“Bro, answer your phone. It’s Wendy, and she called me in hysterics. She’s in a panic about something but said she has to talk to you first. Whatever that means,” Bo urges me as he lifts his suitcase off the airport conveyer belt. Of course his would come off first. We’ve landed back in Boston from Copenhagen. After a nine-hour flight, I should be relieved to be home, but I’m not. I can’t help thinking back to the last morning I had with Skyler. She disappeared into the shower during Sophie’s surprise visit, then beat feet out of the hotel room, stating she had to catch her flight. I knew her flight was early, but not that early. And I had wanted to drop her off at the airport. She refused with a lame excuse.
“Where’s the fire!” I laugh, trying to grab hold of Skyler as she flutters past me.
“Gotta go catch my plane. Get back to New York.” She says this as if it were news to me, but I already know she has to leave on the first flight out. Still, by my clock it’s only five thirty, and her flight doesn’t leave until nine. She’s got a little time. Enough to slow down a bit.
“Peaches, relax.” I hook an arm around her from behind and hold her back against my front. “You’re not going to be late. I wouldn’t let you miss your flight.” I lay a line of kisses, starting behind her ear, down her neck to the sweet spot where her neck and shoulder meet.
Her body goes rigid in my arms before she shrugs out of my hold and jets to her suitcase, tossing things in willy-nilly. “No, I’ve got to get there early, read through my lines. You know how it is.” She waves her hands around a bit frantically.
I firm my spine, cross my arms, and lean against the dresser. “Is something wrong? I’m getting a strange vibe off you.”
She pushes a lock of blonde hair behind her ear. “No, of course not. Just got a lot on my mind. Fun’s over. Back to reality.”
I watch her shove the last few things of hers into her bag. She turns around, saying, “I’ve already had Nate call a car service.”
“Sky . . . baby, I wanted to take you. Drop you off.”
She shakes her head. “Not a good idea. The paps are everywhere after the wedding and are dying for another shot of us. It would be wise to have a little space.”
I frown, thinking space from Skyler is the absolute last thing I want. Ever. Still, it’s her life too, and I don’t have any real claim. Sure, we’ve agreed to be exclusive—at least I’m pretty sure we confirmed that last night in bed. Then again, we did a lot in bed.
“Okay, I understand. Come here. At least let me give you a proper goodbye. I’m not sure when I’m going to see you next. We need to make this goodbye last.” I grin.
She closes her eyes, purses her lips, and nods.
Not at all the response I’d expect from her.
Sky enters my embrace and plants her forehead against my chest. She wraps her arms around my back and inhales deeply. Her hands are locked around me so tight I can barely catch my own breath.
“Hey, this isn’t goodbye forever. It’s goodbye for now. When I get back to Boston and get settled, we’ll touch base. See what our schedules are like and plan our next rendezvous.”
“Rendezvous. Right. Sex.” Her tone is flat.
I curl my hand around her nape and lift her chin with my thumb. “Yes, incredible sex. Like what we’ve been having. You. Me. Great sex. Good food. Awesome times. Fun.”
She nods. “Fun.”
I frown and place my forehead against hers. “What’s wrong, baby?”
Skyler shakes her head. “Nothing. I’m tired. We were up . . . late last night.”
I grin at the memory of all the things we did last night. Things I’d like to repeat soon. Very soon. God willing.
“Okay. Sleep on the plane. Get some rest. I’ll be thinking about you.” A lump of emotion builds in my throat, but I push it down, trying to play things cool. I’ll be seeing her soon. It’s not goodbye forever. Looks like I need the reminder as much as she does.
“Mm-hmm,” she offers noncommittally.
Weird. Sky’s got her wall up, the one I pushed through and knocked down our first week together. Maybe it’s because she’s sad we have to separate. That has to be it. I wouldn’t know one way or the other. Ever since Kayla, I’ve not dated a woman long enough to have an inkling what missing her would be like and vice versa.
“I gotta go, Park,” she whispers, her breath feathering delectably across my lips.
Leaning forward, I press my lips to hers. She eases her body against me, her breasts smashed to my chest, before she slants her head and opens her mouth. Just the invitation I need. I dip my tongue in and . . . Christ! She’s like biting into a minty piece of gum for the first time. I can’t get enough. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough.
