More Than Words
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That smile. He’d been a handsome boy, and now … he was devastating.
I’d taken the old, torn piece of paper out of my copy of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table and run my finger over the faded notes, wonder flowing through me that the famous man on TV was the boy who’d once drawn them. I’d downloaded all his compositions and recognized a piece of one from that boxcar so many years before—the melody he’d finally figured out how to finish. I listened to it over and over on my iPod, my headphones in my ears, as I closed my eyes and traveled back in time. I swore I could feel his boyish, calloused hand in mine. Silly. Stupid. Yet oh so true.
I’d followed his career since then, watched his star rise, his fame grow, and I was … proud. I had so many questions about why he’d disappeared without a goodbye, but I couldn’t deny the pride that filled my chest whenever I saw a glowing article about him. Not that he wasn’t also featured in the tabloids for his so-called bad-boy antics. He had a reputation, one the media seemed to find fascinating and women found alluring. I’d wondered how much was reality and how much was manufactured, but seeing him at Lounge La Vue had answered that question. He was exactly who they reported him to be, or at least pretty damn close. He drank, he partied, and he … kissed stupid girls on patios just because he could. Because I—they—were putty in his hands.
And why should I be heartbroken? He owed me nothing. I had known him for only a brief span of time so long ago, when we were both children. So he’d grown up to be a conceited, womanizing manwhore—a wildly successful, crazy talented, conceited, womanizing manwhore. Well, good for him. And lucky for me he’d left that night with the French blonde. His ability to step away from his date and kiss a stranger within three minutes told me more than I needed to know about Callen Hayes of the present.
Whatever was on my face made Frankie offer me a look of sympathy. I downed the final sip of the champagne and held the glass up, requesting more. Frankie grabbed the bottle and refilled my flute. “Have you considered trying to contact him?”
“God, no. Why would I?”
She shrugged. “You didn’t even tell him who you were. Don’t you think he might have—”
“Might have what? Gifted me with one of those one-night stands he seems so famous for?”
She grinned. “Would it have been so bad?”
I rolled my eyes, giving her my best look of disgust. Unlike me, Frankie was never without a boyfriend or at least a crush. She flitted from one man to another, constantly falling in and out of love. But love would have had nothing to do with what Callen Hayes offered me that night, if he’d have offered me anything at all. “To be one in a sea of many? No thanks. Plus, I … I didn’t want to tell him who I was. I wanted him to remember.” I wanted to believe he’d know me anywhere … that he treasured the memories of that time, brief though it was. That he had a great reason for never coming back, for never even saying goodbye, and that he’d lived with regret all these years. I groaned. What a bunch of childlike, stupid, romantic drivel.
Frankie raised a brow. “I’ve seen pictures of you at thirteen, Jess, and no offense, but thank goodness he didn’t recognize you.”
I laughed, spitting out a tiny bit of the champagne I’d just taken a sip of. I wiped at my lip with my thumb. “Gee, thanks.”
She laughed along with me, winking. “I’m kidding. Mostly.”
I stuck my tongue out at her and laughed. It ended on a sigh. “No, we’re nothing to each other now, and maybe we never were. Or maybe he meant something to me, but he didn’t feel the same way. In any case, I could have told him who I was, but why? We’re different people, strangers now, and we’ll never cross paths again.”
She leaned forward and patted my knee. “All right. Speaking of strangers, what do you say we go out dancing tonight and find a few cute ones?”
I was feeling drowsy and slightly drunk from the two glasses of champagne, and so I groaned and shook my head. “No way. I’m making dinner, and then I’m crawling into bed. I need to start sending out résumés or I won’t be able to pay the rent.”
“Fine. You’re no fun. I’ll call Amelie.” She stood, and I grabbed the remote, turning on the television and taking a last sip of champagne. It’d already gone flat, and a headache was setting in.
A talk show of some sort was on, and when Callen’s face suddenly came on the screen, his broody expression both sexy and annoying, I made a disgruntled sound and fumbled for the remote, punching at the off button. “God, really?” I stood and brushed my hands together, determined to say goodbye to Callen Hayes for the second time in my life. Too bad I hadn’t said either one to his face.
I woke slowly and groaned, my head aching and my muscles so sore I wasn’t sure I could move. I stretched and felt something warm at my back. Oh no. Fuck. This was the part that was beginning to get tiresome and uncomfortable—confronting my mistakes from the night before. “Good morning,” a familiar voice purred. I froze. Oh God, even worse. Rolling over, I opened one eye cautiously. “I thought I told you this wasn’t happening again.”
Annette plumped the pillow behind her head and lay back on it, scowling and crossing her arms over her naked breasts. “I knew you didn’t mean it.”
I sat up and then fell back onto the pillow when a sharp knife sliced through my skull. “Fuck, how much did I drink last night?”
“From the number of empty bottles in your living room, I’d say a lot.”
“Well, that explains why you’re here. I was too drunk to realize who you were.”
She let out an angry snarl and slapped at my shoulder. The jostling caused more pain in my head, but the insult worked to get her out of my bed. She swung her legs over the side and stood, turning slowly and placing her hands on her hips. My eyes ran lazily down her nude body, and for a flash I considered going for another round—despite no memory of the first round—but I knew from experience that Annette liked it rough and rowdy and my head hurt too much for a naked wrestling match. A quick glance at my chest showed that she’d used her fingernails and teeth last night. Disgust, and something that felt like depression, settled in my chest. “Where does Larry think you are?”
“Maybe I told him I was coming to you.”
“Doubtful. I can find another agent, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another husband as rich as him and as willing to believe your lies.”
She thinned her lips. “If he’s so stupid, why do you keep him around?”
“He’s only stupid when it comes to you.” I yawned.
“Do you think he doesn’t have his own … interests on the side?”
I ignored her. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the details of Larry and Annette’s marriage and less about what Larry’s side interests might be. I knew very well Larry would be less than thrilled to know I had fucked his wife. More than once. Not that I meant it to be an ongoing thing—Annette was just more persistent than most and had a way of catching me at my least resistant.
She turned toward me and ran her hands over her large, perky breasts, playing with her nipples as she eyed me through half-closed lids. “Mmm,” she purred.
Her show wasn’t even mildly arousing. I could see a stack of music ledgers on the desk near the window, and they were the only thing that interested me right now. Please, please, please let something good be on that paper. “Go home, Annette. I’m done with you, and I have work to do.”
She dropped her hands from her breasts and huffed indignantly, picking up a pillow and throwing it at me. I dodged it, and when I looked up she was storming around the room, gathering her clothes. “You weren’t done with me last night!” She began pulling on her clothes violently, and I was surprised she didn’t tear them to pieces in her anger. “You’re a fucking prick and a miserable drunk.”