Authors: Rebecca Royce
She got out of bed, hoping not to wake him, and was relieved when he didn’t move at all. Teirney liked her time in the morning. Taking care of Granny was one thing; chatting with Ian before she had coffee would be an entirely different situation altogether.
As she got her robe, she watched him in slumber. He really was beautiful. Sometimes she let herself forget about his external perfection. There, in dreamland, with his guard totally removed, he was a fantasy come true. That face, which graced magazines, slept in her bed.
Not that he was any less gorgeous when he was awake and alert. Even if she finally understood he didn’t see himself in the same fashion, which somehow, perversely, made him more likable to her.
Ian woke slowly. His balls ached, and he reached to adjust his boxers before he let himself really become alert. It took him a minute to orient himself. Years had passed since he had regularly awoken in bedrooms not his own, or at least a hotel room he’d booked, and, for a second, he couldn’t remember where he had passed out. It was the smell that finally set him right. Teirney’s vanilla-scented pillows brought the night before rushing to life and he grinned at the memory.
He had made her come. Ian settled on the pillows and stared at the clock on the wall. It was only eight o’clock, really early for him, considering the hours he kept. Where was Teirney? Didn’t she ever sleep?
She had for a while. He’d awoken at some point and been aware of her resting in his arms. It had been so…nice.
He rose, then pulled on his pants. Not that he expected her grandmother to be walking around the house. Still, he wanted to be respectful. If he met her, he didn’t wish it to be in his boxers.
The house was quiet, and he followed a shuffling sound until he saw Teirney in the kitchen. She was putting pills into containers. He watched her meticulously line things in order before distributing them. There was a magic to her organization he admired. She must be wonderful in a crisis, considering she planned for every eventuality. It wouldn’t surprise him if she had some kind of bail-out bag somewhere in the house.
She jumped before she turned around. “Hi. Sleep well?”
“I did.” He stretched.
She was put together and fully dressed, already in the all-black outfit she wore backstage. How long had she been up?
“Yes, it was great.” She walked over to the coffee maker. “Want some?”
“No, I’m good. I don’t generally have any until lunch. You didn’t sleep long if you’re already fussing about.”
“Granny needs me by six. I’ve never needed very much rest. I get by very well with anything from two to four hours.”
Human beings could only subsist on so little sleep for short periods. It seemed Teirney was really good at taking care of others, not necessarily herself. Maybe there were things he—well, his assistant—could acquire to aid her in caring for her grandmother. Would she accept his help? Probably not.
One of the things he admired about her was her stiff back and proud chin. They weren’t yet at the place in their relationship where he could suggest letting him shelter her from the burdens of life. He took a deep breath. He was a Cancer, and, as much as he didn’t always give credence to astrology, he certainly knew he had the angst to go along with not being able to have things as he wanted them.
His phone buzzed, and he pulled it out to look at thirty text messages and five missed calls. Quickly, he scanned through them. Several were from women he used to spend time with on occasion. He deleted a voicemail and the texts from them. His need for their company had passed. He was falling hard for a woman who wasn’t sure about him yet. Life was funny. He knew twenty girls in the area who would jump to believe every word he said, and the woman he wanted kept her guard up better than anyone he knew.
Except for last night. She’d shattered in his arms, and he’d known real joy for the first time.
He had three texts from his assistant and an email from his agent. Those inquires he needed to take.
“I’ve got to make some calls.”
“Right.” She nodded as she chewed on her lip. “I assumed you’d have to get moving right away. So, don’t let me hold you here.”
“Kicking me out, huh? I see how it is.” He’d win his woman over. And then he wouldn’t let her go.
“No.” Her eyes got huge and she rushed forward, putting her hands on his arm. “I’m not sure how to do this thing. I mean what is it? Are we friends? That’s what I keep telling myself.”
“How about we try this idea? I know you prefer to plan.” He didn’t wish her to panic. “Let’s keep things simple. Who do you have watching your Granny tonight?”
