Loud music filled the club. The deep and thunderous bassline interfered with the natural rhythm of my heartbeat. There was a reason why Los Angeles set the gold standard for nightlife across the globe, and at the moment, this club was an excellent example of that reason.
A smoky haze from machines I couldn’t see hung in the air, and scantily clad bodies emerged from it like wraiths. They laughed, danced, and sashayed their way around the room like they were all celebrities in their own right.
Although to be fair, most of them were. The Vault wasn’t a club one could simply walk into. It was guarded by an honest-to-fuck bank-vault door straight from the nineteen twenties, and no one made it past that door without a well-known name, the right connections, or the exorbitant amount of money charged for cover.
Dave and I were spread out in our regular booth near the bar. The ceilings were low, the chairs padded, and the place still gave off a distinct air of carrying the closely guarded secrets and riches it used to hold back when it was the actual vault.
The room we were in had been refurbished, but it was surrounded by the very same four walls that had once been the only witnesses to the contents of the safety-deposit boxes that had belonged to the city’s most notorious and famous residents.
“Alright, people!” the DJ hollered into his microphone. “It’s just past midnight and you know what that means. Everyone whose ass is still sober needs to grab another round, and everyone else needs to grab a partner. I wanna see you set fire to this dance floor.”
Dave, my best friend and best man in my upcoming nuptials, rolled his eyes behind the wood-framed glasses on his nose. “Too bad Angelina isn’t here, huh? It must suck to be engaged to one of the most beautiful women on the planet and still be sitting here with your dick in your hand as your only dance partner.”
I smirked, clapping him on the shoulder and inclining my head toward the premium bottle of vodka on our table. “I came out for a night on the town with you. I’m here to drink and play wingman, not get my rocks off with some nameless groupie who spent her entire salary to pay the cover.”
“Ahh, yes. The groupies. How could I forget that I’m out with the William Kent, latest hotshot producer for Netflix and the Hollywood bad boy every girl dreams about?” He rolled his eyes so far back in his head that I was pretty sure he’d caught a glimpse of his spine. “The infamous playboy who broke vaginas the world over when he announced his engagement to the lust of his life.”
“I think the phrase you were looking for was that I broke hearts the world over when I announced my engagement to the love of my life.” I laughed. “And haven’t you heard? My reputation as a playboy has been slipping in the three months since that announcement. Some even consider me boring now.”
He rocked his head from side to side, considering, before he shrugged my statement off and flashed me a grin. “Nah, I still think my assessment was more accurate. No one was after you for your heart. They only wanted your body, and now they can’t even have that.”
“Damn straight they can’t.” Another laugh rumbled out of me until I saw a woman making a beeline for our table. I sat up straighter and nodded discreetly in her direction. “We’ve got a potential bite incoming. Just play along this time, okay? I can wing you through anything except you not even looking at her.”
“Twenty bucks says she’s only coming over here for a selfie with you or an autograph.” He slammed back the contents of his glass and reached for his wallet.
Dozens of people had come up to me tonight for that very purpose, so I didn’t argue, but I still took his bet. It wasn’t like I couldn’t afford to lose twenty measly dollars. “You’re on, but for the record, even if she is coming here for that, it doesn’t mean I can’t point her in your direction.”
“No thanks.” He ran a hand through his auburn hair and flashed her his big, welcoming smile when she finally reached us. “Hey, there. Can I ask you something real quick? Did you come over to talk to me or this Bradley Cooper lookalike next to me?”
Her green eyes blinked back her surprise before focusing on me, a coy smile spreading on her full lips. “My boyfriend hates you. He thinks I spend too much time following your shows and the tabloid stories about you. He also couldn’t come out tonight because he’s ‘working.’” She made air quotes around the word and pursed her lips. “I think he’s cheating on me. Would you mind taking a selfie with me? It’d drive him insane with jealousy.”
“I like you. You’re direct.” I flashed her the smirk I was famous for before waving her closer. “Get on in here. Let’s take that picture.”
“Won’t your fiancée freak out if she sees you in a photograph with another girl? Isn’t she in New York for the premiere of her new film? Does she even know you’re out?” She asked the questions, but that didn’t stop her from scooting in beside me and fishing her phone out of a shiny clutch.
I shook my head, signature smirk still in place. “She is in New York, but she’ll be fine with it. If she freaked out every time she saw me in a picture with a fan, freaking out would be her full-time job instead of acting. She’s far too talented of an actress to give it up.”
Besides, Angelina knew where my loyalties lay. In many ways, I was a complete asshole. I’d owned it in public before and I’d do it again. What I wasn’t, however, was a cheater. For as long as I was with someone, my dick stayed in my pants, my eyes were fixed firmly on the camera, and my hands knew where they had to stay. Which was well above and away from any lady parts.
Being engaged to one of the sexiest women on the planet—objectively, considering she’d been named in every list from here to Timbuktu for the last three years—just made it that much easier to stay faithful. No one could tempt me away from her, not even the admittedly gorgeous brunette practically sitting in my lap.
She squished her cheek to mine, smiling wide as she snapped a few pictures to post. When she was done, we joked around with her for a while before she disappeared back into the crowd.
