Page 56 of The F List

Except that this wasn’t another girl from the Valley. This was her. Sharpest tongue in Hollywood, most intoxicating smile in California and a gaff through my heart since 2015.

And, if what she said yesterday was true, she’s a virgin. I was still having trouble wrapping my head around that because the last thing I needed was another reason to want Emma Blanton.

“Wow.” Emma’s voice was muffled, and I looked over to see her fist-deep in a handful of Peanut’s hair. “Now I know why you keep them a secret.” She kissed the top of the dog’s head and sat down on the kitchen floor, accepting a face-cleaning welcome from Dot. “It’s because they’re ugly.”

I opened the fridge and found the almond milk, then set it on the table. “Easy. Their feelings are easily hurt.”

She laughed and tugged on Peanut’s ears, scratching behind them as her tongue lolled out the side of her mouth. “Are these warts?” She parted the thick nape of hair and peered at her scalp.

“They are warts. And highly infectious,” I warned. “Don’t touch your face.”

“Ha.” She leaned forward and kissed Dot on the end of her wet snout.

“So, you’ll kiss her, but not me?” I opened up the fridge and pulled out a box of frozen waffles.

“She doesn’t have the power to break my heart.” Emma crawled to her feet.

I studied her. “I have the power to break your heart?”

“Well, yeah.” She scratched at a spot in her hair near the back.

“I’m not gonna break your heart.”

“Oh-kay.” She pulled out a stool and climbed onto it. “Your house is nice. Much cleaner and more grown-up than I expected. You have maids, right?”

“You think I’m playing you? Trying to kiss you?” I didn’t budge from the conversation because if this was the hold-up, we could settle this out right now.

“We really don’t have to have this conversation.” She drummed her fingers on the counter, then perked up when she saw the almond milk. “Oh, good! You do have it.”

I moved it out of the way just as she reached for it. “Why do you think I’m playing you?”

She sighed, exasperated. “I didn’t say that. You said that.”

“Stop talking in circles and communicate with me. You kissed me in the water, right?”

“Yeah,” she said sullenly.

“Why?”

She looked at me warily and said nothing.

“Why did you kiss me?” I repeated.

“You kissed me,” she argued. “I just let it happen.”

“And enjoyed it.”

She blushed. “Yes, I enjoyed it. What’s your point?”

Yes, Cash. What was my point? I gave an answer fitting of a mentally defunct nine-year-old. “So… why can’t we keep kissing?”

Those words literally came out, and if she needed any further proof that I had no game, all she needed to do was frame that statement and hang it in her foyer.

She sighed and moved around me, opening cabinets until she found the one with coffee cups in them and pulled one out. I’m ashamed to say it was the one with breasts and a string bikini. I collected coffee cups, mostly because I was like a grandfather trapped in a twenty-seven-year-old’s body, but also because they made me smile. It figures that she would reach past the periodic table of elements one and grab something that would make me look bad.

“I’d just like to get through the next few weeks.” She filled the mug and the hot liquid caused the bikini on the cup to disappear, revealing giant red nipples. “Please tell me that that isn’t our breakfast.”

I looked down at the box of chocolate-chip waffles. “Well, I’m hoping there’s enough in here for both of us.” Pulling it closer to me, I pried open the lid and pulled out the bag, pleased to see that there were five left. She wanted to get through the next few weeks? What did that mean? I worked through our conversation as I pulled waffles out and stacked them in the slots of the toaster. By the time that the lever was down, and the pieces were cooking, I was face to face with the potential truth: Emma Blanton did not like me.

It was a crippling diagnosis, especially given the fact that my house was empty, and there were no cameras in sight. We should be rolling around in each other’s arms while confessing every secret we had. I took a deep breath and tried to find another line of attack.

“You’ve accused me of using you in the past to increase my fame.”

I looked up. “Yeah?”

She screwed the lid onto the creamer. “And you were right, with all of them. I did use you.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“I don’t want you to think that that is what this is.” She gestured between us. “Or with whatever this could be.” She blew out a breath, irritated. “Does that make sense?”

Surprisingly, it did. The waffles popped out at the same time that a light bulb of understanding lit above my head. “So, you do like me.”

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