Chapter Twenty

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True to her word, around seven, Mikayla fled the apartment to hang out next door with Alia. Jada had begged, bargained, and practically chained Mikayla's feet to the floor, but it was no use. Her cousin was gone. This time, she hadn't even advised Jada on what to wear. Nevertheless, Jada found herself vacillating on the decision, eventually settling for a black camisole, light cardigan, and jeans.

All too soon, she heard the fateful knock on the door. Tristan was on her apartment's threshold with a bag of pretzels and sodas in hand.

"Hi," she said breathlessly. Why she was breathless was anyone's guess. All he'd done was walk into the entryway.

"Hey, I brought us some provisions so we could stock up on some snacks for rehearsal," he said, lifting up his purchases.

His casual act killed her. He was behaving as if nothing had happened. As if his hand hadn't been inches away from getting to know her intimately. VERY intimately. Now, he was all friendly conversation. Where were the suggestive tone and smoldering look from this morning?

"Um, thanks," she said, setting the food on the table. "I printed out the part of the script Avery sent over."

"I brought my own copy as well." Tristan compared his copy with hers, confirming that they'd both been handed the same scene. In it, her character was a rogue assassin, while Tristan was a bodyguard who had been chosen to protect her when her kill or be killed lifestyle caught up with her. As he skimmed the script in quiet contemplation, Jada discreetly scrutinized him. Either his interest from this morning really had evaporated or he took acting much more seriously than she first thought. She was surer of his dedication when Tristan abruptly launched into director mode.

"Since this scene is pretty intense between the two leads and takes place right in the middle of a big action sequence, do you mind if we really go for it?"

"Go for it?"

"As in if I sprint across your living room and potentially damage some sofa cushions, will you rip me a new one?" Tristan's wild grin came back.

"The cushions, no. My mama's china, yes. But I guess a fair bit of running around will help bring this to life," Jada said, thrilled about Tristan's enthusiastic insights.

"Great! Then let's get started." Tristan tossed aside the script.

"Wait, you're already off book?" Piercing insecurity hit her that Tristan had already finished memorizing his lines while she was glancing down at hers.

"Oh yeah, my memory is pretty sharp. Are you ready?"

Jada nodded with a certainty she didn't feel before starting off with her first line.

"I don't need your protection!" Jada said. "I've been taking down the big bads for years. If anyone is in over their head, it's you."

"Oh really? Then why is there at least three impending threats coming right at us?"

"What threats?" Jada asked.

At this point in the script, Tristan was supposed to protect her from a bomb aimed at them. Tristan modified the action by grabbing Jada and diving behind the couch. When they finally got back up, Tristan nodded in approval.

"That was good but maybe we can up the energy."

"More energy than couch diving?" she asked, already feeling a potential bruise blossoming on her butt.

But over the course of the next several run-throughs, Jada learned that yes, there were even higher energy risks they could take. They dashed from the foyer to the hallway closet. A misguided test run of hiding behind the tub's shower curtain also came into play. The whole rehearsal was turning into a blast as the two chased each other through the house, tossing lines back and forth.

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