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Billionaire's Kiss Sloan Storm 2022/8/3 13:48:08

Holding the phone up to my ear, I rubbed my face with my other hand and replied, “Okay, what do you want?”

I froze. Even in my semi-stupor, I had enough presence of mind to hear him. Believing him? That was a completely different issue. The reason was simple. In all the years we’d been together, including the breakup, I’d never heard Trevor utter those words.

Though suspicious, I decided to play along. Maybe it was my buzz making me feel invincible about feeling any emotion in the wake of what he’d say. Or, maybe not. I didn’t really care. However, if he called me ‘‘Madds’ even once, I’d chew him out and hang up on his ass.

“Sorry for what?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” he replied. “For hurting you, of course. What else?”

I chewed the inside of my lip as my stomach began to churn. Faded feelings suddenly surged back through my body. A charge of adrenaline caused my hand to grow moist against the surface of my phone.

“Okay,” I said, as I tried to keep my budding hormones in check. “Well. Thank you, I guess. Is that all?”

“No, that’s not all,” he said. His voice trailed off at the end. “Um, I don’t know how to tell you this.”

“Okay?” I replied. “Why don’t you just say it?”

“I miss you, Maddie.”

“What?” I replied, as I shot to a standing position. “What is that supposed to mean, Trevor?”

“Oh Christ, Maddie. Don’t make this any harder for me than it already is.”

Before I realized it, I found myself pacing back and forth across the living room.

“Make what harder, Trevor? Am I supposed to know what this is about?”

He hesitated for a moment. “Us. Maddie. It’s about us.”

I stopped in front of the huge sliding glass doors and looked out over the city lights below. In every direction they twinkled, winking at me in silence behind the two inch thick soundproof glass. The word ‘us’ bounced around in my brain until at last, it rattled to a stop like a ping pong ball coming to rest.

After several seconds, Trevor filled the silence.

“Yes,” I whispered. A hard lump formed in the center of my throat. Moisture pooled along the edges of my eyes, threatening to betray me.

I lost the battle. A tear slid down my cheek, completing my defeat. Wiping it away, I sniffled, “What do you think, Trevor? Am I okay? What kind of question is that?”

He released a deep exhale. “Maddie, man. I’m sorry. Look I just want you know I’m different now. Things are different.”

I inhaled and strengthened my resolve. “What does that mean? Different?”

“Well, it’s my new job. At the studio. You know—the one I mentioned to you when I saw you out the other night?”

“Yeah,” I replied as I regained my composure for a moment. “What about it?”

“Well I’ve got pull there, Maddie, for a new project. And I think you’d be perfect for a part. No, I know you’re perfect for it.”

Indignation washed over me. “Jesus Christ, Trevor. Don’t do this to me. Not right now.”

“Don’t do what?” he began. “I thought you’d be happy, well, about the audition at least. I want another chance with you, Maddie. Seeing you at Chef Claude’s. I realized how big a mistake I made.”

A sudden awareness hit me. Now it all made sense.

“I’m not with him, Trevor,” I hissed. “If that’s what this is all about.”

“Who?” Trevor replied.

I’d known Trevor Billings since I was a kid. The only thing easier than spotting a lie on his face was hearing one in his voice.

“Cut the bull, Trevor. You saw me out the other night and got jealous. I’m not stupid.”

“Hell yes, of course I did. But if anything, it made me realize how foolish I’d been for breaking it off with you to begin with.”

“Trevor,” I exhaled. “I already told you. We’re not together. And anyway, what about the girl you were with that night?”

No sooner had I finished speaking than he replied, “She means nothing to me.”

I groaned. “I don’t know what you want from me, Trevor.”

“I just want to talk, Maddie. Come to the studio. Audition for the part. Then afterward, we can see what happens next.”

I rolled my eyes as I ran my hand through my hair. Shaking my fingers free of it, I exhaled into the receiver.

“Fine. I’ll come for the audition,” I said. “As for the rest, I… I’m not promising anything.”

“Thank you, Maddie. Thank you.”

