She took a few minutes to recover from her tears and then headed back upstairs. She hadn’t wanted to go back after that, but she knew it would be suspicious if she didn’t show up. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door, more anxious than she’d been the very first day.
Julian was slow to answer, and when he did, she wished he hadn’t. The light in his eyes was gone, his smile a distant memory. His jaw was tight in anger, his gaze burrowing into her as though he were searching her soul for some kind of guilt.
“Come in,” he said, stepping back to let her inside.
This wasn’t the reception she was hoping for, but she wasn’t surprised. She sat down on the couch, clutching her purse in her lap. Without even speaking, she knew their relationship was about to unravel.
Julian picked up his phone from the coffee table and hit a few buttons. He wordlessly handed it to her, his blue eyes daring her to take it.
Gretchen hesitated, finally accepting the phone from him. When she looked down on the screen, she felt the air get sucked from her lungs. It was an article about James. She knew how hard Julian worked to maintain his brother’s privacy, but now the secret was out. No wonder Julian was angry.
“How awful,” Gretchen said, her hand coming up to cover her mouth. “How could anyone have found out about James? You were so careful. Could it have been one of the nurses at the hospital?”
“Good try,” he said with a deadly cold tone. “I’m the actor in the room, not you.”
Gretchen’s gaze tore away from the phone to meet his accusatory one. “What is that supposed to mean? Do you think I’m the one that leaked the story?”
Julian crossed his arms over his chest, looking larger and more intimidating than he ever had before. He looked as if he were about to mow down a field of terrorists with an automatic weapon, as in one of his films. “I don’t have a lot of people to choose from, Gretchen. You’re the only one who knows everything. You’re the only one that’s ever met my brother. No one else would have all these details.”
Gretchen stood up. She was shorter than he was, but she couldn’t just sit there and let him hover over her intimidatingly. “Just because I had the information doesn’t mean I would’ve shared it. I told you that I wouldn’t tell anyone about James and I meant it. I said I’d even sign your stupid agreement.”
He nodded. “It never occurred to me that you’d manage to sell your story before I had time to draft the paperwork. A brilliant way to get around it, I have to say.”
“Get around it?” she said, surprising herself with her own shrill tone. “I didn’t get around anything, Julian, because I didn’t sell this story. Did Ross feed you all these lies? I don’t understand how you could think I’m capable of something like that.”
“I didn’t think you were capable of it, either.” Despite his hard expression, Gretchen detected some hesitation in his eyes. He didn’t seem to believe his own accusations, and yet he wouldn’t back down.
“You’re just using this as an excuse,” she said, trying to bait the truth from him.
His brows went up in surprise. “An excuse for what?”
“To get rid of me,” she accused. Ross’s cruel words echoed in her head, fueling her own anger. “Despite all those promises you made in Louisville, you know I’m not the kind of woman that will boost your career.”
Julian seemed baffled by her allegation. “What makes you say that?”
“I heard you talking to Ross,” Gretchen said. “I got off work early and heard you arguing. I know I’m not the right kind of woman for Julian Cooper. I’m fat and I’m awkward. I don’t have an elegant or graceful bone in my body. I know that. I don’t need Ross or you or the press to point that out to me.”
Julian shook his head angrily. “I don’t know what you heard, but I can assure you that isn’t what that discussion was about.”
“It wasn’t? Come on, Julian, be honest. As much as you claim you want to be this serious actor, you’re hooked on that blockbuster lifestyle. You claim you can’t quit because of your brother, but how much could his expenses possibly be? Are they as much as your Beverly Hills mansion? Your sports cars? Personal trainers and private chefs? Expensive baubles for your expensive women? I bet not. You’re going to use this story to drop me because I don’t fit into that lifestyle. I’m not going to help you become a bigger star.”