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Authors: Angelita Gill

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BOOK: All Said and Undone
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Time seemed to creep by as she made her rounds through the party, feigning interest in conversations, her laughter forced, her enthusiasm a complete sham. She kept one eye on the clock. Part of her yearned to go home immediately, but stubborn pride made her stay at the party for at least two hours, as if punishing Jack for making her feel so guilty.

He was wrong about her priorities.

Maybe she shouldn’t have dismissed his coming home early as a minor attempt….no matter what, it
was
an effort. No doubt he’d been hurt because he expected her to rejoice in it, instead of belittling it. Then she’d topped it off by attending a party she clearly wouldn’t have been missed at.

She had to go home.

She kissed cheeks and said her good-byes, checked her cell phone to see it was almost eleven o’clock. No calls or messages from Jack. It didn’t matter. She’d find a way to make it right.

The house was completely dark when she walked in. He was probably in bed, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep without apologizing. Moving toward his room, she paused when she heard a sound of a glass being set on the living-room side table.

She squinted in the dark. “Jack?”

All she could see was a whiskey glass glinting in the moonlight.

He was sitting in the chair facing the patio. “How was it?” His voice was thick and rough.

She arched a brow as she approached. “I thought you didn’t drink alone.”

He brought the whiskey to his mouth and took a sip, never taking his eyes off the view. “Thought I’d try it out.”

“We should talk.”

He gave her a derisive noise. “About what?”

With a frustrated sound, Grace turned on a heel. She refused to start a discussion when he acted like this.

Jack pushed up from the chair and caught her upper arms, bringing her back against him. “Wait, wait….”

She closed her eyes, her heart starting to race, feeling Jack’s heat and strength take over her senses. “Don’t.”

He nuzzled her hair, breathing in deep, holding her tight. “Please. Let me just hold you for a moment.”

She tried to pry out of his hold and he swung her around in one swift turn. His hands dove into her hair. He kissed her before she could speak. To her anguish, Grace whimpered at the onslaught of his desperate kiss, fighting her own natural impulse to cave in and let him have his way. Splaying her palms on his hard chest, she turned her head away with a sob, breaking the contact.

His arms locked around her waist while she pushed. “Grace,” he pleaded, his voice husky with emotion and liquor, his hot lips on her cheek. “Don’t push me away. I
ache
for you. I need to feel you. I want you so much….”

She turned her head the other way. “Jack, stop. Please! You promised.”

He released her so fast she stumbled on her feet.

“What?” he asked, his eyes glittering with hurt and rejection. “You only fuck actors now?”

She slapped him.

Jack didn’t recover right away. His profile stayed averted. His throat moved on a swallow; he squeezed eyes squeezed shut for a moment. Instantly, she could see he regretted what he’d said.

Her hand stung, along with her eyes. When he shifted his gaze to face her, she couldn’t take it, and marched to the master bedroom. She closed the door and slid down the paneled back, her tears burning.

Sighing, she put her face in her hands.

 

***

 

Jack felt like crap the next morning and not just because he’d drunk the better half of his whiskey decanter last night.

He didn’t know how to rationalize his conduct because rational thought and uncontrollable behavior were not in the same family. He’d allowed his jealousy to take over, fed it with some strong libations, and taken it all out on Grace with one jackass remark. That morning, he’d woken up and walked to her room to apologize, only to see she was already gone.

He couldn’t blame her for avoiding him. He’d acted like a pig.

Now he was sitting in a management meeting, completely uninterested in any topic, and thankful he could put on a good show by nodding once in a while when it seemed appropriate.

All he could think about was that he needed to make it up to her. But how? Things like taking her out to dinner, buying her flowers….all seemed lame. In hindsight, he’d been wasting his time. Instead of trying to win her back, he had been picking fights and behaving immaturely. Not anymore….first thing he’d do—

“Crandall.” A hand slapped down on his shoulder. It was his colleague, Tom Warner, Director of Marketing. “Meeting’s over.”

Jack cleared his throat. “Yeah, I was just thinking about how to deal with the permit issue….” He stood up, buttoning his jacket.

“Didn’t you hear? Pierson is handling it.”

