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I open the side door, which is surprisingly unlocked. “Me too.”
She seems to consider this for a moment before she steps back into the building.
In the hallway of the hotel she’s very quiet. “Everything okay?” I ask.
“Why do you think this hotel is haunted?” she asks, and I think she might actually be a little scared.
“It was built on a cemetery and it’s said you can hear laughing inside the Crystal Ballroom, but when one opens the doors, no one is in there. Some people have even claimed to have seen a ladylike shape walking through it.”
“How did you become such an expert on the place?”
“I’m not really an expert. I bought a book over the summer about the history of LA, and haunted locations was one of the chapters.”
“You mean there are others?”
I step aside as I open a door for her to yet another hallway. “Yeah, like twelve more. The Roosevelt is one. Marilyn Monroe lived there for a while. In fact, her first magazine spread was shot there. It’s rumored that people who stay in room 1200 can see her. I guess that’s the room she lived in.”
Her eyes widen. “See her how?”
“They say they see her living in the mirror.”
The hallways are dimly lit, so I do my best to lead us back to the Crystal Ballroom. The sound of a door slamming makes her jump.
I stop to look over at her. “Hey, Red, you’re not really scared, are you?”
She looks a little pale and I take a step closer to her. She closes her eyes and I follow the line of her jaw to the peak of her collarbone, gently brushing my fingertips up that same line. “Hey, look at me.”
She opens her eyes and there is no denying it. It’s the way she looks at me, has always looked at me. As though she gets me. It makes me want her as I’ve never wanted anyone.
“What are you two doing in here?” a husky voice calls from the end of the hallway. “This is for staff only.”
The trance is broken and she finds her voice. “Oh, I worked an event earlier and left something behind. I’m just going back to get it,” S’belle tells the man.
“Oh, okay, then. Make it fast.”
“Did you just lie to that man?”
Her eyes cut to mine. “It wasn’t really a lie. Just a half-truth.”
“There’s a difference?” I feign ignorance.
“Yes, now come on before he catches up with us,” she says nervously.
I laugh and her eyes stay locked on mine. Her initially hard stare softens second by second and then just like that she shoves me forward and takes the lead. I follow her and the next door takes us right into the Crystal Ballroom.
I scratch my head. “How did you know how to get here?”
“I just mapped the location out in my head and followed the service corridors.”
I raise my eyebrows. “I’m impressed.”
“We’re closed,” the bartender calls.
“Hey, man, I just popped in to show this nonbeliever your sign behind the bar.”
“Mr. Covington, I didn’t realize it was you. Come on over.”
“Mr. Covington,” she scoffs, and straightens her shoulders as she strides toward the bar. “Hi, Ryan. How was your night?” she greets him.
Shock overtakes me. She knows him too?
He smiles at her. “Busy,” is all he says when he catches the look on my face.
She takes a seat and I move to stand behind her, making sure he knows she’s with me. But with being this close, all I can think about is wanting to press myself against her.
He lifts the framed sign from behind the bar and hands it to S’belle.
Her laughter jolts through me. She looks over her shoulder at me. “You’re not going to turn me in, are you, Mr. Covington?”
I wink at her and lean down to whisper in her ear, “Not if you behave.”
She sits perfectly still.
I watch in the mirror as her eyes close. I stay close just breathing into her ear and inhaling her lemon scent.
“Funny, right?” Ryan comments as he takes the sign from her and puts it back, making himself scarce at the other end of the bar.
S’belle twirls around to face me. “Your speech told such an emotional tale. I never thought about all you went through. I’m really sorry—”
I place a finger over her lips. “Shhh . . . no sorries. That part of my life is over and I’m moving forward. But I want to apologize to you for the last time we spoke. I really should explain—I wasn’t thinking clearly then. I was in a really bad place and—”
She repeats my action and places her finger over my lips. “Shhh . . . we’ve all made mistakes. I shouldn’t have judged. So let’s just let it go.”
She’s letting me off the hook for my lapse in judgment. Good. Working as a wedding columnist over the summer and fraternizing with the bride is not anything I’m proud of or even want to ever think about again.
We lean toward each other, drawn together like two magnets. I place my hands on either side of her. This close there’s no denying that we are two people who want each other. Lust, fire, desire erupt between us.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Covington, but I have to close the room down now.”
The weight of his gaze as he takes us in tells me he wants to be me. A smug satisfied smile spreads across my lips that he isn’t.