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TUESDAY MORNING WAS a blur of activity. Trish’s meeting with the set director went on forever and turned into a meeting with several other “set” people. Working on the set of a movie was much more chaotic than Fiona had anticipated, and she was only Trish’s assistant. It seemed everyone was always rushing, and tension simmered among the people in charge. Almost everyone had a radio or a headset, and messages were constantly coming through. Fiona made the mistake of asking someone if he needed to respond—she’d thought he hadn’t heard the message squawk through. Then he’d shot her an arctic stare, shaken his head, and walked away without responding. Luckily, Zane Walker’s personal assistant, Patch Carver, a brown-haired twentysomething guy with chiseled features and a sleeve of tattoos, had clued her in to the fact that no one answered radio calls unless they were meant for them, even though they were all relaying messages on the same channels.
Now it was midafternoon, and Fiona was watching Trish await her scene. Trish looked cute in a pair of khaki shorts and a white button-down top that was open to her naval and tied at the waist. She wore leather hiking boots and thick socks, and all Fiona could think about was how hot it was on the set with the bright lights and how hot Trish’s feet must be. They were filming on a set that had been constructed to look like the inside of a cave. Fiona was trying to remain silent, having already seen too many glares from the director aimed at two men who must have made sounds that she hadn’t heard.
Fiona knew Trish was nervous by the way her finger kept dragging against the edge of her shorts. That was her thing. She used to do it before exams. Fiona called Trish’s nervous habit fringe-seeking therapy. She wished she could run over and tell Trish how great she was going to be and make her laugh so she would calm down. But she didn’t dare move as Trish walked onto the cavernous set and recited her lines while Fiona silently cheered her on.
Fiona spotted Zane approaching Trish. He and Jake looked so much alike that she did a double take. Zane’s dark hair was cropped short, and his square jaw sported about five days’ worth of scruff. He was well built, though narrower through the chest and arms than Jake. While Jake walked with purpose, Zane walked with an air of knowing he was being watched. She hadn’t seen Jake since she’d arrived in LA, but she knew from Trish’s script that Zane had a scene where he climbed the side of the interior of the cave and then fell into a pool of what the script stated as muck. She was fairly certain that the man who kept checking his shoes for dirt wasn’t about to get his hands dirty by climbing up the wall, much less fall into a pit of muck.
“Cut!” an authoritative voice boomed through the set.
There was a flourish of activity and urgent commands as people ran onto the set. Fiona watched, totally clueless as to what she was supposed to do. Should she see if Trish needed anything? Should she offer her water? One woman primped Trish’s hair while another pressed a makeup pad to her cheeks and forehead.
“Relax. They’re just getting ready for the stuntman to come on set.” Patch stood beside Fiona with a clipboard in his hands and a headset connected to his ear.
She shouldn’t feel like her heart stopped beating or her lungs collapsed at the thought of Jake showing up. He was the reason she was there, after all. But she had no control over her emotions when it came to Jake.
“Oh,” was all she could manage. She heard Jake’s voice before she saw him approaching out of her peripheral vision as he patted Patch on the back.
“Good to see you, Pat—”
Apparently, he had about the same reaction to Fiona as she did to him. Jake’s brows sank into a confused slash. He stopped walking, which worried Fiona. He couldn’t hold up the scene, and everyone was turning, watching. Waiting.
Oh God, this was a very bad idea.
She hadn’t thought it through well enough. He was staring at her with an expression she couldn’t decipher. He was either mad, confused, or something in between, but one thing was for sure. He wasn’t smiling.
“Jake Braden, Fiona Steele. She’s Trish’s assistant.” Patch motioned to Fiona.
“H-hi.” At least she sounded starstruck instead of lovestruck. She looked self-consciously down at her shorts and Geologists Dig It T-shirt. Maybe she should have dressed sexier, but she’d never had to dress sexy to get Jake’s attention, and when she’d gotten dressed that morning, she was confident that it wouldn’t take the right clothes to win him over. That eventually he’d look at her and be unable to resist the electricity flaring between them.
