She’d assumed that he’d skated through life on his good looks and his father’s name. He’d graduated from college last year, and the town had all but hailed it as the return of the Golden Boy and given him a key to the city.
But seeing him rub his temple with his battered script rolled up in his hand humanized him. For the first time, Aiden actually looked attractive to Gemma. Her stomach seemed to growl in agreement, and she swallowed back her hunger.
“Need some help?” Gemma asked, and he jumped a bit, startled by her presence. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“No, you didn’t scare me,” he assured her with a grin. He walked closer to where she was standing, but the table was still between them. “I thought I was the only one here. What are you doing?”
She shrugged and looked back down at the plans. “I didn’t really have anywhere else to go.”
The truth was that she didn’t know how much longer she could keep her appetite in control, and Aiden was looking very tempting right now.
Anxiety only seemed to make her hunger worse, and after her conversation with Thea the day before, she’d been rather dejected. She didn’t know where else to look for the scroll, and wasn’t sure how much good it would do her even if she found it.
On top of that she’d had something of a run-in with Alex today. Her car wasn’t working, so Gemma’d been outside looking under the hood of the car, attempting to make sense of it, when Alex had come home. She’d lifted her head just in time to see him getting out of his own car, wearing his dirty work clothes.
Just the sight of him was enough to make her heart drop to her stomach. Even as much as he’d changed over the last month, she could still see the boy she’d fallen in love with, but wrapped in an even sexier package. His sleeve pulled taut on his arm, and she remembered the way he’d held her and promised to love her forever.
Then, as he was walking up to his house, he’d glanced over at her. She’d lifted her hand to offer a small wave, but he glared with such intense hate that it felt as if her heart had literally been ripped in two. It was all she’d been able to do to keep herself from bursting into tears on the spot.
She reminded herself that this was what she wanted, that this was what was best for Alex. The sirens didn’t care about him at all now that he hated her.
This was the only way to keep Alex safe, and even if it meant that he’d never be able to love her again, Gemma knew that she’d made the right choice. No matter what else happened between the two of them, she could always remember the times that they’d shared together, and that had to be enough.
“Now, I don’t believe that for a second,” Aiden said, and Gemma looked up at him. “I’m sure you have plenty of places where you could be on a Wednesday night.”
“Sadly, no,” she said with a thin smile. “At least none that I’d rather go to than the dusty backstage of the theater.”
“You really love the theater, then?” Aiden asked.
“I love pretending to be someone else for an hour or two,” she admitted.
“Well, would you want to help me pretend to be someone else for a little while?” Aiden asked with an alluring smile.
“I’ll be happy to help with the play, if that’s what you’re asking,” Gemma said, returning his expression with a coy one of her own.
He laughed and tapped the script in his hand. “I guess I can settle for that for now.”
“You seemed to be having trouble with the same bit. Do you want to try again and I’ll see if I can give you hints if you get stuck?” Gemma suggested.
“Sure.” Aiden handed her the script. She had her own, but his was already out. “The page is folded down. I’ve been getting stuck with it a lot.”
She hopped up on the table, crossing her legs so he wouldn’t be able to see up her skirt, and opened the book to the dog-eared page. His passages were highlighted, so she found the spot easily, and then nodded to him.
“Okay.” Aiden shook his body, mentally preparing himself for the scene. “Okay.” He cleared this throat, then began, “Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented that you shall be my wife, your dowry ’greed on, and I will…” He stumbled again. “I will…”
“It’s not I will,” Gemma said. “It’s and will you, if that helps at all.”
“Your dowry ’greed on, and will you…” Aiden tried again, then shook his head. “I have no idea what you’ll do.”
She laughed lightly. “And will you, nill you, I will marry you.”
“Wow, Gemma, that’s a pretty bold proposition,” Aiden said with a broad smile. “We hardly even know each other. We should probably go on a few dates before you start making declarations of marriage.”
Gemma laughed, but before she could come up with an equally flirty response, the back door to the theater slammed shut. Both she and Aiden turned to see who it was, and they heard the clack of wedge sandals on the stairs a few seconds before Lexi appeared.
“This is play rehearsal?” Lexi asked with a disparaging look around the stage. “It looks more like somebody’s dirty basement and two horny teenagers.”
“I’m not a teenager,” Aiden said, doing his best to stand up for them, but Gemma couldn’t tell if he was annoyed by Lexi’s interruption or pleased by the appearance of the leggy blonde.