“No.” I pretended to struggle, but I wasn’t ready for him to let go, to leave me alone in the water. “I’m serious.”
“But you’re…what? Twenty-three?”
“Twenty-four.” I shrugged. “I haven’t dated much. I’ve been busy.”
“You and Bojan never…”
I grimaced. “Ew. You seriously believe that?” The press often has conspiracy theories about Bojan and my secret sex life, which involves a lot of orgies and drugs. I’d disputed the charges, but no one believed me, which was fine because bad press was just as strong, or more so, than good press. “We’re friends. Just friends.”
“Wow. Emma Blanton’s a virgin. How did that never hit the sites?”
“I don’t talk about it. My people don’t know.” I hadn’t ever shared the information with Vidal or Michelle, and no one had ever asked because no one’s a virgin anymore. Plus, people don’t really like virgins. Hell, Tim Tebow barely pulled it off, and he had Jesus on his side.
“Thank you for telling me.”
“No problem.” The hum grew louder, and the moonlight reflected off some sort of a vessel, coming from the direction of the beach. I pushed harder against Cash, freeing myself from him. “They’re coming for us.”
“Meet me tonight. Somewhere away from the cameras.”
I watched as the spotlight from the boat grew closer. Someone perched at the front of it, a filming rig up on their shoulder.
“Emma,” he said.
I ignored him because there wasn’t anywhere away from the cameras, not in that house. Not unless you were going to the bathroom or taking a shower, and I wasn’t entirely sure that those were safe places either.
“Come to my room,” he tried.
I shook my head, and it was stupid of me to do that last time. We had been lucky, impossibly so, that no one had found out about that.
The boat slowed beside us, and an extra big wave lapped toward me, splashing my face. I turned my head and sputtered as saltwater went into my mouth.
“Screw you both,” Dana crowed from her place in the front. “I swear to God, if you said or did anything interesting out here, I’m going to drown you both right now.”
“Take it easy,” Cash said. “No one did anything interesting.”
Dana peered over the side of the boat at me. “You’re topless? Felipe, get this on camera.”
I shot Felipe a dirty look and sank further into the water. Cash moved between me and the boat, blocking their view.
“Fine,” Dana muttered. “Go on. Continue whatever conversation you were having. Remember, I own you—both of you—for the next few weeks, so this is being recorded.”
“We’re going back in,” I announced, swimming sideways toward the shore. “Okay?”
“Yes, Emma,” Dana intoned, “that is okay. Because Layton—remember him? He’s supposed to be feeling you up right about now.”
If I didn’t already feel like a hooker, I did now. Cash moved forward, easily swimming beside me. His arms pinwheeled through the water, propelling him past me, and I struggled to catch up. Beside us, the dingy chugged along, the propellers loud underneath the water.
It took less time to get back than it did to go out, and I was soon walking out of the water, my hands crossed over my chest, my teeth beginning to chatter from the chill.
“Here.” Cash took a towel from a crew member and wrapped it around me, then rubbed the sides of my arms, warming me. He took a second towel and worked it over each leg with a quick efficiency utterly devoid of tenderness but highly effective in warming me up.
“Thanks. You’re good at that.”
He grinned at me. “You’re a lot less wiggly than my dogs. They always try to steal the towel from me.”
“You have dogs?”
“Yep. Three girls. I like the ladies.” Another smile.
“You don’t post any pictures or videos of them.” It was socially stupid. People loved pets. Dog pictures helped hit the feeder markets that were slow to warm to social influencers. It’s why Nick Bateman’s followers jumped twelve percent after he got that ridiculously cute purse dog. I could just imagine Cash shirtless, wrestling around with them on a brilliantly green patch of lawn.
“Yeah, well. You don’t tell people about your sex life, and I don’t talk about my dogs.” He looped the towel around my neck and pulled me toward him. For a horrifying moment, I thought he was going to kiss me, in front of the cameras and crew. Instead, he placed a kiss on my forehead, then squeezed my shoulders. He glanced over at Dana. “You got our clothes?”
On the walk back to the fire, he reached for my hand, and for a few steps, I took it. When the camera turned to us, I released it and heard his quick chuckle float over in the dark.
“Shut up,” I muttered, and bit back my own smile.
After filming ended, we all piled into the van to ride back to the house. We were all pleasantly buzzed, with Johno and Layton past the line and fully into drunk territory. Cash and I were in the third row with Eileen, me in between the two of them. His hand settled on my thigh and curved around the muscle, a warm seal of contact that I could feel all the way to my toes. I let my hand fall over his and felt a hum of energy between us. As the van jostled over a speed bump, his shoulder rocked against mine. The opening lines of Don’t Stop Believing filtered through the speakers, and Johno climbed over the center armrest and turned the sound up.