Lick (Stage Dive #1)(15)


by Kylie Scott

“No.” For David to be so nice to me it had to be something truly bad. I held out my hand, fingers twitching from impatience or nerves or a bit of both. “Show me.”

After a reluctant nod from David, Mal handed it over.

There could be no doubting what it was, even on the small screen. There was a lot of skin on account of my being bare from the waist down. My na**d butt sat front and centre in all its pale, dimpled glory. God, it looked huge. Had they used a wide lens camera or something? The party dress had been pushed up and I stood, bent over a table while a tattoo artist worked hard inking my rear. My panties had been cinched down, barely covering the basics. Shit. Talk about a compromising position. Taking part in a  p**n  shoot was definitely not part of the plan.

At the other end of the frame, our faces were close together and David was smiling. Huh. So that was what he looked like when he smiled.

I remembered it then, the buzz of the needle, and him talking to me, holding my hands. At first, that needle had stung. “You were pretending to bite my fingers. The tattoo artist got mad at us for messing around.”

David tipped his chin. “Yeah. You were s’posed to be keeping still.”

I nodded, trying to remember more but coming up empty.

People would see this picture. People had seen this. People I knew and strangers both. Anyone and everyone. My head spun woozily the same as it had then. Only alcohol wasn’t at fault this time.

“How did they get it?” I asked, my voice wavering and my heart at my toes. Or maybe that was just what remained of my tattered dignity.

David gave me sad eyes. “I don’t know. We were in a private room. This should never have happened but people get offered a lot of money for this sort of thing.”

I nodded and handed Mal back his phone. My hand shook. “Right. Well …”

They both just looked at me, faces tense, waiting for me to burst into tears or something. Not happening.

“It’s okay,” I said, doing my best to believe it.

“Sure,” said Mal.

David shoved his hands into his pockets. “It’s not even that clear a picture.”

“No, it’s not,” I agreed. The pity in his eyes was more than I could take. “Excuse me a minute.”

Fortunately, the closest bathroom was only a short dash away. I locked the door and sat on the edge of the Jacuzzi, trying to slow my breathing, trying to be calm. There was nothing I could do. The picture was already out there. This was no death and dismemberment. It was a stupid picture of me in a compromising position showing more skin than I liked, but so what. Big deal. Accept it and move on. Despite the fact that everyone I knew would likely see it. Worse things had happened in the history of the world. I just needed to put it in context and stay calm.

“Ev?” David tapped lightly on the door. “Are you okay?”

“Yep.” No. Not really.

“Let me in?”

I gave the door a pained look.

“Please.”

Slowly, I stood and flicked the lock. David wandered in and shut the door behind him. No ponytail today. His dark hair hung down, framing his face. He had three small silver earrings in one ear playing peek-a-boo behind his hair. I stared at them because meeting his eyes was out of the question. I was not going to cry. Not about this. What the hell was even wrong with my eyes lately? Letting him in had been dumb.

With a heavy frown he stared down at me. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Yeah, it is. I should have looked after you better.”

“No, David.” I swallowed hard. “We were both drunk. God, this is all so horrifically, embarrassingly stupid.”

He just stared at me.

“Sorry.”

“Hey, you’re allowed to be upset. That was a private moment. It shouldn’t be out there.”

“No,” I agreed. “I … actually, I’d like to be alone for a minute.”

He made a growly noise and suddenly his arms wrapped around me, pulling me in against him. He caught me off guard and I stumbled, my nose bumping into his chest. It hurt. But he smelled good. Clean, male, and good. Familiar. Some part of me remembered being this close to him and it was comforting. Something in my mind said ‘safe’. But I couldn’t remember how or why.

A hand moved restlessly over my back.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “So f**king sorry.”

The kindness was too much. Stupid tears flowed. “I’d hardly even shown anyone my ass and now it’s all over the internet.”

“I know, baby.”

He rested his head against the top of mine, holding on tight as I blubbered into his T-shirt. Having someone to hold onto helped. It would be okay. Deep down I knew it would be. But right then I couldn’t see my way clear. Standing there with his arms around me felt right.

I don’t know when we started swaying. David rocked me gently from side to side as if we were dancing to some slow song. The overwhelming temptation to stay like that with my face pressed into his shirt was what made me step back, pull myself together. His hands sat lightly on my hips, the connection not quite broken.

“Thanks,” I said.

“S’okay.” The front of his shirt had a damp patch, care of me.

“Your shirt’s all wet.”

He shrugged.

I ugly-cried. It was a gift of mine. The mirror confirmed it, demon-red eyes and flushed fluoro-pink cheeks. With an awkward smile I stepped away from him and his hands fell back to his sides. I splashed my face with water and dried it on a towel while he stood idly by, frowning.

“Let’s go for a drive,” he said.

“Really?” I gave him a dubious look. David and me alone? Given the marriage situation and our previous sober encounters it didn’t seem the wisest plan.

“Yeah.” He rubbed his hands together, getting all enthused. “Just you and me. We’ll get out of here for a while.”

“David, like you said out there, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“You want to stay in LA?” he scoffed.

“Look, you’ve been really sweet since you stepped through that door. Well, apart from telling Mal about me puking on you. That was unnecessary. But in the preceding twenty-four hours you dumped me alone in a room, went off with a groupie, accused me of trying to get it on with your brother and sicced your posse of lawyers onto me.”