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Before We Fall
  • Текст добавлен: 30 октября 2016, 23:29

Текст книги "Before We Fall"


Автор книги: Courtney Cole






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Текущая страница: 5 (всего у книги 19 страниц)

As I pull onto the long drive, surrounded on both sides by flowering trees, I take a deep breath of country air and exhale it. I always forget how good it smells here, but once I’m back, it brings back instant memories. Summer nights chasing lightning bugs, camping out with my dad and brothers, and swinging from a rope swing out by the stream.

It was a surprisingly rural upbringing in a town only a few miles from Chicago. As I climb out of my car, I hear Fiona and my mother… their voices drift toward me on the breeze, and I turn to find them walking from the garage into the house. Fuck.

How had I forgotten that Fiona is staying with my parents while her new condo downtown is being renovated? Mother fuck.

Fiona looks up and sees me first, and for the briefest of moments her eyes light up the way they usually do when she sees me. I’ve always been her favorite.

But not now. Now her expression immediately hardens and she pointedly looks in the other direction, a not-so-subtle way of reminding me that I’m on her shit list.

Whatever.

She’s on my shit list. She can ignore me as long as she wants. I can guarantee that I’ve got more patience than she does.

As they walk up the steps into the house, Mom turns her head and drops the sack she’s carrying as soon as she sees me. She runs toward me like she hasn’t seen me in a year. It’s only been a few months, but you’d think it was an eternity by the way she barrels into me and clutches me tight. Her head barely reaches my sternum, but she buries it there, her hands clasped behind me.

“Dominic James Kinkaide,” she scolds. “You’ve been away too long this time. You’re getting too thin. You’re not eating.”

She looks up at me, her blue eyes snapping. “You get yourself inside and wash up. Dinner’s in thirty minutes, and you’re going to eat everything I put on your plate.”

She marches ahead of me, trying to pretend that she’s angry and not happy to see me. But her eyes betray her, because when she stops to let me open the door for her, they’re warm.

“It’s about time you came home,” she tells me as she walks past. “Go see your father. He’s in the library.”

Fiona ignores me so I ignore her, walking past her into the long hall that leads to the library that serves as my dad’s study. When I round the doorway, I find him staring out the window, a glass of scotch in his hand.

“Hey, Dad,” I greet him quietly. “Can I get one of those?”

My father turns his head and smiles at me, his temples a little grayer than the last time I was home.

“Hey, Dom. Sure, help yourself. It’ll put hair on your chest.”

I chuckle because it’s the same thing he always says and help myself to a glass. The fiery liquid burns a trail down into my gut and I down the entire thing, then pour another.

“What happened the other night?” Dad asks without preamble. “You can’t go around assaulting people. I don’t care how pissed you are.”

I shrug. “I just found out that Fiona’s dating Cris. I don’t appreciate it and I told her so.”

Dad raises an eyebrow. “And then you showed Cris with your fists? I always told you, Dom… I don’t want you to start things. You can always finish them, but don’t start them.”

I shake my head and set my glass down. “Cris started this long ago, Dad. And there’s going to come a point where I need to finish it. For real.”

My father levels his green gaze at me. “You ever going to tell us what the hell happened with you two? He spent almost as much time here growing up as you did. If there’s something I need to know, I’d appreciate knowing it.”

My gut tightens.

It’s not that I don’t want to tell them. It’s that I can’t. I can’t fucking talk about it. Every time I try, the words freeze in my chest and they won’t pass my tongue. They’re just too fucking ugly to say.

My father raises an eyebrow. “Well?”

I shake my head. “It’s between him and me. If Fiona doesn’t want to listen, that’s her problem.”

Dad rolls his eyes and downs his whiskey. “I thought you’d say that. I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that he’s coming tonight. We didn’t know you were or we wouldn’t have invited him.”

I stare at him dumbly. I shouldn’t be surprised. I didn’t even call to tell them I was coming. But still. It’s my fucking home and I shouldn’t have to tiptoe around wondering when and if Cris fucking Evans will be here.

