Smiling, my eyes close as he ignites my desire for him all over again. “It’s supposed to hurt a little, you know,” I whisper back. “This time.”

He props himself on one elbow, releasing my hands to stroke his fingers over the side of my face. “So I’ve heard, but that doesn’t mean I can be cavalier about it. I can’t stand the thought of hurting you.”

I mimic his caress, my fingers cataloguing the contrasts between us—the short hair at his temple, the closely cropped sideburns, the faintly rough expanse of stubble across his jaw. His concern is unwarranted. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt this whole. “It will never hurt again. Or so I’ve heard.”

He chuckles softly and shakes his head.

I clear my throat. “So… do you have another… erm…” My face warms, but timidity is silly at this point. “Because Emily made sure I came to LA with a ginormous box of them stuffed into my luggage, which I didn’t know about until I unpacked…”

I was so, so grateful that I hadn’t been selected for a random luggage search at the airport on this trip when I unearthed the box of condoms that had stowed away in my suitcase. A sticky note was attached, reading: Happy “PREMIERE”!!! luv, em.

He cocks an eyebrow up and locks his lips together, trying not to laugh at my pointless embarrassment. “Are you suggesting we take this celebration to your room?”

At his words, I imagine confetti falling all around the bed. “Is it a celebration?”

His fingers journey down my side, keeping me close as he lifts his weight from me and lies on his side, positioning us face to face. “Hell yes it is.”

My hands curl against his chest. “What are we celebrating?”

Closing his eyes, he presses his face to mine and hums a warm breath past my ear. “That we will be doing this—” he skims my face with his and then kisses me until I’m breathless with want “—for the rest of the night, and most of tomorrow, and however long you’ll consent to be mine.”


When I can breathe again, I ask how long he’s got.

“Hmm. Sixty, seventy years?”

“I guess that will have to do,” I laugh, pushing him onto his back.

Chapter 33


The sun’s not quite up when I check out. No one comments on the fact that I’m wearing my sunglasses. Not the bellhop, not the front desk, not the valet. They all assume I’m masking the hangover I would welcome in place of this aching emptiness.

It didn’t take long to get Reid to open the door last night. He had the gall to appear utterly indifferent, standing back to allow me into his room as though I’d rapped politely rather than cursing and banging on it with both fists. As though I was expected. Which I guess I was.

“What the goddamned hell, Reid? You lying bastard!”

His mouth twisted with amusement and my hands became hard fists at my side. The door shut behind me and he followed as I stormed into his suite. “Are you sure you want to fling that particular insult, Brooke?”

I hit him. Or I would have, if he hadn’t dodged so that it barely glanced off of his shoulder, harmless. I tried again. Grabbing my wrist, he just shook his head like he was sort of sorry for me, but not really. I swung my other fist at him and he caught that one, too.

“It was a house of cards, Brooke. You had to know it.”

“You told her. You told her to go talk to him!”

He peered at me, still holding my wrists. “I know you think I’ve got no morals, but I seem to have at least one you don’t.”

I tried to yank my arms free but he held them fast. I knew what he was going to say. I didn’t want to hear him say it.

“I’ve never lied to get a girl into bed with me.”

“I know,” I sneered, “because you’re the almighty Reid fucking Alexander and you don’t have to lie to get whatever girl you want. How well did that work with her, though? She didn’t want you.”

There. He still had my hands imprisoned but he looked like I’d slapped him. Eyes widened. Mouth slightly ajar. He recovered too quickly for my liking.

“You’re right.” His expression transformed from shock to contempt right in front of me. He didn’t just release my wrists, he threw them down. Turned and walked to the minibar. “She didn’t want me.” He grabbed a bottle and twisted the cap, leaning a hip against the bar. “Just like he didn’t want you. The difference is, I’m not willing to lie to get her, or I’d have told her last September that I was falling in love with her. How fast would she have fallen for that? How persuasive do you think I could have been?” His mouth lifted on one side. So charming. So beautiful. Damn him. She’d have melted on the spot, and don’t I know it.

My body was on fire. I hated him, standing there like he was better than me. Again. “You say you’ve never lied to get a girl? You lied to me. You said you loved me.”

He looked at me a long minute. Drank the contents of the bottle down, his eyes never leaving mine. “I did.”

Did what? Did lie to me? Did love me? Does it even matter now? I will never ask him.

“I hate you, Reid.”

He laughed—no amusement, just insolence. “I know.”

That was when the reality of what had just occurred hit me. What I’d done. What I’d lost. I’d made an all-out play for Graham, and it had failed. Crash-and-burn failed. But it was more than that. After years of friendship between us, I’d betrayed that relationship. Completely. Betrayed him. And now, he knew it.