“I’ve called the woman from around the street. She can help me every night until I replace Georgia. I can’t count on her forever. It’s nice she can help for a little bit. She knew Granny years ago, when, if you can believe it, Granny babysat her.”
He liked the notion of a person knowing someone their entire life. Teirney’s grandmother had taken care of the woman who now helped to care for her. There was something cyclical about it that appealed to his sense of family. He didn’t live in Austin anymore; however, whenever he went home, the people who had always known him were immediately close friends again.
“Okay, well, would the woman whose name is….” He let his voice trail off until she answered.
“Julia. Right. Would Julia be willing to watch your grandmother all night?” He ran his hand through her dark hair. It felt silky beneath his fingers. He wanted to bury his nose in it, yet, given how she had overthought everything in the hours he’d been sleeping and she hadn’t, he didn’t want to force intimacy on her.
“What do you mean?”
“Would she stay all night? I’ll pay the extra hours. I’ll go to the bank myself to take out the money.” While he’d normally have his assistant take care of such matters, in this case, he intended to do it himself. The thought made him smile.
“Why would I need her to?” She scrunched up her nose in confusion.
He tried to push the frustration building in his stomach out of his stomach. She really didn’t know what he wanted?
“I’d like you to be able to spend the night with me. All night. In my place. As a kind of break for you. Maybe it’ll be a more romantic setting, some place which will make you feel more in the mood.”
“Oh.” She rocked on her heels. “I don’t know. I mean, I would like to, so much, actually. I’m not sure I can comfortably do so. She’s my…love. I take care of her. Except for the hours when I absolutely can’t. I’ve never chosen to not be there for my own amusement.”
“A single night? I’ll bring you here by eight am.”
“She needs more meds by six. I’ve never asked Julia to give them to her and….”
“Okay.” He held his hands in front of himself to stop her. “Six. We will set an alarm and have you returned for then.” God help him, he’d never been awake at six except to film, and then it was a rare day. “Would you ask her? Please.”
She visibly swallowed, and he knew he had pushed. “Sure.”
“Great.” Ian pulled her to him before planting a kiss on her soft lips. Her little gasp amused him, and for a second he deepened it between them, loving the pull, the sheer physical chemistry, and how right she felt with him.
When he let her go, she smiled, her cheeks flushed. It was everything he could do to not pick her up and take her to the bedroom right then and there. She was so adorable.
“You’re already my friend, Teirney. I’d like to think we’re more, too. Wouldn’t you?” He needed to hear her say she was on the same page.
“I don’t want to presume….”
He shook his head. “Do you have feelings for me?”
“I do. Only I don’t think I can handle being hurt. You are you, Ian. You’re the best guy. I can see it. The fact remains, you are Ian Mackenzie and I’m me. When you’re gone, I’ll be here, or maybe I won’t. Maybe by then I’ll have had to leave. I’m rambling. I never do. I….”
He hated her answer even as he loved her truth.
“I hear what you’re saying. I can’t really do anything about it. I suppose I could ask my sister to email me pictures from our childhood so you can see where I come from, how I wore braces and had an awkward stage as everyone else did.”
Ian refused to let her finish. If he did, she would talk herself right out of their ever having a relationship.
“Come with me tonight. Try to see me, won’t you, Teirney? I watched you for so long. Don’t go by what you think I should be. If you still don’t think there’s any possibility of us, then fine. But try not to lead with no.”
“I’ll see if I can get her to stay.” She nodded.
“Thanks.” He turned to leave, a whole day ahead of him to take care of things and maybe fit a workout in so he could push off some of his frustration. Had dating always been so difficult or was it one of those things made harder because he’d been successful and now had the world watching him?
Were women such as Teirney officially off limits to him?
“Text me and let me know. And, regardless of whether or not you can stay, I’d like you to wait for me after the show. If you don’t relish standing on the cold street, wait for me inside the stage door. I’ll come in and find you when I’m done with whatever crowd is out there.”
He’d love to receive more than single-word answers from her. The last time she’d been so clammed up had been on the couch, and it hadn’t ended well for him. Well, technically it had finished great for him, only not for her. He wouldn’t be so lazy again.
