Authors: K. Bromberg
We talk for a bit more before she has to go. “I miss you, Mom.” My voice cracks with my words because she might be tough and overbearing, but she only wants the best for me. I love her more than anything.
“I miss you too, Ry. It’s been too long since I’ve seen you.”
“I know. I love you.”
“Love you too. Bye.”
I hit call end and snuggle back into my warm bed that for some reason no one will let me sleep in this morning. I glance over at the dresser at the People and grab it. I flip it open to the marked page and there I am.
I stare at the picture of Colton and me at the Kids Now function on the red carpet. He is standing, his shoulders squared to the camera, with his hand in one pocket of his slacks and his other hand wrapped around my waist. His pocket square front and center. His face is looking toward the camera, but his chin and eyes are angled toward me with a huge smile on his face.
My eyes gravitate to the part of the picture that I love the most, the way his hand grips my hip, a possessive hold announcing to the world that I am his.
I reread the caption again and sigh. I’m so glad the press hasn’t gotten a hold of my name yet. I’m not ready to be thrust in to the media circus but I know it’s inevitable if I’m with Colton.
“In for a penny, in for a pound,” I mutter to myself.
I hold the picture in my hand, staring at it until I talk myself into taking my run. I shift out of my bed when my phone dings a text. I laugh out loud at technology’s rule over my life this morning and nonetheless pick up my phone to see Colton’s name. I can’t help the smile on my lips.
Thinking nasty thoughts of you in the middle of my meeting. Won’t be standing for a while now. Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven.
I laugh out loud, knowing the song and feeling flattered at the same time at the song’s lyrics. I text him back.
So glad I could help with your boredom, Ace…it’s the least I can do. Think more thoughts! TLC – Red Light Special.
I smirk as I toss my phone onto my nightstand, knowing that he’s going to have a lot harder time concentrating in his meeting now.
“Stella?” I call out from the door of my office. “Stella? What happened to my schedule for today?”
I lower my very tired and aching head into my hands and rest it there while I try to figure out how to juggle everything this week: budget projections, schedules, project meetings, along with the usual daily grind. And now I can only hope that the sudden four hour meeting blocked on my schedule for after lunch is just a computer glitch. Why didn’t Stella enter any details? I swear it wasn’t there thirty minutes ago. Maybe I’d looked at the wrong day.
“Fuck,” I mutter under my breath as I rub my temples to assuage the beginning of a headache. I hope it’s not one of Teddy’s endless brainstorming sessions. Our optimism had been tested earlier in the week when new budget projections showed us falling short of funding due to changes in California insurance laws. And since we’ve tapped every fundraising well dry, we’re crossing our fingers and hoping that Colton’s team pulls through with the needed sponsorships to keep everything on track. I look down at my schedule again, reining in my impatience at Stella’s lack of response, and remind myself of Haddie’s accusation when I’d snapped at her earlier this morning.
“Ooooh, someone’s having Colton withdrawals,” she chided as she added creamer to her coffee.
“Shut up,” I muttered, shoving my bagel in the toaster with more force than necessary.
“I guess it’s the toaster’s fault you’re pissy then.” I shot her a glare of death, but her only response was a smarmy smile. “Look, I get it. You’re so used to getting fucked into next week that when you’re stuck in this week you’re beyond sexually frustrated. You’ve gotten used to having incredible sex regularly, and now he’s been gone now for what? Nine days?”
“Eight,” I snapped.
“Yeah.” She laughed. “But it’s not like you’re counting right? And now Momma needs to
to make her happy.” I stifled my smile then even though my back was to her. “Christ, Rylee, it’s nowhere near the real thing, but Skype the man and get yourself off if it’s going to stop you from being such a bitch!”
“Who says I haven’t,” I responded coyly, extremely happy that she didn’t see the blush creep over my cheeks as I remembered Colton’s and my chat last night.
Oh the marvels of technology
“Well hot damn!” She slapped the kitchen table. “At least someone’s getting some in this house this week.” She laughed. I caved and finally turned around, my laughter joining hers. She brought the cup to her lips again and looked at me while she blew the steaming coffee cooler. “I’m happy for you, Rylee. Really happy. The man looks at you as if you’re the only woman in the world.” When I snorted at her telling her she’s completely wrong, she just continued. “Colton’s put that spark back in your eye. Made you confident and sure of yourself again. He’s made you feel sexy too…don’t give me that look,” she told me when I narrowed my eyes at her. “I’ve seen the lingerie hanging to dry in your bathroom, sister, so don’t even try to deny it. I love it! So when does the handsome stud get back anyway?”
“Two more days,” I sighed.
“Thank God! Then you can stop being such a raving bitch!” she teased with a smile. “You’ve got it bad girl!”
“I know. I know.” I shot her a quick smile as I stuffed my lunch into my bag, knowing the following forty-eight hours were going to drag big time. “I gotta go before I’m late. Love ya – bye.”
“Love ya – bye.”
I take a deep breath as I shake myself from my reverie. Haddie’s right,
I’ve got it bad
. I turn in my chair and buzz Stella again.
“There you are…hey what’s up with this meeting taking up my whole afternoon?” I try to keep the irritation out of my voice, but it’s hard. I’ve been working non-stop since Sunday and just want the afternoon to catch up.
“Um, I’m not sure.”
What? Who took my overly efficient assistant and hid her? “
What do you mean you’re not sure?
