Great, he’d officially hurt her feelings. “I didn’t mean my projects. I’m not comfortable talking to you about my sex life, Mom.” He put his hands on his mother’s slim shoulders. “Just give me some time to think about it.”
“Okay, okay. I just don’t want to see you throw away all the time and energy you’ve invested in your career. Not over some girl.”
The sympathy he’d felt disappeared at her flippant dismissal of Maddie. “We’re done talking about this.”
“Fine.” She rolled back her shoulders and patted the sides of her hair, composing herself. “Do you have my ticket? I need to use the restroom before the show starts.”
Micah dug in his pocket and found his mother’s ticket.
“I’ll meet you inside.”
He watched his mother follow the path Stu had taken and let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. What the f**k now? This wasn’t the time or place for the introspective thinking he needed to do, but he couldn’t help the conflicting thoughts of career and Maddie that mingled in his mind.
Maddie. She was probably waiting for him to reappear. He stepped out of the corridor and glanced to where he had stood with her before at the condiment table by the bar. She wasn’t there, but he sensed her near. He turned and found her pressed against the wall at the theater entrance. He met her eyes and knew she’d heard everything.
Quickly, he replayed the conversation in his mind, imagining how it sounded to her ears. Christ. Some of it probably sounded pretty damn shitty.
He searched her face. She was an open book, a book he didn’t want to read right now—her eyes sad, her posture broken.
He couldn’t talk to her, not now. He set his jaw, and straightened his lips into a firm line, giving nothing away. He left her like that, resumed his role as a personality at a high-profile fundraiser, shaking hands with rich people who had impressive names, and Botox’d foreheads and significant others on their arms.
The serenity Maddie Bauers had given him earlier was gone. In the highly crowded lobby, hundreds of people swarming to his side, he was alone.
Only a few minutes passed before the lights in the lobby flashed, indicating it was time for people to take their seats. Micah hung back until Maddie and the other crew members walked up the stairs to the upper level.
Heather sidled up beside him and slipped her arm in his. “Where’s Lulu?”
“Shall we find our box?”
“Sure,” he mumbled. They walked up the stairs to the second level where the box seats were accessed and gave their tickets to the ushers. The rest of the cast from the movie were already seated, and he and Heather sat in the back box seats.
When the lights dimmed he sank into his chair, relieved to have the spotlight off him. Finally, he let himself think. The whole time he’d been with Maddie, he hadn’t let himself imagine this far in his plans with her. He’d hoped he might get over her by now. Stupid, since he’d coveted her since the night he met her. And now he was more into her than ever.
So he could keep seeing her. And so what that he’d be in New Zealand? He could bring her with him. It would be just like Colorado. He might even be able to get her a job on set. He could make it part of his contract.
But he couldn’t just drag her around while he worked. She had her own films to make. Good films. Even if she didn’t yet believe it. And he wanted to be the one who helped her discover herself.
But he couldn’t turn down the Santini opportunity. It would be ridiculous to give up years of sweat, blood and tears for a woman he’d been with for less than three weeks. He’d been dreaming about an Oscar nom since he was sixteen. And even without the Oscar lure, Micah admired Santini more than most directors in the biz. Besides, it wasn’t only his dream—Lulu would be so proud.
That left trying to work out a relationship with Maddie over miles and between shoots. The thought of being away from her like that killed him, yet the alternative was not being with her at all, so it would have to do.
Except, it was the miles and time apart that destroyed all the couples he’d known in Hollywood. Jealousy crept in. The press took advantage. Too much distance, too many rumors, too impossible to manage. It always ended in heartache.
There had to be some way to sort it out. Some way to be able to choose Maddie and his career. He closed his eyes and tried to come up with a solution to bridge the two.
But with his eyes closed, he only saw Maddie.
And when he opened his eyes and saw Joss Beaumont onstage and clips from his movies playing on the projector behind him, all he thought about was how much he loved making good movies.
He had to get out of there.
Without telling anyone where he was going, he wandered out to the balcony lobby in search of a drink, but found the bar had been left unattended. He contemplated reaching over the counter and making his own drink—what would they do to him? He was Micah Preston, one of the stars of the evening. They should be falling at his feet to please him.
Those were bitter self-absorbed thoughts and he knew it.
Instead, he leaned against the counter and scanned the lobby.
Then he saw her. Maddie. She sat alone on a bench at the other end of the lobby, and even at that distance, he knew she was crying. Her body shuddered with each wave of sobs.
For half a second he wondered why she was so upset, wanted to run to her and fix it. Then he realized with certainty that it was him.
Fuck. It broke him to see her like that. What was it that had pushed her to this place? The idea of being separated from him? Or was she finally understanding the impossibility of their relationship?
Or had it been his mother’s callous behavior? Because that was what had hurt Micah the most.
If he had to make a guess, he’d say it was Lulu’s comments that had probably stung Maddie most as well. He’d seen how Maddie had wanted to connect with Lulu. Funny how he’d wanted that too.
He wanted to make it better, but he felt helpless. He didn’t have an answer to their situation, didn’t have words to take their pain away. Besides, if he went to her now, and she cried like that in front of him, he wouldn’t be able to hang on. He’d give everything up for her right on the spot. And that wasn’t the answer.
He had to reach out, though, had to tell her not to give up on them. He sent her a text. Counting the seconds til I have you in my arms.
It was several minutes before she dug in her purse, seemingly looking for a tissue, and opened her phone. He watched her read his message, a small smile crossing her lips, then she typed her reply.