Authors: Rachel Van Dyken
Tags: #seaside, #rock star, #contemporary romance, #new adult
No big deal. Water under the bridge and all that. I’m trying this new thing where I don’t talk about him
How’s that working out?
Good until now.
Ouch, sorry. Okay,
how about I pick a movie?
You got good taste?
Sweetheart, I’ve got the best taste, just wait.
Two hours later, and I was watching the credits roll on the black screen.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
. Who knew he’d choose such a good movie?
My alert went off.
Sweet dreams, Pris.
There went my stupid heart hammering out of my chest again. I replied with a smiley face and promised myself it wasn’t a big deal. He was just a guy, a nice guy, far away, who was bored.
Wow, what a day. I think it’s going to be the most boring weekend ever and I already have two run-ins. One with Smith and one with Jamie.
With a stupid grin on my face, I made my way up the stairs to my room, singing
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
the entire way there.
Yup. It was official. The minute I’d stepped into my rented beach house in Seaside — I’d lost it.
I’d lost my head.
And I freaking sat home alone on a Saturday night — talking to a girl who didn’t really know who I was, and, oh yeah, watched an old Audrey Hepburn movie.
The minute the credits rolled, I had an epiphany. Maybe I was having a nervous breakdown? Don’t roll your eyes! It happens! I knew a guy from Hollywood that ended up walking three miles in the snow with nothing on but a smile — all because he was convinced that nothing could hurt him. He’d played a superhero in his last film and apparently the whole “pretend” theory didn’t really ride well with him.
He got frostbite on his ass.
Another guy ended up getting so into his role of playing a chicken that he asked a hypnotist to make it so that he actually believed he was a chicken.
It kind of stuck. Now he works at FunLand.
What can I say? Money does crazy things to people.
My point? It happens. It happens more than the general public even knows! Hollywood is all about pressure. It’s about being the best, and even when people say you’ve finally made it? All it takes is another blockbuster or an unknown actor to tip the scales out of your favor and then suddenly you’re working at McDonald’s and asking if people want fries with their burgers.
I set my phone on the counter and tugged my shirt off as sweat poured down my body.
See? It was even hot as hell in Seaside! Or maybe it was just my house. I took a few more soothing breaths and looked down at my phone just as an alert went off.
Priscilla had sent me a picture. She had her PJ’s on and a stuffed brown horse in her hands as she waved. The caption said
My heart may have fluttered.
And my throat may have gone dry as my eyes stared at the picture — nearly burning a hole into it.
I had to have her.
And I didn’t even know why. I wanted to hate myself for wanting her. I knew the only reason was because she was innocent — off limits — and because she hated me.
I didn’t know how to go about it. How did one actually pursue a girl without having sex first? I mean, I knew in theory that’s how it worked, I’d just never actually done it before.
Did I want to date?
I grabbed a beer from the fridge that the agency had stocked for me and sat on the couch, putting my head in my hands as I thought it through — like really thought it through until my head throbbed.
I didn’t want to date her.
I kind of just wanted to… see her? Was that it? Hold her hand? Get her to forgive me? How creepy could I be? I could see myself now, getting caught watching her with a huge-assed grin on my face. Yeah, I’d probably end up in prison, and my face was way too expensive to get messed up by a cross-dresser named Frank.
I groaned. Hell, I had no idea what I wanted. Maybe it was just the fact that we’d left things so horribly. Okay fine, I’d left things horribly.
Tomorrow. I’d think about it tomorrow. I snatched my phone and scrolled through my e-mail and original instructions from Peter.
To my utter horror — there was an e-mail from Peter… the subject?
Your job while you “vacation” in paradise
He’d called it paradise to piss me off.
I clicked the e-mail and read through the instructions.
Then promptly threw my phone against the couch and punched the cushion with my fist over and over again.
It had to me a mistake.
It was a joke, right?
A joke. A joke. A joke. I tried to laugh.
No laugh came.
