Tangled Trust (The Lust List: Kaidan Stone #2) (7 page)

BOOK: Tangled Trust (The Lust List: Kaidan Stone #2)
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Char zips up the gold gown carefully, and I turn in front of the mirror.

“You didn’t have to get the lowlights,” Char says again.

I sigh. “Cut it out. You said they looked good at the salon!”

“They look amazing. I just don’t like that you’re letting Peyton get to you. You’re hotter than her. You are
not
her doppel.”

My hair’s in a complicated updo, and I pat it, looking at the light brown lowlights I had the stylist add. My hair is still very blond—it just has some depth to it.
Unlike Peyton. Har har.

With my lowlights, and the freckles over the bridge of my nose covered with foundation, and the airbrushed contouring bringing out my high cheekbones, I barely look like Peyton. And I’m happier for it. I’m sick of the comparisons.

“What do you think of the gold?” I ask, changing the subject. I try to twirl, but it’s so tight, I mostly shuffle.

“You didn’t try on the silver yet. Just try it.”

“It’s too out there. No one’s wearing stuff like that. I can’t pull it off.”

“Try it.” She grabs the dress off the rack and brings it over to me.

She helps me out of the gold, and I reluctantly step into the silver.

She zips it up and whistles. “This is the one! You look like a princess from the 1920s. Or some kind of Grecian goddess.”

I try to twirl, and the dress easily moves with me. The front scoops low, revealing quite a lot of cleavage, and sheer straps wrap over my shoulders. Intricate silver beadwork covers the front and back, and the skirt flows in layers from my hips to the floor. It looks way better than I thought it would. But Char and I scanned all the recent red carpet looks while we were at the salon, and this is way off the mark.

“I’m not trying to start a trend, Char. I’ve never even heard of this designer. Calypso Day? Who is that? I just want to look nice.”

“You look freaking
amazing
. It came with this,” she says, and holds up a thin beaded headband.

“No.”

“Try it.”

“No.”

She ignores me and very carefully pulls the headband over my updo and arranges it so it wraps around my forehead. It really does complete the look. I’m… otherworldly. In a good way.

“Well?” Char throws her hands wide.

“Okay, you’re right. I love it.”

Char strikes a pose and checks her own hair and make-up in the mirror. “I gotta get home and find something to wear. For the afterparty. And Kaidan’s gonna be here any minute. I’m not gonna third wheel that shit.”

I laugh and hug her. “Thank you. I hope this goes as well as you’re convinced it will.”

She pulls back and meets my eyes. “Just have
fun
. Don’t overanalyze it, and don’t worry about money tonight. Tomorrow we’ll work on a game plan for finding you a fun job.”

I hug her again. “I love ya, Char. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you what was going on sooner.”

“Yeah, you should have! I love you, too.”

She grabs her purse off my bed, waves, and heads out of my apartment. I check the clock again. Ten to six. My nerves are a mess, and my stomach’s fluttering. What if Kaidan stands me up again? It sucks that I can’t fully trust him now, that I have to wonder.

I slip into a pair of silver strappy heels I wore to a charity event last year and put some lip gloss and a few other essentials in the matching beaded clamshell clutch that came with the dress.

I pace in front of my windows, peeking out every five minutes. It’s ten after six when the limo pulls up in the road below, sending my nerves over the edge. Another car, a black jag, pulls up behind it.

Kaidan’s here.

I peek out the curtains and watch as a guard gets out of the Jag and opens the limo door for Kaidan. He’s dressed in a tux, flowers in his hands. I hurry over to my door and wait, smoothing my dress and trying to stay calm.

The intercom buzzes, and I answer.

“Did you decide to come with me tonight?” Kaidan’s deep voice sends a shiver through me, and my breath comes even faster.

“Yes,” I say. I enter my code to let him upstairs.

I check my face one more time in the mirror by the door and go rigid, waiting for him to knock.

I let him knock twice, so I don’t seem overeager, and then I open the door and step back.