Jake gave a curt, silent nod, then crossed the set to where the hustle and bustle was happening. The women who were primping Trish ran to Jake. He was dressed identical to Zane, and it took a minute for Fiona to realize that was on purpose. Duh. Her mind really wasn’t working.
“He’s just stressed, but he’s a really good guy.” Patch elbowed her, pulling her out of her Jake-induced stupor. “Don’t take that personally.”
She breathed deeply. She could do this. It was just like watching a movie. That’s all. A movie with the man she adored who was about to fall fifty feet into a pool of muck.
Trish caught her eye, flashed a big smile, and waved. Fiona managed to give her a thumbs-up before they started filming again. If she didn’t want to make a fool of herself, she was going to have to buck up and put on her own performance.
“Oh, no big deal. I actually know Jake. We…grew up together.” There, see? She could act like a normal person, not a woman hoping to strip away her angry ex-boyfriend’s suit of armor.
“Really? So you’re from Colorado?” Patch asked.
Someone yelled “Set!” which Fiona knew meant that they were ready to film. The procession of commands that came next, roll sound, rolling, rolling camera, slate, and finally, action, was also different from what Fiona had imagined. She’d always thought someone closed what she knew now were called the clapper sticks and then the director yelled, “Action!” If nothing else, she was gaining quite an education in filmmaking, and she could see why people were drawn to the industry. Every stressful second was as thrilling as it was painstaking. To see the hard work of all of these people come together in a blockbuster movie must be equivalent to geologists finding evidence of supervolcanoes in Utah.
Jake, looking very much like Zane, only stronger, manlier, and about a thousand times sexier, used his fingers and booted toes to climb the arched wall, hanging nearly parallel to the ground by the time he reached the peak of the cavern. Fiona held her breath. She had watched all of Jake’s movies over and over, but she’d never seen him doing the stunts in person or thought about what it was really like for him to do them. And in reality, it had always looked like the actual actors were doing the stunts, so although she knew Jake was doing them, she never even considered the tremendous danger involved and the courage it took for Jake to carry them out. Then again, Jake had always been courageous. She’d never seen him cower from anything, and she knew he thrived on risk. He had spent his teenage years doing everything and anything that spelled danger, along with his brother Wes. They’d skydived, mountain climbed, bungee jumped, gone caving, and more by the time Jake was sixteen. He’d even introduced Fiona to riding ATVs and dirt bikes. She’d accompanied him on a few low-mountain treks, but she wasn’t the daredevil Jake was by any stretch of the imagination. She’d always admired his courage, and she’d been as enamored by Jake’s thrill of being a daredevil as she had been with every other part of him. Jake wouldn’t be Jake without his love of all things risky—and she would never try to change that. Well, except where other women were concerned. Being risky in his professional life was one thing. But if she had her way, he’d never want to be risky with anyone but her again.
She turned away when he fell, his arms and legs flailing as he careened into the pool of muck, landing with a loud thud and sending sprays of brown gunk everywhere. Fiona secured her hand over her mouth to keep from gasping.
Please be okay. Please be okay.
> Jake disappeared beneath the surface and out of view for a few seconds, then popped back up and sprang to his feet. It looked like the earth was moving beneath him. He was covered in muck, but his beaming smile shone through the dank mess as he raised his hands over his head and whooped.
“Cut!” the director’s voice boomed again. “Jake, how many times do I have to tell you? No hollering until I say cut!”
“It was perfect, and you know it.” Jake waved him off as a woman handed him a towel and another woman wiped the muck from his skin.
Fiona assessed his every step. She needed to see that confident stride to believe he hadn’t been hurt. After only a few steps, she could see he was carrying himself with the same powerful presence as always, and relief washed through her. Only Jake would talk back to the director. She wondered if all the other women on set found that as much of a turn-on as she did. She loved his confidence—and remembered how much she’d liked it in bed.