I spent the next minute or so getting the details for the audition before finally disconnecting the call. By the time we hung up, whatever fuzziness the alcohol had caused in my mind when the call started completed dissipated by the end of it.

I collapsed into the couch and stared up at the ceiling.

Nothing is ever free or fair in life. Is it?

By all rights, I should be thrilled to have the chance to audition. If Trevor was to be believed, I stood a fair chance of getting the part. Yet, I had no idea what he wanted from me when it came to us or whether he’d prevent me from getting the part if I rejected his overtures.

Which, uh, as much as I hated the idea of getting back with him, I’d be lying if I said a really, really, really stupid part of me didn’t want to be with someone.

This was Hollywood after all.

Where was my happily ever after?

I’d been a nervous wreck the entire day leading up to the audition. Not so much because things at the office would keep me from doing it. Rather, I hadn’t been to one in so long, it was almost as if I was starting over from scratch. To make matters worse, I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about the way I felt.

Since I was still on the outs with my family back home, that wasn’t going to happen. And Grey? Hah, I mean, forget it. Under ordinary circumstances, I would be able to talk about it with Katy, but uh, she’d made her feelings about my desire to keep acting crystal clear at the bar the other night. And of all people to help me, I still couldn’t believe it was Trevor. If I didn’t think he’d get the wrong idea, I might kiss him on the spot when I saw him.

Once again, I found myself relying on the only person I could.

The good news, if you could call it that, was things were busy at the office. However, it wasn’t the sort of busy that required my immediate attention. There weren’t any emergencies. In fact, there hadn’t been for a couple of weeks now, so I felt confident Carmen could handle anything that came up while I happened to be at the audition.

I hoped it was something she could keep doing if I happened to get the part. Probably a crazy idea, but if I did land the role, someone would have to be in charge besides me. Grey wouldn’t be able to disagree with that and who better than Carmen to step in and take over while I was busy acting? About the only thing she didn’t do around the office was sign paychecks and that could be automated as well.

The more I considered the possibilities, the more reasonable such a scenario, or something like it, seemed. And say what you like about Grey, but he puts the success of his businesses above all else. With a well-reasoned defense, I was convinced I could persuade him to see things my way. He would have to, because if I did land a big role, I’d take it and run with it.

Shameful though it was, I did something I promised Katy, Grey and of course myself, I wouldn’t. I lied about where I was during the day so I could sneak out for the audition.

It was scheduled across town at Trevor’s office for two o’clock in the afternoon. It seemed pretty weird it wasn’t being held at the studio, but I shrugged it off and figured there must have been a reason. Anyway, it didn’t matter, because it had been hot as hell over the past week or so and on top of everything else, I worried myself sick I’d show up looking like a sweaty mess.

So, at half past one, I climbed into the front seat of my car and without thinking, wrapped a hand around the sun-heated steering wheel as I reached for the key in my purse.

“Ow!” I yelled, as I released my grip from the wheel. I shook my hand and blew on my fingertips in an effort to take the edge off my burgeoning third-degree burn as my back touched the seat behind me and scalded me once more.

“Shit!” I moaned, balling my fists. “You cannot be serious!”

Since I was running out of time, I leaned forward in the seat, pinched at the sides of the steering wheel and managed to get the key in the ignition. Turning it, the engine started and the vents blew near-volcanic temperature air in my face.

“Oh my God,” I said, as I groped for the controller and turned it to the off position.

After I’d handled that, I reached to my left and palmed the controllers for the car windows. I rolled them all down at once and pulled out of the parking lot. As I gained speed, hot midday air rose up from the asphalt. It swirled around the inside of the vehicle, creating a sauna-like effect, which instantly caused my already glistening skin to moisten further.

After about five minutes or so, the air conditioning mercifully began to cool. Once I rolled up the windows, I turned the vents up to full blast and pointed all of them in my direction. As a final sweat removal strategy, I leaned forward at the waist, propped my elbows up on the steering wheel and exhaled as Freon-cooled air chilled my sticky armpits.