I nodded crisply, as if I understood the depths of the lesson he thought he was teaching me. Inside, I was burning with frustration. Turning crisp with irritation. This was information he could have shared months ago. Instead, he’d been leading me on the whole time, knowing he was never going to put me on payroll. I opened my mouth to speak and was about to say thanks for nothing when I thought of Jess, and the wedding tomorrow. Now was not the time to take a stand. I gulped, rose, and handed him the wedding list. “I completely understand, James. And I respect your morals so much. Now, what kind of sandwich can I get for you?”
“Roast beef with mayo,” he said, then returned to his computer without a word.
“Are you bloody fucking kidding me?”
I shook my head as I clutched the phone to my ear on my walk back from the sandwich shop. Traffic chugged along at a usual sluggish pace, even on this side street near James’s office. “Wish I was. But nope. The bastard made it patently clear he was never going to hire my sorry, pathetic ass. Have I mentioned again how happy I am that we’re not blood relatives to him?”
Matthew laughed lightly, then sighed. “I’m sorry, Will. That totally sucks. I really wish I was in a position to hire you,” he said, and I wished that, too. But the harsh reality was that as connected as Matthew and Jane were in the music business, that didn’t equate to finding a job only I could do.
“I know. It’s okay. I know you’ve done everything you can,” I said, wistfully. Hell, Jane had even tried to make me her personal tech assistant, but the visa-powers-that-be had said that was absolutely a job for an American.
“We won’t stop trying. I promise. And listen, I just heard from my editors at Beat that I’m flying out tomorrow to LA for an interview with this rising pop band. Let’s get together on Sunday morning and we’ll brainstorm options for you. We’ll see if there are some stones unturned.”
A flicker of hope touched down in my chest. I liked my brother, and I always enjoyed seeing him. “That sounds awesome. And maybe you can meet Jess, too.”
“Wait,” Matthew said, curiosity strewn in his voice. “You did not tell me you were seeing someone.”
“Well, I’m telling you now. And she’s fantastic.”
“Then we really need to find a way for you to stay in the States.”
“Exactly,” I said, as I neared James’s office. I could tolerate two more days working for him for her sake, especially since she was calling me now. “I need to go. That’s her on the other line.”
“Whipped already,” Matthew said, and I could hear the satisfied grin all the way from the other side of the country as he hung up and I answered her call.
“Hey, Jess,” I said.
“There’s no need to tail Jenner any more,” she said, her voice lacking its usual spark as she proceeded to give me all the details of her morning. My jaw nearly dropped with her story, but my mind was quickly turning.
“Here’s the thing. I don’t think this story ends here,” I said.
“Because what we know is only the outcome—that Jenner’s the newest cast member of The Weekenders and that Nick’s been booted. We don’t know how it started. It’s as if we have a script with only the second and third acts. Since I know you like to think of everything like a movie script,” I said, speaking her favorite language.
“So what happened in the first act?”
“That’s what I don’t know. But I want to find out, because it could change the ending.”
“Because we don’t know how Jenner could have learned in the first place about Avery hooking up with Riley. How did Jenner, and by extension, the scheming pair of publicist brothers, know that there was something on Avery Brock? Something to blackmail him with. That’s the missing link. How Jenner got the tip in the first place,” I said as I pushed open the door to James’s office. “I need to go, but I’m going to go track this down. And then I’m going to take you out tonight.”
“I would like that,” she said.
We both would. I might not have had a job, but every day there was more of a reason to stay.
* * *
Six foot five inches of handsome, ripped, muscular man.
I could get used to this. I snapped photos of the quarterback of the NFL Renegades team tossing a football on the beach to his star receiver, Jones Beckett. The man could run, he could catch, he could look fantastic in every damn shot.
“Yeah, I can see why you don’t find him attractive,” I whispered to Jillian, who stood next to me, her sleek black hair blowing in the breeze from the ocean.