Trashed, p.26
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       Trashed, p.26

         Part #2 of Stripped series by Jasinda Wilder
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“What’s your tattoo mean, Des?” The question comes from my right.

  I face the man who asked it. “Adam is the only one who knows the answer to that,” I say, and offer a coy smile.

  “He’s a lucky man, then,” the reporter says with a grin. “In a lot of ways. ”

  Adam steps close to me. “You have no idea, pal,” he says, a playful smirk on his lips.

  And then we’re moving, Lawrence and his wife coming up the carpet toward us. Adam guides us into the foyer of the theater, where dozens of couples mill about, talking, laughing, smiling for yet more photographers, posing, doing impromptu interviews. We mingle, and I find myself dazzled by the easy manner with which Adam moves from conversation to conversation, greeting everyone by name, the men with a handshake, the women with a friendly hug. They all look at me, introduce themselves, and include me in their conversations.

  This goes on for what feels like an hour, and at one point we’re cornered by a photographer and a young woman juggling a notepad, a cell phone and pen. She touches the screen of her cell phone and rests it on the top of the notepad and prepares to scribble. She asks Adam a series of questions about the film, which he answers confidently, and then she glances at me.

  “So tell me about yourself, Des. How did you meet Adam? What made you quit modeling?”

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  I have absolutely zero clue how to answer that without losing my shit. I glance at Adam, swallow hard, and think fast. “I. Um. I met Adam on Mackinac Island when he was there for a charity dinner. And as for modeling…um. ” I have got to stop saying um. Fuck. Get it together. “It just wasn’t right for me. New York was too hectic, and the hours just killed me. ”

  “Is there any truth to the allegations that you assaulted Ludovic Perretti?”

  I blink. “I—that’s not something I feel comfortable talking about. ”

  Adam steps into me, forcing me to move away from the interviewer, putting himself in front of her. “That’s enough, Amy. Thank you. ”

  He even knows the names of the reporters. It’s crazy. I can’t remember anyone’s name unless I’ve met them more than once.

  We’re moving through the crowd, and then I feel Adam go stiff beside me. “What the holy fuck is she doing here?” he hisses.

  I scan the crowd, and I see her. Medium height with an hourglass figure, monster tits and sleek hips. Pouty bright red lips. Vivid blue eyes, long chestnut hair brushed to a glossy shine and floating in loose spirals around her slim shoulders. She’s wearing a scrap of slinky dove-gray silk that exposes as much as it covers without being exactly slutty. Four-inch cream heels, diamonds dripping from her ears and draped around her throat, dangling on her wrists.

  God, she’s drop-dead gorgeous. It makes me feel immediately inferior, because I can’t deny how intensely, sensually lovely she is.

  And she knows it. She’s the center of attention, the unexpected guest.

  Emma fucking Hayes.

  She sees me at the same moment that I see her, and she struts straight through the crowd of photographers and journalists and sycophants and panting men. “You must be Des,” she says in a voice that dripping with sultry sexuality.

  “What the fuck are you doing here, Em?” Adam asks, not bothering to hide his animosity.

  Cameras flash, cell phones are held up to record video.

  “Well, Adam…I was invited by Drew. ” She holds her hand out, and a man I remember meeting at the dinner on Mackinac moves to her side.

  He’s tall and handsome with thick blond hair swept artfully to one side, and his hazel gaze rakes over me briefly. “Hey, Adam. ”

  I think Drew is one of the writers, or maybe a producer? I don’t remember. All I know is he seemed like an asshole then, and nothing has changed. He slides his arm around Emma’s waist, a snarky, shit-eating grin on his face. He’s taunting Adam, I realize, who is tense, taut.

  “I see you’ve finally moved on,” Emma says, glancing at me, looking me over, assessing me, dismissing me.

  Adam seems at a loss, for once. He wants to lash out, I think, but he doesn’t want to make a scene, especially with all the press looking on. I want to say something cutting, something intelligent and witty and hurtful.

  “Nice implants,” is what I end up saying.

  Adam snorts in an attempt to hold back laughter, and Emma goes red in the face, trembling all over. I worry for a moment that she’s actually going to attack me. Drew obviously thinks the same thing, because I see his arm tighten around her waist.

