To Audrey’s horror, Cade produced a prescription pill bottle and held it out. As she watched, Daphne’s hands formed small claws and she reached for the drugs, only to have Cade hold them out of reach again. “Just one, Daphne.”
“Just one,” Daphne agreed, breathing heavily. She held her hands out, and Audrey was horrified to see how much they were shaking.
“Cade, no—” Audrey began, but he shook his head at her. She pursed her lips and sat in silence as Cade carefully fished one pill out and handed it to Daphne, who gobbled it down like it was candy. Then, she lay her cheek back down on the side of the toilet and sighed, closing her eyes.
Audrey was not so happy, though. “Can I talk to you, Cade?”
They left the bathroom and walked away a few feet, and Audrey had to clench her fists at her sides to keep from shaking him. “What are you doing, Cade? We brought her here to get clean!”
“I had a talk with her manager,” Cade said in a low, easy voice. “She’s been taking a lot of Xanax over the last year or two, and it’s dangerous to stop her cold turkey. Her manager keeps a supply at hand, and I talked with a few of my doctors about the side effects. They feel that weaning off her slowly is safer than stopping outright.” When Audrey continued to frown at him, he added, “I’ve also flown in my personal physician to stay at a nearby cabin in case we have any emergencies. I want what’s best for her, too, Audrey. You know I do.” He reached out and rubbed her shoulder. “Trust me.”
That hand caressing her through her sweater was so comforting. “I do trust you, Cade. I’m just . . . really concerned about her. It’s so hard to see.” A sudden rush of tears flooded to the surface, and she pressed her palms to her eyes. “I’m just so worried.”
“I know it is,” he said softly. “But I’m here to help.” He glanced at something behind her and nodded. “Why don’t you go take a walk with Reese? Get some fresh air?”
She glanced behind her and, sure enough, Reese was hovering nearby. The ever-present smirk was gone from his face. He looked somber. She didn’t want to go anywhere with Reese, though. She needed to stay right here, especially when Cade was touching her. She wanted to throw herself in his arms for a hug, but she forced herself to stay right where she was. “I can’t leave. My sister . . . Daphne . . .”
“I’ll take care of her,” Cade said. “Go on. You look rattled.”
“Yeah. Come on, Audrey.” She felt Reese’s arm settle at her waist. “We’ll go for a walk around the lake and you can give me that kiss you promised.”
Horrified, she stared up at Cade and twisted out of Reese’s grip. “I did not promise him that!”
Cade only chuckled. “You two have fun.”
“We will,” Reese said with a smirk. “And she did promise me that. Or don’t you remember, Audrey? I seem to recall a conversation we had—”
She clapped a hand over his mouth. “Shut up!”
Something warm and wet stroked over her palm—Reese was licking her hand. A bolt of sensation shot through her body, and Audrey jerked her hand away, dazed.
That had felt . . . good. A little too good. Her eyes narrowed and she waited for Reese to say something now that she’d retracted her hand, but he only smiled down at her.
“You have your phone on you? I can call you if something comes up,” Cade said easily, ignoring her reaction to Reese.
“Mine’s in the hot tub,” she said, lowering her hand and glaring at Reese. “Someone threw it there earlier.”
“Do I want to know what you two were doing in the hot tub?” Cade asked.
“Nothing!” Audrey retorted.
“I don’t have my phone, either,” Reese said. “It left with my date. Don’t worry, though. We’ll be fine.” He looped an arm around Audrey’s shoulders and grinned. “I’ll take good care of her.”
Reese was pretty sure that this weekend was a recipe for disaster. He could just see it now. Mix one junkie pop star with a do-gooder billionaire who’s hiding a secret crush on her. Add in the lonely twin sister crushing on the billionaire, and make all three parties completely unaware of the other’s interest. Stir with that giant stick up Audrey’s ass. Watch fireworks explode.
At any other time, he’d find the combination utterly amusing. Hell, Cade was a big boy. His buddy could take care of himself. And he figured that if Daphne was old enough to get hooked on all the drugs that the tabloids said she was on, she was responsible for her own fate. He didn’t have much sympathy there.
But the factor that was bugging him in this was Audrey, and he wasn’t quite sure why.
Maybe it was the fact that she got so flustered when he flirted with her. Maybe it was the way she carried herself, so incredibly stiff and rigid that sometimes he wondered if she even knew how to relax. Maybe it was the way her full mouth thinned out at the sight of him, and it only encouraged him to be even naughtier.
Hell, it was probably all of that.
But sympathy for the little ice queen who was bound to get her heart broken in multiple ways? That one had been harder to explain to himself. He told himself that he liked a challenge, that he was simply bored and looking for a diversion, and her prickliness was definitely a diversion. But when she looked up at Cade with those wide, shining eyes and that soft smile? Like he was Sir Galahad reborn and had arrived to save the day?
