And I came.

I cried out, a tiny little whimper, as the contractions raced through me. When it was finished, I rolled over on my side. The pain was still there in my heart, but the tension was lessened. For a few brief seconds I had forgotten how much I hurt.


It still took me another hour to get to sleep.

23

I awoke to a light knocking on my door.

Tok tok tok.

“Unnnhhh…” I moaned.

Jesus, didn’t they know what TIME it was?

…wait… what time WAS it?

I lifted my head and looked blearily at the clock.

10:07 AM.

Holy shit.

I never slept this late. Not only that, but my body was supposed to be three hours ahead because of the time zone difference. Back in New York, it was one o’clock in the afternoon.

Adrenaline rushed through me. I jumped out of bed and staggered over to the door.

Was it the hotel coming to throw me out?

Was it Miles come to scream at me to be in the limo in two minutes, no exceptions?

Was it Derek, back for round two?

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that last one.

I opened the door the slightest crack and peered out through swollen eyes.

It was a maid in a pristine white uniform, next to a rolling cart of towels and cleaning supplies.

“Cleaning service,” she said.

“Um… can you come back later?” I mumbled.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said apologetically. “There was no ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door.”

“Um… no worries… my bad…”

“Alright. I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

“Okay…”

She pushed the cart down the hall, the wheels barely whispering over the thick carpet. A few seconds later I heard another low knock about 20 feet away.

I found the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on my side and fumbled it out through the crack, hung it on the doorknob, and then closed my door.

24

First thing I did was call Miles’s cell phone. It was the only number that Glen, my editor at Rolling Stone, had given me before I left New York.

“Miles ‘ere,” he answered on the first ring.

“Hi, Miles, it’s Kaitlyn.”

I was expecting something like, Hello, or Good morning, or any of a number of possible pleasantries.

What I got instead was a brusque, “What do you want?”

“Um… I just wanted to make sure you guys hadn’t left without me.”

“Left without you?” he asked, almost incredulous.

“Yeah… isn’t there another concert in another city tonight?” I asked, recalling one of the few other pieces of information I’d gotten from Glen.

“Irvine – but it’s only an hour away. Bus won’t even be ready till three.”

“Oh. Um… okay… that’s good… are the guys practicing now?”

He gave a short, barking laugh. “PRACTICING? Those lazy sods aren’t even UP yet.”

Suddenly I felt a whole lot better.

“Oh… okay… what time should I come by, then?”

“Whenever,” he snapped, then hung up the phone.

Asshole.

But at least I had time to take a shower.

25

Actually, I had time to take a shower, get dressed, and go down and have a quick breakfast at the restaurant in the lobby. I didn’t eat much – A, the prices were astronomical, even by New York City standards, and B, I didn’t relish hanging out in the place where I’d seen Derek get mauled by a bunch of half-clothed hoochies. But I stayed long enough to eat some toast, a side order of fruit, and drink some coffee. Everything was excellent, especially the coffee. At eight dollars for a ‘bottomless cup,’ it had better be. By the second cup I was feeling halfway human again.

I went over to the penthouse elevator at 12:30 but found out I couldn’t get it to go anywhere without a special keycard. I went to the front desk and explained who I was, but the Ms. Universe contestant on duty said that I had to get authorization from the inhabitants. So I reluctantly called Miles again. He answered again on the first ring.

“What?” he snapped.

I explained the situation.

“Christ,” he snarled, then hung up.

A second later the reception desk phone rang. Ms. Universe picked up, said, “Right away, sir,” pleasantly, and then smiled at me. “You can go on up.”

I thanked her and headed over to the elevator.

26

I was nervous all the way up to the penthouse.

I kept wondering how it was going to be seeing Derek. If the sexual tension was going to be as uncomfortable as it was last night. If he was really going to stick to ‘I’m not going to make a move, you’re going to have to make a move,’ or if he was going to go back to hitting on me.