  She’s silent for a moment, and I can see her jaw grinding. Eventually she sneers at me and says, “Just remember I had him first, bitch. ”

  What a comeback. I roll my eyes. “Which only makes me seem that much better. ”

  Adam pulls me away. “And that’s enough. ” He glances back. “Goodbye, Emma. And Drew? Good luck, buddy. You’ll need it. ”

  And then we’re out of the foyer and moving toward the doors leading into the auditorium.

  The reality of what I just did hits me. I just insulted Emma Hayes in a very public setting. I got catty. Jesus. What the fuck is wrong with me?

  I hear people talking behind me, discussing me; the scene that just unfolded, and I twist to see people typing furiously on their cell phones. Tweeting, or Facebooking. Putting the whole ugly exchange out to the world on social media.

  I stumble, and Adam catches me. “I can’t…breathe,” I rasp. “Get me out of here. ”

  He ushers me into a coatroom. A young girl in a theater uniform is leaning against a wall, cell phone in hand, a bored expression on her face. But then she sees Adam and she goes star-struck, stammers a hello, and starts toward him.

  “Out,” Adam says, and the girl scurries out, ducking her head. He turns to me. “Des, babe, what’s wrong?”

  I bend over, hands on my knees, and force myself to breathe in slowly. “I just…with Emma… ‘Nice implants?’ What the fuck was I thinking?”

  Adam laughs. “That was probably the worst thing you could say to her, because, and this may be TMI, but they’re actually real. It makes her absolutely furious when people say that. ”

  “I insulted her at your premiere. Everyone was watching. There’s probably video on YouTube already. I can just see the tweets now: Hashtag catfight, Hashtag Des is a cunt. ” Adam laughs even harder, and I finally straighten to glare at him. “Why the fuck are you laughing at me? Remember what I said about embarrassing you? Well, hello embarrassment. Yeah, that just happened. ”

  He takes a deep breath and pulls me close to him, holds me to his chest. “It was fucking funny, Des. I’m not embarrassed at all. I’m actually a little turned on that you got in her face over me. ”

  “One, you’re always turned on. And two, you probably just wanted to see us actually fight. ”

  He snorts. “You’d crush her like a fucking bug, babe. ”

  I press my forehead to his chest. “She’s so beautiful it’s not even fair. ” I let out a frustrated sigh. “I mean, her tits are almost bigger than mine, and I’m twice her size. And they’re real? Come on. Not fucking fair. ”

  Adam groans. “Fuck me. You’re not going to obsess, are you? She’s beautiful, sure. But she’s not you, Des. ”

  “Which goes in her favor, I think. ”

  “Are you forgetting what she did to me?”

  I shrug miserably. “So she’s a skank. I bet she gave better head than me. ”

  Adam pushes me to arm’s length. “For fucking real? Destiny. Jesus. She’s my ex. She broke my goddamned heart and did so publicly, without a scrap of remorse. And you’re comparing which of you gives better head? Come on, babe. Let it go. ”

  I just stare at him. “I notice you’re not denying it, though. ”

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  “I’m not going to compare, Des. I won’t. You know why? Because there’s no comparison. You’re everything I’ve ever wa
nted in life. You’re tough. You’re sexy. You’re intelligent and hardworking and you know what you want. You have an absolutely voracious sexual appetite—”

  “A voracious appetite, period, you mean. ”

  He nods. “Yeah, and that’s sexy to me too. You enjoy food. You enjoy life. You don’t play games. ” Adam takes my face in his hands. “To me, you are better in every way. You kiss me better, you fuck me better, and yes, you go down better. More importantly, you see me, as you once said. You know me. You don’t just appreciate me for the way I look, or for the fact that I’m famous. You appreciate me for me. ”

  “Smooth talker. ”

  “It’s not smooth, Des, it’s the raw truth. ”

  “Well, whatever it is, it’s working. ” I can’t help a smile from curving my lips.

  “Good. ” He touches my chin with an index finger, tipping my face up. His lips graze mine, his tongue drifts delicately across the seam of my mouth, probing, tasting. “Now let’s go watch the premiere, huh?”

  And the premiere is fantastic. Adam is incredible. Not just the brutal fight scenes or the heart-stopping stunts, but the way he portrays his character, making him self-deprecating and darkly humorous, yet still badass and utterly, primally alpha.