“Tell you what? Don’t wait inside.” Did he sound frantic? He was starting to feel a little nuts. “Go to my car. It’ll be on the street. I’ll make sure they know you’re coming. Either you’ll go home with me or I’ll take you to your place. One way or another, in the car. Don’t stand around waiting for me.”
She breathed out. “You’re uncomfortable.”
“I am. Yes.” What was the point in lying? “I’m trying to figure out what the right answer here is. Because I’m not entirely convinced you’ll tell me what you desire—how you would like tonight to go—and I don’t have any interest in coming up short when it’s over.”
She nodded before she twisted her lips in a concerned expression. “As a matter of fact, I have no ideas whatsoever about tonight. Where would it be easier for you to meet me? Probably more efficient for me to wait in the car.”
“Then in the car it is.” He nodded.
She was talking, communicating, which hopefully meant she wasn’t thinking about running.
“And I promise to tell you how I need things. Believe it or not, Ian, I do wish to see you as you are. I can’t think of anything I’d desire more.
He couldn’t either, unless of course he still fell short. There was nothing he could do about what she saw when she really looked. Teirney might see the giant mess underneath and want nothing to do with him whatsoever.
Teirney waited in the car listening to the whooshing sound of the windshield wipers as they pushed away the wetness from the deluge currently falling upon New York. Ian’s driver didn’t say much. He’d nodded at her when he’d opened the door but otherwise didn’t seem interested in chatting. She wondered if silence was part of the job requirement. Discretion and keeping his mouth shut.
Or maybe he was annoyed at having her in the car.
The rain wasn’t keeping Ian from doing his job managing the crowds, nor did it seem the bad weather had kept any of the fans home. Although perhaps it had. On a clear night the adoring crowd might have grown so big it would have blocked the street.
Ian had pulled up his hoodie, but two people with umbrellas, which were seemingly doing nothing to stop him from getting wetter and wetter, were still following him around. She tapped her foot, not with impatience, instead with worry. What if he got sick? If he stayed out there too much longer in the cold, he’d catch a cold. He’d give and give of himself until he had to suffer for it.
She looked at her watch. It had been ten minutes already.
“How long does he usually take on nights when it’s pouring? With crowds such as this one?”
“Hard to say, miss.” The driver grunted his reply.
Where did Ian acquire all of the staff he had anyway? They appeared, then disappeared. Who was handling the staffing for him? Did he run all of it himself?
She stared out at the crowd. The wetter he got, the worse the crowd got soaked as well. To be close to the door they’d have to have been lined up outside before he had gotten to the theater. Anyone inside who watched him in
wouldn’t be close enough for an autograph.
Teirney simply couldn’t stand it anymore. She opened the car door and stepped out into the street.
The driver called out to her.
“I’ll only be a moment. I’m not leaving....”
She was getting Ian. Tonight’s situation was ridiculous. The people standing in the rain shouldn’t be out in it either. They were getting storm warnings on their cell phones the same as she was. He could yell at her, although she had never seen Ian raise his voice, but she wasn’t letting him get any more soaked.
“Ian.” She walked toward the noisy crowd. He didn’t hear her over the noise of the people, the cars on the street and the rain, which was pounding on her, too.
Security blocked him on all sides, and the closer she got the more she had to bump into people to reach him.
She called out again, this time louder and he heard her. He turned his head toward the sound of her voice, his eyebrows raised.
“Enough. This is ridiculous.”
“What?” he shouted to her.
“You’re done. Come on.” She extended her hand and, although a woman in her fifties with a large red bag tried to shove her, managed to grab onto him. “Let’s go.”
“Hey.” The red-bagged woman hollered at her. “I haven’t gotten to see him yet.”
Teirney shook her head. She’d had exactly a minute of the rain, and already it was more than enough. “You’re all about to die of pneumonia.”
With the security officers helping, she tugged Ian through the crowd toward the waiting car. By the time they got to the vehicle, they were both running to move away from the group chasing after them. He pushed her ahead of him and followed her into the backseat.