His smile falters, but he recovers quickly. “If you object so strongly to yellow, how will you put up with taking taxis everywhere?”

I smile. “I was thinking I might actually learn to use the Metro.”

“There’s one of those normal, everyday things I’ll never be able to do—use public transportation,” he says.

“Definitely not, especially with your I-heart-Reid-Alexander stalkers.”

“My what?”

Crap. I forgot he wasn’t aware of Jenna’s term for his fans. “Er, nothing. You seem to like being recognized everywhere you go, though.”

He shrugs. “It has its benefits. And it’s part of the job. Anyone who doesn’t understand that going in is unrealistic.”

“Maybe. But not everyone gets as famous and well-recognized as you are—most actors aren’t. Graham and I didn’t have much of an issue, jogging in the mornings, but you couldn’t even step outside the hotel without being mauled by fans.”

He toys with his spoon, rotating it through his fingers, over and under. “People love what I do, and I love doing it. Those are the most important parts of the equation. And I’m rich enough to buy more seclusion, if I feel the need for privacy, so I can’t really complain.” He tilts his head, watching me closely. “You’ll have a surge of recognition once School Pride is out. But if you don’t do any more movies, it’ll probably die down. Is that why you wanted out?”

“No. I’m not afraid of fame, though I’d never be as comfortable with it as you are. But I do crave some normalcy. I’m excited about going to college. Scared, but excited. And I love the idea of acting on a stage instead of in front of a camera. After college, I guess I’ll do what everyone else does. Weigh my options and make the best choice I can at the time.”

He nods his head. “Fair enough.”



My family couldn’t be less thrilled that Brooke will be attending my graduation ceremony with them, and staying over two nights. I’ve already endured and ignored Cassie’s and Brynn’s opinions on the matter; I finally had to bite the bullet and tell Mom. Her reaction: “Well, shit.”

Luckily, Cara’s in bed. She’s at that age where she mimics everything. Brynn can’t get through a conversation without at least one inappropriate word, even when she bleeps herself… which Cara has also picked up. A couple of days ago I got all sorts of looks when our line at Dean & Deluca stalled and Cara demanded loudly, “What the bleep is going on up there?”

“I can’t exactly ask her go to commencement by herself,” I say. Behind my mother’s eyes the gears turn furiously, trying to figure out how to make that exact thing happen.

Dad recognizes the distracted look on her face for what it is—plotting. “Audrey.”

“Hmm?” Pulled from her reverie (where she is no doubt personally loading Brooke on a flight to Uzbekistan or somewhere equally distant), Mom blinks innocently. Dad and I know better than to fall for her angelic expression.

“Audrey, Graham’s friend is coming to watch him graduate. He’s invited her; we aren’t going to uninvite her.”

This probably isn’t an ideal time to admit that Brooke invited herself.

“Can’t we at least put her up in a nice hotel, where she’ll be more comfortable?” Mom’s voice is sugary with a veiled edge of for-the-love-of-God-please.

Brooke was a demanding guest two years ago—questioning the thread count of the guest bed sheets, asking where we kept the new toothbrushes and razors for visitors, and even putting in an order for a specific brand of bottled water. Mom spent the duration of Brooke’s visit seething, and she hasn’t forgiven or forgotten.

“Between Columbia and NYU commencement ceremonies, the hotels are all booked and have been for months.” Dad’s voice of reason falls on deaf ears.

“She could stay nearby. In Jersey, say.”

“Mom!” Torn between amusement and exasperation, I’m not sure what to add to the exclamation.

Dad sighs. “She’s staying here, Audrey. We’d better get the guest room set up.”

“And alert the servants,” she mumbles. “Oh wait. That’s me.”

I slide an arm around her shoulders as she rinses dishes and I prepare to load the dishwasher. “Mom, Brooke has matured over the past two years. I doubt you’ll have the same issues you had with her as before.” I should be crossing my fingers behind my back.

“I won’t be holding my breath, Graham.”

Emma is a few minutes late signing in, and I assure her it’s no big deal, even though she was out to dinner with Reid. In San Francisco. One of the most romantic cities in the US. When she can’t help but gush about the renovated 1920s building, the glass jellyfish chandeliers and the amazing food, I listen patiently. Thank God for the fuzziness of webcam technology, which allows my tight smile to feign rapt appreciation.

I’ve never in my life had this kind of issue with jealousy. Watching Zoe with other guys after we broke up (and a few heavy flirtations before we broke up, because I think she liked to keep me off balance) was frustrating and unpleasant, but that was nothing compared to this slow, deep burn. Even what I felt during filming last fall, when I watched Reid with Emma, wasn’t like this. I feel like I’ve swallowed a meteor.

I can’t talk to Mom, or Brynn, or Cassie about it.

Possessiveness is nothing more than insecurity, Mom would say.