For long moments our tongues danceand our arms tighten, bringing the other as close as possible. Ripples of arousal shoot to my cock, reminding me he’d like to say goodbye as well. She must feel my excitement because she moans into my mouth and rubs her lower half against my hard shaft like a cat in heat.
I tunnel my hand into her hair, pull at her roots until she cries out, gasping for breath, and grips my ass with a force I’ve grown to appreciate when Sky goes wild for it. Since day one, she’s been uninhibited and unapologetic about her ravenous sex drive. She matches my desires and libido to a tee. No woman has ever shared my sex drive, but this firecracker explodes with it.
“Ah!” she moans, head tipping back, chin to the ceiling as I grind against her, running my lips down her swanlike neck, nipping as I go.
“You sure you don’t have a little extra time . . . , ” I prompt with a thrust of my hips.
One of her hands wiggles between us, and she palms my erection through the dress slacks I haphazardly put on when Sophie came knocking.
“Mmm . . .” She rubs up and down. “Would love to, but . . .”
I groan with heartfelt irritation. “You gotta go. I know, I know. One more kiss.”
I kiss her so hard and so long my tongue hurts and our lips are swollen and bruised. I plant my forehead against hers. “I don’t want to let you go.” For the first time in a long time, I admit weakness to a woman. The back of my neck tingles, and I grind my teeth.
“Then don’t,” she whispers, and for some reason, a niggling thought hammers at the back of my skull. Something important is happening, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
“You have to go back to your life in New York. I have to go back to mine in Boston.” I hold her tighter.
She inhales deeply, her shoulders dropping before she nods and moves away. “It’s been real, Parker.”
I grin. “A real blast.” The cheesy joke slips out.
A flash of hurt crosses her gaze, but she quickly covers it up with one of her fake smiles. The ones she gives the paparazzi and people she doesn’t really want to talk to but has to, due to her status as a celebrity.
“Yep.” All she says before she turns around and hefts her bags. I follow her through the suite where Rachel and Nate Van Dyken, her bodyguards, are waiting. Fully dressed. All black. Aviators dangling from their shirts. Nate looks like he is about to go to war in a pair of black cargoes and matching combat boots. The dude is a brick house, but he dotes on his wife and treats Skyler like a lady, even when they aren’t out. I like them for Sky. They’re a great addition to her team.
“Ready?” Nate asks Sky, and she nods rather solemnly. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she’d been given some bad news. Nate grabs both of her bags in one hand. Total stud. He holds out his free hand to me. “Good seeing you, Ellis.” Even though I’ve told him my name many times, he continues to call me by my last name.
“Nate. You as well, man. Take care of my girl.”
Skyler’s head immediately jerks up from where she’s going through her purse, and I swear a wounded expression takes over her features before she masks it.
Her last expression kept hitting me throughout the flight home, like a commercial stuck on repeat. Even when she finally took her leave and I embraced her for the last time, her body didn’t envelop me with warmth as I’d come to expect when holding her. I don’t know if it was something I said during the night or in the morning, but if I had to guess, I’d say the woman is spooked. Something has scared her off, and I need to get to the bottom of it.
I pull out my phone and turn it on. I powered down on the long flight to save my battery. The second the display lights up, a myriad of dings goes off instantly.
“Jesus. You weren’t kidding.” I curse, scanning the notifications. Ignoring the messages and texts, half of them from the IG offices, I dial Wendy direct at headquarters.
“Parker . . . I’m so, so, so sorry. You can’t know how sorry I am. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t realize. I forwarded the file on, and now it’s everywhere. Everywhere!” Wendy’s voice is pained and emotionally charged.
“Wendy, calm down. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I press the phone closer to my ear to drown out the sounds of the airport around me.
“How can you not know?” she gasps. “Crap, you’ve been on the plane for nine hours. Parker, I’m sorry. The file Bo sent over to me with the pictures from the photo shoot with Skyler Paige . . .”
“Yeah? You sent them over to People, right?”
“I did, but I didn’t open the entire file, and inside was a file labeled ‘Parker Confidential.’ God, I’m so stupid! The pictures of you and Skyler Paige, they’re all over the media. The ones of you in the pool together, hanging out at her house . . .”
