Brush With Fame

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Chapter 3

My heart is pounding. Ryan just kissed me on my cheek.

OH…MY…GOD! I just had lunch with Ryan Paxton and I am going to have dinner with him tonight, too! I want to get up and do a happy dance and scream, but I’m still in the restaurant. No one is going to believe me.

Ryan is so nice. I can’t believe how sweet he is. I think I’ve had a misconception of famous people being a bit snooty. But Ryan is proving me wrong. He didn’t have to waste his time having lunch with me. I’m sure he had much better things to do. Oh God, and he is unbelievably gorgeous.

Grabbing my phone, I listen to Taylor’s message teasingly scolding me about hanging up on her, wants to know everything that’s happening and reminding me to get a pic for Ally.

Then I try calling both Taylor and Sarah, but neither answer. Damn them. Don’t they know I need to talk to them right now? I cannot leave them a message about this. They’re missing out. I’ll just have to talk to them later.

This is turning out to be my best vacation ever. Definitely one I will never forget.

Deciding that if I’m going out to dinner with super-star Ryan Paxton, I need a new outfit for later. An outfit worthy to be out on a date with Ryan. I ask for the check so I can pay and leave. The waitress tells me that Ryan already paid for our lunch on his way out. Then she asks if I’m an actress, too. I think she’s a bit disappointed when I tell her no.

I walk over to a mall at another casino to look for something. Since I didn’t finish my lunch as Ryan suggested, I get some gelato and walk around while I eat it. While strolling, I get this creepy feeling like I’m being watched. When I turn to discretely look around, no one in particular stands out, so I continue on. I stop in front of a designer store to look at the gorgeous items on display. In the reflection, I see a guy about ten feet behind me, watching me. He’s probably in his late 20’s. Seems a little twitchy. He is intently starting at me like maybe he knows me and is trying to figure out how he knows me. I am completely freaked out, get goose bumps and my heart beat drums in my check but try my best to keep calm. What should I do? I slowly keep walking down the hallway, trying to keep an eye on the guy in the reflection of the windows I pass. He continues to follow me. Shit! What does he want? I throw away the rest of my gelato then dash into a store. Thank God the guy doesn’t follow me in.

Maybe he is just another tourist who happens to be going in the same direction as me. It seems kind of unlikely, but what else can it be? Or maybe I do look like someone he knows and was trying to figure out if I am that person.

I try to push the guy out of my mind while I look through the clothes. With the help of the sales clerks, I find a couple outfits that will most definitely work to go have dinner with a celebrity. Plus, they make me feel super sexy.

After I try on and buy the outfits, I step back out into the hallway and look to see what store I want to go to next. There, across the hall, is the guy that had been following me earlier. He’s looking at a display window, but I am pretty sure he’s able to see me in the reflection. Ok, this is super creepy and I am getting really scared now. I turn and quickly walk the opposite direction, towards the casino. What is the best thing to do when one wants to get away? Get lost in a crowd.

I stop down the hall a little way and casually look to find that the guy is definitely still following me. Ok, this is disturbing.

I head into the casino. If he is following me I hope to lose him in there. I do not turn around to see if he is still following me, at least not until I zigzag around the casino for a while. I find a seat out of the way and start looking around. I do not see him anywhere so I figure I have temporarily lost him. I sit and wait for my nerves to calm down, for me to stop shaking, and for my breath to back away from hyperventilation. By the time I feel sure I lost him, it’s time to head back to the Bellagio to get ready for my evening with Ryan.

More than a little paranoid, I keep looking around on the way back to my hotel expecting to see that guy following me again. Man, these casinos are too big. You can’t get anywhere fast. But in my case, it is a blessing. I let out a big sigh of relief when I finally get back to the Bellagio’s elevators and I still have not seen him.

Back in my room, I can tell Craig has been here at some point with clothes thrown all over. There still is no message from him. What a jackass. I have not heard from him since last night. I wonder what he thinks I would do when he didn’t come back to the room. He probably doesn’t care, and neither should I. He got me out here like he wanted – for whatever reason that is - and now he’s doing his own thing. But why was he so adamant that I had to be out here? It still doesn’t make sense.

Well, I don’t have time to think about Craig and what he is or isn’t doing. I am doing my own thing. And now I need to get ready for dinner with Ryan Paxton.

It takes me twice as long to get ready because I am so nervous. My hands are shaky and clammy. It is weird how much I like Ryan already. I am a little afraid that I like him because he is this big celebrity. He is so down to earth and nice and personable and really listened to me earlier today. I’m comfortable with him and feel this strange, amazing connection with him. But how can that be when I barely know him? I’ll just have to think about it later. I can’t think about it seriously right now, plus I need more experiences with Ryan to really figure things out.

I have a little time before I need to leave, so I try to call both Taylor and Sarah again; neither answer. Oh boy, are they going to be disappointed that they didn’t answer. I leave messages for each of them without telling them anything.

Finally, I can’t postpone it anymore. It is time to leave and meet up with Ryan. I let out a shaky breath. My heart is thumping so fast, like I’ve been running. My hands are still clammy and shaking. Uncertainty sets in.

Oh, God. What if Ryan is just playing around with me? Maybe he won’t show up at all. I don’t think he is the type that would do that, but I am still worried. Please let him show up, I beg silently as I ride the elevator down. I feel sick to my stomach once I reach the hotel lobby.

As I walk towards the gardens, Ryan is already there. I release the breath that I had not realized I’d been holding. Thank God I went out and bought something new this afternoon. He looks…well, magnificent. He has not seen me yet so I take the opportunity to really look at him. He is fidgeting with the buttons on his jacket, then puts his hands in his pockets, then takes them back out and pulls at the sleeves of his shirt. He has a little crease on his forehead right between his eyebrows. It looks like he is nervous, too. No, surely not. I feel slightly relieved. Maybe, just maybe, he does feel the connection between us. I better not get my hopes up.

I also notice a bigger, muscly, I-take-no-shit-from-anyone man in a suit that stands about three feet away from him. He keeps glancing around the conservatory. Does Ryan know him? He’s got to be with Ryan.

That is when Ryan looks up and catches me staring at him. His creased brows disappear and then he gives me his gorgeous smile. I smile back, wave and walk forward to him. I notice the man also looks at me then follows Ryan when he steps forward. Ryan discreetly holds out his hand as if to tell him to stop. So, he is with Ryan. The guy does stop but continues to watch everyone around us.

“Hi” he says as we reach each other, he grabs both of my hands and gives me a kiss on my cheek. “Wow, Olivia. You look beautiful. Definitely not plain, as you claim to be. I am glad you came.”