That macho protective bullshit is just some asshat man pissing on his territory so the other dogs will stay away, Brynn would say.

Graham, you aren’t that chauvinistic type of guy. You’re better than that, Cassie would say.

They’re all right… and they’re all wrong. In this moment, if I could physically keep Reid away from Emma, I would do it. And if that makes me that type of guy, I don’t give a goddamn.

“Sounds like you had a perfect night,” I tell Emma. Tightly.

She shakes her head, giving me that subtle smile of hers—her mouth turned up on one side like she’s trying to contain it, while it steals out on one side. “If it had been perfect, you’d have been there with me,” she says, and the meteor in my gut melts to a more manageable size.

When I mention Brooke arriving in New York tomorrow, I do so unmindful that I hadn’t told Emma where she would be staying. “I’ve warned her that I’ll be holed up in my room with you by nine p.m.”

“She’s staying with you?”

Oh, God, I forgot to tell her. “With my family, yes.” As though that makes it better. “The hotels are always booked during the week of NYU and Columbia commencements.” I never intended to send Brooke to a hotel, but I’m keeping that to myself. “And several smaller colleges have their ceremonies the same week.”


I wish there was some way to assure her that Brooke is no threat to her. I hate seeing that look on her face, the uncertainty that I know all too well. I was going to tell her that Brooke said, TMI on the cybersex details! when I told her about our nightly Skype ritual, but suddenly that isn’t so funny, and I’m scrambling for something to say.

“So Ellen on Thursday, huh?”

“Yeah.” Her voice is strained. Damn this distance. If I could kiss her she’d know exactly how I feel about her.

“I miss you, Emma.”

I’m not sure, but it looks like her eyes tear up. “I was fine for months without you,” she says, the words hushed and forlorn. “Why does it hurt now?”

I’m sighing and shoving a hand through my hair, which I know from experience leaves strands of it stabbing out in numerous directions, defiant and crazy-looking. Maybe crazy is exactly how I feel. “Because now we have hope of something more.”

She takes a shaky breath and sighs. I’ve said the right words, for now.

Chapter 25


I remembered to pack a toothbrush and a razor this time. I thought Graham’s mother would blow a gasket the last time I visited, when I asked if they had those things. I admit I was being a bitch, because I’m used to mothers hating me. Or at least not trusting me to leave their baby boys uncorrupted. I couldn’t stand another failed attempt at being sweet, only to be treated like an STD-carrying skank. So I just bitched up right off the bat.

Probably not the smartest move on my part, given that now I have to backtrack and make her like me, when I’ve already shot myself in the foot.

Dr. Douglas is a licensed therapist as well as a professor of psychology. She analyzed me the whole time I was there two years ago—I could tell. I don’t want to know her conclusions. I just have to make her believe they’re no longer valid. No big deal, right? As my plane touches down at La Guardia, I’m trying to forget how her eyes looked like they might shoot lava when I questioned the thread count of the guest bed sheets.

Kathryn, my father’s first wife, taught me this saying: When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. Unfortunately, I’ve never been good at following that bit of common sense. I blame that on my parental role model—my mother—who’s never met a hole that can’t be just a little deeper.

When I first arrived in LA, not only was I all knees and elbows awkward, but I had that vile drawl. It marked me wherever I went, and there was nothing I could do about it short of keeping mute. If I walked into an upscale boutique with Mom, the salesgirls were courteous and attentive until one of us opened our mouths, and then the sidelong glances would start. I knew what they were thinking. Hicks. There was no way to combat their prejudice.

Just before Mom and Rick got married, he took us out to dinner. Trying to butter me up to get on her good side. He didn’t know that she couldn’t have cared less if I was happy with her matrimonial choices. We went to a trendy place that served burgers for fifteen bucks and boasted hundreds of domestic and imported beers from all over the world. The beer was the attraction—if some remote brewery made it, they had it. That sort of thing.

Rick (who thought Mom sounded like Scarlett O’Hara—like that’s a compliment?) got up mid-meal to fetch a side of pickles for Mom and get himself another imported beer. When he was a dozen or so feet away, my mother called to him. She was just loud enough for our entire half of the restaurant to hear her: “Hey, Rick, git me another Currs Light!”

There was a long beat of silence, because the request for a cheap domestic beer in her trailer park twang paused all conversation. And then laughter erupted. My face flamed. I wanted to dive under the booth rather than sit across from my uncouth hillbilly of a mother. I was positive that this was the Most Embarrassing Moment of my life.

But Mom wasn’t finished digging her hole, with me right there, praying for invisibility. As she glanced around at all the pretentious, sniggering patrons, her face twisted into a haughty demeanor. “Well, fuck all y’all!” she declared. The wave of laughter crashed over me, and invisibility wasn’t good enough. I think I prayed for death.

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