And Playing the Role of Herself... (Part 2)
For disclaimers, see part 1
-- CHAPTER FIVE --
When I pulled into Robyn's drive the next morning, she was already out front, pushing against the wall and stretching out her calves. She wore mid-calf black running tights and a gray and black, zip-up top against the morning chill, both items hugging the flat planes and subtle curves of her body, accentuating her athletic build and long limbs. I'd been hoping she wouldn't run in shorts, not knowing if I could function with a view of her bare legs, but I wasn't so sure this was any better.
I took a deep, calming breath, got out of the car and walked over.
She smiled a greeting, pulling her hair back into a tight ponytail as I approached. "Morning."
"Gonna be warm enough?" she asked with a teasing grin. I had chosen loose navy blue running pants, a gray hooded sweatshirt with the sleeves cut out, and a lightweight white skull hat. It was a cold morning, and I hated running cold. Compared to Robyn, thought, I looked like a thug.
I smiled back at the jab, wondering if I should bring up the night before, or wait for her to do it.
"Ready to go?" she asked, bouncing on her toes a few times.
Or maybe we wouldn't talk about it at all. That was okay by me.
She nodded, and set off down the drive at a good clip. I chased after her and settled into stride on her left. I'd been right about those endless legs of hers - she had a long, easy stride and I could tell immediately I was going to have my work cut out for me this morning.
I felt a competitive spark flare inside me, and did my best to squelch it. I didn't know how far Robyn planned to run, and already her pace was faster than my usual speed. I'd end up killing myself if I tried to outrun her.
Robyn told me during one of our few spurts of conversation that the trail around Silver Lake was just over two and a half miles long, and she usually ran it twice. I was welcome to go further if I wanted.
"Twice is fine," I assured her hastily, trying to keep from showing that I was already breathing heavily.
I did myself proud for four miles, keeping up with her stride for stride. Then she glanced over at me with a wicked grin.
I was about to get crushed.
She lengthened her stride and I managed to keep up for another hundred yards before my lack of breakfast and lack of sleep the night before caught up with me. At least that's what I told myself.
Soon Robyn was just a speck in the distance, and I shook my head with a wry grin, slowing down and finishing the last mile at more comfortable pace.
She was sitting against a tree on the grass, pretending to take a nap when I jogged up and collapsed beside her, breathing heavily. She opened one eye and looked over at me with a lazy grin.
"I was wondering when you'd show up."
"Bite me, Ward," I growled through gasping breaths, shedding my sweatshirt and using it to wipe the sweat from my arms and face before tossing it to the side. I groaned and leaned back on my elbows, closing my eyes and listening to my breathing and heart rate slow.
Underneath the sweatshirt I'd worn a gray and white bra top that ended a few inches above my navel, and the early morning sun felt good on the damp, exposed skin of my stomach and shoulders. I sighed in pleasure and turned to Robyn to comment on how quickly it had warmed up. The words stuck in my throat when I saw the look on her face as she watched the rise and fall of my stomach. She seemed...enthralled was a good word for it, I guess.
I tensed in reaction; she flicked a glance at my face and looked away quickly.
"Nice morning," she said, and picked at the grass under her hand.
"Sure is." I replied when I was able. "Warmed up quick."
"Supposed to rain this weekend, though." She held up several blades of grass and let them go, watching as they floated away in the breeze.
"Well, we could use the moisture." I watched the grass fall to the ground between us.
"Yeah, they're predicting a pretty bad fire season this year."
I'd had this exact conversation with my grandfather about a million times. I never expected to be having it with Robyn.
I rolled on my side, and propped my head on my hand. "Robyn," I paused until she met my gaze. "I'm sorry about last night. I was having a really nice time, and I feel like I ruined it. I haven't had a new friend in a while either...I hope we can try again some time."
She looked down at the grass again, then back at me. "How about Friday?"
I felt the smile spread across my face. "Really?"
She smiled back. "Eight o'clock again?"
"That's fine...but I can probably get off a little earlier. Unless they change the shooting schedule we're on the soundstages all day. I should be finished by seven at the latest."
"Why don't you just come over whenever you can, then?" She paused, thinking. "I might be a little later than that, myself. Josh will be here, though. Uh...oh." She bit her lip. "If that's okay?"
"That Josh is at your house?"
"Robyn." Again, I waited until she met my gaze. "I wasn't just being nice when I said Josh was a sweetheart. I like him, very much. Of course I wouldn't mind. Why do you think I would?"
She brushed her hands off on her pants, and pushed herself to her feet. "Come on, let's walk back." She reached down, and I grabbed her hand and let her pull me up. I scooped up my sweatshirt and tossed it over my shoulder.
We started walking and she looked over at me. "Caid, when I talked about me and Josh before...you kinda wigged out."
"I didn't....it wasn't..." I sighed. "It wasn't about Josh. It was never about Josh, really." I glanced over at her. "Tell me about the two of you? I didn't stay around last night long enough to hear the whole story."
She was quiet for a while and then started speaking as we left the trail and started up the street. "Josh and I met at school...UCLA." she said. "I was two years ahead of him, but we both played sports - he was on the tennis team, obviously, and I played some volleyball - we met at an athletic awards banquet and hit if off immediately. Like you said, he's a sweetheart. We dated through most of college, even lived together for a while."
"And then I graduated, and I went off to Europe to model, and Josh joined the circuit. We decided not to do the long distance thing, but kept in touch for the next few years, on and off. I moved back to the States, to New York, and we'd see each other occasionally, but then when I came back to LA, we started seeing each other a lot, just as friends - we'd always made better friends than lovers, and we'd both...changed a lot in that time apart."
She glanced at me, and I nodded encouragement but stayed quiet. "Josh had just broken the top fifty at that point, and was trying to find some sponsors, and I'd only had some minor acting gigs, but together," she shrugged, "we got noticed."
"The year I moved back to LA, I flew out to New York to watch him play in the US Open. I watched a few of his practices, we went out a few times before the matches started...And then the morning after the first match, my agent called - he'd gotten over fifty inquiries about me. And Josh was getting some interest suddenly from sponsors..."
She shook her head. "It was surreal for both of us. We were both nothing, then suddenly, the press was all over us."
"Anyway," she said as we got to the top of the hill, "needless to say, both our agents pushed us to do things together, and, hell...I love Josh. He's my best friend. I don't want to sleep with him, but I love him more than just about anyone it the world. It's no hardship for me to do things with him, and it's certainly good for my career." She shrugged. "So that's the story."
"So..." I didn't know if I really wanted to know this, but I asked anyway. "What if one of you..."
"Wants to date? Finds someone they're really interested in?" she paused, and made quoting motions with her fingers. "Falls in love?"
"Uh...yeah." I said, wondering at the mocking tone in her voice.
She shrugged again. "It's never been an issue before...when we started doing things together again, we were both just out of bad relationships and neither of us was looking to get serious with someone. We didn't have any fantasies about getting back together, we were just spending time with each other and being seen. We...both of us...have always pursued things on the side..."
"Things?" I repeated, only half-joking. I didn't like how she'd said that.
"People, affairs, trysts...whatever you want to call them...I know Josh sees other women sometimes, and he knows that I...have lovers, too." She looked slightly embarrassed. "Neither of us are saints, Caid...far from it. But we're both aware of the fact that what we do affects the other, and we're discreet...and so far, it's worked out."
"Uh...wow. Okay..." I wasn't quite sure what to say. Congratulations, nice ruse?
We walked for a block in silence, until we turned onto the street Robyn lived on.
"So," she asked hesitantly, "do you still want to have dinner on Friday?"
"Of course," I said, silencing any internal objections.
"Great," she replied, smiling hugely.
We turned into her drive. "Wanna come in for a bit? Have some coffee?"
I checked my watch, thought for a second, and shook my head. "I need to go home before I go to the set..." I said regretfully.
"Next time, bring your clothes and you can change here."
I fought back a grin. "Okay."
As we walked up to my car, I unlocked the doors with the keyless fob clipped inside the pocket of my pants and pulled the door open.
Robyn stopped beside me and gently patted the car's roof. "Heya Twila."
She talked to my car.
If I wasn't careful, I'd fall head over heels for this woman.
There was a good chance I already had.
I slid into the driver's seat and felt around under the floor mat for the key. Once I found it, I put it in the ignition and turned it partway, enough to roll down the window, but not start the engine.
Robyn leaned in, smiling. "Thanks for the run."
I snorted. "Thanks for the whoopin'"
She laughed, and I grinned up at her. "That wasn't really fair, you know."
"What?" she asked innocently.
"You said when you used to run with Josh, he crushed you." I allowed myself a glance up her long frame. "I imagine you kept up with him just fine."
"I said he tried to crush me," she corrected, placing her hands on the windowsill and gently closing the door. She leaned against the frame for a moment. "I never said he succeeded."
She winked and walked away, whistling.
I laughed and started the car.
Yep, a very good chance I already had.
"Nice job Liz, Caid...you too, Danny." Nate Wiley rapped on his bound script and pointed at the three of us on the set. "That one will work fine...let's print it and move on. You three are off for now - check with Addy for when we need you back." He turned and raised his voice further. "Micah, Henry, Joe, Arturo, Irene...you're up. Extra's for 12, check in with Brent. Brent, where are you?"
There was a whistle from across the stage. "Over here!"
The director pointed. "Check in with Brent over there. Regulars, let's get this blocked out, and do a run through..."
