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Read an exclusive excerpt from Rebecca Serle's 'Truly Madly Famously'

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Truly Madly Famously, the sequel to Rebecca Serle’s Famous in Love (coming soon to ABC Family in a TV show starring Bella Thorne), is gearing up for its Oct. 13 release. But to whet your appetite, for those of you who have been waiting to hear the rest of Paige and Rainer’s story, EW has an exclusive sneak peek at the first three chapters of Truly Madly Famously below:

TRULY MADLY FAMOUSLY by Rebecca Serle

Chapter 1

LAX. Post–fifteen hours of travel. Dried skin. Swollen ankles. Sunglass‑covered, dark‑circled eyes. It’s no one’s sexiest look, yet it’s the one that gets photographed more than any other. I don’t know why a single soul would want to see me like this. But they must. Because every time I get off a plane, at least thirty‑five people are standing outside to photograph me. And the pictures will land everywhere. My rumpled jeans and matted hair will be splashed across every single tabloid the world over.

My costars, Rainer Devon and Jordan Wilder, and I are more than movie stars now. We’re celebrities. We have the number one film. Locked. August, Noah, and Ed—the characters we play—are household names. Our love triangle has captivated the world. Twenty million book sales. Two hundred

fifty million at the box office opening weekend. Action figures. Our faces are plastered everywhere. Billboards on Sunset Boulevard. The cover of every weekly.

Locked’s Stars Are Rising

All the RAIGE: Paige and Rainer, Love at Last

Rainer Devon: Paige Is the Reason This Series Works

Jordan Wilder and Rainer Devon Repair Their Relationship

Raige Plays House

We’ve been on an international press tour for the last four weeks to promote our movie. Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Rome, London. A different city every night, sometimes every four hours. I’ve woken up more often lately not knowing where I am than having a clue.

But now I know. Now we’re home. Or, at least, in L.A. “How are you doing? ” Rainer’s voice comes warm in my ear, and I let my body lean against his as we make our way off this, our last flight.

“Good,” I say. “I’m glad we’re here.” Tour was pretty incredible. All those screaming fans, all that energy. But I’m ready for some downtime. I don’t think I’ve slept through the night since we walked down the red carpet at the L.A. premiere.

Rainer pulls me tighter to him. It will be our last embrace until we get in our car. Tawny, our publicist and

 

 

media coach, has strict rules about that—no touching when there are cameras. No touching outside because there could be cameras. Keep your hands to yourself. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in preschool.

Personally, I think it drives the mania. Hiding, I mean. People know we’re together—I did announce it at a press conference, after all—but they are desperate for foot‑ age of us hand in hand. They’re on the hunt for it con‑ stantly. Rainer is superactive on social media. He’s always trying to get me to tweet. He showed me how it works while we were in Rome. He gets thousands of tweets a minute, most of them asking about what it’s like to be us. I don’t know how I’d possibly answer that, let alone in 140 characters.

Because what is it like to be us? How can I explain the dream come true it is to be a movie star? To be with Rainer? I get to live out two fantasies simultaneously. I get to be August, Noah’s lover, and Paige, Rainer’s girl‑ friend. And I’m grateful for that. But it’s also only half of it. It doesn’t include the parts I don’t know how to talk about, things I can’t mention in interviews. That I feel like I’m inside a blender. I can’t tell my toes from my brain. There are times when I wonder where August ends and Paige begins, and that scares me. It scares me more than the flashbulbs and paparazzi. It scares me to think I may not know who I am anymore.

What I do know is that I’m with Rainer, and Rainer can handle this. Fame, fantasy, everything in the middle. He’s not only okay in the spotlight; he thrives in it. And that’s who I need by my side right now—someone who can stand with me. Even if he’s not holding my hand.

As much as I’d like to walk out of the airport next to him, I’m also not desperate for photos of us making out to land at the grocery store my parents go to, either. So I’ll stick with Tawny’s frenzy‑inducing rules.

We make our way downstairs, and at the top of the escalator, Rainer lets me go. He’ll move a few stairs down so it won’t be possible to get a photo of us together. I know the drill.

“The car will be waiting. Three minutes,” he tells me. “It’s never more than three minutes.” He says the same thing to me in every city. It’s his mantra. Ours.

I nod. I kiss him. Once, on the lips. “See you on the flip side.”

Our bodyguards appear, out of nowhere, and then we’re down in baggage claim. I step off the escalator.

I don’t know how they know when we’re going to land. Especially this early in the morning. Does someone tip them off? Are our travel schedules somehow public? Do they spend every day here, waiting for celebrities to get off flights? I tuck my head down. I keep my eyes trained on the feet in front of me. One. Two. Three.

I hear them before I see them. They scream: “Paige! ” My name, like a shotgun.

I see Rainer outside the glass double doors. He swings his backpack into the waiting black Escalade, and I empty out my lungs.

“Paige! Is it true that you and Rainer are engaged?” “Paige! How is Rainer handling the scandal with Britney Drake and his father? ” “Paige! Where is Jordan Wilder? ”

Don’t react. That’s what they tell you. They tell you to keep a positive face, to smile. To never let them see you sweat. But none of that helps with the giant, unquestion‑ able need I have to tell them the truth. To set the record straight.

No, we’re not engaged. We haven’t even talked about next week, let alone the rest of our lives.