But when I got up to the penthouse, I realized something else I should have been worrying about but had completely forgotten:

Ryan.

He answered the door when I knocked – showered, styled, and neatly dressed in jeans, brown oxfords, and a royal blue button-up shirt with a brown leather jacket.

“Good morning,” he smiled at me.

Suddenly all the discomfort of last night’s conversation came racing back.

“Uh… hey,” I said, my legs frozen where I stood.

He gave me a weird look – probably because of how uncomfortable I was acting – and then stepped aside. “Come on in, we ordered breakfast.”

I was about to say ‘no thanks,’ but then the smell of bacon, eggs, and pancake syrup wafted through the air.

Mixed with the stink of marijuana.

It was a measure of how hungry I still was that I didn’t even mind the pot smell.

But there was something I had to say first.

“Um… about last night…”

Ryan winced good-naturedly, like I was bringing up a disastrous ‘let’s just be friends’ prom date back in high school. “Can we just pretend that never happened?”

Relief flooded through me. “Yeah… sure. Are you okay with that?”

“Believe me, I’m more than okay with it,” he said, and smiled, putting me instantly at ease. “You hungry?”

“I could eat,” I said, and walked in.

Immediately my old discomfort returned as I remembered about Derek – but he was nowhere to be seen.

Miles was on the other side of the humongous penthouse, pacing in and out of an open bedroom door, snapping occasionally at whomever was on the other line.

Killian sat in the middle of the room next to a couple of room service tables loaded with silver platters of food. He was dressed in black silk pajamas, which I never would have expected. Black, yes; not the silk part. For once, he didn’t have a joint in his mouth – just a piece of bacon. He did have the guitar in his lap, though he was only fingering chords, not strumming it. His free hand clutched a cup of coffee.

“Mornin’, luv,” he said amiably. I could tell he’d already hit the ganja from the mellow way he said it. That, and the invisible herbal cloud rising off him, like a pothead Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

“Good morning. Where’s Derek?”

“Um… haven’t seen him yet,” Ryan said a little hesitantly as he sat back down to his plate of food. I wondered with a tiny bit of panic if he knew about Derek’s late-night visit to me. Then I realized that, no, he was probably under the impression that Derek was still in bed with a girl or two he’d picked up from the dance floor.

Speaking of which –

“How did you make out last night?” I asked.

Ryan grinned. “I thought we weren’t going to speak of that.”

“I thought we weren’t going to speak of you and me,” I said mischievously. “I didn’t realize that extended to… other parties.”

Killian perked up. “What other parties?”

“No other parties,” Ryan said hastily, then looked at me. “I decided it was a bad idea and hit the hay early. Well… earlier. Sit down,” he said, gesturing at a chair beside him.

I sat and started loading up my plate. “Thanks.”

“Orange juice? Freshly-squeezed,” he said, holding up a glass pitcher.

“Sure.”

“We’ve got some champagne if you want a mimosa.”

Mmm. “Tempting, but I better not.” I looked around. “Are they still sleeping?”

“Who, Derek and Riley? Riley probably isn’t sleeping, exactly. Derek didn’t stay up here.”

I stared at him. “What do you mean? He didn’t come back last night?”

“He sleeps in another room somewhere in the hotel,” Ryan explained. “Always has, no matter where we stay.”

“Oh,” I said, and wondered just how worried I should be. “What did you mean about Riley, though?”

Right on cue, one of the giant penthouse’s bedroom doors banged open and a girl stepped out.

She was college age. Definitely cute – and incredibly disheveled. Her black skirt was slightly askew, and her green top was untucked and wrinkled. Her hair looked like she’d been in a wind tunnel. Her makeup was smudged, especially her lipstick. She held her high heels and purse in her arms.

As soon as she saw us, she froze like a deer in headlights.

Ryan and Killian both waved politely.

“Hello.”

“Mornin’, luv.”

I looked from one guy to the other, then followed their leads and hesitantly raised my own arm and waved.

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