"Thank god," Liz sighed, blowing a stray piece of hair out of her eyes and rolling the tension from her neck. "I thought he was going to make us go again."
I just grunted, arching my back until it popped.
"I thought we nailed it the first time," Danny grumbled. "Picky damn bastard."
There was no venom in his words - we all liked Nate, and trusted his direction.
The three of us moved off the squad room set where we'd done the last scene, dodging members of the crew who darted around purposefully, with a controlled sense of urgency that always accompanied the shoots that Nate directed.
"Danny, back in forty-five," yelled Addison Couch, a small, curly-haired man who was several yards away, conferring with the lighting tech. "Liz, we need you at one, and Caid..." he consulted the clipboard in his hands, "two-thirty, for the bust scene."
We all nodded, and headed for the exit of the cavernous warehouse where the soundstages were housed.
"And Caid..." I paused expectantly, noting that Liz had stopped at the door and was waiting for me. Addy finished his conversation with the lighting tech and walked over to me, flipping through the papers on his clipboard. He eventually pulled out a small envelope and handed it to me. "This came with a script delivery from ITD..."
I frowned, but took the envelope. I wasn't up for a guest role on In Their Defense any time in the near future...I wondered what this was for.
"Thanks, Addy," I said absently, looking at the envelope. It was small, invitation or note card size, with my name written in bold, very precise capitol letters on the front. There were no other markings on it.
I felt Liz move over beside me. "What's that for?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. As far as I know, I don't have anything going on over there."
I slipped a finger under the flap and drew out a small card.
I'll give you a chance to redeem yourself. Tomorrow, same time and place.
Loser buys coffee, winner gets taunting rights.
The grin that split my face was huge, and I laughed out loud.
Several crew members stopped what they were doing to stare.
Okay, more than several.
In fact, just about all of them. I wasn't known for my spontaneous laughter.
"Caid?" Liz was frowning, and she looked genuinely concerned. "Are you okay?"
Jeez, can't a woman laugh like an idiot anymore?
"I'm fine," I answered, dimming the wattage of my smile but still thinking of Robyn. "Just fine."
Liz shrugged, and started walking towards the door. "Paula's picking up from that Thai place you like so much...come by in ten."
It was not optional.
I'd managed to avoid talking with Liz since the 'have you ever wanted to kiss a woman' incident, but it didn't look like I was going to be able to avoid it any longer.
I sighed internally and I nodded. "See you in a bit." At least she made the effort to get something I liked.
In my trailer, I gratefully pulled off the black, lightweight jacket I wore for the last scene and hung it neatly on the back of the door. I unclipped the leather holster and rubber prop gun from my hip and clipped it on the hanger with the jacket so I wouldn't forget it, and then looked down at the wine colored v-neck shirt I wore. After a moment of debate, I stripped it off too, hung it on a different hanger, and pulled on the tank top I'd worn in to the set that morning. Zoe in wardrobe would kill me if I dribbled pad thai all over the v-neck and they had to find something similar to finish up with today.
I checked my cell for messages - one from my agent Connie, who wanted to know my thoughts about shampoo commercials, and one from my brother, Perry. He and a friend were hiking a two-week section of the Pacific Crest Trail in June, ending up in Big Bear. I'd agreed to send them a re-supply package in Idyllwild and when they were through, pick the two up in Big Bear, let them stay with me a few days, and put them on a plane back to Madison where they were both in school at UW. Perry was calling to confirm dates and try to taunt me into joining him on the trip, clucking like a chicken and spouting insults about my advanced age in some kind of weird Slavic accent that made me laugh out loud.
I made a mental note to call him later when I had more time, then I phoned Connie back and left her a reminder that I'd just gotten out of doing commercials, and I didn't want to get back into them. Finally, after some hesitation, I called the studio's main switchboard and talked the admin out of Robyn's cell number. I only felt slightly guilty that I lied to get the number - I didn't think Robyn would mind.
I dialed the number, expecting, and hoping, to get voicemail, but that raspy voice answered on the third ring.
"'lo," she sounded annoyed at the interruption, and I winced. Maybe I shouldn't have called her on the set.
Too late now.
"I got your message, Ward, and you got a deal," I told her, "but let's make it Ledos Canyon at six...we'll see how those pencil legs do in some real terrain. Six o'clock." I heard her laughter as I hung up, and smiled like a Cheshire cat.
After puttering around for a while longer, my ten minutes were up and I strolled over to Liz's trailer, hopefully ready for whatever she was going to lay on me.
I knocked on the trailer door and let myself in; Paula was sitting at a desk at the far end of the trailer, talking rapidly into her headset while working away on her laptop. Liz looked up guiltily from a bowl of noodles, slurping them up hurriedly.
"Sorry, I was starving. Couldn't wait," she said when the noodles were sufficiently chewed enough that she could talk.
I shrugged and started poking around in the other containers, my mouth watering at the smell.
"This one's yours," she tapped a container with her chopsticks, "extra sauce, and spicy."
"Oh, yum. Thanks."
We both dug in hungrily, eating for several minutes without talking, the only sound in the room Paula's voice and her furious typing.
Liz eventually sighed and sat back, stabbing at the noodles. "You took off fast after shooting wrapped last night...hot date?" Another few stabs at the defenseless noodles, then a sly look up at me. "Was it a woman?"
I concentrated very hard on swallowing and not choking, finally managing after a few swigs from a bottle of water Liz calmly handed me. "Jesus, Liz." I coughed, and took another sip. "At least wait until I'm not eating to throw shit like that at me."
"Shit like what? It's just a simple question, or rather two simple questions." Seeing that I wasn't going to give her water back any time soon, she leaned over and grabbed another out of the mini-fridge. "One - was it a hot date?"
I shook my head. "No, it was not a hot date. I went to dinner..."
She pounced on that. "With a woman?"
"Well, one of them was..."
"Oh, Caid, a threesome?" She looked at me speculatively. "I never pegged you for the type."
I rolled my eyes. "Liz, do you want to know what I did last night or not? Do I even need to be present for this conversation?"
"So you didn't have a threesome?"
"No, I did not."
This seemed to disappoint her greatly and she stared at me intently. "Did you want to? Because in those online story thingies, lot's of the women seemed to want to have threesomes..."
"Jesus..." I put my food down with a sigh.
"Is that a lesbian thing?" She looked at me expectantly.
"I wouldn't know, Liz." Maybe I would someday, but I sure didn't now.
"But you've wanted to kiss a woman though, right?"
I suddenly noticed the silence in the trailer - Paula had stopped typing and was looking at me, her mouth an astonished little 'O'.
"Because, you know, that makes you an almost lesbian, right?" she nodded, as though it were obvious. "So, who did you go out with last night? Oh...was it the same person who sent you that note today? I don't think I've ever seen you smile like that, Caid, it must have been..."
"I had dinner with Robyn, and Josh Riley," I cut in, before she could get rolling about why I might be getting notes that made me smile.
That stopped her. "Really?"
"What's Josh Riley like? Is he as attractive in person? Ohhh, those blue eyes and those cute, sexy little buns..."
Well, at least we were off the subject of me kissing women.
"...but I've heard that he cheats on her when he's on tour. Marty said that Ken said that Anthony said that he met this girl at a club in Rio who swears she spent the night with Josh Riley..."
Maybe Josh needed to work on his discreetness.
"Oh, who knows if it's true or not, you know how Anthony is with the girls..."
Indeed I did know how Anthony was with the girls, having made the mistake of letting Liz set me up with him once. A very pretty man with a serious coke problem and a desperate need to be liked...Anthony would say anything to anyone if he thought it would make him more popular.
"...so, what did you think of him?"
"I thought he was very nice..." I could tell she expected more. "And he's gorgeous. Much better in person."
That seemed to satisfy her, and she sat back with a tiny smile on her face. Then she leaned forward. "Did you ever want to kiss me?"
I blinked. Conversing with this woman was like ping-pong.
I cleared my throat and looked over at Paula who was typing again, or at least pretending to.
"No, Liz, I never wanted to kiss you."
"Why not! What's wrong with me?"
I sighed. "There's nothing wrong with you..."
"Don't you think I'm attractive? For god sakes, I'm one of People's 100 Most Beautiful People!"
"Of course your attractive, Liz," I said in exasperation, "I just don't want to kiss you, okay?"
"No, I don't."
She crossed her arms and pouted. "Why?"
"Because you're my friend, Liz." A horrible thought struck me. "You don't want to kiss me, do you?" I asked fearfully.
"God no." She looked shocked. "Oh, Caid, ewwww."
"Hey," I started to protest, but thought better of it.
"So, do you want to kiss Paula?"
There was a squeak from the other end of the room, and the pace of typing increased.
"No, I don't want to kiss Paula," I said with a slight smile.
Liz looked at me intently. "So who have you wanted to kiss?"
I felt like I was in Junior High, playing a game of Truth or Dare.
I shook my head.
"Caaaaiiiidd..." she whined. I smiled, but kept my mouth shut.
"I'll get it out of you," she promised, and I was certain she was right.
But not today.
The muscles in my legs were screaming and my lungs burned, but I forced myself to keep going, dodging a hiker and nearly tripping over his dog, spinning and continuing on.
Almost there, almost there, almost there...
I was going to beat her this time, goddamnit.
I gritted my teeth and pushed harder. Sweat dripped in my eyes, and I didn't have the energy to wipe it away, didn't want to break the rhythm of my swinging arms...
I could see the rim, only fifty yards away.
