“Ah… Well, as my gaydar is going pbbbt where you’re concerned, I’m guessing your secret lover is Emma, not Reid. For how long is this edict in place?”

I chuckle at the mere thought of Reid and me in a relationship, but my blood runs molten at the notion of Emma as my lover. “Uh, yes, Emma. And until after the release.”

“The premiere is tonight, and the release is Friday—that’s only two days away! What’s with the mopey puppy face?”

I run a hand through my hair. Gay or not, Tim is a guy. “I can’t stand watching the two of them pretend. Maybe because they did have a thing going last fall—I keep imagining them together, which is senseless and asinine. But it’s driving me nuts. I’ve never felt like this.”

He nods, lips compressed. “The caveman,” he says finally.

“The who?”

“Every man has an inner caveman. Unless he’s a flaming queen, in which case he has an inner wild-eyed, jealous bitch—as in the case of an ex of mine. But I digress.” He starts to eat his cookie and I think maybe that’s the extent of his reflections on Neanderthal impulses, until he looks me in the eye. “Imagine you and Emma are alone. She looks deep into your eyes and declares: you’re mine. How does that make you feel?”

It’s freaking obvious how that makes me feel—my fingers curl into my palms, my pulse hammers, my breathing speeds and I wouldn’t be surprised if my eyes just dilated.

He chuckles. “In private, between the two of you, there’s nothing wrong with a little… caveman sentiment. Or cavewoman, as the case may be. It’s natural.”

I’d practically driven Emma across her hotel room and onto her bed the first time I saw her after we decided to be together. The chance that will happen again, as soon as I get to the hotel this afternoon, is high. I want to touch her so badly that my skin tightens at the thought of her, nerve endings sensitive and raw. These reactions are visceral—primitive, and I’ve been trying to repress them ever since the first moment I saw her. What a waste of energy that has been.

“Thanks, Tim.”


“Glad to be of service.” He waggles his brows once, pulling Bose headphones on and leaning his seat all the way back.

Chapter 30


I’m about to text Graham to see if he’s checked in yet when there’s a knock at the door. Glancing in the mirror as I pass it and wishing I’d had two minutes to check my hair and brush my teeth, I take a deep breath and make myself walk to the door. I want to run to it.

I pull the door open and feel my smile falter and resume half-heartedly. “Reid.”

He sighs. “God, woman, at least try to look like I’m not the last person on earth you’d like to see at your door. My self-image might never recover. You don’t want to be responsible for destroying my career, do you?”

Rolling my eyes at Reid’s exaggeration—as if I could deliver any kind of blow to his sense of self—I ignore his silly speech, backing up to let him in. “What’s up?” I shouldn’t have expected Graham. I don’t even know if he’s arrived at LAX yet.

Reid drops onto the small sofa. “We should talk about tonight’s logistics. The red carpet, the seating during the showing, whether or not you’ll need a paper bag to breathe into while you watch an entire film full of Emma Pierce on the huge screen…”

“Ha, ha,” I say with a nervous flutter in my stomach at the thought of that. Discomfort at watching yourself onscreen isn’t unheard of—some big-name actors even refuse to do it, which keeps me from feeling like a complete weirdo. I won’t need the paper bag if Graham is sitting next to me. He can unwind me with a look, or the smallest touch.

Rather than joining Reid on the sofa, I go back to unpacking, calling the concierge to have my dress for the premiere steamed for tonight. “I guess we’ll be walking in together, sitting next to each other during the showing. But… I’d like to have Graham on the other side of me.”

His mouth tightens a fraction with a smile that doesn’t quite meet his eyes. “Should be fine. If anything, it will just add to the drama. I take it production doesn’t have any clue about you and Graham?”

I shake my head, pulling out the pretty silver stilettoes I’m sure to hate by the end of the night. Chloe helped me shop for the shoes, and the dress. She was ecstatic when I agreed to let her assist, and she would have earned the Emily stamp of approval for the withering rebuke she sneered at a clerk at the boutique who wasn’t accommodating enough:

“This is Emma Pierce, and we’re choosing a gown for the worldwide premiere of the film School Pride, in which she stars alongside Reid Alexander! Fetch someone who can figure out what that requires, or we will take our business elsewhere!”

The snooty clerk, wide-eyed with panic by the time she heard Reid’s name, sprinted to the back. Minutes later, we were shown to a private dressing room and offered champagne while dozens of dresses were presented for our inspection. After narrowing these as though she was choosing weapons for battle, Chloe had me try on the few that made the cut. The green and silver dress we chose—our agreement my second shock of the day—is backless and flows to mid-calf.

I can hardly wait for Graham to see me in it.

Reid watches me remove the dress from my suitcase and hang it on the door. “That’s going to be stunning on you, with your beautiful green eyes.”

