urge to touch her became overwhelming. I blinked and looked away for a moment, and when I
looked back, she was staring at me intently, apparently reading my look correctly. Her eyes
dropped to my mouth. "Lunch in the trailer later?" she said huskily.
I nodded quickly, and drew a calming breath as Mariel came from behind the wall again. "Ok,
let's do it. Places, everyone."
I snuck a glance at my watch.
It was going to be a long two hours.
In fact, it was four interminable hours before we were allowed to break for lunch, and by then the
'lunch' I'd been looking forward to was reduced to a brief, heated kiss in the trailer before Robyn
had to rush back to the IDT set for an afternoon table read and cast meetings. The morning delay
in shooting caused the afternoon schedule to shift out as well, and as a result, Nate didn't let us
go for the weekend until well after seven o'clock.
By the time I drove home, I was exhausted and cranky and pondered calling Robyn to tell her I
couldn't make it, but I quickly dismissed the idea. I told myself to buck up, took a cool,
rejuvenating shower, and was dressed and out the door, headed for Santa Monica by eight-thirty,
but by that time Robyn, who had wanted to go to the restaurant early to have some time with her
family, had long since left for the party. I had called her when I knew I was going to be late, and
she'd assured me that I should just show up as soon as I could. As I slipped in and out of traffic
along 110, I hoped that nine o'clock wouldn't be too late.
Main Street, Santa Monica was crowded at nine o'clock on a Friday night in August, but I
managed to find a parking spot along the street, only three or four blocks from the restaurant. I
climbed out of Twila and nervously smoothed my clothes, taking one last glance down at the
form-fitting cranberry colored short sleeved top, shot through with thin strands of silver and
tucked into simple but dressy pleated tan slacks, a wide brown belt, and pointy, two-inch heeled
boots. It was too late to change now, and I prayed I wasn't underdressed, and I didn't look as tired
as I felt. Taking a few deep breaths, I skipped across the street, avoiding puddles from the recent
rain, and headed towards the restaurant, trying to remember all that Robyn had told me about the
different members of her family and hoping to make a good impression, or at least get through
the night without embarrassing myself or Robyn.
A tall, bald man dressed in a well-cut tuxedo and sporting a smile that didn't reach his eyes
stopped me just inside the door, politely asking my name and even asking to see my ID before
checking me off a guest list and asking me to wait a moment while he talked into a small
microphone on the cuff of his jacket. He nodded at whatever response he got and waved me onto
another tux-clad, muscle-bound man who quickly checked me over with a metal-detecting wand,
asked me to please turn off my cell phone if I had one, and told me that if I'd brought a camera or
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camera phone, I would have to surrender those items for the duration of the party. I assured him I
had neither of those items, showed him my phone, and after he'd made sure it was off he
mechanically wished me a nice evening.
I shook my head, having been through that kind of security several times in the past at various
industry gatherings, but curious as to why they'd need it here. At the top of the wide steps down
into the main dining room I paused, running an appreciative eye over the changes made for the
party. Swaths of rich colored fabrics hung from the high ceiling and covered the walls,
combining with an intricate array of filtered lights to create a rippling affect, as though the cloth
were caught by some phantom breeze. Several tables had been removed and the remaining
rearranged to allow for serving stations and a bar along one wall and a jazz trio played in the
corner, intent on their music and oblivious to the noise and crowd nearly drowning them out.
I was startled to see that the place was noisy and packed, with at least a hundred people standing
in pairs and small groups, eating, talking and drinking at what Robyn had called a 'sort of party'.
While I hadn't been expecting her family only, I certainly hadn't been expecting this many
people, and I found myself a little annoyed that Robyn hadn't specified. The necessity for the
tight security became clear, too, as I scanned the crowd and recognized numerous celebrities:
local politicians, athletes, musicians, authors and of course several familiar faces from movies
and television, along with many of the area's rich and idle were present, several of them dressed
to the nines…I still wouldn't consider myself underdressed, but I'd have to remember to ask
Robyn a few more question next time we went to a party together, since our ideas of what
constituted pertinent information were apparently very different.
I stood scanning the crowd, searching for a glimpse of her, and smiled involuntarily when I
spotted her across the room in animated conversation with a couple I didn't recognize. She
looked stunning as usual, her hair gathered atop her head in an artfully messy pile and dressed in
tight black sheath dress that was cut around the neck and arms like the wet suits I'd seen
triathlete's wear, showing off well-defined shoulders, the long, graceful sweep of her neck, and
plenty of tan, delectable skin. I noticed a hand resting casually on that skin and followed the
hand to where it met an arm that was draped across her shoulder...
Standing next to her, laughing with her, his arm around her possessively as thought they were
With my woman.
