“Welcome to my world” Sean sighed raising his bottle to toast the evening. It wasn’t a very happy cheer. Not for the first time that evening, Darryl got the impression Sean really wasn’t all that happy with his life in LA. He knew Sean had moved out here after his life in New York went to the wall but why didn’t he just come back to New York?
They were talking to a couple of scantily clad groupies who kept calling Sean by the name of his television personality and giggling to each other because he was on TV. Sean smiled, he laughed, he bought the ladies a drink, asked Darryl to take a photograph of him with them and uploaded it on to his social networking sites immediately but all the while he seemed like his skin was the wrong size. And then there was a commotion at the entrance to the club. A whisper swept across the room like the undercurrents to the dance beat and announced Dex Leighton and Krystal Valentina were in the club. The girls, Darryl didn’t catch their names, left without even saying goodbye.
He found her almost instantly and as though she knew he was there Krystal looked up. Their gazes locked for a brief second before she turned away. She pretended she hadn’t seen them! Darryl’s horror hissed at his lips. How did he explain this to Sean? How did he explain this to her friend of many years? How did he explain the fact that the apparent love of his life had just blanked him when she hadn’t seen him for a week?
He had nothing. He didn’t know her well enough to pull the wool over Sean’s eyes. Suddenly, their covert operation to save Sean’s sister began unraveling at the seams inside Darryl’s mind. He turned away from the crowd that had begun to surround Krystal and Dex, scrambling for something to fool Sean with as Sean muttered a curse about Champagne.
“Sorry man,” Sean mumbled sliding a supportive hand over Darryl’s shoulder. “She does this sort of thing all the time.” Sean’s fingers gave his shoulder gentle squeeze.
This was why he didn’t keep secrets, or tell lies. Whether Darryl intended it or not, people were hurt by them.
“Although…” That’s when Darryl heard it in Sean’s voice and looked up to see it there in his eyes. “…I thought you might be different.” Somewhere inside Sean’s ego was dancing and singing along to the smug little tune ‘I knew it!’.
Darryl’s cell vibrated against his thigh, drawing his attention away from the forced remorse. Momentarily, cut off the guilt the had begun to feel like it was being fed into his blood stream through an intravenous drip. Darryl cast his eyes at the cell phone screen. They instantly snapped up and across the dance floor to where America hottest actress sat holding a glass of champagne in one hand and her cell phone to her ear in the other. But she only had eyes for Dex Leighton. “Dr Hawthorne?”
“Does this situation require my attention?”
Darryl sent a sideways glance across at Sean. There had been a shift in his attention while he thought Darryl was distracted by the call. He was now glaring across the room at Krystal. A muscle ticked in his locked jaw and Darryl couldn’t quite get a fix on the vibe radiating from him. Was it fury? Or was it jealousy?
“Just swapping wars stories about a particularly adorable birth mark you have my darling.” Sean’s eyes widened as and he spun around. Those dark chocolate eyes pierced into his as Krystal’s laughter burst into Darryl’s ear. “No, I’m good, kitten. You just be a good little girl under the marionette’s spotlight and play nice with all the other little puppets.”
If looks could cause physical harm, Darryl would writhed in agony from the slicing glare Sean continued to send his way. It was so disturbing that Darryl missed whatever Krystal said. “Love you too kitten.” Darryl couldn’t help but chuckle to himself as he disconnected the line. “You were saying?”
“So, what this birth mark?” Sean asked, the noncommittal remark loaded with layers of hidden depth. Darryl didn’t need his psychiatry training to figure out Sean was fishing. “Where is it exactly?”
Darryl lifted his beer bottle to his lips and deliberately kept Sean waiting. Now was the time to tell him exactly how much he knew about Sean and Krystal’s romantic history. “I don’t need to tell you where it is.”
For a heartbeat Sean’s lips parted. His eyes widened. His face blanked. But he didn’t waste any time covering up his surprise. He signaled to the waitress behind the bar for two more beers. “You’re not fooling me with this shit for a second. I know there’s a birth mark. I know she doesn’t consider it her most endearing feature. And I know exactly where it is. What I want to know is, do you?”
What was it Sean said? What was the phrase he’d used exactly in those first few tense moments when he’d discovered his friend was sleeping with his former best friend? Darryl fought the smugness from spreading across his lips. He wasn’t supposed to find this amusing. After all, if his relationship with Krystal was real then another man was lusting after his ‘girlfriend’. But then again, she was a movie star and millions of men around the world lusted after her. He would need to be cool with that too.
Darryl let his smile widen and chuckled “Like a whole in the head huh?”
Commotion parted the crowded dance floor beneath them. “Oh –” Sean turned away from Darryl “–fantastic!” He moved away from the bottle he’d ordered as the familiar face registered in Darryl’s mind.
“Where is she?” As movie star grabbed Krystal’s arm, spun her to face him and Darryl saw red! How dare he handle a woman that way! Darryl was hot on Sean’s heels towards the dance floor as Dex shoved Krystal’s former co-star off her and placed himself firmly between them.
Justin Ramirez slung his right fist. The contact echoed through the audience in a round of camera shutters mixed with gasped as Dex crumpled to the ground. Justin simply side stepped him and glared at Krystal. “Where’s Katrina?”
“You stay away from my sister” Krystal hissed.
“Stop it!” Justin’s voice boomed above the music. “No one in this godforsaken town can get to her without going through you. So just stop the hard ass protective big sister act because I want to speak with Katrina! Where is she?”
Fury lit Krystal up like a firework on the fourth of July as Darryl and Sean pushed through the front of the crowd.“I swear to god Justin if you come within fifty feet of my sister there’ll be parts of you dressing every window along Rodeo Drive.”
“That’s right Krystal” Justin grabbed her arm again. “Keep making those promises and one day we’ll see if you’re all talk and no action.”
The red mist flooded Darryl’s field of vision. White hot fury surged his blood. He’d never been a violent man in his life. In fact, he’d only ever hit out once before and only after he’d received that very first letter from Faith and he’d confronted the bastard she was married to. But his fist connected with Ramirez’s jaw so fast Darryl didn’t know what had come over him. Ramirez disintegrated into a heap on the floor. The movie star’s widened eyes stared at Darryl like deer in headlights.
“You’ll think twice about manhandling a woman in future.” Darryl snarled at the super star. Ramirez struggled to get up. Darryl stepped forward, pushed him back to the ground with his knee. “Should I make you think twice about manhandling my woman Ramirez?”
His blood pounded in his ears louder than the bass of the dance beat through the night club. It was the only thing he heard while his hand throbbed until he heard Krystal gasp his name. He turned to see her pale blue irises with big dark pupils. “You just…”
Awareness of what he’d said and done flooded back to him as the crowd around them continued snapping photographs on smartphones. He’d just revealed to the world something no one was ever meant to know.
“I know” He whispered. “I’m sorry.” He stepped towards Krystal. “But was I supposed to stand by and do nothing?” Oh god he hoped his acting skills were up to this task. “Come ‘ere Kitten.” He slipped his hand to the back of her neck, pulled her closer. “I haven’t seen you for almost a week.”