“Well…” she hedged.
“But you don’t want the show to see it, or show it, because you don’t want to get any extra attention or benefits from it, because you don’t want me to think that that’s why you’re dating me?”
“Correct. Assuming that you want to date me.” Her cheeks tinted with the statement.
I wanted to date her, and if you’d read me that statement a month ago, I’d have laughed my ass off. I met her eyes. “I want to date you.”
“You do?” She seemed equally baffled. “You heard the part where I said that I used you to climb the press ladder, right?”
“Yeah. Like I said, I knew that already.” I pulled the Eggos out and dropped them on the plate. “I’m willing to move past it if you can ignore my complete lack of cooking abilities.”
She studied the plate. “Do you have butter and syrup?”
She grinned and looked back up at me. “Then I think we have a deal.”
“What kind of deal?”
“The kind where I will kiss you on camera, but you understand that I am not kissing you for any reason other than I want to kiss you.” She brought the coffee cup to her mouth, and I left the toaster behind and walked over, took the mug away, and kissed her.
She tasted like almonds and coffee, and how I always pictured security and love. Her hands traveled up my forearms, and she rose off the stool, and she was so giving and responsive, like she was greedy for more. Like she’d never been properly kissed in her life.
I knew she was trouble. I knew I couldn’t trust her. I knew that right then, despite all of our frank talk and confessions, there were probably still secrets she was hiding, press drafts her team had written, splashy articles that would flood social media as soon as we stepped out together.
I didn’t care. I didn’t care as long as just some part of her was in this for the right reason and kissing her—I could feel a chemistry that couldn’t be faked. Looking down into her eyes, I saw a vulnerability that—if this was all a game—she sold with a ruthlessness that I was willing to fall victim to.
We inked the details of our deal over chocolate chip waffles drenched in maple syrup and a heavy coat of butter.
She would stop fake-dating Layton on the show.
We would real-date on the show, assuming the producers agreed.
We’d keep our relationship out of the news for the next two weeks, then go public once the show wrapped—assuming we hadn’t killed each other or broken up by then.
After breakfast, I took her to my bed, and we just laid there together. I held her in my arms and kissed the back of her neck. I told her about buying this house, and everything I wanted to do with it. She told me about winning the lottery and her first million followers, and we talked until the room was shaded in afternoon light, and we finally rolled out of bed and reluctantly headed back to the mansion.
The producers were livid, and maybe that’s why they unrolled the seventh episode the way they did. I don’t know. One afternoon of playing hooky shouldn’t have triggered that amount of cruelty.
Episode Seven was still a giant question mark, and the blank spot on the production board was stressing me out. Cash seemed unconcerned about it, but even the knowledge that he actually liked me (gasp) and wanted to date me (double-gasp) didn’t ease the mounting fear that something was coming.
“Oh my God, stop it.” Dion carefully pressed on the edge of my eye, pinning the false eyelash to the glue. “You’re getting worked up over nothing. I bet they’re dropping a sex tape or something like that. Which—yes—if you have a juicy reel of you getting gang-banged, then go right ahead with freaking out.”
“No sex tape,” I said quickly.
“Yeah, I didn’t think so.” She stepped back and surveyed her work. “Blink for me. Slowly.”
I obeyed, and she flashed a thumbs up. “Okay, you’re ready. Dana said they want you in the living room.”
I moved toward the living room and nodded to a production assistant that beamed at me as she passed. It had been three days since Cash and I had played hooky at his house, and the reaction from the crew had been surprisingly warm. Aside from Dana and Michelle, who had ripped into me with bloody claws, everyone else was clearly rooting for us. It was nice to be on the liked side, and I was holding my breath, certain that it would implode at any moment.
This morning, I had woken to a hibiscus, slid under the door to my bedroom. Yesterday, he had pulled me into the pantry and stolen a few minutes to kiss. Cash Mitchell was looking at me like he couldn’t keep his eyes off of me and I was immediately addicted and instantly wary of how it all made me feel.