, calling, “See ya Monday morning,” while I’m standing on the sidewalk, blinking. The kiss was an unexpected shock, even if it wasn’t on the mouth and seemed oh-so-casual. But his mostly-harmless kiss isn’t what has me frozen.

On the other side of the multiple one-way lanes in front of my departure gate stands a girl with a camera aimed directly at me. This is no cell phone, and no touristy three hundred dollar Kodak. It’s a big, black, professional-looking piece of equipment. Damn. It. As I turn away, her face breaks into a happy, evil grin before she turns, too, quickly disappearing into the parking garage.

I know what just happened between Reid and me on the sidewalk: an innocuous kiss. I also know exactly how it will look on every celebrity gossip website to which that girl can upload and sell a photo.


I’m not as afraid of the paparazzi as some celebs. Very little of my life isn’t an open book, anyway. Aside from my one ginormous secret—that somewhere out there is a (most likely) blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful three-year-old with a mix of genes from Reid and me. (God help whoever’s trying to raise that kid if there’s any truth to the “nature” end of the nature versus nurture debate.)

I have a secret weapon in my paparazzi back pocket. Her name is Rowena, and she’s a female jackal amongst the pack of a male-majority profession. I chose her for that reason, in fact. Anytime I can give a woman a leg up over a man, I’m on board—as long as the woman in question isn’t competition, because then all bets are off. Rowena didn’t trust me, at first. Not until she got two or three photos that would have never been possible without my help. Since then, when I call she only has one word—where.

I use her for “candid” shots of myself, of course. That’s how I got her hooked originally. I convinced her to give me her number, and then I’d call when I stopped by Starbucks for a Frappuccino with a hunky costar. I’d text where I’d be shopping with my mom. Since I control the scenarios, I appear how I want to appear, and Rowena looks like she knows how to catch hot celebrities out on the town, trying to be inconspicuous. Now the gossip rags eagerly take her calls, and I stay in the public eye—looking like a normal (attractive) person, rather than a bag lady flashing her underwear—or lack thereof—to the world.

Some celebs think they’re above such maneuvering, or they’re just too stupid to comprehend how to work it to their advantage. I’m not high and mighty, and I’m not stupid.

When I called Rowena this morning and told her to get her ass to LAX for a Reid Alexander and Emma Pierce exclusive, she asked the gate number and was off like a well-trained greyhound.

“Don’t worry about looking for her,” I told Reid last night. “She’s a pro. You probably won’t even see her until she’s already gotten the shot, if you see her at all.”

“You are a devious little bitch, Brooke.”

I couldn’t take much offense because there was admiration in his voice.

“FYI, I’m not telling you to try anything that could backset our plan… but the more you look like you’re dropping your lover at the airport after a torrid night, the better.”

He laughed. “Okay, yeah, I’ll see what I can do.”

His kiss on her cheek was brilliant. He and Emma both know it was quick and innocent, but the photos that started popping up a few hours later could be interpreted a million ways, and very few of those interpretations are innocent.

Me: I just found out I’ll be in nyc the week of your graduation. I don’t want to invite myself…but can i invite myself? Would your family hate me to intrude?

Graham: No, i’m sure that would be fine, if you’re sure you want to go. Might be a long boring ceremony.

Me: Is that a jab at my sometimes limited attention span? Cuz i promise i’m proud of you and can sit still for the WHOLE THING.

Graham: Haha, ok sure. That would be cool.

I am not content to wait a week and a half to pop up in New York… With Emma safely stuck on an LA publicity tour with Reid, it’s the perfect time to pay a friendly impromptu visit to Graham’s home turf. The romantic comedy I’m filming there in the fall calls for a short-term apartment, I think. One that could become long-term. My stated purpose for being in town will be meetings with producers—entirely feasible, so it won’t be questioned.

If I’m going to be with Graham, I’ll have to win over his mother, his condescending sisters and his kid. I’ve only seen Cara once, and it was a couple of years ago so there’s no way she remembers me. That trip also included a disastrous, drunken kissing incident that (luckily) Graham decided to play off as though it never happened.

Life’s a Beach was filming an episode where several characters go to New York. (LA beach characters in New York—what the hell, right? But hey, it was ratings week, and I do what I’m paid to do.) I’d somehow contrived to stay with Graham while I was in New York, so when I got word of a party in a Union Square penthouse apartment owned by the friend of one of my costars, I invited him along.

We’d been dancing and got hot and ended up on the rooftop, stargazing. Or he was. I was gazing at him. I was accustomed to guys like Reid, who take advantage of opportunities like girls drinking themselves stupid, or pretending to, in order to land some hot guy. I should have known Graham wouldn’t respond to that.

Not that he was unresponsive. When I moved into his arms and kissed him, for a few mind-blowing seconds, he kissed me back. I thought I was going to melt, it was so good. And then he grabbed my shoulders and held me away, saying, “Brooke, no.” I was just wasted enough that I didn’t realize what he was doing, at first… and once I figured it out, I was just sober enough to be humiliated. And pissed.

God, I was pissed. I stormed back inside, shaking and furious, and grabbed the first decent looking guy I encountered. Backing him against a wall with the thump of the music pounding through the sheetrock and into us both, I closed my eyes and pretended he was who I wanted. I don’t remember much about that part, just that I couldn’t fool myself, no matter how hard I tried. Moments later, Graham separated me from the guy, who nearly slid to the floor because I hadn’t really allowed him to breathe. “Let’s go,” he said, his hand gripping my arm.

I yanked loose, crossed my arms and glared. “I’m not finished with this party.”

“Yeah, you are,” he said, leaning in so I could hear him. “You’re completely trashed, and you’re going to do something you’ll regret if we don’t leave now.” His proximity was killing me.

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