“Well…” I sense her discomfort even through her disembodied voice on the intercom. “I mean—”
“What’s it for?”
“Well someone from CDE called over and asked that I clear your schedule for a very important meeting about the sponsorship program. Teddy was right here when they called and okayed it. Said he’d tell you…and I’m guessing by the sound in your voice that he didn’t?”
My heart flutters at the mention of Colton’s company and then deflates knowing that he’s not going to be there. And then my mind starts turning and my heart accelerates because I have a feeling that this means I’m going to have to be one-on-one with Tawny and her team. Just the person I want to spend four hours confined in a room with.
“No, he didn’t. Are you fucking kidding me?” I say before I can catch myself.
“Nope.” She chuckles sympathetically, knowing I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. “I’m sorry. I know your day was packed, but I was able to move everything around. I left you a voicemail…I guess you didn’t get to that either, huh?”
“Haven’t even had a chance to listen to them since I first checked them this morning.”
“Well at least you might get to see that hot hunk of a man hmmm?”
I laugh overtly at her comment, knowing the rumors are swirling around the office about what Colton and I are or aren’t doing. I’ve yet to justify any of them except to say that we attended the gala together to promote the sponsorship despite what the caption in People said. I’m not sure if anyone believes me or not—and honestly I am way too busy to care—but I’m sure the water cooler has been a busy place as of late.
“Nah. When we spoke last week he mentioned that he’d be out of town for the week for some kind of promo junket,” I lie.
“Too bad,” she murmurs. “Looking at him during a four hour meeting would definitely put some pep in anybody’s step.” Her hearty laugh comes through the line, and I can hear it echo in stereo outside my office door.
“You’re incorrigible, Stella. What time do I have to be there?”
“They’re sending a car for you. It’ll be here in just under thirty minutes.”
Sending a car? Tawny probably wants to make sure I have no way to escape her evil plans for me. I snort a laugh at my thoughts and bring a hand up to cover my mouth to stifle it. “Okay, Stell…I don’t like it but I guess I have no choice, huh?”
“Nope,” she agrees before I disconnect the line.
“Fucking great!” I mutter aloud before reaching for a tootsie roll in the bowl on my desk. I think I’m going to need the whole lot of them to help me cope with the rest of my afternoon.
“We’re almost there,” Sammy says from the driver’s seat. “About ten more minutes.”
“Okay. Thanks, Sammy,” I murmur as I take in the beautiful interior of the G-class SUV. This must be yet another one of his collection of cars. I fight the smirk that wants to come. I don’t think it matters how many he has; Sex is definitely my favorite.
Sammy glances at me in the rearview mirror, and I smile at him. I was shocked when he was the one who came to pick me up. I told him so, expressing that I was surprised Colton had left him behind on his trip. I thought that they were inseparable. Sammy had just given me a non-committal shrug without saying a word. And now my overactive imagination starts to roam on the ride over, and I begin to worry about Colton. What if he needs help to keep some crazy, irrational fan away from him and Sammy’s not there to help protect him? I shake my head, telling myself I’m crazy. Colton admitted to me he was quick to throw down in his youth. I’m pretty sure he could hold his own if he needed to.
My phone beeps a text and I pull it out of my purse, a smile spreading on my face when I see it’s from Colton.
Beckett scolded me for not giving you romantic gestures. RME. He says I need to give you the flowers and poetry variety. Here’s the closest I get and the best we could come up with. Roses are red. Violets are blue. Sitting in Nashville. Thinking of you.
I laugh out loud at the image of Beckett and Colton sitting in Nashville and having a discussion about me. I can very clearly see Colton rolling his eyes at Beckett’s big brotherly recommendation of romantic gestures, all the while making up a nursery school rhyme to send to me instead. I quickly pull up the web on my phone and search for different versions of the preschool poem. After a few different links, I find the perfect one.
How sweet! And you said you didn’t do romance. Be still my beating heart. Those must be some really boring meetings. Now, I have one for you. Roses are red. Violets are blue. I’m using my hand, while thinking of you. Xx.
I smirk as I hit send, pleased with my witty response and wishing I could see his face as he reads it. We drive a couple more minutes when my phone chimes again.
FYI – Dick’s hard like a teenage boy. My turn—typing with one hand now: Roses are red. Lemons are sour. If you open your legs, I’ll be there in an hour.
I bite back the laugh that bubbles up in my throat, squeezing my knees together to stifle the ache our little text tête-à-tête has stirred up. I look up and meet Sammy’s eyes in the mirror, my cheeks blushing as if he knows what I’m reading, the dirty thoughts I’m thinking. I quickly avert my eyes and reply.
Quite the poet, Ace. Too bad you’re not here. The flight’s at least four hours. I don’t know if I can wait that long. Might just have to take care of myself. xx Gotta go. I need my hands for other things now.
I hit send as we pull into the parking lot of a large, nondescript, gray three-story building with a mirrored glass exterior. The building spans the better part of the block, and the only marker denoting its occupants are the letters “CD Enterprises” in electric blue at the top row of windows.
“Here we are,” Sammy murmurs, and my anxiety ratchets up at the thought of having to sit across from Tawny. I close my eyes momentarily and inhale a long breath while Sammy moves around to my side of the car to open my door. I need to keep my cool with Tawny because the last thing I need is to be known as Colton’s bitch of a girlfriend. Thank God I had my little texting distraction to ease the dread.