Whoa there, Tarzan…
I frowned at myself and watched the two of them together, feeling a brief stab of jealousy. For
people who weren't going to be a public couple anymore, they certainly looked like one, I
thought with irritation, and then squashed my annoyance, thinking that Josh was going to have to
rein in his touchy-feely impulses in public, or I was going to have to rein in my Neanderthal-like
possessiveness. Probably a little of both was in order.
"Caidence!" a feminine voice exclaimed just as I was about to go smack Robyn over the head
with my club and drag her back to my cave. I paused and turned to find Sophie standing beside
me, looking up at me in delighted recognition. She gripped my arms lightly and kissed me on
both cheeks, then pulled me into a warm embrace. When she let me go she looked at me fondly
and I smile back, very glad to see her.
"Sophie, buenas noches." I leaned in and kissed her on both cheeks, as she had done. "It's lovely
to see you." I took in her flowing black dress, careful make up and elegant chignon. "You look
muy hermosa, Señora."
She smiled and held my hands in hers, squeezing gently. "Ah, you flatter an old woman, but I
will accept your flattery gladly." Her smile dimmed slightly as she caught sight of the still
healing marks on my face. I'd spent several minutes in front of the mirror this evening,
contemplating whether I should try to cover them up or not, and decided not to. People were
going to look for them regardless; I figured I might as well make them easy to find. Sophie
glanced around and pulled me into a less crowded space away from the stairs, then reached up
and touched the scar on my cheek gently. I forced myself not to flinch, standing quietly and
letting her trace the line with light fingers. "I am very sorry for your pain, Caidence," she said
sincerely, and laid her palm against my cheek.
I smiled gently and pulled her hand from my face, holding it in mine. "Thank you, Sophie. And
thank you for the flowers. They were beautiful."
"You are well?" she asked, still staring at me intently.
I nodded and squeezed her hands. "I am very well."
"Good…I was so worried for you. And Sabina…" she shook her head. "She was so terribly
upset. I am glad she was there with you."
"Me too," I told her honestly, and squeezed her hands again.
"And speaking of my hija, I know she has been anxiously waiting for you. She has told us all to
behave and not tell embarrassing stories, so of course we have all thought of some to tell…" She
smiled widely and for a split-second it was Robyn smiling at me. I blinked away the vision as
Sophie tugged at my hand. "Come, I will help you find her and then there are people I know she
wishes for you to meet."
I let her pull me back towards the steps, smiling bemusedly.
"Miss Harris?" The deep voice and polite inquiry were accompanied by a hand on my arm and I
shied away violently, pulling away from Sophie and nearly bowling over a tiny woman in a
bright yellow dress and precariously high heels who was coming up the steps near me. I steadied
her with a hand and got a bleary thanks in response, then took a breath and turned to find another
tuxedo-clad member of the security team standing beside me, this one tall and lean with less
obvious muscle but no less intimidating, despite the contrite expression on his face.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I didn't mean to startle you."
I forced a smile and tried to calm my wildly beating heart. "Can I help you?"
He stood carefully with his hands clasped behind his back. "Miss Ward would like to speak with
you for a few moments…would you mind following me, please?"
"What is this?" Sophie said sharply from behind me.
"It's okay." I eyed the man for a moment, then turned and gave Sophie an encouraging smile.
"This will only take a minute."
She frowned and gave the security man a hard look but to his credit, he seemed impervious to the
glare and stood watching me expectantly.
"It's okay," I repeated and squeezed her arm gently before turning back to the man. "Lead on," I
told him, and followed after giving Sophie one last smile.
He led me along the edge of the dining room and through a set of swinging doors into the
kitchen, past the cooks and wait staff and down a narrow hallway, stopping finally in front of a
non-descript door where he motioned me into a small but well-appointed office.
I wasn't surprised to see Trish leaning against the desk, thumbing through a stack of papers and
looking casually elegant and feminine in a navy blue pantsuit with a very masculine cut. As she
raised her eyes to watch me enter the office, I acknowledged briefly that Trish wore clothes
nearly as well as Robyn did, and wondered if she'd spent time as a model as well.
Her expression was carefully neutral as she looked at me for a moment, and then flicked a glance
at the man behind me. "Thank you, John."
The man nodded and backed out of the room, leaving the door partially open behind him.
When he was gone, Trish looked back at me and said politely, "Caidence."
"Trish." I acknowledged, matching her even tone. "Congratulations on five years. You and your
mother should be very proud. And the place looks amazing."
That seemed to surprise her, and she paused before responding with a slight inclination of her
head. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." I slipped my hands into my pockets and leaned back against the door frame,
waiting for her to get to the point of this little chat.
"I asked security to let me know when you showed up - I'm supposed to let Robyn know, too, but
I wanted a chance to talk to you first." She put the papers down and circled around behind the
desk, straightening random things as she went. Finally she stopped tidying and looked up at me.
