Authors: Kelly Favor
But she knew that to give in would mean total annihilation of all her morals, everything she’d been taught, debasing herself purely out of weakness. For all Kallie knew, Hunter was the devil.
“I’m not going to give up on us,” Hunter told her.
“You don’t really have a choice.”
“Are you sure about that?” he asked.
He smiled, and her heart skipped a beat. Don’t go! She almost cried out, as he turned and walked down the steps of the MOMA without another word. Soon after, he was gone.
Kallie stood on the steps as if she’d become a statue, a permanent installation—
they’d call her the statue of regret. People would sit down and watch her for hours, discuss why she looked so sad and forlorn, wonder if she’d ever move again.
Now it was her turn to wonder—if Hunter was truly the devil, why did watching him leave feel like she’d just sent her guardian angel away forever?
Kallie needed some new clothes, and rather than going all the way to The Hamptons house to collect what was left of her things, she simply went shopping in the city. Now that she was being paid so well, she figured it couldn’t hurt to splurge a little (she still didn’t have enough money to splurge a lot).
After buying about four hundred dollars in apparel, she got back in the town car and had the driver bring her to the Connecticut mansion.
Upon arriving at home, she informed him that she didn’t expect to need his services for the rest of the day. The driver was only too happy to take the rest of the day off.
Kallie spent the next few hours eating a light meal (tuna on a bagel, a mixed greens salad), swimming in the pool (trying hard to keep thoughts of Hunter out of her mind), and eventually watching television all by her lonesome in the enormous living room.
Eventually she started to doze, and then drifted into a fitful sleep on the couch.
When she awoke sometime later, Red was home. He wandered into the room and saw her just sitting up and wiping her eyes clear. He smiled, clearly exhausted after spending all day and night at the hospital with Nicole.
“You know, you could have just picked a guest room and napped there. It can’t be very comfortable sleeping on this couch,” he said.
She stretched and yawned. “Actually it was. Too comfortable. I hadn’t planned on going to sleep.”
He glanced at her, then back at the television, where some bad movie starring Robin Williams and John Travolta was on. “How was your day?” he said. “Did you do anything fun?”
“I went shopping in the city.”
“That’s always nice.”
“And I went to the Museum of Modern Art.”
He grinned at her. “Good choice.”
He seemed to sense her reticence. “It can be a bit confusing and dull if you’re not into the modern thing.”
Kallie laughed. “It wasn’t that. I just ran into an old boyfriend coming out, and that was kind of awkward.” She instantly regretted saying it, didn’t know why she’d told him anything.
Red’s eyes narrowed momentarily, but then his expression softened. “I know how that is,” he told her. “But here in New York? Is the guy originally from Ohio?”
She stuttered and stumbled her way through an explanation. “He’s sort of from this area originally. Honestly, not even worth talking about.” She looked around, trying to think of a way to change topics. “What about you? How was your day?”
He sighed, put his hands on his hips. “Long. I still have to handle work stuff when I can, and with the business starting to pick up steam so quickly, it’s getting hard to do from the hospital room. And then there’s always crazy things popping up out of the blue.” He seemed to think back to something, smiling to himself.
“What happened?” Kallie asked him. “Something funny?”
“Well, the timing of it is unfortunate. Someone wants to do a cover story on me for GQ. Normally I’d have jumped at it, but I can’t give the kind of time I normally would, with Nicole and the baby and all. So I had to turn it down.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. Maybe they can postpone and do the article later?”
Red shrugged. “GQ really was gung ho about having my story for the upcoming issue—it’s all about people who’ve made comebacks in sports and business and entertainment. So I suppose now I’m the poster boy for comebacks.”
“There’s worse things you could be a poster boy for,” she replied.
“Don’t I know it.” He turned away from her. “I’m going to just hit the hay,” he said. “I’m absolutely dead tired and I want to be up bright and early. Like I said, Kallie, feel free to take whatever room you want.”
