“I like him,” Cass says once we’re alone.

I smile. “Yeah. Me, too.” I take a deep breath, then tuck my feet under me and stare out at the marina. “I told him, Cass. I told him what happened with Bob.”

“Good for you,” she says.

My stomach twists a little. “I told him all of it. I mean, I told him even more than I’ve told you.”

She frowns, and for a moment I think she’s mad. Which fits, because I’m feeling guilty. “Oh, man, don’t you think I knew that?”

I blink, momentarily confused. “Wait. Knew what?”

“That there was more to tell. Duh.”

“You did?”

“Sure. And I’m glad you told Jackson the rest of it.”

I sit back, a little bit pleased and a little bit befuddled.

“It’s not a contest, Syl. What you tell him, what you tell me. I’m here if you need me, and I always will be.”

I close my eyes tight and hug my knees against my chest. “Thank you.”

“Not the kind of thing you say thank you for, but you’re welcome anyway. Seriously, Syl. Talk to me, don’t talk to me. I love you, and nothing’s going to change that. And I mean that in a fully clothed, platonic sort of way.”

A bubble of laughter bursts out of me. “Okay. Thanks.” I swallow. Then I draw a breath and I tell her the thing I haven’t quite been able to say yet, not even to myself. “I think I’m falling in love with him.”

She makes a dismissive noise. “I don’t.”

“Really?” I’m not sure if I’m hurt or surprised or disappointed.

“Falling? No way, babe. I think you’ve been in love with him since Atlanta.” She squeezes my hand. “Congrats on finally realizing it.”

My best friend, I realize, is a very smart woman. “I love you, too, you know.”

“Hell yeah, you do. I’m extremely lovable.”

We spend the rest of the night talking about nothing and everything, but it’s nice to spend time on the boat with the water lapping in the background and an open bottle—or two—of wine in front of us.

When I see Cass yawn and realize that the light is off in Jackson’s study, I call time-out and we both head down.

I give her a hug outside the guest room, tell her she can sleep as late as she wants, but I’ll be leaving insanely early to get to the office, and that I’ll text her with the time the limo will come for her.

Then I quietly open the bedroom door to go see the man I love.

He’s asleep in bed, his laptop open beside him. I take it away, then slide in next to him. He pulls me close in sleep, and I snuggle against him, as moved by that simple, unconscious gesture as anything else he’s done or said.

I’m content, I realize.

Content. Happy. And, yes, in love.

twenty-three

“I’m so glad the three of you could make it,” Michael Prado says as he greets me, Jackson, and Cass in the foyer of his astounding Beverly Hills home.

“We’re glad to be here,” Jackson says, shaking his friend’s hand. “I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Sylvia Brooks, and her friend Cassidy Cunningham.”

Girlfriend.

It’s the first time that Jackson has used that title, and I am so astounded that I almost don’t notice the hand that Michael extends for me to shake.

“Don’t look so surprised,” Jackson whispers after the introductions have been completed and we’ve joined the crowd in the ballroom. “It’s true, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” The word bubbles through me like champagne, and I catch Cass’s eye. “Yes, it is.”

“It’s not easy to shock her,” Cass says to Jackson. “I think the only way you’ll manage again is to strip her naked.”

He chuckles and swings an arm around her shoulder. “Nice try, but I’m not indulging your prurient fantasies.”

“Had to give it a shot.”

I roll my eyes at both of them, but it’s only for show. Not only am I still flying from the girlfriend label, but my best friend and my boyfriend have crossed that invisible line from friendly acquaintances to actual friends.

All things considered, life is pretty damn spiffy.

I lean against Jackson as I take in the surroundings. I’ve seen what an obscene amount of money can buy, but even I have to force myself not to stare. Freestanding architectural relics representing different periods in history are placed artfully throughout the space, and bits and pieces of Hollywood memorabilia are mixed among the antiquities. Movie posters, candid photographs of celebrities, pages from scripts, and even three Oscars cover the walls or fill display cases.


Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
Source: www.StudyNovels.com