‘Oh. My. God.’
Charlie didn’t realize she’d said it aloud until Zeke pulled her closer. ‘Come here, this is all crap. Worthless gossip crap. Don’t even look at it.’
‘Oh. My. God. I’m so humiliated, I don’t even know where to begin.’ Immediately a thought struck her: her father. It was quickly followed by another: her mother. ‘Nooooo,’ she moaned, as though physically ill. Which was exactly how she was beginning to feel.
She looked back to her phone and began to scroll through everyone’s texts.
Call me ASAP.
C? Where are you? Call me before you read anything.
He’s not a sicko secret rapist, is he? You’re fine, right? Just not like you …
Want to know every delicious detail!!! Call me the second you come up for air!!!
Your flight to Munich has been changed to tonight. Check your email for details.
Charlie, please call me the moment you receive this text. Thank you.
The last text she opened was Natalya’s. It was a picture. The subjects were clearly unaware they were being snapped, probably by someone’s cell phone. Although she couldn’t clearly see the man’s face, she could tell by the hair and the distinctive purple check button-down that it was Marco. His head was buried in a woman’s neck – or rather, a girl’s – but her face was unobstructed. The only caption that accompanied it was ‘Look familiar?’
The misspelling distracted her, but only briefly. The girl did look familiar. She wasn’t a player, not even a junior or an amateur, Charlie knew that much. Perhaps she was another player’s girlfriend’s friend? Or someone who worked at the tournament? The simplest answer was usually the correct one: most likely she was a pretty local girl, one who waited all year for the men’s tour to come to town, who looked familiar because she looked like every young, attractive tennis groupie everywhere. As Charlie was squinting at the screen, trying to place her, another text popped open on her screen. It was also from Natalya, and it featured a screen grab. Charlie spread-zoomed the photo and saw that the girl’s profile was featured on the homepage of the website Au Pair in America.
Charlie remembered then. Elin. That wasn’t her name, of course, but that’s what all the players jokingly called her because she could have been a clone of Tiger’s ex-wife – the other hot nanny. This girl’s name was Sofie Larsson and she was an au pair working for a male player’s coach. She was Swedish, eighteen years old, and experienced with children from toddlers to teenagers (she didn’t really know newborns but was sooooo excited to learn). Her fluent languages included Swedish, German, English, Italian, and some Dutch, and she planned to attend university one day to study communications. Naturally, she lovvvvvvved to travel.
And screw tennis players, Charlie thought, closing out the text. Little Miss I-Love-Kids-and-Speak-Everything didn’t think twice about throwing down for Marco Vallejo. Better add Spanish to the repertoire.
‘I’m going to head back to my room.’ Zeke’s voice snapped her back to reality. When had he gotten up and dressed?
‘What? Sorry. I, uh … This is all kind of new to me.’
He walked around the bed to sit beside her and didn’t stop her this time when she yanked the covers up to her armpits. ‘Try not to worry too much, okay? These things never last more than a news cycle or two.’
When Charlie didn’t respond, Zeke reached out and took her chin between his thumb and forefinger. ‘Hey. My people have already put out a statement that while I am a huge fan of yours, we are nothing more than friends who enjoyed a dinner together. That we shared a ride back to the hotel together is hardly noteworthy. It’s not much of a coincidence we’d be booked at the same place, considering it’s the nicest in Charleston. When there is no new information beyond that, it tends to fade quickly.’
Charlie realized he hadn’t yet seen the Marco part of the story. Or he had and he didn’t care. And why should he? Like he said, they were consenting adults and she was mature enough to have predicted at least some of this was going to happen. Truth be told, she’d known it would and had done it anyway.
‘Okay. Thanks.’ She smiled and accepted a kiss from him. At some point during the night, he’d morphed from Zeke Leighton, Movie Star, to Zeke, the sexy older guy who was funny and complimentary and had the slightest paunch and knew his way around a damn good full-body massage. Maybe it was when she caught the briefest glimpse of his self-consciousness when he’d gotten naked, or when he’d peed with the bathroom door ajar, or when he’d made that face in bed. She wasn’t sure when, exactly, she’d realized he was just a person, but it had been both a relief and a disappointment.
‘What’s your number?’ he asked, typing it as she told him.
Her phone rang.
‘There, we have each other’s numbers now. Keep in touch? I know we both have crazy schedules and the whole thing, but I had a great time last night, Charlotte.’
‘Charlie. Call me Charlie.’
They both laughed.
‘Charlie. You’re headed on the European swing now, right? Clay season?’
She nodded, slightly impressed.
‘Well, I’m off to shoot in Sydney after here, but I’ll be back in the States after that for a long stretch. Maybe we’ll link up sometime this summer?’
She lowered her lashes and batted them. ‘I’ll have my people send your people some tickets to the Open. Come if you can.’
‘I go every year, did you know that? We have great box seats in the—’
‘You ever go as the guest of a top-seeded player? No? Well, the player box seats are the best ones of all.’
He grinned. ‘You’re the real deal, Charlie Silver, you know that?’ Before she could answer, he kissed her once more on the cheek and walked to the door. A moment later, after one last delicious Zeke Leighton smile, he was gone.
Charlie didn’t remember dialing Piper’s number until her friend started yelling.
‘Is it true? I mean, I saw the pictures with my own eyes, but is it really true?’
When Charlotte cleared her throat, Piper literally screamed.
‘Oh my god. You had sex with Zeke Leighton. Zeke Leighton! There’s some publicist-issued bullshit about you guys being just friends and trying to turn a box of condoms into a tin of Sucrets, but I knew it. I just knew it!’