Another person joined to the somber applause. Glancing, I saw my grandma had just arrived, and she looked at me with a big smile. Others started joining the clapping then, but crowd seemed to be exchanging looks with each as they clapped, whispering, the claps barely loud enough to cover for their gossiping, only loud enough to be polite.
I made a hasty retreat from the stage and decided it was best if I said nothing and disappeared into the crowd. I’d bet Emma was shocked, and not in a good way, that I went so off course and did what I just did. Dad was probably lurking somewhere close, too, waiting for the right moment to drag me aside and give me a severe talking to.
I didn’t need this shit. I needed to find Wayne.
Moving through the people, searching him almost desperately with my eyes, I found the guy who screwed me two years ago leaning against a pillar with one hand in the pocket of his black pants, and another holding a glass of Champagne. He was looking straight ahead, as though toward the piano stage, while before him Rosalyn stood, speaking with a fake smile and something akin to panic in her eyes. She didn’t have his attention and she was terrified she’d never have. Spoiled.
Waiting nearby, I saw when finally Wayne said something – the sound of the crowd around me drowned what it was they were both saying – that made Rosalyn’s face seem torn between hope and frustration. Then she nodded, gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and sauntered away, adding an extra swipe of her waist.
Once she was out of the way, I let my drunk ass lead me and found myself grabbing Wayne’s arm, drawing his attention at once, and dragging him away, into the house, away from the noise. Once I found a broom cupboard, I practically pushed him and me together inside and closed the door.
Flicking the light on, I turned fully to him and glared. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Wayne gave me a lazy look as he leaned against the wall of the cupboard and folded his arms. I had to give it to him, my memory hadn’t done justice to how truly good-looking this man was. His hair was darker than I remembered, practically black, and his gray eyes were on the verge of quicksilver, stormy and enigmatic. I did remember his height correctly – he was helluva lot taller than me – and his body... Well, I remembered he had an awesome body. But did he just get really, really ripped? I remembered him being bulky two years ago, but this kind of ripped looked new.
Realizing all of a sudden we were in a small space together, my stomach flip-flopped. Gulping, I mimicked his position, leaning against the other wall and folding my own arms. Then I arched an eyebrow and gave him my inquisitive glare, clashing my eyes with his so I wouldn’t end up checking his body out again. “Well?”
“You know,” Wayne spoke, his voice lower than I remembered, rich and velvety and smoky. With a voice like this he probably could sing, and sing well. “People don’t usually address me so boldly or drag me to dark, small places. I’m a Very Important People after all.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Explain.”
“Ah, and the orders,” he tsked, flashing me a half grin, “that won’t do, sweetheart. You need to polite when talking to an Oscar-winning director, and the youngest one at that.”
“Who cares about your stupid Oscar?” I spat out. “You can come first in the Sexiest Man Alive list for all I cared. Now answer my question.”
He stared at me for a few long moments. “I forgot how hardheaded you were,” he said, cocking his head as his eyes penetrated mine, or at least tried to. “You still manage to surprise me, Cleo... Or is it Blair Sheridan now?”
Without meaning to, I flinched. Why did I flinch, though? This was my name. Nothing deeper, nothing else. Just Blair Sheridan. But when Wayne said it... When he said, he made it sound like I was one of them. “Cleo is fine,” I said, finding myself gazing at the wall next to his head.
He chuckled. “I bet you still think of me as Wayne, too, no?”
“It’s better than the original, I hope,” I said, and I saw a sudden movement. My eyes snapped to him as he suddenly leaned closer, putting his hands on the wall, next to my head, caging me. His eyes probed deeply into mine. “What are you doing?” I asked him, grimacing. I didn’t get him here for another round!
“Getting comfy,” he smirked when I glared. “And to answer the question you haven’t asked yet, my true name is Holden Knight.”
“Ah,” I murmured, scowling, “that explains it. Rosalyn wanted to get my poor paws off you tonight, when I had no idea who you actually were. She’s a nasty piece of work. I don’t recommend even fucking her.”
He chuckled and leaned closer. “I’m not interested in spoiled, innocent supermodels,” he murmured, and I arched an eyebrow. Innocent? What part of Rosalyn was innocent, exactly? “I have a bad, bad taste to the strange, wicked, lovely pianist who’s right in front of me. Again.”
I stilled. “We’re not having sex again, Wayne.”
He grinned. “Why? We’re already in such a compromising position,” He pressed his front to mine to make his point, his thigh spreading mine, giving him space to lean against me in all ways possible. My breath hitched when my chest squashed against his, the nipples growing taut of the sudden tension in the air. “See?” he whispered right before my lips. “We still got the sexual tension going strong. Why not screw each other again?”
Giving him a filthy look, I put my hands on his strong chest. “I’m not the same girl you remember from two years ago, Wayne. You can’t talk me into doing something you want.”
“I’m not the same guy, either,” he said, and an unreadable something flashed in his eyes, turning them bright silver. He sighed then, and to my surprise and relief he stepped back. “Do you have anything else to ask me, since you dragged me oh so nicely here?” he asked, giving me an impatient look. It appeared wooing-time was over.
Feeling much more comfortable this way, I gave him my sternest look. “You’re a friend of Ford, right?” I remembered hearing his true name once from Ford. Since I usually didn’t pay attention to my family – or would-be family – it was weird that I remembered.
