Lick, p.10
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       Lick, p.10
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         Part #1 of Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott
Page 10

  Author: Kylie Scott

  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 fucking 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. ”

  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 a
sked. “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.

 
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