“What are you thinking?” he asks as he tilts his head to the side.
“You just blushed and blinked fast. You were thinking something.”
I lick my lips and then just smile and shrug. “I was thinking about licking your neck.”
He stops chewing and stares at me for a long minute, then swallows hard, like the food in his mouth is suddenly dry and tosses the rest of our lunch in the garbage.
“We need to get out of here.”
“Because I’m two seconds away from carrying you back to your room and saying fuck the movie. Let’s go.” He holds his hand out for mine, and when our fingers lace, he leads me out of the apartment and down to his Jeep.
“What movie do you want to see?” he asks as he drives into downtown Seattle and finds parking.
“Hmm… something either funny or full of action.”
“No chick flicks?” he asks in surprise.
“No way. Nothing mushy.”
“You’re my kind of girl.”
“I’m so glad to hear that,” I reply with a laugh and follow Mark into the movie theater. He buys our tickets for something called Waterfall.
“I’ve heard good things about this one! It’s the new action movie with Mark Wahlberg, right?”
“Yep,” he confirms. “Luke produced it.”
“He did? Holy shit, that’s cool.”
Mark smiles proudly and waits in line with me for some popcorn. “Do you still mix M&M’s in your popcorn?”
“Of course,” I reply.
We gather our snacks and choose seats toward the back of the theater.
“So Luke’s been producing for a while,” I comment casually and pour my plain M&M’s into the bucket of popcorn. “You used to bring me M&M’s to school every single day.”
Mark grins and steals one and pops it in his mouth. “I thought I was so clever, coming up with that play on our first initials.”
“You were clever,” I insist. “I thought it was incredibly romantic.”
“You were easy to please.”
“I was sixteen.” I shrug. “Tell me about Luke.”
“Yes, he’s been producing for a long time. He mostly recruits the lead actors and finds funding for the projects, so he can work mainly from home.”
“That’s awesome.” I shove some popcorn in my mouth.
“You’re such a lady,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s popcorn,” I say, but it comes out sounding more like it’sh pocorn. “I saw Luke’s Nightwalker movies.”
“Did you have his poster hanging on your wall too?”
“No, I was too old for that, and I’d already slept with his brother,” I reply without thinking then gasp and stare at Mark in horror. “I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m glad you didn’t have his poster on your wall, and that you’d already slept with me.”
I laugh and shake my head. “I still have no filter around you. What is that all about?”
“I like it that way.” He leans in just as the previews start. “We don’t have secrets, M.”
I meet him halfway and press my lips to his, then sit back to enjoy the movie.
“Sam’s gonna be here, isn’t she?” I can’t bring myself to open the Jeep door. Mark just parked in front of one of the biggest homes I’ve ever seen, in an exclusive neighborhood of North Seattle.
I’m at Will Montgomery’s house. The football player. The super sexy and talented Will Montgomery.
Holy fucking hell.
“Yeah, she’s going to be here.”
“She hates me.”
“No, she doesn’t.” He cups my chin in his hand and makes me meet his gaze. “Sam’s mellowed a lot over the past few years. Besides, I don’t give a shit what Sam thinks. Remember?”
I nod and look back to the house, swallow hard, and try to think up a viable excuse to go home.
“It’s gonna be fine, M.”
I nod again. I can just nod. Why am I so fucking nervous? I’ve danced before audiences of thousands. Tens of thousands. The super rich and famous and everyone in between.
But these people matter to Mark and in the past forty-eight hours, Mark has grown to matter more than anyone else ever has before.
After the movie, we went back to my place and watched TV all evening. At around midnight, he kissed me thoroughly and then went home.
He went home without making love to me.
Because we’re getting to know each other again.
I don’t want to screw this up with the people who mean the most to him.
“Okay, your brain is moving way too fast, baby.” He jumps out of the Jeep, jogs around to my side, and pulls me into his strong embrace. “Take a deep breath, M.”
“No, you’re not. Just breathe. You’ll have fun. You’ve already met almost everyone here.”
I nod and smile bravely. He’s right. This is no big deal. I’ll make conversation and the next few hours will pass quickly and then I’ll have Mark all to myself again.
He takes my hand and leads me around the side of the house to the back yard. The view of the Puget Sound is breathtaking. It’s a gorgeous spring day, warmer than usual for this time of year. Tables with umbrellas are scattered about the yard, and children are laughing and running around.
“I thought you said this was a small family thing,” I whisper to Mark in a new panic.
“It is.” He smiles apologetically. “This is all family.”
My eyes widen at the number of people here. I recognize Jules holding Stella, gazing lovingly up at a tall, dark man wearing a black T-shirt and jeans. His right arm is covered in tattoos. Luke and Natalie are standing with them, laughing at something Jules is saying.
“Hold on,” I say and tug Mark’s arm back. No one has seen us yet. “Before you start introducing me, point out who we’re looking at so I have my wits about me.”
“I recognize Luke, Natalie and Jules. That must be Nate?”
“Yes. Over there is Sam and Leo.”
“Holy shit, the rags were right. Sam’s with Leo Nash.”
“She is. He’s really cool. That redhead with them is Meg. She and Leo grew up together and Meg is Will’s fiancée.”