"It seems I owe you an apology. My mother, my sister, Josh…they all tell me I'm wrong about
If that was an apology, it was definitely one of the least enthusiastic I'd ever received, and I
nearly laughed. "Your sincerity is touching," I said dryly and cocked my head. "But why don't
you tell me what you think? That's really the issue here, isn't it?"
"What I think." She let her eyes wander over me briefly before meeting my gaze again. "I think
mamá is easily swayed by good manners, Josh is a pushover for a pretty face and a pretty smile,
and Robyn…" She shrugged. "I haven't quite figured out why she's so taken with you, but then
again, she always was a little too trusting."
I held in the burst of anger her words caused, and instead raised a slightly quizzical eyebrow.
"Not giving them much credit, are you? Your mother is an intelligent woman and seems quite
capable of making the distinction between good manners and good deeds, and far prettier faces
than mine have tried to sway Josh, I'm sure, and have not been successful. And Robyn…you
don't know your sister very well if you think she trusts easily." I shook my head and tsked softly.
"It sounds like you don't know any of them very well."
I was cranky and had added that last bit just to piss her off - it worked nicely. She leaned both
hands on the desk and dropped the polite act, staring at me with obvious hostility. "I think I
know them a hell of a lot better than you do, Caidence." She practically spit the name out. "I
promised I would be nice to you, so I will be, but if they're wrong, and you end up hurting
This was being nice?
I'd hate to see her on a bitchy day.
I didn't know exactly what I'd done to earn her suspicion, but I was starting to think it had more
to do with the possibility of me stealing her family away from her than me stealing Josh away
from Robyn. Whatever the reason for her attitude, it wasn't endearing her to me at all, and my
patience was running low.
"Or what?" I threw up my hands in exasperation. "Is this where you warn me to stay away from
Josh again? Or better yet…" Anger I didn't realize I'd been harboring bubbled to the surface and
I pushed off the wall and stalked to the desk. I grabbed the handset of the desk's phone and thrust
it at her. "Here. Is there someone you need to call with the press? To let them know that I'm here,
about to steal Josh away from poor, trusting Robyn?"
Trish was taken aback by my outburst, opening and closing her mouth a few times like a fish, but
not saying anything.
The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I dropped the phone back in the cradle and stepped
back from the desk, crossing my arms. "You have no frigging idea the amount of trouble you
caused that night, do you? And not just for me, but for Josh, and Robyn too. Your own damn
sister, for god's sakes! Did you think about maybe asking her if she needed to be protected from
me before passing judgment and telling the whole goddamn world something that was
completely untrue? Did you think about her at all before you made that call? Think about the
crap she'd have to put up with?" My voice had risen steadily and I took a deep breath to calm
down before continuing in a quieter, but still intense, voice. "Do you realize," I turned my head
slightly and pointed at my face, "that this could easily have happened to Robyn, instead of me?"
She visibly paled, and I realized that maybe that had been unfair. She hadn't caused Todd
Massey's attack, ultimately no one but Todd Massey was responsible for that. I couldn't bring
myself to feel sorry for saying it, though. Her actions had set in motion a chain of events that
certainly had contributed to his state of mind on that day, and it could have easily been her sister,
and not me, who suffered for it.
"Do you want to tell me what the hell she's talking about, Trish?" Robyn's raspy, deceptively
mild voice came from over my shoulder, causing us both to start. She stepped into the office and
flashed a smile that nearly melted me on the spot.
"Hi." She stepped up and put her hand on my back, brushing her lips across my cheek. "Mamá
said you were here - that some security person had whisked you away…" She gave Trish a hard
look. "What's going on? I thought I asked you to let me know when she got here."
Trish looked uncomfortable, but stood up to her sister's glare. "I wanted to talk to her first."
"About what? And what exactly was Caid talking about before?" Robyn crossed her arms and
raised an eyebrow in question.
A thunderous crash from the kitchen, followed by a voice yelling curses in Spanish and an
answering voice yelling in English, saved her from having to respond.
"Damnit." Trish was by us in the blink of an eye, pushing past me none too gently and striding
down the hall, hollering for someone named Julian.
When she was gone, Robyn asked, "What's going on, Caid? What did Trish want? If she's being
a shit to you…"
I shook my head. "I think she was trying to apologize, actually, but things got a little off track.
It's ok, Rob. It's just going to take a little while for me and your sister to get along." She frowned
and I rubbed her back soothingly. "Don't worry about it, really. Now," She watched as I pushed
the door shut with one foot, "do you think I could at least get a hug?"
"I think I could do that." She smiled and tugged me forward into her arms, her sister forgotten for
the moment. She sighed. "I'm so glad you came," she murmured into my hair as we stood
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