“Intense, isn’t it? He’s the best.” Patch crossed the set to Zane and handed him a bottle of water, which pulled Fiona from her naughty memories and set her in motion toward Trish to do the same.
Jake set a bead on her as she passed in front of him. She wanted to congratulate him and tell him how riveting it was to watch him, but it was all she could do to hand Trish her bottle of water. Luckily, Jake was a good distance away, and she had time to get her brain functioning properly again.
“You okay?” Trish asked.
“I think I should be asking you that.” She tore her eyes from Jake. “Everyone’s so intense.”
“It’s cool, isn’t it? I can’t believe in all these years you’ve never visited me on set. I’m glad you’re here.” Trish glanced at Jake and lowered her voice. “Your man is hot.”
“Wicked hot.” She knew just how hot he was, and apparently her body remembered, too, because she felt her nipples harden beneath the heat of Jake’s intense stare. How would she make it through six weeks of this? And if they found their way back together again, how would she make it through a lifetime with the man who made her feel like she’d swallowed a dose of pure lust for lunch?
BY THE TIME Jake had wrapped his scenes for the day, the sky was clouding over and the temperature had dipped with the sun, which meant they were in for an evening storm. He could use the cooler temperatures. He was dirty, hot, and so tightly wound he thought the wrong move might send him spinning like a top. He’d seen Fiona several times throughout the afternoon, though he wasn’t sure she’d spotted him after she’d seen him on the first set. He’d watched her between takes, laughing with Trish, talking with Patch and Zane, and getting friendly with just about everyone who was working on the movie. He’d even seen the director talking with Fiona. What could she possibly have said to capture Steven Hileberg’s attention? And why the hell was she working as Trish’s personal assistant? She wasn’t an assistant. She was a geologist.
Jake’s assistant, Trace, was a bright college grad with a major in music, and her aspirations were grounded in the entertainment industry, so it made sense for her to work in the business. She played bass guitar and found inspiration in being around others in the entertainment field, whereas Jake knew Fiona’s geological aspirations couldn’t have changed that much. What the hell is she doing?
Jake headed to his trailer to shower.
Jake turned at the sound of Jon Katon’s voice. Jon was one of the production assistants. He was tall, with sandy-blond hair and striking blue eyes, and like so many other runners on set, Jon was an aspiring actor. “Hey, some chick was looking for you.”
“Yeah? What else is new?” He laughed, but it was a facade. Part of him was hoping it was Fiona, while another part was tamping that hope down with an ineffective sledgehammer.
“Right, well, she was pretty persistent. Said she had something for you. I told her where your trailer was but that she should find Trace.”
Jake glanced at his trailer. He’d once entered his trailer and found two naked actresses making out on the couch. He’d added extra locks to his trailer door, but errant fans came with the territory—even if those “fans” were other industry professionals. Luckily, stuntmen worked behind the scenes and were largely ignored in the public eye, but actresses he’d worked with and their assistants were another story altogether. That was the last thing he wanted to deal with on a day like today, when he’d been haunted by thoughts of Fiona all day.
“Don’t worry. I saw her across the way a little while ago on another set. She’s not waiting for you.”
“Cool. Thanks, man.” Relieved, he headed into his trailer.
Jake’s trailer was more of a mobile estate, equipped with a sixty-inch plasma television, an upscale living room and dining set, a full bath, and a second story. At fifty-three feet long, it was on par with the A-list actors’ trailers in size and accommodations. He stripped off his shirt and filled a glass with water. His schedule was on the table, thanks to Trace. He sat on the leather sofa and opened a folder she’d left him. Inside he found an envelope with his name handwritten across the front. He’d know that loopy script anywhere, even after all these years, and he realized that Fiona had been the one looking for him. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
“Fi, what have you done?” His lips curved into an unexpected smile as he opened the envelope and withdrew a black-and-white photocopy of their high school yearbook’s senior prom page. He hadn’t seen it in more than a decade, but he remembered it as if it were yesterday. He’d worn a heather-gray tux, and Fiona had worn a strapless white dress with a crisscross bodice and a gold sparkly swatch that ran from her hip, up the center of the bodice, and over one shoulder. She looked stunning, and that night had been amazing. They’d been crowned prom king and queen and had spent the evening gazing into each other’s eyes, dancing, and laughing with friends. Jake had never felt as happy as he had that night. He’d seen a future with Fiona, and he’d imagined every night would be as incredible as that night was. When the parties ended, they’d gone to the lookout on Old Hill Road and watched the sun come up. Other couples had used the prom as a night to sneak away to neighboring towns and rent hotel rooms, but he and Fiona’s relationship had been so much deeper than sex.
