He was painfully good looking. The kind that took your breath away so quickly that there was a sharp pain in your lungs from the absence. And effortlessly cool. While Vidal wiped at his glistening forehead with his monogrammed handkerchief, and I gnawed away some of my lipstick in a dress that had been cinched painfully tight around my ribcage, Cash was entirely at ease. He laughed, and I looked away, second-guessing my plan.
He probably hadn’t even seen the video I had made—the one that had coasted up a small ramp of viral, but nothing compared to his average post. It would be ridiculous for me to bring up the jokes I had made at his expense, the snarled insults I had flung freely into the black eye of my camera, the story of our date that I had recapped in almost excruciating and embarrassing detail.
“Emma, this is Rae Micks with Self Magazine.” Vidal thrust a short girl with coke-bottle glasses in front of me. “Rae thinks that reality tv is dead. What’s your take?”
I caught a faint whiff of coconut and sunscreen and would bet you, without needing to look, that Cash had moved closer.
“Reality tv is my favorite kind of tv.” I fought the urge not to lean back into the smell, the gravel of his voice sounded from behind me and to the left. “I like the ugly side of things, and the truth shows that.”
That quote later resurfaced, once the show came out, once the lawsuits happened and the tabloids went nuts. It was thrown back in my face, like I knew anything about reality tv back then, like I had been anything other than a scared girl, standing in front of a reporter, hoping she would love him.
Yeah, I stole that from Notting Hill. So?
* * *
I was already in my seat when Cash paused, mid-aisle, and considered me.
“Oh.” I stood, my knees knocking against the seat in front of me, and flattened myself back, trying to give him room to move by and to his place.
He faced the stage as he passed, the fit tight as he moved by and folded down the seat next to mine, settling in and keeping his arm off the rest.
I was right about the scent—definitely him. I shrugged not to bury my face in his shoulder and inhale deeply, like a crazy person.
There was a long period of nothing, where I rearranged the cross of my legs, and he stared down at his program.
“Hi,” I managed.
He lifted his head and looked at me. “Hi.”
Direct eye contact with Cash Mitchell was a powerful thing. It knocked my next words loose from my head. I looked down at the thin black clutch I held on my lap and fingered the ornate silver clasp of it, wishing for the distraction of my phone.
“This is my first award show.” I didn’t look up, keeping my focus tight on the purse. Why had I told him that? The point was to be COOL, and I’d already flunked that. I’d failed that the minute I’d stepped onto the red carpet and realized how MF hot it was outside.
He didn’t respond, and my mouth diarrhea continued. “It’s a little nerve-wracking, talking to the reporters.”
He flung his arm out and across the back of the empty spot beside him, and I wished I’d waited until right before the show to take my seat.
“You have lots of experience with it. Obviously. I guess you’ve been interviewing from birth.” I tried to laugh, but he only looked at me.
“I watched that video you made.” His shirt was stretched tight over his chest, and the hint of an expensive and intricate silver chain peeked out of the distressed scoop neckline of his shirt.
I lifted my gaze from the shirt to his face. “Did you like it?”
I don’t know WHERE that question came from. Honestly. It just fell out, like an automatic response when someone asks how your week is going, and you say fine, even though your dog died three days ago, and you can barely function without tearing up.
That was how the question came—light off my tongue. Almost, if I had known how to do it… flirtatious.
He didn’t move, held my gaze, and said absolutely nothing for a good five seconds. I tried not to notice the thick fringe of his eyelashes. There was no way he wore mascara, but it was unfair for those to be natural. My own were extensions, a two-hour process where I had fallen asleep and woken up with gorgeously thick lashes and a thick line of drool coming down the left side of my mouth.
“I can’t tell if you’re joking,” he finally managed.
“I am,” I assured him, though inside, I did want to know. Maybe he had found it funny. It had been funny—Vidal had convinced me of that, the assertion backed up by the dozens of LOLs and emojis that were popping down the comments section.