Not well. Rainer is not handling the fact that his father tried to sleep with his ex‑girlfriend well. Thanks for asking!

And lastly: I have no idea where Jordan Wilder is. Jordan, the third point of our infamous Locked love triangle, left London a week ago with Alexis Gibson. Alexis is playing Maggie, my—August’s—sister. She was on set for maybe two days during the first shoot, but she’s a major player in the second movie—and she came on the last half of the press tour with us.

According to Rainer, Jordan’s always had a thing for Alexis—the one girl he’s “been trying to land forever.” Not that it’s my business. Not anymore.

“Paige! Will you and Rainer be living together? ”

Nate, one of our security guys, holds the Escalade door open for me, and then I’m inside. Rainer is there, but he doesn’t immediately reach for me. The paparazzi are still shooting through the windshield—the only window in the car that isn’t fully tinted.

One more question—something I can’t hear but that I see makes Rainer sink, makes him cringe—and then we’re driving away.

“Not so bad,” Rainer says the second we’re out of sight. I reach for him at the same moment he pulls me in. His hands go around my waist then up to my shoulders and then he cups both my cheeks with his hands.

“Hey,” he says. He leans down close and kisses me— his mouth presses hard over mine. My hands move up to his neck and then thread through his hair.

“Not so bad,” I say. He pulls me even tighter. “I need a shower. I’m gross.”

He lets his mouth rest on my ear. When he talks, I feel his breath there—warm and charged—like it carries an electric current. “Beg to differ.”

I roll my eyes, but his arms stay around me, and I don’t try to wriggle away. Every day with Rainer, every moment going through this insane tornado of insta‑fame, makes me more certain that I made the right decision. Rainer can be there in a way I really need. Rainer is home in all of this. And Jordan . . .

What is there to say about Jordan that even matters anymore? Jordan has no ability to deal with fame. He’s more uncomfortable with his own celebrity than I am with mine. We did one event together without Rainer. It was a Locked book launch on Maui, and Jordan completely deserted me in the crowds. If we were together, we’d probably be in a bunker somewhere, hiding out. And I haven’t read all the fine print of my contract, but I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed.

The second the premiere ended, and I’d chosen Rainer, Jordan and I became something close to strangers. He would barely talk to me on the press tour, and before Alexis joined us, he brought a different girl back to the hotel every night.

My best friend, Cassandra, says he’s acting out, that he’s trying to prove something, but I don’t know. It’s like he doesn’t even care, like he’s forgotten those moments we shared on Maui. I guess it’s better if he forgets. We both should.

The one saving grace in all of this is that Rainer and Jordan are being civil. I know how painful it was when Rainer thought Britney had cheated on him with Jordan, before he learned the truth about his father. They’re not besties or anything, but Rainer no longer wants to punch Jordan every time he sees him. That’s progress.

“Should we stop off for breakfast? ” Rainer asks me. “It is a special day.”

I raise my eyebrow at him. “Rainer. Shower. Imperative.” He lets his eyes flit downward, just slightly, but it’s enough to make me blush. “Home it is.”

Sandy, our manager, rented me an apartment in Bev erly Hills “fit for Hollywood’s latest It Girl,” but I couldn’t bring myself to stay there alone. It was just too big and empty. So, unbeknownst to my parents, I was crashing at Rainer’s before we left town. He had rented a place in Bel Air, off Stone Canyon, when everything went down with his dad at the premiere and he needed to move out of his parents’—fast.

We stayed at the Bel Air house for two weeks before we left on tour. I loved it. It’s peaceful and quiet and secluded/em>, which right now feels like more of a luxury than private jets, Monaco, and uninterrupted sleep combined. I have no plans to leave anytime soon.

I can feel my body relax as the driver types in the code and the electric gate peels back, revealing the house—all glass windows—surrounded by trees.

 

“I’ll deal with the bags,” Rainer says. “Go ahead.”

 

I thank the driver and walk up the path. The door gives easily. I slide my backpack down in the entrance, take off my shoes, and let my toes feel the hardwood underneath my feet. Home. Or as close to it as I have right now.

My cell rings as soon as I’m inside. I hit answer. “I’m back,” I say. “Just landed.”

I hear my mom’s voice bright and clear through the phone. “Everyone, Paige is back!” Some halfhearted mum‑ bling and screeching on the part of my niece, Annabelle. I feel a slight tug at my chest. I miss her. She’s growing so fast, and I can’t help but feel kind of guilty that I’m not there to see it, and to help out with her. When my sister, Joanna, got pregnant in high school, raising Annabelle became a team effort. “How was the flight? ”

“Long,” I say. “Glad to be back. I got you those postcards you wanted from Paris.”

“Oh, perfect,” she says. “And did you get that ribbon for your sister? She wants all the bridesmaids to wear it in their hair.”

“Got it, Mom.” My sister’s wedding is still a while away. I’m the maid of honor—a role I was born to play, I guess. Although since I’m not there, most of the role’s duties have fallen to my mom.

“Honey, I was just telling your father I think this is the first year we’re not together—”

I see Rainer stumble through the front door, carrying three different duffel bags. “Mom, I gotta go. Rainer is about to throw out his back.”

“Have a great day! ” she says. “We love you.” “Love you, too,” I say, hanging up.

I go over to Rainer and loop one of the bags onto my shoulder. “Show‑off,” I say to him.