I was officially helping out with the Chamber of Commerce. My first stop? A church.
Here’s to hoping I don’t get struck by lightning the minute I step over the threshold.
I held up my beer into the air. “Cheers.”
I tossed in my bed for what felt like hours. Each position felt uncomfortable and awkward. Embarrassed that my thoughts were consumed with a certain Jamie Hudson and his silly baseball hat, I unplugged my phone — so I wouldn’t stalk my Facebook messages — and set it across the room.
Satisfied, I padded back to my bed and tucked the sheets up to my chin then fell into a dreamless sleep… until I heard sirens.
I jolted out of bed like someone had shocked me and ran to the window. They sounded really close. I opened the window and peered out as the fire truck made its way to my house followed by two police cars and an ambulance.
The train of loudness stopped directly in front of my house.
And then I smelled smoke.
Panicking, I ran back to my door and lightly tapped the knob like they show you in all those stupid movies you have to watch about fire prevention. It wasn’t hot. I opened the door and nearly fell over as a billow of black smoke invaded my room sending me to all fours.
I grabbed my phone since it was right next to me and crawled down the stairs toward the door. I still didn’t see any flames or feel any heat. Once I was safely in the hall, I ran to the door and burst outside. An explosion jarred me off balance sending me sailing across the grass.
“Ma’am? Are you hurt? Can you hear me?” A flashlight shone in my eyes. I moaned and flipped over onto my back. The light made it impossible to see the guy who had asked me if I was dying.
Firefighters charged by me as I tried to wrap my head around what was happening.
“Here.” The man turned off his flashlight and knelt next to me. “I’m a paramedic, and you’re safe, alright? Just take a few deep breaths. Can you do that for me?”
“Y-yes.” My voice was hoarse. I tried to inhale but all of a sudden it felt like my lungs were squeezing closed. Panicking, I gripped the paramedic’s arm and began coughing.
“That’s alright, just cough it out. Seems you got some smoke in there.”
I wanted to shout but I was having trouble breathing, let alone speaking.
His hand moved to my back as he rubbed and patted. “There you go, just keep coughing.”
Why did his voice sound familiar? And why was his touch so warm? Was it that cold outside?
Finally, my breathing evened. I turned to thank the paramedic, and again, was rendered speechless.
He smiled. “Better now?”
“Yes?” he said calmly, his mouth tilting upward into a steady smile.
“I donate my time.” He winked. “Now, do you think you can stand?”
“Umm…” I felt so weak — why did I feel weak?
“It’s okay.” He wrapped his arms around me and lifted me effortlessly to my feet, still holding me steady as I swayed a bit. “I’ll hold you until you want me to let go.”
I nodded and licked my lips. “I think I’m okay.”
“Are you sure?” His eyes were so clear, so… trustworthy. When he said it was okay I actually believed that he meant it.
I swallowed and answered, “Yes. I’m sure.”
He stepped back, his hands leaving an emptiness on my skin that made me shiver.
“Old house.” One of the firefighters pulled off his helmet and nodded at me. “You were home alone?” His eyebrows furrowed. “No friends, boyfriends, family, or pets?”
Okay, the way he said it made me sound like the biggest loser on the planet. I almost lied and said I had an ant farm then realized that if that was the best lie I could come up with; I was better off shaking my head and embracing the awkward silence.
“Really?” Smith smirked. “No one at all?”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. “Nope. Parents are gone for the next two weeks and my friends are all at college.”
His eyes softened briefly before he brushed his thumb across my face. “Sorry, you had a smudge.”
I swallowed nervously.
“So no boyfriend?” He took a step closer. “No one at all?”
“Smith!” another paramedic called. “Do we need the ambulance?”
“No,” he yelled back. “I think she’ll be just fine.”
I shivered and crossed my arms.
Smith wrapped an arm around me and led me away from the house.
“Any family nearby you can stay with?” he asked.
