“I’ve got that emergency client in about fifteen minutes, and then I have to start grading these damned finals.” The stack of Blue Books in her arms is at least four inches thick. “And don’t forget I have that faculty retirement party tonight, and I’m dragging your father along with me.”

Crap. I forgot about the party, and the client appointment—which I’m not telling her since it looks like I was on my way down to retrieve Cara because of it. “Um, I’m supposed to go out to dinner tonight… I totally forgot to ask about that, didn’t I?”

She hands me Cara’s bunny. “Call Brynn. Maybe she’s free.” Watching me from the doorway as I lay Cara in her bed, Mom tries to pretend like she’s not dying of curiosity. So not working. “Er… who did you say you’re having dinner with?”

I tuck Cara under her nap blanket with the stuffed toy. “I didn’t. It’s Brooke.”

Mom’s face falls. “Oh.”

I can’t help but laugh as soon as we’re out of the room. “Come on, Mom. You haven’t even seen her in what, two years?”

She harrumphs. “Has she made positive changes in her life since then? Started therapy? Gained some maturity or had a personality adjustment?”

Sighing, I tap out a text to Brynn to see if she can watch Cara. “Mom—try to remember that you’re a professional therapist.”

She takes my arm, a tactile connection she’s always used when she wants to make sure I’m listening. “I’m also a mother, and I can’t help wanting what’s best for my children.”

I frown down at her, knowing exactly what she’s implying. “Mom, I’m not dating her.”

One of her eyebrows crooks up in the expression we share.


“I’m seeing Emma now. I could have sworn Cassie would spill the details of that.” When we get to my room, I start reorganizing the mess of books, journals and paper on my desk and bed as she leans on my door frame.

“Oh, she did. I was just waiting to see if you’d tell me about her.” I crook an eyebrow back at her and she sighs. “Cassie liked Emma quite a bit.” A smug smile creeps across my face, and then she adds, “But watch out for Brooke. I think she has an agenda, whether you see it or not.”

I’m trying really hard not to roll my eyes like a ten-year-old girl. She makes it sound like I’m incapable of seeing Brooke in a realistic light. “Mom, I know you think I’m awesome, but not every girl I meet wants me. Plus, I’ve known Brooke for four years. Don’t you think I’d have seen some evidence of scheming if it was there?” I never told her about that drunken mistake of a kiss, of course, and I don’t plan to.

“Are you sure you haven’t?” She inclines her head as though she knows I’m withholding.

“I’m sure,” I say, in the interest of placating her.

She sighs, walking up to me. “It’s your life, honey.” Frowning again, she pushes the hair off my face, something she’s been doing to me for about a dozen years now. She likes it styled short, but has always deferred to whatever style I prefer—usually a little shaggy, unless I’m required to cut it for a film role. Cupping my chin, she stares up into my eyes. “Just don’t make me say I told you so, because you know I can’t resist saying it.”

I shake my head and smile. “Duly warned, Mom.”


Graham: Can’t do dinner tonight. No babysitter. I’m sorry.

A million things pound through my brain, starting with Goddammit. And then I recognize what an opportunity this is. I can’t freak out at a kid-related set-back or I might as well give up now. I have Rowena all set to go. If Cara tags along, we’ll look like a charming little family. The speculations could be even better than photos of us alone.

And Graham’s secret would be outed—which will happen as soon as he gets the slightest bit more well-known, but doesn’t need to be tonight. Tonight is about how level-headed I can be about his daddy obligations. Rowena will just have to work a little harder for her photos.

Brooke: Why don’t I come over? We can order in, and I can help with Cara so you can get back to studying sooner.

Graham: That would be cool. You sure?

Brooke: Absolutely.

“Hey you.” I smile up at him when he answers the door.

His eyes are warm and his smile is genuine, as always. He pulls the door wide, saying, “Hey, Brooke, long time no see.” Such an adorable nerd.

He probably napped earlier in his jeans and slightly rumpled navy v-neck t-shirt. That one little strand in front sticks up from his disheveled mop of hair. Smiling, I reach up and make it blend with the rest. I’m wearing heels, but he’s still inches taller, even barefoot. He looks good enough to eat, and my stomach flutters when I note his eyes scanning me head to toe. These jeans fit me like a second skin, and the silk top is fluid enough to flash curves and cleavage without explicitly doing either.

“I’m sorry we’re staying in,” he says. I move past him into the foyer, and he shuts the front door and leads the way across the slate flooring. “I’m sure you had hopes of showing off that outfit.” He takes my bag and light scarf, our fingers brushing—sending a zap all the way to my toes. When he turns to hang them on a brass hook in the entryway, I draw in a deep, silent breath.

“What, this? You know me, Graham—heels and silk are comfort clothes.” I haven’t been in this house in two years, but it hasn’t changed. His family is fond of cozy décor, a warm color palette and natural elements. Pretty much the direct opposite design of my place. This setting suits Graham, though—a fact I’ll keep in mind while apartment hunting tomorrow. I want him to feel at home when he’s there.