“Anything to impress you.” He kisses me once on the lips, and I plod down the hallway to the master bedroom feeling happy.

Before the premiere it was total chaos, but tour was different. Despite the crazy call times and barely there sleep schedule, we had all of this time to just be together. For real, with no secrets. When I chose Rainer at the premiere, with all those journalists there, I solidified our fate together. And we’ve just been getting closer every day since. My face gets hot when I think about our recent hotel‑room stints.

I close the door and peel my clothes off as I make my way into the bathroom. It’s giant, bigger than my entire kitchen back home. It has two showerheads and lots of marble. You could spend a half an hour in here and never fog up the sink mirrors—they’re that far away.

I step in, letting the water pour down over my head, and wash away the flight, the airport, the last month. It feels so good. I exhale everything I’ve been holding in.

As I start lathering up my hair I think about today. No schedules, no interviews. Free zone to do whatever I want. We can order pizza. I can let my hair air‑dry! That one thought alone makes me giggle in the shower.

I finish, dry off, twist my hair up in a towel, and slip on a fluffy white bathrobe—a gift from Rainer. It’s even monogrammed with his nickname for me: PG. Every fan wants to know what he’s like as a boyfriend, and here’s the truth: He’s just as great as you think he is. There are plenty of things I have to lie about. My sleep schedule (I like to get eight hours!), my beauty regimen (masks and moisturizer!), my diet (no cheeseburgers!), but I’ve never had to lie about how wonderful Rainer is. The world is right— when I’m in a blender, he’s the off button. I’m crazy lucky.

“Rainer? ”

My wet feet make smacking sounds on the wood floor. The house is strangely quiet. “Rainer? ”

I see him sitting on the couch in the middle of the giant living room. There isn’t much furniture in this house, just the basics. I love that about it here. There is so much excess everywhere else in our lives right now, it’s nice to come home to somewhere that is just essentials, just what we need.

I see him hunched over the coffee table. I start walking to him, but before I can ask what’s going on I see the stack of mail in front of him—everything we’ve missed while we were gone. Newspapers, magazines. I let my palms move over them, spreading them slightly. They’ve all splashed versions of the same headline across the cover page: Greg Devon, studio executive, dethroned.

Greg Devon Denies Sexual Harassment Allegations

Devon—Hollywood’s Devil

On and on and on.

I sink down onto the couch next to Rainer. I put my arms around him. The towel falls, and my wet hair tumbles down onto his face. I push it back. I pick his face up to look into mine. “I’m here,” I tell him softly. “We’re in this together.” I can’t imagine what it must be like for him—to have his family shamed so publicly. I know he hates his father, as he should, but I also know it’s not easy to see a man he loved, and respected, be ground to a pulp—even if he deserves it.

Rainer slips his hand into mine. He squeezes. “I know,” he says. “And thank you. But I don’t want to get into this now.” He pushes the papers away. “I’m not ruining today.” He cups my chin in his hand, and then he’s kissing me, gently at first, and then stronger.

“You want coffee? ” he asks me, a little bit breathless. “Definitely.”

He gets up from the couch. He’s wearing a T‑shirt and gray sweats. His hair is still rumpled from the plane. God, he’s cute.

“Stop staring,” he says, smiling. “We have a lot to do today.”

“I don’t want to do anything today,” I say. “I just want to hang out here with you.”

He raises an eyebrow before he disappears into the kitchen. “Listen, if what you really want for your birthday is to take advantage of me, I’m not going to argue with you.”

“What? ”

He pokes his head out from behind the wall. His dim‑ ples are dancing. “Your birthday, PG. Otherwise known as the day I get to stop feeling like such a cradle‑robbing old man. You better get on U.S. time quick.”

April 5. Eighteen. “I totally forgot.”

“Well, lucky for you, your boyfriend didn’t.” Rainer comes back and sets a steaming mug down on the coffee table. Before I can form another thought, his lips brush mine. With his free hand, he traces his fingers down my shoulders, wraps them around my back, and pulls me closer. My hands flutter to his shoulders.

“You know, if I took a picture right now I could sell it and retire.” I break away from Rainer and see Sandy standing in the doorway, her arms crossed, a horizontal smirk on her face. “Welcome back, guys,” she says. “We need to talk.”

Chapter 2

Sandy comes toward us, a whirlwind of cream and silk in the form of a slim, blond, forty‑something woman. She surveys us, her hands on her hips. “Happy birthday, PG,” she says.

Sandy is Rainer’s manager and now mine, too. I hired her before we left for tour, but she’s been my acting man‑ ager practically since I got the role of August in Locked— and more than that, she’s been a mentor and friend. She’s basically acting as a mom to all of us.

“Thanks.”

“Before you guys make any plans, we have to talk about those offers that are rolling in for the two of you.” She looks at me and says, “Sorry, kid, the machine rests for no birthday. You’re lucky I didn’t show up at the airport.” She cocks her head at Rainer. “How do you feel about being a young Superman? ”

He gasps. So do I. “Are you serious? ”

“Dead. And you—” Sandy loops her finger in the air. “Have you read any of the scripts I gave you? ”

“A few,” I say. She sent twenty: romantic comedies, a few high school dramas, and one totally amazing script called Closer to Heaven about a girl who leaves home at sixteen to join the circus and ends up becoming the greatest high‑wire artist in the world. It’s one of the most beautiful scripts I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot— there was a time in my life when I read ten a week, easy.