I clear my throat and murmur, “Thank you,” recalling what he said a couple of weeks ago—that if Graham screwed up he wanted another chance. And that kiss on Monday—what was that? Even if I didn’t feel it or respond to it, the fact that he did it was disconcerting.

When I turn away from the door, he’s standing close enough that I startle, my heart galloping under my hand. “God, Reid.” Instantly recognizing his heated expression, I brace my hands against his chest. “Don’t.”

He presses no closer, but he doesn’t step back, either. “Do you think you’re in love with him, too?” His voice is very soft, his eyes almost navy blue in the entry alcove of my room, away from the windows and light.


A knock at the door sends me stumbling into him. He steadies my shoulders under his firm grasp as my heart races from the hard, unexpected knock.

“That must be laundry pickup, for the dress.” My voice is breathless, and he smiles.

Reaching behind me, he retrieves the dress from the hook and hands it down, and then he opens the door. On the other side is not a hotel employee. The forceful knocker is Graham, his smile fading when he sees Reid standing right behind me, in my room. I’m still holding the dress. I turn and shove it into Reid’s hands, and he rehangs it without comment.

“Hi.” I push the door further open, to let Graham in. To let Reid out.

Moving into the doorway, Reid turns back to me. “The concierge will call when the limos get here. I suggest you and I share one of them on the ride to Grauman’s, so the exit will be simple. There will be too many flashes to be able to see. You’ll never locate anyone who isn’t already right next to you.”


Reid turns to Graham. They’re standing two feet apart—the tension rocking between them like punches thrown. And then suddenly Reid is completely at ease. “Graham,” he says.

Graham’s jaw remains rigid. “Reid.”



I learned years ago that the most defenseless you can ever be is when you believe yourself to be in love. I say I don’t believe in love, but that’s not really true—love is just the name of an emotion. It’s like on steroids. It’s lust with ethics. And emotions—fear, hate, whatever—come and go.

What I don’t believe in is the notion of being in love.

People talk about falling in love as though it’s accidental. As though it surprises the hell out of them. I understand those impressions, because that’s how I felt with Brooke. Unlike most people, though, once it was over and I got some emotional distance, I saw it for what it was—an obsession.

Consequently, believing myself to be in love isn’t a high I crave—it was a total loss of control that I hope to never experience again. I’m attracted to Emma. I’m amused and distracted by her. I can even say I care about her. But I’m not in love with her. There’s no need to sacrifice my metaphorical heart on a platter when all I want is a temporary diversion.

With the whole cast assembled along the red carpet en masse, the paparazzi are like barracudas in a feeding frenzy. Between their usual catcalls and the screaming fans, the noise level is insane. The bodyguards have their hands full keeping people from jumping the velvet cords. I take Emma’s hand as we exit the limo, and she accepts the support, clutching my hand so tightly I’m worried she’s about to freak out. Every time I glance down at her face, though, she’s smiling and seems perfectly calm.

The dress, as I predicted, is stunning on her—the green of her eyes more potent next to the silky emerald fabric, the silver threads shimmering with every flash. I can’t resist the thought of trailing my fingers down her bare back, or slipping the straps from her shoulders. She looks like a goddess, and I’d be content to worship at her feet. She eclipses everyone here, even Brooke in her predictable little black dress.

My ex-lover is jealous. Posing for photos between Graham and Tadd, she smiles charmingly, but when she directs one unguarded look in Emma’s direction, the resentment is palpable. When her gaze shifts to me, my deliberate grin makes her eyes blaze.

Yeah. She’d still definitely kill me if she could.

None of us can see for five minutes after we finally complete the extended fifteen-minute walk from the limo to the theater doors, and we’re half-deaf as well. I take the seat next to Emma, and Graham takes her opposite side. Her body language is clear. When he leans closer to make a comment or observation, she sways towards him like gravity is involved. Brooke takes the seat on the opposite side of Graham.

The movie isn’t perfect, but none of them ever are. It’s a little sugary, trying too hard to be like the classic novel on which it was based. That will carry box office sales, though, and girls will gobble it up like candy. Sorry, boyfriends everywhere—you’re doomed to sit through an hour and forty-seven minutes of syrupy drivel. The payoff? Between my face, Tadd’s abs and Quinton’s biceps, your girl will be ready for takeoff as soon as the credits roll. You’re welcome.

The official after-party is being held on the third-floor terrace of the hotel. Some of us take the opportunity to change outfits, some don’t. I’m glad to see Emma doesn’t. All the guys remain in dark suits and ties, though jackets are ditched, ties loosened, buttons undone and sleeves rolled. Tadd’s wearing the bolo tie and cowboy hat he bought in Austin, and next to him is MiShaun in the silky white and gold number she wore to the theater. Meredith and Jenna switched to jeans, and Brooke swapped her black gown for a powder blue micro-dress that matches the frosty blue of her eyes and shows off her runway-smooth legs. Her effort yields striking results, but not enough to surpass Emma.

Most Popular