A reclusive heart, p.6
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       A Reclusive Heart, p.6
 

         Part #2 of Hollywood Hearts series by R. L. Mathewson  

  Her shoulders slumped as she opened her mouth to tell him that she’d be there soon, but something stopped her. She didn’t know what it was, but it gave her a moment’s pause. Yes, this was supposed to be a working trip, but he’d said that she wasn’t needed until morning so she’d made plans. He really couldn’t expect her to drop everything at a moment’s notice to accommodate him, could he?

  If she went to him now then he’d know that he could push her around and she was done with that. That Jamie was long gone. The new Jamie wouldn’t be jumping for anyone. She’d wasted too many years of her life hiding in the background and letting her life slip by her. She was done.

  When she was supposed to work, she’d work her buns off. She’d write, edit and do the hundred or so things that he expected from her that just thinking about gave her heart failure, but when it was her time she was going to enjoy her life for once and no one was going to stop her, least of all the overbearing bossy jerk.

  “I can’t. I have plans,” she said as her eyes landed on a sign for Duck Tours and widened. That sounded like fun, she decided as she headed towards the sign.

  “Well, break them. I need you to work.”

  “Sorry. Can’t,” she said distractedly as her eyes landed on a large boat/car.

  Now that looked like fun.

  “Jamie,” he said tightly in warning, but she was barely listening as she handed the friendly cashier the money for a ticket.

  “Gotta go!” she said excitedly as she stepped into the small line to get into the boat.

  “Don’t you dare hang up. I need to-“

  She hung up as a cute guy in his early twenties helped her onboard. As she sat down all thoughts of her overbearing boss disappeared until she was only left with excitement.

  She had a feeling she was going to love the new Jamie.

  Chapter 7

  He was going to strangle Jamie.

  When she’d hung up on him hours ago he thought it was a mistake. He quickly learned the error of his ways when the next ten calls went straight to voicemail. When she didn’t show up within the next hour like he fully expected her to he’d become a little irritated with her and decided to catch her when she came back to the hotel.

  Either he was losing his hearing or she was the quietest woman in the world, because she somehow managed to sneak into her room, the room next to his, shower, change and sneak out without him knowing. Well, that wasn’t entirely true.

  When he stepped out of the shower he heard her door click shut.

  At that point he’d been willing to forgive her for ignoring his summons and pulled on a pair of sweatpants quickly before he stepped out into the hall to knock on her door only to catch a glimpse of her as she stepped onto the elevator all decked out in a black cocktail dress and further pissing him off.

  After he got dressed, bribed the bellhop to tell him where Jamie was headed he hunted her down to a nightclub of all places. He scanned the long line, hoping he’d find her, but he hadn’t. Somehow Jamie had gotten into the club and he’d been forced to get into the line and wait a damn hour as he kept an eye out for Jamie.

  Now he had her in his sights and it was taking everything he had not to go over there and strangle the nervous little recluse. For the past half hour he bided his time as he watched her, hoping his damn temper would go down. It hadn’t. So he watched as she sat at the crowded bar, sipping her drink as she cast wary glances towards the dance floor. Every now and then someone would bang into her as they signaled for the bartender and he knew even twenty feet away that she apologized each and every time.

  Whenever a man approached her, the little recluse would blush bright red, mumble something, fidget in her seat and send the guy away. Then she’d watch him walk away, frowning. Why the hell was she here if she wasn’t interested in a guy or the very least, dancing? Since he spotted her she hadn’t left the stool.

  Well, that was fine with him since it would make getting his hands around her neck a hell of a lot easier. He didn’t know why she was here, didn’t care and he sure as hell didn’t care that she looked sad. The only thing that mattered to him at the moment was that she fucked with his night. With that in mind he made his way through the crowd.

  A minute later he glared at the asshole standing next to her until he moved away and he could take his place. She didn’t realize that he was there. She was too busy watching the dance floor to notice anything going on around her.

  When a whole minute went by and she didn’t notice him he signaled for the bartender, a hot blonde with an inviting smile. One look at him had her ignoring the customers vying for her attention.

  “What can I get for you?” she asked as she looked him up and down. As she dragged her eyes up his chest to meet his eyes she licked her lips. She’d been obvious about her perusal of him, he had not. In under ten seconds flat he knew if she was fuck worthy, she was.

  Maybe he’d pick her up as a treat to himself for all the bullshit his little recluse had caused him tonight, but then remembered the shitload of work that waited for him back at the hotel. Oh well, it wasn’t like he wouldn’t find a willing woman or two during the tour. When everything calmed down and he got his little recluse in line then he’d allow himself to indulge, but not before then.

  “Scotch on the rocks,” he said, noting the way his little recluse froze up at the sound of his voice. He kept an eye on her in case she decided to make a run for it as he picked up her drink and took a sip and nearly winced. Who the hell came to a bar to drink soda? Apparently his little recluse did, which was fine with him since it meant that she’d be able to work for a few hours with a clear head.

