It was funny how life worked...you did everything you could to change who you were, to become the person you wanted to become, the person you thought you were. And then it just took one comment from someone to make you feel like that stupid little girl again.
Always thought you were better than the rest of us, River. You're my child, you hear me? You'll never be better than me. No matter where you go, how much money you make, how many fans you have, you'll always be my child.
What she said wasn't meant to be comforting.
It wasn’t true, I told myself. But my heart was still racing. I reached inside my purse and pulled out the small box. As soon as my fingers brushed the leather case, I felt a rush of warmth flood my body. My heart rate started to fall.
I'm just looking, I told myself.
It had been six months since I've done it. I didn't even do it after I walked in on Viper and my sister. I ran my fingertips over the leather of the case, but I didn't open it. Instead, I slid it the kit containing my razor blade back into my bag.
I clenched my fists, digging my nails into my palm. The pain was a distraction, not even near the same as cutting. But I focused on it instead.
I took a deep breath, and walked out the door.
And into Elias.
He was standing in front of the bathroom door, not even bothering to be f**king polite about it, his hands on either side of the door frame. Like he owned the space.
The way he was looking at me made me shiver.
The way this girl was looking up at me, her lips slightly parted, this flush on her cheeks that made them all rosy, like she had just gone running or something... I couldn’t f**king think about anything else except being inside her. I didn't move from where I was standing in the door frame, not to touch her. But I felt her inch closer to me.
"Following me?" she asked. Her voice was soft.
"I want to know what you were really looking at back in the parking lot," I said. "If it wasn't my leg, what was it?"
She exhaled forcefully, and I didn't know if she was pissed off or not. Until she answered. "Your ass."
"Excuse me?" I heard her, but I wanted to hear her say it again. I felt this thrill rush through me, and I swear to God all the blood in my body went straight to my cock.
"Your." She took a breath, punctuating the word. "Ass. I was looking at your ass while you were walking in front of me."
I felt myself grin. I couldn't help it.
"What?" she asked. Her lips were so goddamned pouty I couldn't think straight.
"So you're some kind of reality star or what?" I opened my mouth, and that was the question that came out. It wasn’t the question I wanted to ask. The question I wanted to ask was the one about whether she was getting married.
River sighed, loudly this time. "No," she said. "But my wedding was supposed to be televised. Live. Last night. To Viper Gabriel."
"Shit." Viper Gabriel. "You're dating Viper Gabriel?" Now I recognized her. I had seen her on the cover of magazines.
Fuck. She wasn’t just a little bit famous. She was really f**king famous.
And she was telling me she had been checking out my ass.
"Was," she said.
"Was what?" I was confused. I was preoccupied with the fact that I couldn't seem to get the blood flowing back in the right direction - toward my brain.
"Was getting married," she explained. "Past tense. Until I walked in on him and my sister going at it."
"Shit," I said, shaking my head. I couldn’t imagine why a guy who was with her would want to put his c**k anywhere else but inside her.
River shrugged. "So now you know why I am where I am," she said. "So why are you here?"
I didn’t know why I did what I did next. I hadn't wanted anyone in a long time, much less someone like this, someone way out of my league.
I kissed her. Hard. Her lips parted as my mouth pressed against hers, and her tongue found mine. Kissing her lit some kind of fire inside me.
I pushed her against the nearby wall, hard- too hard, I thought. I had to tell myself to slow down, but River moaned, and it made me f**king crazy. I grabbed a handful of hair at the base of her neck, and pulled her toward me.
"Remember when you used to kiss me like that?"
River jumped and turned her head at the sound of the voice that cut through the moment between us. The older couple watching us had to be in their eighties. The man looked at us and winked before he spoke.
"Used to?" he asked. "I kissed you like that this morning."
"Oh, I know you did, honey," she said, patting her husband on his sweater-clad arm. "I'm talking about up against a wall like this, not against the wall at home." She lowered her voice, adopted a conspiratorial tone. "He used to be a lot more wild. An exhibitionist."
"I can change that if you brought my pills with you," he said.
River stifled a giggle, and I cleared my throat. "Excuse us," River said, taking my hand in hers and pulling me out of the storefront and back toward the car. When she reached the car, she paused, backed up against the passenger side door, her hands on my waist. She laughed as she touched me, her palms on my chest, smoothing the fabric of my shirt. The gesture felt familiar and unknown, all at the same time. It was a strange mixture.