The invitation said she could bring a guest, and she’d been so preoccupied with having nobody to ask that she had almost forgotten to fret over what to wear. So it was fortunate that while Kate was frantically flipping through her closet, her assistant dropped by with a big white box. She took one look at Kate’s wet hair and the damp patches on the shoulders of her sweatshirt and handed over the box with a knowing smile.
“I ordered a car service. Want help with your hair?”
One hour later Kate stepped out of the car at the Paramount lot looking as if she’d spent the whole afternoon in hair and makeup instead of driving her boys to the babysitter and arguing with her soon to be ex husband. Someone rushed up to greet her and usher her into the theater, where a glass of champagne was shoved into her hand and the air beside her cheek was kissed. Brannon ran over to grab her elbow, dragging her further into the vestibule where most of the other cast members were standing around. Robbie and Garrett were deep in conversation about some TV interview they’d just done. Jennifer was nursing a Coke and looking uncomfortable in spite of Bob and Roxann’s attempts to get her talking. John was hovering by the catering table. Tim loped past wearing his Vulcan ears and waggled his eyebrows to make Kate laugh.
That just left Robert.
Kate pretended to listen to whatever Brannon was babbling about while she glanced casually around. A moment later the crowd parted and she saw him, leaning against the bar and looking straight at her.
She might not have a date to this shindig, Kate thought as Robert looked her up and down and gave her a slow approving smile, but neither did he. And maybe that was a good thing. There would be nobody to pick a fight with her later over the way she flirted with her co-star.
And boy, did she intend to flirt with him tonight.
Brannon grabbed her elbow again – she really hated it when he did that – and mumbled something about the screening being about to start. Then the lights dimmed and a bell tinkled, and everyone started moving toward their seats.
She wasn’t surprised when Robert settled into the seat beside hers. He leaned over into her space and kept his voice low. “You look amazing tonight.”
Kate let her eyes drift over him, returning the compliment.
“You ready for this?” he asked as Jeri stood up in front of the viewing screen and started introducing the pilot.
“Oh, I’m so ready,” Kate drawled back. “Are you?”
His teeth flashed white in the darkness. “You have no idea.”
Then Jeri sat down and the cold open started up, and Kate let herself admire the double of the man sitting beside her, up on the big screen, tattooed and swashbuckling and barking orders surrounding by CGI explosions.
Damn, she thought, he has charisma.
They’d done a good job with the credit sequence, and Kate never stopped getting a thrill out of seeing her name up in lights. The scenes she had with Robbie were good too – they played off well against each other; she made a mental note to lobby for more of the two of them together.
“You’re good,” Robert murmured, so close his lips almost tickled her ear.
Kate bit her lip deliberately and let her fingers brush his knee. “Thanks.”
He grinned back, resting his hand on top of hers so she couldn’t have pulled it back even if she’d wanted to.
Robert didn’t seem to enjoy the next few scenes much; he kept leaning over to wisecrack in her ear, and during the part they were on the Caretaker’s space station he slouched right down in his chair and muttered sarcastically about homesteaders in space.
But then they got to the part where her character, the straight-laced Captain, faced off with his sexy freedom fighter. The bit where they basically eye-fucked as they squared up on the bridge.
Kate had seen the rushes – hell, she’d felt the rush when they filmed it – but she hadn’t known for sure if their chemistry would translate on screen. Maybe they’d edit out the bit where she let her eyes linger on his lips. Hell, maybe her memory was playing tricks and it wasn’t as hot as she remembered it.
But it was, and from the way Robert drew in air through his teeth and shifted in his chair, she guessed he agreed.
She found herself getting caught up in the story after that. It was a good story – exciting, fast-paced, with just enough emotion to keep it interesting. She was proud of it, and of her own performance, and the writers had done well using most of the ensemble cast, although she thought Chakotay could’ve been given a few more lines. She thought maybe Robert agreed; he seemed a little restless throughout. But then, she remembered, he didn’t particularly care for science fiction.
At some point during the screening she drew her hand back to her lap, and a minute later Robert found an excuse to touch her knee as he whispered something to her, and then he just left his hand right there on her thigh. His palm was warm and his fingers strong, and for a few minutes she found herself wishing her assistant had brought her something with a skirt instead of this pantsuit. And not only because Robert saw her in pants on set every day.