Making love with Fiona had been the most intense and passionate sex he’d ever experienced. He’d never experienced anything similar since—and until the past few days, he’d accepted that he never would. He knew that came with their intense emotional connection. But the hatred that he’d mustered toward her, he was realizing, wasn’t hatred at all. It was his worst enemy, his most dreaded weaknesses—fear and hurt—all bundled together and misconstrued.
It was easier to be angry than to be hurt, though not less painful.
Not less painful at all.
He flipped the photograph over and read the handwritten note. We were always hanging by a moment. I don’t want to hang anymore. Fi.
It was all he could do to keep from getting up and putting “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse on the stereo. He stared at her note for a long while and finally set it all back into the folder and pushed it across the table.
By the time Jake finished showering, it was after seven, he was starved, and it was pouring rain. It never rained in Los Angeles. Before walking out of his trailer, he snagged the envelope from Fiona, folded it, and shoved it in his pocket. He wasn’t done mulling it over quite yet.
He climbed atop his Ducati motorcycle, wondering why, of all nights, the skies would open up tonight, when he had his bike instead of his car and his mind was drenched in thoughts of Fiona. The sidewalks were empty as he drove away from the gates, save for a woman holding a newspaper over her head and—Fiona?
Jake pulled over a few feet ahead of her, jumped from his bike, and snagged the extra helmet. Fiona was soaked, despite the newspaper soggily hanging over her head. He took off his helmet and handed her the other, silently teasing himself about this being some crazy setu
p put on by the rain gods.
“Come on,” he hollered above the driving rain. “I’ll drive you wherever you need to go.” When she didn’t take the helmet, he moved the newspaper and slid the helmet over her head, catching the faintest smile as it settled over her face. He lifted the face shield, and she blinked out at him, looking adorable and…surprised.
“Where to?” As he stood beside her in the driving rain, he realized that the eight-hundred-pound gorilla of anger he’d been carrying around wasn’t there. Instead, all he felt was a desire to help her get where she needed to go.
“You don’t have to…” She held his gaze.
“Fiona, where are you headed?”
She gave him the address of the apartment she’d rented.
“That’s a long walk. Why didn’t you take a cab?”
“I tried, but I didn’t see any.” She was dripping wet and shivering.
It felt natural for Jake to slip out of his jacket and help her put it on, the way he used to take care of her. The sleeves hung well past her hands, and she looked so vulnerable that he had the urge to take her in his arms and hold her. Another urge that knocked him off-balance.
“There’s a service. I guess no one told you. Have you had dinner?”
She shook her head.
“Okay. My place is closer. Why don’t we swing by there, have a bite, and we’ll get my car and I’ll take you home.” He had no idea where that idea came from, but he was going with it. Maybe it was time to give his crappy attitude a rest and deal with whatever this was.
“Jake, you don’t have to. I feel terrible taking up your night.”
He arched a brow. “No, you don’t.”
That earned him a genuine smile. “Yeah, you’re right, but—”
He took her hand and led her to the bike. The feel of her hand in his was as comforting and familiar as falling into his own bed after being away from home for way too long. He helped her onto the bike, then climbed on in front of her. She wrapped her arms around his waist, and he gently tugged her closer, bringing her chest flush to his back, her thighs against his. As the bike roared to life, she tightened her grip, making him grin even wider.