He’s wearing a tux like he did at the party, and his face is clean shaven, his hair styled. He’s holding a bouquet of calla lilies, and his eyes scan my body, full of appreciation, before coming to rest on my face. His lips part, and he offers me a small smile. “Can I come in?”

I lick my lips. “Oh. Of course. Come on in.” I take another step back and run right into my armchair. “Oops.”

He steps into my apartment, shutting the door behind him, and hands me the calla lilies. I stare down at them, my heart thumping hard in my chest, the scent of them mingling with his cologne, making me a little dizzy. I can feel the heat of him mere inches away.

“Thanks.” I step around him and walk over to the marble countertop in the kitchen to look for a vase. I can’t find anything. My dad’s house is a bachelor pad. He
has
no vase.

I rest the flowers on the counter, feeling light-headed with nerves, and finally meet Kaidan’s eyes from across the room. He’s waiting patiently, his hands crossed in front of him, just staring at me, a look in his dark brown eyes that I can’t divine.

“I… I can’t find a vase.”

“They’ll be okay. Let’s go.”

I swallow and leave the flowers. As I come around the counter, he walks over to meet me. He stops right in front of me and rests a hand on my arm.

When I meet his eyes, the heat between us rises, and I think we both breathe a little harder.

“You look beautiful,” he says. His voice is deep, husky, and the look in his eyes makes me think he might kiss me again.

“You look pretty great yourself,” I say.

But he doesn’t kiss me. Instead, he takes my hand in his and stares into my eyes, searching them. “I didn’t think you’d come.”

“I didn’t either.”

“You won’t regret it.”

I suppress a smile. “Wow. You sound confident.”

He raises a brow, amused. “That’s because I am.” He lifts my hand to his mouth and presses his lips to it.

My body tingles at the feel of his lips, and a thrill shoots through me and settles in the base of my spine. “Then I’m ready.”

I clutch my purse in one hand, and he intertwines his fingers with mine. We hold hands like that as we ride the elevator down to the first floor and head out to the limo.

He lets go to help me into the car and then slides into the seat from the other side.

“Do you always travel with bodyguards?” I ask, turning to glance back at the Jag as we pull away from the curb.

“Yeah. Often. More so now with the whole…”


Lust List
thing?”

“Thought you didn’t read the tabloids.”

“It’s getting harder not to.” My heart twists at the thought of him and Peyton at that cafe, but this doesn’t feel like the right time to bring it up.

He clears his throat. “We’ll be in here for a while waiting for our turn to walk. Want some champagne?”

“Sure, but…” I look down at my gown, worried about spilling anything on it.

He pours two glasses and hands me the half-full one. Considerate. Apparently he has experience with women and their designer gowns.

“To a fantastic night,” he says, gently clinking his glass to mine. There’s a slight edge to his voice, and he drains his glass in two gulps. I sip mine and notice his other hand is clenched into a tight fist.

“Have you done a lot of these red carpet events?” I ask.

He refills his glass. “Honestly? No. I avoided almost all of them growing up. And so did my brother. My dad never cared if we came along.”

“So… You don’t want to be going?”

He meets my eyes. “I do as long as you’re with me. But if you didn’t agree come, I might have skipped this entirely. Although I
am
going to be the head of Stone Records,” he says, sounding resigned to that fact. He takes another long sip of his drink. “So eventually I’ll have to do these things all the time whether I want to or not.”

“I did a few red carpets with my dad and mom as a kid, but I barely remember them.” I nudge him playfully. “I guess we’re both red carpet virgins.”

He looks contemplative, missing my flirtatious tone. He drains a second glass and puts it away. “Not exactly. I’ve done enough of these. No interviews. Just give the paps the pictures they want, and soon we’ll be inside.”

He settles back in the seat and rests a hand on my leg. His hand is a branding iron on my thigh, and I’m having a hard time concentrating on where to lead this conversation. I lean back in my seat and take small sips as we drive. The last thing I want to be is tipsy while trying to walk the red carpet. That would be a disaster.