“What!” I clench my teeth and wait for her to explain.
“Some of you carrying Skyler out of a pool, her half-naked, you kissing her like crazy, and it’s so freakin’ hot, everyone is talking about it. There’s some of you kissing in the bath—”
“Oh my God! Fuck! This cannot be happening.” I rub at my temples with my thumb and forefinger.
Bo breaks in. “What’s the matter, brother?”
“The pictures you sent Wendy to deliver to People . . .”
“Yeah?” He sets down his suitcase closer to our huddle.
“Apparently you added a confidential file of the private photos you took of Skyler and me?”
His eyes widen. “No . . .”
“’Bout sums it up.” I inhale slow and deep, trying to calm my immediate anger at the potential ramifications this could have for Skyler and International Guy.
“I’m sorry, Parker,” Wendy says. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I should have . . . It doesn’t matter. I’ll pack up my desk.” Even though she tries to muffle it, a choked sob sounds through the phone.
“You will do no such thing. We’re on our way there. We need to do damage control, see how far this has reached . . .”
“Okay, okay, okay. I’ll be ready.” She hangs up, and I press into my temples once more, knowing this is going to be a shit show.
“We need to get to the papers now.” I lift my chin in the direction of a store across the concourse with all the local and national news.
“On it, brother.” Bo strides off while I wait for my luggage to come out.
I pull up Google and type in Skyler’s name. A deluge of images of me and her in a variety of settings immediately pops up. I scan through the pictures, and my temperature rises. The pictures are mostly tame. Besides the bathroom picture, where you can see the outline of Skyler’s bare breasts plastered against my bare chest when she was taking the bubble bath and I’d attacked her in between takes, the rest show a normal, happy couple. Snuggling on the couch, talking. Standing off to the side, having a cup of coffee. Her trying to teach me a yoga pose and my failing miserably. I chuckle at several of the images, remembering how much fun we’d had together. Then I stop on the image of us in the pool.
“Jesus . . .” I rub at my mouth and enlarge the image. It’s stunning and fuckhot. I remember the moment clear as day. I was holding her, the water lapping around our waists, her legs locked around me. She wore a tiny bikini, which left little to the imagination. She was gripping my bicep as I had a hand on her ass. Bo told me to whisper something into her ear. I did and took it one step further. I’d whispered all the sexy things I was going to do to her when she was done shooting. It obviously had her responding positively, because he captured her looking exactly like a lust-driven sex goddess I was about to ravish. After that I lifted her right out of the pool and took her straight to bed, fucking her until we both couldn’t walk.
Damn. I save the image to my photos because I can’t not. I need that sucker enlarged and placed on a wall in my bedroom for the nights I don’t get to see Skyler.
Shit. She’s probably losing her mind. I check my phone and see several voice mails from her agent, Tracey, but nothing from her. I take a full breath and finally see my luggage.
Grabbing it and Bo’s as quick as I can, I meet up with him while he’s leaving the store. His arms are filled with a stack of magazines and newspapers.
“So . . . about this confidential file . . . ,” he starts.
I shake my head, grab the stack, and shove what I can into my briefcase and the rest into the front of my suitcase. “Save it. We’ve got to get to IG and do damage control.”
His lips flatten, and a muscle ticks in his jaw. “Right. Just know . . . those were for you.” His voice is rough when he adds, “A gift.”
I stop and place a hand on his shoulder. “Brother, I know. And in other circumstances, I’d be thanking you. And one day, I’m sure I will. For now, we deal with the fallout. Yeah?”
His chin dip is succinct, but I can tell this is hitting him in the feelers. Bo may be a man’s man, a brother from another mother, but he feels things deep. His relationship with Royce and me is right up there with his mom and sisters. We’re family, and family doesn’t fuck over one another. It wasn’t Bo’s intention. And the pictures are freaking amazing. It’s really unfortunate they got into the wrong hands.
Bo and I make our way to the exit to meet the car Wendy hired for us. Only we barely make it two steps outside when we are bombarded by a barrage of lenses, an eruption of flashes, and a horde of paparazzi screaming my name.
“Parker, where’s Skyler?”
“How does it feel to have nailed the hottest chick in Hollywood?”
