Series: Celebrity #1
Published by: Liz Madrid
Release Date: June 9, 2106
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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A booty call. A stuck elevator. A chance to move on.
When Riley Eames agrees to meet her ex-boyfriend in his hotel room "just to talk," she knows it could only mean one thing - a booty call.
But three years after he left her to pursue his Hollywood dream, she's determined to get answers to the questions only he can answer - until she finds herself trapped in the elevator with charming British actor, Ashe Hunter, who's in town to promote his latest movie.
But a celebrity romance may not be enough to get Riley's life moving again, not when the answers long kept hidden from her are finally revealed, and letting go just might be the last thing she can ever do.
"She brings to this adorable, yet serious, yet light-hearted romance a deep humanity that defines the novel..." - Mary L. Tabor, Author of The Woman Who Never Cooked
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Hours later, Riley felt lost.
The last few hours had been amazing. She'd seen her favorite band perform and watched Ashe lip-sync the words of her favorite song to her in a way that only happened in music videos and TV specials. She even got to meet the band when a tour member asked them if they'd like to go backstage, and Riley had pictures to prove that it had happened, even though the encounter was brief.
Through Ben and Lance's anecdotes, she caught a glimpse of Ashe before fame had touched him. To them, he was the son of a sheep farmer and a schoolteacher, who enjoyed long walks among the Dales and who preferred life in the Big Apple to Los Angeles because he could buy authentic shepherd's pies and Yorkshire loose teas from Myers of Keswick in the West Village. Ashe, who had kissed her in the elevator on their way up to the penthouse suite, and told her she had just made him the happiest man ever because she was right there with him and not halfway around the world. Ashe, who made love to her and made her feel so beautiful.
Riley knew she should be happy, the running-naked-down-the-Boardwalk-screaming-I-just-got-serenaded-by-Ashe-Hunter happy. But if she was happy, then why was she crying?
Why did she feel as if all the good things happening to her were fast approaching their expiration date like everything else had? Why was she so afraid that this moment of lying next to Ashe as he lay sleeping was just another moment in her life that was going to be snatched away from her when she least expected it? Like the way the doctor had told them that her mother would be okay after she and Riley had been rescued from the apartment fire, only to die from a pulmonary embolism two days later. Or her father, after telling her that he didn't blame her for not being able to help her mother down the stairs during the fire because she was in a wheelchair, spent the rest of Riley's life blaming her anyway.</p?
How long would she have to enjoy Ashe? How soon would it be before something or someone snatched him away from her? How could-
"What are you thinking?"
Ashe's voice broke into the stream of questions running through her mind and Riley turned to look at him, startled. She wondered how long he'd been awake, hoping that the tears that had dried had not left their mark on her face.
"Nothing," she said.
"You're a terrible liar," he said, tracing circles on her shoulder. "You've been crying for fifteen minutes and staring at the ceiling for the last twenty. If we're going to work, Riley, it takes more than just sex and rock concerts. You can't bottle things up forever."
She took a deep breath and let it out again, figuring she might as well tell him. The sooner she knew it would end, the better, and then it wouldn't hurt so much when he did leave her.
"I guess I'm just wondering when this dream's going to end, when you're going to stop being my Prince Charming or knight in shining armor and show me your real face," she told him.
"Well, that's the problem, isn't it?" he answered. "You're definitely going to be disappointed if you think I'm your Prince Charming or a knight in shining armor, because I'm not. I'm just a man. Imperfect and human, the same as everyone else."
"Then how come I don't see any flaws? You're too perfect, Ashe. Can you see where I'm coming from? You're too good to be true."
Ashe frowned. "Must I have flaws for you to believe I'm real? Must I fit into this hole that Gareth's left inside you for you to know that I am here — because I'm the latest person to step into his shadow? Not that I have every intention of filling that hole he's left behind-"
"That's not what I meant. This has nothing to do with Gareth at all, and he can burn in hell for all I care," she said. She could sense his annoyance and it was intense. Ashe never seemed to do things halfway. Riley could almost guess that he was an all-or-nothing type of man.
"Even if this has nothing to do with Gareth, are flaws the only thing you need to see to convince yourself that I'm real — and that I'm here with you? Isn't it enough that I'm here with you now?"
"Well, of course, you're here with me-"
"No, I'm not — at least not the Ashe that you think you're with," he said, sitting up now, his face seeming cold as he looked at her. "You're so hung up on Ashe Hunter, the actor, that you can't see who is really in front of you. And you're right to wonder when the dream will end, because Ashe Hunter, the actor, would simply impress the hell out of you for one night, wine and dine you and serenade you. All that before fucking you, too, and be gone in the morning with just a note written on hotel stationery telling you to call his assistant who'll make sure you get home safe, and all the way to your front door at that, even if you'll never hear from me again."
The way he said it made Riley sit up and stare at him, at the way he delivered that last line — so cold, so calculating. So unlike the Ashe she knew.
She didn't expect the dream to end that soon, she thought as she pulled up the sheet and tucked it under her arms. But wasn't this what she wanted?
"But that's not the Ashe who's with you now, Riley," Ashe said, his voice softening. "Right now, I'm just Asher Sean Hunter, just some Yorkshire lad who parlayed his good looks into a career so that he could pay for his sister's treatments. I'm just another vain actor who sold his soul to the highest bidder to get where he is now because he realized that he did like being the center of attention after all."
"But if you think that I like the man looking back at me in the mirror each morning knowing all the things that I've done to get here, then you're wrong," he continued, his voice turning cold again. "How's that for one flaw, Riley? Do you think I'm proud of the things I've done to get where I am now? Because there are many, and some that will probably make you cringe. How's that for a second flaw? But do you want to know my biggest flaw?"
Riley shook her head.
"I'm so good at what I do that I can't even convince the woman I love that the man she's with right now is the real thing. All because I got so damn good at pretending to be whoever anyone wanted me to be — Prince Charming, a knight in shining armor, an android with the biggest dick who can fuck on demand."
She should be scared, Riley thought. But she couldn't deny the realization that an angry and cold Ashe was a sight to behold, one that made her belly clench and made her feel like Jell-O as he looked at her. His voice, so low that it almost rumbled from his chest, left her breathless.
Ashe cupped her face in his hands. "I'm not your Prince Charming, Riley. And I sure as hell am not your knight in shining armor. But if there's one thing that I am, I'm yours."