Soul Heart

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Gareth Roman, it was finally revealed through the entertainment news sites the following morning, had been dating Isobel Reign for the past five months. He had even been photographed sharing a cigarette with her on the balcony of Chateau Marmont just weeks earlier, with only a towel around his slim waist, and afterward, leaving the same hotel after her in what the gossip rags called her 'walk of shame.' They were also photographed a few times having lunch at the Ivy and Soho House.

Unconfirmed reports stated that the relationship had been kept under wraps so that the studios could capitalize on the rumored rivalry between Gareth and Ashe for Isobel's attentions. After all, Ashe had been dating Isobel for more than a year before the broke up shortly after filming for Sentience wrapped. Because of the publicity push, the rivalry worked wonders for the movie, especially in the foreign markets where love triangles were popular among fandoms.

The next morning, a blind item appeared on a gossip website about two co-stars who had almost come to blows during a press junket over a picture of one of them kissing the other's alleged girlfriend. Promotions for the movie they were starring in would now be done separately, with the lovebirds heading for Brazil and other parts of South America, and the other one walking the red carpets alone with the film's director in Asia.

It made Riley's head spin to read all these things, especially the articles about Gareth and his relationship with Isobel Reign. At least, he'd made a good choice, she thought, for it would guarantee him an automatic role in most of the movies Isobel's father produced in the future. It would make him a bigger star than he already was.

But why had he said the things he had to her? Why had he kissed her?

Because he could, of course.

According to some reports, she was the same woman seen sharing a cab with Ashe and who had been spotted with him at a noodle restaurant—which meant she was seeing both actors. Because of this, fan forums labeled her a skank, a term that infuriated Riley. She had to stop reading the comments because they only made her mad as hell, not knowing how to begin defending herself. Was it even worth it to defend herself to strangers? She hadn't even begun explaining herself to Ashe.

At the thought of Ashe, Riley started by writing him a note, something that she could read out loud when she'd finally get to talk to him. She didn't know why she was feeling so guilty when she hadn't done anything wrong, but she did.

Ashe had made her feel things she hadn't felt before—beautiful being one of them, and special, too. He'd looked at her in a way that no one had for a long time, his gaze never just drifting down to her breasts along with their conversation. It was as if Ashe saw her for more than just her boobs, and she liked that feeling. She missed it, and she wanted nothing more than to get it back. But then, she messed up.

She kissed Gareth Roman.

So Riley wrote down her feelings on paper, crossed out the words, then added more only to cross those out also. She ended up with a full sheet filled with scribbles, some of them tear-stained and smeared with pecan pie. Unlike Paige, she wasn't about to let the rest of the pie go to waste.

In the end, Riley settled for the first draft she had written the night before, held it in front of her as she dialed his number, praying he wouldn't answer the phone—but at the same time, also hoping that he would. Her first wish was granted, for her call went straight to his voicemail. Riley's heart was beating so fast she was afraid it would burst out of her chest, but she held the note in front of her face, closed her eyes, and began speaking. Forget that she didn't even read her note, but she knew it was now or never.

"Hi, Ashe, it's me, Riley. If you've seen the news, then you know what I'm calling about. I'm so sorry for what happened. I didn't mean for it to happen, but anything I'll say now will just be an excuse for something I should have known better to do." She paused, realizing she hadn't read a single word from her note and she wasn't exactly making sense. She panicked briefly, searching for more words to fit the silence on the other end of the line. "I don't know what else to say, but thank you for your lovely flowers. I wish I deserved every bloom, but I don't."

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