Shit.

“Great,” I mumble. “It’s been good seeing you.” I stand up and turn to walk out.

“Don’t start that shit,” my dad warns. “You should’ve called to tell us you were coming.”

I know he’s right, so I don’t say anything. Instead, I excuse myself to call Tally.

“Any news?” I ask him. He sighs into the phone.

“They’re not happy, but there’s not much to be done about it. They’ll delay filming and they’ll film as much as they can without you. They’re wanting you to come home on the weekends though, to film. You’re gonna have to make that work.”

“I’ll get my lawyers on it,” I answer. “I can’t see that would be a problem. I don’t have to be at Joe’s on the weekends.”

“What’s it like, anyway?” Tally asks curiously. “Community service?”

I think about the dingy gym and roll my eyes.

“It’s awesome,” I answer sarcastically. “You should come and help.”

“Nah, I think I’ll just see you when you get your ass back here. Hurry it up. I’ll tell the studio to expect you soon. I know Amy Ashby is pissed. This is going to throw off her schedule for her next film, too. You’re going to have to smooth things over.”

“She’s actually at my brother’s tonight,” I tell him grudgingly. “I could’ve seen her, but I’ll do it another time. I’m not in the mood.”

“You’re never in the mood,” Tally grumbles. “That’s why she’s pissed at you.”

That’s also true. If Amy had her way, we’d rehearse our sex scenes in my trailer, down to licking each other’s nipples and getting each other off. But I don’t feel the need. And I just don’t fucking want to. She’s another one of those high-maintenance party girls who needs attention all the time. I just can’t deal with that.

I hang up and head back down the hall, glancing at the framed family pictures as I pass. Pics of me, Sin, Duncan, Kira, Fiona, Cris… and Emma.

I stop for a second, the air whooshing from my lungs as I stare at Emma’s sparkling blue eyes staring back at me from one particularly painful picture.

She’s tanned and healthy, and she’s wrapped her arm around my neck a second before my mom snapped the picture of us in our graduation caps. It was the last picture we’d taken together.

It was the last picture she’d ever take.

A knot forms in my throat as I stare at the necklace she’s wearing, a gift I had given her. A happy-graduation/I-love-you/can’t-wait-to-go-to-college-with-you gift. A teardrop-shaped aquamarine that perfectly matches the color of her eyes is encased in a white shell that she’d plucked from Lake Michigan. I’d had it made especially for her, and she’d worn it until the day she died.

I reach into my pocket and wrap my fingers around it, feeling the cool stone.

Her parents gave it to me afterward, and I’ve carried it in my pocket every day since… because it reminds me.

Of everything.

I gulp and yank my hand away from it, like it’s a hot coal that will burn me. My problem is that I’m stuck in limbo… I don’t want to remember and I don’t want to forget. If I remember, it hurts like hell. But if I forget, it might happen again.

And that’s one thing I know for sure.

I’ll never let myself get fucked over like that again.

Chapter Eight

Dominic

As I head down the main hall to find my mom, I’m startled when Cris steps out of the kitchen doorway. I stop in my tracks for a moment, staring at him.

“Care to come outside? I’d like to talk to you,” he says gruffly, his voice hesitant and filled with a thousand things I can’t name.

His eye is swollen, which gives me some satisfaction.

“I have nothing to say to you,” I answer finally. “So, no thanks.”

I start to brush past him, but he grabs my arm in an effort to get me to stay. I look at him sharply, straight in the eye, a get-your-fucking-hand-off-me look, and he loosens his grip. I guess he learned his lesson the other night.

Fiona pops ups behind him, her face cautious and sullen.

“Please,” Cris adds. “You need to hear this, but I don’t think we should talk about it in here.”

“Fuck you,” I tell him abruptly, pushing past him to the dining room. “Fuck you.”

