“Well, we’ve got how much longer until we get to West Bend?” she asked.
“About an hour or so,” I said.
“Then you’ve got about an hour or so of a captive audience here,” she said. “Considering you had your tongue down my throat before, I’d say we’re pretty well acquainted enough for small talk.” She winked at me, and it made me laugh.
“All right,” I said. “What do you want to know?”
“Who said I wanted to know anything about you?” she asked. “I’m a f**king movie star, and you don’t want to ask me anything?”
The same damn words out of someone else’s mouth and they would have sounded stuck up and bitchy and just plain tacky. But there was this...lightness about everything she said, this playfulness about her.
I laughed. "You are full of yourself, aren't you?"
“Just direct,” she said. “I don’t see any point in beating around the bush about it. There’s obviously something worrying you about going home, and you’re clearly man enough to tell me if you don’t want to discuss it.”
“I don’t want to discuss it,” I said.
“See how easy that was?”
"Okay, princess," I said. "Where'd you grow up? Hollywood? You think you're going to be able to hack it in rural America?"
She looked down for a minute, and I hoped she weren't going to start f**king crying again. But she didn't, just took a bite of a French fry. "Golden Willow, Georgia," she said. "I know small towns. I think I'll manage just fine."
"Huh." I hadn't expected that.
"Surprised?" she asked, her smile more of a smirk.
"Didn't expect you were a country girl," I said.
"Not all of us movie stars grow up rich, you know," she said. "I wasn't always a princess."
"You're not really what I expected from an actress."
"Glad I'm not disappointing," she said, munching on the end of a fry. "I'd hate to be a cliché."
I watched as she took a bite of her burger, and she turned toward me, her hazel eyes bright, hair messily sticking up on the ends. "You're definitely different, River Andrews," I said. "That's for damned sure."
“You’re sure this place is discreet?” River asked. “This is someone you’ve known for a while?”
“You sound like we’re visiting a whorehouse or something,” I said. “It’s a bed and breakfast.”
I deliberately failed to mention that I wasn't friends with the owners, and that people from West Bend may not exactly be particularly happy to see one of the Saint brothers show up, dragging with him a movie star demanding to stay incognito. That’s not the kind of problem you just dumped on people who thought you were the scum of the earth.
Not that I knew the people running the bed and breakfast anyway.
That's not to say we didn't have history, a sordid history. But I didn't know what else to do with River. All I could think about was the look that would inevitably cross her face when I brought her home to my house.
No thanks. I sure as f**k wasn’t a masochist.
And I sure as f**k wasn't bringing her home.
Not to my house.
Not to my mother.
Not to my brother.
"You sure we shouldn't have called first?" she asked, giving me this weird look.
"I'm sure it's fine." I said. I wasn't.
River met me on my side of the vehicle. Her hand went up to my shirt, where the collar would be, her fingers lingering at my neck line. The way she did it, the way she paused there, reminded me of a scene from an old movie, the way a woman would adjust the tie of a man.
"Well," she said. "I'm guessing this is goodbye." Up on her tiptoes, she touched her lips gently to the side of my face.
"I'll walk you inside," I said. "Jesus, I am a gentleman."
She laughed, this bawdy, totally in the moment sound that lacked any kind of pretense whatsoever. Her finger trailed across my chest, and she bit the bottom of her lip. I could see her tongue snake along the edge of her lip, and it made it me want to be the one doing the biting. "Somehow I doubt that," she said.
"That I'm a gentleman?" I asked, my brow furrowed. All of a sudden, I was offended that she didn't think of me that way. I found myself wondering what the hell I'd need to do to prove that I was, in fact, a gentleman.
River nodded, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. "Elias Saint, I doubt you could ever be a gentleman."
She turned and walked toward the white ranch house, leaving me wondering whether the hell that was an insult or a compliment.
And leaving me in her wake.
I had a feeling I wasn't the first man to feel that way.
At the front door of the ranch house, River knocked. I stood behind her, feeling like I was back in middle school again, the dirty son of a coal miner, a no good kid from my no good home. I knew June Barton owned this place now, and June's family wasn't like that. I didn't know her, but I knew that much.
She didn't know me, either. Not personally. That's what I was counting on here. The last thing I wanted, with River standing right here, was for June to realize who I was.