“Closer to Heaven,” I say. “I want to talk to the writer.”

Sandy bites her bottom lip. “I was afraid you’d say that. They got Billy Zack to direct, and he thinks you’re too blockbuster. There wasn’t anything else in those twenty? ” “That’s insane,” Rainer says. “Why are you sending

Paige twenty scripts? I only ever get three.”

“Because I know what you like. Anyway, Paige, you’d be better off doing something else. That one will pay nothing.”

“I don’t care,” I say. “It was the only one I read that I loved.”

“Listen,” Rainer says, reaching over and kneading one of my shoulders. “I think this is a conversation for another time. We just got home. It’s Paige’s birthday.”

Sandy nods. “But I need you to move forward with something soon,” she says, pointing her finger at me. “And I came all the way up the canyon to impress this upon you in person.”

“Hey, have you heard from Wyatt? ” Rainer asks. We read online that Wyatt wasn’t directing the next movie, which I guess would explain why he left the tour after the first week. He was tough, but we loved him, and it feels weird to be moving on to the next movie without him. “He isn’t returning our calls.”

“He’s doing another movie,” she says. She looks resigned. “I haven’t even heard from Wyatt. But we need to get comfortable with the reality that he’s not going to be with us on the next film.” She runs a hand over her forehead, and I know there is more at work here than just business. I always suspected Wyatt and Sandy had a com‑ plicated “friendship.”

Rainer exhales. “We just want to talk to him.”

It’s almost odd seeing Rainer this attached to Wyatt— after all, they clashed for most of the movie. But by the end, Wyatt became like a dad to us. I know Rainer can’t imagine losing him now, either.

Sandy flips her wrist to look at her watch. “All right, moving on. Your father called.”

“Not this again,” Rainer says.

Sandy sticks her hands on her hips. “Look, you don’t want him to be your father? Cool. I don’t think anyone could blame you. But he’s still your producer.”

Rainer turns around and crosses his arms. “What’s that supposed to mean? ”

Sandy gives her best come on expression. “What do you think it means? ” she says. She’s playing hardball with him, and he knows it. I see him hiccup back a laugh.

“You think I care? ” he says.

Sandy shrugs. “About being replaced in this franchise? Yeah, I kinda do.”

Does Greg Devon have that kind of power? Of course he does. He hired us all; there’s no reason he couldn’t fire us.

“Hey, Rainer, can I see you for a minute? ” I say. Rainer follows me into the bedroom. When we’re alone together, I feel the quiet of the room palpably. It’s like there is someone else in here that is taking up all the space, all the air. He goes over to the window.

“She’s right, you know,” I say. Rainer doesn’t respond.

I move closer to him and put my hand on his back. He flinches, but he doesn’t move away from my touch. “Maybe you should talk to him.”

“How can I? ” he asks. His voice is quiet. I realize: He’s not angry—he’s sad.

“He’s your father,” I say. “No matter what else has happened, that’s still true.”

He turns around to me, and I see that his face is hard, set. He’s so much paler now that he’s not playing Noah. He looks almost ghostlike compared to how he was on the island. “He tried to sleep with my eighteen‑year‑old girlfriend,” he says. “How do I forgive that? ”

“I don’t know,” I say truthfully. “Maybe you don’t. But you can’t cut your family out forever.”

Rainer’s eyes are cold. “Why not? ”

“Because you heard Sandy: He’s our producer, too. He’s going to be in our lives.” I hug my arms around me. I want to reach out and touch him, but I’m not sure how I would be received.

“Maybe, maybe not.” Rainer shakes his head, turning back to the window.

“You know we don’t have a choice. If they want us for the next movie—and it’s pretty clear they do—we have to do the next movie.”

Rainer doesn’t turn. “It’s humiliating. The thought of being a part of something he created, that he made hap‑ pen? I hate it. And now Wyatt might not even be on board. Who knows what kind of shitty sequel this could be? ”

“Well, I’ll be in it. And so far my track record is pretty good.” I’m trying to lighten the mood, but a part of me worries that Rainer could find a way out of it. How could I even think of doing these movies without him?

 

It’s us—on camera and off. I need him next to me in all my worlds.

Rainer sighs, and then he finally turns to face me.

“I’m sorry,” he says. He puts his hands on either side of my face, and then he’s drawing me toward him. His lips meet mine, and his hands move down my back. They feel solid there, strong, and I let myself go pliant against his chest, the tension of the last minutes flowing out of me. “I don’t mean for this to involve us.” He pulls back and touches his forehead to mine.

A knock on the door makes us lift our heads up, but

Rainer keeps his arms around me. “Yeah? ” he says.

Sandy comes into view. “I’m heading out, but don’t forget the Awards next week. The stylist is coming by tomorrow with some dress options for you.”

The MTV Movie Awards. I’m nominated for Best Female Performance and Best Kiss . . . twice—once with Rainer and once with Jordan. My first awards show, and there’s absolutely no chance Rainer and I are not going to win Best Kiss. As proud as I am to stand beside him on the carpet, I don’t love the idea of having to kiss him onstage in front of all those people. Especially since I know Jordan will be watching us, sitting right in the front row.

“You look like I just sacrificed a puppy,” Sandy says.