Then she started to wonder if flirting with him so blatantly was really such a good idea. She’d just got out of her marriage, after all, and her life was so damn complicated. What if he wanted a relationship?
His fingers shifted on her thigh and Kate told herself not to be such an idiot. Did he really seem like the kind of man who was looking for commitment?
Still, when the lights came up, she sent him a flirty smile, got up and walked straight over to Jeri and Rick, letting them air-kiss her and enthuse over the final cut until they were ushered back to the buffet table. Rick passed her a plate, but even if she had been hungry, eating wasn’t an option if she wanted to keep fitting into Janeway’s uniform. Kate waved the plate away and snagged another champagne instead.
Robert gravitated back towards her as she hopped up onto a bar stool, crossing her legs.
“So,” he said, “that went pretty well.”
“Let’s hope the public agrees with you, come Monday.”
“That would be good for my continued ability to pay my rent.” He grinned. “I’d prefer not to disillusion my landlady. She thinks I’m famous.”
“If all else fails you could just smile at her.” Her voice was throatier than usual.
They were eye to eye, what with the height of her stool, and he took advantage of that fact, leaning an elbow on the bar top as he moved closer. His smile grew smaller and more intimate, and Kate was afraid he was about to say something she couldn’t pass off as harmless banter, or worse, something corny, so she pulled a cigarette out of her bag and waited for him to light it for her.
He watched her smoke it for minute, then tilted his head at the door. “Want to get some air?”
Kate raised an eyebrow at him. “Just air?”
“That’s up to you.”
She hesitated. Her track record with men hadn’t exactly been stellar, and a therapist would probably tell her going through a divorce was the worst possible time to get involved with someone new.
Then again, it wasn’t as if she was getting involved with Robert. She had no intention of indulging in anything more than flirtation.
“Sure,” she said, sliding off the stool and letting him guide her through the crowded room.
They stepped out into a cloudy night, and Kate shivered, which prompted Robert to wrap an arm around her waist and pull her close to his side as they walked slowly away from the theater doorway. Kate dropped her cigarette on the ground. As they rounded the corner of the building, Robert let his hand slide down to cup her hip and nudged her to a stop.
Kate leaned back against the wall and tilted her face up to look at him.
“I was thinking about the day we filmed that scene on the bridge,” he told her. “You know, you gave me this hot look and I really wanted to kiss you.”
She could see a smile playing around the corners of his mouth but his eyes were serious. “Maybe they’ll write in a kiss for Janeway and Chakotay someday.”
“Maybe we should beat them to the punch.”
Kate couldn’t help smirking. “You mean practice?”
“No,” he drawled. “I don’t need practice.”
Robert let his hands rest on her waist and looked down at her. Kate could feel her breathing getting faster and her face heating up. Her toes were tingling. He kept looking at her as he dipped his head to hers, angling it slightly, and it was only when their lips touched that his eyelashes swept down.
She felt his tongue slip into her mouth as he pressed closer and she couldn’t help making a sound that she refused to think of as a moan. Encouraged, Robert deepened the kiss and spread his hands around to her back, holding her against him.
His lips were every bit as soft as she’d fantasized and Kate couldn’t get enough. She let him nudge her lips apart and wound her arms around his neck. He slid one hand around and cupped her breast, thumbing her nipple until it was hard, then started unbuttoning her silk blouse.
But when his fingers traced the lacy edge of her bra, Kate pulled her mouth away from his and flattened her hands on his chest to push him away.
“This is crazy … we can’t do this. We have to stop.”
Robert looked so appealing with his lips swollen and his pupils blown, and she almost threw caution to the wind and pulled him close again.
“Everyone we work with is right in there,” she felt the need to explain, jerking her head toward the theater doors. “We can’t do this here.”
He ducked his head, and when he raised it again he was grinning again. “Does that mean we can do it somewhere else?” His dimples deepened. “Maybe later tonight, my place?”
Kate couldn’t help laughing as she swatted him on the chest. “You’re incorrigible,” she said, buttoning up her shirt.
“That’s not a ‘no’,” he pointed out.
She slid out from between him and the wall, throwing him a saucy smile. “You’re right,” she told him. “It’s not a ‘no’.”
She could feel Robert’s eyes her as she walked away, putting a little extra swing in her step. She wondered if she was making her worst mistake yet.
She was pretty sure she didn’t care.