Tough Enough(5)

By: M. Leighton

“I don’t doubt that one bit,” Mona murmurs, drawing me back to reality and the conversation going on around me.

“So does that mean you’re Katie?” he asks me, blatantly ignoring Mona, who is still clutching his hand, practically drooling all over it. “Are you the beautiful artist I’ll be spending my mornings with?”

There’s a silk thread in the gravel of his voice now. It soothes and it entices. It invites and it promises.

No wonder the world fell in love with him. He’s flat-out hazardous! That smile, that friendly nature, that wickedly handsome face . . . It’s a potent combination. It’s even working on me! And, as damaged as I am, I didn’t think any masculine wiles would be able to penetrate the thick scars I’ve developed. But, then again, I never expected to meet someone like Kiefer Rogan either.

“Yes, I’m Katie,” I mumble when I finally find my voice.

Rogan unfolds his big body from the makeup chair. I catch and hold my breath, stunned into immobility for the second (or is it the third?) time in a few short minutes.

He’s got to be over six feet; six feet of solid muscle and graceful lines. Wide shoulders, narrow waist, thick arms and legs, and it’s all encased in denim and cotton that hugs him like a lover.

In a slow walk that practically screams SEX, he makes his way across the room to me, not stopping until I have to look up at him from my diminutive five feet, three inches. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Katie. I look forward to changing your mind about me.”

I’m spellbound. As much as I don’t want to be, I am. Not only is he gorgeous, which is bad enough, it’s clear that he’s charming, too. Good God, what a combination.

Up close, he’s even more heart-stopping. I can see that, unlike his hair, his lashes are nearly black and sinfully long, framing his eyes and turning plain green into dazzling emerald. I can also see that there’s a tiny scar marring the smooth line of his upper lip. I wonder what it would feel like to run my fingertip over it. I find myself inordinately fascinated by it.

I drink him in, albeit reluctantly. Kiefer Rogan is like champagne—undeniably delicious, deceptively light, and too easy to get drunk on. To lose your mind with. To make a mistake with.

That mouth quirks into a half-grin and my gaze flies back up to his. His expression is amused. Confident. Sizzling.

Not taking his eyes off mine, Rogan reaches for my hand, curling his warm, rough fingers around mine. He lifts and shakes my hand, each pump a leisurely, measured movement, like he’s thinking of things other than the polite, innocuous gesture. It gives me a little chill to imagine what those things might be.

When I reply to his determination to change my mind about him, I’m proud that it’s in a calm that belies my inner flux. “That’s not necessary. We don’t have to like each other. I’m just here to pretty you up for the cameras each day.”

“Oh, I already like you,” he claims in a low voice. Before I can respond, he continues. “But Mona here doesn’t think I need much prettying. Do you disagree?” His eyes twinkle with mischief, and I can only imagine what a less scarred and backward woman might be feeling right now. Dazzled, flattered, lustful. All of the above?

“It’s my job to make everyone prettier,” I reply mildly. I know better than to stir up that hornets’ nest. I’m used to stroking egos and protecting pride. I work with some of the world’s vainest actresses. Diplomacy is practically a job requirement in my field.

One corner of his mouth curls into that irresistible, lopsided grin again. This time, he’s so close that I can see a dimple appear in his lean cheek. “Then consider me your willing canvas. Do your worst.”

I would take a deep breath, but my lungs feel like they can’t expand anymore, like they’re already near bursting. “Then have a seat and we’ll get to work,” I suggest breathily, hoping he’ll take the hint. At this point, I’d say just about anything to get some space from his disconcerting proximity. If I’m to spend the next six weeks in his face, touching him and getting him ready for his part as Drago in the cable series Wicked Games, then I need for day one to begin with as much professionalism as possible. And at this rate, that’s looking less and less likely to happen. I mean, I started off by insulting the guy within earshot. Not an easy opening from which to recover.

After a few seconds of staring at me with that bone-melting gaze of his and then giving me a full-blown smile, Rogan finally turns to head back to his chair. I carefully and quietly let out the breath I was holding.

“Captivating the crowd already, I see,” a cool and cultured voice says from behind me. I turn to find Victoria Musser, actress, beauty, and witch extraordinaire, standing in the doorway behind me. She looks perfectly rumpled, as though she fell out of bed looking amazing and dragged herself in here to hypnotize all the cameras, with or without makeup.