Reese had to admit, he got a little jealous. Not of Cade, of course. Cade was oblivious to Audrey’s devotion, seeing it only as the affection of a friend, or worse, a little sister. It was the way she gazed up at him as if he were her hero. As if, now that Cade was there, everything in her world would be all right. Like everything was good again, simply because he’d arrived.
And Reese had realized that no one ever looked at him like that.
Which was not to say that he didn’t get female attention—the opposite, really. Women had ceased to be a challenge long ago. Throw a little flirtation their way, laugh at their jokes, flatter them, pay attention to them, and he’d have a woman eating out of the palm of his hand within hours.
It was no challenge whatsoever. And once they found out he had money? It just became even easier. He was good looking and knew how to charm. Women often looked at him as if they wanted to devour him whole, or test out how he was in bed.
No one ever looked at him like Audrey looked at Cade. Like he was a motherfucking hero.
And for some reason that bothered Reese and challenged him all at once. Audrey cast him withering glare after withering glare, but because Cade helped her put away groceries and rubbed Daphne’s back while she barfed, he was worthy of adoration and blind devotion?
The competitive side of Reese made him want to see if he could get Audrey to look at him the same way. And it had been that competitive side that had made him speak up and insist on the kiss she’d promised him.
Audrey had turned bright red of course, the freckles standing out on her skin. And she’d huffed and blustered, but had been quick to escape once Cade turned his questioning gaze on her. Yeah, she didn’t want to explain that one to Prince Charming, did she?
Oddly enough, it made him feel protective of stiff little Audrey. Perhaps she had a naughty side after all, and was doing her best to hide it from Cade. Not to worry, Reese thought to himself. If there’s a wicked side to you, I’m just the man to find it.
Even her steps down the dirt path to the lake were jerky and irritated, he noticed with amusement. She walked a few paces ahead of him, arms crossed over her chest, back ramrod straight. It was cute, much like the way a pissed-off rabbit would be cute. Fluffy and harmless.
He let her continue on for a few minutes, and when they got to the dock at the edge of the lake, she turned to glare at him, shivering a little. She hadn’t worn a jacket and it was bitterly cold outside with the night wind. “Is this enough of a walk for you? Or should we go back to the house and see if you can humiliate me again?”
“Here.” Reese shrugged off the jacket he’d borrowed from Cade’s closet and offered it to her.
She took it, giving him a wary look. “You’re not cold?”
“Nah.” He watched her as she shrugged it over her shoulders, holding it tight to her body. “It’s a little small for me.”
“All of Cade’s clothing is a little small for you,” she told him, her gaze straying to the too-tight fitness club T-shirt he wore.
“Yeah. These jeans are seriously crushing my balls. I’m gonna be gelded before the weekend’s over.”
She got that weird look on her face that told him she was probably blushing in the moonlight, though it was too dark to tell. “Well, maybe you being gelded wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” she told him in that prim little voice, “considering your reputation.”
“I’d be depriving the world of greatness if that happened,” he drawled, enjoying when her posture got just a little stiffer.
“You have a very high opinion of yourself.”
“Yes, I suppose someone should,” she said, and gave a haughty little sniff.
Time to wipe that smugness from her face. “So, you ready to give me my kiss now?”
Even in the shadows, he couldn’t miss the withering glance she shot at him. “Do you know how much I hate you right now?”
“Don’t know, don’t much care, but I’m sure you’ll tell me.”
She was mutinously silent.
“It won’t be that bad,” he teased her, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning up against a nearby pier beam. “I’m told I’m quite a good kisser.”
“You do have quite the ego,” she muttered. “Did it ever occur to you that I don’t want to kiss you? That I’m not bowled over by your so-called charm?”
“Is it because you think you won’t be any good at it? Performance anxiety?”
“That’s it, isn’t it? I can give you lessons, you know. So you’re good and ready by the time Cade pulls his head out of his ass.”
Audrey’s gritted teeth flashed in the moonlight. “I despise you.”
“Not in your wildest dreams,” she bit out. “That wasn’t part of our negotiation. Our agreement was one kiss in exchange for your silence.”
He rubbed his chin as if pretending to consider this. “I’m pretty sure we didn’t give specifics.”
“We should have!”
Reese gestured at her. “Let’s set the groundwork, then. You tell me what you thought our kiss should entail and I’ll tell you what I thought, and we can meet in the middle.”
The look she gave him was wary, but hopeful, and she clutched the borrowed jacket tighter to her shoulders. “That sounds reasonable.”
“I’m a reasonable man.”
She snorted with disbelief, and he had to grin at that. Perhaps that stick wasn’t crammed so far up her ass after all.
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