Graham leans closer. “How is it that I’ve survived seeing you only once in the past five months, and now the thought of being separated from you for four months seems insane?”

I lean my cheek onto his shoulder, caught up in his penetrating gaze. “The premiere is next month. My agent says there’ll be TV and radio talk show appearances before then, probably starting next week.”

He grimaces. “Emma, I’m not the star of School Pride—you and Reid are. I’ll be at the premiere, of course, but most of those other appearances will just be the two of you.”

For some reason, I’d not considered this possibility. “Huh,” I say, and Graham chuckles.

Chapter 2


Telling her I’m not possessive isn’t technically a lie… but it’s not completely true, either, particularly where Reid Alexander is concerned. After watching how he managed to win Emma’s trust last fall—even if he blew it shortly thereafter—I have a grudging respect for his ability to play charming. The truth is, he is charming. That part of his persona isn’t faked. He’s just too selfish and immature to care about the bodies he leaves in his wake. Literally.

I’m ninety-nine percent certain Emma won’t fall for his façade again, but that one percent of insecurity nags at the back of my mind. Raised by a feminist, I learned early to resist the urge to go all alpha-male. But after years of disliking Reid on Brooke’s behalf, followed by a desire to pound the shit out of him for hurting Emma, an uncharacteristic longing to claim and protect her surges through me, telling me I may have to man up.


I glance down at her worried face, gathering from her expression that I’m scowling. “I hate the thought of you spending time with him.” God. If my mother or sisters heard me say this, I’d never hear the end of it.

Emma looks surprised, her head angling as she reveals a slow smile. “You don’t need to be jealous of Reid, you know.”


I grimace in return. “I guess I sort of don’t know.”

She stares at our clasped hands, dragging the tips of her fingers over my forearm, and I’m immediately wishing we were somewhere more private. “Last month, he talked to me after the photo shoot wrapped up. He told me wanted another chance. I don’t know how sincere he was, really—I mean, he’s Reid, so who knows—but he seemed more earnest than he’s ever been.”

They spoke privately that last night at the hotel, in his room. He caught her hand and held her back as the rest of us poured into the hallway, and I watched from my slightly-ajar door as she left his room minutes later. She was in tears as she pushed open the door to her room, and my feelings were torn. I didn’t want her unhappy, but I was relieved that whatever was said between them hadn’t resulted in a reunion of any sort.

Reid Alexander has never, that I know of, been good for anyone.

“What he had to say didn’t matter, though,” she continues, peering up at me, “because I knew what kind of guy I wanted, even if I was sure I couldn’t have him, per se.”

I kiss the tip of her nose and laugh softly, shaking my head. “I had no idea. You could clean up as a poker player, Emma. You’ve got no tell.”

Just then, the train emerges from the ground at the edge of the East River, heading for the Manhattan Bridge, one of several leading into Brooklyn. The sun in our eyes renders the scene semi-blinding, at first. And then, individual beams thread through the buildings lining the opposite bank, reflecting like waves off the skyscrapers behind us and sparkling across the short expanse of water. It’s a magical view, one to which few people are immune. “Oh,” Emma says, blinking. I’ve officially begun my plan to dissuade her from ever wanting to leave New York once she moves here.

My oldest sister, Cassie, is an early riser. If we get off at DeKalb, we can be at her loft in minutes. I pull out my phone and turn Emma’s hand palm down on my leg. I like the sight of it there way too much.

Me: You up? I want you to meet someone.

Cas: Now? Are you high? It’s not even 7 am! WHO is this someone???

Me: Yes and yes and i know and emma

Cas: THE emma?

Me: Yeah

Cas: But I’m not presentable!

Me: No worries, she’s not like that

Cas: If you say so. Doug is still asleep. The baby is up. The baby is always up. I’m looking forward to sleeping again someday. I vaguely remember sleep...

Me: Haha, sorry cas. See you in a few minutes.

“Let’s go see my sister.”

Alarm flashes across Emma’s face, her eyes widening. “What—now?”

I have to laugh, since Cassie had the same response. “She lives just over the bridge. I want her to meet you. You’ll love her.” I shove the phone back into the pocket of my jeans and pull the hand she’s pressing against her chest into my lap. I haven’t felt this impulsive in years, which is pretty damned tragic considering the fact that I’m not even twenty-one yet. Feeling older than my age is a common enough sensation for me, but early fatherhood will do that.

We’re both quiet the remainder of the way, each lost in our own thoughts. I know it’s ageist to assume that Emma will have a difficult time handling the fact that I have a child. But fatherhood is the reason I don’t date, the reason I hesitate to form romantic relationships. I didn’t mean to imply that I’ve been celibate, though I may have given Emma precisely that impression. I’m not sure how to clear that up without an awkward conversation—one that can definitely wait.

