by Stephanie Fournet
Publisher: Blue Tulip Publishing
Publication Date: December 13th, 2016
Publisher: Blue Tulip Publishing
Publication Date: December 13th, 2016
Driven. Private. Insanely talented.
Gray Blakewood is the most successful crime writer under the age of thirty—and he has a secret that could cost him his life.
He just wants to finish his latest novel before his world unravels, and the last thing he needs is a beautiful distraction.
Meredith Ryan, his new personal assistant, has seen more than her fair share of hard knocks. And, still, she’s the sweetest person he’s ever met.
She deserves a lifetime of happiness—which he can’t offer.
But he can’t seem to stay away.
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“I don’t want you to cook for me.”
Meredith turned on the faucet but talked over it. “Well, your brother asked me to take care of you. You’re not feeling well right now; it’s almost dinner time, and you don’t have any food on hand,” she argued — competently, he noted. “If you don’t feel well enough to get dressed, I’m guessing ordering a pizza is not an option, so this is the best I can do under the circumstances.”
She had him there. Only, ordering a pizza would have worked fine if he hadn’t told her he wasn’t dressed. A sinking feeling — one that started between his eyes, pushed down against his shoulders, and landed squarely in his gut — made Gray flop back on his bed and stare at the ceiling.
Hiding in his bedroom hadn’t spared him any humiliation. It had only compounded it. Now she thought he couldn’t feed or dress himself, and that was no one’s fault but his own.
“My head will feel better in a little while,” he groaned. This was another lie because now it really was beginning to hurt again. “I can make my own dinner.”
“Gray, it’s just mac and cheese,” she said softly. “Besides, the pasta’s already on the stove.”
“What if I don’t want mac and cheese?” He heard the words as they left his mouth, and too late, he realized he sounded like a child.
Laughter. She was laughing at him. Quietly, yes, but she still laughed.
“Then you don’t have to eat it,” she said, the smile clear in her speech. “But I will have done my job.”
Gray rolled his eyes. “Leave it to Baxter to find the most dedicated personal assistant on the planet.”
She was silent for moment, and Gray wondered too late if he’d offended her. He was about to apologize when she responded.
“He said you might be a challenge.” She didn’t sound offended. In fact, she still seemed amused.
“And, frankly, that’s fine. This job is saving me from a truly horrible fate, so you won’t hear me complaining,” she said. Her words had him sitting up again so he could hear her better. “Besides, I can already tell you’re a lot better than my old boss.”
Gray had so many questions he didn’t know where to start. “Wh— How am I better than your old boss? Who was your old boss?”
“I worked at Champagne’s in the Oil Center. My boss, Mr. Simmons, was this crabby, paunchy, old— Wait a minute...wait a minute,” she repeated. Then she stopped talking completely.
Gray leaned forward on the edge of his bed, trying to listen harder.
“I… don’t think it’s a good idea to rag on my old boss to my new boss. Then you might think that I’d do the same thing to you.”
Gray found himself chuckling. “Well, wouldn’t you?”
Meredith laughed, too. “Not if you didn’t suck, and, trust me, on my first day at Champagne’s, I already knew that Simmons sucked.”
He laughed outright. “Please, I’m dying to know. Why was Mr. Simmons so horrible?”
“Well, first of all…” Her voice drew nearer, so Gray knew she’d stepped back into the pantry. “...he’d lose his mind if you took a sick day. And if you forgot to clock out, he’d dock you a quarter of your last hour on-shift, sure you’d knocked off early and were trying to scam the system.”
Gray frowned. “Sounds like an asshole.”
“Definitely. But the thing that drove me nuts about Mr. Simmons was that he wouldn’t look at you when he was talking to you.”
His stomach seized. “Wh-what do you mean?”
“I mean, he’d stand in front of you and talk with his eyes closed. So. Annoying.”
If a boss who made eye contact with her was high on her list, he was going to disappoint her.
“I don’t think I’m much better than Mr. Simmons at this point,” he admitted. “You can’t even see me.”
At this, her laughter rippled through the space separating them, and Gray smiled, glad he’d made her laugh even if he hadn’t meant to.
“That’s true. I don’t even know what you look like. Do you look like your brother?”
Gray’s response was immediate. “What? No. I’m far better looking.”
It was what he would have said if Baxter was around. It was what he would have said three months ago. And Gray found himself surprised to hear his joke echo through the room. Meredith’s renewed laugh made him forget his mounting headache, and he lay down on his bed, listening to her.
How could someone who laughed like that have been crying in his back yard just a few minutes ago? What had she meant when she said that this job had saved her from a horrible fate? How could she make him so easily forget that he’d spent all day on the same two pages, waiting for his meds to wear off?
“That’s it. I think I’m going to have to Google you,” she said casually.
“What?!” Gray propped himself up on his elbow.
“I’m Googling you.”
He flopped back down again. “Oh, you don’t need to do that,” he groaned. Everything she’d find would be headshots and signing appearances — all vetted and approved by his publicist before they were released. In other words, all pictures that looked a hundred times better than he looked in real life — especially now.
Before he’d received his diagnosis, when he was just dealing with the headaches, he’d started to lose weight. The headaches often made him nauseous, and he’d skip meals at a time. Even with meds, his face still looked gaunter than it should. This and the look in his eyes aged him.
His pace to finish his novel hadn’t improved his appearance, either. Most of the time, he wore dark circles.
“Wow,” Meredith said. “Did you know I work for a famous author?”
Gray rolled his eyes. “Just ignore that. It’s all B.S.”
“Yes, clearly. Because everyone else has written three bestselling novels. I mean, I have.”
About Stephanie Fournet
Stephanie Fournet, author of Fall Semester, Legacy, Butterfly Ginger, and Leave a Mark lives in Lafayette, Louisiana—not far from the Saint Streets where her novels are set. She shares her home with her husband John and her daughter Hannah, their needy dogs Gladys and Mabel, and an immortal blue finch named Baby Blue. When she isn’t writing romance novels, she is usually helping students get into college or running. She loves hearing from fans, so look for her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and stephaniefournet.com.
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