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Copyright © 2009 Kristin Daniels
A too-fucking-tight pink t-shirt.
The bright color matched the nail polish on Brynn Lang’s dainty fingernails and on her more-than-suckable bubble-gum toes. Toes that drove Ryan Manning crazy when she wriggled them against the beach towel spread out underneath her on the chaise lounge.
But God, the t-shirt. Stretched the way it was, the thin cotton left nothing to the imagination. Then again, Ryan really didn’t need his imagination. He knew that body, and knew it well. The scent of her. The taste of her. Every unforgettable sound she ever made while he was inside her. He knew it all too well.
It felt like forever since he last touched her. His palms itched to run them over her silky skin and he had to fist his hands at his sides to fight back the urge. His body may not care how different things were now, but his mind sure as hell wouldn’t let him forget that every single bit of that difference was his own fault.
And it was way past time for him to atone for all he’d done.
Even though they’d figured it a long shot, Ryan and his talent agent had negotiated for two weeks straight to get the starring role in what was considered to be Hollywood’s next big blockbuster film offered to him after a horrific car accident sidelined the first actor hired. But Ryan would’ve scribbled his John Hancock on the contract without ever looking at it—so long as Brynn was still signed on to be the co-star.
He knew she’d despise seeing him again, and honestly he couldn’t blame her. Their relationship—if you could even put that sort of label on the three-month-long blazing affair they’d had—had ended on the opposite side of the ideal spectrum. Again, not that there was anyone to blame for that but himself. At the end, he’d been more than a prick to her and hurt her badly enough that her silent damnation that final night would ring in his ears louder than any words she could’ve screamed at him.
God, how he’d messed things up.
Fate, to him, had always been a cold, fickle bitch. But for the first time in years things were finally going his way. He’d worked hard—damn hard—to turn his life and reputation around, but there was still a lot he’d done in his past he needed to make up for. Second chances like this one were few and far between. No way in hell would he fuck it up this go-round.
The number one item on his to-do list was to make amends with Brynn. Coming in a very close second was for him to do what he should’ve done in the first damn place.
Make her his for good.
He stood just inside the veranda doorway of the resort as she lounged poolside and flipped through the pages of Variety magazine. The wait staff doted on her, but she never asked for much. Would she like a refill on her iced tea? Sure, that’d be great. An extra towel? No, not right now, thank you.
The small yet classy haven the production company had taken over had that picture-perfect quality about it. Nestled between rolling hills and an often rocky coastline, the location wasn’t too far from the private studio where they’d begin shooting tomorrow. Everyone around him was geared up to get started on the movie, and at times like these tensions usually ran high. Hell, he was nearly on overload himself.
But not Brynn. She was so calm. Cool.
He’d been lurking in the shadows of the lobby when she checked in a few hours ago and had to all but stuff his tongue back in his mouth at the drop-dead sexy way her body swayed when she walked to the elevator to head to her room. And he’d still been sitting in the same place when she came back down an hour later wearing that damn pink t-shirt and the matching skimpy bottoms to go to the pool.
She hadn’t really changed much from the last time he’d seen her, which was, man, a little over six months ago. At least he didn’t think she’d changed. So much about that last night with her was pretty fuzzy.
He squeezed his eyes shut and drew in a calming breath. Fuck, fuzzy nothing. By the time the shit hit the fan that night, he’d been way more than three sheets to the wind. But even at that, he still remembered the most agonizing parts.
“Someone’s going to accuse you of stalking, you know.”
He turned to find Reggie, his studio-assigned assistant, sauntering up beside him. Ryan lifted the edge of his lip in a half-smile and returned his gaze to Brynn just in time to see her wrap her lips around the straw in her drink. Christ, the sight of her puckering up like that… His entire body stiffened just thinking about how her lips used to wrap around him like that. The memories made him rock hard in an instant.
“Possibly. They wouldn’t be too far off, either.”
“Well, I can’t say as I blame you. She’s gorgeous.”
Ryan dipped his Ray-Bans to the end of his nose, crossed his arms over his chest and pierced the other man with a vicious stare while a low, primal growl rose from his chest. He never really was one for all that testosterone-laced alpha-male grunting and posturing, but this time he couldn’t help it. Reggie would only get this one warning to stay away from Brynn. Far, far away from her.
The young man took a step back and held up his hands in submission. “Completely out of my league, though. No worries there, Mr. Manning.”
Ryan relaxed barely a fraction. Okay, so he didn’t have a firm link to Brynn anymore, no real right to warn the kid off, but the need to stake his claim where she was concerned rode him hard. Ever since leaving rehab three months ago, he’d been waiting for the perfect opportunity to get closer to her, to find the perfect way to apologize.
Then out of the blue, word trickled down about how the studio needed to fill this part along with who the co-star was. That’s when Ryan decided that maybe Ms. Cold-Hearted-Fate wasn’t such a capricious bitch after all.
Reggie cleared his throat as Ryan turned his attention back to Brynn. “The schedule for tomorrow was just released. You’re to report to the set at seven.”
“What’s the scene?” he asked casually, never taking his eyes off her. Everything about Brynn Lang enraptured him and he found he couldn’t tear himself away even though he ought to use this downtime to go over the script again. The other members of the cast had had theirs for a while now, but he wouldn’t let that discourage him. He exuded professionalism nowadays and had taken every opportunity to study the screenplay since he signed the contract. Good thing, too. Since movies were never shot in sequential order, he needed to be ready for whatever the higher-ups threw at him. More than likely they’d be on a soundstage for the next few days shooting the interior scenes, with the outdoor action scenes to follow sometime later.
Reggie flipped through papers and schedules and God knew whatever else the kid had attached to the clipboard in his hands. But when Reg lifted his gaze and met Ryan’s with a smirky grin, he knew exactly which scene it was.
Reggie’s grin widened as he waggled his eyebrows. “It’s your lucky day, Mr. Manning. It just so happens to be the final love scene between you and Ms. Lang.”
Well, hell. Didn’t that little bit of info instantly make Ryan fall head-over-heels in love with the now perfect Ms. Fate.
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