And I was officially done with questions. I was tired, a bit freaked out, and his questions just reminded me about how alone I really was in the world.
“I—um…” I licked my lips again. “I have a place to stay.”
“You do?” He sounded disappointed.
I stepped away from his warm arms and nodded. “Yeah, it’s on the other side of the Prom.” The rich side. I didn’t say that, but it was true. The Point, as I liked to call it, was a cliff that jutted out into the ocean. It was beautiful, and I knew just the place I could stay.
I clenched my phone in my hand as Smith’s eyes traveled slowly over my body. It was impossible to tell if he was genuinely concerned or checking me out.
“Alright,” he said in an emotionless voice. “So where am I taking you? No way am I letting you drive your own car this late at night after nearly being singed to death.”
“Um, let me make a phone call really quick. I don’t want to wake them up.” The lie fell easily from my lips as I scurried away and quickly dialed Alyssa’s phone number. My hands shook as I waited for Alyssa to answer.
She answered on the fourth ring. Thank God.
“You better be dying,” she grumbled.
“Almost,” I half laughed, half choked as the seriousness of the situation finally settled in.
“Oh, my gosh, are you okay? What’s going on? Demetri!” I heard slapping. “Demetri! Wake up!”
Yeah, Demetri was going to be pissed that I was actually alive — that dude slept more than anyone I’d ever met.
“I’m fine.” I wiped the fresh tears from my eyes. “But my parents are gone and there was a small fire—”
“A fire!” she roared.
“Like I said, I’m fine.”
“Do you need me to fly up there?”
She was the best cousin ever.
“No.” I smiled through my tears. “But I was wondering if I could stay at the new place Demetri bought? I can’t go back into my house and I really, really need a place to stay.”
“Of course!” she all but yelled. “You know you can always stay with my parents too. They’re your aunt and uncle.”
I was silent.
She sighed. “Fine, fine, I know you well enough to know you’d rather be alone than be coddled for the next twenty-four hours. Alright, the key’s under the pig.”
“The pig!” I heard Demetri shout in the background. “It’s under the pig!”
“A real pig?”
“No.” Alyssa sighed heavily. “An ugly-as-sin plaster pig that sits next to the mat. Demetri’s convinced nobody will think to look under it because it looks heavy and — according to him — looks cursed.”
“Awesome. A cursed pig. What a great night,” I grumbled.
“Be thankful the condo’s fully furnished,” she fired back.
“Counting stars.” I looked up and took a deep soothing breath. “Thanks Lyss.”
“Anytime. Stay safe. I’ll keep my phone off silent just in case you need anything alright?”
“You too.” I pressed end and walked slowly back to Smith, where he was leaning against the car, his arms folded in a way that basically made his biceps look like giant rocks.
“So?” He smiled. “All set?”
“Yeah.” I nodded. “They’re expecting me.”
His eyes narrowed but he said nothing. Instead he walked over to the paramedic truck and opened my door, helping me up into the seat. His hand hovered over the seatbelt, I could feel the heat blaring against my leg. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
His eyes pierced into mine. If I wasn’t so traumatized I might even have given out one of those girlish sighs. He was gorgeous. “Yeah, I’m good. Promise.”
He gave a curt nod and slammed the door shut.
The ride to the condo was deathly silent. I wasn’t sure if I’d done something to upset him or if he was just one of those drivers who liked silence when they drove.
“Right up there.” I pointed to the end of the street.
“Do you have the key code?” he asked, rolling down his window. I’d forgotten that the community was gated. Crap!
My text alert went off. Lyss was officially my favorite cousin.
“Yup, it’s 1234.”
He snorted and typed it in. “Rich people.”
His comment made me want to lash out. Demetri worked his butt off to have the career he had, both he and Alec were not your typical party-hard rock stars, at least not anymore. And I highly doubted a condo on the beach was going to be that extravagant.
The truck pulled up to the condo. They had the corner condo, which was right next door to a gigantic beach house that looked like it belonged on TV.