I pushed harder...twenty-five yards...
I could see the sign for the trailhead, see people milling around it, someone sitting on a bench...
Sitting on the bench, looking like she just stepped out of a Nike commercial, not like she just ran three miles up hill.
I slowed to an abrupt stop, gasping for air, hands on my knees, feeling lightheaded. I closed my eyes, chest heaving and my legs shaky, waiting for my breathing to slow.
I heard approaching footsteps and opened my eyes, still struggling for breath. A pair of running shoes came into my line of vision, and two black-clad legs.
I coughed and straightened slowly, still slightly dizzy.
"Don't...*gasp*...say it...*gasp*...Ward," I warned, and coughed again, looking over at her.
As I watched, the slightly cocky, taunting grin she'd been wearing was chased off her face by wide-eyed concern.
"Jesus, Caid," she stepped forward and placed a steadying hand on my back. "Are you alright?"
I just nodded and coughed, bending over again until my breathing finally eased a little. Robyn didn't say anything, but she didn't move away, and the hand on my back was making slow, gentle circles.
I straightened finally, and stifled a disappointed sigh as she dropped her hand. I pulled my cap from my head and ran a hand through wet hair.
She wordlessly handed me a water bottle, and I gulped greedily. "Thanks."
I handed it back when I was done and pulled at the front of my sweatshirt to create a slight breeze to cool the rest of my body. I glanced at Robyn, still looking at me worriedly, and after a moment's hesitation, pulled the sweatshirt over my head and mopped my face with it.
Yeah, I'm looking real attractive now, I thought to myself and shook my head ruefully.
"How in the heck did you get up here so fast?" I finally asked when I had enough oxygen left over for talking. "And how'd you get past me?"
"I...ah...went a different way," she said evasively, a glimmer of humor in her eyes.
I put my hands on my hips and frowned. "I didn't know there was another way. Just the maintenance road..."
She started laughing, backing slowly away from me.
"...and they only allow maintenance vehicles on that path," I puzzled before it finally clicked. "You got a RIDE????"
She held out her hands. "I'm sorry, Caid, I didn't know you'd try to kill yourself..."
I began to stalk towards her, and she backpedaled faster, laughing outright. I lunged towards her and she yelped, turning to sprint away, still laughing over her shoulder.
I started after her, my own laughter welling up helplessly. I felt happy and giddy chasing Robyn across the parking lot like a couple of kids, with no thought of what I'd do if I actually caught her.
Until I did.
She headed towards a forest green Range Rover that I recognized as hers, slowing to pull something - probably the remote entry - out of her pocket. I press my advantage and caught her just as she was reaching for the car door, wrapping my arms around her from behind and holding tightly.
"Not so fast, young lady," I growled in her ear, still laughing, and delighting in her return laughter.
Until the scent of her hair in my face, and the heat from her skin, just inches from my lips, registered.
Until the press of my breasts against her back and the feel of my arms across her stomach, and the sudden, absolute stillness of her body...
Neither of us was laughing any more.
"Caid..." Her voice was soft, with a slight tremor.
My arms tightened involuntarily, then loosened, falling to my sides as I slowly stepped back.
She turned around slowly, and in that moment - that moment before the mask dropped back into place - I knew. Saw the flash of it, felt the heat...
Robyn wanted me.
I'd had that look directed at me enough to know, and I knew.
Robyn Ward wanted me.
Then the mask fell back in place and we stared at each other for long moments. I wanted to push her against the car and kiss her senseless...I wanted to bury my face in her neck, to wrap my arms around her and not let go...
Instead I smiled shakily and took another tiny step back. "You cheated."
And you're a chickenshit, Harris.
She looked as though she was going to take a step forward and close the distance between us, but then she leaned back against the car and smiled slightly. "Guess that means I owe you coffee."
"Hey, Lady!" The yell behind me startled us both. I turned to find a young boy, probably no older than eleven, jogging towards me, holding out a gray wad of cloth in one hand and a smaller white bundle in the other. "This your stuff? My mom said you dropped it back there."
I stepped forward to meet him and sheepishly took my sweatshirt and hat, thanking him and getting an absent "uh-huh" in response. He jogged away, back to his parents, and I turned to find Robyn inside her car, staring at her steering wheel with intense concentration.
I stepped over. "You trying to start the car through the power of your mind? I bet the key would work better."
That only got a tiny smile. "Caid, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to get you back on the coffee, okay? I just remembered a thing I need to do..."
I blinked. "Uh...okay, sure." I stepped back hastily as she started the car and put it in gear. "Robyn?"
But she just waved briefly and pulled away.
I walked to my car slowly, pulling on my sweatshirt.
What the hell just happened?
Friday morning, Robyn left a message canceling dinner that evening, saying she was going out of town.
Saturday morning, her picture was in the paper. She and Josh had been photographed coming out of the The Mondrian, a supposed LA hotspot, the night before. I stared at the picture for a long time, surprised at the intensity of the betrayal I felt.
Sunday morning I went mountain biking, pushing myself hard and taking risks, hoping to push thoughts of Robyn out of my head with adrenaline.
Sunday afternoon, after a two-hour stop at the emergency room, I limped into my house with a swollen jaw, bruised ribs, several nasty scratches and a two thousand dollar bike that was probably totaled.
And Robyn was still in my head.
The phone rang as I was loading the blender with ice for an icepack. I let the blender run and took the phone out of the kitchen as I answered.
It was Liz. "Caid, where are you?? We expected you hours ago."
I could hear voices in the background, and could tell instantly that she was at least one drink on the wrong side of one drink to many. I heard someone in the background - it sounded like Danny - asking very loudly where the fuck I was.
Crap. I'd totally forgotten. Danny's house-warming at his new place in West Hollywood.
"Ah, shit, Liz, I forgot about it. I went biking this morning..."
"You forgot?!?" I winced, pulling the phone back slightly from my ear. My head throbbed, my jaw ached, my ribs...my ribs felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to them repeatedly.
"Yeah, I'm sorry...listen, tell Danny..."
"Now that you've been reminded, get your butt over here!" She giggled wildly.
Make that two or three drinks.
"I can't, Liz." I walked back into the kitchen and turned off the blender. Holding the phone to my ear with my shoulder, I poured the crushed ice into a large zip lock baggie, refilled the blender, and started it up again.
"Of course you can. Just get in that shiny little car of yours and start driving. It'll take you thirty minutes, tops." She paused. "What in the hell is that noise? Where are you?"
"I'm at home - you just called me on my home phone, remember?"
"No one likes a smart-ass, Caid." I didn't answer, biting back a groan as I pulled up my shirt and placed the ice on my battered ribs. I pulled the stretchy material down over the bag, holding it in place, then turned off the blender and filled another, smaller bag. "Caid, what are you doing? Why can't you come?"
I debated making up an excuse, but Liz, and everyone else, would see the damage in the morning anyway.
"I crashed my bike this morning, and right now I'm putting ice on various parts of my body that didn't fare so well when I went flying over the handlebars at twenty miles an hour and rolled down a hill."
It took her a while to decipher it - I could hear people talking to her in the background, and her trying to shush them and concentrate on what I'd just said.
"You crashed? Caid, are you alright?"
I smiled. She really could be very sweet. "Yes, I'm okay, the hospital people said..."
"The hospital?" she gasped. "You're at the hospital?"
Okay. Maybe the entire truth hadn't been necessary.
I sighed, and held the smaller bag to my jaw. "No, Liz, remember, I'm at home? Where you called me?"
"But Caid, you said the hospital people..."
"Liz," I interrupted firmly, sensing a mini Liz freak-out coming and forestalling it. "I was at the hospital to get checked out. Now I'm home. I'm fine. Well, I'm not completely fine, but I will be. But I don't feel up to coming to Danny's party, alright?"
"I'm fine," I said again, even more firmly. "Go have fun, Liz, and I'll see you tomorrow. Tell Danny I'm sorry, okay?"
"Bye." I hung up the phone and limped into the bedroom, removing the ice under my shirt and struggling out of my biking outfit into a pair of cutoff sweats and a baggy t-shirt.
Finally I lowered myself onto the couch, put the icepacks back in place on my ribs and jaw, and closed my eyes.
The icepacks had become lukewarm bags of water and it was near dusk when a knock at the door roused me from sleep. I automatically moved to get off the couch, and fell back with a groan as the various aches and bruises I'd gathered earlier in the day made themselves known.
"Hang on!" I croaked, and cautiously tried to sit up again. It was painful, but bearable as long as I moved slowly, and eventually I shuffled my way to the front entryway. The form on my doorstep, even distorted by four inches of glass block window, was unmistakable.
The jumble of anger and gladness, longing and hurt that washed through me at the sight of her confused the hell out of me, and only intensified when I pulled the door open and saw the magnitude of her relief when she saw me.
"Caid," she said breathlessly in that damned smoky, bedroom, honey-soaked voice of hers.
I gripped the door tightly, waiting for the now familiar emotional havoc that Robyn created inside me to subside.
"Robyn," I managed neutrally when it passed. "What are you doing here?"
She ignored my question, cataloging my scraped face and arms, bruised jaw and pain-stiffened posture with the intensity of a medical resident.
"Oh, baby, are you okay?" She stepped forward, and before I could move away, I was pulled tightly against her, engulfed in long, strong arms. I fought it for all of five milliseconds, and then relaxed into the embrace, resting my cheek against her neck and soaking up her warmth.