“Thank you, Ryan,” I say shyly. “You look wonderful, too.”

Ryan lets go of my hands and puts his right hand on my lower back – oh! – and with a nod to the other guy in the suit, leads me to the restaurant. As we walk, he explains that the guy following us is Jeremy, his security.

“Jeremy Anixter is usually with me.”

Hmm. I had not really had to think about what Ryan deals with so it really surprises me that he would need security. But he wasn’t with Ryan earlier. Was he?

“He wasn’t around earlier, was he?” I ask.

“No. Every now and then I like to try to go out without him. Usually I’m disguised a bit and can run.” He grins at me.

I look around a little bit and wonder if we’ll run into any issues tonight.

Ryan sees me worrying about this information.

“Don’t worry about it. Nothing should happen. It’s all part of the fame,” he says. “I’ll keep you safe.”

“I wasn’t worrying about me. What have you had to put up with in order for you to have security to keep you safe?”

“Let’s not take about that now. It’s just all part of the life. Jeremy will keep us both safe.”

We arrive at the restaurant and are promptly led to our table. As we pass by other tables I can hear murmurs from other patrons recognizing Ryan. Because of who he is, Ryan was able to reserve the best table overlooking the fountains and the Strip in a private room with no issues. Jeremy stays just on the other side of the door to guard it.

“So, there are definitely perks of be a celebrity,” he says after the host leaves us.

“Yes, but you do put up with a lot of other things. Did you see everyone watch us as we were lead in here to the table? I think some of the people wanted to come talk to you but didn’t because we’re at this upscale restaurant and I’m pretty sure Jeremy scared the rest of them off.”

Ryan laughs. “You learn to ignore a lot and dodge a crowd – or let Jeremy scare them off. You can’t let adoring fans or paparazzi ruin your life,” he replies. “So what did you do with the rest of your afternoon?”

“I finished lunch, thanks for paying for it, by-the-way, and went shopping until I came back here to get ready.” I hesitate and wonder if I should bring my weird experience that afternoon. I decide to tell him. “I did have something strange happen to me while I was out this afternoon. I had an eerie feeling that I was being followed. There was this one guy I kept seeing everywhere. At one point, I stopped to look at a store window and in the reflection, I could see that he was watching me. At first, I assumed that he just happened to be going in the same direction as me. But it became obvious that he kept following me. Finally, I lost him in the casino.”

“Shit,” he mutters under his breath. “I should have warned you. If someone saw us together at lunch today, it might have been paparazzi trying to find out some info about you.”

“Oh. Paparazzi. I didn’t think about that. I am so not used to celebrity life. I thought some pervert was following me around. But I didn’t see anyone when we were at lunch.”

“Yes. Neither did I. They can be super sneaky. I thought I was careful, but… I’m sorry Olivia.”

“Please, don’t worry about it.”

I brush it off. I don’t want some stupid reporter ruining my dinner with Ryan Paxton. “I’ll deal with it as it comes. Besides, he didn’t have a camera – that I saw – and he didn’t come up to me. Maybe he was tourist out shopping and I just happened to keep running into him. Besides, people won’t be interested in me.”

Ryan frowns at me.

“They won’t,” I insist. How is it that I feel comfortable with this guy enough to stand up and argue with him? “How was your interview?”

He sighs, but lets the disagreement go. I’m sure I haven’t heard the end of that.

“The interview went well. Quite a few fans of Surrender were there. I couldn’t dodge the crowd this time,” he winces.

“But you were probably nice to all of them and signed autographs and took pictures with those fans, didn’t you?” I grin. “You really are a nice guy.”

He quietly snorts a laugh and rolls his eyes.

“You being here with me tonight proves you’re a nice guy,” I insist.

“How so? Because being here with you - I see it as being extremely selfish.”

“Selfish? No. I’m no one, an adoring fan. You don’t even know who I am.” I pause for a minute. “What are you doing here with me, Ryan? Cause I’m not sure. Are you bored? I keep expecting to wake up from this wonderful dream and be so tremendously disappointed.”

He grabs my hand and stares into my eyes for a few seconds, like he’s looking into my soul. I have trouble catching my breath.

“Olivia, this is not a dream. I am being very selfish.” He pauses. “I wasn’t going to get into this serious conversation yet. Yes, I’m being very selfish. I know you’re married and I should leave you alone after finding that out.”

My heart sinks and I can’t look at him anymore. Instead I stare down at the table. Shit. Here we go. Now he’s going to tell me that I won’t see him anymore.

“But I can’t,” Ryan whispers.

What? My eyes fly up to his that are still watching me.

“Do you feel it too, Olivia? There is something about you that draws me to you. Since you ran into me last night, I’ve been hooked. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you and hoped I would be able to run into you again. Honestly, that’s why I was up so early this morning, hoping I could catch you before you left the hotel for the day. I have never felt this way about anyone else. It’s such a strong, overpowering connection. And… I am not going to let you get away from me,” he says matter-of-factly.

He grins really big when he says that last part.

I blink and struggle to process everything Ryan has just said. He does feel the connection! He cannot stop thinking about me. No, those are my feelings, not his. And what is this about not letting me get away from him?

“You…you’re… um, you’re not letting me get away from you?” I say in disbelief.

He sighs and looks at me cautiously. “Yes, that’s right. Olivia, look. I don’t want to scare you. I know none of this make sense. But if nothing else, I’d like us to at least be friends. We have an amazing connection. I don’t want to miss out on what we could have.”

“Wow,” I whisper. I can’t think. I just hear myself repeat what Ryan said. He feels that connection that I feel. He wants to at least be friends. Does that mean he also is open to more? He doesn’t want to ignore what we have. AH! I have no words for what I feel.

“Let’s put that aside right now and enjoy dinner. We’re just two people who want to get to know each other,” Ryan says.

“How the hell can I put to the side, Ryan?” I ask. “You put it out there.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything yet. Don’t worry about it now. We have time. Concentrate on tonight and each other.”

I try but I can’t put it aside like he asked. I am flipping out on the inside. Doing cartwheels. Jumping up and down that he feels the same way I do. What does this mean for me? Will Ryan continue to be in my life?

The waiter comes in then and I don’t have a chance to say more. Our dinner arrives; it looks delicious. Ryan starts asking me about what I’m going to do while out in Vegas. Fortunately, we have no trouble finding things to talk about. We talk about our families. I tell him about my girlfriends – describing each one in detail. We ask each other tons of questions, likes and dislikes. Dessert and brandy – for Ryan - arrive. Ryan gazes at me. It looks like something is on his mind, but the look that’s on his face makes me feel that he’s apprehensive to say something.

