“Working?” I ask incredulously. I had no idea she worked. I assumed she lived off her trust fund.
“Yeah.” She nods and steps back, giving me room to enter. I move past her, into her home. The house, the oldest one in town, is massive. The inside is lushly furnished, in warm tones and inviting furniture. I look back to Lauren, to find her rubbing her forehead and blinking rapidly.
“Are you okay?”
“Are you sure you’re not sick? When was the last time you had a shower, sweetheart?” I smile gently at her as she winces and her cheeks warm.
“I don’t know.” She scrunches up her nose in thought. “What day is it?”
“What day is it?” What the hell is going on here? “Lauren, what kind of work have you been doing?”
“I’m a writer,” she responds immediately, then scowls. “Really, what day is it?”
“Friday,” I say, and watch as her mind clears. It’s fascinating. “How long have you been working?”
“Since Tuesday night.”
“Since Tuesday?” I’m pissed off all over again. “Jesus, Lo, have you even eaten?”
“Why are you mad?” She scowls. “If you’re gonna be mad, you can go be mad somewhere else. The story is flowing and I have work to do.”
“You haven’t been answering your phone, Lauren,” I reply, consciously lowering my voice.
“I think it died two days ago.”
“Two days ago?”
“Are you going to repeat everything I say?” She plants her hands on her narrow hips, pushing her perfect, round breasts out.
Jesus, she’s not wearing a bra.
She walks past me, through two open French doors into a large office. A wide, dark desk dominates the room. Her laptop is sitting open with a Word file waiting for her to return to it. Yellow sticky notes cover every surface, and what looks like two-day-old pizza is sitting in a chair across the room. A plush chaise lounge sits under the big picture window, covered with pillows and a blanket, as though someone just woke from a nap.
“Is someone staying with you?”
“No, I sleep there for a few hours to recharge my batteries.”
“Lauren, I had no idea you were a writer.” I stand in her office and turn in a circle, taking it all in, and immediately feel overwhelming pride. “What do you write?”
She bites her lip and watches me, fidgeting. I can see the wheels turning in her head.
“What do you write, Lo?” I ask again, genuinely curious.
“I don’t share this with anyone, Ty.”
“Hey.” I move to her and tuck a piece of her soft hair behind her ear, then pull her lower lip out from between her teeth. God, but I want to taste her. “I’m good at keeping secrets.” I grin down at her. “Part of my job, remember?”
Her face relaxes into a soft smile, and my gut clenches. She’s stunning. Jack is the biggest idiot on the face of the earth. If she were mine, I’d never let her go.
“I write books,” she whispers.
“What kind of books?” I tilt my head to the side and watch her closely.
“Just books.” She shrugs.
“Lauren.” Her wary gaze finds mine. It looks like she wants to tell me, but doesn’t know if she should. “I promise, sweetheart, this is just between you and me. I’d love to know more about this.”
She eyes me for a few more seconds, and just when I think she’s going to refuse, she turns away from me and rummages around in her desk. When she returns, she shoves a dollar bill at me. “There, now you’re my lawyer and you can’t tell anyone.”
I smirk down at her and shove the dollar back at her.
“I’m not going to tell anyone whether I’m your lawyer or not, Lauren.” I take a deep breath. “You can trust me.”
She walks to a closet in the corner, opens it, and pulls a book out of a box and returns to me, holding it out.
My eyes go wide. I’m stunned speechless.
I take the book from her and run my fingertips over the soft green cover.
“A Spark of Passion,” I whisper, and raise my eyes to meet hers. “You’re . . . ?”
“Peyton Adams.” She holds her breath.
Jillian’s words from not even an hour ago run through my mind. They’re going to be made into movies.
“Lo, these books are huge.”
She smiles proudly and nods and then frowns at me. “You read romance novels?”
“No.” I laugh. “Jill is reading this book right now. Besides, they’ve been all over the news.”
“Jill’s reading it?” Lo smiles widely. “Does she like it?”
“Yeah, she loves it.” I nod as Lo takes the book out of my hands and lays it on her desk. “So, you write those?”
“Yeah.” She nods, her face somber again, and watches me carefully. “I can’t tell anyone.”
“Jack.” It’s a whisper, and it’s all suddenly crystal clear.
I nod. “You’re afraid that Jack would try to claim half and make your life a living hell.”
Tears fill her eyes and she nods.
“Hey, come here.” I pull her into my arms and hold her tightly against me, her head tucked under my chin. Her tall frame fits me perfectly. She takes a long, shuddering breath and leans into me, wraps her arms around my waist, and just holds on. I wonder how long it’s been since someone just held her. “I won’t tell anyone.”
“I know,” she murmurs.
“I’m so proud of you,” I whisper into her hair.
She pulls back and looks up at me with surprised eyes. “Why?”
“This is amazing, Lauren. You’re doing something you obviously love, and you’re beyond successful at it. It’s something to be proud of.” My chest is full of pride and admiration for this amazing woman.
“Thank you.” She smiles shyly.
“I have an idea.” I pull away and take her hands in mine, leading her out of the office. “You go have a shower and I’ll make you dinner.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” she rushes to assure me, but I hold my hand up to stop her.
“I do.” Despite her height, she looks so small standing here before me, still unsure and looking a little lost.
I need to take care of her.
“I’d love to spend the evening with you, learn more about your work, but I think I’d enjoy it more if you took a shower.” I grin and can’t help but tease her.