She smelled slightly of cigarette smoke and cooking spices; party smells that told me how she knew I'd been hurt. Underneath was the faint floral scent she wore, the one that clung to the sweatshirt of hers that I still had, the one that lingered in our trailer, even when she wasn't there.
I breathed it in - breathed her in - and felt her arms tighten in response.
I gasped as a knife of pain from my ribs sliced through my haze of hug-induced euphoria.
Robyn released me immediately and stepped back as though stung.
"My ribs..." I blew out a steadying breath as the pain eased.
She stood with her hands partially outstretched, looking uncertain, wanting to help but not knowing what to do. At this distance I remembered what had immediately flown from my head the moment Robyn had touched me. She had lied to me, and I was supposed to be angry with her.
"Robyn, why are you here?" I repeated my earlier question, and the look of concern she had been giving my ribs turned to a tiny frown at my tone.
"I dropped by Danny's party...Liz told me that you'd been in an accident, a crash of some sort...I couldn't get any more information out of her, so I volunteered to come see how you were." She paused, and asked tentatively, "that bike...in the truck," she glanced behind her in the drive to where a beat-up pickup was parked next to Twila. In the bed lay a red mountain bike, its front rim bent almost in half, the fork twisted, and the handlebars skewed at an odd angle. "Was that..."
I nodded, not looking at the bike. Every time I looked at it, I realized that it could have been much, much worse. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet...I shivered and yawned, suddenly realizing I was very, very tired.
"Thank you for coming by, Robyn. You can tell everyone I'm fine. I need to go sit down." I stepped back and started to close the door.
Her frown deepened. "Caid..."
I stopped, the door half closed, waiting.
"Can I come in for a while?"
I didn't have enough energy to say no, so I just turned and walked into the kitchen, leaving the door open for her to either come in or not. While I slept, the ice machine in my freezer had made enough ice for another couple of icepacks, and I filled the blender up and started it crunching. I limped into the living room to retrieve the bags I'd used before, noticing as I crossed the hall that Robyn had stepped inside and was watching me, her dark eyes following my every jerky, painful move.
I dumped the water out of the larger bag, refilled it with ice, and started the next blender full, motioning to the refrigerator as Robyn stepped into the kitchen.
"Forgive me if I'm not up to being hostess today...help yourself to whatever. There's beer or juice in the fridge, wine in the cabinet, whiskey, and some scotch too..."
She didn't say anything, just continued to watch.
I stopped the blender and filled up the smaller bag, then took them both into the living room, flipped on the television, found a baseball game, and gingerly lowered myself on the couch. I pulled up my shirt to check the swelling and heard her startled intake of breath.
She crossed the room in two long strides and sank onto the couch beside me, reaching out to run gentle fingers across the swollen, blue-black scrape along my ribs.
I swallowed my own startled intake of breath as pinpoints of sensation from the gentle touch skittered along my nerves, straight to my nipples and groin.
I gently but quickly moved her hand away, placing an icepack on the swelling and pulling my shirt down over it.
She was watching me when I looked up from my task. "Looks like it hurts some."
I smiled slightly, and shifted around on the couch, trying to find a more comfortable position. "Some," I replied.
She stood and propped two loose pillows against the end of the couch. "Come on, lay down." She patted the pillows. I hesitated, and she patted the pillows again. "Caid, lay down for god's sakes. You'll be more comfortable, and you won't have to hold the ice on your ribs." She grasped my shoulders and gently lowered me onto the pillows, then carefully swung my feet up onto the couch. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
She busied herself arranging the pillows behind my head, and I just watched her, warmed by the concern in her eyes. She stopped and looked down at me, gently moving aside the smaller icepack that I was holding to my jaw and brushing the swelling with a feather-light touch.
"You're a mess," she said quietly and smiled, brushing a stray hair off my forehead. As always, the rush took my breath away, and it was a few seconds before I could speak.
"I'm mad at you, you know." I grabbed the hand that had brushed my forehead and held it captive. "Why did you lie to me, Robyn? About Friday night? And why did you take off the other morning?"
Her whole body stilled and she withdrew her hand from mine, straightening slowly.
"FYI," I said with a hint of sarcasm, "If you're going lie to people about being out of town, it's best not to run around in public as one half of the most photogenic couple on the planet."
I struggled to a sitting position, ignoring the pain, not willing to have this conversation lying on my back with her looming over me. "Damnit, Robyn, if you don't want me around, then just fucking tell me. Don't lie to me about it. I'm not a stalker - you don't need to trick me to get me to leave you alone."
"Oh, no Caid..." She sat down next to me and grabbed my hand, holding it between both of hers. "No, no, no. Caid, you are so wrong." She waited until I met her gaze. "So wrong. I...Caid, believe me, I want you around, and I certainly don't want you to leave me alone."
"Then why..." my voice trailed off as she closed her eyes.
"I wanted you to see you on Friday...I just..." She opened her eyes again and stared at me intently. I blinked, fighting to keep my eyes open, but my eyelids felt heavy, my ribs were throbbing, and my jaw ached painfully.
She smiled gently and pushed me back on the pillows, then stood and lifted my feet back onto the couch. She brushed a hand through my hair and said, "You need to rest. We'll talk about this later, okay? Just know that I don't want you to leave me alone, and I'm very sorry about Friday. It was a stupid, thoughtless thing to do."
"Shhhhh." She put her fingers against my lips and leaned forward to kiss my forehead. "Sleep now."
I had a million questions, but fatigue won out. I sighed and closed my eyes. "Will you stay? For a while?" I mumbled, cringing at how needy I sounded, but too tired to really care.
"I'll be right here, baby."
That was the second time she'd called me baby.
I smiled, feeling light fingers running through my hair, and drifted off to sleep.
Sometime during the night, Robyn shook me awake, led me into the bedroom and tucked me into bed. I vaguely remembered grumbling in annoyance at being woken, light laughter, and a fleeting touch of lips on my forehead.
It was still dark the next morning when I was yanked from sleep by a stab of pain in my ribs when I attempted to roll over. I lay for several minutes, trying to fall back to sleep, but eventually gave up and painfully eased myself out of bed and shuffled out of my bedroom on a quest for caffeine. I flipped on the hallway and living room lights and nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw a body sprawled on my couch.
Every sleeping, tousled, glorious inch of her.
I must have said it out loud, because her eyes snapped open in alarm and her body jerked half-way off the couch before she saw me and relaxed, favoring me with a look of warm, sleepy affection that made me smile involuntarily in response.
"Morning. How are you feeling?" She propped herself up on one elbow and ran a hand through her long hair absently.
Oh, what that voice did to me. It moved through my body from the inside out, twisting my stomach and tingling in my toes and fingers.
She was looking at me curiously, and I realized I should probably answer her, and not just gape like a lust-struck teenager.
"Ah..." I started roughly, and cleared my throat. "Morning. I didn't expect anyone to be here - you startled me."
"Sorry." She pushed the quilt aside and sat up, rubbing her neck. "I didn't want you to be alone in case you needed something during the night. You looked pretty beat up last night."
"And I feel pretty beat up this morning," I said wryly. "Thanks. That was very nice of you."
"You're quite welcome." She smiled, then yawned and stretched her long arms over her head.
It was adorable and sexy all at the same time, and I turned away before I got caught staring again. "Want some coffee? I was just about to make some."
I grinned at the eagerness in her voice. "It'll just take a minute."
I put water on to boil and ground up some beans and filled the bottom of the french press, hoping Robyn liked her coffee strong. While the water heated, I looked in the refrigerator and found some eggs, peppers, mushrooms and a small block of cheddar cheese.
I stuck my head around the corner. "Hey..." She was folding the quilt and draping it over the back of the couch, and looked at me questioningly. "I've got peppers, mushrooms, cheese...I was going to make myself an omelet. Would you like one?"
She shook her head. "Thanks, Caid, but you don't have to do that."
I shrugged. "I'm making myself one - it wouldn't be any trouble, and it's the least I could do for you staying last night."
She hesitated, and then smiled in thanks. "That sounds good, thank you."
"No problem." I moved back towards the kitchen where the kettle was just starting to boil. I pulled it off the burner and filled the press with the steaming liquid, very conscious that Robyn had followed me and was leaning in the doorway, watching me.
When I'd put the kettle back on the stove and turned to face her, she was somehow standing right in front of me. "Now that we've got some better light, let's take a look at the damage, hmm?"
She laid her hand along my neck, her thumb against my chin, and turned my head to one side to survey my jaw, pursing her lips. She used her other hand to hold my hair off my forehead while she looked at the scrapes along my forehead and cheek. She was so close I could feel the heat coming off her skin, still warm from sleep. I tried to suppress a shiver at the touch, the heat, but failed. Robyn's eyes flicked to mine and held me, barely breathing, for several long moments before finally looking back at my damaged jaw.
"Jaw doesn't look near as bad as I expected," she murmured, dropping her hands. "And Jules shouldn't have a problem covering those scrapes up..."
I sagged against the counter weakly, my body still singing from her nearness. Before I could react, she'd pulled my shirt up just below my breasts and was running a light finger across the bruise on my ribs.
"Jesus," I hissed as the touch had the exact same effect as it had had the night before, and body parts that I didn't need tingling right now started to tingle.
Robyn misread my reaction as pain and jerked her hand back quickly, looking up at me apologetically. "Sorry." She pulled my shirt down and smoothed the fabric out over my stomach absently a few times before stepping back.
