Kiss Me Like This
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Even though she’d left to go to college and Genevieve had been angry, Serena had never stopped hoping that the two of them would eventually find their way around to having a good relationship. The thought of letting that hope die nearly brought tears to her eyes, when even her mother’s tirade hadn’t.
And yet, just because Serena couldn’t walk away from her mother, didn’t mean that she could let Sean go, either. “Please,” she whispered to him as she reached for one of his hands, “don’t leave. Even if you don’t agree with what I’m doing, stay here with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Serena. You know I’m not.”
Unfortunately, Serena wasn’t at all certain that she could say the same about herself. Not when that same fear that had tickled her spine when Olivia had mentioned Smith Sullivan’s movie was quickly taking over her entire body.
Though Sean still held tightly to her hand, Serena forced herself to step away from the protection of his body to face her mother again. “I’m sorry that you’re so upset about my dating Sean. We were friends first and only just started to date, so that’s why I hadn’t told you yet. I was planning to call you tomorrow morning, actually, to share the exciting news. One day I hope that you’ll realize what a great person he is.”
“I don’t care about your boyfriend, Serena.” And by the way her mother said it, as if he was no more important than a fly buzzing around the room, she knew Genevieve meant it. “None of this nonsense matters now that Smith Sullivan’s movie is back in production. I know how upset you were when Smith delayed his plans to shoot the movie. That’s why I made a special trip to see you today. I simply couldn’t share the amazing news over the phone that everything is back on and he still wants you to play the supporting actress role.”
Just that quickly, her mother had flipped a switch, from utterly furious to perfectly reasonable now that they were talking business. Business she was positive was a slam dunk. Serena had seen it a hundred times—the way Genevieve could pull out a different mask and put it on without so much as a pause. If anyone should be the actress, it should be her mother. Especially since for all that she was claiming she hadn’t wanted to share the news over the phone, it was obvious she’d already let it leak to the press before talking to her daughter about it.
So even though she’d previously vowed to disown Serena if she caught her with a guy at Stanford, she’d clearly decided that doing Smith Sullivan’s movie was far more important. And that it would be exactly the thing to pull Serena back into the Hollywood life. Permanently.
“I wasn’t actually too upset,” she began, but her mother wouldn’t let her finish.
“This movie—a role that is certain to win you an Oscar—is what we have worked for your entire life. We have so much to do to get ready for it.”
Serena had only stood up to her mother once, when she’d been undeterred about going to college. But that had been when she thought the movie was permanently out of the picture. Now, more than ever before, she felt pulled in different directions. By what her mother wanted, had always wanted: for Serena to be an A-list star. By the promises she’d made to Sean to stay on campus with him.
And by her own dreams.
Maybe there was some way she could make everyone happy? Maybe after she made great grades this quarter and convinced the university to enroll her as a full-time student, she’d also be able to persuade them to let her take a short break to film the movie. And maybe Sean would forgive her for breaking her promise to stay on campus as long as she came back quickly.
“When is Smith planning to begin filming?”
“As soon as possible.” Her mother looked around the dorm room with obvious distaste, clearly more than ready to get out of there. First class was barely good enough for Genevieve. Her shared bedroom, Serena knew, must seem little better than a slum. “Smith is expecting you in Seattle next week.”
“But fall quarter won’t be over by then. If I leave before I’ve finished one full quarter, they won’t think I’m serious about being here and then I’m sure they won’t turn my probationary acceptance into a permanent one.”
“I know you think you’re upset about having to leave, but we both know this life was never for you. It was never anything more than a little fantasy.”
“Bullshit!” Sean had clearly done all he could to let Serena navigate the conversation on her own, but now he’d had enough. “Attending Stanford isn’t a fantasy. Serena is one of the most serious, most motivated students I’ve ever met. If anyone belongs here, it’s your daughter.”
Finally, Genevieve turned her gaze to Sean. “She signed a contract with Smith, many months ago, in which she guaranteed him her participation in the film if and when it came to pass.” Her mother finally smiled before focusing on Serena again. “Once you do this movie, your life will be changed forever.”
Serena knew her mother was right about her life changing forever. Because she’d never be able to get away from photographers, would never have a chance to be even remotely normal…and she suddenly couldn’t believe she’d been so stupidly, naïvely wrong to believe that nothing could come to crush her newfound joy.
“I gave up everything for you, Serena. You owe me this movie.”
“Serena,” Abi said as she barreled through the open door, “what’s going on? People said they heard—” Her roommate broke off in midsentence when she belatedly realized she’d walked into the middle of a tense standoff. “I meant to tell you that I let your mom in earlier.”
But Serena could barely hear what Abi was saying as she watched Genevieve smooth a nonexistent wrinkle from her expensive designer dress and open a compact to make sure her makeup and hair were still perfect. “I’ll email you your travel details.” One air-kiss later, she was gone, leaving only her expensive scent behind.
“Serena?” Abi looked between her and Sean. “What just happened? Why are you so pale? You should sit down.”
“I have to go.” Serena’s stomach was churning and she felt like she was going to be sick. “I can’t stay.”
Sean’s hands were warm as he turned her face to make her look into his eyes. “You don’t have to make any decisions yet.” His mouth on hers was what finally pulled her all the way up and out of the thick fog. “Not tonight.”