“It’s an awards show—you dress up, you get your pic‑ ture taken, you watch some people sing and dance and say things they’ll probably regret the next day. . . . It’s fun. Speaking of which, have some fun today. Just don’t get photographed with a champagne bottle between your knees.”

“That’s specific.”

“You’d be surprised,” Sandy says, waving good‑bye.

Chapter 3

“Wow,” Rainer says. He’s leaning against the bedroom door, dressed in jeans, a button‑down, and a navy blazer. My breath catches a little when I look at him. He is so damn handsome. “You look incredible.”

I glance down at my black slip dress—something Tawny got me for press tour that I kept, because it was one of the only things I actually liked. It’s not as binding as everything else they had me in. Tawny said it was sexy, but understated—which fits the bill for tonight. Rainer and I are going to dinner, just the two of us.

I have my hair up in a loose ponytail, and I’m wearing the gold cowrie shell necklace Rainer gave me at the end of the shoot. I’ve even put on some makeup—I learned a thing or two from hours in the chair with Lillianna, our makeup director on the first movie. “Thanks.”

“Come here.”

He takes my hand and leads me over to the bed. “Rainer . . .”

“I just want to give you your present.”

I look at him, his dimple winking. The box is blue velvet, and small. The size of a ring. I feel my heart begin to pound in my throat. He wouldn’t. I know he wouldn’t. I don’t care how many tabloid stories about his proposal there have been. We haven’t been really, truly together that long, and I’m only eighteen—he wouldn’t ask me to marry him. Would he?

He shifts on the bed, and I feel my pulse in my ears. He’s twenty‑two. In Hollywood that’s close to forty.

“It’d be nice to give it to you on your actual birthday,” Rainer says, nodding toward the box. “Any day now you can open it.”

 

I take a deep breath. My hands shake as they pop up the lid. Inside is a ring, but it’s not an engagement ring. It’s a gold cowrie shell, just like my necklace, except this one is encrusted with tiny diamonds.

I exhale all the air I’ve been holding. I reach up and put a hand through his hair. “I love it,” I say.

Rainer covers my fingers with his own. “Good.” He leans down and kisses me, but it’s brief. “Here,” he says.

He takes the ring out of its case and slips it onto my mid‑

dle finger.

“Perfect fit,” I say. “Like us.”

I make a face, and he laughs. “This is why I don’t write my own dialogue,” he says. “Come on, your party awaits.”

“Party? ”

“PG,” he says, running a thumb over my cheek. “It’s your eighteenth. You didn’t really think you’d escape without a party.”

“Please tell me you didn’t,” I say.

Rainer plants a quick kiss on my cheek. “Unfortunately, babe, I did.”

We have some champagne in the limo, and by the time we pull up to the restaurant, the bubbles are creating a hazy, sunset‑y feel in my stomach. My head is light and airy, and I slip my hand into Rainer’s as we step out into the night.

They’ve shut down the back of Via Alloro, an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills that Rainer loves. I feel giddy; I’m getting to see some of his L.A. life on my birthday.

The back of the restaurant is all open air, and it’s a gorgeous night. They have heat lamps going, and the trees are lit up with tiny twinkle lights. There are delicious things everywhere—trays of champagne and miniature appetizers. And I see a giant cake sitting on a table—

spiraled words spelling out Happy Birthday, PG. “You’re way too much,” I tell Rainer.

“Just wait.” He takes my hand and winds me to a table in the very back of the space where people are gathered. But not just any people. My people. Cassandra and Jake.

“Happy birthday! ” Cassandra says, launching herself into my arms. I hold her tight, breathing in the familiar smell of my best friend.

“Happy b‑day,” Jake says. He tries to go in for a hug but is instantly squashed by Cassandra, who still won’t let go.

“Sorry I didn’t call,” Cassandra says, pulling back briefly. “I was on a plane.”

She grins at me. She has on a floral‑print dress, leg‑ gings, and giant red sunglasses that keep sliding down her nose. I look at Rainer, who is smiling, his arms folded across his chest. “Told you,” he says. “I give the best gifts.”

I toss him an OMG glance, and then I yelp and squeeze Cassandra close again. “You’re here! ” I say, still not believing it.

“Duh.”

I pull back and hold her at arm’s length. She smiles wide, and my heart feels like it’s going to burst.

“Glad to see I’ve flown all this way to come in a clear

second.” Jake knocks my shoulder, and then he’s opening his arms wide and hugging both of us.

“C’mon,” Cassandra says into his chest. “Like it was going to be another way.”

Jake shrugs, releasing us. “I’ll take it. Hey, you look great.” He says it offhand, and for the briefest of moments I remember Jake and me kissing in my living room. But it’s such a distant memory, it feels as if it belongs to some‑ one else.

I put my hands on his shoulders. “Thanks for coming,” I say.

He wraps his arms around me, and even though Cassandra and Rainer are right next to us, I pull him in even tighter. He’s family. In some ways even more so than my own. Joanna and my parents came out for the premiere, but I haven’t seen my brothers since the last time I was home.

“You may suffocate him,” Cassandra says when I finally let Jake go. I glance over at her, but she’s smiling, unconcerned. “He’d probably let you. He’s experiencing so much guilt about that plane ride.” She mouths the last two words to me.

“My carbon footprint was impeccable until you became a movie star,” he says.

“Sorry about that.”