  God, this man is amazing, not just on film but in every possible way.

  Chapter 18

  I never get nervous anymore. I just don’t. I was nervous the first time I started in front of a packed home-crowd stadium at Stanford, I was nervous the first time I jogged out onto the Chargers field, and I was petrified when my first starring role in a big-budget, high-profile film hit the theaters.

  But none of those experiences can hold a candle to the nerves blazing through me at this moment.

  Which is beyond stupid. I shouldn’t be nervous. The chances of her saying no are slim to none. I know my girl, and I know she wants this. But I’m still nervous.

  I’ve waited a long time for this. Months of traveling between Detroit, L. A. , and two different shoots in different parts of the globe. I shot the cop drama in Detroit, and then I did a small-budget, character-driven piece shot largely in a studio in L. A. I had two months free which I spent in Detroit with Des. And then that time was followed by a massive historical project filmed in a studio in London and on-location in Germany and Spain.

  And the whole time, I knew what I wanted. I wanted her, in my home. In my bed. No more brutal long-distance flights, no more splitting time between cities, no more nights alone. But I had to wait. She worked too damn hard for her degree for me to get in the way. So I waited.

  And now she’s done. She graduated last week. I arranged the shoot schedule in Spain around her graduation and flew in the day before and surprised her with a custom-designed sapphire pendant. She doesn’t let me buy her a lot of extravagant gifts, so when there’s a reason to get her something that she can’t argue with, I go big.

  The pendant was only the first part of her graduation gift. The second part is a secret trip. We’re on a private jet right now, flying south out of Detroit. I refused to tell her where we’re going, and I only let her pack a handful of dresses, some shorts and tank tops, and a few bathing suits. So she knows we’re going somewhere warm, but that’s it.

  My buddy Dawson and his wife Grey recently bought property in the Caribbean. Now, when I say ‘property’, I mean half an island. And the only reason it’s not the whole thing is because I bought the other half. The salary for the historical war movie I just did was my biggest payout yet, and I haven’t spent much of what I’ve made in the last four years, except for taxes and the penthouse.

  So when Dawson came to me with a plan to team up and split the cost of a small island, I jumped at it. Monster, fifty thousand square-foot palaces in Beverly Hills don’t appeal to me, and I suspect they don’t to Des either. The condo is fine, and still more than two people need. But a sprawling tropical estate on a private island, indoor-outdoor living spaces and no neighbors for literally a hundred miles in any direction—except Dawson and Grey on the other side? Hell yeah.

  So we bought it at the end of last year and we’ve spent the last six months building the houses. Dawson’s done most of the work overseeing the construction, since he’s taking a two-year hiatus from filming. Everything was finished two weeks ago, and we’re meeting on the island for the inaugural visit.

  Des hasn’t met Dawson and Grey, yet. We’ve been so busy and those two have been traveling the world. I think they’ve been in a dozen countries in the last year, and they make a point of staying at least a week in each place. I’m excited for this, honestly. Dawson is great guy, and Grey is sweet as sugar, but she’s tough, too, reminding me of Des in that way.

  I glance at Des, who is sleeping beside me, her head on my shoulder. God, I love her.

  I pull out the ring and look at it. I spent four months designing it, working with one of the world’s premier custom jewelers. It’s a flawless, one-in-a-million pink diamond, teardrop shaped, two and half carats. The band is comprised of over three hundred individual strands of filigreed platinum woven together, the strands merging and reaching up to capture the stone in an ornate, intricate web.

  I hear Des murmur in her sleep and hurry to nestle the ring back in the black velvet box, and tuck the box back in my backpack. She stirs, stretches, blinks up at me. “We almost there?”

  I smile down at her, wipe my thumb across the corner of her mouth. “You’ve got a little something here,” I say. “Yeah. We’ll land in about twenty minutes, and then there’s another short plane ride to our destination. ”

  “And you still won’t tell me where we’re going?”

  “Nope. It’s a surprise. ”

  “I don’t like surprises,” she grumbles.

  “Well, I think you’ll like this one. ”

  We land on St. John, transfer our one suitcase to a Jeep, and sit in easy silence as the driver takes us from the airport to the marina, where a twin-engine float plane waits. The pilot is a grizzled, weathered old man with a long graying red beard. He’s been hand-picked by Dawson and he’s got more flight time logged than any of us have even been alive, Dawson says, and that’s good enough for us.