He’d heard squat. “Oh. Right.”

Tom gave him a look, shaking his head as they stopped in the doorway. “Have you been moonlighting or something? You look like hell.”

No, I’ve been losing my mind
. “Thanks a lot for pointing it out,” Jack said with a sigh. “It’s just been a long week and it’s only Wednesday.”

Tom was too busy looking down the hallway to pay attention to anything Jack was saying. His eyes widened with blatant interest. “Who’s the fox talking to Hughes?”

Mr. Hughes was the company’s president and CEO, a man that Jack had come to admire almost like a father figure. They’d come from similar backgrounds and had great business chemistry from the get-go.

He sent a quick glance down the hall, only to do a double take.

The woman Tom had referred to seemed impossibly familiar. She wore sky-high heels, black hosiery with seams running up the back, a dark purple pencil dress, her hair in a messy knot….

Jack’s throat went bone-dry.

Tom gave a crooked, unmistakably predatory smile as he tightened the knot of his tie. “Think I’ll go over there and introduce myself—”

He halted him with a firm grip on the man’s shoulder. His voice was clear with a trace of a warning. “That’s my wife.” Tom had come aboard after Jack and Grace’s separation, and therefore had never met her.

Tom stopped, gaping, looking back and forth. “Say again? You’re screwing with me, right?”

Straightening his own tie and smoothing the front of his suit with a hand, he gazed at his wife with both pride and wonder. “That’s her.”

He left Tom in stunned silence as he casually walked over to Mr. Hughes’s office, half-a-dozen questions circling his mind.

“Here’s your husband now,” Mr. Hughes announced as Jack approached them.

Jack found his heart was beating extra fast at the moment, as if he would be talking to a high school crush for the first time.

Grace turned around with a soft smile. “Hi.”

He couldn’t take his eyes off her. God, she was gorgeous. “This is a surprise….” Especially after last night.

“One of the actresses threw a tantrum and refused to work, so they postponed filming for the rest of the day,” she explained.

Mr. Hughes chimed in. “When my secretary told me she was out here waiting for you, I just couldn’t let a pretty lady sit out here alone. You didn’t tell me she worked on the set of
Housewife Secrets
!”

Mainly because I just found out myself
. He rocked back on his heels. “I didn’t think you watched that kind of show, sir.”

“The wife does.” He leaned in, as if to share confidential information. “It sucked me right in, unfortunately, fool that I am for pretty women with attitudes.”

Grace laughed softly, slipping her hand in his boss’s arm. “Would you like to come to the set one day and meet the cast?”

The old man’s eyes lit up. “Only if I can bring my wife, too. Or else the next time you see this face, it’ll be with my head on a stick.”

Jack chuckled, still amazed. Not only was Grace here, she’d totally charmed his boss.

Mr. Hughes beamed at Jack. “Where have you been hiding her all this time?”

Grace cut in before Jack could think of a reply. “It’s my fault, Walter. I’ve been a showbiz workaholic.” Her gaze met Jack’s as she said, “But I promise to make it up to you as much as I can.”

Jack’s jaw clenched, and he suppressed the urge to sweep her into a kiss that would make the whole office blush. He didn’t understand why she was doing this, because he frankly didn’t deserve it, but he decided not to analyze her motives right now.

And did she just call his boss by his first name?

“Well, I’ll leave you two,” Mr. Hughes said. He turned to Grace. “You have no excuse tonight. I plan to see you both at the Four Seasons.”

Grace gave him a nod. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Mr. Hughes gave Jack a sound pat on the back as he walked past him.

Jack couldn’t keep the incredulity off his face.

“Your office?” Grace asked in an innocent tone.

He put a hand to her back and led the way to other end of the hall. Once inside, he closed the door, her scent tickling his nose and fueling his blood. It took all the strength he possessed not to push her up against the wall and ravish her.
Down, boy, down
.

He headed around his desk to put something solid between them. “Grace, about last night….” Unable to think of anything articulate to say, he said with a shrug, “I was an ass.”

Looking down, she crossed her arms. “You were, but I should’ve been more considerate with our…situation. I should’ve stayed home so we could talk.” Slowly, she raised her head up, her blue-green eyes sad. “But it seems like whenever we try to do that we end up right where we started.”