“Oh my God.” My legs collapsed under me and I sank to the floor, my nails anchoring into the carpet. “Oh my God.” I’d lied to him. Tricked him. The full impact of what I’d just lost crushed me. Our friendship was over. I’d been so sure I was prepared to gamble it away on the prospect of getting more. Such an absurd, senseless risk. I started sobbing and couldn’t stop.

“Shit.” Reid heaved a sigh and came closer. Squatted down in front of me. “Give him some time. Maybe he’ll forgive and forget.”

I shook my head. “He’ll never speak to me again.”

Reid had no answer to this. I struggled to stand, ignoring the offer of his hand. “Brooke, I just couldn’t—”

“I get it. Please stop talking.”

I wanted to blame Reid, but I couldn’t. Graham had already figured something out when he left his room. The conclusion might have been different had Emma not been on her way to him at the same time. If they hadn’t met in the hallway. If Graham had been the one to slam his fist against Reid’s door instead of me. If Reid had taken her to his bed instead of obeying the one sliver of ethical principle in his body. But no, Graham would have forgiven her, no matter what, because the deceit was all me.

My friendship with Graham was over the moment he trusted Emma over every bit of circumstantial evidence I could throw in front of him. The moment he left his room. The moment he saw her tear-streaked face.

Reid’s lips flattened and he didn’t say another word. I was grateful for that. But he could afford to be generous, couldn’t he? He was no worse off than he was when we started, while I’d just lost the best friend I’ve ever had.


Jesus, what a night. I’m a bit hungover this morning. Or this afternoon. Whatever the hell it is now. Drinking myself into a stupor alone isn’t generally my thing, but the confrontation with Brooke called for a certain level of private oblivion.

The valet will deliver my car to the back exit. The paparazzi are aware of that alternative way out, of course, but it’s a tighter squeeze, with more vegetation providing cover, making the fine art of hounding people for photos more challenging. With my personal bodyguards and the hotel security standing watch, it’s an easier escape. I’m not in the mood to be hassled or adored—which often feel like the same thing.

The door to Brooke’s room is propped open, a housekeeping cart in the doorway. I’m not surprised she checked out early, maybe even right after she left my room. There was no reason for her to hang around. I thought she was prepared to deal with the consequences if her play for Graham didn’t work. After last night, I’m not sure she even considered the consequences.

A Do Not Disturb tag hangs on Emma’s door latch.

Pulling into the driveway, I scroll the window down and punch in the security code. Wait for the heavy wrought iron gate to open. Pull in and park the car that bores me. Walk into the house, so familiar that I could jog through it blindfolded without running into anything.

The hum of a vacuum comes from Mom’s room, along with the maid’s voice—singing along with her iPod. Her vocals are bookended by the drone of lawn service equipment out back. The rest of the place is quiet. I’m sure Dad’s at work, given that he practically lives there, and Mom must be out.

Just as I toss my bag on the bed, my cell starts playing Just the Way You Are. Fishing it from the deep front pocket of my jeans, I check the display needlessly; I knew it was Emma by the second note. She asked me a couple of weeks ago why I’d kept that song as her ringtone all these months. I just shrugged and said it fits her.

“Hey. What’s up?” I clear my throat, wondering at her calling me, in view of the tag on her door this morning.

“I stopped by your room to talk to you, but you’d already checked out.” Through the raspy evidence of last night’s tears, she sounds content. Happy.

“Do you need something from me, Emma?” My careful tone doesn’t match the terse words. I shove my opposite hand into my pocket to keep from punching a wall or throwing something.

“No… but I want to thank you. And tell you that I was wrong. There is more to you, Reid. You just never let me see it.” She sighs. “Not like you did last night.”

I shake my head. It figures that in giving her up, I earned her approval. “Emma, last night was just a confirmation of your effect on me.”

Tonight, I’ll go out and get wasted with John, and tomorrow night, Quinton. Sometime during the next week, I’ll ditch the Lotus, buy a new Porsche and squeeze a meeting with my PR guy and manager between hangovers and social obligations. And before filming starts this fall, Tadd and I will engage in an exhaustive tour of Chicago nightclubs.

“No. I don’t believe that. Evidently, there’s more to you than you know, too.”

I drop onto the end of my bed, rub my palm back and forth on my thigh, like I’m scrubbing away a stain. “Well. Don’t tell anyone. I’ve got a rep to maintain, you know.”

She laughs softly and I picture the roll of her eyes, her lingering smile. “This is where I jokingly say you’re hopeless. But you’re not.” Her voice catches, and my hand curls into a fist atop my leg.

“I hope you’ll be happy, Emma. That he’ll be good to you.” My voice is gruff with conflicting emotions, but I don’t care if she hears it.

“I am.” She sighs. “And he is.” Ah, there’s that trace of satisfaction in her voice again—a jagged bit of torture she’s unaware of inflicting.

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