My sisters have been supportive about pushing me to get out and lead as close to a normal life as possible, especially Cassie. Brynn is nearer to me in age—four years older, but I’m closer to Cassie—six years my senior. She’s the one I always turned to when interactions with my peers went sour, as they often did. The combination of being more academically driven and younger than all of my classmates was bad enough. Add being something of a smartass, and that equaled very few friends. Cassie’s artistic nature gave her more of an understanding of my sensitivity than our professor-parents could comprehend.

In their early twenties when their barely seventeen-year-old brother became a parent, neither of my sisters envied me the title. But Cassie volunteered to take Cara home overnight once a week, leaving me free to go out like a normal teenager, and she and our parents began taking turns watching her once I was getting film roles regularly.

University life at Columbia was immediately less intimate than my small preparatory high school, and I could easily lose myself amongst the undergrad population. Living uptown with my parents rather than on campus negated anyone’s expectation to go home with me for the night. Whenever Cassie had Cara, I stayed over in dorms or apartments of friends who knew little about me, or girls who never knew more than my name and major, and sometimes not even that much.

“What are you thinking about?” Emma asks, probably anxious over meeting my sister while I’m worrying too soon over whether or not she can deal with my parental status.

“Hmm? Oh. Nothing important.” I untangle my hand from hers and slide my arm behind her, pulling her to my side. “FYI, Cassie already likes you.” Her expression becomes more alarmed rather than less. Uh-oh. “Er, I talked to her about you while we were filming.” Better not to disclose that it was more than once, I think.

“What was there for her to like about me? Wouldn’t she have been outraged on your behalf?”

I laugh. She’ll understand when she meets Cassie. “No, she blamed ninety percent of the end result on me and the other ten percent on him.”

“Huh,” Emma says, and I can’t make any answer to that other than to lean down and kiss her.

“Here’s our stop,” I say once I break regretfully from her lips, having managed to distract her for a few minutes. There are reasons I’m usually not impetuous, and one of them has to do with sucking at it. The only thing I had in mind when we got on the subway was warmth and that amazing view—one that can only be topped by the view on the way back. Visiting Cassie was full-fledged spontaneity.

Now that I’m thinking more clearly, dragging Emma to meet my sister less than two hours after declaring ourselves might be well past spontaneous and well on the way to unreasonable. Shit.


I can’t believe Graham is taking me to meet his sister this early on a Saturday morning. Within minutes of emerging onto the street, we’re standing in front of her building, and I reason that at least the anxiety didn’t have time to mount high enough to knock me flat.

Graham pushes a button on the speaker, and right away a woman’s teasing voice says, “Who the hell’s buzzing me at seven o’clock in the morning?”

“Hey, Cas,” Graham says, smiling.

“Graham, you’ve always been a pain in the butt. You know that, right?” The speaker buzzes as the lock clicks on the door.

“So you’ve been saying for twenty years or so,” he answers, pulling open the heavy metal door and ushering me inside a tiny lobby—one wall lined with mailboxes and the other housing a single elevator. When Graham pushes the button, the doors part sluggishly, as though someone is cranking them open by hand. “She’s on the third floor.”

His dark eyes tell me he has ideas in mind for the ascent, but when the doors close behind us, he merely takes my hand, his focus alternating between the ancient checkered floor and the very slowly shifting numbers above the door. As the claustrophobic car finally comes to a stop, he squeezes my hand and gives me one quick kiss.

We step into a five-by-five foot vestibule, and he knocks lightly on one of two doors. Multiple bolts slide, and my stomach drops to my knees just before the door opens to a smiling, female version of Graham, wearing sweats and holding a tiny baby. “Take this,” she says to Graham, handing the baby off in an effortless transfer. She sticks out her hand. “I’m Cassie. You must be Emma.” When I take her hand, she smoothly pulls me into the apartment behind Graham, who heads towards the living space in the center of the roomy loft, talking to the baby in his natural voice, as though it’s a very small man and not an infant.

“Yes,” I manage.

“Graham, I know you want coffee,” Cassie says, heading through the room to the open kitchen on the opposite end. “Emma? Coffee?”

“Sure,” I say, following her after a brief look back at Graham, who flashes me a smile. His dark eyes drink me in while I do the same to him. The sensation is surreal, that no part of him is off-limits to my imagination now—from his full lips to his wide shoulders to the hands cradling the baby in the crook of one arm.

Suddenly this is all moving too quickly, but before I can work up a good panic, my phone vibrates in my front pocket. At my twitch and yelp, Cassie glances back, one brow arched on her pretty, makeup-free face. When I pull the phone from my pocket, my father’s picture smiles up from the display.

“Hi Dad.” I left a note telling him I was meeting Graham in the café.

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