Authors: Rebecca Royce
“It’s not the alarm.”
Teirney rolled out of his arms, and he groaned. Sometime during the last couple hours, his arm had fallen asleep with her perched on it. Now that she had moved, feeling rushed in, and he had to raise it to make it stop burning.
It took him a second to recognize she was on the phone. He shook his head. Ian had never woken well when he was startled awake. Something was wrong if the phone rang at two. Even his slow-moving neurons grasped the fact.
“What is it?” He flipped the light on, and the room blurred while his vision adjusted.
“Oh.” Teirney’s cry filled the room. Tears streamed down her cheeks as he pulled her against him. “Yes, yes. I’m coming. Now.”
She tugged out of his arms, and he released her. Teirney’s voice was strained, her movements jerky.
“Where are my pants?”
He rose fast, shoving his own boxers on while he searched for her clothing. It took him a minute, and then he eventually found her pants behind the chair across the room.
“She’s dead.” She choked on the words, and his worst fear about what could have happened settled around them.
At her nod, he grabbed her and hugged her tightly. “I am so incredible sorry, Teirney. I can’t tell you how much….”
She cut him off, shoving him away, hard. It didn’t hurt, yet he was stunned she had done it. He let her go immediately.
“I don’t wish to be held. I need to rush home. There are things to do, people to call. I wasn’t there.” Her voice hitched again. “She died without me there. All this time, I took care of her, and she passed away without me there to hold her hand.”
“No, I never should have done this. It was selfish, and I’ll never forgive myself. I’m worse than my parents. They never promised her anything. I made sure she knew I would be there.”
She collected her things as she ranted, and, although he refused to take her words to heart while she was in such a lost state, he felt a burning in his chest. He’d made her come tonight, kind of pushed her into it, because he wanted her to be able to relax and enjoy what was between them.
“Ian.” She threw her hands in the air. “I need a taxi.”
He threw himself into action. Getting the car would take too long. A taxi would get her home fastest. The doorman could call them one. He threw on the rest of his clothes and chased after her out the door.
When they got outside, the doorman did manage to flag down a taxi, and she rushed to the door with him right on her heels until she turned to face him.
“What? No, I’m coming with you.”
She shook her head. “I don’t have time to argue. There’s nothing for you to do there. You have a show tonight. Go to sleep.”
“No.” He grabbed her shoulders. “I’m not letting you go through her death alone.”
“Ian.” She shrugged him off. “I’m always alone. Nothing new there. I don’t want you to come with me, okay?”
He jerked away, his heart in his throat, and watched as she got in the taxi, which sped off to take her home. She didn’t care for him with her when things were really bad. Nothing had changed. He bent over and gripped his knees. The world felt heavier than it had before, and not only because Teirney’s poor grandmother had passed. His girl didn’t want him when things were bad.
“Sir?” The doorman called to him and he raised his head. “I think you should return inside.”
Ian followed the man’s gaze. It was two in the morning, and yet the streets were filled with people, some who had stopped to stare. If he let them, they’d all snap a photo, and then eventually those pictures would be sold to a gossip website. Ian Mackenzie having a nervous breakdown on the street. He rubbed his head and nodded to the doorman. He didn’t know the man’s name. The daytime guy was Joe.
“What’s your name, man?”
The older man nodded at him. “Chris.”
Ian extended his hand. “Nice to meet you, Chris.”
He managed to not let his voice shake. Maybe he was a better actor than he gave himself credit for because as soon as he got upstairs he would shatter into a thousand pieces.
Teirney fingered her grandmother’s blue suit, trying to memorize the texture. She’d take it to the funeral home for Granny to be buried in, and, since her grandmother had wanted a closed casket, this would be the last time Teirney ever saw it.
Every detail was planned, every decision made months ago when Teirney could still ask her Granny for guidance so she could give the other woman the funeral she wanted. Today was the last day she could ever do anything for her.