I feel Rainer slip a hand around my waist. “You mean you didn’t at all enjoy those reclining seats? The candy?” he says. “Sour Patch Kids are your guilty pleasure, right? ” I turn my head to him. “Candy? ”

Rainer shrugs. “I had them stock the plane.” “You flew them private? ”

Rainer smiles and cups my chin with his hand. “They’re your best friends.” I let his lips graze mine. “Plus, it was the clear way to guilt Jake into it. I donated the carbon offset.”

Jake slings an arm over Cassandra’s. “Your parents send their regrets, by the way,” he says.

“They’re deep in wedding planning,” Cassandra continues. “And Joanna couldn’t find anyone to watch Annabelle.” “We tried,” Rainer says.

“You guys being here is everything.” I glance back at the table and wave to Jessica, Wyatt’s assistant, and Alexis—who is, apparently, attending my birthday party.

I peel myself away from Rainer and loop my arm through Cassandra’s. “I need to borrow you,” I say.

“No borrowing necessary. I’m yours.”

Jake clears his throat. “For a limited period of time. Also, I want to talk to you about how you can use this newfound celebrity for good.” His face gets superserious. “You have an amazing platform now, but all I see printed about you are gossip columns about how this dude kisses,” he says, gesturing to Rainer.

I’m remembering this piece that ran before tour about how Rainer had rented out a movie theater for a roman‑ tic date we had. It was true. I still don’t know how they found out about it. Someone Rainer had let in to plan it? Reading it was strange. It was like the reporter had been to a version of our night. We had popcorn, not Skittles. We did make out, though. This is what I’m saying: Being famous is like being yourself, but not. It’s like being your‑ self outside of yourself. There are two versions—the one you know and the one people think they know, and it’s hard to remember which is which. It’s easy to start believing what people write about you.

“I brought a lot of introductory materials,” Jake says.

I glance at Rainer, and he nods. “Jake and I will get started on saving the world. You two do . . . whatever girls do.”

I lead Cassandra away from the table into a corner by a lightly radiating heat lamp. As soon as we’re alone, Cassandra corners me. “How is it going with Rainer? Tell me everything.”

“Things are really good,” I say. “He was amazing on tour. Cassandra, you would not have believed how crazy it was.”

Cassandra nods. “I saw pics.”

“It was bigger than anything you can imagine.” “Scary,” Cassandra says.

“I know. But Rainer is great with it all. Seriously, Cass, I don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s so supportive—”

“And hot,” Cassandra says. She clucks her tongue and raises her eyebrows. I look over at where Rainer is handing Jake a drink.

“And hot,” I agree.

Cassandra takes my hand in hers. “I can’t believe it,” she says. “You’re this movie star.” Her blue eyes look into mine. They’re bright. Piercing. “I’m really proud of you,” she says.

I feel something well up in my throat. I hug her close, and she yelps.

“Ask me about Jake,” she says.

I laugh. “I’m sorry! How is Jake? ”

She sucks in her bottom lip. “Great,” she says. “I mean, he still makes me stand outside superstores on Satur‑ days, but I don’t even mind anymore. It’s fun when we’re together. Can you believe it? ”

“Yeah,” I say. “I sorta can. You two look really happy.” “I am. . . .” Her gaze drifts over to him. “I think he’s

making me a better person. Isn’t that gross? ” “No,” I say. “That’s amazing.”

She wrinkles her nose. “Who would have thought we’d both fall in love for the first time at the same time.”

Love.

“So,” Cassandra says. She squints at me. “You think

Jordan will show tonight? ”

I glance at Alexis. “No idea. You think Rainer would invite him? ”

Cassandra shrugs. “You said they’re being civil again, right? Maybe as a gesture? ”

I finally confessed to Cassandra that something had gone on with Jordan and me on Maui. I told her after the premiere. Well, actually, she guessed it. We were with my sister, but she had stepped out to call her fiancé, Bill, when Cassandra sprung the question on me. I told her the truth: that I had feelings for Jordan, but that I had made a choice, and I was happy with it.

“Yeah,” I say. “Maybe.”

“Have you spoken to him since you’ve been back? ” “Since this morning? No. He’s . . .” I let my voice trail off. I don’t know how to finish that sentence. What is Jordan? Angry? Missing in action? Definitely over me.

I think about Jordan at the press conference. How he looked at me with so much understanding and compassion. Even love, maybe. But on tour all of that was gone. He treated me like a leper. Wherever I was, he definitely was not.

I drop my voice even lower. “He seemed pretty cozy with Alexis on tour.”

Cassandra raises an eyebrow at me. “No chance.”

“You’ve seen her, right? ” I say, cocking my head in the direction of the table. “Plus, apparently he’s always had some thing for her.”

“Well, maybe that’s good,” she says. “You’re with Rainer, right? ”

“Yeah,” I say. “Of course.”

Just then Jake and Rainer come over. “Sorry to interrupt,” Rainer says. “But you are the guest of honor.” “Who, me? ” Cassandra says, blinking at him. I know she means to wink, but she’s never been able to do it. “Fine, I’ll go greet my adoring fans.”

The four of us head over to the table. Alexis immediately stands. “Happy birthday,” she says in her perfect British accent. “I’ve missed you, darling.”

I try to keep my eyes on her, to stop them from darting around the space, trying to see if he’s here.

