“That douchebag, Sam—”
“He’s not a douchebag—”
“He is, but let’s not argue.” He put his finger to her lips. “I don’t think you should get involved with him.”
“Oh really, and why is that?” Her voice came out breathy, all her effort put into not drawing his finger into her mouth as he swept it across her lips.
“Because he’s a douchebag.”
She pushed his hand away. “You think you’re so adorable and charming that everyone’s unworthy in comparison. Why do you care, anyway, if I’m with a douchebag—I mean, with Sam?”
“See that? Freudian slip. He’s a douchebag and you know it. And I care because, well, think of it as a public service. You could do much better.”
“Excellent example! Because I am, as you said, adorable and charming.”
She groaned. “No, I didn’t say that. What you are is an ass. You tell me not to get involved with someone, someone who potentially could be a real fixture in my life if I gave it a chance, simply so you can tease me by touching and fondling me and getting me all hot and bothered when I’ve made it clear I don’t want that.”
The next thing she knew, Micah had pulled her from her seat to the dark recesses of the hall behind them. He held her against the wall, pinning her arms with his own and growled more than spoke. “I make you hot and bothered?”
Maddie’s voice came out small and thin. “You know you do.”
“Well, here I am. Does it really seem like I’m only teasing?” He leaned in and she closed her eyes, waiting for his kiss. But he stopped just short of her mouth. He circled her face with his own, barely grazing her with his nose. His breath tickled and awakened her as it touched her neck, her ear, her skin. She was on fire, molten lava, and she needed more—needed him. Involuntarily she arched her back, wanting him against her.
Taking her cue, he pressed against her tightly, meeting her body in all the right places.
She gasped as she felt his desire, hard and throbbing against her belly. More, more, she wanted more, needed him on her, inside her.
Behind them the movie roared into action, shocking her to her senses. What was she doing? She pushed him away and ran into the empty lobby of the theater, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the light.
She heard Micah follow her and she turned on him, angry. “What is it you want from me?”
“You.” He took a step toward her. “I want you.”
“For today? For a week?”
He shrugged. “For the rest of the production schedule?”
Her chest ached. That he could be so cavalier about the inevitable brevity of a relationship with her fueled her anger. “Yeah, no. I can’t do that with you, Micah. I’m not pretending I’m virtuous or that I haven’t had flings that only lasted the duration of shoot. Not many, but—you know—some. But I’m not looking for that now.” She softened. “I’m not looking for that with you. I can’t be just another notch in your bedpost.” Her voice cracked. “I like you too much for that.” She felt naked, exposed from her declaration.
His eyes turned distant. “I can’t offer anything but that.”
“I know.” She did know, but it hurt to be reminded. Which was exactly the reason she had to be finished with the never-ending Micah flirtation. Here and now. “That’s why it can’t happen.” She swallowed. “And if you keep pushing me, Micah, you’ll win.” She heard him inhale. “But you’ll break me.”
His shoulders fell, his poise collapsing. “That’s not what I want. I don’t want to break you.”
“Then this—” She gestured between them. “This…has to stop.”
“All right.” He put his hands up in a surrender position, his eyes filled with bewilderment. “It’s stopped. Promise.”
“Thank you,” she choked. She rubbed at her eyes before any tears could fall. Stupid girl tears. “Now, if you don’t mind, I want to see this film.”
She didn’t wait to see if he followed as she returned to the theater. She marched down to where the others were seated and tapped Fudge’s shoulder. “Please trade me seats,” she whispered.
Once Fudge relinquished it, Maddie sank into the chair, thankful for the sad subject of the movie so she could cry and hug herself without any questions.
Micah had managed the best acting week of his life. Unfortunately none of the great acting was on camera. Yes, he’d filmed several scenes that week, and they’d been decent, but the most convincing work he did was when the camera wasn’t rolling—when he pretended that he was unaffected by Maddie Bauers.
He hadn’t talked to her in several days—since the day in Breckenridge. He certainly hadn’t touched her. He’d promised he’d stop—stop what? Pursuing her and flirting with her, he supposed. The only way he knew how was to avoid her completely. He’d stayed away from her at the catering tent and let his stand-in take his measurements to be sure he wouldn’t have to address her. He ignored her name on the call sheet and her number in his phone, unwilling to go so far as to erase her contact info. Sure he was in a foul mood every moment of every day, but remarkably, no one but Fudge seemed to notice. Either he was a better actor than he thought, or his mood just blended in with the rest of the cast and crew who were edgy from a week of night shoots.
Micah stifled a yawn.
“Am I boring you?” Beaumont asked. It’d been a long day and the director was coaching the main actors for the next evening’s scenes.
“Sorry. It’s been a long day.”
“It has. Well, I’m done with you, anyhow. You’re on fire, kid. Keep it up. Any questions?”
Micah shook his head. Truth was he hadn’t been listening to most of what his director had said. Early in the conversation Beaumont had begun picking on the crew, had even thrown a vague insult toward the camera crew, and Micah became distracted. Were all his directors such pricks when it came to the production staff? He hadn’t paid attention in the past. Why did he notice now? Was it because Beaumont was especially prickish or because one of the crew members was Maddie?
It was totally Maddie. How could anyone work with her and not notice her passion and drive? He knew Adam noticed. And Joe. And Sam. How did Beaumont miss it? Micah had paid careful attention to her work whenever he watched the dailies—the raw footage from a day’s shoot. So many times he and the other actors would miss their marks, improvising their blocking and Maddie’s expertise kept everything in focus, time after time. Why didn’t Beaumont know that? He sat in video village for nearly every take, watching from the monitors, directing over a headset, but surely Joe and Adam told him. Still, the director acted like he had no clue what Maddie did to cover for the cast.