  “Another Coke for the lady,” he said, gesturing to Jamie and not really caring about the ice cold glare the bartender threw at her.

  He leaned against the bar and waited for Jamie to turn around. When she only continued to sit there rigid as a board he sighed heavily as he grabbed the seat, ignoring that beautiful ass of hers and turned her around. When her eyes widened and she noticeably swallowed he felt somewhat appeased. The moment he had her under his thumb he’d feel a whole hell of a lot better.

  “W-what are you doing here?” she asked, trying to shift back on her stool and away from him.

  “I came to help you,” he said absently while he watched the bartender move onto another customer. Well, it looked like he wasn’t getting his drink tonight.

  “Help me?” she asked, frowning, not adorably, he decided. He didn’t find a damn think adorable or sexy about her. Not at all. He especially didn’t like the way her dress pulled up mid-thigh, giving him a glimpse of beautiful light golden legs that probably had other men groaning. He was not one of them and didn’t care if she looked good, really good, he decided absently a second later as he ran his eyes over her legs one more time.

  “Mmmhmm,” he said, forcing his eyes up and over a sinfully tight short black cocktail dress covered body. Much better than that frumpy suit she wore the other day, he decided. “You obviously got lost on your way from your room to my room so I came to help you,” he explained tightly, mentally daring her to argue.

  He wasn’t having it. Not tonight. He had too much to do and not enough time to do it in. If this tour was going to work then he needed to have her onboard and doing whatever he told her to do with minimal bullshit.

  “Okay, I’m ready to go,” she said meekly as she stood and headed for the door with her shoulders slumped and her eyes on the floor.

  What the hell?

  Not that he was complaining. He wasn’t, but he just hadn’t expected it to be this easy. Hopefully this would be the last little act of rebellion that he’d have to deal with from her. At least it damn well better be, he decided as he followed after her.

  ******

  “Oh my god, I love you, J.L. Lewis!” a woman screamed, startling her.

  As discretely as she could she leaned to the side to see who was screaming, only to groan. A large woman wearing a homemade t-shirt with her penname plastere
d on it was jumping up and down excitedly with five other women sporting the same shirt.

  Maybe it was time for a break? she thought, shooting a hopeful glance towards Nick only to see him shake his head firmly, once. That’s all it took for her to paste the weak smile back on her face and turn around in her chair to greet her next fan.

  Only an hour into this and she wasn’t sure that she could do it any longer.

  This was too much for her. She wasn’t used to this much attention and every time a new person stepped up for her autograph she had to fight back a surge of panic that threatened to drop her to her knees. This wasn’t her. If last night had taught her anything it was that she couldn’t handle things like this.

  Why the hell had she sold her business and taken this job? Because she was an idiot and thought that if she forced herself into a situation then her survival skills would kick in and she’d be able to acclimate. It was a really stupid plan, she decided as she signed her name, barely able to register what the person in front of her was saying. When she walked away smiling, Jamie felt her shoulders slump in relief only to tense right back up when the next person stepped up.

  This was a bad idea. She couldn’t do this. She didn’t care if they sued her and demanded that she give all the money back. She just couldn’t do this. This wasn’t her life and she didn’t want it to be, not anymore, and definitely not after last night.

  She needed to go home to her small lonely apartment and resign herself to the fact that she was meant to be alone forever.

  “Excuse me,” she said, her voice shaking as she stood up and knocked her chair over. She felt her face burn as every head turned in her direction with looks of amusement and confusion.

  Why the heck hadn’t she snuck out of her room this morning and made a run for it? She wanted to, planned to, but just as she grabbed her bag Nick banged on her door and demanded that she get her buns going so they could prepare for this morning, but nothing, not the three hour lecture or the pointers that he gave her had prepared her for this. She hoped that she’d be able to deal once she sat down at the small table covered with stacks of her books, but she’d been wrong, so wrong.

  The moment she stepped into the large ballroom she felt the same discomfort she’d felt last night when she’d stepped into the club. All day yesterday and up until last night she’d felt excited and even giddy at the prospect of trying new things.

  That all ended the moment she stepped into the club.

  Within seconds she realized that she didn’t belong, but wouldn’t allow herself to leave. As she made her way to the bar she prayed that no one would notice her, but they sure banged into her. Once she found a seat she sat down and refused to leave. After thirty minutes she somehow managed to grab the bartender’s attention and got a drink, because by that point she’d needed sugar, badly.

  All of her excitement and plans ended the moment she saw the dance floor.

  She’d been intrigued even as she felt her newfound self-esteem deflate. She didn’t know how to dance and was too scared to give it a try and she wanted to, so badly, but couldn’t bring herself to take a risk. She was weak and as pathetic as Caitlyn said and this whole experience proved it.

  “Are you okay?” the older woman standing in front of her asked with grandmotherly concern that should have eased some of her panic, but it didn’t. She needed to get out of here now.

  “Excuse me,” she said, swallowing as she took a step back. “I-I just need a drink of water.”