“Alexis,” I say. “How are you? ”

Alexis is dressed, as usual, effortlessly cool. Jeans, heels, a silk shirt, and a color‑contrasting head scarf. Gold and turquoise jewelry hangs from her neck and ears. She’s tall, too—about five nine to my five feet. She used to be a model—the real kind. Fashion. She grew up all over the world—Paris, London, Portugal. I can’t hate her, though, because she’s genuinely trying to be my friend. I can’t even resent Jordan for wanting her—who wouldn’t?

I suddenly feel really, really short in my black dress.

I normally like being short, but it may not have killed me to wear heels tonight instead of these low wedges.

“Wonderful. How are you? Not jet‑lagged, I hope? ” “Not too bad,” I say, accepting champagne from a passing waiter. “We slept a lot on the plane.”

I wave at Jessica, and she cranes over the table to give me a hug before I feel Alexis grabbing at me. “Let me see this! ” she says.

She snatches my hand and gapes at the ring Rainer just gave me.

I snuggle closer into him. “It goes with my necklace. I pluck it off my chest.

“Gorgeous,” she says. “Rainer has impeccable taste.” And then her voice changes. She gestures behind me. “Wilder,” Alexis says over my shoulder. “You’re late.”

Instantly, I look up, and the second I do, I see him. He’s coming down the path to the table. He’s backlit by hanging Chinese lanterns, and I’m reminded of the first time I saw him, on the beach in Hawaii, framed by the sun. That was back when I thought he was an ass‑ hole, when I was convinced he was out to ruin Rainer’s life, and by association, mine. Before I got to know him. Before I understood everything he had lost and every‑ thing he still wanted.

“Happy birthday.” He looks at me for a beat, and I swear my heart stops. I’m sure Rainer can feel the blood rushing through my body from where his hand still sits perched on my hip. I feel Jordan’s eyes drift over me. They feel like fingers, like they’re weighted, somehow.

“Thanks,” I mumble. The most we’ve said to each other in weeks.

His so‑brown‑it’s‑black hair sits ruffled on his head, and he has on jeans and a gray blazer over a blue T‑shirt. He gives Alexis a quick kiss on the cheek, and I look away.

They’re together. You have a boyfriend. You’re not allowed to feel this way anymore, I remind myself. I swing into action.

“Hey, Alexis, Jordan—these are my best friends, Cas‑ sandra and Jake. Guys, this is Jordan and this”—I gesture to the gazelle standing next to me—“is Alexis.”

Cassandra eyes Jordan way too obviously, and I see him look back at her. “We met briefly when you guys were out here for the premiere,” he says.

“It was just for a second before the screening,” Cassandra says. “It’s good to see you.” “You too,” Jordan says.

“How lovely,” Alexis says, taking Jordan’s arm. “We’re all together.”

I kind of hate her.

The table is round, and she and Jordan sit, Jake and Cassandra following suit with Jessica behind them. Rainer does, too, and Alexis taps the seat next to her, so I’m in between her and Rainer. I’m just grateful I’m not seated next to Jordan, too. Being between the two of them takes all the acting I can muster, and tonight, I’m not sure I have it in me.

“Do you have to file environmental impact reports? ” Jake is asking.

I hear Alexis in my ear. “So, what is the birthday girl drinking? ”

Alexis and I haven’t really gotten a chance to know each other. We were a split group on tour—me and Rainer, Jordan and Alexis.

But here, at dinner, we embark on a marathon get‑ acquainted session. I find out that not only did Alexis grow up in and around Europe but that her mother also lives in Los Angeles, her father has a summer home in the south of France, and she attended boarding school for “one horrid year” in Switzerland. Also fun: She speaks four languages and has two albums out. But none of that compares to the way Jordan watches her—transfixed— like she’s some kind of transcendent creature.

“Happy? ” Rainer whispers into my ear as I twirl some spaghetti onto my fork.

I blink and look at him. His lashes are so long, and with his face this close to me I can almost feel them. My skin instantly pricks up with goose bumps. “Mmhmm,” I whisper. “Thank you. Tonight is perfect.”

 

I feel his hand on my neck. “It’s not over,” he whispers. I pull back and look at him, and my face must reveal some kind of surprise because he laughs—a soft, twinkling laugh—and says, “We’re just going out after dinner.

If you want to?”

“Yeah,” I say. “I want to.”

Rainer turns his attention to the table. He sets his knife against his glass, and everyone hushes. “I’d like to make a toast,” he says.

My stomach starts fluttering. I catch Cassandra’s eye across the table, and she tries to wink at me.

“Happy birthday, PG.” He looks at me, and I feel his hand graze mine underneath the table. I thread our fin‑ gers together. I need something to hold on to. “I’m so god‑ damn lucky you were born today. Thank you for trying out for this movie and for being my August.” He raises his glass up and then he kisses me. I lean into him and taste the champagne on his mouth, and even though I know everyone is watching—Alexis and Jessica and Cassandra and Jake and Jordan—I tell myself not to care. He’s my boyfriend. He’s kissing me on my birthday. This is the life I chose. All I’m doing is living it.

We go to a club close by—or it could be far away, I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m caught up in the night: in the limo that appears out of nowhere, in the champagne, in Rainer’s cool fingers on my thigh, just above my knee.

The club is dark when we enter. Jordan is fastened to Alexis’s side, and she air‑kisses a group of girls as soon as we get in and pulls Jordan with her—over to a booth. I see him glance back at us, briefly, but then he’s lost in the darkness.