  I take our suitcase and shoulder my backpack as well as Des’s and we cross the dock. I put one foot on the float, the other on the dock, and toss the suitcase in, and then extend my hand to Des. She takes it, steps to the float and then into the plane.

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  Ron, the pilot, takes off smoothly, and then we’re buzzing a thousand feet over the blue waters of Caribbean.

  We’re alone in the airplane. I could ask her now.

  No. No. I’ve got a plan; stick to the plan. Dinner on the beach, a moonlight proposal.

  I lose track of time scripting out what I’m going to say, and then Des is gripping my hand so tightly it hurts as we sink toward the water.

  “Holy shit holyshitholyshit!” Des is shaking, petrified, eyes scrunched shut.

  “Relax, missy. Done this a hundred thousand times. Ain’t nothin’ to it. ” Ron’s voice is smoke-roughened, an unlit cigarette tucked behind his ear.

  “It’s terrifying!”

  Ron chuckles. “First time is a bit scary, I guess. Just keep your eyes shut and hold your man’s hand. Be down ’fore you can blink twice. ”

  Sure enough, barely a minute later, there’s a light splash, a brief sensation of weightlessness, and then we’re skidding across the water. I lean in my seat, trying to get a glimpse of the island through the windscreen. It’s all green trees, with a stripe of white sandy beach at the edge. I can see sunlight gleaming off glass, a dock extending several hundred feet out into the water. Ron brings the seaplane to a gentle halt at the edge of the dock, shuts off the engine, and then shoves open his door and jumps to the dock with an easiness that belies his age. He ties the plane to the dock, and then takes the suitcase I hand to him. I jump down, and then hand Des down
after me.

  She takes two steps past Ron and me and then stops, hand to her mouth, staring in awe at the island. “Adam, this is…incredible. ”

  I just laugh. “You haven’t seen anything yet, babe. ”

  Ron gestures toward the island. “Y’all go on. I’ll bring your bag up for you. ”

  “What is this place, Adam?”

  I lead her off the dock and onto the sand, up a stone-lined path leading into the jungle. Unlit tiki torches mark the path on either side. It leads up a steep hill and curves around, following the shoreline and then cutting inland, emerging in a clearing. We’re around the curve of the island, so the dock is out of sight. The clearing is easily two full acres, the jungle rising high on three sides, tall trees casting shade on the back of the house that sits in the middle of the clearing. The house faces west, into the setting sun, with another, shorter, rock- and tiki torch-lined path leading down to the beach, smooth wooden steps and handrails in places to assist the way down the hill.

  The house itself isn’t massive, just over five thousand square feet. But it’s all richly appointed, the footprint extending north and south so every room faces the beach. There’s a covered porch that wraps around the perimeter of the house, which sits on the cusp of a hill, so there are actually two floors to the home, one at ground level, and the lower one set into the curving hillside, each level connected outside by an elaborate series of walkways, bridges, and gazebos. The porch, walkways, and gazebos are lit by strings of white lights and gas-fed, electronically controlled tiki torches.

  Dawson took me on a complete virtual tour last week, showing me every feature, every control panel, every little nook and cranny, so I’d know the layout and how to operate everything. The floor plan of the house is stunning. It’s all open plan, but the square footage is spread into cozy nooks and comfortable spaces, every wall a floor-to-ceiling window that can be slid open to let in the constant Caribbean breeze.

  I take Des on a tour, pointing out the wine cellar, the gym, the incredible kitchen, and, last but most importantly, the bedroom, which is its own entire wing set at an angle to the rest of the house, connected by a covered walkway. It’s glass on all four walls, which like the rest of the house can be opened all the way. There’s an en-suite bathroom with an outdoor shower and an outdoor soaking tub set directly into the hillside, shielded from view from the rest of the house behind clever landscaping and design.

  She’s speechless. “Adam. Seriously. What is this place? Is it a resort of some kind?”

  I laugh as we sit on the porch of the master bedroom, watching the waves lap on the beach. “No, babe. This is ours. Welcome home. ”

  She turns to me, eyes wide. “What do you mean, welcome home?”

 
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