“Skeletons,” he says. “The kind that live in closets.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” But I feel cold anyway.

“I’m just thinking about how high and mighty our Mr. Stark is. You land pretty hard when you fall from the stratosphere.”

“Dammit, Carl, what are you telling me?”

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“You? Not a goddamn thing. But tell loverboy I’ll be in touch.”

He walks away from me. I decide to skip the ladies’ room and return to Damien. I give him a rundown of the conversation and watch his face grow hard.

“Do you know what he’s going on about?” I ask, thinking about the abuse that he still hasn’t told me about.

“No,” he says. His voice sounds calm, natural. But there’s a shadow in his eyes. That same coldness settles around me, and I’m afraid that he’s going to shut down and push me out. But then he draws in a breath and pulls me close. “Probably some shit to do with my father,” he says. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t want either my father or Carl Rosenfeld to ruin our evening.”

He pulls me close and kisses me hard, and I nod agreement. Right now, I don’t want either of those men between us, either.

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Back at the Malibu house, we make love slowly and sweetly, and I lose myself in Damien’s touch, letting him erase all my fears and worries. In the shower, he soaps me down, gently stroking the cloth over all of me, then rinsing us both off until we feel clean and new. He wraps me in a towel and leads me back to the bed, then slides under the sheets with me.

He’s on his side, looking at me, that enigmatic smile curving on his lips. I curl my fingers in his hair, holding him there, making sure there’s nothing for him to see but me. “You’re mine, too, you know,” I whisper, and only when he says yes do I loosen my hold and draw his mouth down to mine.

I feel the change in his breathing as he falls asleep pressed close against me. I think about the skeletons and ghosts that still hide in the dark corners of Damien’s past. I remember Eric Padgett’s words. Secrets, he’d said, and I shiver, afraid that Damien’s going to have to face that darkness. But I’ll be there when he does, and we’ll face the darkness together.

I can. Because when Damien’s beside me, I’m no longer afraid of the dark.

To Shauna and Gina … who know why.

Special thanks to Stefani, Kelly Jo,

and Kathleen for the early reads,

comments, and enthusiasm.

And thanks to the folks at Learjet,

the FAA, and Stars in Your Eyes

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for so thoughtfully answering my

questions; any errors are my own.

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