“What time do you want to have dinner? We can go out, or have a chef come up and cook for us.” I have to laugh at the look on her face—eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar. “Are you sure you want to give all of this up to go to college, Emma? I’ll bet your agent is already getting daily requests for roles someone wants you to consider…”

She turns and walks into the Asian-décor seating pit, plopping onto a sofa. “He is. And I admit it’s tempting.” She gazes around the room, her fingers brushing the soft leather under her hand. “This is tempting. But there are things I don’t want to give up, even for all of this.” I sit opposite her. “I’ve never been able to choose my own direction. My own future. What I wanted was assumed, based on other peoples’ opinions. My dad meant well, but meaning well isn’t really good enough, you know?”

I can’t follow her reasoning about wanting to study theatre instead of becoming a huge film star, but it’s easy enough to understand the motivation to direct her own destiny. “There’s only one problem with making all of your own decisions,” I say, and she waits for me to elaborate. “If you make a mistake, whether career, relationship or wardrobe-related,” I smile and she does, too, “it’s no one’s fault but your own. You take all of the responsibility, all of the consequences.”

She nods. “True.”

“So. Dinner. I vote for trying the chef. Like, soon.”

She laughs. “How can you be hungry enough to think about food again? I’d look like a side of beef if I ate like you do.”

I flex a bicep at her. “Are you saying I don’t look like a side of beef?”

The text from Brooke is almost exactly what I thought it would be—photos of her with Graham. But instead of the two of them out together, she’s standing on the stoop at his house, smiling up at him and running her fingers through his hair. And then they go inside. The accompanying article is all conjecture about what they were doing for the three hours and fifteen minutes she was there. There’s a perfect shot of her leaving the apartment with her Cheshire cat smile.

Me: So operation graham went as planned?

Brooke: His kid was there

Me: Um, what


Brooke: Shit

Me: He has a kid??? Calling you.

“Does Emma know? Of course she knows… what the hell, Brooke?” My head is spinning. I’m trying to keep my voice down since Emma is somewhere in the suite with nothing more than my flimsy bedroom door between us, but I’m pacing like crazy.

“Reid, you cannot say anything about this to anyone,” Brooke hisses.

“He knows he can’t keep this a secret right?”

“Of course, but you have to promise me—”

“I’m not going to say anything. He knows about our secret indiscretion, after all. That’s why you told him, isn’t it?” Obviously. It even makes a weird sort of sense. “What about your photographer flunky? No way would she not reveal this.”

She releases a sigh. “She doesn’t know and I’m not telling her—yet. I want the first public photos of Cara to be the three of us, together.”

I come to a solid stop. She has this more intricately planned out than I gave her credit for. “You are beyond frightening. You realize that, right?”

“What do you mean?” She knows exactly what I mean.

“Nothing.” Nothing except I’m glad she’s not manipulating me—without my knowledge. “Emma and I are in San Diego. Next week we do a couple of San Fran stations and Ellen, and the week after that Conan, and then the premiere. She’s a little too comfortable at the moment. I’m going to throw her off balance a bit, make sure she knows I’m still interested.”


“Brooke, you know I don’t kiss and tell.”

“Reid—don’t you f—”

Yeah, I don’t really need to hear that tirade.

Chapter 21


Over grilled ciabatta and brie, Reid asks me about Marcus. I admit that we were dating, and that he was correct in assuming I’d broken things off with him right before the disastrous prom night.

“Why’d you even go with him, then?” He tops off our wine glasses and sets the bottle back into the ice bucket. A chef arrived to make our dinner. She’s in the small gourmet kitchen, so we’re sitting close together on the sofa and talking quietly.

“I felt guilty.”

His mouth turns up on one side and he lowers his chin—a look that would have melted me not so long ago. “Go on.”

I shrug, concentrating on spreading the brie evenly over the surface of the bread. “It’s always hard to break things off with someone.”

He takes the cheese spreader from my hand when I’m done. “Why not wait until after his prom to do it, then? You gave him too much of an opportunity to be an asshole, and he took it.”

My face warms. “I was worried that he was expecting… things to become more serious.” I glance up to see that he’s mulling over the back and forth that occurred between us. “I thought it was better to be honest up front.”

He laughs softly. “The honesty policy doesn’t always work out so well, huh?”

I purse my lips. “Well, actually, it did. I didn’t feel guilty any more after that. I knew from how he reacted that I’d made the right decision about him, even if it was a wretched night.”

My words apply to him last fall as well as they do to Marcus two weeks ago, and his eyes tell me he knows it.

“I am sorry, you know,” he says. I swallow and ignore it when his gaze dances to my mouth and back.

