Tangled Trust (The Lust List: Kaidan Stone #2) (10 page)

BOOK: Tangled Trust (The Lust List: Kaidan Stone #2)
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“Is that what you try to tell yourself?” I ask, my tone biting. “That I’m just the rebound girl?”

“Look at me,” she makes a sweeping gesture down her face and body. “You are just a pale imitation.”

I blink prettily. “Aww, does it hurt that he chose me over you? It should. Because he did. Move. The. Fuck. On.”

Her face reddens. “I don’t want him. I’ve moved on. You’re the one—”

“Oh yeah? Ender Varrone your boyfriend now?”

“I’m with him, aren’t I?” she spits. She glances back at her table and stiffens when she sees what’s happening over there. The brunette is in Ender’s lap now.

I laugh loudly. “You’re a one-night stand waiting to happen. You know that, right?”

She looks back at me. “What?”

“Oh yeah, didn’t you know? Ender has a rule… he only spends one night with a girl before kicking her to the curb.” I lean closer to her, and a little smile spontaneously appears on my lips. “So I guess you better make tonight a good one.” I give her a little wave and push past, my head held high.

But she grabs me by the shoulder, her nails digging into me, and wrests me back around. I gasp and stumble right into a table. Everyone’s staring at us. And I do mean everyone. The lights near the stage are blinking. The commercial break is over. I look around, seeking an escape, but Peyton’s got me cornered between two tables.

“Don’t touch me ever again,” I say, my voice shaking.

Her eyes are round as saucers. “You talentless whore.”

Then everything happens in slow motion. Her glass raising in the air, her arm tilting sideways. The cold, bright red liquid cascading over my hair and running into my eyes. It traces cold rivulets down my chest.

I suck in a breath from the shock and stare down at myself, at my slick, wine covered cleavage, at the red drops seeping into the fabric. I can’t breathe. I need to breathe. This can’t be happening.

Someone shouts something to the guards, and they pull Peyton away instantly. Then Kaidan’s beside me, his hands clenched into tight fists. His father is right behind him, livid.

Kaidan tears his jacket off and lays it over my wet shoulders, then turns his icy gaze on Peyton.

She wilts beneath the force of it as he steps closer. The guards have her by both arms, and she looks like she wants to escape. All eyes are on us, from the people at the tables near us, to the people in the rest of the theater. I’m numb, in shock, floating outside my body. This is a nightmare.

“You will never come near Hayley again.” Kaidan’s voice is low, threatening. “Or me. I
never
want to see you.”

Tears glisten in Peyton’s eyes. “You don’t mean it—”

“I mean every word. I’m with Hayley. Not you.
We
are done.”

Peyton shoots me a glare and unsuccessfully tries to shake off the guards. “You just made the biggest mistake of your life, Kaidan. Everyone will know the truth. I’m not helping you hide what’s going on anymore.”

Hide the truth? What the hell is she talking about? Security is running toward us—did they extend the commercial break? The show hasn’t started.

Calvin plucks the soaked diamond necklace from my limp grasp, and I let out a faint whimper.

“If you can’t control your women,” he hisses to Kaidan, “How can I trust you to run the label? Get her the hell out of here.”

Calvin shoots me a hateful glare, and I avert my burning eyes. I’m not gonna cry in front of all these people. Kaidan’s jaw tightens, and he looks like he wants to punch his dad
and
Peyton. But instead, he turns to his guards. “Let’s go. Side exit.”

Kaidan grabs me by the hand, and the guards flank us as we hurry toward the exit doors at the side of the theater. I can feel every eye on us as we make our getaway, and loud chatter erupts at our hasty departure.

When we make it to the outside of the building, Kaidan directs his guards to call the driver, and I stand beside him, shaking beneath his jacket. It’s not that cold out, but I’m soaked and… everything that just happened.

“The car’s coming,” Kaidan says, looking down the street.

Flashes erupt from nowhere, paps who got lucky and found us.

Kaidan wraps his arms around me, protecting me from the sharks, shielding me with his body so they can’t get a decent shot.