Without warning, Cara pops up at my feet and stares up at me, all huge dark eyes. I know from posing the question years ago that his family insisted on a paternity test when she was born, but those eyes are unmistakably Graham’s. Her strawberry blonde hair must be from her mother. It’s in need of a trim. And a flatiron.

“Are you a Gossip Girl?” she asks.

I laugh. “Um, no. I wish! They’re all very pretty.”

She nods, her eyes never leaving mine. “So are you. And you dress like them. You could be one if you want.” This kid is as observant and direct as her father.

“Oh, well, thank you. Maybe if I let the producers know that you said so, they’ll let me be on the show. Hmm.” I tap my finger to my chin. “Which boy should I date?”

Nose scrunched, she says, “I don’t like the boys. Boys are kind of yucky.” She glances at Graham, who’s trying not to laugh. “Except for Daddy.”

He shrugs as I arch a brow and smirk at him. “I agree completely. Boys are yucky, except for your daddy.”

We order Chinese, and I’m impressed when Cara rattles off what she wants and then eats her whole meal with chopsticks, as though she was born with them in her hand.

“Wow. I don’t think I ever even had Chinese until I moved to LA.” As far as Mom had been concerned during my first fifteen years of life, ethnic meant either Tex-Mex or a jar of Ragu. Dad made a failed effort to broaden my cultural borders during obligatory weekends and parts of summers that I detested giving up for him. I resisted anything he suggested just to spite him, and arrived in LA with a hopelessly unchic palate. Reid was the one who introduced me to the broad array of the ethnic foods I’d missed growing up.

“That’s what you get, growing up in Manhattan—a multi-cultural appreciation and an innate knowledge of take-out.” Graham steals a snow pea from Cara’s bowl, and without missing a beat, her chopsticks snatch a broccoli floret from his. Chewing, they smile at each other and I marvel that even this interaction makes me want him.

By the time I leave, we’ve put Cara to bed and Graham and I have had all the chitchat I can stand. Unfortunately, now isn’t the night for me to slide onto his lap and beg him to carry me to his bedroom. The signals he’s sending are still wholly friendship-based, and I know what comes of pushing him for something he doesn’t know he wants. Patience is one virtue I have in abundance, when I have a target on which to focus. My goal with Graham isn’t just sex and morning-after guilt (on his side—I’d feel no such thing). I want it all.

Without warning, I hear my mother’s voice in my head, referring to a man she recently started seeing: I’m not gonna be some quick lay in the hay. If I want the cha-ching! lifestyle, I have to be patient. I want it all.

I lay my head back against the taxi seat and close my eyes. I’m. Not. Her.

I support myself. Entirely. I have my own money. I make my own money. Unlike my mother, who hops from one man’s bank account to another’s, I don’t now and won’t ever need a man for financial support.

I’m not her. I’m not her. I will never be her.

Chapter 20


“I had no idea how often you eat.” After this morning’s interview in San Bernardino, Reid and I set off for San Diego. We’ll do our last early-morning interview of the week there tomorrow, and somehow he talked me into letting him drive us instead of flying.

He’s already claimed to be starving to death twice, though he admits to having eaten breakfast. First stop: two hash browns, three eggs and orange juice at McDonald’s; second stop: a grande caramel macchiato from Starbucks and a protein bar from the glove compartment. Now we’re keeping our eyes peeled for an In-N-Out somewhere just off I-15, right before we get into San Diego, and it’s not even noon.

“I need a few thousand calories a day or I’ll start losing muscle. Right after I pass out.”

I scowl at him. I haven’t so much as looked at a fast food burger in three months, and I’ve already planned a room-service salad for my lunch. “I hate you.”

He laughs. “You’re going to get something this stop, right? Burger? Chocolate shake?”

My mouth drops open. “Are you serious? We’re going to be on Ellen next week. Don’t you remember what the media did to me last fall when I ate bread one day?”

Crap. I can’t believe I just reminded him of that.

He gives me a wicked grin. “Ah, yeah, the infamous baby bump week.” He chuckles when I roll my eyes and cross my arms. “Emma, you can’t take that stuff personally—it’s just meaningless gossip.”

“How can I not take it personally when people all over the world are discussing which cast hottie knocked me up?”

He makes a psshh sound, dismissing my argument. “A bunch of stupid speculation, all proved to be fictional in the end.”

I sigh heavily. “That’s exactly what I mean—why should I have to prove that sort of thing to anyone? It’s nobody’s business.”

He’s staring straight out the windshield and I’m wondering if he’s going to respond when he points and says, “Ha! There it is.” As he exits the highway, he opens the center console, pulls out a Lakers cap and shoves it over his trademark dirty-blond hair. He grins, his blue eyes well hidden behind his mirrored Ray-Bans. “Whaddaya think—regular guy?”

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