“You know, I just work in the accounting department, so I handle all of that.”
She noticed that Francine got a little blush on her cheeks.
“My dad used to work in accounting, and he had so many tales to tell. You know the stories of what happens behind the scenes, and at times the horror of having to balance those books.”
“It’s all really cut and dry to be honest.”
“Really? What’s the bank that you work for?”
Francine hesitated, and Payton saw she was fumbling.
“We really don’t need to talk about work here,” Payton said.
“What about you, Rick? Know what bank she works for? Why she knows a thing or two about the law?”
“I think that’s enough,” Rick said.
“Hunter, come into the kitchen with me, please. I think I want to check on dinner, and I know I’ve got something you can do.”
Entering the kitchen, she waited for him.
“What the hell are you doing?” she asked when he finally entered. “Leave her alone and stop giving her the third degree.”
“That woman doesn’t work in a bank.”
“You shouldn’t be questioning a guest like that. Are you completely insane?”
Hunter moved toward her, grabbing her arms. “I’m telling you, Payton, that woman doesn’t work in a bank. My dad did for years, and don’t you think it’s a little suspicious that she can’t even remember where she works for? Hello, a bank is open a lot of hours. Everyone knows where they work. No one hesitates like that, and completely forgets the name. They sign your checks.”
“She was flustered.”
“Yeah, but you don’t forget that long.”
Payton thought about it, and even flustered people didn’t forget where they worked. Moving toward the doorway, she looked out to see that Francine wasn’t paying much attention to Rick. She was looking around her apartment, and Rick leaned back against the sofa, talking, asking questions.
Pulling away she turned to Hunter. “Who is she then? You look like you know her.”
“I think she’s press.”
“The way she’s looking around. Let’s face it, what better way to get an inside story than to be on the inside?”
“Is this about you?” she asked. “Is that why she’s here?”
“My gut is telling me that there’s going to be a story about the fact I’m your boyfriend. It will depend what other stories Rick has told her, and let’s face it, the guy looks smitten with her as well.”
“He is. He even told me that he wanted me to meet her. Usually, women don’t like how he takes care of me, managing me.”
“Then I think this woman is trying to get the inside scoop on the current flavor of the month,” he said. “I don’t mean for me, babe. I mean for the press. You’re doing a lot of interviews, a lot of personal details. I wonder if they’re trying to find fault.”
She had been asked about her diet, about how she felt about her own curves. What she thought of the current obesity problem in kids, how she was also contributing to that. She had been asked a lot of questions. Rick had told her before they went down this path that she would need a thick skin. She’d need to be prepared for everything.
“You can’t know this for sure.”
“I recognize her, Payton. She’s press. She’s after a story.”
How would she say anything? Rick was her best friend, but if this woman was using her, then she couldn’t allow it to go on.
This could risk her friendship with Rick, but she had to keep him safe.
Entering the sitting room, Payton smiled. “What story are you hoping to get?”
Francine turned toward her, and her eyes went wide. “Excuse me?”
Hunter moved in behind her, and Payton was thankful for the strength he offered her in that moment. “You heard me. What story are you wanting to write? Are you after information about Hunter, me, Rick? What is it? I don’t have all day, and I’d rather you cut the crap with my friend.”
The timid little woman changed before her eyes. Francine drew her shoulders back. “I wanted to get the inside scoop on the new plus-size model. I wanted to know if you’re really confident about your curves, and what stories are true. If you’ve slept your way to the top, or if Rick helps you in that department.”
Rick stood from the sofa. “Are you fucking kidding me right now?”
Francine shrugged. “My boss wants the story, and when we saw your ad, it was perfect. Sorry, no hard feelings.”
“Get out,” Payton said. “I want you out of my house now.”
“That’s okay. I’ve gotten what I needed.”
“You print any story and I will have your career,” Hunter said. “You think long and hard about what you do next.”
“You think we’re not used to big corporations coming after us?”
“It’s not my corporation coming after you. It will be me.”
Francine paled, stumbling over her own feet.