Red went upstairs to bed, and Kallie decided she should probably take a cue from her boss and do the same. She’d been stowing her things in one of guestrooms right near the main entrance. She decided to move further down the hall into one of the rooms near the back of the house.
She decided it would be nice to have some privacy for a change. She’d grown up in a relatively small house with five brothers, shared a room growing up, and had roommates throughout college. Working for the Danvers family, she’d had very little privacy—Trina in particular had felt free to barge into her room at any time and demand things of her.
So it was a relief to begin unpacking her clothes and things in this new room, so far removed from the kitchen and living room—she felt like she finally had her own space and her own life.
Falling asleep that night, drifting off, Kallie told herself that things honestly couldn’t be better.
And yet, there was a ghost haunting her. His smile, his eyes, the sound of his voice, the touch of his hand on her leg—she couldn’t seem to let go of him even now.
I’ve told him to leave me alone, to go away. And even though my head tells me
it’s the right thing to do, my heart tells me I’m making the biggest mistake of my life.
When Kallie woke up the next morning, she took her time getting out of bed and into the shower. In fact, she decided to take a long, leisurely bath that lasted close to forty-five minutes. The water was hot and soothing.
She closed her eyes, laid her head back against the tub and closed her eyes. The water lapped against her skin, and in the darkness of her mind’s eye, Hunter’s face appeared to her again. He smiled at her.
She felt a strong pang of longing and sadness, a sense of loss.
Why did she have to fight against what Hunter was offering her? So what if he wasn’t marriage material? She was young, her biological clock hadn’t started ticking yet—she could afford to have an exciting, fun affair with a wealthy, wild man who knew how to push all the right buttons.
Was it really as simply as her Catholic upbringing, the simple teachings of her parents and the church, that were keeping her from doing what she actually wanted to do?
Or perhaps it was just her own inner compass telling her that Hunter Reardon was nothing but bad news and bad intentions incarnate.
In the midst of her musings, she continued to imagine him—she even managed to conjure up the sensations of their one night together. The way he’d touched her, kissed her, the feel of him inside of her, taking her exactly how he wanted to, and in the end—
exactly how she’d wanted him to as well.
Her eyes opened and she realized she’d been soaking in the tub for who knew how long. The water was lukewarm and getting almost chilly. She rose out of the bath and dried herself off, shaking off the remnants of her fantasies.
Back to reality, Kallie. Forget about Hunter Reardon and move on already.
As she brushed her teeth and put on makeup, clothes, brushed her hair, Kallie thought about ways to get him out of her mind. Perhaps it was time to do something drastic, like join a dating site and just meet as many men as possible.
All she needed was one nice guy to take her thoughts away from the one bad guy she couldn’t stop obsessing over.
Finally, she left her room and made her way to the main living area, with the intention of making herself a nice breakfast and then figuring out what to do with the rest of her day. She figured to have the house to herself by this time of morning, since Red was an early riser who no doubt would be long gone, already at the hospital, sitting by Nicole’s side.
But when she got to the kitchen, she found Red at the counter, pouring himself a coffee.
“Hey,” she said, surprised to see him. “I figured you’d be at the hospital by now.”
He nodded, adding creamer to his coffee. “There’s been a slight change of plans.
Remember that GQ article I was telling you about last night?”
“Yes,” Kallie said, coming further into the kitchen.
Red stirred his coffee and took a long sip. “The writer insisted on meeting me for five minutes this morning. He wanted to pitch me the idea again, and he said he was in the area.”
“Oh, so you’re having a business meeting. Should I make something?” she asked.
“I could put together a little spread for you guys. Bagels, croissants, make another pot of coffee…”
Red shook his head no. “I don’t want to encourage him. My plan is to listen to what he has to say and then politely decline. I just don’t have the time to spend with him right now.”
“Seems like he won’t take no for an answer,” she laughed.
“No, he won’t. I’ll give him credit though, he’s almost got me back on the fence, and nobody can ever make me second guess myself once I’ve made up my mind.”
“Well I’ll make myself scarce. Should he be here soon?”
“He’ll be here any minute, but feel free to hang out, Kallie. It’s not some top-secret meeting.”