“Olivia, I have a request,” he finally says hesitantly. “I know you don’t want to talk about it. I’ve avoided this question until now, but it’s driving me crazy. I need to know. Will you please tell me about your marriage?”

I grimace and look down at the table. I don’t want to talk about Craig. Talking about Craig is going to ruin the evening. Ryan’s going to think I am insane for staying with Craig so long. He senses my unwillingness.

“Please Olivia?” he begs. “It will help me understand your situation better. Plus, I can give you a guy’s point of view.”

I debate. Will he hate me when he hears my story and leave? I don’t want him to leave yet. But maybe he will understand and I won’t have to remember to not say certain things in front of Ryan. Finally, I give in. I can’t look at him, so I stare at my hands that are fidgeting with my fork and the dessert I can’t finish.

“Ironically, tomorrow will be our 2-year anniversary. And no, we’re not out here for our anniversary.”

Ryan mumbles, “Thank God.”

I quietly snort. “Trust me, Craig would not have thought about a trip for our anniversary. I’m actually shocked that we are out here now. Anyway, Craig was great when we first met, all the way through… oh, I guess the first six months of our marriage. We’d do lots of things together. He would pay attention to me. Seems liked he wanted to be with me. Slowly he started to change. Craig would go out with friends and crash at one of his buddie’s houses. At first, I didn’t have a problem with it. Since he had started acting different, I figured it would be good for him to get out with his friends and let off steam. Plus, I thought he was being safe – you know, not drinking and driving. But he took complete advantage of me not saying anything. There started to be many nights of him crashing at his buddie’s places. I should have said something, but he seemed better…happier. And as stupid as it sounds, I was afraid if I said anything he would go back to being how he was before.”

If I’m going to continue, I need a drink. I push my dessert plate out of the way and grab my wine glass. I finish off my wine and set the glass down. Ryan refills it then grabs my free hand and methodically rubs his thumb over the back of it.

“Thanks. Then came the little remarks that slowly ate away at my self-esteem. My hair looks messy, out of style or my outfits need to be more stylish. He flirted with tons of girls right in front of me.”

I look at Ryan and give him a small smile.

“That’s what he was doing last night. With me right there, he was asking what time the sales girl got off work and what she was doing later. Right in front of me! I got so pissed off at his flirting I had to get away from him and went storming out into the hall and right into you.”

“I don’t blame you for being pissed. But I am sure grateful you ran into me,” Ryan says, bringing my hand up to his lips and kisses it.

Oh, crap! I smile and laugh.

“I celebrated my 30th birthday in December…,” I start.

“What day?” Ryan interrupts.

“The 1st.”

Ryan nods. “Thank you. Continue, please.”

“Before I get into the birthday evening, let me tell you about that morning. Craig hadn’t come home the night before. I was irate by the time he finally arrived home. We argued. He cornered me in the kitchen so I had to talk to him. Well, he got too close to me and I could smell women’s perfume on him. We fought about that and I stormed out before something bad really happened. I’ve never been a violent person, but that morning, I could have done some serious damage to him.”

Ryan shakes his head in disbelief.

“So that night, my friends planned a little gathering for me, dinner and clubbing. Anyway, at dinner, Craig surprised me with a present. This was an enormous surprise because Craig had never gotten me a present without me hinting to him what I want. If I didn’t hint at wanting anything, I wouldn’t get anything. I hadn’t said anything to him about a birthday present. By that point, I figured what was the point. Anyway, I open the box and there are plane tickets to Vegas. He said he had the whole trip planned. After the shock of this present wore off, I decided that he was trying to revive our marriage. I was very impressed with him. And I began to hope.”

I have to stop and breathe a little. It really hurts telling Ryan everything. Bring everything up. Going thru it all again.

“Then we went to the club. I watched Craig while we were there. I could tell he was waiting for someone. I finally gave up waiting to see who he was watching for but my friend Sarah saw a girl come in and Craig went right up to her. Then they promptly disappeared for a while. But I didn’t see anything so I couldn’t confront him about that.

“However, the next day I gave him an ultimatum. I told him he needed to start acting like my husband, no more staying out all night otherwise we’re done. He actually started acting better. So, I hoped even more.”

I stopped to control my emotions. Ryan stayed quiet and methodically rubbed my knuckles.

“Last Saturday, I went out with my girlfriends before I came out here. Taylor told me that on the night we went out for my birthday, she caught Craig kissing that other girl he had been waiting for at the club. He begged Taylor not to say anything to me because he wanted me to go on this trip. Why? We still have not figured that out. Taylor also told me that last week while she was out on a date, she saw Craig and that same girl at a restaurant. They were ignorant to everything but themselves. Taylor and I talked and we decided that I should still come out here to Vegas with Craig to try to figure out why it was so important to Craig that I be here.

“All of that, plus Craig not coming back to the room last night, not even leaving me a message have pushed me too far. I’ve never been more sure that I’m done with him. So, I have that to look forward to when I head home.”

After I explain everything, I close my eyes and take a shaky breath. I pull my hand away from Ryan’s, put my head in both of my hands and rub my temples. I feel this awful pressure in my head and chest whenever I talk about my marriage. I will not cry. Craig is not worth it. Plus, I should prepare for Ryan to bolt, because who wants to deal with me and all my baggage?

I feel Ryan’s hand on my shoulder.

“Has he cheated on you before?” Ryan asks. He had been quiet while I told him the whole story.

I snort and move my hands back down to the table.

“Probably. There were times I thought so, you know that sixth sense, but I never had proof. I was so convinced he was cheating a few months ago that I had myself checked out for any diseases. Luckily I was clean. And we haven’t been intimate since.”

I am trying so hard to not cry but it is a losing battle. A tear trickles down my cheek. Ryan catches it and whisks it away.

“He’s the biggest flirt,” I continue. “Do you know what that did – what it still does to my self-esteem? It’s pretty much non-existent.”

“Well, I’ll just have to help you gain back your self-confidence. No kids?”

“No, thank God. Actually, the thought of having kids with him never crossed my mind. Maybe that should have told me something?”

I take another long drink of wine, trying to numb the hurt. Ryan is watching me. He scoots his chair closer to me and lays his hand on mine.

“I’m sorry you had to – still have to – deal with such a jerk. Do you want my opinion?”

He waits for me to nod.

