“What are you doing?” I went stiff as he gently pulled me up close to him.
With that amused smile still plastered on his face, he said, “Well, I don’t want you to drown.”
I rolled my eyes. The movement of the water was rocking us, and my feet accidentally bumped into his calves. I didn’t know why touching him made me flinch when I’d already placed my hands on his shoulders to balance myself.
“Alright?” I’d hoped he hadn’t noticed my nerves, but his quiet inquiry squashed that.
I glanced away with burning cheeks. “Of course.”
He was quiet but I could feel his eyes on me.
“So.” I inhaled, and left the word hanging.
“So,” he said with a sniff, his smile returning. “Are you going to tell me your name? I know you know mine.”
I bit my lower lip and shook my head. He must think he’s really clever, I thought, getting me into a vulnerable position so he can chat me up. I slid a glare of suspicion toward him.
“Yes, I know who you are.” Evading the question. I was going to leave it at that, but then I had another thought. “Is that even your real name? Evan Emsworth?”
He nodded once. “It is. My father is Ian Emsworth.”
My heart skipped a little because I then realized his father was the Ian Emsworth, a renowned and mostly retired actor as well. I’d thought the surname was familiar when I’d signed up for the convention, but hadn't been able to place it. I thought I recognized it only because I was familiar with Evan’s work. Although I didn’t pay too much attention to the private lives of celebrities, I loved films and television as much as books and art; I knew several of his father’s roles well.
“And your mother?” I tried to pretend I was oblivious.
“Julie,” he said with another smile. “And my sister is Lauren, but she’s not an Emsworth anymore.”
“I see.” My words came out slightly softer than before. Surely, I wasn’t letting his dad’s reputation influence me? “And what’s your middle name?”
Evan laughed, but he answered anyway. “Christopher.”
There was a silence as I nodded, and I knew he was waiting for me to answer his original question now that he’d answered all of mine. I sighed.
“Wendi,” I finally relented.
“Wendy,” he repeated. “Well, that’s lovely. Like Peter Pan.”
“No, it’s like Wendi, with an i.”
His eyebrows pinched together. “Like windy wind?”
I squeezed my eyes shut. “No, like with an i instead of a y. W-e-n-d-i.”
“I see, and why is it Wendi with an i?”
“I don’t know. Because my parents were weirdo hippies,” I grumbled.
“Well, it’s alright, I just thought maybe it was short for something else,” he expounded.
“No, it’s just Wendi…Except my middle name is Lynn,” I told him reluctantly since he’d given me his middle name.
“Wendi Lynn is nice,” he commented.
“Sure, except all the kids at school thought it was hysterical to call me Wendolyn.”
He broke into another smile. “It is a bit like Gwendolyn, isn’t it?”
I pressed my lips together and stared at him. “Yes, it was a real joke: Gwendolyn Wendolyn.”
“Oh, dear. Were you traumatized?” he asked. “I kind of like Wendolyn.”
“Oh my god,” I groaned.
“But I wouldn’t tease you about it,” he assured me, then added: “Well, not to be mean, anyway.”
“Great.” I smirked, shaking my head.
Evan laughed and started spinning us slowly in the water, pressing me against his chest so I wouldn’t slip. I wanted to protest, but the truth was that I liked it. Working the convention circuit didn’t leave a lot of time for dating, and my last relationship had stagnated until I hadn’t been able to see the point of continuing it. Inwardly, I cringed, realizing I’d been single for nearly five years and for allowing my brain to head straight to thoughts of relationships just because a good-looking guy was being a little friendly in the hotel pool.
“This is nice.” He might as well have said my thoughts out loud.
“A bit,” I admitted, hoping I wasn’t too obvious.
“Oh, I almost got a smile out of you,” Evan said, biting his lip. “You were a bit…sharp with me before.”
I was suddenly embarrassed over the way I’d been acting toward him. I was still reluctant to trust him, though, reminding myself that actors were good at pretending and he was particularly skilled in his trade. Nevertheless, I said, “Yeah, sorry about that.”
“Well, I’m sorry my…handlers, as you called them, were so obnoxious. They just tend to get, I don’t know, absorbed in the chaos of the moment. They’re usually very nice people.”
I nodded, taking his word for it. “I should be used to the craziness of conventions, but I think I’m just a little burned out.”
“Oh, so you are here for the convention,” he stated.
I tutted. “Yes, but I’m not—I’m not here for the…celebrity worship.”
The corners of his eyes crinkled up when he smiled again. “OK. What are you here for, then?”
With a sigh, I explained to him that I had a vendor’s booth selling art: cards, posters, prints, books and bookmarks, and the occasional trinket. “Probably I should be nicer since it’s the personalities like yourself that bring in the crowds with their open wallets.”
“Well, you seem a little stressed. Maybe you need to relax,” he suggested. He loosened his hold on me and I gripped his shoulders tighter.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting your hair wet so you look cool,” he told me with a grin. I laughed despite the swipe at my earlier snarky comment, and he said, “No, relax. Lean back. I won’t drop you.”
Hesitantly, I let go of him and stretched into the water while he kept me afloat with his hands on my back. There was nothing else I could do with my legs except wrap them around his hips, but he didn’t seem to mind. I closed my eyes as he whirled me around slightly faster than he had before, hoping he wouldn’t dunk me. It was hypnotic and gave me a pleasant tickle in my stomach that snuck down further, triggering my arousal. My hands instinctively went to his arms.
“Your hair is so long,” he remarked quietly.
I laughed and opened my eyes. But then I saw two women near the shallow end steps who hadn’t been there before. They were staring at us, and I suddenly felt incredibly self-conscious. Both women were long limbed and blonde, their tiny bikinis visible beneath their wet, white t-shirts. I thought I must be crazy, fooling myself to think for a second that this good-looking guy with wealth, a famous dad, and his own celebrity status would be remotely interested in me. Lifting myself out of the water, I pushed away from him slightly, though he kept his arms at my side.
“It’s usually easier if I say something first and just get it out of the way,” he whispered, and I realized I’d been staring at the women.
I cleared my throat and took his hands off me. “Well, you know, it’s getting late, and I should probably go anyway.”
“Oh.” He seemed genuinely disappointed, following me as I moved toward the side ladder. “I thought you might like to come up to my room for a bit.”
I scoffed and turned toward him. “They seem more like your type,” I said quietly, flicking my eyes in the women’s direction.
His gaze never left mine as he asked, “What’s my type?”
“One that fits into your celebrity aesthetic, I’m guessing.” The bitterness was back, and I continued toward the side of the pool.
Slowly, he moved in front of me with a non-threatening but persistent manner. There was a slight acidity in his tone as he continued his query. “And what is my celebrity aesthetic?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s not me.”
Maybe he didn’t know, either, because he didn’t say anything and let me climb out of the pool. I stomped with my wet feet over to the lounge chair where I’d left my towels and room key. As I dried off, I heard his voice behind me in a dramatically sultry tone.