Tears fill my eyes, and my lips tremble. “I love you, too. So much.”
He moves around the table and sits beside me. He takes my face in his hands. “What you said earlier, that you want me to have the best life, that you want me to be happy…the only way I can do that is with you.”
A tear slides down my face. He wipes it away with his thumb. Then, he presses his lips to mine.
Happiness sets my skin on fire. I wrap my arms around him, kissing him back.
He breaks off, pressing his forehead to mine. “Let’s get out of here.” He kisses me one more time and then slides out of the booth.
I follow out behind him. He pulls some bills from his pocket and drops them on the table, way more than necessary.
He stares down at me and holds his hand out for me to take. Heart full, I slide my palm against his. He links our fingers, and we head for the door.
We’ve just almost made it outside when the waitress calls us back.
“Hey,” she says.
We turn to her. She’s standing on the customer side of the counter. She takes a step closer, looking…well, staring at Vaughn. She’s made him.
“Can I ask…are you…Vaughn West?”
He chuckles softly and then looks back at me. “No,” he says. “I’m just a normal guy who’s in love with an extraordinary girl.”
He thinks I’m extraordinary.
That’s the most amazing thing anyone has said to me.
The smile on my face is so big, my lips are stretching. But, of course, me being me, I have to say, “Did you bang your head on the way here?”
He laughs loudly, eyes sparkling. “There’s my girl.” His fingers stroke softly down my cheek. “And, no, I didn’t bang my head. But I plan on banging yours. Hard. Against my headboard. It’s time you and I got reacquainted, Pins.”
I step close and brush my smiling lips against his. “I can live with that, West.”
I can live with that forever.
Four Years Later
This is it.
This is the moment I’ve been waiting my whole career for. The moment that will tell me if all my hard work has paid off.
Working on my last film, Five Knots to Nowhere, was amazing but hard as hell. I bled this film. I lived in the fucking desert and the worst places on earth you could think of for this film. I left Charly for three months while we were on location. I put up with Brandon again for this film. The guy was still needy as fuck, and he was at epic neediness level while doing Five Knots to Nowhere.
Surprised he wanted to work with me again? I’m not. The Lament did fucking brilliantly. We smashed it at the box office.
I look up at the stage where Natasha and Gabriel are standing, waiting to present the award to the winner, which they’re going to announce at any moment now.
I mean, they’re two of my closest friends. It has to be me. It’s fate.
Please, God, let it be me. I’ll stop cursing so much if I win this. Not altogether, of course, because that would be near on fucking impossible.
My heart is beating so hard in my chest, it feels like I’m going to crack a rib.
I haven’t been this nervous since I stood up at the altar, waiting for Charly to appear and walk toward me.
Thank fuck she did.
I rub my thumb over her engagement and wedding ring.
She squeezes my hand. I glance at her.
Her look is encouraging. You got this baby, her eyes are saying.
I pray to God that I do. Because I’ll suck at being a gracious loser. I’m not that good of an actor.
“And the Oscar goes to…” Natasha opens the envelope.
She smiles and shows it to Gabriel.
He grins. And looks at me.
Did he look at me? Or did I just imagine that?
For fuck’s sake, just say who the winner is, or I’m going to—
“Vaughn West!” he yells into the microphone.
I motherfucking won! Sorry, God.
But I’m an Oscar-winning actor.
An. Oscar-winning. Actor.
I close my eyes in sweet relief, happiness coursing through my body. The audience is clapping loudly all around me. I feel someone pat my shoulder from behind.
Charly is cheering and nearly squeezing my hand off.
I look at her and grin. She grabs my face in her hands and smashes her lips to mine, kissing me hard.
I get to my feet, hugging Brandon and my costar Jensen Fletcher.
“Well done, man,” Jensen says in my ear. “You fucking deserve this.”
I head to the stage, jogging up the steps.
Gabe hugs me first. “You did it, West, you fucker.” He chuckles in my ear.
Natasha throws her arms around me. “I’m so happy for you!”
They step back, and I walk to the podium. I’m smiling like the Joker right now. My peers are still on their feet, clapping.
“Jesus, I’m feeling like I might cry here,” I joke—well, only half-joke. “And you can ask my wife, I don’t cry often. Only after sex.”
I get the laugh I was after. I look at Charly fighting a smile, shaking her head at me.
I stare down at the gold statue in my hand, shaking my head in disbelief. Then, I stand the gold statue on the podium in front of me.
“But, seriously, I’m man enough to admit that I’ve cried in my lifetime. Twice, in fact. The first time was when that beautiful woman sitting there agreed to be my wife. And the second was the day she told me she was pregnant with our child.”