"S'alright," I replied after a couple of deep breaths. "Just a little tender."
I turned back to the counter and busied myself with finishing the coffee, pouring out two mugs and getting a carton of half and half out of the refrigerator. "Cream or sugar?" I asked, not turning around.
"Just cream, please."
I poured a healthy slug into each mug, stirred them a few times, and turned around to hand a mug to Robyn, catching her staring at my legs in appreciation. I nearly spilled both mugs when I realized what she was doing.
She looked up guiltily and hastily took one of the mugs from me, muttering a quiet, "Thanks."
"Sure," I answered, leaning my back against the counter with a bemused expression on my face. "No problem."
So. I think I could call it official now. Robyn found me - or parts of me, at least - attractive. Twice I'd caught her staring, and the look I had seen that morning at Ledos Canyon...that had been quite a bit more than friendly.
But being attracted to someone - wanting someone - and actually being willing to act on those feelings were two separate things entirely. She'd given no indication that she wanted anything more than what we had - a friendship. And I wasn't at all certain what I wanted, either. Oh, I knew I wanted Robyn physically - God, did I ever - and I had a suspicion that my feelings went far deeper. Even if Robyn did want something physical, what if the physical was all it was for her? Did I want to set myself up to be another of her 'things'? Did I want her badly enough to risk almost certain hurt just for a chance to touch her?
My body, willing to do just about anything to be with Robyn, chimed into the debate with a resounding "Yes!" while my mind, ever the staunch defender of my heart, responded with a firm "No!"
I shook my head, not realizing what I was doing until Robyn gave me a questioning look and asked, "What?"
"Ah..." I scrambled for an answer. "Just...thinking about what the shooting schedule might be like this week. I know we shoot in the city today and tomorrow, but I haven't called in to check past that. Actually," I carefully twisted my torso and winced, "I'm wondering how much I'm going to be able to do today. Hopefully it'll just be a bunch of standing around."
Robyn's expression immediately turned worried. "Maybe you should stay home for a day? If you can't..."
I stopped her with a shake of my head. "No, I'll give it a try, and do as much as I can. I know they want to wrap this episode on Wednesday and start up the next on Thursday."
"Tough gal, huh?" she said with a small smile.
I grinned back. "That's me."
She nodded and sipped at her coffee before saying with studied casualness, "I got a call last night...they've scheduled our big, groundbreaking, world-changing kiss for Thursday afternoon."
I blinked, and nearly dropped my coffee cup. "They have?"
A wave of panic mixed with exhilaration hit me, panic winning out easily.
Robyn watched my anxiety with open amusement. "Well, hell, Caid...I don't expect you to be jumping up and down or anything, but I gotta tell you, usually people don't react this way to the prospect of kissing me."
I managed a weak smile. "Sorry...I just...I'm..." I blew out a breath. "I'm pretty nervous about it. I always get a little weird about scenes like this - I just haven't gotten comfortable with them. And this scene," I looked at my coffee, "you have to admit this one is a little different. I've never... I've never kissed a woman before, and I know that shouldn't matter - we're actors, right? - but..." I shrugged, and looked at her quickly, then hastily back at my coffee. "I'm just nervous, I guess."
"You've never kissed a woman?" I could hear the surprise in her voice and looked up to find her staring at me with an odd expression. "You mean for a scene," she said slowly, "or never ever?"
I shifted uncomfortably under her scrutiny. "Uh...never, ever."
She nodded slowly, frowning into her coffee. The silence dragged on until it bordered on awkward. Finally, she murmured, "I thought..."
When she didn't say anything further, I prompted her, "You thought what?"
When she looked back at me, something in her expression had changed; it was still friendly, but much of the warmth I'd come to expect was missing. She shrugged, and gave me a smile to match the look. Lots of nice, white teeth but her eyes stayed wary and cool. "Doesn't matter, I guess." She nodded at the coffee pot. "Mind if I have a little more?"
I shook my head and silently filled her cup, trying to read her expression and maybe get some clue as to what I just did wrong. No clues were forthcoming, so I decided to just ask.
"Robyn," I asked hesitantly, "did I say something wrong? You seem..." I couldn't finish, unable to put into words what I was seeing.
Her cup paused on its way to her lips. She smiled behind the cup, a little sadly, I thought, took a sip of coffee before speaking. "No, Caid, you haven't done anything wrong. I just...misunderstood some things."
The tones of a cell phone coming from the living room stopped my reply, and Robyn excused herself to answer it, seeming eager to escape the conversation. I poured myself a little more coffee, holding off on the omelet preparation, betting that a phone call this early in the morning meant I wouldn't have a guest for breakfast.
She came back into the kitchen, holding up her phone apologetically. "That was Rick Price. They moved the schedule up an hour," she glanced at her watch, "so I really need to get home to shower and change. Thanks for coffee, and the breakfast offer...can I take a rain check?"
"Anytime," I replied.
She handed me her mug, and we looked at each other awkwardly for several moments. "Thanks," I said finally. "Thanks for being here last night, and for staying. I...it was nice to have you here."
She smiled softly. "You're welcome." The smile faded momentarily, and she looked down at her hands. "When Liz told me...and then when I saw the bike..." She looked back up again, her dark eyes swirling with emotion. "It really scared me, Caid. To think of something happening to you. I..."
Her cell rang again, and she swore softly, looking at the display. She hesitated, looking at me, and then answered. "Hello...no, Rick, I'm not at home. I'll be there shortly...have him leave it on the doorstep then. It'll be fine - there aren't people creeping around my house at six in the morning looking to steal scripts." She sighed, and pinched the bridge of her nose in annoyance. "Fine. Tell him to wait, I'll be there as soon as I can." She straightened, her voice now tinged with anger. "It's none of your damn business where I am, Rick. Tell him I'll get there when I get there."
She closed the phone with a snap, scowling at it for a moment before looking up at me. "Caid..."
I pushed off the counter with a wry smile. "You have to go, I know." I turned her around and pushed her gently towards the living room.
She walked to the couch and picked up an oversized black leather bag, slipping the phone into it and pulling out a set of keys before sliding it onto her shoulder. She started towards the door slowly, and then turned to me abruptly.
"Have dinner with me tonight. I'd like..."
"Yes." I said immediately.
Her smile was like sunshine, warming me through and through. "I'll call you later." She looked at me for a moment more, and reached up a hand to brush my injured cheek. "Take it easy today, huh?"
"Yes ma'am." I smiled, somehow managing to stop myself from turning my head and brushing her hand with my lips.
She gave me another crooked grin, and was gone.
After Robyn left I ate, showered and dressed before driving to the site of the shoot in the Financial District downtown. Once there I struggled into my wardrobe, patiently endured Jules' annoyed attempts to make my face appear as though it hadn't recently had an encounter with a pine tree, and tried to appear perky when I presented myself to the crew.
Unfortunately, attitude did not translate to ability, and it became apparent within fifteen minutes that although Jules was able to hide the damage to my face, the injury to my ribs was going to keep me from doing any kind of physical scene. Arrest scenes, chase scenes...basically all the kinds of shoots scheduled for the day were out for me until my ribs healed for a few more days, and by eleven o'clock, Nate had sent me home with ill concealed annoyance, grumbling about 'stupid macho nature freaks' under his breath.
At home I took a few pain killers, grabbed a book and settled into my backyard hammock, managing to read a few chapters before the pills kicked in and I nodded off. I woke at three, made myself a sandwich, took a few more pain killers, and lay down on the couch where I dozed until the phone rang at 6:30.
"'Lo," I answered groggily after stumbling into the kitchen to answer it.
"You should have seen it today, Caid, we had this huge crowd of people watching us shoot, and two women practically got into a fist fight when Arturo was signing autographs..."
"Liz?" I croaked, blinking blearily at the clock.
She paused. "Well of course it's me." Her tone conveyed her disbelief that I would consider it was someone else.
"Sorry...just woke up..."
"Well, I'm glad you're awake now. Listen, Paula and I are on our way over now to bring you some dinner, okay?"
"Liz, that's nice of you, really, but I'm..."
"Caid, you need to eat." Her tone was final. "We'll be there in about twenty minutes."
"Liz..." I tried again, but she had already hung up.
"Shit." My attempts to call her back went unanswered, and finally I sighed and headed for the shower.
Twenty-five minutes later I had showered and changed into a t-shirt and pair of faded jeans and was running a hand through semi-damp hair as I opened the front door to reveal the grinning faces of Liz, Paula, Danny, Micah, and Josiah.
I blinked in surprise. "Hey, guys."
I received a chorus of greetings in return, and Danny hefted two large pizza boxes. "We thought you'd be hungry."
Liz breezed past me, heading straight for the kitchen. "I wanted to pick up something from that rib place you like but Danny insisted on pizza. Do you have any wine?"
I sighed. "There's white in the fridge," I said, and resignedly stepped back to let the group in.
Micah was the last to enter. He stopped and looked down at me. "We don't need to stay, if you don't want us to. Liz said you knew we were coming, but it's pretty obvious you weren't expecting us."
I shook my head and smiled, threading my arm around his waist to give him a brief hug, which he returned carefully. "It was a surprise, yes, but a nice one. Don't worry about it."
"We won't stay long - you look beat." He nodded and moved by me.
I started to push the door closed, then caught sight of a tall, familiar form walking up my drive, curiously eyeing the three extra cars parked there.