Of course, there was more paperwork than she ever imagined, an amazing amount of bureaucracy accompanied death. It was time to go. Teirney leaned her head against the side of the closet before grabbing the hanger holding the suit and moving toward the front door. She had one more thing to do before she could go on with the day she’d known was coming yet hadn’t been prepared for.
Balancing her cell phone on her shoulder, she managed to click on Ian’s name before she nearly dropped the phone. It rang once and went immediately to voice mail.
He was either busy or ignoring her.
The second option seemed more likely, and she couldn’t blame him.
“Hi, it’s Teirney. I owe you an apology. Probably a bunch of them. Not any of what happened was your fault. I’m not…in my right mind. Anyway, I hope you have a great show. It’ll be the first I miss. Thank you for last night and for this morning.”
She disconnected the phone. Her guilt in the middle of her grief was playing havoc with her stomach, and she hadn’t been able to think about eating anything all day. Why had she been so shitty to Ian? Teirney knew the answer.
Someone had to be blamed for her deciding to take off for the night at the end of her Granny’s life and he had been easy to blame. If she really stopped and acknowledged how desperately she had wanted, no needed, the time away, then she would wash away in the flood of grief sure to follow.
Basically, her behavior made her a coward, and she couldn’t live with the ramifications. When she next saw Ian, if he would speak to her, she would tell him so. He’d given her a great night and she had shit all over him.
The other reason for her reaction was harder to deal with. She’d fallen hard for him, and he had an expiration date in her life. Granny left because it was her time. Ian would go—leave his temporarily rented apartment with the stunning views of New York—and return to his Hollywood life. Teirney would be left here to pick up the pieces.
Maybe she had wanted to go ahead and take the pain of losing Ian now instead of later. All at once.
Neither of these explanations for how she treated Ian made her very proud of herself. Why could she manage everything except her own emotions?
How could a day pass in a crawl and also feel as if it flew by in a blink of the eye? She held her phone in her hand and stared out the window. Her grandmother’s dishes had all been loaded, each piece wrapped in casing so it wouldn’t break. Teirney would bring it all to the second hand store the next day. The old collection was probably worth something, but without anywhere to keep anything, Teirney wouldn’t be able to keep any of the items which had meant so much to her.
Everything had to be emptied and sold in an estate sale. Then she would have the house staged for sale. Both jobs would empty what was left of Granny’s bank account. As executor of the old woman’s will, Teirney had the right to manage things. Since Ian hadn’t returned her call, she supposed she would have lots of time to do things—nights full of time when she couldn’t sleep.
Her cell phone rang, and she looked at it. What did it mean that it took her so long to recognize her parents’ phone number? When was the last time they’d spoken?
She’d sent them an email in the morning to let them know of Granny’s death. Maybe not phoning had been petty. Perhaps she should have. Teirney shook her head.
It had taken them hours to return the message, and she knew her father lived with his email practically attached to his forehead.
She finally answered on the third ring. “Hello?”
“Honey.” Her mother shouted into the phone. In the background Teirney could hear what sounded like a steel drum band playing. Teirney had always loved the sound, until she had heard it out by the pool day in and day out during her one and only visit to her family.
She tried to find her compassion. Maybe her father was so upset about losing his mother he couldn’t come to the phone. Perhaps he was wrought with grief, so overwhelmed he had stayed off the golf course.
“How are you, Mom?” She held the phone slightly away from her ear.
“Well, Teirney, I have to tell you while I know you are dealing with a tremendous amount there with Granny’s funeral, but I am downright shocked about your behavior. I mean, I’m not necessarily disappointed. Shocked is the right word.”
Maybe all the steel drums and daiquiris had finally played havoc with her mother’s brain.
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you’re saying? What behavior?”
“Well, honey, it’s all over the Internet and the television gossip site has it too. You know how I watch my programs. And there you were. I mean Ian Mackenzie.”
Teirney couldn’t make hide nor hair of her mother’s statements.
“Ooh, Mom. I’m so sorry. I’ve got to go. Someone is at the door.”
