Ryan shook his head. “Marriage, fidelity, faithfulness mean nothing to him. He’s married to a sweet, sexy, lovely woman whom he treats like trash. You just handed him more ammunition to mess with me by suggesting we’re that deeply involved. You poured blood into the water and the sharks are going to come and investigate.”
Jaci looked bleak. “You mean the press.”
“Yep. There’s a reason why I keep a low profile, Jaci, and I’ve appeared more in the press since I’ve met you than in the last few years.” Ryan banged his coffee cup as he placed it on the counter and rubbed the back of his neck. “They were relentless when Ben died, and I had so much else I was dealing with that the last thing I needed was to read the flat-out fiction they were printing in the papers. And the last thing I need right now is dealing with the press as I deal with Banks.”
Jaci tilted her head. “And you smacked him down last night... Are you worried about the consequences? Think he might bail?”
Ryan lifted a powerful shoulder in an uneasy shrug. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
“Wait and see?” Jaci demanded, her face flushing. “Ryan, this is my career we’re talking about, my big break. You might be able to afford to let this project go down the toilet but I can’t. If I have any chance of being recognized as a serious scriptwriter, I need this film to be produced, I need it to be successful.”
“I know that!” Ryan slapped his hands on his hips and scowled at her. “I don’t want this project to fail, either, Jaci. I’ll lose millions of my own money, money that I’ve paid into the development of this film. It’ll take a good while for me to recover that money if I lose it.”
“This is such a tangled mess,” Jaci said in a low voice. She flipped him a look. “I shouldn’t have kissed you. It was an impulsive gesture that has had huge consequences.”
Ryan looked at her for a long time before replying. “Don’t beat yourself up too much. I am also to blame. You didn’t deepen that kiss, I did, and I told Leroy that you were my girlfriend.”
“Okay, I’ll happily let you accept most of the blame.”
“Some of the blame. It wasn’t my crazy idea to say that we were thinking of getting married.” Ryan shook his head at her when she opened her mouth to argue. “Enough arguing, okay? I need sustenance.”
Ryan walked over to the double-door, stainless steel fridge and yanked open a door and stared inside. “You’re wrong, you know,” he said, and Jaci had to strain to hear his words.
“Since I’ve been wrong so many times lately you’re going to have to be more specific,” Jaci told him.
“About not being special.” Ryan slammed the door shut and turned around, slowly and unwillingly and, it had to be said, empty-handed. “You are the dream within the dream.”
Jaci frowned. “Sorry?”
Ryan cleared his throat and she was amazed that this man, so confident in business and in bed, could look and sound this uneasy. “Banks has everything money can buy except he wants what money can’t buy. Happiness, normality, love.”
“But you’ve just said that he has a stunning, lovely wife—”
“Thea was a top supermodel and Banks knows that she is far too good for him.” Ryan folded his arms and rocked on his heels. “Look, forget about it...”
Jaci shook her head, thinking that she needed to know where he was going with this. “Nope, your turn to spill. Are you telling me that I am more suited to Banks than his gorgeous, sweet, stunning wife?”
“Jesus, no!” Ryan looked horrified and he cursed. “But he knows that you are different from the women he normally runs into.”
Oh, different, yay. Generally in her experience that meant less than. “Super,” she said drily.
“Look, you’re real.”
“Real?” Jaci asked, confused.
“Yeah. Despite your almost aristocratic background, you seem to have your feet planted firmly on the ground. You aren’t a gold digger or a slut or a party girl or a diva. You’re as normal as it comes.”
“Is normal higher up on the attractiveness ladder than real?” She just couldn’t tell.
Ryan muttered a curse. “You are determined to misunderstand me. I’m just trying to explain why your openness, lack of bitchiness and overall genuineness is helluva attractive.”
“Oh, so you do think that I am attractive?” Jaci muttered and heard Ryan’s sharp intake of breath.