I pulled the door open and leaned against the doorframe, not even bothering to hide my appreciative gaze as I watched Robyn approach. She was dressed to be appreciated, after all, and walked with a confidence that said she knew it. Her hair was loose and wild down her back, and she wore a tight black leather skirt that stopped mid-thigh, stiletto heels held on by two skinny black straps, and the real attention getter; a silvery, gauzy top that consisted of two strips of cloth covering her breasts and not much else, casually displaying miles of smooth, tanned skin and toned muscle.
I was mesmerized by the play of muscles beneath that skin as she walked, and the slight hallows just above the low waistband of the skirt. I wanted to put my lips there, in those hallows; feel that skin against my cheek, run my tongue...
I didn't know how long she'd been standing in front of me, watching with a hint of a smile curling her lips as I stood gawking. I slowly dragged my eyes up, blinking slowly as though waking from a dream.
I didn't think about what I said next, I just blurted out what I was thinking. "Jesus, Robyn, you look amazing."
Real smooth, Caid. I thought, but then was rather happy with myself when I saw the startled but undeniably pleased expression on Robyn's face.
"I...thank you, Caid." Her lips curled up even more, into a full smile.
I shrugged, and cleared my throat, giving her a shaky smile. "Just stating the obvious."
One dark eyebrow crept into sight over the rims of the dark glasses she wore. "Why, Caid Harris, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were flirting with me."
Her tone was light, teasing, and I replied in kind. "Why, maybe, Ms. Ward, you don't."
She frowned - I could see the slight furrow in her brow behind her glasses. "Maybe I don't what?"
"Know any better," I said lightly, wondering at my sudden spurt of boldness.
I saw a flicker of movement behind dark lenses, and her smile faded. "What..."
"Caid," Danny bellowed from inside, causing us both to jump. "What the fuck are you doing..." He came careening into the entryway and stopped short. "Robyn."
Damn. Bad timing, Dano.
"Danny," she said, shooting me a surprised look.
"Whoa. You look fucking incredible," he said after an eyeing her up and down. I smiled slightly at that, agreeing whole-heartedly. "Got a hot date with the tennis bum?"
Oh. I'd been so overwhelmed by her appearance that I hadn't stopped to wonder why she was dressed to annihilate. I doubted dinner with me called for an outfit like this.
"Thanks, Danny. And yes, we're going to a party one of his sponsors is hosting." She turned to me with an apologetic look. "That's why I stopped by, to tell you I'd have to cancel tonight."
Josh wins again. The unkind thought came unbidden, and I pushed it to the back of my mind.
"I understand." I gestured at Danny, then behind me. "Turns out I've got some company for the evening, anyway."
Without meaning it to, my tone had become cool, and Robyn pulled off her glasses and looked at me searchingly. "I really am sorry, Caid. I'd forgotten about this, and Josh only reminded me this afternoon. I would have called..."
Someone yelled for Danny, and Robyn looked past us into the house as he excused himself. "Just how many people have you got in there?"
"Danny, Micah, Josiah, Paula...and of course Liz."
She raised an eyebrow. "You're a popular gal, aren't you?"
I shrugged. "I left the set early today - they decided to come by and check up on me."
Concern flashed across her face. "I heard about that - I wanted to call earlier, I didn't want to disturb you. Are you okay? How are you feeling?"
"I couldn't do much today. They had me set up to chase some guy down a set of stairs, and I made it about three steps and nearly passed out. Nate wasn't too happy with me."
"Nate's an ass sometimes," she said bluntly, "but he'll get over it."
"Yeah, I know, he always does. I slept most of the day, took some pain pills...feel a lot better, doesn't hurt quite as much."
"Good." She nodded, and looked at me intently. "You look better than you did this morning, anyway."
Uncomfortable under her gaze, I looked past her and noticed for the first time the gray limousine idling at the end of my drive. The back door was open and Josh, in tailored black slacks, a metallic blue shirt and a black, small-collared suit coat stepped out and waved.
I waved back, unable to keep myself from smiling at him. I couldn't help it, I liked the guy. "Looks like your date is getting impatient," I commented.
She glanced over her shoulder. "Yeah, he wanted to go early." She folded and unfolded her glasses, fidgeting in a way uncommon for her. "Caid..."
"Go on," I said softly and gestured towards the car. "He's waiting."
"I know." I nodded. "We'll have dinner some other time." I hesitated, and then stepped forward to brush my lips across her smooth, fragrant cheek. "Tell Josh hello," I whispered in her ear, and rested my hand briefly on the warm skin above her hip, stroking gently with my thumb.
I felt her whole body tremble in reaction and hid a wild grin of triumph as I stepped back.
There is something there, damnit, and I'm going to find out what it is.
"Talk to you later?" I asked.
"Uh...yeah, sure," she said faintly, and slipped her sunglasses back on before raising her face. "Later."
I watched as she walked away, glad for the support of the doorframe when I saw that her silver ensemble was held in place by one miniscule, silver strap across her back. The expanse of skin my eyes were treated to was breathtaking.
"Sometimes, I hate that woman. I could never get away with wearing something like that. I don't have the height for it. Or the back. Christ, I think I need to talk to my trainer about working on my back...Ohhhh...and is that Josh? God, he's yummy."
I jumped at least three inches off the ground at the voice behind me, and spun around, hitting my hand against the doorframe with a solid thwack!
"Shit! Jesus, Liz," I complained, rubbing my hand, "don't sneak up on me like that."
She rolled her eyes. "I didn't sneak, I just walked up, and you were too busy ogling Robyn's boyfriend to notice."
Yeah, you just keep thinking that, Liz.
I stared a moment longer after the limo and finally Liz tugged my arm. "Come on. If you want any food, you'd better get your ass in there quick. You know what pigs those boys are."
I nodded absently and followed her into the kitchen, still feeling the tingle of Robyn's cheek under my lips and the heat of her skin under my palm.
"Caid, are you alright?" Paula's worried voice snapped my out of my preoccupation. I looked up to see her holding a plate out to me with two slices of pizza on it.
"Fine, just a little spacey from painkillers." I took the plate from her and breathed in garlic and oregano. "Oh, this looks great." I looked around at the group filling my kitchen and breakfast nook, smiling hugely. "Thanks, you guys. This was really nice of you."
"Thank Lizzie," Danny said with a grin as he walked by me with a plate piled with slices. "It was her idea to bring you something - we all just came along for the free food."
I looked over at Liz expectantly, waiting for her to take offense to being called "Lizzie", but she continued to nibble serenely, not batting an eye.
"Well then. Thank you Liz," I nodded at her with a smile, and took a bite of pizza, mumbling around cheese and sausage, "and the rest of you get to clean up."
"Are you nervous?" Liz's voice was casual, but I sensed a keen underlying curiosity and smiled at her feigned indifference.
Today was the day. In less than two hours, I'd be kissing Robyn.
"Of course I am," I replied honestly, seeing no reason to lie. I was nervous any time I was required to kiss someone on camera; so was Liz, we had talked about it before. She didn't need to know exactly how nervous, or why.
"Well," she said thoughtfully, "I guess if you're going to kiss a woman, Robyn isn't a bad place to start."
We were in Liz's trailer, finishing off a lunch of vegetarian lasagna I'd picked up from the catering truck. I was thankful to have finished swallowing, because that comment would have surely made me choke otherwise.
She waved her fork vaguely in the air. "She's got that whole animal, sexy, dark-goddess thing going on, you know?"
Dark-goddess? God lord, what had Liz been reading?
"I bet she's a handful," she said knowingly, nodding to herself.
I put my fork down and pushed the plate away. There was no way I was going to eat through this conversation.
I raised a bottle of water to my lips, pausing just in time to avoid serious spewage when Liz looked over at me and asked, "Don't you think so? I bet she's a screamer."
"Jesus, Liz..." I choked, but then bunched up my napkin and threw it at her when I saw that she was grinning. "Asshole."
"Just trying to take your mind off it, Sugar," she laughed. "That face was priceless." She turned serious, and reached out a hand to squeeze my arm. "It's just another scene, Caid. Stop worrying about it so much. And it's Robyn. Y'all are friends, right?"
I nodded, although at this point, I wasn't sure what was going on between Robyn and me. I'd called a few times to try and reschedule dinner, but she hadn't returned my calls, and
I'd only seen her once since Monday night, at a cast meeting on Wednesday morning. We exchanged pleasantries like virtual strangers and afterward she hurried off without saying goodbye. I didn't know what in the hell was going on, but whatever it was, it was pissing me off.
"Well, then," Liz said, as though that made everything better.
"Yeah," I muttered, unable to keep the sarcasm from my voice.
Liz looked at me sharply, but I stood up and tossed my plate into the trash. "I'd better head over."
The scene was to be shot in Judith Tarrington's office, so the crew was borrowing the set of In Their Defense for a few hours, which was on a different lot a few miles away. The crew and various members of the cast were also using the ITD sets to shoot courtroom footage for an upcoming episode, so almost the entire cast and crew would be present for the scene.
"Do you want to ride over with me and Paula?" Liz employed a full-time car and driver, and it would be easier for me to just ride over with her, but the though of having my own transportation was comforting, and at this point, I needed all the comfort I could get.
"No, thanks. I'll just see you over there."
She nodded and gave my leg a pat as I walked by. "Okay, we'll see you in a little while."