“You’re such a dick,” Fiona snaps after me. But I ignore her. I just keep walking until I find my mom and I pause to kiss her on the forehead.

“I love you, but I won’t come here when he’s here.”

She protests and grabs at me, but I walk past her, out into the yard and to my car. I ignore the way Fiona yells after me angrily, the way Cris stares at me as I leave, and the disappointed expression on my father’s face. I ignore it all.

Because I’m Dominic fucking Kinkaide and nothing bothers me. Nothing touches me, because I won’t let it.

Against my will, my eyes sting and I know they’re red. I rub at them and then fire up the engine. Even though it’s only nine P.M. and Sin’s party will be going full force soon, I head back there… because I don’t have anywhere else to go.

There’s about a million cars lined up on Sin’s property when I get there, and I almost want to turn around and drive back out. But I don’t. Instead, I park in the garage and make my way into the house, picking my way through the dark.

I wind through the crowded rooms, making my way around the perimeter toward the staircase. As I reach the bottom step, I feel someone watching and I glance to the side.

Jacey is standing still in the middle of the room, dressed in her uniform, letting a party guest lick salt off of her forearm for a tequila shot. She’s heavily made up tonight: thick mascara, red lipstick. She smiles up at him with those red lips, a fake smile, and as she does, she catches sight of me.

She freezes in shock, although, what the fuck? I’m the one living here temporarily. I belong here, she doesn’t.

Suddenly, a guy comes rushing up to me, someone I don’t know. A very drunk someone.

“Dude, can you sign my shirt for my girlfriend? If I take home your autograph, I’ll get laid for a month.”

He grabs at my arm and I shake him off in annoyance.

Dude. If you were lucky enough to get invited here, then you should know not to approach anyone for autographs.”

I’m not usually so rude to fans. But my mood gets the better of me. The guy stares at me, stunned, and I continue on my way. As I do, I feel Jacey’s gaze.

She pulls her arm away from the guy, sets down her tray of shots, and makes a beeline for me.

I turn my back on her, intent on continuing up the stairs without acknowledging her, but she won’t have it. She grabs my arm, forcing me to look at her.

“Are you all right?” she demands. “That was pretty harsh.”

I glance down at her, into her brown eyes, and find her to be sincerely concerned. I must look seriously rattled if she noticed that something is wrong. She barely knows me. Her fingers are warm on my arm, and for a minute I waver.

She’s warm and soft and concerned. I know what that might turn into.

A wild night that will make me feel better.

Women are all the same: they want to fix what is broken and they’re willing to do anything to accomplish that. I never talk about my past or anything at all about me, but women can still sense that I’m fucked up. What they don’t understand… is that I’m unfixable.

I stare down at her again, shaking my head.

“I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.”

But she looks at me again, really looks at me, her brown eyes probing mine. “I don’t think you are. What happened?”

“Why does it matter to you?” I ask before I can stop myself.

Because something about her makes me think that it does somehow matter to her, and not just because I’m Dominic Kinkaide. Everything I’ve seen of Jacey is wild and untamed… she works for Saffron, pushes cops around, gets dressed in parking lots, and lets men lick salt off her body for tequila shots.

Yet at the same time, she seems warm and real. I haven’t forgotten how she shoved her way in between Cris and I and shielded my body with her own. She’s a puzzle.

Jacey looks confused by my question.

“It matters because you’re not some stranger off the street. You look seriously upset. Of course I’m going to ask you if you’re all right. Who wouldn’t?”

Most of the people I know in Hollywood, I think.

But I don’t say it. Instead, I turn my back and start up the stairs again. I don’t fucking answer to her or anyone else.

“Do you need anything?” Jacey’s voice is hesitant behind me. “An ice pack or anything? That bruise on your cheek looks like it still hurts.”

I pause, not looking at her. Instead I remember her bare leg, stretching toward the sky while her tiny uniform shorts slide over it. The mere memory of the way she’d undressed right out in the open sets my pulse to racing.