“Craig is a f…an asshole. He should be strung up by his balls for treating you like he has been. Since you two haven’t been intimate for a while, I would say he’s getting it elsewhere. You are a very sweet and wonderful and beautiful person, Olivia. You need to get rid of him before he really hurts you and messes up your life even more. Since he didn’t go back to your room last night and you haven’t heard from him all day, it’s kind of obvious that he doesn’t care about what you think or feel. He is only thinking about himself.”

I nod in complete agreement. “When I go back home, I’m kicking him out of my house and telling him I’m filing for divorce. No more putting up with his shit. I am curious if Craig will remember that tomorrow is our second anniversary.”

“Why do you want him to remember? You’re done with him, right?”

“I am so done with him,” I pause. “I just want him to feel guilty and remorseful for everything he’s done to me. For once, I want him to remember important events on his own. But none of that will happen.”

“Well, I’ll be here and would love to do anything with you, since I have a feeling Craig is going to continue being an ass.”

“Thanks. I appreciate that. And I’d really like to get together these next couple of days. I need a friend out here.”

“Well, you definitely have that,” Ryan replies.

Ryan finishes his brandy.

“Would you like to walk around?” he asks.

I am definitely not ready to leave him.

“Yes, that would be wonderful.”

We stroll around the hotel and casino. He holds his elbow out allowing me to slip my arm through his as we stroll around the botanical gardens and all over the casino floor. I thought it would be weird having Jeremy with us. But he blends in so well that I forget he is even with us.

Ryan is very funny. He tells me stories about some of the acting jobs he’d had. About some of the pranks he pulled on cast members and ones that had been pulled on him, about the actors he likes to work with and who he doesn’t like to work with. He also tells me about some of the things he and his two older brothers used to do. These stories have me longing for a brother or sister.

We walk around for about an hour and a half. We stop to watch the roulette table. I still have my arm tucked in Ryan’s and I am leaning in close to him. Suddenly, a flash goes off in our face. Once I can kind of see again, I realize the guy with the camera is the same guy that was following me this afternoon. Ryan and Jeremy start going after the guy, but the reporter just takes off running and gets lost in the crowd. Ryan motions to Jeremy to let the guy go. I think I heard him say ‘it’s not worth it’.

Ryan puts his arm around me and makes me move. People saw the commotion and realize that Ryan Paxton is here and begin to crowd us. Jeremy blocks them and leads us through the crowd. Somehow we get away from them and duck out of sight.

“Are you ok?” Ryan asks.

“Yeah, I’m fine now that I’m not blind from that flash. That’s the guy that was following me this afternoon.”

“Shit. I’m really sorry, Olivia.”

“Oh, please. It’s nothing.”

“Actually, it kind of is. Just to warn you, that picture will be all over the news by tomorrow morning.”

Not believing him, I respond, “I’ll deal with it.” Why would anyone be interested in me? Ryan’s the one they are interested in.

Avoiding as much of the main areas of the casino as possible, we slowly walk back to the elevators. Ryan is so wonderful, such a positive person and I can’t believe he listened to me about my marriage. And he hasn’t run away, at least not yet. He makes me feel young and alive again, like I was before the whole Craig situation.

Being the gentleman that he is, Ryan walks me to my room. Jeremy stays by the elevators.

“Thank you, Ryan. I had a wonderful evening. I’m so glad I almost knocked you over yesterday,” I tell him, grinning at him.

“I’m glad, too. I also had a wonderful evening. Thank you for coming out with me,” he says. “Would you like to do something with me tomorrow?”

Even if for some crazy reason I’d say no, he looks so hopeful that I have to say yes.

“Of course, Ryan. Can I call you when I figure out what’s going on?”

“Yes, please,” he says. “Give me your phone.”

He puts his number in and then calls his phone to make sure it works and makes sure that he has my number.

Ryan steps closer to me. My heart jumps out of my chest. He leans in and encloses me in a big bear hug. Of my, what a great hugger. And hmm, he smells so good. He gives me a kiss on my cheek again, says good night and turns to walk toward the elevator.

I watch him until he turns into the little hallway where Jeremy and the elevators are located then I let myself into my room. I do a little happy dance once I am in the room. I am extremely hyped up and have trouble falling asleep. I want to call Taylor or Sarah, but it’s too late. They would kill me if I woke them up now.

I turn on the TV and flip thru channels. Eventually I find one of my favorite romantic comedies that I have seen a billion times. I mindlessly watch it. In the end exhaustion wins and I fall into a deep sleep.


The next morning, I wake up feeling refreshed and in a great mood from last night with Ryan. Then I roll over and see Craig sleeping in the other bed. He’s stripped except for his boxers and is laying diagonally across the bed. His mouth is hanging open, probably drooling on the sheets. I can smell the beer and smoke on him from here. Stupid ass. I should have locked him out of the room.

Don’t let him ruin your day, I tell myself. I get up, take a shower, get dressed and get ready for the day. I decide I better call Taylor before she gets too involved in her day. She answers immediately.

“What happened yesterday after you hung up on me? I still haven’t forgiven you for that, by the way. I can’t believe you met Ryan Paxton. Give me details.”

“Oh Taylor! You have no idea! I tried to call you a few times yesterday.”

“I know. I saw you called, but I had a date and you didn’t leave a message.”

“I couldn’t leave a message with what I have to tell you. I’m having the most amazing time out here. But let me start from our call yesterday. As you know I ran into Ryan again. We went to have lunch together. Oh my gosh, Taylor. He’s so nice and easy to talk to. He’s so much fun. But we only had a quick lunch because he had to leave for an interview.”

“You had lunch with Ryan Paxton! I don’t believe it. I’m so jealous. Be still my heart. Too bad he had to leave lunch early.”

“Yes, but….”

“But what?”

“He felt bad he had to leave, so he asked if I would join him for dinner last night.”

Taylor is quiet, so quiet that for a second I think the call got dropped.

“Taylor?”

“WHAT?!”

I laugh at her reaction.

“Olivia. I just scared most of my office so you better give me details so they won’t be so pissed off at me.”

“Ok, ok. So, of course, I said yes, I would have dinner with him and I met up with him last night. I was scared that he wasn’t going to show up, but he did. We had a fabulous dinner and walked around our hotel and casino.” I went into detail about last night, giving her all the specifics.

“Well, hell. How do you get so lucky?” Taylor asks, pretending to be miffed.

“He’s nice…and sweet…and oh my God, is he gorgeous. He walked me back to my room last night and gave me a hug and a kiss on my cheek before he left. Definitely not how I thought a big time actor would act.”

“Sounds like someone has a crush…” Taylor teases and laughs. “Seriously, you sound giddy happy, Olivia.”