“Is Skyler pregnant with your baby?”
“When’s the wedding?”
“Is Skyler cheating on you with her on-and-off-again boyfriend and costar, Rick Pettington?”
This last question has me grinding my teeth as I push through the mayhem to get to where the hired drivers are standing. One of them has a sign that says “International Guy.”
“Who’s the guy with you? Is he your bodyguard?” one of the paps yells.
“Yeah, motherfucker, and if you so much as touch him, you’ll see a world of hurt. Back off!” Bo yells back as he grabs my arm and pushes with his other arm. We leave our luggage at the exit door in order to push through the bodies.
I can barely see through the explosion of camera flashes, but Bo leads the way.
He gets me into the car, then slams the door and pushes back through the paps. After a few minutes he returns with both of our suitcases, passing them off to the driver to put in the trunk.
As Bo opens the door, the flashes start up again as the paps try to get any image they can.
When he finally gets in, he flops against the seat. “Holy fuck, man. Is this the shit Skyler goes through?”
I nod. “Worse when she’s expected. This is tame compared to what I’ve seen her experience. The crowd at the castle for the wedding was her normal fanfare.”
“Jesus. Poor thing.” He runs a hand through his tousled dark hair. “You calling her?”
I take a deep breath. “Yeah, I want to be at the office in private.”
“She tried to call you?”
I purse my lips and shake my head.
“Not sure what’s going on with her. It was weird when I left Copenhagen. After Sophie woke me up—”
“Wait, Sophie came by your room before Sky left?”
“Yeah. Wanted to say goodbye since I’m not going to see her for a while.”
“And you say Skyler got wiggy that same morning?” Bo cants his head.
I shrug. “I guess so, yeah.”
“Brother, you can’t be this dense.”
“Excuse me?” I jerk my head to the side and focus on my friend.
“Sophie’s hot and confident, man. We made sure of it.”
Bo lets out a long breath. “And you’ve slept with her.”
“Not saying anything I don’t already know.” I grind my teeth together, wishing he’d get to the point.
“And you’re sleeping with Skyler.”
“Once again . . .”
“She’s weirded out about your relationship with Sophie, man. Jesus, you’re dumb.” Bo shakes his head.
I sigh. “Nah, we talked about Sophie.”
“After the wedding. It’s all good. She knows Sophie’s just a friend.”
Bo snorts obnoxiously. “Yeah, a friend you were fucking not too long ago.”
I frown and rub the back of my neck. “You think she’s trippin’ about Sophie even after we talked?”
“Uh . . . yeah. I think she’s all twisted up about it. And then Sophie wakes you up, pulling you out of bed to say goodbye? Girl probably eavesdropped on your convo, dude. I know I would if I were all gaga over a chick and she was shooting the shit with her girl, and I wanted to know where I stood.”
“Huh. I mean, makes sense. And now this . . . Fuck. She’s never going to talk to me again.”
Bo frowns. “You that much of a dickwad in the sack?”
Instinct overrides my common sense, and I automatically punch him in the chest, but not as hard as I can. “Fuck you!”
He rubs at the spot, wincing. “Ugh . . .”
“I take care of my woman,” I snarl.
He fires back his response. “Does she know she’s your woman, or does she think she’s your good-time gal?”
“We have fun together, man. We both agree it’s casual.”
Bo widens his legs and leans back into the leather of the limo seat, making himself more comfortable. “Never met a woman in my life who touches base daily by phone, spends three full weeks with a guy, flies across the world to attend a wedding with him, only sees him and no one else since you hooked up, and still considers herself in a”—he makes air quotes—“‘casual relationship.’”
The man has a point. A huge one.
“Brother, why are you so set that this thing with Skyler is casual? If casual were the case, you’d be banging chicklets. Since I know you’re not, and you’re hung up on a sexy blonde actress with a great rack and a smokin’ hot ass—”
“Easy, brother . . .”
He grins cheekily and winks. “Point is, you’re already in a romantic relationship with her. Now your shit has hit the public eye, and you need to figure out how the two of you are going to handle it. You feel me?”
Crap. I’m in a romantic relationship with Skyler Paige.
I need to talk to her. Immediately.
The only problem is . . . What could I ever possibly say to make this situation any better?