The Jag pulls up, and Kaidan helps me into it. He slides into the backseat beside me, and his guards get in the front. Flashes continue to go off outside.

“Take us to the hotel,” Kaidan commands.

The car moves.

“No—I want to go home.” My voice cracks on the words.

“We keep a penthouse at the hotel. You can clean up there,” Kaidan says.

“No,” I repeat. That’s when I realize I’m empty-handed. “Wait, we have to go back. I don’t have my purse. I won’t be able to get into my house.”

“Charles,” Kaidan says to the guard in the passenger seat. “Call my father’s men, and tell them to bring her purse to the hotel.”

I sink back into the seat, dizzy, all my adrenaline gone. The stench of alcohol on my dress is overwhelming, permeating the car. Kaidan finds a handkerchief from somewhere and turns to me. His eyes are flinty, unreadable as he wipes my face, dabs at my hair. I tear the piece of cloth from his hand, crumple it in my fist and sink back into the seat.

“I’m sorry, Hayley. She’s insane.”

“And you dated her.” I let out a harsh laugh. “What the hell was she talking about back there? What’s going on?”

Something
flashes in his eyes, but then it’s gone.

I sit up straight and scoot away from him. I’m tired of wondering. “Were you still seeing her? There were pictures of you two at that cafe.”

He slides closer and searches my face. “No. I haven’t dated her in months.”

“Then why…?”

“Look, I was her lawyer. I was helping her with something.”

Her lawyer. Do I believe that? My stomach twists. “What did she mean… that she’s helping you hide something?”

Kaidan shakes his head. “I don’t know. She’s… unbalanced. I was her lawyer before—so I was still helping her with some things. But that’s over. She can get someone else. I won’t work with her again.”

I want to believe him. I do. “But why did she say those things? Even if she’s unbalanced… what were you working with her on?”

He hesitates, staring into my eyes like he has something else he wants to say. I wait, my heart thudding loudly in my chest, but before he can answer me, the car jerks to a stop. We’re at Beauchamp Towers, LA’s newest luxury hotel.

“I just want to go home,” I say again, my voice wavering.

“No. You’re not going home like this.” His tone is commanding, and I don’t have it in me to fight him. He’s right, of course. I’m soaking wet. I want this dress off.

He gets out of the car first, then helps me out.

We enter the massive marble foyer of The Beauchamp, and at the back of the space, there’s a Stone Label logo sign and a velvet rope leading toward some closed doors. Two bouncers stand at the front of it, flanking a woman with a clipboard. It’s the Stone afterparty.

“Hang on,” I say.

I hurry over to the woman with her clipboard and catch sight of myself in one mirrored wall. Good God. My hair’s hanging haphazardly to the side, my makeup is smeared, and my dress is ruined. A lump forms in my throat, and I force myself to keep going.

The woman shoots me a dirty look as I approach.

“Excuse me,” I say. “I need you to add some names to that list.”

She looks me over like I’m an undesirable—some drunk transient that just wandered in.

“Ma’am, you need to leave.” She gestures to one of the bouncers.

“Hayley?” Kaidan has followed me, and when the woman’s eyes land on him, they widen.

“Mr. Stone.” She practically curtsies like Kaidan’s some kind of royalty. I guess he is here.

“Yes, I’m Kaidan Stone’s date tonight,” I say, my voice sharp. “And I need you to add some names to that list.”

“Certainly,” she squeaks out, lifting her clipboard.

“Charlotte Lamb and Levi Tanner. Thanks.” As she writes their names, I release my breath and whirl to face Kaidan.

He’s got a strange, veiled look on his face. “What are you doing?”

I put my hands on my hips. He had that same tone of voice when I asked to go to the Stone mansion party… like he’s judging me for something. And maybe he is. He did say the women he dated used him to get access to events, to his money.

“Don’t look at me like that. I promised Char I’d invite her to this, and I keep my promises. But I won’t be here to get them in later, because I’m going home the second my purse shows up.”

He slowly nods and waves toward the elevator. “Come on.”