I drove myself over to the ITD lot and checked in with the crew, getting an updated shooting schedule and instructions to meet with the director sometime before the shooting started. I'd be doing two scenes; one with Robyn, and another with Liz on the courtroom set. The one with Robyn was scheduled first, and I couldn't decide if I was happy to get it over with or if I'd rather postpone it as long as possible.
Using one of the dressing room trailers, I changed into the outfit I'd brought over from wardrobe at 9P, dark brown pants, low-heeled boots and a tight, sleeveless hunter green blouse. I draped the lightweight, dark brown leather jacket that completed the outfit over my arm, knowing it would be stifling on the set and not wanting to start sweating any sooner than absolutely necessary. After a final stop at makeup and hair, I headed to the sound stages, greeting arriving members of the cast and crew as I crossed the lot.
Once in the sound stage building, I made my way to the set we'd be shooting at and dropped my script in a chair with my name stenciled across it in white block lettering. I hung my jacket across the back of it and looked around the bustling set in search of the small, red-headed form of the episode's director, Susan Yazi. I finally found her conversing animatedly with someone behind a rack of lights near the rear exit of the building and I started towards them, weaving my way through crewmembers and equipment.
As I moved across the room, the person Susan was conversing with came into view and my footsteps faltered momentarily.
Long and lean in a severe, black Prada suit that she wore extremely well, the sight of her sent a rush of familiar emotion through me, followed by an unfamiliar flash of anger.
Robyn was the first to notice me as I approached, flicking her eyes over my shirt briefly and curling her mouth into a welcoming smile. For some reason, it annoyed the hell out of me.
She blows me off all week, and now she's here, staring at my chest and smiling at me?
I ignored the smile and nodded curtly to her before turning my attention to the director.
"Susan," I greeted her with a neutral smile, "nice to see you."
Susan Yazi barely topped five feet, and had a slight, wiry frame and auburn hair beginning to go gray. She exuded an aura of controlled chaos, seemingly constantly in motion even when standing still, and being around her always made me slightly uneasy. She also had a habit of emphasizing random - or at least what seemed like random to me - words in a sentence.
"Hello Caid. Robyn was just telling me about your bicycle mishap, are you alright?"
"Was she," I said flatly, flicking my eyes over to Robyn who was watching me with a puzzled expression. "How nice. I'm doing fine, thank you, Susan. Good as new."
"Good. Good. I wanted to talk to you and Robyn about the scene. I was telling her I really wanted to give you free rein on this, play with it, do what feels right in the moment, okay? I realize you might be uncomfortable with it, so I want you to have fun."
Have fun, she says. I'm probably hemorrhaging from the brain because my stress level is so high, and she says have fun.
Robyn started to say something, but I cut her off.
"Sure Susan, no problem," I said with a quick nod, hiding my anger and growing anxiety. "Anything else?"
"No, no, that's all." Susan said absently as she looked across the set, not noticing or not caring about my abruptness. "Why don't you two discuss it? We'll start in five. Kyle! Don't leave that there!" she yelled as she moved away from us.
"Caid..." Robyn started. Without glancing at her, I crossed the floor to my chair and pulled on my jacket with jerky, uncoordinated movements. The collar turned under and I yanked at it ineffectually, stiffening when I felt a pair of hands on my shoulders, smoothing the leather and straightening the collar.
"Caid, you need to relax."
The flare of anger at her words pushed my anxiety aside for the moment, and I grabbed at it with both hands. "Excuse me?" I said, turning slowly.
"I know you're nervous, but this is supposed to be fun, remember?" She smiled, and busied herself straightening the collar of my jacket. "You need to relax."
"You think I'm nervous?" I asked, my voice rising.
"Well...yes," Her hands stilled and dropped away as she looked at me searchingly. "Aren't you? Isn't that why..."
"This isn't nervous, Robyn, this is pissed off!" I nearly yelled. Some of the crew around us were watching our exchange with open curiosity, and I took a breath and lowered my voice. "This is pissed off because someone I thought was a friend isn't acting like one."
She pulled back, startled by the vehemence in my tone. "Caid, I..."
I was on a roll now, anger firmly in control, the rest of me watching in sick fascination. I made a chopping motion with my hand. "Save it. You've made yourself quite clear."
Robyn's face hardened and her eyes narrowed. "Fine."
Susan's voice cut through the din. "Let's get this blocked out, shall we? Caid, Robyn, can you join us, please?"
I looked over to see where Susan was and when I turned back, Robyn was already stalking towards the set, her normal grace replaced with rigid stiffness.
"Fine," I muttered, and stalked after her.
The anger fueled me through the thirty minutes it took for Susan to block and plan the scene how she wanted it and helped me ignore the fact that more and more people were trickling into the building and standing around the set, waiting and watching. Grant was there, standing behind Susan and occasionally leaning forward to give an opinion, along with nearly all of the rest of the executive producers and co-producers, writers, cast, crew...
Don't think about it. Just...focus on what needs to be done.
Susan wanted the scene shot in two sections: our entrance to her office while we argued, then the kiss. I started to relax as we worked through the first section, the familiar actions and sounds calming some of my anxiety. The anger was still there, though, on both sides, and it sparked between us during the scene's verbal exchange, coloring both our performances and making Susan a very happy director.
"Great job, you two," she called after stopping the action. "I like the interaction. Try to keep that up in this next part, okay? Robyn, you set the pace, you're the aggressor. Caid, follow her lead. Alright, let's get the cameras set up and get this one done."
And suddenly, it was time.
I went to my mark and took several deep breaths. Easy Caid, easy. It's just a scene.
And then we were rolling, Susan yelled "action", and Robyn was rounding the desk and prowling towards me like a predator stalking her prey, her eyes blazing with cool fury and looking so achingly beautiful that I was transfixed.
"You assaulted me, detective." Her voice was low and dangerous, and she kept moving towards me, stopping when our bodies were only a foot apart. "I could have you thrown in jail for that."
"Why didn't you?" I amazed myself by not only remembering my lines, despite Robyn's closeness, but also by dredging up some believable attitude to go with them. "You could have..."
She grabbed me by the shoulders, yanked me towards her, and kissed me.
The kiss took me by surprise, even though I'd been expecting it. It was hard and bruising, over in an instant, leaving me trembling and gasping for air.
And wanting more.
Much, much more.
And thinking that this could be the last time I had a chance to get it.
My hands were inside her suit jacket, gripping her hips where they'd gone for support the moment she'd kissed me. Now, a quick tug brought her closer and I brought our mouths together again, sensing a momentary resistance before she molded against me and her hand move from my shoulder to anchor in my hair, increasing the pressure of the kiss. I explored her lips gently, reverently; marveling at the softness and warmth and amazed by the emotions a simple kiss could invoke.
Robyn's body stiffened at Susan's voice and she pulled back abruptly, giving me a wide-eyed stare before taking two quick steps away from me.
I blinked, realized my mouth was hanging open, closed it, and blinked again.
"Well, hell. Nice work, ladies. I think that's all we need - it's not going to get much better than that. Very, very nice. Print that!"
Gradually the movement and noise of the set around me came into focus and several people who'd been watching surged onto the set, congratulating, teasing, and laughing. I smiled weakly and mumbled polite thanks, but my eyes were on Robyn, watching as she left the set with a crowd of well-wishers in her wake.
"I knew we'd picked the right girls." Grant's smooth voice and beefy arm across my shoulder pulled my attention away from Robyn's retreating form and I turned to face him, ridding myself of his arm without appearing to do so on purpose.
"I'm thirty-four, Grant. Hardly a girl anymore, but I'm glad that you're pleased with how it went." Job preservation skills kicked in and I smiled to take any sting out of the words.
He guffawed and pulled me into another one-armed hug, which I endured until someone else caught his attention and he left me alone. The fervor had died down quickly after a few pointed words from Susan, and the crew was starting to move the lights and cameras as I left the set, still dazed, wishing I could just go somewhere and think instead of dealing with another few hours of shooting.
Liz was waiting for me at my chair, smiling at me like a proud parent. "You see, Sugar, it wasn't so bad, was it?"
I smiled slightly. "No, it wasn't so bad at all."
She handed me the script that had been lying in the chair. "It was really good, Caid. That second kiss - I didn't expect that. Neither did anyone else, I'd say, from the reaction. Was that something you and Robyn worked out beforehand?"
"Well, uh, Susan told us to have fun with it, and go with what we thought was best..." It was the truth, right?
"Well," she said, and started walking towards the exit, obviously expecting me to follow, "if Grant's hard-on was anything to go by, I think it was just what they wanted. I could see that thing from forty feet away."
"Liz..." I grimaced, remembering Grant's arm across my shoulders. "Ick. Shut-up! I don't want to know about Grant's..."
"I mean, you couldn't miss it. Everyone knows the man is hung like an elephant, but to actually see it...I thought Susan was going to whack it with her clipboard..."
I laughed my first genuine laugh in hours, and followed Liz out into the sunshine.
I closed Twila's door gently and stood in the gathering darkness, biting my lip and eyeing the five cars parked in Robyn's drive with consternation.
I had a vague plan that involved coming to Robyn's house and saying...something...but Robyn obviously had company, and company was not part of my vague plan. Not part of the plan at all. An inherent problem with vague plans is that they rarely come with a backup plan.
I looked at the cars again, beginning to doubt the wisdom of my being here at all.
The front door closed with a hollow thud, and I looked quickly towards the sound. A tall, dark-haired man in khaki shorts and a navy polo walked down the steps and headed towards a white Volvo SUV. His steps slowed as he noticed me, and he waved tentatively, peering into the semi-darkness.