“Why’d you say ‘no thanks’ before you even knew about the boyfriend?” I asked, glancing at my friend while I refilled our glasses.
Dave laughed. “Why did you?”
“Uh, I don’t know if you missed it, but I slapped a ring on Angelina’s finger a few months ago? Generally, that means I’m off the proverbial market.”
“Yeah, I know, but why?” There was genuine confusion in his tone.
I’d met the guy my first week in LA and we’d hit it off immediately. When I’d started dating Angelina about two and a half years ago, he’d been the first and only one to question my decision to settle down with her.
All this time later, he was still the only one to question it. Probably because he was one of the only two people in my life who actually knew and cared about me. Jessie, my sister, was the other. She’d accepted my decision, but I couldn’t say she understood it.
I took a gulp of my drink, rolling the smooth liquid around in my mouth while I searched for the answer I was looking for. “Why not? We’ve been together for years, she’s fucking hot, and she wants the exact same things out of life as I do.”
“Which is?” A tiny crease appeared between his eyebrows. “Travel, luxury, wealth, fast cars, and flashy parties?”
“Exactly.” I raised my glass to clink with him, but he left me hanging.
His dark brown eyes were still filled with doubt. “What about love? Kids?”
“Maybe someday down the line we’ll relax and have a couple, but why worry about that now?” I used my glass to gesture at the club around us. “This is the dream, man. Why would I fuck with that?”
“Cracking jokes with strangers, taking pictures with randoms to make their boyfriends jealous, and consistently buying rounds for everyone in here is living the dream?” His brow furrowed even more. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just not feeling it.”
Picking up his glass with my free hand, I put it in his hand and pointedly clashed mine against it. “Have a few more of these and you’ll be feeling a lot more than that.”
Dave was successful in the film industry too. He just hadn’t taken a front and center role like I had. Perhaps it was uncharacteristic for a producer to be in the limelight so often, but that was just the way things had happened for me.
The difference between us was that I liked the attention while he preferred to hang back. I knew he was worried that I was only marrying Angelina for the attention being with a beautiful actress garnered, but that really wasn’t it.
Whenever I so much as pictured my gorgeous fiancée with her pin-straight black hair and her bright blue eyes, tall and statuesque like a goddamn warrior princess, I was at risk of getting hard. The woman was known for being responsible for some of the best spank-bank material out there with the images of all the love scenes she’d done, and I wasn’t immune to that allure.
She had legs that were two miles long and felt fucking incredible wrapped around my waist. But it wasn’t just the sex. Not that I would ever complain about that, but that wasn’t why I’d allowed her to pin me down when so many before her had failed.
Angelina and I got along great, our interests were aligned, and it didn’t hurt that she was the female lead in my show. We’d spent so much time together that now it felt weird to be apart, like we’d just kind of grown into one another.
We were good together, and it’d felt right when I dropped down on one knee for her on that beach in the Maldives.
Dave gulped down the rest of his drink in one go after my glass crashed into his, and I wholeheartedly followed his example before dragging him over to the crowded bar. There was no more of that bullshit talk about deeper issues for the rest of the night. We did shots, took pictures, and I dished out a few more autographs, entered a dance-off with a member of a well-known boy band, and immersed myself in the craziness that was the club scene.
A couple of hours later, Dave and I stumbled outside for some fresh air. We were immediately spotted by paparazzi hanging out on the curb, and they closed in on me like sharks on chum before I could even think about getting an escape plan hatched.
Fuck. How could I have forgotten about them?
Dave rolled his eyes, but he knew this was the price of being my friend. He took a step back while the vultures shouted at me.
I couldn’t hear them at first. My ears were still ringing from the volume of the music inside. Once I started making out their questions, my heart lurched in my chest and my stomach tightened. The questions all jumbled together, but the ones that jumped out at me made no sense.
“When did you find out Angelina was having an affair?”
“How long has it been going on?”
“What did you think when you saw the video?”
“Is the wedding off?”
My head spun. What the fuck are they talking about? Is she cheating on me?
Dizzy, disoriented, and slightly nauseated, I turned to find Dave. He was already making a dash for the curb, yelling at security to clear a path for me while he hailed a cab. We’d gotten dropped off by a car service, but there was no way I was waiting for a car with the intensity of the questions building around me.
My breath felt trapped in my lungs and the ground seemed to come up at me suspiciously fast before Dave got a firm grip on my arm and ushered me into the cab. He pushed me onto the backseat, jumped in after me, and slammed the door.
The tires screeched and I was vaguely aware of us being taken away from the growing crowd, but my alcohol-addled brain was still trying to make sense of things. As we drove away, the need to talk to Angelina clawed at me.
Without caring that the cabbie was about to overhear a conversation that definitely shouldn’t be had in front of anyone not in my inner circle, I shoved my hand into my pocket and pulled out my phone. Eighty-four messages and thirty-one missed calls? In the last four hours What the fuck?
Not even I was that popular.
Frowning as I tapped into my messages, I hit play on the first video I found waiting for me, and suddenly, my world was ripped from its axis. Right there in full color on my screen was Angelina, making out with one of her co-stars in the VIP section of a New York City club.
You have got to be fucking shitting me.