“I am giddy happy. He makes me happy. I’m not sure how he fits into my life, but I really think he’s meant to be here.”

“You deserve this, you know.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“I do. You do deserve it. You’ve put up with a lot of shit from Craig and I’ve seen how depressed you’ve been these last few months. You tried to hide it but I saw. Enjoy this time with Ryan. You are only out there for a few days. Have fun with him if he’s willing to hang out with you. You deserve to have a nice guy pay attention to you and treat you like you should be treated. And…it doesn’t hurt that he’s sinfully handsome and the most sought after actor right now. You haven’t seen him without his shirt yet, have you?”

“Taylor!”

“Oh come on. You know you want to see him shirtless. He’s built!”

I bust out laughing. “Cut it out.”

“Never mind then. Yes, the timing of meeting him is bad because you haven’t kicked Craig out on his ass, yet. But you can’t change the fact that you did meet Ryan. He didn’t influence your decision to kick Craig out at all, so there’s nothing to feel guilty about. So stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“I know what you’re thinking and you need to stop. Have fun with Ryan and be happy while you’re out there, because it’s not going to be pretty when you get back home.”

“Yeah”, I sigh. “I’m not looking forward to that. Stupid ass came back to the room last night. He’s still sleeping.”

“Oh, ugh. Why didn’t you lock him out? Never mind, it doesn’t matter. Just have fun and enjoy time with Ryan,” Taylor says again. “Sorry to cut it short, but I’ve got to get back to work. Got a conference call. I’ll talk to you soon. And let me know what else happens with Ryan.”

“I will. Thanks, Taylor. I love you.”

“Love you too, Sweetie.”

I hang up and think about what Taylor said. Yesterday was the best day I’ve had for at least six months or probably more if I really think about it. And yes, I was feeling guilty that I have been hanging out with Ryan while I am still married. But Taylor is right. I already made the decision to kick Craig out. Ryan had nothing to do with that decision. Why should I feel guilty? I shouldn’t.

I turn on the TV to hear what is going on. Still thinking about last night with Ryan and Taylor’s conversation, I half listen to the stories as I finish getting ready. The next report, about Ryan, catches my attention. When I hear what they say, I turn towards the TV and my mouth drops open. There on the screen is the picture of me and Ryan that the paparazzi took last night. They are reporting that Ryan and his date had a romantic dinner for two at the Bellagio and then strolled around looking cozy. The only question was who was his date?

Ohmigod! They are talking about me on the news. I feel a little thrill roll through me. I grab my phone and pull up a couple sites. There we are. It’s the same picture as the TV. Taylor is right. I do look giddy happy, laughing with Ryan. I am leaning in towards him and he is leaning in towards me. It is a great picture.

The site also has another photo from yesterday’s lunch as we walked into the restaurant. The second photo shows our faces and anyone who knows me is sure to recognize me now. How did they get that pictures without either me or Ryan knowing they were there?

I shouldn’t be shocked about this. Ryan warned me. With him being so popular and famous, anything Ryan does is going to be captured. Whatever he does is news. I am annoyed that I can’t keep my perfect evening all to myself. On the other hand, it is a bit exciting to be in the news and have attention on me. I’m sure I’ll regret that thought later but right now I can enjoy it.

I turn to go back into the bathroom and run into the door, making it bang against the wall. I freeze. Hoping Craig is still drunk enough not to have heard it.

I peek around the corner. Craig is sitting up; he’s looking around in confusion.

“What? What’s going on?” he says.

“Sorry. I ran into the door.”

“You ran into the door?”

“Yes, I was a little preoccupied.”

“With what?”

“I’m in the news this morning,” I say to him, showing him the story on my phone. He takes it and tries to focus on the small screen.

“You hung out with Ryan Paxton yesterday?” he asks, looking at me in awe.

I wait for him to act all upset.

“That is so awesome!” he exclaims and reads the article.

Why is he excited about me hanging out with Ryan? What angle is he thinking about?

“You’re kind of a celebrity now, too. You’ll be getting a lot of attention. There’s probably some of those reporters still around. We should go out and talk to them. Maybe make a few bucks, get on the news again.”

There it is. He is always wanting to make a few, fast bucks.

“What? No! I am NOT going to talk to anyone.” Sell my Ryan story? How ridiculous! “Make a few bucks. You’re such a jerk, Craig.” I snag my phone back from him and sit down on my bed and sigh. “Crap!”

“I don’t see what the big deal is. This is really cool,” he, replies and shrugs his shoulders. “Guess I’ll go take a shower.”

That snaps me out of my fretting over the media for the moment. It’s time to see how good Craig’s memory is and see just how big of ass Craig can be.

“Before you get in the shower, Craig, do you remember what today is?”

He pauses. I can tell he was thinking. Don’t hurt yourself Craig. He didn’t come up with anything.

“I don’t know, Livey. Tuesday?” he smirks.

“Something happened two years ago,” I prompt.

He looks confused and shakes his head.

“It’s our wedding anniversary.”

He continues to look confused for a few seconds. “Hey, how about that? Happy anniversary,” he says, collecting his things for the shower. “You should go shopping and buy yourself something special. I’m going to take a shower and head back down to gamble.”

I have never felt so much hatred for someone as I do at this moment. How can this be the guy I married? Was I fooling myself when I thought he cared for me? I just can’t deal with him now.

“You are such an ass. Did our marriage ever matter to you? Did I ever matter to you?

Craig stands there speechless for a bit. “I…uh…I…, he mumbles.

“The hell with you!” I grab my purse and fly out the door, letting the door slam.

I am so mad at Craig and at myself. I am such an idiot; I know better. I let myself hope once more that he would care just a little. But he sucker punched me again. When am I going to learn that Craig is a selfish jerk? I swear this is it. Craig is out, out of my house, out of my life.

Just as I get to the elevators, my cell rings. Not looking at who it is and assuming it’s Craig, I answer rudely. “What the hell do you want, Craig!”

“Well, I was calling to say good morning and see if you’re available to do anything today,” Ryan replies. “But now I’m going to ask if you’re ok.”

Perfect. Now I’m yelling at Ryan, too.

“Oh Ryan! I’m sorry,” I groan. I lean against the wall and let my head thump against it and sigh. “Obviously, I thought you were Craig calling.”

“Not Craig. Thank God. I’m guessing Craig finally came back to your room? And I’m concluding from the way you answered the phone that he is being an ass already this morning,” he says.

“Yes. He, of course, didn’t remember our anniversary. I asked him what today was. He didn’t know. When I told him, he says ‘Hey, happy anniversary. You should go buy yourself something’. I told him off and left. I thought it was him calling. I guess I know just how much he doesn’t care anymore. What an anniversary.”

