Trashed, p.14
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       Trashed, p.14

         Part #2 of Stripped series by Jasinda Wilder
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“Ruthie, Jesus Christ woman, calm down. ”

  She bounces on the bed. “Calm down? Calm down? How the hell do you expect me to calm down? How did this happen? Why did this happen? What was it like? Speak, woman, speak!”

  I clear my throat. “If you’ll shut the fuck up for five seconds, I’ll tell you what I can. ” I take a deep breath and let it out. “I met him the other day. Friday. He was on a carriage tour, and he saw me, and for reasons I can’t pretend to understand, decided to jump off and come talk to me…” I tell her about the fudge and the ensuing visit to the bar, and the storm, and the church, and making out with him, and the panic attack. When I get to him showing up and taking me to the gala, Ruth freaks out again.

  “Wait. Waitwaitwait. He took you to THE PARTY? Like the huge Hollywood event everyone at the hotel has been talking about ALL FUCKING SUMMER? Adam Trenton. The Adam Trenton. Took YOU…to the gala?”

  I shrug miserably. “Maybe? Yes. Okay? Yes, he did. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. Jesus, I thought it was going to be…I don’t even know. I don’t KNOW what I was thinking. ” I thunk my head back against the wall hard enough that it hurts. “Ow. ”

  “Holy fucking shit, Des. ”

  “Yeah. ”

  “Did they take your picture?”

  I laugh sarcastically. “Only about a million times. ” I grin at her. “Now do you want to hear about Dylan Vale?”

  “You really met Dylan Vale? Like in actual real life? You spoke to him?”

  My grin turns evil. “Spoke to him? I slow danced with him. ”

  Ruth stops breathing and waves her hands at her face. Why, I’m not sure. Eventually she gasps out a question. “Slow…slow danced? With my Dylan?”

  I shrug. “Well, from what I could see, he belongs more to Rose Garret. But yeah, that Dylan. It wasn’t a big deal. I mean, he was every bit as hot as you keep telling me, plus maybe even a little hotter. But he was total nerd. He spent the entire dance telling me about the show, how it was HIS idea and how the producers had to beg him to read for the lead role, blah, blah, blah. You would have loved it, but it bored me to tears. I couldn’t care less about that show. But he was pretty fucking cute. ” I twist a lock of hair in my fingers and look away. “Nowhere near as hot as Adam, but…still. ”

  Ruthie can’t quite breathe yet. “Jesus, Des. I’m so jealous I don’t think I can be friends with you for a few minutes. ”

  Page 39

 

  She gets up and rummages in our little freezer, pulls out a fifth of Absolut. She sits down on the bed with it, unscrews the cap, and takes a long chug directly from the bottle. She swallows, hisses, and hands it to me. I regard the bottle for a moment. I’m not a hard drinker most of the time, but this is a situation that calls for vodka straight from the bottle. I take a swig and chase it with my tea.

  Ruthie takes my mug from me and steals a drink, then hands it back. “Dylan Vale aside—and you know I’m serious now, because Dylan is literally EVERYTHING—what happened, Des?”

  I’m dizzy now. “We fucked. ”

  “Unpack that a little, sweets. ”

  “I wasn’t going to. I had a panic attack, for god’s sake. But…he’s just incredible, Ruth. I couldn’t not. I tried. But he kissed me, and I lost all sense. He’s sweet, and yet he doesn’t take no for an answer, and that’s just incredible. I mean, when I freaked out, he held me and didn’t ask what happened. He made me tea and held me, and then took me home. No questions asked. And then after the party, I just…I wanted him, Ruthie. I wanted him so bad. And I didn’t want to be a virgin anymore. I didn’t want to be afraid anymore, you know?”

  Ruth takes a long time to answer. “Yeah. I do. I really, really do. ” She takes another smaller sip and hands me the bottle. “Does he know?”

  I shake my head. “I didn’t tell him anything. I mean, how do you explain that? Am I just supposed to stop him in the middle of the most amazing foreplay that’s ever happened and just be like ‘hey, by the way, I’m a virgin?’”

  “Yes, Des, you are, if necessary. That’s not something you can just not tell a guy. That’s a big deal. ”

  I groan and take a drink, and let the warmth spread through me. “Exactly. And I didn’t want it to be a big deal. I just wanted him to want me, and to go with it. I would have chickened out if I’d told him. And he probably wouldn’t have kept going if I’d told him. ”

  She shrugs and nods at the same time. “I guess I get that. I still think it’s shady as fuck, and I’d be pissed if I was him, but I get it. So are you going to tell him?”

