Good Girl Page 51

But word about the movie hit about the same time that my record became a hit, and all of a sudden my five minutes of screen time became the movie’s primary draw.

I know I sound like I’m complaining, and I really don’t mean to. It’s just…I can’t stand the thought of everyone staring. Whispering.

“What about it?” I ask.

“Sweetie, I know you’re working on your record, and I’ve been tolerant of that, but skipping out on the red carpet…not a good move. Ya get me?”

Has Barb always annoyed me this much? I can’t remember.

“I’m in the movie for five minutes, Barb. I sing a song.”

“Sure, but this could be your in, sweetie.”

I frown. “My in for what?”

“Hollywood. Everyone loves a pretty face, and sweetie, you’ve got a pretty face.”

If she calls me sweetie one more time…

“Well, I’ve also got a bit of baggage,” I say, trying to keep the snippiness out of my tone. “Won’t I taint the event with my ‘scarlet woman’ ways?”

I haven’t told Barb or Candice that I didn’t sleep with Shawn, mainly because I don’t think either one will believe me, and it bothers me that they’d be so willing to lie for me, even if it actually is the truth.

“You know what they say, sweetie. Better a scandal than a no-name.”

Not really the answer I’m looking for.

I bend down to rub Dolly’s head, as she’s perched herself as close as possible to my foot, apparently giving up hope that I’ll come and join her in the icy air-conditioning of the bedroom. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but not only have I readjusted to the sweaty southern heat of my childhood, I think I’m actually enjoying it.


“Yeah, I’m here,” I say, straightening. “What happens if I don’t go?”

“A mistake,” she says.

I tuck the phone between my ear and my shoulder and pile my hair into a ponytail. “I just don’t think—”

“Look, I’m going to be frank with you, sweetie. The whole running-away thing was working great for a while. It amplified the mystery about you, even as it helped cool some of the nastiness of the Bates accusations. But the tide is starting to turn.”

“Meaning?” I say, tensing a bit.

“Meaning that if you don’t get your adorable ass to that movie premiere in a couple of weeks, people are going to start to forget you. In this day and age, it’s not enough to be talented. You’ve got to be present. People need to see your name and your face constantly.”

“Even if it’s bad press?” I ask, hating that my voice is small.

She lets out a hard laugh, though it’s not a mean one. “Even if it’s bad. Hell, sweetie, you couldn’t stay the good girl forever. People were gonna get tired of it. You have an edge now. Mystery. Less girl, more woman. Less angel, more vixen.”

What if I’m not ready for any of that?

What if I don’t want it?

“Let me think about it, ‘kay?” I ask. I notice Dolly waiting patiently by the door for her nightly potty break, and I open the door a crack to let her scamper outside.

There’s a moment of silence, and I practically feel Barb’s disapproval. Or maybe not disapproval so much as mild freaking out that one of her big-name clients isn’t coming to heel.

I usually do. But that’s the thing. I just…I need a minute to think. To wrap my head around the idea of stepping in front of a hundred cameras knowing that the world no longer sees me as the innocent princess. Now I’m a tainted homewrecker.

I shouldn’t care.

But I still do. Even as I hate that I do.

“I’ll call you this week with an answer,” I tell Barb.


“I promise. Just hold them off a few days longer, please.”

“Sure. Okay,” she relents. “And the music’s good, yeah? Radio-friendly?”

I swallow, hating that the sum of my passion can be whittled down to whether or not a DJ might deem it catchy. “Yup!”

“Good. Talk to you soon, sweetie.”

I say goodbye to Barb and take a long deep breath, trying to sort myself out. It’d be simpler if I just didn’t want to go to the movie premiere. I’d say no, stick to my guns, and that’d be the end of it.

But I sort of do. I mean, I don’t want to move back to Hollywood, but in short bursts it’s sort of fun. After all, I’m twenty-two—I like the free champagne and the dressing up. And most important, I like the way the kids who crowd their way up to the front row of events look at me with hope and dreams. The hope that they too can make a living off their art. That their work can be seen, their talent realized.

It’s why I want this house, to foster those dreams.

But what happens when I show up at that movie screening and have the wrong effect? What happens when I’m the type of girl that moms tell their little girls not to be like, the type of woman that other women scorn?

I refuse to feel even the least bit bad about my sexuality.

The double standard of a guy being a charming playboy while a woman gets labeled a slutty tramp is absolute bullshit.

I don’t care about the label.

I care that the label is unfounded. Untrue.

I pour a glass of water and move my neck from one side to the other, trying to loosen the knots. One thing’s for sure: I’m not going to figure out an answer tonight. I need a good night’s sleep, and…Noah.

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