My throat feels thick as Kaidan leads me back to the elevators and then uses a key card to take us to the penthouse. The guards crowd into the elevator with us, and the scent of alcohol from my dress is overpowering again in the small space. But then, for the first time, I notice the scent of Kaidan’s cologne on the jacket he threw over my shoulders. The elevator walls reflect my sad state, so I avert my eyes and try not to feel sorry for myself.

“Can I use your phone to text Charlotte?” I ask, my voice small.

Kaidan hesitates, then pulls out his phone and hands it to me. He’s got a picture of himself—younger—with a few friends on a sailboat as his background. Are these his best friends? My heart skips a beat as I see the girl hanging off Kaidan’s arm. Blond hair. Green eyes. And not Peyton.

His phone’s burning a hole in my hands as I quickly text Char to let her know it’s me and that I won’t be at the afterparty but she and Levi are on the list. Then I hand Kaidan’s phone back.

Who was that girl in the picture? Was she yet another Peyton doppelganger? I just feel heartsick. And beyond humiliated. I want Kaidan so much it hurts, but can I trust him? A niggling doubt in my gut tells me there’s more to the Peyton story… and his weird doppelganger obsession. Maybe I need to find a way out of LA… away from all of this. Just as soon as I change into something dry and have Kaidan’s driver take me home.

The elevator doors open, revealing a small foyer and locked door. The guards stand watch in the entranceway as Kaidan lets me into the dark penthouse. The layout is similar to my own apartment, but the scene here is breathtaking—all the lights of LA shining in the darkness across expansive windows. Kaidan flicks on a few lights, and I take in the white leather couches, crystal light fixtures, and modern metal tables. Despite the circumstances, I feel a little rush of excitement at being in Kaidan’s apartment like this.

He heads for a closed door. “I’ll get you some things.”

His voice is cool, and the air seems to grow chilly around me. I shiver. Will he go to the afterparty without me once I’m gone? He’s hardly said anything since we left. My excitement withers away.

He comes back out with a pile of towels and a men’s dress shirt. “The bathroom’s right through the master bedroom. You can shower—whatever you need to do. I don’t have women’s clothes here. I can ask one of my guys to try to find something suitable for you—”

“It’s fine. Just—I need to clean up. Once the dress dries out I can wear it home…”

“Yeah. Give me the gown, and I’ll have the hotel dry it.” He runs his hands through his hair, and the sudden tortured look on his face makes me want to reach out and touch him. He meets my eyes and goes still, dropping his hand from his hair.

“Thanks for getting me out of there,” I say. A charge runs through me as we stare into each other’s eyes, but then I remember how awful I must look.

I take off for the bathroom and lock myself inside. I’m a wreck. Mascara has run beneath my eyes, giving me a raccoon look, and my hair is falling out all over the place. Tears pool in my eyes as I wet one towel and wipe the wine from my face, taking most of my make-up with it. I rip all the pins from my updo and take off the beaded hairband—ruined beyond repair.

I look slightly better once I’ve cleaned up, but my chest and arms are sticky with dried wine, and I struggle with the zipper on my gown for a few seconds and then give up. I can’t reach it. My cheeks warm as I crack open the master bedroom door.

Kaidan’s leaning against the couch in the living room, his arms crossed over his chest, staring at the plush white rug like it holds the answer to everything.

I clear my throat, and he looks up. “My gown. I can’t unzip it…” He strides over to me, and I crack the door wider. “It’s ruined. The designer—”

“Don’t worry about any of that,” he says, his voice deep, soothing as he meets my eyes. “I’ll make sure it’s all taken care of.”

His eyes are softer now than they were before, and butterflies take off in my stomach. I turn around to hide my expression and give him access to the zipper.

His warm hand barely brushes my skin as he slowly eases the zipper down to where it ends at the small of my back, but heat courses through me, traveling down my spine to fill my center. The cool air drafts over my exposed skin, and I shiver, holding the dress up so it won’t fall off. I’m reminded too much of the last time he took off my dress. I know I’m blushing when I turn back to face him.

His eyes are dark, his lips parted. “I ordered room service.” His deep voice sends another tingle through me.

BOOK: Tangled Trust (The Lust List: Kaidan Stone #2)
11.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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