The only thing that got him up and dressed that morning was the knowledge that Ross was coming by to meet with him before he flew on to New York to arrange for a few press appearances. He’d much rather stay in bed and wait for Gretchen to return so he could make love to her one last time before he left.
He was drinking a protein shake he’d had stashed in his refrigerator when he heard his manager’s knock on the door. Right on time, as usual. Julian opened the door, letting the short, squat man in the expensive suit into the room.
Ross wandered over to the sofa and sat down. “So, how’d the fake date go? The pictures I’ve seen looked pretty convincing, so good work. I know that couldn’t have been easy to keep up.”
Julian wasn’t sure what his manager meant by that, but they should’ve been convincing. Every moment together was authentic and amazingly easy. “Actually, it was the easiest role I’ve played in years. After the first two days, I wasn’t acting at all. In fact, Gretchen and I have really hit it off. I’ve asked her if I can continue to see her after this week.”
The smug smile faded from Ross’s face the longer Julian spoke. “Are you serious?”
Julian frowned at his manager. “I’m absolutely serious. She’s a great woman. I’ve never dated anyone like her.”
Ross sighed and ran his hand over his bald head. “I know that I set this up and I said that you dating a normal, everyday woman would be good for your image. But I never intended this to be a long-term arrangement.”
“What does it matter if it’s long-term or short-term? You wanted me to be with someone. I’m with someone. You should be happy.”
“Not with her,” Ross complained. “She’s...”
Julian stared Ross down, daring him to insult Gretchen so he’d have a good reason to punch him. “She’s what, Ross?”
Ross looked at him, preparing the words carefully. “She’s not the kind of woman you’d want on your arm when you walk the red carpet at the Golden Globes. That’s all I’m saying.”
Julian snorted in contempt. “And when, in my illustrious career, have you ever booked me into a role that would get me invited to the Golden Globes?”
Ross shook his head. “You’re missing the point. I’m sure she’s a perfectly nice girl—the type you’d want to take home to meet your mother. But she’s not the kind of girl that will take your career to the next level. Think Brad and Angelina. Tom and Nicole.”
“Tom and Nicole are divorced.”
“So it didn’t work out,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “My point is that their high-profile marriage boosted their acting careers.”
“There are plenty of famous actors and actresses with spouses that aren’t in the business.”
Ross leaned forward and rested his chin on his pointed index fingers. “Julian, I’m your manager. You pay me to know what’s best for your career. And I’m telling you—she is not the kind of woman Julian Cooper is supposed to be with.”
If that was true, Julian wasn’t certain if he wanted to be Julian Cooper anymore. His alter ego was becoming the kind of person he didn’t even like. “You might be right, Ross, but I’m telling you that Gretchen is exactly the kind of woman that Julian Curtis wants to be with. This isn’t a role, Ross, it’s my life. I pay you to manage my career, but my private life is private. I’ll date whomever I want to, and I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your mouth shut on the matter.”
Ross’s cell phone chimed and he looked down at the screen. Julian was happy for the interruption. The energy in the room had gotten far too tense. Ross was a good manager, but he needed to know he had boundaries.
Ross frowned at the phone and then let it down by his side. “You can date whomever you like, Julian, you’re right. But you may want to reconsider choosing Gretchen.”
“Did you tell her about James?”
Julian stiffened. “I had to. She was there when I got the call about him going into the hospital. But I told her she’d need to sign a confidentiality agreement.”
“Not yet. I was going to have you draw it up today.”
Ross sighed and handed his phone over to him. “It’s too damn late. The tragic story of Julian Cooper’s secret twin has just hit the papers.”
No. That wasn’t possible. Julian scanned over the article, looking for some kind of evidence that would prove that Ross was wrong. The sinking ache in his stomach didn’t fade as he read the article. It was a huge, in-depth story about James, including his illness and recent hospital drama. Whoever had leaked the story had very up-to-date information about his brother.