Never Tied Down (The Never Duet #2) (8 page)

BOOK: Never Tied Down (The Never Duet #2)
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   “Will do.”

   “Love you, Kal.”

   “Bye, Megs.”

 

   It took me three days to work up the nerve to go back to the Coffee Bean I’d found the note in.  I was a nervous wreck.  I spent an inordinate amount of time picking the perfect outfit, I planned what I was going to say to him, and then I marched into the coffee shop, sat down, and I waited.  I waited and I waited, but he never showed.  Well, at least not in the two hours I sat there.

   It hadn’t occurred to me that he wouldn’t come.  He said if I was there, he’d find me.  But then I started panicking.  Perhaps he’d come the past three days, waited for me, but then assumed I wasn’t coming back.  Perhaps he thought I’d chosen to stay away, to avoid him.  Suddenly, the apprehension I had about seeing him turned into fear that I would never see him again. 

   I grabbed my bag and headed for the door, walking with determination to the soundstage I knew he worked on.  I opened the door and stalked down the hallways, looking frantically for Riot.  I saw quite a few people, but none of them were the tall, dark-headed, and devastatingly handsome man I was looking for.  I turned another corner and collided with a woman.

   We both stumbled backward violently, and had I not fallen against the wall, I would have hit the floor.

   “I’m so sorry,” I said immediately.  “Are you all right?”  I righted myself and saw the other woman doing the same.

   “I’m fine, are you okay?” she asked, not unkindly.

   “Yeah.  I’m sorry.  I was just looking for someone.” 

   She straightened her blouse and adjusted the pencil behind her ear, gripping her clipboard to her chest.  “Maybe I can help.  Who are you looking for?”

   “Um, Riot Bentley.  I think he works on this lot.”

   “He does.  Are you Kalli?”

   My chin came back in surprise.  “How do you know my name?”

   “Lucky guess,” she said quickly, but then grabbed my elbow and started leading me down the hallway.  I followed her through the maze of the soundstage.  It looked similar to the lot I worked on, but there were differences.  Different pictures hung on the walls, different people roamed the halls, different offices with different people.  She led me on set and my mouth gaped a little.  Even though I was in the business, even though I’d worked on movies, television, music videos, I never got tired of seeing a set in person.  Something about a soundstage with the lights off, set unlit, almost like a page in a book not being read, gave me goose bumps.

   “He’s got to be on set in a few minutes, but I’ll see if I can track him down.”

   “Um, okay.  I don’t want to get him in trouble.  I can come back later.”

   “It’s fine,” she said, leading me back into a hallway, then turning into the first door on the left.  Once inside I was overcome by his scent.  It had to be his dressing room.  It was almost annoying that my nose could identify him.  It smelled spicy and clean, warm.  Like Riot.  I realized that, if given the opportunity, I could probably identify his smell in a blind nose test, and that was pitiful.  “Wait here.  I’ll go find him.”

   “Wait, no, it’s okay,” I said to vapor as she disappeared down the hallway, walking faster than I thought was necessary, with purpose.  I took a moment and slowly turned, looking around the room, trying to take it in.  My eyes drifted from the couch against a wall to the brightly lit vanity, to the old-school coatrack with a familiar leather jacket draped over it.  I knew if I walked to the coatrack I would not be able to keep myself from burying my face in his coat.  So I didn’t move.

   I saw a pair of Converse sitting on the floor under the vanity and I smiled, thinking about how I loved him in those shoes.  He wore them almost ironically.  He wasn’t trying to be a hipster.  I knew he was trying to put off more of a rebel vibe, but he’d fallen victim to the hipster movement.  He wore them before it was cool.

   I heard loud, running footsteps coming down the hall, and my head snapped to face the doorway.  When Riot appeared, hands braced against the doorframe, breathing heavily, a gorgeous and familiar smile across his face, my heart started beating triple-time. 

   “You’re here,” he said, panting.

   I nodded, stuck standing still in the middle of his dressing room.  My eyes took a moment to travel up and down him, taking stock of him, and my heart wondered if he was real, if he was truly just standing feet away.  If my heart were in charge, my arms would be around his shoulders, my face buried in his neck.  But my brain was currently in charge, so my eyes were the only part of me allowed to move.