  “Here you are, J.L.,” Nick said smoothly as he handed her an ice cold bottle of water. He picked up her chair, put an arm around her shoulders and helped her back into her seat.

  She looked up at him, sending him a pleading look, but he ignored it. He flashed a smile at the woman in front of them that had the other woman blushing.

  “I hope you’ll forgive me. I should have brought her a bottle of water an hour ago,” he said charmingly to the woman, but the way he maneuvered her back into her seat both impressed and irritated her. “I’m very sorry, J.L.,” he said with an innocent smile as he jammed his foot behind her chair to stop her from escaping again.

  “Thank you,” she said, forcing a smile as she made a show of opening her water and taking a sip.

  “He’s so sweet. You’re so lucky to have someone like him helping you,” the woman gushed and Jamie was tempted to tell the woman that she was more than welcome to take him when he gave her a nudge.

  “Thank you,” she said, already guessing the reasoning behind the nudge to her side. “I don’t know what I’d do without him,” she said with that forced smile even as her brain screamed for her to do something else.

  Run.

  “I’ll be right here if you need me,” Nick said, taking two steps back to lean against the wall. To anyone else it probably sounded sweet and considerate, but she knew damn well that it was a threat.

  If she tried to move so much as an inch out of her chair he’d be all over her.

  The message was clear, if she moved he’d drag her right back and probably staple her butt to the chair. Knowing it was useless to argue, she pasted that smile back on her face and forced herself to get through the rest of the signing.

  For the next eight hours she put up with him shoving water at her as an excuse to remind her to keep her butt in the chair, forced to take pictures with fans even though the whole thing made her feel uncomfortable and four denials for a bathroom break. When she told him that she was hungry and asked for a break he handed her a stale package of crackers he’d bought out of the vending machine in the hall.

  By the end of the whole thing she was mad, exhausted, humiliated and more than done with Nick Quinn. She might be stuck doing this because of her contract, which he reminded her of thirteen times throughout the day, but that didn’t mean she was going to be stuck with him.

  “Where are you going?” he demanded as she walked past his room and headed for her own.

  “We need to discuss our strategy for the interviews tomorrow,” he said, gesturing towards his room, but she ignored him and kept going.

  She grabbed her room card, jammed it into the slot on her door’s electronic lock and kept jamming it until Nick took it out of her hand with a bored sigh.

  “What the hell are you doing, Miss. Harris?” he asked as he opened her door and handed her back the keycard.

  “First, I’m going to order the biggest steak this hotel has since you starved me,” she said, sending him a narrowed eye glare. “Then I’m going to call Rick and ask him to replace your psycho butt!” she snapped as she went to slam the door shut in his face.

  He stopped the door with his foot and hand and shoved it open. Knowing it was pointless to try and shove him out of her room since he easily outweighed her by a hundred pounds she walked over to her bag, er purse, and dug through it.

  “You signed a contract, Miss. Harris,” he reminded her tightly. “You have a contractual duty to finish this tour. You can call Rick up and complain all you want, but it won’t change a damn thing.”

  “I already know that,” she bit out distractedly as she dumped her purse over and of course more than half of her belongings tumbled off the bed and onto the floor. “I made a promise and I intend to keep it,” she said, frowning when she didn’t spot her phone among the contents on the bed. With a small groan she dropped to her knees and began searching through the mess on the floor. She shoved aside a paperback, checkbook, tampons, half a roll of Lifesavers and still no cell phone. She blew a loose strand of hair out of her face as she looked around the beige rug. Where the heck was her phone?

  “Then I see no reason why you need to call Rick,” he said.

  She had to snort at that. “Of course you don’t.”

  “If you’re upset about the amount of work that we have ahead there’s nothing that I can do about that. Those are the obligations we have and if we want your launch to be a success we have to do it,” he explained slowly as if he were talking to a child, further irritating her
.

  “I have no problem with the work,” she admitted as she peered under the bed and sighed. It wasn’t there either.

  “Then what’s your problem?” he demanded.

  “You,” she snapped, not even bothering to look up at him.

  “You need me, Miss. Harris,” he explained, sounding pissed. “I’ll guide you through this process, get you into the best venues and make sure you’re a success.”

  “Anyone from your company could do that,” she pointed out, wondering where her phone had run off to.

  For a moment he didn’t say anything and she was glad. It gave her a chance to focus all of her attention on finding her phone and figuring out what the heck she was going to say to Rick. She didn’t want to get him in trouble despite how much he irritated her, but she didn’t see any way around it. If she didn’t say something he’d walk all over her and that’s the last thing she needed right now, especially after last night.

  “Finally,” she mumbled when she spotted the sleek black phone peeking out from the corner of the light tan couch. She reached out to grab it only to gasp when a large tan hand swiped it up. She turned her glare up at him.

  “You need me,” he said as he put her phone in his pocket, probably thinking that she wouldn’t make a grab for it.

  He was right, darn it!

  “No, I don’t,” she argued tightly as she came to her feet, holding her hand out expectantly.

 
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