I would have had a hard time keeping track of Cassandra and Jake, but Sandy dropped them back off at the house. They claimed exhaustion, but I know dancing isn’t really Jake’s thing. I also suspect they’re excited to spend an unsupervised night alone together. Cassandra’s parents are pretty strict.

“Enjoy it,” Cassandra said into my ear as she went, and I just smiled because I knew what she meant. Tonight, on my birthday, we can just be Rainer and Paige. We’re not at a press event. We’re not on a carpet. We’re just us. And if being us means we get into private parties at clubs—then so be it.

I feel Rainer’s hand on my wrist and then his fingers at my hip as he’s moving me toward the dance floor. The music blares around us—a techno version of some pop song I have been hearing on the radio constantly. It’s so loud it vibrates through me—like my muscle fibers are a sound system—inputting every beat.

The crowd doesn’t seem to notice us as we move through the pulsing bodies. I feel anonymous in this mass, and it’s delicious, heady, like I could be anyone and do anything. By the time we get to the center of the dance floor, I’ve forgotten we’re famous.

I pull Rainer close and loop my arms around his neck. He drops his lips down until they hover over mine. I dig my fingers into his shoulders. I feel the muscles there move as he presses his hands flat against my back and draws me in closer.

My heart is hammering—trying to keep up with the music and his hands as they trace over me like stencils, creating patterns and shapes in their wake.

I can hear Rainer’s breath in my ear, and his hand finds mine. He makes an impatient sound, and then he’s drag‑ ging me back out the way we came. I don’t bother to look back—to see where Jordan is, whether he’s found Alexis in that dark mass the way Rainer has found me.

The paparazzi have evidently found all of us because when we leave, there is a sea of photographers—so many flashes it feels like daylight. Rainer tucks me to his side, and two bodyguards usher us into a waiting town car. I bury my face in Rainer’s shoulder and let his arms circle around me.

“Drive,” I hear him say. His tone is tense, frayed around the edges with what we’ve taken with us from that dance floor.

We speed away, but I keep myself fastened to Rainer’s side. We find each other in the back of that town car the way we did in the dark club. I’m so caught up in Rainer, in what it feels like to be this close to him, that I’m barely aware of coming home and Rainer carrying me through the door.

When we get into the bedroom, he hesitates. We’ve slept in the same bed before—here, and on tour—but never exactly like this. Never with the air crackling between us like it’s something live—something with a heartbeat and pulse all its own.

“It’s okay,” I say.

His eyes float over me—like the blue in them has turned from ice to water. It swims around his pupils— liquid velvet. He lays me down on the bed. “I’m so glad we’re here,” he says. He tucks my hair behind my ear, and then we’re kissing. My fingers find the edge of his shirt, and I’m inching it up his torso and then taking it off. I see his chest—his golden muscles working. I’ve seen him without a shirt on so many times before—countless shoots, the beach, for months, and the familiarity of it, of the little indent he has on the right side of his rib cage and the birthmark right above his belly button, fills me with a joy I can’t quite describe. I know him, now, and he knows me—in a way no one else does or ever will. Because he’s in this with me. It’s just the two of us. And it’s this that makes me kiss him back harder, fiercer.

His hands are in my hair, and then they slide down my body. I feel his fingers on my waist then down to my hips, and I arch up against his lips. He moves to the zipper on my dress, and I realize I don’t have a bra on underneath. I didn’t wear one. The straps showed.

The realization makes me edge back, just a tiny bit, but it’s enough for Rainer’s hands to stop what they’re doing.

“Are you okay? ” he asks me. His voice is ragged, and I can feel his heartbeat through his skin—as haphazard as my own.

I nod, except I’m not sure. If my dress is opened then so is this whole new dimension, and I don’t know if I’m ready for that. It’s like I’m seeing myself outside of myself—watching me. The way everyone else is. And I don’t want them to see this. I don’t want them to know. Suddenly something Jessica showed me months ago on set comes flashing back to me—she read me some fan fiction about us. Not August and Noah—me and Rainer. It was meant to be silly, but now it all comes hurling back. The paragraphs of us together, just like this. The remembered sentences come one after the other—they pile on top of my chest until I can feel their weight physically. It’s like we’re in somebody else’s fantasy. I thought we were alone tonight, but we’re not. The whole universe is in bed with us.

“What is it? ” Rainer asks. I can see the concern in his eyes, and it lessens the pressure, just a little. “What’s wrong? ” His palm finds my cheek, and he holds it there. “Talk to me.”

But I don’t know what to say. How can I explain that being with him right now, like this, feels like we’re fulfill‑ ing some public wish?

“I’m scared,” I say, because it’s true. “Of me? ”

I shake my head. I can feel my face get hot, am sure his hand on my cheek feels it, too. My eyes fill with tears, and I bite my lip to keep them from spilling over. I feel so stupid in this bed with him, so small—I don’t know why I can’t just be here. Turn my brain off and stop thinking.

“Hey,” he says. “It’s okay.” He moves his hand from my cheek to my temple and rubs his thumb back and forth there. “We have plenty of time. There is no rush here.”

“I know,” I whisper.

“Good,” he says. He slides us down so we’re lying against the pillows. He tucks an arm around me and holds my hand against his chest. “Just relax,” he says. “Get some sleep.” He threads a hand through my hair, and I feel his heartbeat slow along with mine.