Lick (Stage Dive #1)(16)


by Kylie Scott

He said nothing.

“Not that you going off with a groupie is any of my business. Of course.”

He turned on his heel and paced to the other end of the bathroom, his movements tight, angry. Despite it being five times the size of the one back home, it still didn’t leave enough room for a showdown like this. And he was between me and the door. Because suddenly exiting seemed a smart move.

“I just asked them to sort out the paperwork,” he said.

“And they sure did.” I put my hands on my hips, standing my ground. “I don’t want any of your money.”

“I heard.” His face was carefully blank. My statement prompted in him none of the disbelief or mockery it had in the suited bullies. Lucky for him. I doubt he believed me, but at least he was willing to pretend. “They’re drawing up new papers.”

“Good.” I stared him down. “You don’t have to pay me off. Don’t make assumptions like that. If you want to know something, ask. And I was never going to sell the story to the press. I wouldn’t do that.”

“Okay.” He slumped against the wall, leaning his head back to stare up at nothing. “Sorry,” he told the ceiling. I’m sure the plasterwork appreciated it immensely.

When I made no response, his gaze eventually found me. It had to be wrong, or at the very least immoral, to be so pretty. Normal people didn’t stand a chance. My heart took a dive every time I looked at him. No, a dive didn’t cover it. It plummeted.

Where was Lauren to tell me I was being melodramatic when I needed her most?

“I’m sorry, Ev,” he repeated. “I know the last twenty-four hours have been shit. Offering to get out of here for a while was my way of trying to make things better.”

“Thank you,” I said. “And also for coming in here to check on me.”

“No problem.” He stared at me, eyes unguarded for once. And the honesty in his gaze changed things for me, the brief flash of something more. Sadness or loneliness, I don’t know. A kind of weariness that was there and gone before I could understand. But it left its mark. There was a lot more to this man than a pretty face and a big name. I needed to remember that and not make my own assumptions.

“You really want to go?” I asked. “Really?”

His eyes were bright with amusement. “Why not?”

I gave him a cautious smile.

“We can talk over whatever we need to, just you and me. I need to make a couple of calls then we’ll head off, okay?”

“Thank you. I’d like that.”

With a parting nod he opened the door and strode back out. He and Mal talked quietly about something in the lounge room. I took the opportunity to wash my face once more and finger-brush my hair for luck. The time had come to take control. Actually, it was well overdue. What was I doing, bouncing from one disaster to the next? That wasn’t me. I liked being in control, having a plan. Time to stop worrying about what I couldn’t change and take decisive action on what I could. I had money saved up. One of these days my poor old car would die and I’d been planning accordingly. Because once winter hit, and things turned cold, gray, and wet, walking wouldn’t always appeal. The thought of using my savings didn’t fill me with glee, but emergency measures and all that.

David’s lawyers would draw up papers minus the money and I would sign them. No point worrying about that side of things. However, getting out of the public eye for a couple of weeks was well within my capabilities. I just needed to stop and think for a change instead of reacting. I was a big girl and I could take care of myself. The time had come to prove it. I’d go for the drive with him, sort out the basics, and get gone, first on a hide-away holiday, and then back to my very ordinary, well ordered life devoid of any rock-star interventions.

Yes.

“Give me the keys to the Jeep,” said David, squaring off against Mal in the lounge.

Mal winced. “I was joking about giving away cars.”

“Come on. Quit bitching. I rode over on the bike and I don’t have a helmet for her.”

“Fine.” With a sour face Mal dropped his car keys into David’s outstretched hand. “But only cause I like your wife. Not a scratch, you hear me?”

“Yeah, yeah.” David turned and saw me. A hint of a smile curled his lips.

Except for that first day on the bathroom floor, I’d never seen him smile, never even seen him come close. This bare trace of one made me light up inside. My knees wobbled. That couldn’t be normal. I shouldn’t be feeling all warm and happy just because he was. I couldn’t afford to have any feelings for him at all. Not if I wanted to get out of this in one piece.

“Thanks for putting up with me today, Mal,” I said.

“The pleasure was all mine,” he drawled. “Sure you wanna go with him, child bride? Fucktard here made you cry. I make you laugh.”

David’s smile disappeared and he strode to my side. His hand sat lightly against the base of my spine, warm even through the layer of clothing. “We’re out of here.”

Mal grinned and winked at me.

“Where are we going?” I asked David.

“Does it matter? Let’s just drive.”

CHAPTER SEVEN

My neck had seized up. Pain shot through me as I slowly straightened and blinked the sleep from my eyes. I rubbed at the offending muscles, trying to get them to unlock. “Ow.”

David took one hand off the steering wheel and reached out, rubbing the back of my neck with strong fingers. “You okay?”

“Yeah. I must have slept funny.” I shuffled up in the seat, taking in our surroundings, trying not to enjoy the neck rub too much. Because of course he was crazy good with his hands. Mr Magic Fingers cajoled my muscles back into some semblance of order with seemingly little effort. I couldn’t be expected to resist. Impossible. So instead I moaned loudly and let him have his way with me.

Being barely awake was my only excuse.

The sun was only just rising. Tall, shadowy trees rushed by outside. Trying to get out of LA, we’d gotten caught in a traffic jam the likes of which this Portland girl had never seen. For all my good intentions we hadn’t really talked. We’d stopped and gotten food and gas. The rest of the time, Johnny Cash had played on the stereo and I’d practiced speeches in my head. None of the words made it out of my mouth. For some reason, I was reluctant to call a halt to our adventure and go off on my own. It had nothing to do with pulling up my big girl panties and everything to do with how comfortable I’d begun to feel with him. The silence wasn’t awkward. It was peaceful. Refreshing even, given the last day’s worth of drama. Being with him on the open road … there was something freeing about it. At around two in the morning, I’d fallen asleep.