The server who arrived with the chef exits the kitchen and stops several feet away. “Please excuse me. Dinner is served.” He indicates the small table adorned with linen, china, and a romantic cluster of candles. I worry again that Reid arranged all of this while pretending that production was responsible, and the repetition of his apology from March does nothing to contradict that concern.

Just when I think he’s dropped the subject, Reid leans back in his chair, twisting the wine glass in his hand and watching me, his eyes as dark as Graham’s in the low light. “So why’d you break it off with Marcus so suddenly?” He tilts his head. “There’s someone else, isn’t there?”

Graham thinks I have an effective poker face, but that’s not the case tonight with Reid. Either he’s been spying on me, or my thoughts are as clear as glass to him. I could lie right now, but he’d know. He’s already smiling as though he does. “Who is it?” He leans up, waiting.

I’m saved by the server again as he removes our salad plates and delivers the main course of pappardelle pasta and roasted mushrooms, but the reprieve is short-lived and Reid isn’t letting this go.


I sigh. “It’s Graham.”

His eyes widen slightly and fall away from mine momentarily. “Really.” And then those eyes flash to mine and away, as though he knows something I don’t. “Hmm. Interesting.”

“Interesting, why?”

He shakes his head minimally, his attention on his plate as he slices a bite. We dine in silence and I wait for him to elaborate, but he says nothing more. Finally, he rests his silverware on his plate, folding his arms in front of it. He stares at me. “I have one request.”

Request? “What?”

“If he fucks it up, I want another shot.” Before I can sputter a reply, he holds up one hand and adds, “I don’t want an answer. I just want you to know where I stand. And I’m not going to interfere with whatever you two have going on,” he smiles then, his expression far from angelic, “unless you ask me to.”

Graham told me two days ago that Brooke was visiting New York—meeting with people about the movie she plans to film late summer. They had dinner together last night, and he was late Skyping with me because of it—but he was completely open with the fact that she’d come over and had spent a couple of hours with him and Cara. And I was fine with it.

Until I got a text from Emily earlier today, with a link to the paparazzi photos of the two of them. Suddenly his devoted friendship with her isn’t as easy to stomach. On one hand, they’ve known each other for years and have a mutually supportive history I can’t hope to challenge. On the other hand, my best friend is spitting nails and telling me he’s no better than Reid. Her last text asks the question I can’t answer: He never told you he had a KID. What else is he hiding?

It’s true—I know only what he tells me, and my heart has no problem trusting every word he says. But I was stupid about Reid. I was stupid about Marcus. What if I’m being stupid about Graham, but I just don’t know it yet?

All I could hope was that the photos wouldn’t look as bad on a full-sized screen as they did on my phone. Once Reid and I checked into the hotel and I shut myself into my room, I brought up the links on my laptop. On my 15-inch screen, they’re definitely worse. Graham stands in the doorway to his home—a place I’ve never been—smiling down at Brooke as she runs her fingers through his hair, her breasts brushing against his chest. There’s no awkwardness or irritation on his face. He seems fine with her touching him that way.

I’m not fine with it.

Knowing I had hours before our appointed Skype time, I spent the afternoon napping, reading, and watching Reid play video games, followed by dinner and ending with Reid’s out-of-nowhere declaration. He’d asked me not to answer, and I hadn’t.

He seemed almost confident that Graham would screw up. At best, he’s seen the photos; at worst, his new and improved relationship with Brooke makes him privy to information I don’t have. His indirect allegation planted a seed of doubt that I can’t reject entirely, as much as I want to.

At 9:00, I sign on and am so happy to see Graham’s face that I almost want to ignore the whole confrontation. “Hey,” he smiles.

At 9:01 I get a text from Emily: You are not allowed to ignore this btw. ASK HIM.

“Hi. All done with finals?”

He heaves a deep sigh. “Yeah. One more paper to wrap up and I’ll be finished. How are you? Snug in your hotel room, I see.”

“Yes. I’m so ready to get up after sunrise again. I’ve been up before 5:00 every day this week.”

At 9:02, Emily proves how well she knows me with another text: I’m serious, Em. ASK. HIM.

I bite my lip, debating the words to use. “Graham, um, Emily sent me a link to some photos…” I hope he knows about them already, that he can explain them away.

“What photos?”

“Of you and Brooke?” I hate the inflection of my voice—like this is a harmless question.

“Brooke? I don’t understand.” He doesn’t know. Damn.

“I’m sending you the link.” My heart is pounding as I watch him pull up a browser and click on the link, no sound but the tapping of his laptop keys.

It’s obvious when the link is loaded—his brows knit and he looks pissed. “What the hell. This was last night.” He examines the three photos closely, and then his eyes scan side-to-side as he reads the accompanying story. I wait silently for his response.

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