“I’m sorry you had to deal with him this morning, Olivia. I was hoping he wouldn’t go back to your room. Well, what are you doing for your anniversary now?”

“I was going to go downstairs – to get as far away from Craig as possible. Because if I see him right now, I might hurt him.”

“Why don’t you come up to my suite and we’ll figure something out.”

“That’s ok. It’s kind of early. I’ll just go down and grab something to eat and we can get together later,” I say.

“Don’t be difficult, Olivia. I’m getting on the elevator to come get you.”

I let out a sigh. I don’t want to argue with Ryan today, too.

“Alright.”

Men! Why the hell is Ryan so adamant that I go up to his suite? I hear the elevator coming, then it dings and the door open.

“Hi,” Ryan says, grabs my hand and pulls me into the elevator. He scans his card and pushes the 36th floor.

“So what’s with me coming up to your suite?” I ask.

He hugs me while he answers.

“There are paparazzi downstairs waiting for you, me, us. Take your pick.” He pulls back so he can see my face. “Somehow they found out that we’re both staying here.”

Great. Of, course. Why wouldn’t they figure that out. Here’s my payback for being excited about being on the news.

The elevator stops and we walk down the hallway. The décor is different up here, a little classier. Beige and cream wallpaper with beige and red patterned carpet. We walk down the hallway to the end. Ryan opens the door for me, directs me inside and closes it behind him.

“I’m sorry I got you involved in this. I truly didn’t think they would be so interested in finding out who you are.”

“Did you see the pictures of us? One of the pictures was of us at lunch yesterday,” I say.

“Yes, I saw them. I thought I’d gotten away from them. My agent, Jason, said that lots of speculations are flying – especially when they found out that we both are staying here – convenient, you know. He also said that they think you’re an actress but can’t figure out who.”

I walk around the suite in a daze. Funny how I thought fame would be fun. I was in denial until it actually happened to me, until I start experiencing the bad stuff. I can feel him watching me, waiting for a reaction. It’s hard to absorb everything and I have no reaction yet. I feel like I’m in la la land.

“So, they think I’m an actress.” Wow. I’m honored. Imagine them thinking I am an actress.

Ryan smiles. “Yes. You do look like you should be one.”

“Do I?” I scowl at him. I take a breath. “I should have realized that all this with the paparazzi could happen, so don’t feel bad. Hey, at least there’s excitement in my life now.”

“There’s nothing boring about your life with me around and with what Craig is doing to you. I’d say I wished Craig wasn’t being an ass, but I can’t. If he wasn’t being such a jerk, then you wouldn’t be here with me,” he smiles.

Yeah.

“What are you thinking, Olivia?”

I smile back. “I honestly don’t know. I can’t think. At first I thought it would be fun being in the spotlight. Now that it’s happening, I just can’t think. And everything Craig is putting me thru, I’m not sure this has all hit me yet.”

Finally taking the time, I look at his suite. It’s gorgeous! It is finished in white, gray and black, with little splashes of bright emerald green thrown here and there as accents. The floors are marble with plush rugs in the sitting and dining areas. There’s a wet bar off to the right – I’m sure it’s fully stocked. I wonder if the same colors continue into the bedroom that is off to the left. I won’t be finding that out; I’m not going to go there.

I walk to the windows directly across the room from the front door. They are the best part of the suite. They open to views of the Strip and fountains. I can see a lot of Las Vegas from up here. I wonder how much a suite like this costs; I probably couldn’t afford it.

“Wow” I whisper in awe.

Ryan, who’s been watching me, smiles. “It’s one of the Penthouse suites. Nice, isn’t it?”

“I’ll say. I love the colors. Very luxurious. I love the view from up here,” I say, glancing back at him. He is still by the door and wet bar, and hasn’t stopped watching me.

“So, how are you, really, Olivia? I mean, about Craig?”

I wince and turn back to look out the window. How am I doing? If I don’t think about it, I’m ok. But when I do think about Craig and our marriage, I get depressed.

“I’m doing ok,” I finally reply.

“Olivia. Look at me please,” he requests.

I turn back to look at him. He knows that I just lied to him.

“I don’t like it when people lie to me, Olivia. Be honest with me, please. I can see some of what he’s doing to you. I want to know what you are feeling.”

I give him a shaky smile; tears fill my eyes. I break eye contact and look down at my hands. “I’m not doing very well. I feel like the biggest idiot in the world right now. How many times I got my hopes up, thinking this time he’ll care. I’m still not sure why I got my hopes up. Even knowing he’s been with at least one other girl, I had gotten my hopes up again and again. But he just kept beating those hopes down. Again, and again and again. I must be insane for putting up with him for so long.

“Do you know what the first thing he wanted to do this morning when he found out that I met you? Any ideas?”

Ryan shakes his head.

“He wanted to run to the paparazzi and try to make money off you. Can you believe it! What a jack ass. That’s what pissed me off this morning. How can anyone think that way? Oh, he makes me so mad!”

I feel myself tense up with anger. I slowly take in air, hold it for a few seconds and slowly release it, trying to get the tension to go away. But another feeling creeps in when the anger goes away.
“I feel guilty, too. Why do I feel guilty? It’s not like I’m doing anything but spending time with you. Craig’s been out screwing around on me and obviously, he doesn’t feel guilty.”

I start pacing back and forth in front of the window. I’m not paying any attention to Ryan. I’m so furious with myself for even caring about Craig anymore, for letting all his crap bother me. I berate myself.

“What… was… I… thinking? Why have I put up with him for so long? He must laugh about me with this girl he’s screwing? God, he’s such an ass!” I stop pacing and drop my head in defeat. “I’m going to be getting divorced. I have failed at my marriage.” I bring my hands up to my face, cover it, shoulders droop. Some tears finally escape. “Sorry,” I mumble thru my tears.

I feel Ryan’s arms come around me from behind me, startling me, and my heartbeat starts racing. Slowly, he turns me around so I’m facing him. He puts his hands on either side of my face and tilts it up so I have to look at him. “Olivia. Don’t be sorry. You didn’t fail at your marriage, he did. Don’t shoulder that failure. He’s the one that failed.”

Ryan wraps his arms around me and pulls me close. I lay my head on his shoulder.

“What’s wrong with me? We were only married for two years. I must be lacking somewhere for him to go looking for someone else.”

“Oh, Sweetheart. From what I see and know about you already, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s all him, Olivia. Craig is the problem. I want to kick his ass for hurting you so much,” Ryan whispers angrily, hugging me even closer.