  I shake my head. “Nope. He’s long gone. ”

  She’s sitting beside me, sideways on the bed, our heads against the wall and our feet hanging off the edge of the mattress. She rotates her head to stare at me. “He’s gone? Where’d he go?”

  “He was only here for the weekend. He’s back to wherever they’re filming his movie. Some studio in L. A. , I’d imagine. ”

  “So, let me get this straight: you gave your virginity to the Adam Trenton in a one-night stand, and he doesn’t know it?”

  I nod. “That’s about right. ”

  “Are you going to see him again?”

  I shake my head. “How? He’ll never come back to Michigan, and even if he did, how would he find me, or me him? And why? It was just a…one-time thing. I know it, he knows it. The end. ”

  Ruthie, even though she’s clearly starting to feel the vodka, looks at me far too perceptively. “You’re a shitty liar, Des Ross. You like him. You’re upset. You wouldn’t be drinking all my fucking vodka if you weren’t all kinds of messed up over this. ”

  I’m suddenly too drunk to argue. Thank god for that. At least now I can stop missing Adam for a few minutes.

  I take the bottle of vodka and drink even more, until Ruthie snatches it from me and stumbles to the freezer and puts it away. “You’re a lightweight, babe. Gonna be sick if you keep that up. ”

  Babe. Adam called me babe. That was his thing. ‘Babe’ this and ‘babe’ that. I liked it.

  No more babe.

  “Don’ call me babe,” I slur.

  “He call you that?”

  I nod, and I can’t quite figure out why I’m horizontal, or why my pillow smells like Ruthie’s shampoo. Ruthie pats me on the head, and I realize I’m lying across her lap. She holds me, strokes my hair, and now I’m wondering why her lap is wet. “It’s gonna be okay, Des. You’ll be fine. Hush, sweetie. It’s okay. ”

  Oh.

  I’m crying.

  Damn it.

  * * *

  The ferry ride back to the mainland is the longest boat trip of my life. And it’s followed by the quietest, longest, and most awkward car ride of my life. I’m in the back of a massive black Navigator with Gareth and Ruth, and we’re on our way back downstate. Back to filming. Back to life.

  Eventually, after approximately three hours of tense silence, Rose groans in frustration. “Jesus, Adam. What the hell happened to you? You’re acting like somebody shit in your Wheaties. ”

  I can’t help but laugh. “Wow, Rose. Quite a turn of phrase there. ”

  “Well, it’s true. ”

  Gareth has dozed off in the front seat, and Oliver, the driver, is talking to someone via a Bluetooth headset.

  I stare out the window for a long moment before answering. “Just…things didn’t go the way I expected. ”

  “With that girl? What was her name? Des?”

  I nod. “Yeah. Des. ”

  She pats my arm. “Well, it’s not like you have time for that kind of thing right now anyway. But I’m not sure you did that poor girl any favors by putting her in the spotlight like that. She’s gonna get attention, and I’m not sure she’s ready for it. ”

  “Not much I can do now, is there?”

  “No. I guess not. ” She leaves it there for a moment, and then snorts. “I mean, if that’s how it is for you, then that’s how it i
s. ”

  I turn to stare at her. “What the hell’s that mean?”

  She shrugs. “Nothing. ”

  I roll my eyes. “I’m not in the mood for fucking games, Rose. ”

  “There’s always something you can do, you big dumbass. You want her, you do something about it. ”

  “It’s not always that simple. ”

  She shrugs. “Of course not. When was the last time anything was simple?”

  “She made herself pretty clear: One night, and that was it. ”

  “But?”

  I turn back to staring out the window. “But…it feels like she’s the one that got away. ”

  “If that’s what she wants, then you gotta respect it. ” Rose sweeps a hand through her loose blond hair. “But then, sometimes, we women tell ourselves and act like we want one thing, when really, deep down, we want something different and we’re just…unwilling for whatever reason to let ourselves have it. Usually because we’re afraid of one thing or another. ”

  Page 40

 

  “Well that clarifies things. Thanks, Rose. ”

  She slaps my knee. “No problem. ”

  Chapter 9

  “Um. Des?” This is Ruthie, speaking from her spot curled up in the corner of the couch in our Detroit apartment. We just got back to Detroit last night and I never thought I would say this, but I’m glad to be here. I had one more week on Mackinac Island after Adam left— and it was one of the longest weeks ever.

  I don’t look up from my book. “What?”

