He doesn’t break it until the elevator touches down with a gentle thud on the ground floor of the hotel.
‘Wait a sec.’
I am not even sure my legs can carry me, so it’s easy to do as he suggests. He lifts a spare baseball cap off his head—I didn’t even realise he was carrying it—and places it on mine, then reaches for my hand, pulling me out of the lift.
The foyer is as usual. There are a couple of guards by the doors. But when we step out it’s like the whole world erupts.
Flashes go off in my face and Ethan, beside me, swears. He squeezes my hand and suddenly Grayson is there, pushing people back, cutting a path for us through the crowds. But they move with us, following, and I am afraid.
Beside me, Ethan tosses a look over his shoulder. ‘Wankers.’
There’s a car waiting. Grayson shepherds us into it. Ethan steps back to let me in first and I don’t hesitate. I slide in, keeping my head down, grateful for the protection offered by the cap, which shields at least some of my face.
My breath is fierce.
Ethan moves in beside me. He stares at me for a long second and then shakes his head.
‘I’m sorry about that.’
I don’t know what to say. Questions and doubts run through me. He must have known that would happen?
But I’ve left his hotel lots of times and not seen anything like that.
‘It’s the concert,’ he explains, reaching for my hand again and lifting it to his lips. He presses a kiss against the racing pulse point.
I nod, but only because he seems to be waiting for me to say something. I’m full of doubts.
‘That’s... I can’t believe you live like that.’
‘Yeah.’ His lips compress. ‘It takes a bit of getting used to.’
‘I could never get used to it.’ I shudder in revulsion. It is yet another reason to be grateful for the fact that this is going nowhere.
‘It’s not all the time. In fact when I’m out on my own I can usually do most stuff. I should have checked the foyer before bringing you down. That won’t happen again.’
I shrug, staring out of the window. ‘It’s only one more week,’ I point out. ‘We can keep a low profile after this.’
He doesn’t say anything. What is there to say?
Grayson takes us a few blocks south and pulls up outside a diner. I’ve never heard of it, but when we step inside the guy behind the counter comes over and wraps Ethan in a bear hug. I stand back and watch curiously.
‘How you going, mate?’
‘See you lit up Manhattan last night.’ The man, who’s wearing chef’s pants and a white T-shirt, punches Ethan jokingly on the chest. ‘Surprised your head still fits through the door.’
Ethan laughs. ‘Benji, this is Alicia. My cousin Benji, here, happens to make the best burgers in town.’
‘Think you might be biased there.’ Benji grins, but reaches across and shakes my hand. ‘Though they are pretty damned good. Nice to meet you, Alicia.’
Benji nods towards a table at the back. ‘You want coffee? Beer?’
‘Coffee.’ Ethan nods. ‘Ally?’
‘Same. Thank you.’
He nods and moves through the restaurant, talking to a waitress as he goes. Our coffee appears almost instantly and I curl my hands around the cup.
‘Your cousin seems nice,’ I say, with my head tilted to one side. ‘This is his place?’
‘It’s our place.’
Benji is back, handing menus over. Ethan makes no effort to pick his up. I don’t either.
‘Your place?’ I prompt, studying Ethan.
‘Yeah. Ash bought it years ago. Got me in to run it.’
‘Huh. So you’re a restaurateur-cum-rock-star, huh? Is there no end to your talents?’
Benji laughs. ‘I like her. She’s got your measure.’
‘She has that,’ Ethan agrees.
‘Okay, what’ll you two have?’
‘The usual,’ Ethan says.
‘I’ll have whatever you recommend.’
Benji winks and moves away, leaving us alone once more.
Something heavy lodges in my chest. I can’t explain it, but then I realise. Ethan is renovating a house in New York. He owns this restaurant and his cousin works here. He’s not leaving in a week—not really. Not for good.