Well, that does it. I start crying hysterically. It is wonderful to be able to lean on a guy. Girlfriends are great and supportive and always on your side. But there is something special about a guy supporting you.

We stand with Ryan’s arms around me and my head on his shoulder for a while. Ryan rubs his hands up and down my back. After a while, I calm down.

Ryan is too quiet. Maybe now he realizes that I have too much baggage to deal with. Does me think I’m crazy? I would.

“You must think I’m a real mental case. What are you thinking? Do you want me to leave and never see me again?” I ask.

I pull my head up from his shoulder and notice his shirt. “Oh no! I ruined your shirt,” I exclaim and put my head back down.

A laugh rumbles in his chest. “Don’t worry about the shirt, you silly girl.” He kisses the top of my head. I look up and smile at him. “No, I don’t think you’re a mental case. And no, I definitely don’t want you to leave. I think you’ve been crushed in this one area of your life and you need to move on to something…someone better. And…to be totally honest, I am thinking how much I enjoy holding you in my arms, comforting you, being with you.”

Since I still have my head resting on his chest, I can hear his heartbeat racing.

“And not to scare you away, but I’m hoping that you’ll consider me being that someone you move on with,” Ryan whispers in my ear.

“Oh!” I take in a sharp breath. I am totally ecstatic about Ryan’s words, I mean who wouldn’t, come on. I break his hold and walk over to the couch. Ryan follows me.

I can’t believe he said that to me. First, because he is Ryan Paxton and every girl fantasizes that Ryan is going to say those words to her, but they know it will never happen. Second, I still believe I’m too messed up right now to become involved with anyone else. I should only be concentrating on getting Craig out of my life.

“What are you thinking?” Ryan inquires.

I have a hard time thinking. My head is swimming with everything going on that morning.

“I…I don’t know. I’ve got so much whirling around in my head. I’m having a hard time processing what you’ve said. I…um…Why?” I ask struggling to believe him. “Why me? You barely know me.”

“Why wouldn’t I want to be with you, Olivia? I know we just met. However, I’m drawn to you. And not just with your looks, although you are definitely gorgeous. Your spirit is drawing me to you. I want to get to know you. I haven’t been this happy for a long. I feel like a weight has been lifted off me. Everything looks brighter. I’m laughing more. And it’s all because of you.”

Holy shit. I do not want to be responsible for his happiness. That is too much pressure on me. I let go of him and go to sit on the couch. Ryan follows.

“I don’t know Ryan. You don’t want to be with me. I’m all kinds of messed up right now. I cry at the drop of a hat. Look, I ruined your shirt. I haven’t even gotten rid of my husband yet. It wouldn’t be fair to you to get involved with me right now. I’m nobody.” I try to talk him out of liking me.

Ryan sighs and looks at me with frustration.

“Olivia, look. I know you’ve been hurt. I can see that. I’ll give you all the time you need to heal. But I also want to help in whatever way I can,” he says. “Please don’t throw away the possibility of us. We can just be friends. We will get to know each other better. There’s no reason why you can’t have one more person on Team Olivia.”

I snort a laugh.

He smiles. “By the way, you need to drop the whole ’I’m nobody’ crap.”

He actually uses air quotes for that and changes his voice to mimic a girls voice.

I raise an eyebrow skeptically at him.

“You are Olivia Sterling. You are a very beautiful, smart, enchanting woman and I’ll argue with anyone who says differently. You’re not involved with Hollywood and that’s exactly how I want you. Got it?”

“We’ll see.”

Ryan growls at my response and glares at me. I get goose bumps all over. I wonder what he was thinking. I’m not scared of him or anything. I just can’t believe that he has such strong feeling about me already. It is a little scary. Scary because I feel the same way about him. But it is just infatuation, right? Since we met just two days ago, if this is not infatuation, this would be the typical love at first sight that I’ve heard about. But I don’t believe in love at first sight. At least I didn’t.

“Are you hungry?” he asks after a few minutes of silence. “We can order room service. I don’t think we should try to go anywhere just yet, with everyone camped out downstairs.”

I had successfully forgotten about the paparazzi for a while. I groan and slump over on the couch. Ryan just laughs.

“I’d forgotten about them. I’m a prisoner in the Bellagio on my vacation,” I whine. But then a thought pops into my head and I sit up and grin at him. “On the other hand, I guess I shouldn’t complain since I’m stuck here with the Ryan Paxton!” I flutter my eyes at him.

Ryan laughs.

“Seriously, I don’t know how you do this all the time,” I say.

“You get used to it. Jeremy helps a lot. You have to laugh at their creativity, made-up reporting. You have to ignore, overlook and not let it bother you. Did you know I’ve been in three love triangles this past year?” he says.

“I believe I did hear that,” I laugh. “You’ve been awfully busy.”

“You have no idea – especially since those reports were the first I’d heard of them.”

My phone rings, interrupting us. Glancing at who it is, I tell Ryan I am going to answer. I cannot miss Ally’s call. Her reaction will cheer me up.

“Hello, Ally.”

“OH… MY… GOD! You hung out with Ryan Paxton yesterday! You’d better have gotten me pictures and an autograph. Why didn’t you call me?!”

Since Ally was yelling, I pulled the phone away from my ear before she made me go deaf. Ryan is close enough to me to hear what Ally is saying because she is talking so loud. He starts chuckling.

“Sorry, Ally. I’ve been a little busy.”

“Well, no shit! You hung out with Ryan Paxton!”

“So, yes, I hung out with Ryan yesterday. And…right now, I’m sitting next to him on the couch in his penthouse suite,” I inform her. I can just imagine the look on Ally’s face.

The phone is quiet. I can hear her almost hyperventilate. “Ally? Breath. Are you ok?”

“I…your…now?” Ally tries to spit out.

“Ally. Come on. Breathe.”

“HOLY CRAP!” Ally screams at me. “You’d better get me anything you can get your hands on.”

My side is hurting from laughing so hard. Ally’s phone call is just what I need.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“What’s he like?” Ally asks.

“Well, he’s a very sweet, down-to-earth, gorgeous guy. He says he’s selfish, but I disagree with him.”

Ryan laughs and shakes his head.

“Can I call you back later?” I ask Ally.

“Yes, please. And I want details. I need lots of details!” she begs. “I’ll live vicariously through you.”

I’m still laughing when I end the call.

“So, Ally is a big fan of mine?” Ryan asks, pretending to be super smug.