   His hair was still dark, styled a little differently, shorter on the sides but longer on top.  He wore a black fitted t-shirt, tight in all the right places, all of which my eyes found.  He had on faded jeans with a police badge clipped to the belt.  Obviously, he was in costume.

   “Hi,” I said when my eyes were finally done taking him in.  I couldn’t move, couldn’t find the way to make my brain communicate with my body, which was probably good.  I wanted to run to him, run my hands over him, press myself into him, and take everything from him I’d been missing for so long.

   “Hey,” he said with a lopsided grin.  “You get my note?”

   “Yeah,” I said, a smile finally sprouting, taking root, lighting me up.

   “Good.”

   I startled when I heard, “Riot Bentley, Leah McCann, call to set B, three minutes.”

   “Shit,” he murmured, but then he moved and was right in front of me, hands on either side of my neck.  “I’ve got to go.  I’m filming a scene.  Can you wait?  It might be a while.”

   I looked at the clock above the door and determined I had nowhere to be.  I was technically done for the day and didn’t need to be in the studio.  I had my laptop and I could work in his dressing room.

   “I can wait.”  His eyes lit up at my words and then they drifted down to my lips.  My breath caught and his hands tightened just slightly, making my eyelids flutter.  He couldn’t kiss me right now; it was too soon.  But knowing he was thinking about it, well, that was amazing.  “Can I work here?  Do you mind?”

   “No,” he said, giving me one last gentle squeeze then moving away.  “Make yourself at home.  Do you need anything?”

   I needed so much.  But I managed a simple, “No, I’m good.”

   “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

   “I’ll be here.”

   He gave me one last smile and then turned and left.

   “Holy crap,” I mumbled to myself, willing my heart to stop beating so quickly.  I rubbed my hands together, realizing they were clammy.  He made me nervous.  God, he looked good.  Even better than I remembered, and I had a damn good memory.  I turned and sat on the couch, hardly stopping my body from flopping down, my bag falling next to me.  My head leaned back and I was looking at the ceiling, wondering if I’d made the right decision.  My heart really wanted to see Riot—it had quite nearly leapt right out of my chest at just the sight of him.  But my mind, now that the image of him was gone from right in front of me, was warring with my heart.

   I took out my phone and sent a text to Ella.

**I’m in Riot’s dressing room. **

  
I bit my bottom lip, running it through my teeth, waiting for her reply.  Just as I knew it would, her reply came in just seconds.

**What?!  What happened? Are you horizontal?**

**No, I’m not horizontal.  I just worked up enough nerve to see him, so I went and found him.  But he’s working, so I’m waiting in his dressing room. **

**And then what? **

**I don’t know.  I’m hoping you can convince me to stay.  The longer I sit here by myself, the stronger the urge to run gets. **

**Don’t you dare run, Kalli.  No more running.  Give him a chance.  You both deserve it. **

  
I sighed because I knew she was right.  I also grinned because I knew I could count on her to help alleviate some of the uncertainty.  So, instead of stewing and worrying about what might come when he walked through that door again, I pulled out my laptop and started working.  I needed something really specific for a scene we would be shooting in a few weeks, and I hadn’t managed to find it yet, so I was on the hunt.

   Forty-five minutes later, I looked up from my screen when I heard footsteps enter.

   There he was.  Just as beautiful as he’d been earlier that day, still smiling.

   “I was worried you’d leave.”

   “I almost did,” I admitted, smiling.  “Ella talked me down, told me to stay.”

   “I always liked her,” he said softly.

   “I think the feeling is mutual.”

   “Have you had dinner yet?  Can I take you?”

   I felt relief at his words.  I needed to get out of this small confined space.  A public dinner was a good idea.

   “That sounds great.”

   He came farther into the room and closed the door behind him, then walked to his armoire and before I realized what was happening, he’d pulled his t-shirt up and over his head and I was left looking at the incredibly muscled back I could so vividly remember running my hands over.  My mouth gaped and my eyes worked quickly to take him all in before the sight was taken from me.  Just as quickly as he’d removed his shirt, he pulled another one on, and I made a silent plea to the ex-boyfriend gods that he’d leave his pants on.  Thankfully, he bent and slipped off his shoes, exchanging them for the Converse I’d seen on the floor earlier, then removed his fake badge and left it on the counter of his vanity.  Then he turned to me.

