Tempt Me Like This
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“You have nothing to apologize for,” Smith said as he reached out for Valentina’s hand so that he could draw her closer. “We should have fired that grip a week ago.”
“He should know better than to get drunk here,” Valentina agreed, looking utterly content in Smith’s arms.
They were such a beautiful couple. It clearly didn’t matter to them that Smith was famous and Valentina wasn’t. They were not only equals, they were also so clearly in love that they were always either holding hands or Smith’s arms were wrapped around Valentina’s waist.
Seeing how good they were together, Ashley couldn’t imagine that Valentina had ever worried about fitting into Smith’s Hollywood world. But given the crazy business he was in, Ashley figured it was far more likely that they’d run into at least a few bumps on the way to true love. If only she knew their story, would that help her make sense of what she was going through with Drew?
“I’ll go take care of the situation with the grip in a minute,” Smith said to Valentina, “but first, Drew said he’d like to chat with us about something.” He shifted his gaze to Drew. “I’m assuming it has to do with the soundtrack?”
Ashley couldn’t miss the tension in Drew’s face. No one could when a muscle was jumping in his jaw and there were deep creases beside his eyes.
She realized it was the way he always looked when he was talking about the problems he’d been having with songwriting. Oh God, the soundtrack. She hadn’t even thought to ask him if that was giving him problems the way the songs for his next album were. And despite the strain between them since the beach in Los Angeles, her every instinct was to try to figure out a way to protect him.
But at the same time, while Drew had involved her in all of his other meetings so far, today she was here only because she’d fallen into the pool. She very much doubted any of them wanted her to witness this discussion.
“I should leave the three of you alone,” she said, already heading for the French doors in her borrowed pink dress.
“Ashley.” Drew’s deep voice—and his hand over hers—stopped her in her tracks. “Stay. Please.”
She looked into his eyes, and when she saw just how much he seemed to need her support, she moved back to sit with him on the couch opposite the one Smith and Valentina were sitting on. She squeezed his hand, a silent message of support that she hoped he’d understand.
She watched as he steeled himself to deliver the bad news, turning to Smith and Valentina and saying in a grave voice, “Working on the soundtrack for your movie is the opportunity of a lifetime. Honestly, when you asked me to do it, I was floored. But even then I should have been upfront with both of you about the problems I was already having.” He ran his free hand through his hair, leaving it standing on end. “The rushes are incredible. You deserve a soundtrack just as good. I can’t do it justice.”
“Of course you will,” Valentina said. “We wouldn’t have asked you to work with us if we didn’t think you would more than do our film justice, Drew.”
Valentina’s words were as firm as they were soothing. Ashley belatedly remembered that she had managed her sister’s acting career for a long time. Clearly, she was good with artists.
But Drew shook his head. “Everything I’ve tried to write for your film—it’s not coming out the way you’re expecting.”
“How so?” Smith asked.
Ashley couldn’t quite read Smith’s expression, although he didn’t look worried or angry. Instead, it was as though he needed more data before he decided which way to feel. Clearly, neither he nor Valentina were the type to jump to conclusions. Not even when someone they had hired told them flat-out that they weren’t up to working with them on a film.
“The songs I’ve been hearing in my head aren’t rock. Not like my last album.” Drew looked at Ashley, and even though she’d been trying like crazy to avoid temptation these past few days by keeping her distance, she hoped he knew she was on his side. Always. “There’s still a little bit of rock there,” Drew continued, “but there’s some folk, too. Even some classical.” He scowled as he admitted, “Honestly, I don’t know what the songs are yet. Just that whenever I try to force them in the direction I know you’re looking for, everything stalls out.”