"Hi...can I help you?" His voice was cautious, and he looked back to the door quickly, as though gauging the distance in case he had to make a run for it.
I felt rather foolish, standing in Robyn Ward's driveway, being addressed by a man who, I was sure, thought I was probably a fan looking to rummage through Robyn's garbage...my embarrassment spurred me into movement and I pushed off Twila and started walking up the drive.
"Hi," I said brightly, giving him a friendly, non garbage-stealer smile. "I actually stopped by to talk to Robyn, but it looks like she's got some company."
He slowed to a stop as I approached and watched me suspiciously, then suddenly his eyes went round. "Oh my god. You're Caidence Harris."
I smiled slightly and nodded. "That's me." When he was close enough, I stuck out my hand for him to shake. "And you must be a friend of Robyn's?"
He took my hand absently, still staring at my face. I raised an eyebrow at him questioningly and he smiled sheepishly. "Uh...oh...sorry...Cal Paskins. My wife went to college with Robyn." He dropped my hand and snapped his fingers. "Damn, that's right. Josh told me that you and Robyn were friends."
I hope, I thought fervently, I hope we're still friends.
"Listen, Cal," I said, deciding that my plan could use some tuning, and that I could do this another day, "I don't want to interrupt your party. I'll just come by another time."
"Oh, no, don't leave...hell, it's not like it's a big to-do or anything, we see each other all the time. Please don't go on our account. I'm sure Robyn would love to see you, and so would Josh, from the way he talked about you..."
I tilted my head. "So Josh is here, too?" Of course Josh is here.
"Uh-huh," he answered, and turned towards the Volvo. "Hang on a sec and I'll walk in with you." He unlocked the SUV and grabbed a gray sweater from the front passenger seat, holding it out to me triumphantly. "Lisa sent me out to the car to get her sweater...she gets cold when the temperature goes below seventy-five. Amazing to think that woman grew up in Minnesota."
I smiled. "Are you from Minnesota too?"
We started up the path to the front door. "Oh no, I'm a California boy. Grew up in San Jose. I'm not too fond of the cold either, but this," he waved one arm at the evening around us while opening the front door with the other, "this is not cold." He held the door open with a flourish and motioned me inside.
I laughed, and crossed the threshold into the entryway just as Robyn appeared around the corner of the stairs that I remembered led to her bedroom. "Cal, are you talking to yourself out there? I told Lise you were craz..."
She stopped short when she saw me, emotions flickering across her face. The one that lingered was anger.
Crap. She was still angry with me. That wasn't really part of my plan either. I was starting to think my plan sucked.
"Hey, Robyn!" Cal said enthusiastically, oblivious to Robyn's anger and my growing unease. "Look who I found outside. I told her I was sure you wouldn't mind her crashing the party, hope that's okay." He winked at me, confident in his belief that Robyn wouldn't mind me being here. I wasn't going to tell him he'd been dead wrong.
I smiled gamely. "Hey Robyn. I was wondering if I could talk to you for a minute?" I still wasn't sure what I was going to say to her; I only knew an apology for behaving like an ass that afternoon figured prominently in it.
I saw the muscle in her jaw twitch, but she nodded politely. "Sure." She looked over at Cal. "Lisa's been bitching about not having that sweater...I'd get down there if I were you." The smile she gave him was much friendlier than the look she turned on me once Cal had excused himself and headed down the hallway.
She walked down the last few steps to the entryway, coming to a stop several feet from me and crossing her arms. "Why are you here, Caid? I have guests."
"I know, and I'm sorry. I just...I needed to talk to you."
"Okay. I'm here, so talk." There was no softening of her stance, and I shifted nervously.
"I...crap." I shook my head. "I'm not sure what I want to say..."
She looked at me in disbelief, and stepped towards the door. "Come on, Caid..."
"No! Wait...." She stopped and slowly settled back into her defensive stance. I gnawed on the inside of my cheek, trying to gather my thoughts. "Okay, first, I want to say I'm sorry for being such a bitch this afternoon. You were right, I was nervous, and I took it out on you. I'm sorry."
She started to say something, but I continued on. "But to be honest, I really was upset about how you blew me off this week. One day you're talking about making new friends, and the next, you don't even talk to me. It..." I paused, and then finished quietly, "It hurt, Robyn."
I looked over at her, but she hadn't moved and her expression was stony.
This isn't working.
"Is that it?" Robyn asked coolly, uncrossing her arms to walking to the door. "I need to get back to my guests."
I ran a frustrated hand through my hair. "Why are you doing this? Pretending like there's nothing between us?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said stiffly, and pulled the door open. "I think you should go, Caid."
Angry now, I stepped forward and pushed the door shut, leaving my hand on it so she wouldn't open it again. "We're not finished."
The move brought us close together and she stood her ground. We stood, toe to toe, glaring at each other, her eyes black pools in the dim light, dark and full of emotion, the cool remoteness vanished.
Beautiful, I thought. So beautiful.
"Damnit Caid," Her voice was low and rough, her breath whispering across my cheek. "What do you want from me?"
"Whatever you can give me." I whispered, my eyes dropping to her mouth.
We reached for each other at the same time, coming together in a fierce clash of lips and tongues, my hands in her hair and hers splayed across my back, pulling my body against hers roughly. We swayed and stumbled against the door, neither of us noticing as the kiss deepened, losing some of its urgency and becoming more of a mutual exploration than a battle for dominance.
It was like nothing I'd ever felt before; the heat that pulsed through me at her touch, the intense craving for more, and under it all a sense of safety, of trust...I wanted to give myself over to it, to her, and let myself fall.
I loosened one hand from her hair and ran my fingers across her cheek, down her neck and over the swell of her breast, pausing briefly at the sharp intake of breath before continuing down the long length of her torso to the hem of her shirt, slipping beneath it and brushing hesitant fingers over warm, soft skin.
Robyn stilled in my arms and then attacked my mouth with renewed ferocity, slipping her hands into the low waistband of my jeans and pulling our hips together, sending a dizzying wave of desire through me that forced a groan from deep in my throat.
"Oh...god," I breathed, tearing my mouth away from hers. She took the opportunity to trail her lips along my chin and suck gently on my neck, just below my ear. I trembled, overloaded with sensation. "Robyn...please," I whispered, not even knowing what I was asking for.
Her whole body stilled, and she swore softly in my ear. Her hands gripped my hips and pushed me away. "Caid, I can't. This...I can't do this."
I stumbled back, blinking at her stupidly. "Wha..."
She shook her head violently, avoiding my gaze. "I'm not going to be an experiment, Caid. I can't be that. Not with you."
I stared at her in confusion. "Experiment? What..." I stepped towards her, and she took a step back. I frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"This," she said, waving her hand between the two of us. "I'm not going to be your experiment in the wonders of lesbianism. I've been there before, and it always ends the same."
That stopped me. "You've done this before?"
"Yes," she admitted quietly. "I'm gay, Caid. I haven't been with a man in years."
I processed that for a moment. "Then why are you backing off? There's obviously an attraction...and more. Hell, Robyn, I can't get you out of my head. I think about you constantly, want to see you, be with you, make you smile...I'm crazy about you."
She smiled sadly. "And I'm crazy about you too, Caid, and that's why I can't do this. You're straight, I'm not, and this can only end badly if we let it start."
I snorted. "Let it start? Don't you think it's a little too late for that? Do I need to remind you what we were just doing?" I held out a hand to show how I was still trembling. "I'm still shaking from what you do to me."
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..."
"Don't you dare say you're sorry!" I said intensely. "Don't you dare. I know you're not sorry, and you want this as much as I do. This isn't an experiment for me, Robyn. Just because I haven't been with a woman, that doesn't make what I'm feeling any less valid. I've known I was attracted to women for a while now, but this is the first time it's gone deeper than just attraction, the first time it's been worth the risk. You are worth the risk, Robyn. This," I gestured between us, as she had done, "is worth the risk."
I tried to reach for her hand, but she stepped around me and opened the door, her body ramrod straight. "I'm sorry, Caid. We'd both end up getting hurt."
"And I'm willing to take that chance! Damnit, Robyn, what are you so afraid of? You're the one who pursues her 'things' and lets the media think you're in a relationship with Josh for publicity sake...if anyone has a reason to be afraid, it's me. And you're going to let this go because I've never been with a woman? I'm not a teenager with my first crush - I'm in my damn thirties, for Christ sakes! An adult, with very adult emotions. About you." I touched her arm. "Please..."
"Robby?" There were light footsteps on stairs and Josh came into view, smiling in pleasure when he saw me. "Caid! Cal told me he ran into you outside. What are you two doing up here? Come down and join us."
I opened my mouth to say something to him, but nothing came out - I couldn't even manage a smile, I just looked at him dumbly for a moment before turning back to Robyn.
"Caid was just leaving." Robyn said in an emotionless voice.
"Robyn, don't do this," I pleaded. "Please don't do this."
She shook her head, looking at the wall behind me. "I can't. I won't. Please, just...go."
"Rob, what's going on?" Josh's voice was full of concern. "Are you crying?"
My eyes flew to her face, and I could see the telltale shine of moisture.
"I won't let you do this," I whispered, leaning in quickly and kissing her hard on the mouth. "I won't."
I drew back and stroked her cheek with the back of my hand once before turning and walking out the door.
As I stepped onto the porch, I heard her say softly, "It's not up to you, Caid," before she softly closed the door behind me.