Of course—because a Lakers cap and Ray-Bans are automatic regular-guy camouflage. We’d been lucky on the other two stops—the person at the window each time was older and hadn’t recognized him. “Reid, we aren’t in Beverly Hills or even Long Beach, and you’re driving a yellow—whatever this is.”

Pulling into the parking lot, he shakes his head. “It’s a Lotus. And we’re cruising around So-Cal, not Kansas.”

I shrug, suppressing a laugh, wondering if he’s actually this clueless about regular people or if he’s just screwing with my head. “Whatever you say, Mr. Regular Guy.”

Once he lowers his window, the aroma of fries is overwhelming, and my stomach gurgles in protest. I haven’t eaten fries since the last time Emily forced half of hers on me in her typical manner: Get your ass back, would ya? It’s practically nonexistent back there. Reid orders a burger with three meat patties and no cheese, wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun, and a gigantic vanilla shake. “Are you sure you don’t want something?”

Clenching my jaw, I shake my head, willing myself not to breathe through my nose.

When we pull up to the window, the girl working the register tells Reid the total as she turns towards him, and then she nearly stops breathing. He hands her a fifty and her hands shake as she pulls bills and coins from the cash drawer. She has to start her tally over three times. Finally, she hands him his change, but forgets to count it back. Wide-eyed, her hands still trembling, she just shoves the money into his hands all at once.

“Thanks,” he smiles, and she looks as though she might faint.

“You’re welcome,” she squeaks, backing away from the window before disappearing around a corner.

Reid stuffs wadded bills into the front pocket of his jeans and tosses the coins into a cup holder as we wait for the food.

“This is just a guess, mind you—but I think she may have seen through your elaborate Regular Guy disguise.”

His mouth twists up on one side. “Smart ass.”


“Just sayin’.”

Three girls and one guy, all four of them stuffing into the tiny window space, deliver his food, which consists of one small paper bag and one large Styrofoam cup. Our original cashier hands him the shake as four pairs of eye shift back and forth between us, and the guy hands him the bag. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out my identity, too—I hear my name whispered amongst them.

“Would you like extra napkins?” a second girl asks, handing out a stack two inches thick without waiting for an answer.

“Here’s your straw!” the third girl waves it out the window, blinking rapidly as Reid reaches to take it from her hand.

“Will there be anything else?” the boy asks, beaming.

“No thanks, this is perfect.” Reid turns his smile on them again, and four sighs come from the window. I roll my eyes behind my sunglasses, not that anyone notices.

We park near an exit, windows down, so he can wolf down the unwieldy beef and lettuce burger. He tries to hand me the shake. “Have some.”


Toggling it back and forth, he turns on the full-wattage Reid Alexander smile. “I got the large so there would be enough to share.”


He takes a sip, peering at me over the top of his sunglasses, his blue eyes full of amused mischief. “Mmm, so good. No?” I shake my head. “At least hold it for me while I eat, then.”

With the cup holders full of change and empty Starbucks cups, I’m tricked into taking the shake by my own courteousness. Crap. His stupid bunless burger smells good, coupled with the heady aroma of fresh fries from the restaurant behind us, and my mouth is watering from full awareness that the cup I’m holding is filled with several hundred calories of evil.

“Emma,” he says, his tone coaxing, “a sip isn’t going to hurt you.”

By the time a couple of shifty-looking guys pull into the parking lot in a beat-up sedan, eyeballing not so much the Lotus as who’s in the Lotus, Reid has lured me into taking a couple of bites of his burger (which isn’t bad) and sipping enough of the shake that I just told him he’s the devil.

He watches the two men for about twenty seconds before murmuring, “Hmm. Time to go.” I barely have time to rebuckle before he’s revved the engine, reversed out of the end spot and accelerated straight out of the lot with the sedan in pursuit.

I look back and they’re right behind us. A maniacal smile spreads across the passenger’s face right before a large black camera obscures it. The last thing we want to do is lead the paparazzi directly to the hotel. I spin forward. “They’re right behind us.”

Reid glances in his side mirror, smirking. “Not for long.” We hit the entrance ramp and he’s going ninety before we’re fully on the freeway. Gliding around slower-moving cars—by which I mean all other cars—he loses the sedan in the thickening traffic. Reaching for the shake, he curls his hand, still warm from holding the burger, around mine, and leans close to sip from it rather than taking it from me. “Mmm. Damn that’s good.”

I clear my throat and try to slip my hand out from under his, but he transfers his hand back to the wheel, releasing me. Checking his mirrors, he grins. “Rule number one of tailing a Lotus: don’t attempt it in a Hyundai.”


We’re almost to the hotel when I get a text from Brooke. It’s a link and nothing more, and I’m pretty damned sure I’ll find photos of Brooke and Graham getting cozy when I click on it. I’ll check it out once I’m in my room.

