“True. But I know Glau is pushing sixty, is as round as Hitchcock, and actually has jowls. Jowls. And Steele’s all over the internet this morning, and he is hot. But I guess Irena Kent wouldn’t cozy up to someone who’s a schlub.”

“Who?”

“Jackson Steele.”

“No, the woman. Did you say Irena Kent? The actress?”

“Yeah.”

I frown. That’s why the brunette on Jackson’s arm had looked so familiar. I remember the way they’d looked last night, and the way seeing their picture in the paper had felt like a knife twist.

I tell myself I’m not going to ask—and then of course I do exactly that. “What do you mean she’s cozying up to him?”

“Rumor is they’re dating,” Jamie says, and considering she’s dipped her toe repeatedly in the Hollywood pool, I figure she would know.

“Like, serious dating?” I cringe the second the words leave my mouth. I am not with Jackson—our absurd arrangement notwithstanding—and I do not intend to be with Jackson in the future. So who he fucks is no business of mine.

“I don’t think so,” Jamie says, and I am uncomfortably but undeniably relieved. “To be honest, I think she wants the female lead in that movie they’re doing about that Santa Fe house he built. You know, the one that had all the gossip after the family moved in. Sex and murder and suicide.”

“I know the stories,” I say. “And I knew that Hollywood’s been buzzing about doing a feature film that centers on Jackson. But I didn’t know it was about that house.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure why it would be. The whole murder-suicide stuff happened after the project was wrapped and Jackson was off to conquer the next mountain of stone and steel. “How the hell could I not have heard that?”

“Why would you?” Jamie asks, which is a good question considering she doesn’t know that I have followed every bit of Jackson Steele trivia over the last five years.

“I don’t think it’s public knowledge,” she continues. “I know a guy who knows a guy who did a rewrite on the script. I think they’re keeping it pretty close to the vest. I guess Jackson’s not thrilled. My friend says he’s the reason the woman went ape shit.”

“The woman?” Jamie has completely lost me.

“In the story. The woman who murdered her sister and then killed herself. It was because of Jackson. At least in the script, anyway. Not sure about real life.”

I realize I have tightened my grip on my phone to the point that it is painful. “Oh my god,” I say, because I can think of nothing else. “Is it true? I mean, what does that mean, ‘because of Jackson’?”

“Not a clue. But there’s another rumor that he beat the shit out of the first screenwriter. Also unconfirmed,” she says, and I can’t help but think about Jackson’s temper. About the cut across his face and the way his knuckles looked so raw today.

“But what I can confirm,” Jamie continues, “is that he doesn’t want the movie made at all. That I know is true because one of Ollie’s law school buddies represents him.”

Ollie is the attorney that I’m hoping to hook Cass up with for her franchise questions. He’s also a friend of Jamie’s. I have no idea who Jackson uses as legal counsel, but I have no reason to doubt Jamie’s intel. As far as gossip goes, Jamie is part bloodhound.

“It sounds like a huge mess,” I say, because at the moment, that’s the only take-away I have.

“Oh, a complete clusterfuck,” Jamie says cheerily. “Anyway, I’ve done my duty and delivered your daily dose of gossip. Now I’ve got to send out a million more Evites and make a million more follow-up calls. I have no idea how we’re gonna fit all these people in my condo, but I’m going to make it work. You’re coming, right?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

“Awesome. Later! Ta!”

I’m not sure how long I stand there with my head full of Jackson, my mind spinning in a freakish mix of desire and question, angst and anticipation. But there is no way I’m obsessing over this for another hour, much less another minute. Instead, I grab a knife from the kitchen, then slice open the tape on one of the boxes sitting on my coffee table.

Since I’d been in a hurry to move, I hadn’t taken the time to label anything that wasn’t a necessity like clothes and pantry items. That has made unpacking both frustrating and exciting, because I never know when I might be about to open a treasure trove.

In this box, I find my photographs.

Dozens and dozens of prints in every size, ranging from eight by tens all the way down to three by fives. I pull a few out and feel a little karmic tingle. Because they’re images of the Winn Building in New York. The soaring testament that Jackson built in Manhattan, and that I’d made a pilgrimage to see last summer.


Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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