The Way We Weren't

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Gareth never got the chance to answer her questions that day, even if he'd wanted to. Halfway through the basic pleasantries, as they sat opposite each other in a restaurant booth, someone recognized him. Soon, it became impossible to talk about personal matters, not when people kept walking past them pretending to go to the bathroom again and again.

After the waitress delivered their beers to the table, Riley counted three trips made by two women who constantly giggled as they walked past them. One woman made four trips before finally slipping Gareth a piece of paper with her phone number scribbled on it. He glanced at it and shrugged, setting it aside next to the salt and pepper shakers.

"Is it always this bad?" Riley asked.

"It's neither good nor bad," he said, taking a sip of his second beer. He'd managed to down the first one in one long gulp before ordering another. Riley wondered if he could possibly be nervous. Or guilty.

"You're only as good as your last project, and when people stop recognizing you on the street, then it's time to figure out why they're not paying attention to you."

"You always liked the attention."

"I'm an actor, Riley. Of course, I like the attention and anyone who says they don't like it is lying. It comes with the whole package now and, if you don't play the game, don't be surprised when your phone stops ringing and the texts stop coming. It's not enough just to be good at acting these days, you've got to constantly sell yourself to the public—and diversify," he said, frowning. "Somehow you make it sound so bad."

"It's just an observation. But then, you always hated being alone."

"And I still hate it," he said, reaching across the table to hold her hand. Riley pulled away, resting her hands on her lap.

"Do you hate me that much?" he asked, his big green eyes sad.

Riley wanted to laugh, but she didn't. She shook her head.

"I waited for you that night," he said, flashing his puppy-dog eyes at her. "After that damn pepper spray thing nearly blinded me. I could have sworn it looked just like—" He stopped and stared at her, his eyes narrowing. Then he leaned back, frowning. "Shit, I just figured it out."

"Figured out what?"

"How Ashe met you," he said, a look of surprise on his face. "He got trapped in the elevator with someone, but no one ever came forward to say, Hey! I got trapped in the elevator with Ashe-fucking-Hunter! You'd think you'd hear about it on Twitter or Snapchat, or even those rags that pay for those kinds of stories. But, no, because only you would keep it quiet, Riley—and Mr. Anti-Social himself, Ashe-fucking-Huner. No wonder he didn't want to say who the girl was and Collette was pretty evasive, too." He frowned. "Ashe must have told her not to say anything."

"I think you're making something out of nothing," Riley said, avoiding his eyes.

"And that's why Ashe went to see you at the Library," Gareth said, still deep in thought. "Did you tell him about me?"

"I didn't tell him anything," Riley said. She pulled out a few bills from her purse and set them down on the table. "Look, it seems we're not going to get around to talking about what happened three years ago, so I'm going home, okay?"

"And now you're avoiding answering my questions," Gareth said, shaking his head. "I can't believe Ashe did this behind my back."

"Ashe is not doing anything behind your back, Gareth," Riley said, sliding out of the booth. "In fact, no one's doing anything behind your back because your back—and your sorry ass—left me three years ago. As far as I'm concerned, that's ancient history and anything that Ashe decides to do has nothing to do with you."

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