Yeah, there’s a bunch of things I need, but only one thing that will take my mind off the reason that I need them.

“Yeah, I need something.”

There is a moment of silence between us, then another.

Finally she asks, “And that is?”

I turn back around slowly, looking her up and down until my eyes freeze upon hers and stay there. Hers are dark and sincere, waiting for me to say something. She has no idea what kind of person I am. She has no idea that I’m just a shell, completely empty inside.

If she did, she would run far, far away.

I stare into her eyes as I move closer, and she doesn’t look away.

I step back down until we’re on the same step and her back is against the wall. I press against her, close enough that my rigid dick digs into her hip.

With my mouth mere centimeters from her ear, I say, “You. Spread-eagled and tied up on my bed. That would do for a start.”

The mere thought of that, of how I’d shove my dick in her mouth and let her suck me off while her hands were bound, makes me hard.

Jacey sucks in a breath, but remains frozen. Her breath comes quickly, and mine is hot against her neck. I know it because I can feel it on my own lips. What I don’t know is why I’m doing this.

Or why she hasn’t said no yet.

Disgusted with myself and her, I turn away.

“Forget it. Go home. You don’t want to play with me tonight, little girl. Trust me.”

Jacey

Oh my god. What an asshole.

I don’t watch Dominic walk away. Instead, I make my way back through the main hall, my cheeks flushed scarlet. I’m better than this. After Jared made me look like a weak-ass needy wench, I swore to myself I would have more self-respect.

I don’t get used. Not anymore.

That Jacey is long gone, buried in a pile of therapist bills.

Then why didn’t I say no to Dominic’s ridiculous request?

Because for a brief second, I envisioned what being tied up on his bed would be like and warmth flooded my panties. Holy shit, I’m only human. And I’m a hot-blooded female.

And Dominic is Dominic.

I’ve seen him in enough movies, in enough love scenes, to know that his hands are magic. Even though he was acting, there was always such sensuality in his movement, in his eyes.

His eyes.

That darkness in Dominic’s eyes… it does things to me. It makes me wonder what he’s capable of. Or what I would be capable of with him. I can practically feel his whispers on my neck in the dark, his hands scraping my back, his fingertips scratching into me.

Oh my god. My cheeks flush even more. I don’t know what’s come over me, but it needs to stop.

Dominic is trouble. And I don’t need any more trouble in my life. I’m turning over a new leaf and I’m making good choices. Dominic Kinkaide is a bad, bad choice.

Because Dominic Kinkaide does bad, bad things. I can see it in his eyes.

On a whim, I turn and glance behind me, searching for him in the crowd. He isn’t hard to find.

He’s standing at the top of the stairs overlooking the main floor like it’s his kingdom, his arm wrapped around a slender brunette. In the ten seconds since I left him on the stairs, he’s already found another woman to fuck with.

Dominic’s eyes meet mine and the green in his seems to smolder as he very slowly, very purposefully grabs the girl’s ass and grips it hard, pulling her into him, grinding her hips into his crotch.

The girl wraps her arms around his neck, burying her face there, inhaling him, and for a minute I wonder what that must be like. To be so close to someone so… dark. Someone who commands a room so totally and completely.

Dominic still hasn’t taken his eyes off mine, and I know that he’s doing this for my benefit. He’s showing me what I could’ve had tonight, if I’d just said yes.

His eyes burn me.

So I do the only thing I can do to retain any little bit of self-respect.

I walk away.

Chapter Nine

Jacey

The sunshine is bright as I collapse into the seat of my car with my coffee and my purse. How the hell did morning come so fast? God. Is there anything worse than mornings?

I turn the key and realize that, yes, something is worse.

A morning when your car doesn’t start and you’re supposed to be on time for Joe’s Gladiators or “you can forget about coming back in” is worse.

Fuck.

“You’re a piece of shit.” I berate my car as I turn the key again and again. But there’s nothing. Only a depressing click that announces in its mechanical way that my engine is not only dead, it’s really fucking dead.

