A BOOTY CALL. A STUCK ELEVATOR. A CHANCE TO MOVE ON.
Three years after her ex-boyfriend dumped her for his Hollywood dream, barista Riley Eames’ life has been on hold, plagued by questions only he can answer. So when he asks for a late-night meeting, Riley agrees, only to find herself stuck in the hotel elevator with dashing British actor, Ashe Hunter, who’s in town to promote his latest movie. But even as sparks fly between them, it’s going to take more than a celebrity romance to get Riley’s life moving again, not when the answers she’s been seeking finally come – and with disastrous results.
Can a man’s love allow Riley to let go and move on? Or will she let long-held secrets and lies keep her bound to her past, where sometimes, everything just feels more familiar?
Ashe was leaning by her front door when Riley reached her floor, the sight of him making her catch her breath as the elevator doors opened. Still wearing his skin-tight shirt and jeans, the addition of a long dark coat made him look so…so English, just like in the movies.
“I thought Bob dropped you off,” she said as she stepped off the elevator.
“He did,” Ashe said. “But I needed to make sure that you were all right. Your sister wasn’t happy, and I don’t blame her. She must think me such a cad for making advances towards you.”
Riley shrugged. “Does it really matter what she thinks? You’re here anyway, aren’t you?”
“Not for what you must be thinking. If anything, I’d like to talk, Riley. At least, let us talk.”
“How’d you get up here anyway?”
There was a doorman, Frank Rogers, who was usually very hard to get past, like a bulldog, though he was nice to her and loved to talk about his teenage daughter, Marie, and whatever she was currently into. Lately, it was Twitter, though Frank had no idea what the word even meant. But Riley wondered if Frank had been helping one of the elderly tenants up to their apartments like he often did with one of her neighbors, who was turning 98 in a few months.
Ashe bit his lower lip sheepishly. “I’m afraid I bribed Frank. Being recognizable has its perks.”
“He’s going to get into trouble when I make a complaint.”
Ashe frowned, moving away from her door as she approached. “I wouldn’t want him to get into trouble, not when all he wanted was an autograph and a photograph for his daughter. If I leave right now, will you promise not to report him?”
“You’d really leave?”
“I would,” Ashe replied, looking down at his boots and brushing some imaginary dirt off the carpet. “It’s not his fault.”
“Then I won’t report him. He’s like a father to me, and I don’t want him getting in trouble on account of me being a bitch,” Riley said. “But if you’re here to get laid, you’ve got it wrong. Maybe you should call Betty and have her arrange something for you. I’m sure she can think of more interesting people than me. You won’t have to work so hard at trying to get someone to give you a blow job or whatever.”
His face darkened. “Is that really why you think I’m here? This is what your sister thinks, isn’t it? That all I want from you is sex, because of something Betty must have told her about the parties she must have set up for other…performers?”
“Does it matter what Betty told her?”
“Yes, it does, Riley. Because as much as some of what Betty says might be true, it doesn’t mean it applies to every single one of her clients. She doesn’t babysit me, nor supply me with models or drugs,” Ashe replied, taking a step closer. “I will leave right now, but not before you answer me this. Do you always let your sister run your life?”
“She’s just worried about me. She doesn’t want me to get hurt again,” Riley said, biting her lower lip as she gazed up at him. Ashe had such a magnetic presence, and it was overwhelming at times. The broad chest, narrow waist and muscles along his jaw that tensed as he looked at her all made her feel weak, unable to put up defenses strong enough to hide from him. “Anyway, if you’re not here to get laid, then why are you here?”
His expression softened. “Just talk.”
“I bet you can get laid a hundred ways from here till Sunday if you wanted to, even without Betty’s help,” she said, exhaling. “Why the hell would you give that up just to know me better? To talk?”
Ashe didn’t speak right away. He watched her, observing her face go through all the emotions she was feeling — anger, confusion, regret.
“That’s Paige talking now, Riley, not you,” he said, taking a step away from her. “I want to speak to the Riley I got to know tonight. The Riley who is the perfect narrator to my Sam-I-Am, the one who knows how to assemble a Lionel train faster than I can, without needing to read the directions. The one who can convince three boys that macaroni and cheese with corn chips mixed in tastes so much better because Vitamin F means fun.”
Riley felt her face burning with embarrassment and she lowered her eyes.
“The Riley who doesn’t believe she’s as beautiful as she really is, who is more intelligent than she lets everyone else think,” Ashe continued. “That’s the Riley I want to talk to.”
“Well, now that you put it that way, then I guess we can talk,” she said as she unlocked her front door. “But just talk, okay?”
“Just talk,” Ashe nodded as he followed her into her apartment. “I meant every word I said.”
“I was afraid of that,” Riley said, remembering the way he had kissed her earlier that evening, the butterflies in her belly fluttering again. Talking was starting to seem overrated.