“So, dinner tonight?” I say to Emma, noting that she’s checking her phone as well, and frowning. She doesn’t answer. “Emma?”

“Hmm?” She glances up, worry in the downward slope of her brows and the unfocused gaze of her gray-green eyes.

“Everything okay?”

Blinking, she shutters her distressed expression. “Oh. Yeah. Fine.”

My lips twist. “Convincing.”

She blinks again and shakes her head. “It’s nothing, really. Just… it’s nothing.”

Someone must have alerted her to the photos. I haven’t talked to Brooke in a couple of days, so I have no idea how successful she and Rowena were last night—but if Emma’s response is due to those photos, Brooke’s personal paparazza must have nailed it.

The traffic is bottlenecking as we get into town, so I can’t do any more than glance at Emma a couple of times to gauge her level of turmoil. Staring out the window, her reflection is no longer scowling. While I don’t get any pleasure from upsetting her, she’ll need to be upset enough to break things off with Graham for this to go down as planned.

Speed-dialing my manager, I tell him we’re almost there. “According to the Garmin, we’ll be there in five to ten.”

“Good. A bodyguard is waiting in the lobby. I’ll have him move outside, just in case.” George is always cautious, which I appreciate. Very little sneaks up on him. The exceptions to that are my occasional dumbass activities… like that under-aged girl I didn’t have to mention to him (thank God and John for that). I hate disappointing George.

At the hotel valet stand are a couple of bored-looking guys in red vests. A dozen feet behind them, our bodyguard for our stay in San Diego exits the hotel—big and badass, arms crossed over his chest and wearing the characteristic intimidating scowl. He could be one of those Ultimate Fighter competitors. I don’t see any paparazzi or fans—a relief after the hasty departure from the In-N-Out.

The valets perk up when they spot the Lotus. Normally, I feel possessive of my wheels and hate turning it over to valets, but I’m so over this car that I don’t care. I told Dad to arrange available funds for me to car-shop as soon as the premiere is over. I definitely want a Porsche. John suggested a 911 GT3.

As Emma and I exit the car, the bodyguard steps up ahead of the valets. They hang back, daunted by his tank-like size. “Mr. Alexander, Ms. Pierce, I’m Alek. I’ll be joined by another security team member within the next hour, in case either or both of you need to leave the hotel for any reason, separately or together. Otherwise, we’ll occupy rooms near your suite and are at your disposal during your time in San Diego.”

Emma’s eyebrows rise. “Um, thank you, Alek. It’s nice to meet you.” He shakes her hand, giving us each his card and telling us to call him before leaving the suite, so he or his colleague can accompany us wherever we want to go.

The valets exchange looks, clearly unsure if they’re even allowed to approach us. “Heads up,” I call before tossing the Lotus keys to the one nearest me.

Alek has all of the luggage except Emma’s laptop bag, which she’s sliding onto her shoulder, and mine, which she hands me as she shuts the trunk lid. “What does he mean, ‘your suite’?” she asks as after I pass a couple of twenties and instructions to the valets and follow her inside.

I shrug. “I guess we’ll find out in a minute. Production set up the reservation.” I don’t plan to tell her I was contacted for the specific arrangements of said reservation, so I know exactly what ‘your suite’ indicates.

The chrome and glass entry doors slide open soundlessly as we walk up to them, and the concierge meets us just inside. “Good afternoon, Mr. Alexander, Ms. Pierce. Right this way, please.”

The suite is a two-bedroom penthouse. A bellhop transfers the luggage upstairs while we’re getting our keys and I’m signing my name and halfway listening as the concierge rattles off the various rider-required items he’s handled for us ahead of time.

For me: grilled chicken and hardboiled eggs from room service available at any time, a shower with a clear glass door—not a curtain, minimum 1200 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, ten goose down pillows, two 700-fill down comforters, fresh flowers daily, dry cleaning picked up and returned twice daily, a full gaming system and games (type TBD), wireless controllers and batteries, minimum 52” flat screen television, four new toothbrushes per day (different colors), a lint roller, and a box of Crown condoms.

Emma’s list: cold bottled water and a bowl of fruit. Shit. In comparison, I come off sounding like J. Lo. Fortunately, she doesn’t seem to be listening, staring at the key in her hand and looking apprehensive.

Once we’re in the penthouse elevator—which requires one of our room keys to enter—I lean against the pebble-flecked wall, arms crossed loosely. “Are you okay with us sharing a suite? I guess production fell for their own buzz. Just so you know, I’ve stayed here before, and the bedrooms inside the suite are completely separate.”

The elevator deposits us directly into the living area, the wall of windows opposite displaying an unobstructed ocean view. “Wow,” she says. I don’t think she’s going to object to the suite.

“Come look.” I walk to the window. When she follows and looks, I point left. “Mexico.”

“Wow,” she repeats.

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