Poor Brand. Because I do the only thing I ever know to do nowadays. I reach for my phone and call him.

“Yes?” he groans sleepily, forgoing a hello.

I quickly explain my predicament, and true to form, like a knight in a big-ass shining F-150, he rides to my rescue with a droll expression and bed-head.

I smile sheepishly as I climb into the truck.

“I’m so sorry to bother you,” I tell him truthfully. “I just didn’t know what to do. I have no idea what’s wrong with my car and I could take the El, but I’m not sure where the closest stop is to the gym, and if I’m late, I’m done. Joe doesn’t put up with that.”

Brand shakes his head as he pulls back out into traffic. “Don’t worry about it. I’d rather you not get into trouble again. Who needs sleep anyway?” His voice is husky and rough and if I had any doubts that I’d woken him up, I’d be over them now as I listen to his sleepy voice.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him again. “I’ll pay for your coffee this morning. How’s that?”

Brand grins at me good-naturedly. “Deal.”

I stare out the window, watching the Chicago bustle as it passes by. So far, there’s no sign of the odd look that I’d seen in Brand’s eyes the other night, and for that I’m thankful. I really, really just need for us to be normal. Unfortunately for Brand, normal always entails saving me from something.

“Do you ever get tired of bailing me out?” I muse aloud. “I know Gabe used to lecture me all the time. You never do.”

“That’s because I’m a saint,” Brand announces as he turns onto a side street and heads his big truck toward the gym. “You can ask anyone.”

I giggle. “I don’t have to ask anyone. You put up with me, so you should definitely be canonized. I’m gonna have to talk to the pope about that.”

“You’re not Catholic,” Brand points out as he turns into Joe’s parking lot.

“I know,” I answer. “I’m gonna have to turn on my charm.”

“Good Lord,” Brand shakes his head. “No need to give the man a heart attack. I’ll be back to pick you up tonight. Call a tow truck to come get your car.”

I’m kissing his cheek when I hear the roar of a car pull up next to us. The sound of that engine, powerful and loud, is unmistakable, and I know before I even look that it’s Dom.

I murmur good-bye to Brand and glance at Dom as I climb from the truck. I can feel Brand staring after me, but I ignore it. I can’t think about Brand at all, because frankly, whenever Dominic is near, he owns the vicinity.

He’s dressed in black today: dark washed jeans and a tight black T-shirt that skims his chest just right. His green eyes somehow even look black as he stares at me, waiting for me to walk past. He takes in everything… the way I kissed Brand, the way I move from the truck, the way I try not to look at him.

His lip twitches, and once again I get the feeling that he knows me. Everything about me. It’s disconcerting.

I walk past him and he follows. I can feel every step he takes, his presence behind me a tangible thing, like a force field of sexiness and arrogance. I do my best to ignore it.

When we reach the door, I pause, and he reaches around to grab it, opening it for me. As he does, I catch a whiff of his scent, something unique to him. Musky yet spicy, totally male. I inhale deeply as I walk in, never once looking back at him, even when I mutter thank you for holding the door.

I’m not falling for his sexier-than-thou attitude. Spread-eagled on his bed, my ass. He can kiss my ass right now.

I think I hear him chuckle as I lift my nose in the air, but I’m not sure. And I don’t care. I make a beeline for Joe’s office to find out what he wants me to do. Dominic follows me at a respectable distance, and together we get our marching orders from Joe, who seems especially crusty today.

“I want you to clean out the locker room,” he tells Dominic tiredly before he looks at me. “And Jacey, you can help weigh the boys. We’ve got to get their weights logged so that they’re official for the week. The clipboard is over there and the scale is in the locker room.”

“Are you okay?” I ask him hesitantly as I reach for the clipboard. “You seem… tired.”

He stares at me, his steely eyes cloudy. “Do I also seem like I have ovaries? If I want to chat like a girl, I’ll let you know.”