This man can make me laugh. “Ally is a huge fan of Hollywood in general and a total tabloid junkie. She watches and reads everything she can get her hands on. You know, she told me that you were going to be out here this week. She made me promise if I saw you, I’d ask if I could get a picture with you. So of course, she had to call when she saw me in one of her tabloids,” I explain.

“It’s too bad that Ally’s still going to be mad at you.”

“What? Why?” I ask, confused.

“So far you’ve broken your promise. You still haven’t taken a picture with me, silly.”

“Oh! You’re right.”

“Come on. You don’t want to piss off Ally. And you can send her a few pictures right away, too.”

“Good idea.”

We take a couple pictures together and then a couple of Ryan by himself. I send two pictures to Ally, hoping to satisfy her. Ally responds with “SWOON! Jealous.”

Ryan orders some food for himself. My stomach is too upset to eat anything. I sit with him while he eats and I steel a fry or two off his plate. When he’s finished, we settle on the couch; Ryan grabs my hand and holds it. We are captivated by what the media is saying about us. Obviously, there is no major news going on today if we are the hot topic of conversation. They are still wondering who id the mysterious woman with Ryan. I am positive that it will not take them long to find out.

“We look great together,” Ryan whispers to me.

I smile and look at our picture. Yes, we do. I love this picture. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and start hoping for anything with Ryan. I change the subject.

“Tell me how you got involved in acting?” I request.

“Let’s see. Well, my mom introduced me and my brothers to acting when we were little. My brothers didn’t like it at all. Apparently, I was a ham in front of the camera. I did some commercials, made appearances on a couple of TV shows. I tried to concentrate on college for a little bit, but decided I wanted to act. I dropped out of college and started trying out and got a couple small parts. Then I landed the lead for The Beloved One, Abstract, then came Surrender and the rest is history.”

“And now you are one of the most eligible bachelors in Hollywood.” I flash him a smile, but feel giddy. I’m sitting there holding hands with the most eligible bachelor!

“Yeah. I’ll never live that down by my brothers.”

“Are you close to your family – your brothers?”

“Yes. My family is great. I’m very close to my brothers; we talk often. My whole family supports me wholeheartedly. I’m lucky. I had a pretty normal childhood. That, their complete support, and their commitment to teasing and embarrassing me – keeping me from getting a big head – is probably what’s kept me sane.”

“What are your brothers like? Are they here or in London?”

“Both are in London yet. They’re sticking close to home for now. Steven is the oldest. He’s been dating Sophia for a year and a half. Steven’s a high school teacher. Jake just got a job working for a big international advertisement firm. He’s debating about coming here with me, as the company has an office in LA. He’s not seeing anyone specific, just dating. They both are a pain.” He’s grinning from ear to ear talking about them so I know he loves them.

“I always wondered what it would have been like to have a sibling. When I was younger, I remember asking mom a couple times if I could have a baby brother or sister. She would always tear up when I asked her. Later I found out that she couldn’t have any more children and that I was extremely lucky to be born.”

Ryan has a serious look on his face while he listens to me, which turns to a grateful look as I finish talking.

“Well, you were meant to be here for some reason. And I’m thankful that fate put us together,” he tells me. He brings my hand up to his lips and kisses the back of it.

I turn to mush right there on the couch. I have trouble breathing in and out. I stare into his blue eyes. He smiles back at me. At that moment, I experience what I can only describe as a current, a shock to my whole body. I have never been so aware of someone. I was sure, without a doubt that I will fall in love with him. That leaves me terrified of getting hurt all over again.

Ryan inhales and clears his throat.

“How about getting out of here for a while? Get some fresh air?” He lets go of my hand and stands up. “Ready to dodge the media? It’s like playing a game of keep away.”

Snapping out of my stupor, I only nod at Ryan since I don’t trust myself to talk yet. I am still way too emotional from his comment.

My blue mood doesn’t last long. Ryan says we need to wear disguises to keep people from figuring out that it us. He drags out sunglasses, hats and a bunch of other accessories to disguise ourselves. We’re laughing like hyenas while trying on the disguises. We look really funny. Just before we leave, Jeremy shows up. We get the staff to sneak us out a back way; we are able to get away without anyone knowing and start walking along the Strip. Ryan grabs my hand as we stroll through a few casinos, play some slot machines, and browse in some of the shops in-between the casinos. When someone does recognize Ryan, he stops and takes a photo with them or gives an autograph, but then we quickly move on. He is so grateful of his fans and does what he can to show them that. It’s a wonderful afternoon. I don’t want it to end. None the less, the paparazzi catches up with us and take more photos of us together.

Finally, we run out of time and head back to the hotel. Ryan has a previous dinner engagement this evening which he is now reluctant to go to.

“I can call them and back out. It’s not a big deal. They’ll understand,” he tries to convince me.

I am having none of that.

“No” I reply. I am not about to let him dump his friends because of me. “You go out with your friends. You said you haven’t seen them for a while. Go. Have fun. I’m going to wander around and think.”

“You’d better think about me,” he pouts. “I really want to spend the evening with you, especially since I won’t see you until late tomorrow afternoon. Stupid interviews.”

“Aw, I’m really flattered. You need to do what you’re out here for in the first place. We’ll spend time together tomorrow. You’ll get tired of me if you don’t get a way for a little while.”

“Not likely,” he counters.

How can he always make my heart flutter? I don’t understand. I insist that Ryan keeps his dinner plans with his friends. I stay with him until it’s time for him to leave. We, along with Jeremy, take the elevator down to my floor. Ryan walks me to my room. His phone dings, alerting him to an incoming text. It’s his friends letting him know they just pulled up to the Bellagio to pick him up.

“I’ll miss you tonight,” he says.

And there goes my heart again. My metabolism must be awesome this week.

“Oh, you’ll have lots of fun and completely forget about me and my mundane problems.”

“Wrong!” Ryan whispers, taking me into his arms. I completely forget to breathe. “I’ll be thinking about you all night. I’ll be so distracted and won’t pay any attention to them. My friends will think I’m crazy.” He kisses my nose.

My heart is trying to get out of my chest at this point. I let out the breath I’ve been holding. Closing my eyes, I savor this moment. His phone dings again and I open my eyes and snicker. “You’d better get going before they send out a search party for you.”

Ryan pulls me even closer. He sighs. “Alright. I’ll go. But I’ll see you tomorrow. Ok?”

“Yes, definitely. You’ll see me tomorrow.” I give him a kiss on his check. “Have fun tonight.”

Ryan releases me and reluctantly starts down the hall. He turns and walks backwards. “Bye. I’ll miss you.” Then he disappears around the corner.

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