And she couldn’t give it to him. She answered with silence.
“That’s what I thought.”
Her cover-up fell to the ground as he lowered her, gently helping her stand without him. Too gently. Already Heather missed his forcefulness.
“No, princess.” He found the strings of her bikini, pulled the suit up over her br**sts and tied it around her neck. “I don’t like you. I’m disgusted with myself for being so stupidly attracted to you.”
His words hurt like a van smashing into her. But she understood far too well. “You can’t possibly be as disgusted as I am.”
He laughed. “I’m sure that’s true. Thank you for reminding me.” He shook his head and she could see in his eyes a self-loathing that mirrored what she felt inside. “I’ll go out first so you can pretend this whole mistake never happened.”
But as she watched him leave, she knew she couldn’t forget. Not just because he’d left her horny and yearning and blue-clitted, but because their interaction revealed so many things about herself she didn’t want to deal with.
She retrieved her cover-up from the floor and slipped it over her head, wishing the cotton material could cover up more than just her near-naked body. She wished it could cover up Seth’s bite marks and her flushed face and her trailer park past and her pathetic excuse for a soul that never let her move anywhere beyond white trash.
The rest of the day flew by at breakneck speed. More rehearsing, tech rehearsal, and a quick dinner that she barely touched. Then it was show time. Though nervous, she adored the rush she got from performing live. As a film actress, she rarely got to experience those jitters that came from knowing her performance wouldn’t be edited or perfected in post-production. Whenever she did, she embraced it, cherished it. Even conflicting thoughts of the sexy carpenter somewhere out in the house watching the show weren’t enough to distract her from her high.
Heather’s play, third in the line-up, had a great placement. The audience was already warmed up and her bit as a dumb blonde trying to drill for oil in the sand at the beach brought roars of laughter. She almost wished the performance was taped so she could see it played back later. Except that was one of the great things about the 24-Hour Plays—they were one time, and one time only.
Normally she’d steal up to the balcony with the other actors when her piece was completed so she could watch the rest of the shows. But this year as the spokesperson, she also had to announce the Urban Arts Spotlight performer and give a speech after intermission highlighting the charity and its many accomplishments. In her speech, she also introduced the new element of the night—the set built by carpenter Seth Rafferty that would be auctioned off the following month. The audience clapped with approval.
Yeah, she’d been wrong about the set. It had definitely added to the plays and would benefit the Urban Arts program significantly. Not that she’d ever admit her change of heart to Seth.
She missed watching the final show from backstage so that she could take a quick shower and primp. She changed into a black and white striped maxi with a scoop neck and elastic criss-cross back. It fit the casual mood of the after party but didn’t skimp on the sexy.
Then the show was over and it felt like her work was just beginning. Immediately, she was ushered to the foyer by Patrick to be introduced to important donors. After posing for pictures and signing autographs, she was shuttled to the hotel where she had to endure an hour long press junket before finally making it into the cast party. She gave a final speech at the party to thank the cast and crew and her duties as spokesperson were officially over.
With a giant sigh, Heather collapsed on a couch next to Lexie by the pool and sipped at her Tequila Sunrise while trying to decide if she had enough energy to join her costars at karaoke in one of the poolside hotel rooms. The need to rest her aching feet outweighed her adrenaline pumped desire to sing old 80s hits, so she settled for just listening.
“You did good, chicka,” Lexie said, raising her glass in a toast. “I call the evening a success.”
“And your opinion’s the only one that matters.” Though that wasn’t true. Heather cared way too much about what other people thought of her. She’d tried to move past it and after years in the media spotlight she should have grown a thicker skin, but she was sensitive by nature. Always looking for the approval her father never gave her.
But yes, the event had gone well. She expected positive reviews in the papers the next day. The 24-Hour Plays were low-key, so the coverage would be minimal.
Heather scanned the pool area. She hadn’t seen Seth all evening—not that she’d been looking. Maybe he didn’t do parties. Or maybe he was avoiding her.
Or maybe she just hadn’t looked hard enough. Because there he was in the back corner with Neil, chatting around one of the appetizer buffets. Seeing him, she instantly felt bathed in a flash of warmth and the fire pit seemed to suddenly blaze hotter. He’d changed into clean jeans and an olive button down shirt that she knew would bring out the green specks of his eyes.
Why on earth was she thinking about his eyes?
“Who ya staring at?” Lexie followed Heather’s gaze. “Oh, yum! Who’s that?”
“The ass**le I told you about.”
“The one who called you a bitch and built that amazing furniture that’s going to sell for thousands?”
“Yeah.” The thoughts she’d buried all evening flooded her now—she’d said she didn’t want him, but she did. Very much so. But the things he’d said, the horrible truths he’d revealed about her…
Seth Rafferty had done quite a number on her. He’d left her dazed and confused and horny as hell.
And ashamed. He’d left her that too.
Curling her feet underneath her, Lexie eyed Heather as though trying to read her mind.
“He kissed me,” Heather admitted as casually as she could.
Lexie’s jaw dropped. “And you’re just telling me this now?”
“A lot was going on.” Heather had wanted to tell her earlier, had needed a confidant. But also, she hadn’t wanted to say a thing. Her interactions with the man had been very personal.
“Nothing’s going on now. Spill it.”
“I slapped him.” She’d been proud of that actually. “But then I kissed him back.” More than kissed and more than once. Details.
“He’s certainly not a bad choice for rebound.”