   “Ready?”

   “Sure,” I said, closing the lid to my laptop and shoving it in my bag.  I stood and followed him out of the building, walking straight to his truck.  He opened the door for me and I smiled at him as I slid in, letting him close the door behind me.  I took a deep breath as he rounded the bed, trying to calm my nerves.

   Once it was started and we were on the move, I was able to relax a little.

   “So, you got my note.”  He said it like a statement, only the tone of his voice indicating he wanted me to elaborate.

   “I did.  A few days ago.”

   “And yet you haven’t been there since.”  He didn’t sound angry, but maybe a little disappointed.

   “I’d kind of been lying to myself since I moved here.  I told myself that I probably wouldn’t see you, and if by chance I did, I would be able to handle it.”  I saw his head turn toward me out of the corner of my eye, but couldn’t bring myself to stare into his eyes while so close to him.  Baby steps.

   “So, you came and found me?”

   “No.  Well, yes, I guess so.  I spent the last three days working up enough nerve to sit at that coffee shop and wait for you, and when you never showed I was a little pissed.  So I went on a mission.  Luckily, you weren’t hard to find.”

   “Erin, the girl you bumped into with the clipboard?  She helped me find out where you were working.  You happened to literally run into the only person in the world who knew I was looking for you.”

   “You never came.  To the coffee shop, I mean.”

   “I did,” he said, his head turning to me once again, and that time I couldn’t resist, so I turned to look at him as well.  “I went there all three days, but you weren’t there.  No note in return.  Nothing.  But I hadn’t given up.  I just got caught at work shooting that scene.  If I weren’t in this truck with you right now, I’d be sitting in that coffee shop waiting for you.  I’d have waited there forever if there was still hope you’d show up.”

   With his gaze darting between me and the road, I never got a clear look, but I knew his eyes had softened the way his voice did.  The softness I heard there only went further to melting me on the inside.

   A breathy, “Oh,” was all I could manage in return.

   “We’ll talk about it at dinner.”

   “Okay,” I said.  Then he turned his head again and gave me that brilliant smile and my nerves came down another notch.

   A few minutes later he pulled into a parking lot and made sure I knew to stay in my seat so he could open my door.  I smiled as I climbed out, and then laughed when I saw his choice of restaurant.

   “Pizza?  What are you? Twelve?”  I laughed and smiled at him, my belly flipping when I heard him laugh along with me.

   “What can I say?  I haven’t gotten the lay of the land here in LA completely, but I do know this place has excellent pizza and beer.”

   “Well, in that case….” I laughed.

   He opened the door for me and when we were led to our table he scooted in my chair.  I wasn’t surprised; Riot had always been rather chivalrous and thoughtful.  But it also made me feel slightly uneasy.  It was feeling too much like a date and I wasn’t sure what was happening.  Then suddenly, Riot Bentley was sitting across from me, smiling, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to stay away from him any longer.

 

 

Chapter Seven

Beautiful Torture

Riot

   The past three days, waiting for Kalli to show, had been tough.  At first I was optimistic she’d come, hopeful she’d take my note as a sign that it was time to move forward.  But as each day passed and I sat there for hours, I began to worry she’d disappeared again.  Retreated back into the darkness I’d left her in months before.  It was difficult, but I knew I would go back there until I was sure there was no point any longer.

   So, when Erin told me Kalli was in my dressing room, I’d never sprinted anywhere so quickly.  I’d gotten to my room out of breath, but deliriously happy to see her there.  In the months since I’d seen her, I had moments of panic when the dark thoughts would take over and I’d give in to the fear that I’d never see her again.  But there she’d been, waiting for me.  It was something I never imagined would actually happen, and I wasn’t about to let this opportunity go to waste.

   Kalli was with me and it took every ounce of self-control I had not to reach over and take her hand, or brush her hair away from her face, which was so fucking beautiful.  I wanted to hold her and touch her, but I couldn’t scare her away.  I could already tell she was skittish.  She’d changed from the Kalli I’d first met so many months ago.  She’d been feisty, snarky, and sassy.  Obviously, the hurt she’d been through had buried some of that.  I was going to enjoy bringing it out again.

BOOK: Never Tied Down (The Never Duet #2)
7.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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