When had she become such a good liar? Or maybe she wasn’t, perhaps she no longer cared what her mother thought anymore at all.
She hung up and walked over to her computer. If there was something about Ian on the news, she was sure she could find it easily enough. Had something happened during the show which had made it into the blogosphere? Teirney sighed loudly. Her grandmother was dead. She was supposed to be in mourning, and instead she was Googling the man she had been horrible to at two a.m.
It took a minute for the search results load, and, when she saw them, she wished she hadn’t. Ian was certainly making the gossip sites and it was all because of her. The headlines were mixed yet the pictures remained the same. There she was, in the rain, yanking on him to bring him to the car. What had seemed a good idea at the time—to save him from getting wet—appeared quite different in the photos.
Her shirt had been wet, and it left nothing to the imagination. Every roll of fat on her body seemed exposed, not to mention the expression on her face looked pissed off instead of concerned.
Some articles questioned if she was Ian’s girlfriend, although they didn’t know her name. Others had already called her Ian’s unidentified lady and insinuated she hated the fans and didn’t want him to spend time with them.
Teirney chewed on her nails, biting them until they were gone. A terrible, dirty habit she thought she had rid herself of during childhood. She leaned forward in her seat and then shut off the computer. It was all a bunch of crap, and, truthfully, in her heart, she was surprised how little it bothered her.
Her job would never require her to hold a place in the spotlight. In fact, to be good as a stage manager, she had to do the opposite. She really was happy to stay in her black clothes and remain unseen by the audience.
Maybe it was a good thing Ian hadn’t contacted her after her phone message. Perhaps he had seen beyond her explosion and realized she would never be a good companion for him under all the lights where he had to live his life.
Her heart panged. She pushed aside the pain and stood. She had a lot of tasks to keep her occupied. Boxes to fill. Her grandmother’s entire life to dismantle.
Teirney would muddle through until she could be happy again. But that wouldn’t be anytime soon.
“Has anyone seen my phone?” Ian dug through his dressing room for the fourth time as he called out into the hall. He never lost the thing. It was always attached to him like a dog collar. The whole day had been a blur of angst, and he had no idea where he’d set the phone.
“Shit. Shit. Shit.” He threw his hands in the air.
“Ian?” Marie, Teirney’s assistant, was outside his dressing room. He liked the woman, but she wasn’t the stage manager he wished to see right then. The woman he wished was doing time checks hated him, and he had no idea what to do about it.
“Need something, Marie?” He looked at her and tried to smile.
“Did you lose your phone?”
He nodded. “I haven’t had it since I came here earlier to do press with the guy from the British magazine. It’s gone.”
Fuck. If the wrong person had his phone, they’d have access to so much personal shit. He closed his eyes. A publicity nightmare for his family.
“This phone?” She held out in front of her with a grin. There it was, with the state of Texas stamp on the display.
“You knew you had it and you didn’t simply give it to me?” Ian didn’t generally snap, but enough was really enough.
Marie didn’t lose her smile. “Maybe I was hoping I could talk you into having dinner with me if I promised to give it to you at the restaurant.”
He suddenly remembered Marie was the woman who slept with the directors. He’d heard about her. With no male director to spread her legs for, perhaps she had set her sights on him.
“Thanks for the offer. I have a girlfriend.”
He didn’t really know if he did or not. It was possible the woman he wanted would never speak to him outside of a professional context again.
“I didn’t believe it when I saw it. I mean, I can’t picture her being with you.”
Ian shook his head. “Phone please.” When she handed it to him, he finally felt as though he could take a deep breath. He had to calm down, find his center before he got on stage.
“Out of curiosity, who do you think I’m dating?”
The cast of women the gossip sites had put in the role of his girlfriend over the years ranged from porn stars to Spanish dancers. Who had the media conjured?
She laughed. “Wow. You’ve really been unplugged today. It appears you’re dating Teirney. Oh, look at you, you paled. Does the idea horrify you so much? She’s pretty, and I like her. As I said, it’s only from her end I can’t see it happening.”