Wayne said nothing of the latter however. “Yeah,” he said, folding his arms again. “I directed a movie he starred in. We hit it off. We’ve been friends ever since.”
I nodded. “And he’s asked you to be his best man?”
He arched an eyebrow. “He asked me. I haven’t given him an answer yet. Where are you going with this line of questioning, Cleo?”
My stomach rumbled nicely at the sound of my fake name coming out of his mouth. “My family is full of snakes, even Emma, who looks like she can’t harm a fly. Don’t trust anyone, especially Rosalyn and Roman. They’re the worst. And my father might try to get you to get hitched with Rosalyn. Do everything you can to ignore him. He’s the worst of them all.”
“No love-lost with you and your family,” he commented, his look no longer irritated on the verge of annoyed.
“I’m saying it as it is,” I said, giving him a piercing look of my own. “While I think you’re a charming, flirtatious bastard and the last thing I want right now is to have sex with you, I still remember the good deed you did two years ago, when you sat and listened when I was at my lowest point in life.” I took a deep breath. “All I’m trying to do is repay the favor. Be careful and done let any member of my family get involved with you and try to manipulate to their own, pathetic, selfish whims.”
He walked toward me again and stopped an inch short from touching me, towering over me with his mighty height. “And what about you, Cleo?” he asked, and his hand rose, the tips of his fingers touching my cheek. I stilled, unable to breathe. “Should I stay away from you as well?”
I wanted to lean into his touch but that would be ridiculous so I didn’t. “I think it might be for the best,” I said, my voice coming out soft. That was weird. I was never soft.
He launched another smirk at me before dropping his hand from my face and saying, “I’ll take you advice under revision.” Stepping back, he was about to turn to open the door when he stilled, apparently remembering something, and looking back at me. “By the way,” he said casually, “you play the piano brilliantly.”
I blinked at him, surprised. “I played like shit tonight.”
“No,” he flashed me a wicked grin, “you played like the devil.” And with that enigmatic statement, Wayne was out of the cupboard, leaving me there by myself. My knees suddenly buckled, and I found myself sliding to the floor, feeling weak everywhere.
What did playing like the devil even meant?
* * *
I sneaked out of Ford’s mansion of a house and found my car. I knew I shouldn’t be driving back home, so I drove the car to some stuffy parking lot not too far from Ford’s place, and slept in the car until the alcohol got out of my system.
When I awoke, dawn colored the city prettily. I drove back home, feeling like I was about to puke any moment, and once I was in apartment, I took a shower, puked a couple of times, changed into my jammies, and fell with my front on the bed. But this time, sleep evaded me, and I found myself tossing and turning from side to side.
Wayne was in my mind. Just where he probably wanted to be. Who knew he was Rosalyn’s Holden Knight? So weird. And he also lied to me. What guy could possibly not be interested in a supermodel? Even if he was an Academy Award winner or whatever and women flocked him all the time, Rosalyn was not someone guys turned down, ever.
While I was pretty enough for myself – I didn’t need to be as pretty as either of my sisters – I was obviously not in Rosalyn and Emma’s league. I didn’t want to be in their league in the first place anyway. But Wayne telling me he preferred having sex me over any of them... Yeah, something wasn’t adding up here.
Unfortunately, if what Wayne said was true, I would be seeing a lot more of him in the upcoming three months until Emma’s wedding. He was the best man, after all, even if he didn’t agree yet. I might not be one of the bridesmaids – that role was reserved for Emma’s model girlfriends and Rosalyn, and also I turned it down when Emma begged for me to act like our family wasn’t fucked up when it actually was – but I had still been coerced into helping out. Because life.
So this wouldn’t be that last I saw of him. And I knew that while my body liked the idea of tangling with him again, my mind preferred not to. Sure, it had been fun at the time, and yes, I did have an occasional fling here and there ever since, but having sex with him again, and maybe even on a regular basis... Yeah, not happening.
eIn the books, the women always end up falling in love with the man, and in some twisted, poorly written way, the man apparently return that love. In real life, women just stupidly fall in love with their sex buddies while all they wanted was, well, sex. In my reality, I was the one incapable of love.
I’d realized it when Shelby Atterberry stormed into my birthday party two years ago and told me Darren, my one and only ex, was hers. I hadn’t been in love with him, that much I knew, but I should’ve felt something other than general humiliation and physical pain. I should’ve felt something deeper. But when I looked at Darren, I hadn’t seen him in another light. He was the same guy I’d dated for four years. Same everything. He had another woman he actually loved, yet he’d been with me, and I wasn’t even angry. Just humiliated that all of it happened in such a public event, because I still had some smudges of ego to maintain.
Then I had sex with Wayne, which had been lovely, and the day after happened what happened. I began to think I might be truly a psychopath, without feelings, unable to ever feel love. I didn’t feel its lack right now in my life, obviously, but there was still some feminine part of me that wanted to at least know how it felt like.
So if Wayne and I had sex, I knew what would actually happen. I wouldn’t love him, because I was not this kind of woman, and he would not love me back, because he was a typical man in his late twenties. This was one relationship not written in the cards for either of us, and it was for the best.
A shame my body didn’t think that way.