Red turned his attention to the newspaper spread across the counter and Kallie opted for some cereal instead of a more elaborate meal that she’d been planning. She was actually kind of curious to be a fly on the wall for Red’s meeting with this journalist from GQ.
A few minutes later, the phone rang and it was the front gate notifying Red that the journalist had arrived. “Send him on up,” Red told them.
Not long after that, Red went to the front door and let the person in. She could hear Red greeting him. “Hey, good to see you.”
The other voice was low and the words inaudible, yet Kallie got a strange sensation in her gut as she listened from the kitchen.
It can’t be, she thought. It’s impossible. Your mind’s playing tricks on you.
And then she heard them walking down the hall and passing nearby on their way to the living room. “Would you care for a cup of coffee?” Red asked.
The journalist turned at the last second and looked over at her. It was Hunter Reardon. He smiled and Kallie tried not to faint.
“A cup of coffee sounds great,” Hunter said, grinning.
“Kallie?” Red asked.
She tried to gather her composure, but for a moment she was unable to even move or respond.
“Kallie?” Red asked again.
She snapped out of it. “Right away,” she said. “How do you take it?”
“Black,” Hunter responded with a coy wink that Red couldn’t see.
“Let’s chat right here,” Red told him, settling at the kitchen counter.
“Fine by me,” Hunter said.
“I’m ready to listen,” Red said, “and I’ll try to keep an open mind. But I’ve already told you that now’s not a good time for me.”
“Absolutely,” Hunter nodded, glancing quickly at Kallie and back again.
“You’ve got a lot on your plate and you don’t need some annoying journalist following you around and adding to it.”
“Pretty much. Also, I need to spend time with my recovering wife and premature daughter. They’re my priorities right now. If we could postpone a few weeks or even a month…”
Hunter shook his head no. “I’m afraid it needs to be now or never.”
Kallie’s hands shook as she poured the coffee into a mug and carried it over to where he sat, wearing a dark blue blazer and jeans, relaxed and formidable—equally as confident as Red Jameson was.
“Like I said, Hunter—I think we’re at an impasse. I want to work with you on this article, but I’m not about to sacrifice my family’s health or privacy over it.”
There was an awkward pause and Kallie filled it by handing Hunter the mug. He took it gently from her, his fingertips grazing the back of her hand as he accepted it from her. “Thanks,” he said softly.
“Your welcome,” she muttered, her heart fluttering in her chest. She could smell his cologne, and the scent of his shampoo. She loved everything about the way he carried himself, the way he smelled even. Why couldn’t she have him?
And beyond that, just what the hell was he doing here right now? There was no way this could be a pure coincidence. She knew he was up to something.
“How does your wife feel about me doing this article?” Hunter asked, finally.
Red shifted uncomfortably. “She…that’s not important.”
“Isn’t it, though?”
Red smiled as if in recognition of Hunter’s approach. “I’m the one who has the final say.”
“So she’s not opposed to it.”
“She’s not the issue here. I am.” Red crossed his arms, but something in his body language shifted. Kallie couldn’t say why, but she felt Hunter had somehow cracked a code—he’d perhaps gotten Red back on the fence after all.
“Okay, okay,” Hunter said, putting his cup to the side. “So what would you need in order to make this happen? How can I make this an easy yes for you?”
“The whole premise of your article is to spend time with me, to follow me around for a day or two and see how I’m running my new business and my new life. Right?”
“That’s pretty accurate.”
“I can’t have you doing that while I’m spending so much time with my wife.
Besides, it won’t make for a very interesting or accurate article. Right now, most of my time isn’t spent on my business. It’s spent sitting around at the hospital, getting my wife cups of water, food, and keeping her entertained until we can spend some time with our baby.”
Hunter rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Maybe we can stretch the timeline out a little,” he said. “Maybe I can make myself available to you, and in the meantime I’ll keep myself busy with other things.”
Kallie stood nearby, trying to blend into the wall but unable to remove herself entirely from the situation.