Nikki snapped shut her cellphone and tossed it a little too forcefully onto the hotel nightstand. She wasn’t sure if she was annoyed at herself for stirring up trouble or angry at Clint for something she couldn’t quite put into words, but she was in a decidedly bad mood.
She checked her watch and groaned inwardly. She’d have to be down in the lobby to meet the interviewer soon. She got off the bed and headed into the bathroom. Opening up her makeup bag and leaning closer to the mirror, she began to carefully apply the eye shadow.
If she were being honest with herself she realized, this was a pretty familiar feeling: this feeling of desperately wanting to see someone while being angry at them all at the same time. This frustration that you weren’t getting anywhere while you didn’t even know where you were. She’d attempted long distance relationships before. It was fairly inevitable in her line of work that at some point it would happen while dating someone. She’d be on tour or a boyfriend would be filming on location, you ended up spending months apart.
She pull out lip gloss and began to apply it.
But there was also Clint’s reluctance to go public. Why was he so dead set against people knowing they were together? What was he ashamed about? Why did he have to feel he had to hide them?
She felt the anger growing.
It was wrong. It was all wrong. If he really cared about her, then it shouldn’t matter what other people thought-
Nikki shook her head emphatically. No. She wasn’t going to go down this road. If she went over and over inside her head why she was feeling hurt when he wasn’t there to defend himself, the problem would just grow in her mind till there wasn’t anything either of them could say about it. She’d never made a relationship work. Not really. They’d all been so short-lived. Maybe it was time to try a new approach. She stared at herself in the mirror for a few seconds and then closed her eyes, trying to imagine himself in his shoes.
She supposed if she really wanted to see his point of view, she could understand that it might be difficult after being the one who usually took the pictures, to suddenly have pictures of yourself in the tabloids as you dated a pop star. Clint wasn’t ‘in the business’ so to speak, and that always brought complications…
She opened her eyes and thought back to the one and only ‘normal’ person she’d ever dated. Grady. It’d been before she dropped out of high school, before her first hit song. It sort of shocked her how long it’d been since she’d thought of him; he was after all her first crush and her first kiss. It had fallen apart after her first single was released and the media attention started pouring in. She couldn’t remember now exactly what had caused the rift; had Grady been resentful of all the attention, or had she’d been too busy to spend time with him? It seemed like ages ago. It was a little pathetic, now that she thought about it, that that had probably been her longest lasting relationship. It’d been what, almost ten years now?
Yes. It was definitely time she tried taking a new approach with the whole relationship thing. Who knew, maybe it wasn’t just her public image that could take gaining a couple levels of maturity…
She ran a brush through her hair a few times and then shook her hair back behind her shoulders. She grabbed her purse and exited the hotel room, heading down the hallway towards the elevators.
She stepped out into the large marbled lobby several minutes later. She took a seat in a large cushy armchair and picked up a magazine off a coffee table and flicked through it, waiting patiently. She was just reaching for a second magazine when movement near the entrance caught her eye and she looked up.
She felt a jolt of recognition. No. Not possible. The interviewer coming today was a woman; she had the name written down on her laptop somewhere. This was just a coincidence…a coincidence that was walking directly towards her and was now sitting down directly across…
“Nikki Steele. It’s good to see you again.”
“Tobin Makem.” Reluctantly she held out her hand and he shook it.
“I’m sorry for the last minute switch in interviewers. Heather had a family emergency and had to fly to New York. Since we were both here covering the film festival for the magazine, they asked me to fill in for her today as you already know me from the collaborating together on your last interview.”
“Of course,” said Nikki. “That’ll be fine.” Secretly, she wished Heather’s family could have held off on their emergency for a few hours.
Something in her expression made have shown she was less than thrilled as Tobin smirked and added, “It won’t be that bad.”
For a second she considered pretending not to understand him, but in her present mood she wasn’t feeling like being excessively polite. Instead she raised an eyebrow. “I’m not as sure about that as you.”
He grinned at her honesty. “Well, we might as well get started.” He pulled a tape recorder out and set it down between them.
“So Miss. Steele. Let’s talk about your so far successful career comeback…”
It was exhausting. So many of his questions were loaded with hidden pitfalls and half of them she only saw after the fact. Each question she had to provide a carefully thought out answer for in the space of a few minutes, knowing she was treading thin ice, and she was never entirely sure where he was going next. She sensed that he was enjoying himself, there was a certain relish when he threw a tough one at her, but he also seemed to genuinely appreciate it each time she managed to sidestep any potential disasters.
“Which is why I’m so passionate about this tour,” she was saying. “It really opens up the next chapter of my life both as a person and an artist.”
He nodded and consulted his notes. “And what about your family?”
“Your family lives in Maine I believe?”
“Yes.” She watched him warily.
“That’s a long way from LA, where you live.”
“Really? Maine’s far from Hollywood?” she asked innocently.
His mouth twitched. “Do you get out there much to visit them?”
“As often as it works out.”
He seemed amused by the vague answer. “We were talking about the media attention you receive a little earlier. And I know your father has spent some time in jail. The last time was three years ago. Do you find that the attention that part of your personal life receives makes it harder for you to build a positive image?”
There was a beat and then she leaned over and pressed stop on the tape recorder. “Off the record, this interview is done. On the record, you never asked that question and we ended the interview amicably.”
“You can’t blame a guy for trying.” He shrugged. “Last time I had to be on my best behavior, this time I got to have a little fun.”
“That was your best behavior? Doesn’t speak well for you.” She held out her hand to, determined to keep things civil. “Well thank you for your time Mr. Makem. I look forward to reading the story and goodbye.”
He shook her offered hand. “You’re in a hurry to get away.”
“We’re done here.”
“Unless you’d like to get a drink in the hotel bar. Off the record of course.”
She stared at him for a long minute. “You’re offering to buy me a drink?”
He laughed. “No. I just like challenges.”
“So you attack someone before asking them for drinks? Interesting strategy.”
“I wasn’t attacking you. I was doing my job. And I like the way you hold your own. It takes gumption. But if you’re not interested in drinks I could take you out to dinner.”
“Dinner? In an actual restaurant in the city?”
He laughed. “What else would I mean?”
“You’d wouldn’t mind being seen out with me?”
“Why on earth would I mind that?” he asked quizzically.
She smiled. “That’s what I’d kind of like to know.”
“Is that a yes?”
She hesitated and then shook her head. She could hear her pride screaming at her to agree, but a more rational part of her brain, the part that wasn’t as hurt, told her she’d be throwing something very important away if she did. “No. Maybe I really am growing up. Because while my ego’s flattered, I’m actually not going to risk it.”
“Never mind. I appreciate the offer. And a few months ago I might actually have said yes. Goodbye Mr. Makem.”
He shrugged. “Goodbye Miss. Steele.”