  “You need to see this. ” When I don’t answer, she gets up and slams her three-year-old ASUS down onto my lap. “Des. You need to see this, right now. ”

  It takes a moment to register what I’m seeing. It’s an article in some celebrity gossip magazine.

  There are photographs…

  Of me.

  With Adam.

  I look hot.

  Adam’s hot new flame? the headline reads. And by headline, I mean huge, bold letters across the top of the website, like size one hundred font. Accompanied by photograph after photograph. A close-up of Adam and me holding hands. His lips at my ear, whispering something to me. His arm around my waist. Us slow dancing…me with a look of utter rapture on my face.

  “You’re in Entertainment Now, Des. ” She’s stepping into flip-flops and snagging her purse off the counter. “I gotta go and get a hard copy of this. ”

  I sit in shock as she vanishes out the door. I skim the text, but it’s the usual conjecture:

  Action movie heartthrob Adam Trenton was recently photographed at a charity dinner with a mysterious new love interest. The pair refused to comment to our on-scene reporters, but sources say they were spotted together more than once over the weekend. Adam, who rumors say is filming a sequel to last-year’s box-office smash Fulcrum, hasn’t been spotted with anyone since he and Garden of Evil star Emma Hayes split early this year amid a swirl of volatile rumors. His new love interest isn’t anyone we recognize, but if these photographs do her any justice, something tells us we’ll be seeing more of her—and soon.

  And, at the bottom of the article, a long-distance photograph of me climbing into the carriage outside the Grand Hotel. Wearing what are clearly Adam’s clothes.

  Shit. Shit.

  Shit.

  Ruthie sweeps back into the apartment, a glossy magazine in her hand. She’s staring at the article even as she sits down on the couch beside me. “Holy shit, Des!” She shoves the magazine into my hands. “This is incredible! Perez Hilton is blogging about you, girl! This is huge. HUGE. ”

  “Hugely bad, Ruthie. ”

  She stares at me in bafflement. “Des. You spent the weekend with one of the most eligible and sought-after bachelors ever. When he and Emma were official, the female population of the world went nuts. And when he and Emma broke up, they went even crazier. And now that he’s been seen with a new girl, things are going to go even crazier yet, especially since you’re a mystery to everyone. No one knows who you are or where you came from, and believe me, sweetie, they’re gonna find out. ”

  She grabs my hands in both of hers and squeezes hard. “What the fuck were you thinking? You are seriously the world’s most private individual, and you let yourself get photographed at an über-exclusive A-list charity dinner? And this?” She taps the final image of me in Adam’s clothes. “That’s like, obviously a morning-after shot. You look sexy and gorgeous, in an I-just-spent-the-night-fucking sort of way. ”

  I bury my face in my hands. “What am I going to do?”

  She shrugs. “Baby doll, I don’t even know. ”

  “I didn’t know any of this would happen. I—god, I didn’t know. ”

  Ruth is in the kitchen mixing a pitcher of margaritas, which she is spectacularly amazing at making. “Good thing is, you don’t have a phone number and you’re not on the lease for the apartment. So finding you is going to be pretty damn near impossible. I think. I mean, for one thing, you look nothing like your normal self in those photographs. Not that you’re not beautiful normally, but Des, hon, you’ve been holding out on me. I had no idea you could clean up that good!”

  I accept a margarita in a juice glass, since we don’t have actual margarita glasses. “I didn’t know either. I mean, I didn’t do anything special. I barely put any makeup on! God. If I’d known what he was taking me to, I wouldn’t have gone. I mean, it wasn’t just Adam and Dylan there. I met Gareth Thomas, Rose Garret, Lawrence Bradford, Amy Jones…I mean, there were some insanely famous people there…and me. ” I let out a shaky breath. “Rose cornered me in the bathroom at the dinner and she warned me this would happen. ”

  Ruth gives me a sour expression. “Listen to yourself. Talking about Rose like she’s your buddy. This is Rose fucking Garret, Des. God. ”

  I down the margarita, which is strong. “You think I don’t realize how surreal all this is? It all feels like a dream. I don’t know what else to say, Ruth. ”

  She refills my glass and sits beside me again. “You miss him, don’t you?”

  “I barely know him. I spent all of…not even two full days with him. ”

  “But…” she pauses to sip and swallow, “you still miss him. ”

  I rest the glass against my forehead. “Yeah. I try not to. Try not to think about him. About that night. But it’s impossible not to. ” I twist my head to meet Ruthie’s eyes. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that night. ”

  “How could you? That was like…a once in a lifetime thing. ”

  I can’t help wishing it was a lifetime thing, and not once in a lifetime.

