“So, we’re leaving then?” Gabe slaps me on the back. He’s drunk, of course.
“Cool. Well, I told my driver to take the night off, so we’ll grab a lift back with you. Is that cool?”
No, it’s not fucking cool. It’s not fucking cool at all.
I know my expression has gone tight, so I school it. “Sure,” I say with a casual tone.
He stares at me for a beat and then laughs, his eyes sparkling. “Cool.” He pats me on the shoulder. “I’ll let Julian know we’re leaving. The others are heading off to a club.”
I watch him walk off, cursing the motherfucker to hell.
A hand touches my arm. “So, we’re gonna head off.” Charly’s voice comes close to my ear.
I turn to her. God, she’s fucking gorgeous.
“Ava’s drunk. I need to get her home.”
“Sure thing. I was planning on getting you in my limo and doing all kinds of dirty things to you in there, but fucking Gabe has just invited himself and Julian for a ride home.”
“It’s fine.” She smiles. “I’ll grab us a cab.”
“No. I’m in the limo. I’ll have Aiden drive you guys home.”
“Course.” I move in closer, leaving a sliver of air between us. I love the sound of the breath she sucks in at my nearness. “But I’m dropping you off last. Then, you and I are going back to your hotel. Okay?”
“No.” She shakes her head.
“No?” I frown.
“Drop me off first. Well, I mean, drop Ava off first, then Logan, and then me, and—”
“Um, am I fucking missing something here? You ditching me?”
She laughs, the sound light and airy, but I’m feeling kind of pissed off right now, so it doesn’t have the effect it normally does.
“Don’t be stupid, West. Of course I’m not ditching you, you needy bastard.” She grins, and I can’t help but smile back at her using my term. “It’ll just look suspect if I’m the last one left in the car with you. It’ll look better if you drop us off first and then your boys. Then, you can come back to my hotel once you’re alone.”
She’s smart, my girl.
Hang the fuck on. When exactly did I start thinking of her as mine?
No need to go getting carried away, West. You’re just fucking her, remember?
“I’m a genius. What can I say?” She puts her hands on her hips and does a little wiggle.
“And a little devious, Pins. But I like it. It’s fucking hot.”
We round everyone up and head out the back exit of the bar to my waiting limo.
Of course the paparazzi are out there.
“Vaughn, look this way! It’s been a while since you were out partying. Have you missed it? Who are the girls?”
“Julian, where’s your costar tonight?”
“Gabe, is it true you and Marti Shaw are together?”
“Vaughn, are you still bitter about what Piper and Cain did to you? I hear they’re getting married. Will you be at the ceremony?”
The questions are like bullets firing at us.
The sad thing is, it’s fucking normal for me, Gabe, and Julian.
We all bundle into the car, shutting the door on the vipers. But they still have the cameras to the windows, trying to get pictures.
“Aiden, get us the fuck out of here,” I tell him.
He nods from the front, and then the car is moving slowly, his horn honking to move the fuckers out of the way.
I slump back in the seat, feeling pissed off. Not about the Piper and Cain comments. I couldn’t give a shit if they were getting married or not.
It’s just the fact that I can’t go out to a bar with my friends without getting hounded by the press.
It was probably a good thing that I didn’t get in the car with just Charly. That would have been spread all across the Internet within minutes, and any chance of keeping me and her on the down-low would have been blown out of the water.
I look at her sitting on the seat across from me, a drunk Ava half-asleep on her shoulder and Logan sitting on the other side.
She gives me a soft smile, and the annoyance instantly just ebbs away.
I can’t wait to be alone with her.
“The pictures are already online,” Julian says from beside me, showing me his phone.
“Fuck, they’re quick,” Gabe says from my other side, leaning over to help himself to a whiskey from the minibar in the limo.
“The power of technology.” I sigh.
“Love ’em or hate ’em, they keep our name in the press and keep us relevant,” Gabe says.
He’s right. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
Sometimes, I just crave privacy. To not have to hide whom I’m sleeping with.
I couldn’t even take Charly out on a date if I wanted to because we might be seen.
It’s fucking ridiculous. And it’s my life.
“Where am I heading?” Aiden calls back to us.
“Is it still okay to drop off Ava first?” Charly checks with me.
“Of course. Just let Aiden know her address.”
Charly turns to Aiden and tells him where Ava lives.
Ten minutes later, we’re pulling up at Ava’s. Logan and Charly get her out of the limo. I’m pretty sure she’s asleep.
“We’ll just get her inside, and we’ll be right back,” Charly tells me.