Burn.

My cheeks explode at the put-down, and I can practically feel Dominic smirking at me. I know Joe’s bark is worse than his bite… but god. His bark is pretty bad.

“Noted,” I answer quietly as I head for the locker room.

Dominic follows me silently.

He doesn’t mention Joe’s bad mood, and I don’t either. I’m grateful for his silence because I feel a little humiliated at the moment. There’s nothing worse than putting yourself out there, only to get stomped on.

We set to work, Dominic cleaning the walls and metal lockers, and me weighing giant, sweaty boys.

The entire time, I know exactly where Dominic is in the locker room, even if I’m not looking at him. I feel him. I feel his presence in relation to mine. I hear his breath, his movements. I smell his cologne. I’m aware of him. Regardless of how determined I am to ignore him, there’s electricity between us, and I can’t pretend it’s not there.

I know he feels it too, because every time I do glance at him, he seems to be looking at me, his dark, dark eyes holding something in them that I can’t describe.

I gulp and scribble down a weight, then motion the next boy to step up.

Jake grins at me as he pretends to shield himself, his big boyish hands splayed in front of his chest.

“You’re not gonna kick me today, are ya?” He laughs as he steps onto the scale. I move the counterbalance to get his accurate weight and roll my eyes.

“Two-eighteen. And no, not unless you try to grope me again.”

He laughs and steps off. “I wasn’t trying to grope you. That was just me saying hello.”

“Huh.” I sniff as I log his weight. “Try saying it with your mouth next time, instead of your hands.”

He chuckles again. “You’re all right, Jacey. For a chick.”

I sniff again, but I smile at him this time. Joe did say that I just needed to show them who’s boss. The other boys seemed to have learned from Jake’s mistake, because they’re all friendly to me now, and maybe even a little nervous. I smile at that thought and motion another boy up.

Time passes quickly, and before I know it, Joe comes in.

“You two.” He motions toward Dom and me. “Come with me.”

We glance at each other, but follow Joe’s lumbering steps as he leads us into the gym’s kitchen. It’s a large, older room with crudded-up corners and yellowed counter tops.

“The kids out there, they don’t usually have enough to eat,” he tells us. “I try to make sure that they get something here, an after-school snack, I call it. But really, it’s a meal. The walk-in needs to be cleaned up and the food needs to be organized. Throw anything bad out, but only if it’s bad. I’m not made of money, and we need to be judicious with supplies. Got it?”

We both nod, and I’m impressed once again with Joe’s heart, even if he did snap my head off.

He leaves us and Dom and I look around.

“Well, fuck.” Dom sighs, glancing at the dented-in cooler door. “This is going to take a while.”

I shrug. “Oh, well. I’d rather be busy than sitting around counting down the minutes till we go home.”

“Well, okay then. After you, Princess.” Dom gestures with a shrug, holding open the heavy metal door, allowing me to go first. “Don’t trip on the rust. Jesus. I think these appliances were made in 1940.”

He’s right. The cooler is a relic, old and creaky. I don’t even like to be near it, much less in it.

As we step inside, I automatically shiver, running my hands over my goose-bump-covered arms as I look around at the haphazardly stacked shelves of food. It smells like stale food, standing water, and armpits in here.

“God. I don’t think this place has been cleaned since 1940, either.”

I poke at the food, some of it outdated and some of it fresh, and Dom sighs. “Well, this is gonna take a while. I can see that. We forgot the bucket and sponges. I’ll be right back.”

He turns back toward the dented door, but when he pushes down the handle, nothing happens.

“What the hell?” he mutters. He wiggles it harder, then puts his weight into it. I stare at him, dumbfounded, watching him struggle to open the door. Finally, he turns around and stares at me.

“We’re locked in here.”

I try not to freak out as I shrug and stare at the locked door.

“Don’t worry. Joe will come hunting for us before he leaves. It’ll be okay.”

But Joe doesn’t.

And it’s not okay.