  * * *

  The next day I’m leaving my last class of the day at Wayne State, waiting for the bus that will take me to U of D for my janitor shift. I’ve got ear buds in and I’m spaced out, tired, not wanting to go to work. I feel a tap on my shoulder, pull out an ear bud and turn to face the person who tapped me. He’s a few years older than me, attired in a pair of tight dark blue jeans with the cuffs rolled up to his ankles above a pair of shiny, calf-high, unlaced combat boots. He’s wearing a white button-down with a bright purple scarf tied around his neck like a cravat, and a black coat that reminds me of something a Civil War officer might wear, brass buttons and a flaring hem. His hair is blond and slicked to one side, and he’s got mascaraed eyelashes, blushed cheekbones, and nails painted the same color as his scarf.

  Page 41

 

  He’s gorgeous, in a fabulous sort of way.

  “Are you Des?” he asks, and if there was any doubt, his voice gives away his sexual alignment.

  I keep my expression carefully blank. “Who’s asking?”

  He hands me a business card:

  Thom Rayburn, talent acquisitions

  The Sidney Weaver Agency

  12345 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York

  212-555-6789

  My first thought is whether his name is pr
onounced “Tom” or “Th-om”. Second, what does he want with me?

  I blink at him, and then hand his card back. “Not interested. ”

  He laughs. “You haven’t even heard what I’m offering, Des. ”

  “Still not interested. ”

  “Have you ever heard of The Sidney Weaver Agency?” He moves to stand beside me.

  The bus arrives in a squeal of brakes and a cloud of diesel fumes, and Thom boards ahead of me, and pays for two tickets. “What the hell do you want, Thom?” I pronounce it Tom, guessing that no one, no matter how gay, would go by Th-om. “And why did you pay for my ticket?”

  “Sit down, sweetie, and I’ll tell you what I want. ” He waves impatiently at an open pair of seats near the front. I slide in, and he moves in beside me. He smells like expensive cologne and faintly of marijuana. “Since you didn’t answer my question, I’m going to assume you aren’t familiar with the agency. We are the premier modeling agency. We represent all of the most successful and talented models in the world. And Des? We want you. We saw those photos from the gala on Mackinac Island, and honey, you looked incredible. ”

  I snort derisively. “I may not know your agency, but I do know models are supposed be size negative two, okay? And I also know I’ll never be that skinny. So you’re barking up the wrong tree, sweetie. ”

  “Negative two. That’s funny. ” He pulls an electronic cigarette from his coat pocket and sucks on it, making the tip glow blue, and then blows out a cloud of odorless smoke. “For real, though. Haven’t you ever heard of plus size modeling?”

  “So now I’m plus size?” My voice is dangerously even.

  He has the decency to blush slightly. “I’m not labeling you anything, hon, that’s just what the industry calls it. And they need talent. ” He takes another puff of the e-cig, and then puts it back in his pocket. “You know how many calls we got asking about you after those photos went up? Guess. I want you to guess. ”

  I shake my head. “Four?”

  He snorts. “Try two hundred. And that was just the first day. All of them wanted to know if we represented you, and if not, how soon we could get you. Cacique, Torrid, Lane Bryant, Michael Kors, Betsy Johnson…they all want you. Which means we want you. ”

  Modeling? Me?

  I don’t answer right away. “I don’t know anything about being a model. ” I glance at him. “Plus, I’ve watched TV, okay? I’ve heard about the modeling industry, and how brutal it is. I’ve got zero interest in signing some contract that makes me an indentured servant. ”

  Thom looks aghast. “Des. Des. We’re not that kind of agency. God, I’ve never been so insulted in my life. Those kinds of contracts come from…god, they’re little better than fucking charnel houses, okay? We represent talent. Beauty. Class. And we can train you. That’s what we do. ”

  “I have tattoos. ”

  He blows a raspberry with his lips. “Um, Photoshop, duh. Not to make you look less like you, of course, but that’s the kind of thing we use it for. Cover up tattoos and blemishes. ”

  I pinch the extra flesh at my stomach between finger and thumb. “Yeah, blemishes. ” I look away.

  Thom shakes his head and looks sad. “God, you’ve had a rough time of it, haven’t you? You’re beautiful, Des. For real. Have you met me? Obviously I know what I’m talking about, right? My job is to find beautiful people and put them in front of a camera. I wouldn’t be here on this—” he lowers his voice and whispers in my ear, “very, very dirty bus in the middle of Detroit, if you weren’t what we represent. ”

 
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