“That boy should have been eliminated,” said a spitting image of Rose. “He made our Bella cry. I should find him and give him what for!”
“Lillian, behave,” the brute of a man said, forcing her to sit. “I agree, but it wouldn’t be fair. Compared to the boy who was eliminated, the judges made the right decision.”
“Whatever,” Lillian grumbled. “Bella has been through enough shit. She doesn’t need an asshole of a partner to make it any worse. Did you know that her mother has taken to calling me? I ignore the calls. Renee Swan is a bitch and I’m surprised that she gave birth to that sweet, wonderful girl.”
“I’m assuming she’s more like her father,” the man snickered. They got up and walked out of the auditorium. The taping had just concluded. Jane and Mike were in the house, talking with their parents and making plans to either go to a hotel or fly home. I got up, walking through the house and backstage. I ran into Tyler, who paled when he saw me.
“Ed … I mean, Mr. Cul … I mean, shit,” he blanched.
“Yep,” I snarled at him, gripping his t-shirt and pushing him against the wall. “Where in the fuck do you get off giving Bella shit for being injured and making the assumption that I’m fucking her? You are such a douchebag.”
“I am. I’m a horrible person,” he whispered. “I keep trying to apologize, but she’s ignoring me.”
“As well she should,” I snapped, stepping away. “You have a great deal of ass-kissing to do to get back on her good side. For now? Leave her alone.” He nodded, darting back into his dressing room. As he left, Bella walked out. She was dressed in a short skirt and a tight top. Her hair was braided down her shoulder. “Wow, Bella, you look …”
“Thanks,” she said, giving me a wide smile. There was something about her that was more confident, self-assured. “I’ve been looking forward to our trip along the Pacific Coast Highway all day. Though, being in the bottom put a damper on it, but Rose pushed me to go. I think it’s exactly what I need.”
“Good. A night away from all of this is just what the doctor ordered,” I said, taking her hand. She weaved her fingers with mine and we walked out to my car. The weather was warm, perfect for a night out with the top down and walking along the beach. I helped her into the car, jogging to the driver’s side. Lowering the top, I backed out of the parking lot. The rest of the cast were clambering into the waiting vans. Rose whistled, waving maniacally. Bella laughed, shooting her the bird and we were off.
It was too loud with the wind for us to talk. I just turned on some tunes as we drove through Los Angeles, getting to the highway near Santa Monica. I decided to drive us to the Pacific Palisades. There were some gorgeous beaches along the drive that I figured Bella would enjoy, plus some restaurants for a late dinner. About ten minutes later, I pulled off the highway and parked the car. “Shall we?”