It’s freaking cold. It’s small. It smells like a swamp. And we’re trapped.

We straighten the food on the shelves in an effort to move around so that we don’t get too cold as we wait, but eventually we run out of things to do. And I’ve got goose bumps on every plane of my body, and still Joe doesn’t come.

I bang on the door, the cold metal stinging my hands, but no one hears. I shout. But no one hears. I even kick the door. No one hears and no one comes. Finally, I slide to the floor dejectedly.

“Can we freeze to death in here?” I look up at Dominic, who is leaning against the wall, apparently calm.

He shakes his head. “Nah. It’s a cooler, not a freezer. It won’t be comfortable, but we won’t die.”

“When do you think someone will find us?” My voice is small and Dominic glances at me.

“It’s hard to say. I don’t know if Joe walks around and does a final check before he goes home at night, or not.”

“Fuck.” I sigh, letting my head fall backward against the wall.

“You can say that again,” Dominic tell me as he slides down to sit next to me, letting his head rest against the wall, too.

“Fuuuck.” I draw the word out for maximum impact. But it doesn’t make me feel any better. For a second, the walls close in around me until something occurs to me.

“My cell phone!” I blurt, suddenly remembering that we’re in the twenty-first century. I pull it out of my pocket, but am dejected yet again to find that I don’t have a signal.

I look over to find Dominic shaking his head. “I don’t have a signal either. These walls on this cooler are thick and metal. Nothing’s getting through it.”

“I think the universe might be throwing us together,” I finally answer, putting my cell back in my pocket.

I’m kidding, but Dominic smirks again, his trademark smirk… the one that made him famous. Even now he seems cool and calm, which is exactly the opposite of how I feel.

“Like fate?” he asks. “I don’t believe in it. And if there is a Fate, she’s a cruel bitch.”

I stare at him because there’s something in his face now, something vulnerable, just for a second. Something hurt. But then he covers it up and once again, he’s a closed book. I can’t help but be intrigued by these glimpses. There’s so much more to Dominic Kinkaide than anyone knows. I can feel it.

“Well, we’re stuck in here together. We might as well get to know each other,” I tell him, in large part because of that look in his eye. “Because god only knows how long we’ll be here, and the silence is killing me.”

Dominic is already shaking his head. “No, thanks. I don’t care to see the details of my life splashed across the tabloids tomorrow. But thanks anyway.”

He crosses his arms over his chest and settles down, closing his eyes.

I shake my head, feeling a little sad at his outlook on life. “It must suck to be you,” I tell him. “To always think the worst of people. You should know, not everyone is out to use you. Or exploit you. Just FYI.”

He opens his eyes, raising an eyebrow. “Really? It’s been my experience that generally, someone wants something from me. I’m a big one to learn from past experiences.”

“I bet you are,” I answer wryly. “Too bad it seems like not many of them were good.”

Dominic scowls as he tries to get more comfortable on the floor next to me, his long legs crossing at the ankles.

“You don’t know anything about me. You only know what my publicist manufactures for the public. Everything you know about me is engineered, perfectly placed, perfectly timed. It’s all a game, Princess. The masses just don’t know that.”

The masses. As if the rest of the world is completely separate from him. Apparently, I’m part of the masses, along with everyone else, while Dominic is alone. In his mind, it’s Dominic against the world.

Suddenly, I really do feel sorry for him. He might be rich, and he might be gorgeous, but he wears the utter weariness of his life on his face. It’s clearly way too much for someone his age. It’s like he’s a hundred years old and he’s just tired of it all.

“You know, if you don’t like your life, you can change it,” I tell him, my lip shivering with the cold. “You’ve got the world on a string. You can do anything you want. You realize that, right?”

Dominic stares at me, his green eyes gleaming in a dangerous way. “We work together for a couple days and you think you know me now?”

I ignore his sharp tone. “No. Of course not. But I know of you. And I can see a lot on your face. More than you’d probably like for me to.”


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