She put her hand out and brushed the items as she walked along the counter, enjoying the rush that came from knowing they belonged to the sexy carpenter. Images of him using them filled her mind, turning her entire body to warm mush.
She let her hand settle on an electric drill. It felt strange in her grasp, not an item she’d ever find herself in contact with. She wasn’t even sure she knew how to use one. It was perfect—an unexpected prop and one that a writer could have a lot of fun with.
But she couldn’t take it…could she?
She heard voices from the stage and could tell the group was gathering. The intros were about to start. She had no time. She glanced around to see if she had any other options and spotted an older, more worn drill on the counter. Black sharpie marked it as “Property of Broad Stage”. This drill was better. Bigger and more awkward, but she’d feel less guilty about borrowing it. Without another thought, she picked up the old drill and began wrapping the cord around its body.
“Did you get lost?”
She spun around at the sound of the familiar voice—the voice that made her slippery in her silk panties—and clutched the drill behind her back.
Seth stood in the doorway, one arm propped against the frame, his blue eyes freezing her to her spot. He wore a plain burgundy T-shirt and carpenter jeans. She hadn’t imagined the intensity of her attraction to him—it was real. Just looking at him now made her chest tight and her lungs struggle for air.
Realizing he’d nearly caught her in the act of “borrowing” a tool, she threw her shoulders back and put on her best innocent look. “No, I was…just…trying to find some place I could be alone.” She could feel her eyelashes fluttering as she spoke, as if they had a mind of their own. Whether they were trying to hide her guilt or flirting, she wasn’t sure.
God, she was pathetic.
Seth narrowed his eyes and approached her with long slow steps, each making her heart beat faster. “There are lots of places in the theater to be alone. This isn’t one of them.”
It certainly wasn’t. Though she was alone with him. His words pretty much acknowledging that fact made her lightheaded.
He kept coming toward her until he was right beside her. “Aren’t you supposed to be at the cast Meet and Greet?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be there?”
“I’ll get there eventually.” He leaned against the counter and gestured at her with a nod. “Whatcha got behind your back?”
His scent, a mixture of soap and sweat and cedar, wafted from his skin, making her weak in the knees. “Nothing.” Yeah, that didn’t sound childish. “I mean, none of your business.” Oh, much better.
Why did speaking to Seth always get her so flustered? He wasn’t supposed to talk to her, anyway. It was a rule all the crew was given—only talk to the actors when necessary for the show. That was the assurance given to protect the stars’ privacy. She clutched onto that rule now like a life vest. “You aren’t supposed to talk to me.”
Obviously, Seth didn’t care too much about following rules.
And if he was going to be that way, she wasn’t going to feel bad about borrowing a drill. She just had to figure how to get out of there with it. Glancing around, she spotted another exit just behind her. If she walked backwards, she could make it to that door without him spotting the drill. She had to try.
“Well, since I’m essential out there, I better go.” She took one cautious step away from him.
“You mean as opposed to me being unessential.”
She hadn’t meant for that to sound so snotty. “No.” But it was true. The Meet and Greet was about the actors. The set was completely unnecessary. “Well, yes. But…”
“Don’t fret it, princess. I knew what you meant.”
His tone reaffirmed that he’d already made up his mind about her. He thought she was stuck-up, and wasn’t she? But he didn’t have to parade his disgust for her. “Whatever.”
She took another couple of steps backward, but the cord slipped from where she’d wrapped it around the drill. Before she realized it, the heel of her sandal caught on it, throwing her off balance. She cast out her arms, trying to stop her momentum, but she only managed to postpone the inevitable fall.
Thankfully her plummet was stopped by strong, fast arms that circled around her waist in a firm grasp.
“Whoa.” Seth held her, his face inches from hers, concern in his eyes mixed with something else. Desire? “You okay?”
She stared into his face, at his lips so close she could kiss them if she lifted her head. She wanted to lift her head. So bad. “I’m okay.” Her voice was a whisper. “I just tripped.”
His eyes scanned her face, lingering on her mouth. Then moved lower to her breast line. She felt her skin warm and redden under his gaze. When his stare found its way back to hers, he unwrapped an arm from her waist and brought it between them.
She tensed, waiting for his touch. Longing for his touch. Would his hand trail up her arm? Or caress her cheek? Or, though highly inappropriate, brush her breast? She let out a shaky breath at the thought.
But the touch she longed for didn’t come in any form. Instead, he pulled the tool she still clutched from her grasp and curled his lip. “If you needed a drill, princess, all you had to do was ask.”
Disappointed and embarrassed, she pushed out of his arms. “Don’t call me that.”
“Do you need a screw as well?”
“Stop it, okay.” It surprised her how near tears she was. “I needed a prop. Are you happy? I knocked over my purse in the car and my handcuffs must have fallen out and my assistant is clear out in Bel Air picking up my birth control and she won’t be back in time for the Meet and Greet, even if I manage to go last and I was desperate so I came in here to look for something I could use and this was the first thing I found.” Her words tumbled out in a rush.
He chuckled in a way that both irritated and excited her. “Handcuffs? Birth control?”
Her face warmed from equal parts frustration and humiliation. “Can I just…can I use it?”
“Can you use what?”
“The drill, Seth.”
“Of course. I told you all you had to do was ask.” His eyes sparkled with amusement. “But here—” He exchanged the theater’s drill for his own still on the counter. “Take mine instead. No one will know who it really belonged to or that you came unprepared. Now, wasn’t it a good thing that I was around?”
He held out the drill to her and she took it, brushing his fingertips as she did. The touch shot a surge of electricity through her body. Still, she said, “This doesn’t make us friends.”
His hand sprang out and grabbed her arm just below her elbow. “Do you really think I want to be friends?”
Confused by the roughness of the action and the delight of his fingers on her bare skin, she didn’t know if she should pull away or lean in farther. “I…I don’t know what you want,” she managed to stammer, realizing she didn’t know what she wanted either.
His grasp softened slightly and he drew her closer. For the second time that night, she thought—no, wished—he would kiss her. Instead, when his head bent toward her, it stopped near her ear. “Isn’t it too bad that you won’t let yourself find out?”
His husky whisper sent a serious shiver through her body. For one minute she believed she could let herself find out. That she could forget her past and everything that Seth represented to her. That she could fall into his arms and let his mouth and body erase every bad memory and association she had with people who performed manual labor for a living.
But she’d spent too many years believing just the opposite. The walls she’d have to break down to let someone like Seth in were pretty sturdy.
When she spoke, her voice didn’t sound like her own. The tone was meek and unsure and breathy. “I have to go.”
“Yes, you do.”
He released her and she turned and walked away on unsteady legs. And just like when she’d left her trailer house at sixteen, she didn’t look back.
He was like her past. She didn’t need him. She didn’t want him.
This time, though, the effort to not look was excruciating.