We shrugged and said, “Boys,” though it annoyed us both.

I text her right before takeoff.

Me: I have news

Em: You changed your mind and aren’t going to move THOUSANDS of miles away from me?

Me: Um. No. That’s still happening. I thought you were okay with it? :(

Em: Of course I’m not ok with you leaving Cali! I’m going to miss the shit out of you! What is this news of which you speak?

Me: We ran into Graham

Em: Get OUT. MILLIONS of people in nyc… and you run into the hunky, mysterious costar with whom you shared a steamy hotel room moment?

Me: You’re reading those trashy romance novels again, aren’t you

Em: I dunno what you’re talking about

Me: ANYWAY. So graham has a daughter.


Em: WHAT?!?!?!?

Me: And also, we’re sort of seeing each other now.

Em: WHAT?!?!?!?

Me: Gotta go. Getting the evil eye from flight attendant. Meet me at home at like 3.

Em: I’m just… WHAT?!?!?!?

Two minutes after we land and right after I power it up, my cell is ringing. I’m surprised to see Dan’s name in the display, but he did warn me he’d have School Pride promos set up and we’d discuss them when I returned from my “little college tour.” I didn’t know he meant we’d talk about them the very minute I got back. My energetic agent is probably on high alert, though I suppose he doesn’t really have any other setting.

“Hi, Dan.”

“Emma, glad you’re back. I have a tentative schedule of interviews, appearances, etcetera for you—Ellen, by the way—woot!—we can go over that in a moment, though, because first I really have to ask—are you absolutely certain about this whole college slash career-killing slash no-more-movies decision? Because I’m getting tons of calls about parts you’d be perfect for—”

“No, Dan. I’m sure.”

“Now hear me out just a moment—the call that came in this morning was actually an action flick and you’d need some personal training to get all badass of course, but hey if Linda Hamilton can do it for The Terminator sequel—oh, I guess that’s before your time, though—” he chuckles and I take that opportunity to try to stop him again.

“Dan, seriously, I’m sure that I’m not interested. But thank you. Really.”

He sighs in his long-suffering agent manner. “You’re killing me, Emma. Killing. Me.”

This is not an appropriate time to laugh. Not even if I can picture the exact sad-puppy expression on Dan’s face, which is made funnier by the fact that he’s known in industry circles for being more of a piranha and less of a Bassett hound. “I’m sorry, Dan.”

Dad, removing our luggage from the overhead bins, smiles and shakes his head. He knows Dan as well as I do.

“Yadda yadda,” Dan says, which is Dan-speak for you are saying words I don’t like.

The first interview is in a couple of days, and Graham was right—it’s just Reid and me. This doesn’t really bother me until Dan says, “You probably know there’s still widespread speculation about the nature of the relationship between you and Reid Alexander—”

“But we don’t really have any re—”

“Now, don’t feel as though you have to share anything with me—”

“Dan. There’s nothing to share. We’re barely speaking. I mean, I don’t even know if we are speaking…”

Dad mouths What? and I shrug one shoulder and roll my eyes as we stand in the clogged aisle with our carry-on luggage in hand.

“Let’s just keep that to ourselves, shall we? Here’s the deal. The studio wants you two to make nice. You can tell interviewers that there’s nothing going on between you, or leave it open by saying no comment, but you should look as though something could be going on. It’ll be good publicity for the film release if people already love you as a couple.”

My mouth hangs slightly ajar and I snap it closed as Dad gives me an arch look. I’m acutely aware of the people crammed into the aisle in front of and behind me, waiting to deplane, so I keep my voice low. “Are you—are you saying we should pretend to be together?” I ask, teeth clenched. Oh, hell no. That is not going to work.

“Of course not! Just don’t pretend not to be together.”

“That’s no different from pretending we are. Dan, we aren’t—”

“What I mean to say is, just don’t make that an obvious thing.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose, eyes closed. This is a nightmare. “As in, the studio wants us to pretend we’re together.”

“Well, okay, if you need to put it that way.” At my silence, he adds, “Just give enough of the illusion of the possibility that you could be in love or involved in some delicious little clandestine liaison.” It’s easy to visualize Dan leaning back in his huge leather chair behind his massive desk (which I’ve always suspected had been carved from illegally-obtained rainforest lumber). Headset in place, his elbows resting on the arms of the chair with fingers steepled, he’s swiveled to face the giant plate-glass window overlooking LA. Too many times, I’ve been on the opposite side of his desk, listening in on these short conversations with other actors. “Oh and BT-dubs, they just let me know that there’s a photo shoot for People in a week and a half. Whole cast. So clear time for that.”

My brain skids to a stop. Whole cast. Graham. “Where?”

“Here in LA. They’re flying everyone in.”

The upcoming sham relationship with Reid forgotten for the moment, I focus on the fact that I’ll see Graham next week. As soon as I hang up with Dan, I’m texting him to see if his agent has already given him the news.