Jack sighed. “I know. And I went about it the wrong way, accusing you of pushing me aside for your job. It was petty.”

“I’m sorry you felt that way,” she said. “That’s why I’m here. I thought maybe if we were in your office, we’d be able to have a conversation instead of an argument.”

He gave her a half smile. “Not a bad idea. I’m glad to see you.”

She smiled in return.

“And apparently, so is my boss.”

“I’d forgotten how much I liked him!”

“So much so that you committed us to attending the cocktail party tonight?”

She gave a small shrug. “Wouldn’t you like to go?”

“Now that you want to, I do.”

“I want to be in your world, Jack,” she admitted. “Not just married to it.”

A lump formed in his throat.
I know, baby…I know
.

A silence fell between them.

“Well, I’m going to go,” she said.

“You’re not staying? We could order lunch.”

“I have some things I need to do before tonight.” She turned for the door and rested a hand on the knob. “See you at home.”

He sat down, thanking God for multiple second chances.

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

 

Grace had to admit she was nervous about the party that night as they drove to the Four Seasons. It had been over a year since she’d socialized with any of Jack’s company associates and she wondered if any of them knew about their separation. After all, he’d been living in a corporate apartment for months. Added to her frequent absences to gatherings like these, at least one or two of them had to know Jack had moved out. Suddenly, she felt queasy.

“What’s wrong?” Jack asked. He must’ve sensed her tension.

She decided to be honest about her reservations. “I’m wondering how many people know about us. About you moving out.”

“No one knows,” he told her. “I went through a third party for the apartment. I’m paying for it myself.”

“Oh.” Partly relieved, she began to relax.

“You look beautiful tonight,” he said.

She smiled, her stomach fluttering. She’d worn a black sheath dress, her long hair straightened and tucked behind her ears, with the small diamond studs he’d given her on her birthday. “Thank you.”

The cocktail party wasn’t nearly as nerve-racking as Grace had envisioned it would be. It was held in the beautiful hotel bar with a piano player in the corner. Everyone greeted Jack with smiles and was delighted to see he had brought his wife this time.

Mr. Hughes was happy to see them, but eventually steered Jack to the men’s group, then took Grace aside. “Would you mind terribly if I threw you to the wolves so your husband and I can discuss a problem we’re having in the Phoenix branch?”

“The wolves?” Grace laughed softly. “That’s not very encouraging. Or appealing, Walter.”

He gave her a wink. “You can handle them.” He escorted her to a group of three women, one of whom Grace recognized as the vice president’s wife.

As soon as Mr. Hughes introduced her, they welcomed her kindly, though they didn’t seem all that genuine.

“Jack Crandall’s wife,” one of them mused after the old man departed. “I was beginning to believe you didn’t exist.” She snorted, then laughed at her own joke before taking a sip of wine.

Not that Grace could blame her for saying so. “I know. I’ve been so busy with work it’s hard for me to get away.”

“Oh, sweetie, I have two children and volunteer forty hours a week,” said Regina, wife of the vice president. “If I can find the time, you can.”

Sigh. She hated playing these verbal games. Though, admittedly, the attitudes weren’t something she wasn’t already used to. If she could handle Hollywood royalty, she could handle anyone. “I envy how you manage all of it. You have two children, that’s wonderful.”

“How many do children do you have?” asked the youngest of the group, Alyson.

Oh, no. Here it comes
. “None. It’s just me and Jack.”

“Oh? Why not?”

They all looked eager to know the answer. Grace decided to hand out the rehearsed reason she always gave in these situations. “We have a few things we want to do before we start a family. Not in a rush.”

“Ha. No rush for
him
, maybe.” Regina reached out and placed her ice-cold hand on Grace’s forearm, with a frigid smile to match. “No offense, hun. You’re very pretty, but you’re not getting any younger. Watch out, or he could replace you with some young coed just when you’re ready to get pregnant.”

Sweetie. Hun
. How it grated on her nerves when women called her pet names when they hardly knew her.

BOOK: All Said and Undone
9.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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