When It's Real
W jumps up immediately. “V, I didn’t know you were coming.”
“I texted you.”
He grimaces. “We were playing. Guys, I’m out. My girl’s here.”
“Put a sock on the doorknob,” Mark yells as W slams the door to the bedroom. Mark’s a kid from upstate who’s always asking me how good W is in bed—as if he knows that we’ve never done it and enjoys needling me about it.
W grins at me, hands at his hips. “Do I need to put the sock on?”
“There are people out there,” I remind him.
He laughs and tackles me onto the bed. “So? There’s no one but you and me in here.”
I shiver when his hand tunnels under my T-shirt.
W makes me feel good, but I’m not ready to take that next step yet. And especially not when his roommates are outside the room playing a video game, and two strange girls I don’t know are sitting there.
I push at his hand. “I’m not having my first time with an audience.”
We’ve had this discussion before. He resists at first but then pulls his hand out from under my shirt to rest it on my jean-clad hip. Part of his brown hair falls across his forehead as he rolls onto his side. I push it away so I can see his chocolate-brown eyes. He looks gorgeous, as always. More gorgeous than Oakley Ford, that’s for sure.
Really, scoffs my internal voice. You’ve got to be kidding.
Okay, W isn’t better-looking than Oakley, but he’s nicer and sweeter and I love him and that counts for everything.
“All right.” He smiles, crinkles forming beside his beautiful eyes. “Did the twins look up that skate park I texted you about?”
“The one over in Boyle Heights? That’s, like, in a different country.” Anything that requires someone from LA to get on the freeway is considered a low-scale crime given the congestion. A trip to Boyle Heights might not require a passport, but it would require a huge effort. While I love my brothers, I don’t love them that much.
“Yeah, but if you bring them over here, we can hang out. That’d be nice, hmmm?” His mouth dips down to kiss the side of my neck.
We both know the twins won’t go, but it’s sweet that W’s trying to get us all together. “Actually, yes. I see the wisdom your plan.” I curl into his embrace and meet his wandering lips with my own.
“The benefits of dating a college guy,” he teases.
We kiss some more, and when we break apart for air, the reason why I’ve come today pokes me in the spine.
“Hey, I need to ask you a favor.”
“The answer is yes.” He tickles my belly.
I practiced a little speech on the bus, but it didn’t sound right. I give it anyway. “So you know how I took the year off to help Paisley?”
“Uh-huh.” His lips find my ear.
“I have an opportunity to make some huge money this year. It would set us up for a long time.”
“Sounds good.” He moves from my ear to my neck and then tugs my loose-fitting T-shirt over the curve of my shoulder.
Allowing him to kiss me when I’m about to break the news that I need to fake-date a pop star makes me feel too guilty to enjoy his attention. So I slide off the bed to go stand by the window.
“I need you to not be mad and to understand.”
W frowns and swings his legs over the edge of the bed. He leans back on his elbows, his long, lanky frame looking familiar and wonderful, and I question my decision all over again. “This is beginning to sound like the kind of speech Danny Jones gave Karen because he was going to NYU and didn’t want to have a long-distance relationship.”
“No, it’s nothing like that.” I rub my forehead. “It’s...this job requires me to do something you’re not going to like.”
“Are you starring in a porno?” His eyebrows are all the way to his hairline.
“No, W, God.”
“Just spit it out, V.”
I release a frustrated breath. “I can’t say more until you sign this.” I hand him the one-page contract that states W can be told some but not all of the particulars.
He pushes the paper to the side. “I’m not signing anything. What the hell, Vaughn?”
“Don’t swear,” I say automatically.
“Don’t channel your sister,” he grouses. He and Paisley aren’t fans of each other. She thinks he pressures me, and he thinks she’s too uptight.
“I know this sounds crazy, but if you don’t sign it, I can’t tell you any details and it sounds worse without the details, trust me.”
“Then trust me.” W grabs the paper and tosses it on the bed behind him. “You can tell me anything. You know I’m a vault.”
It’s not that I don’t trust W, but this is my entire family’s future on the line.
“If it was just me, then yeah, I’d tell you, but I already promised the agency I wouldn’t say anything unless you sign this.”
His eyes narrow. “What agency?”
“Where Paisley works. Diamond Tal—”
“Diamond Talent Management?” he exclaims. “They’re the ones giving you this job? Why didn’t you say that in the first place? Of course I’ll sign it. Where do you need my signature?”
I watch as W rushes to his desk to grab a pen. He’s practically buzzing with excitement.
He doesn’t look up as he scrawls his name across all the lines, even the ones I think Jim is supposed to sign on behalf of Oakley. He dots the last i in his last name with a flourish. “All right. Lay it on me.”
I get up and drag W back to the bed so I can sit beside him and hold his hand while I explain this bit of insanity to him. “Okay, this is all I can say—I’m doing something for the agency, sort of like a social media campaign.” It sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud, but that’s all the NDA allows me to reveal. “They know that you and I are dating, and—”
“They know about me?” His eyes are shiny and eager. “Did Paisley tell them about the show? I thought she hated it! Which episode did they like? The one where we rated the end zone celebrations? Or the one where we dressed up and pretended to be the dogs playing poker picture? We got so many hits for that one even though it’s not on brand.”
I wrinkle my forehead. “Uh, no, it’s not about the show.”
“It’s not? But you mentioned it, right?”
“Not exactly.” I wince. It hadn’t occurred to me that W’s first thought would go to his show, and now I feel bad I hadn’t brought it up to Jim Tolson.