Chapter 4


I haven’t talked to Graham in a week. Maybe two. His graduation is in three or four weeks. I wonder if I should offer to attend. If he’d want me to. We’ve been friends for four years, and I’ve only interacted with his family a couple of times, when I was in New York. His sisters were kind of snotty. One works on Wall Street, and the other is a classical musician of some sort—a violinist or something else with strings… She plays in the Philharmonic. Or is it the New York Symphony? Same difference.

I just got word from my manager that there’s going to be a photo shoot for People next week, here in LA. Graham has to come for that. He’s the best-looking guy in the cast, which people might not know if they only see the movie—his character is a flaming nerd. Nothing like the real Graham. Well, I take that back. Graham can be nerdy, but it’s endearing, in that he-still-seems-innocent sort of way. Until you get a load of those gorgeous brown eyes staring into yours and you forget what you were just thinking. Because those eyes are not innocent.

Shit. Shake it off, Brooke.

Me: Hey handsome. Heard about the photo shoot next week?

Graham: Yeah, just heard from emma, and then my agent called and told me.

Me: I didn’t know you were still in contact with emma.

Son. Of. A. Bitch. He’s talking to Emma? When the hell did that happen? I’d hoped he’d gotten that little thing he had for her out of his system months ago. He hasn’t mentioned a damned thing about her lately. Plus, there have been intermittent rumors about Emma and Reid hooking up ever since we quit filming, though I suspect that’s all crap—none of them included any new photos.

Graham: I ran into her yesterday

Me: Ran into her, like in nyc?

Graham: Yeah. I had cara with me.

Me: Oh shit. Did she suspect?

Graham: I told her. Well actually cara told her, by calling me daddy.

My brain feels like it’s on speed. He ran into Emma. In New York. When does that ever happen? Okay, time to reassess. Emma finding out about Cara could be a good thing—just another wall between them—her on one side, me on the other. With him. I understand Graham in a way no one else can. I’ve been patient, waiting for him to see what could be between us, and he’s been playing typical clueless guy. Time to step it up. I am not letting Emma back in there.

Me: Wow, how did that go?

Graham: Pretty well, actually.

I wait for more and of course there’s nothing, because in addition to the tall, dark and hot thing Graham’s got going on, he’s also infuriatingly close-mouthed. About everything. I’ve had dozens of conversations with him where I feel like we really communicated. Then later, I realize that nearly everything he contributed was a question or an observation on something I said. That he’d not actually revealed much, if anything.

Like I said—infuriating. And so frustrating. In that mouth-watering sort of way.

Me: I guess I’ll see you in less than two weeks, then <3

Graham: Cool, see you then.

Decisions, decisions. How to handle this little glitch…

Two things stood between Graham and Emma getting together during the months on location: Reid’s all-out pursuit of her, and my pretense that something was going on between Graham and me. Graham and Emma are similar in one glaring way—neither of them will stage a shit-fit throw-down territory dispute.

When Reid kissed Emma during that concert, it was like a freaking miracle. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Hell yes it is. It wasn’t like I set out to hurt Graham. I mean, Emma and Reid were kissing—that was a fact. I was just being protective, sending him that picture. So he’d know what was going on. I couldn’t have asked for a better response. He didn’t say another word about her. Before, he’d driven me up the wall with occasional tidbits of Emma-related nonsense.

Convincing Emma that Graham and I had a thing going was relatively easy. He and I have been friends for so long, and I was in such a state at having to work around Reid after not laying eyes on him in person for years. All I had to do was play up the I’m so fragile act a bit, and the whole freaking cast thought Graham and I were screwing each other.

I wish.

Graham made it obvious from the start of our relationship that we could be friends, but he wasn’t interested in anything more. I’ve never been sure why that was. At first, I think he just noticed the desperate way I felt about everything. Right after Reid broke up with me, I was raw. I was needy. I was pissed as hell. I would conclude that all that stuff scared Graham, but I don’t think that’s true or he wouldn’t have become my friend. It was like he saw my damage and knew instinctively to avoid getting tangled up in it.

But I’m better now. I know what I want. And what I want is Graham.


Brooke: Hey asshole, we need to chat

Me: Aww, how could i ignore such a sweet appeal? What do you want.

Brooke: I have a proposition. Come over.

Me: Not interested. But thanks for thinking of me.

Brooke: NOT that kind of proposition, you freak. This has to do with Emma.

Me: I’m both intrigued and suspicious.

Brooke: Trust me, what i have in mind will benefit us both.

Me: No way in hell i trust you. But i’m too curious for my own good.

“You’ve got five minutes to convince me to listen to anything further, so spill it.” When she opens the door, I walk in talking. Her apartment is stunning, second only to her. She’s wearing tiny white shorts and a violet halter tank, showcasing her warm skin and sleek blonde hair. My intent is to avoid staring at her directly as much as possible. She’s like Medusa—the most beautiful woman you’ve ever laid eyes on, and also the most personally dangerous.

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