My mind goes to Peyton, and I want to ask him about her, but I don’t want to ruin this. I’m going to rewind this relationship to the kiss at the end of our lunch date, when everything felt fresh and full of possibility.

When we’re close to the venue, he runs his hand lightly along my leg and draws it away so he can lean over to look out the tinted windows. We pull in behind the long line of limos and cars waiting to drop people off. My stomach quivers at the thought of the walk awaiting me. And Kaidan looks almost… nervous. Am I imagining that?

I break the silence to take both our minds off the red carpet. “So that place you took me for lunch…”

“Yeah?”

“Why do you like it so much?”

“It has a great view of the ocean.”

“But you could just eat out on your veranda, right? Your house has an awesome view.”

“My
dad
’s house has an awesome view,” he says. “It’s not mine, which is a fact he reminds me of often.”

Dammit. I don’t want to talk about his dad again. “Well, it’s nice,” I say lamely.

“It’d be nicer if my father would keep the trash out of it.” Kaidan pours himself another drink and sighs. “Ignore that comment.”

I lick my lips. “You don’t like…”

“Serena? No. I don’t. I should warn you, she’ll be at our table tonight with my dad. But you don’t have to talk to her.”

“Isn’t she kind of young for him?”

Kaidan lets out a laugh that’s more like a growl. “Wasn’t she only nineteen when she snagged
your
dad? She’s a gold digging whore.”

“A gold digger?” Serena isn’t poor by anyone’s standards. If he thinks
she’s
a gold digger, what does that say about the broke child of a has-been rock star?

He works his jaw and looks back at me. “How do you think she
got
that career? She blows every dime she makes. And even if she didn’t, her money is nothing compared to what my father has. That’s all she wants him for. He made her the star she is, gave her access to everything.”

My muscles tighten. I’m sure my inheritance is nothing close to his. Does he think I’m using him to get access to VIP rooms and parties, too? “You know… very few people have the kind of money and connections your family has. I don’t. So…”

Kaidan takes another sip of his drink. “That’s not what I meant.”

“What did you mean?” I say, my voice sharp. He’s on edge, and I’m provoking him, but I need to hear the rest of this. I need to know he doesn’t think I’m just after his money.

“Look… A lot of women just want me—and my father and my brother—for our money and connections.”

“And me? What do you think about me?”

He looks at me, his brow furrowed, like it’s obvious. “You were born into this lifestyle. You don’t act desperate, grasping for fame and connections. You have your own wealth, and you can take care of yourself. You’re nothing like those women.”

I rip my gaze away and glance out the window as our limo rolls a few inches closer to the drop-off point. If he finds out about my money issues, he’ll think I’m
just
like those other girls. I guess it’s a good thing he stood me up before I spilled the truth about everything. I can be self-sufficient. I’ll solve my own problems.

“Hay?” His voice is soft, and I look back at him.

“What if Serena and your dad really
are
in love?” It slips out before I can think it through, and my cheeks redden.

Kaidan raises a brow, and for a second I think he might not answer. “I’m not sure my dad knows what love is,” he finally says, his voice gruff.

“Yeah, I don’t know either,” I say quickly. I drain my champagne glass.

Kaidan takes away my empty glass. “Why not? Haven’t you ever been in love, Hayley Wade?”

I grab my clutch off the seat beside me and twist it in my hands. “Have you?”

He avoids my question and leans toward his window as the limo rolls forward again. “Oh good. Get ready. We’ll be getting out in a minute.”

I check my face and hair in my compact, then shove it in my bag. Kaidan’s leg is shaking, his foot tapping the floor. He dodged my question. Was he in love with Peyton? Is he still in love with her?

If I could slap my obnoxious champagne-soaked brain, I would. We pull to a stop in front of the red carpet, and I take in all the photographers and the well-dressed reporters dotting the carpet near the far end.

My pulse quickens. This is it.

BOOK: Tangled Trust (The Lust List: Kaidan Stone #2)
5.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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