Easy on the Eyes(10)

By: Jane Porter


I glance at my watch, wondering if I should call Trevor and alert him that our Paris rendezvous made tabloid news. It’s eight hours’ difference between L.A. and Nice right now, so he should be done with work and back in his hotel room.

Back at my desk, I punch in his number and wait to see if he’ll answer.

As the phone rings, I tell myself everything’s fine between us. Just because we’ve talked only once since I’ve returned from Paris doesn’t mean there’s a problem. We’re both just busy. And he’s a twenty-six-year-old man co-starring in a movie with Kiki Woods, Hollywood’s sexiest, wildest starlet.

And then he answers. “Good morning, beautiful,” he says, yawning. “What’s new?”

I don’t know if it’s his yawn or his voice, but I smile. He is hunky if nothing else. Hazel green eyes. Dark blond hair. A lock falling forward, giving him a distinctly James Dean appearance. These last six months we’ve had a good time— he’s fun— but we’ll never be serious. There’s too much distance between us, never mind the twelve-year age difference. “You’re dating a cougar, you know,” I say.

“That’s right. We’re on some magazine covers.”

“You heard?”

“Max called me.”

Of course Max would. Max represents both of us, and he was the one who brought us together during the Cannes Film Festival last May. We were all attending the same party, and Max walked Trevor over to meet me. It’s the thing managers and agents and PR people do, but I don’t think even he expected us to begin a six-month romance. Trevor is, after all, a young hunk in Hollywood. He’s the type I interview, not the type I sleep with, but here we are approaching the holidays and we’re together still.

Not that we actually spend all that much time together, as Trevor’s usually away filming.

“So how do we look, Tia?”

It’s been a year since I made the cover of a national magazine, and I barely remember the details. But the first time. I’ll never forget that. A photographer snapped a picture of me lying on Keith’s coffin at his funeral. I was inconsolable. The next week, the photo ran on the front page of Newsweek. I was still a newlywed, and suddenly my very private grief became part of popular American culture.

Excruciating.

Worse, the photograph continued to show up everywhere. I couldn’t go online without seeing it at MSN. Couldn’t turn on the TV without hearing it discussed on The View. Overnight I became a national figure. Because my beloved husband, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Keith Heaton, was dead. Shot by a sniper in Afghanistan.

“Darling, you still there? You haven’t fallen asleep on me, have you?”

I put a hand to my eyes. Although dry, they burn. I can see Keith— the gleam in his eye, that cocksure smile of his. He was brave, so brave, and so foolish. I once loved his bravado. His sense of immortality. He was larger than life, and it enchanted me. Nothing would happen to Keith. Nothing could. And because of that I learned to live larger, too, taking risks I never would have taken before. But now those risks appear to be backfiring. Everything I worked so hard for is about to be yanked away. I could lose everything all over again.

Eyes stinging, chest burning, I take a deep breath and then another. Dammit, I don’t want to feel this way. I hate feeling this way. Too much of my life has been sad. Too much of my life has been spent grieving.

“Not asleep,” I answer huskily, sitting upright and struggling to inject some life into my voice, even as I remind myself that covers of magazines must be heady stuff for Trevor. He’s young and he’s hungry for fame. “You look like a movie star.”

Madison, my assistant, pops into my office. “Hey, cougar,” she mouths, dropping yet another magazine on my desk. It’s one I haven’t seen before, Star, and they’ve got the same shot of Trevor and me, and this one’s headlined COUGAR ON THE LOOSE!

I glance up at Madison and roll my eyes. She reaches up to claw the air like a big cat.

Shaking my head, I try to push away the magazine, but she opens it up instead to a two-page spread with more photos from our weekend. Trevor and me cuddling on the Seine riverboat. A photo of us lip-locked in the rain. Another shot of us disappearing into our hotel.

It’s so weird, because I never saw one camera this trip. I didn’t feel anyone’s eyes, didn’t feel much of anything except pleasure that I was out of L.A. and in Europe and just free. Free to be a kid. Free to play.

But now my weekend in Paris has been turned into a celebrity photo spread with saucy captions.

“Trevor, something’s come up. Can I call you back in a few minutes?”

“I’m heading out for the evening, but why don’t you try me before you go to bed.”

“Okay. Have fun.”

Off the phone, I hand the magazine back to Madison. “Keep it or I’ll toss it. I’m not interested.”

“Don’t you want to see what they say?”

“I saw enough.”

“There are more photos, too, on their Web site.” She pauses, then growls, raking the air with another imaginary claw. “Cougar.”