Page 53 of The F List

I laughed as he turned back and howled out a line of the song, then pantomimed a guitar sequence.

“Come on!” He called out, pointing to Marissa for the next line.

“Smell of wine and cheap perfumeeeee,” she screeched. We all joined in on the next one, and I felt his hand tighten as I leaned against his shoulder and sang louder than I had in ages.

“DON’T STOP… BELIEVING!” We called out as a group as the van came to a stop at a red light. I watched as a girl on the sidewalk looked at us with curiosity. Her eyes widened, and she reached for her phone, not getting her camera out before we were moving, Eileen leaning into me as she crowed out the song, her eyes bright and happy. Impulsively, I threw my arm around her shoulder and sang along.

Was this what popularity was like? Moments of unity and acceptance? The high was addictive, and I felt the sudden and ridiculous desire to hug them all, even Marissa.

“You look happy,” Cash whispered in my ear. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you happy.”

“I am happy.” I threaded my hand through his.

“I love seeing you happy.” He grinned at me, and the van rammed over another speed bump, and everyone called out in protest as we flew off the seats. My head collided painfully with the roof, and I grabbed it, wincing.

He pulled me into his chest and kissed the spot. Against him, I smiled.

“Don’t worry,” he whispered against my hair. “I won’t tell anyone.”

“Tell them what?”

“That your icy exterior melts.”

I grinned despite myself and thanked God for the dark interior’s protection.

64

#zzz

CASH

Like the other nights, she didn’t sneak into my room—but it didn’t matter. As cheesy and dumb as it sounds, her smile stayed with me.

“We found Emma’s volunteer shirt and badge in a duffel bag in the trunk of her car. From there, it was pretty easy to find out what she was doing at the Ranch. So, yeah—we knew that she and Wesley Mitchell were friends. It was a card we held. Dana wanted to wait, and she always had a knack of knowing the perfect time to use stuff like that. And of course, she was right. The time came, and it was… well. I don’t know what to say. It made for great ratings.”

Rachel Gladden, Crew, House of Fame

66

#frenemies

EMMA

There was a giant blank next to episode seven. I tapped the tip sheet and scooped out a heap of Frosted Flakes. “What’s tomorrow? There’s nothing here.”

Eileen shrugged. “I don’t know. I asked Dana, and she said they were working on it.”

“That’s weird.” I chewed loudly and watched as the sound guy turned down my mic.

“Yeah. They’re probably banking on Johno having an overdose or something.” She worked at the peel of an orange, collecting a pile of shredded pieces on a paper towel.

“Who’s having an overdose?” Cash entered the kitchen shirtless, in workout shorts, and a pair of sneakers, a set of headphones hanging around his neck.

“Well, no one yet,” Eileen said, sectioning off a piece of orange.

“There’s nothing on the schedule tomorrow,” I explained. “We’re hypothesizing.”

He frowned, circling the island and coming around behind me. Resting a hand on the counter, he reviewed the sheet. “That’s strange.”

“Yeah. Hey!” I blocked his reach for my cereal and shoved at his midsection. My fingers brushed over the hard notched abs that recently stretched over a Times Square billboard and I fought the urge to lean over and lick my way across the tan divots.

“Come on, Em. One bite.” He held my spoon hostage and out of reach. “I don’t have cooties, I swear.”

I shook my head sternly and held my smile in check. “You dated Marta Pratt,” I pointed out. “You’re lucky we let you eat at the same table as us.”

Eileen grimaced. “Ouch, Cash. She’s got a point, though.”

I reached for the spoon, and he held it out of reach, then behind his back. I zigged left, then right, bumping into him as he kept it at bay. “You know, there are other spoons,” I pointed out.

“There aren’t,” he said. “I stole them all.”

“Whatever.” I abandoned my attempt at capturing my spoon and went to the wide drawer that housed all of the silverware. Pulling it open, I reached for the spoon cubby, then stopped, surprised to find it empty. I hadn’t paid attention when I’d gotten the bowl out earlier, but it didn’t matter. I looked up to find him watching me, mischief on his face. Rolling my eyes, I tugged at the dishwasher handle, opening the heavy steel door. Squatting, I checked the silverware caddy, then cursed.

“I told you,” he mocked. “I took them.”

“You were serious.” I stood and slowly shut the appliance.

“Yep.” He stuck the spoon in his mouth. “So, unless you want to eat the rest of that cereal with a fork, it looks like we need to do some negotiating.”

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