She searched J.D.’s eyes, trying to gauge his reaction. He was quiet for a few moments. Then he rolled off her and lay on his back with one arm folded behind his head.

“So are you saying this is it?” he asked.

Payton felt something tug at her. “I’m saying . . . that I think we need to see how things go on Tuesday. Then we take it from there.” She moved next to him, wanting him to look at her. “Don’t be mad at me,” she said softly.

J.D. turned his face toward hers. “I’m not mad at you. Just mad at the situation.”

Not knowing what to say, Payton kissed him while holding his face in her hands, hoping the gesture at least somewhat conveyed the way she felt. And when he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer, with his chin nestled against the top of her head, Payton closed her eyes to savor the moment and forced herself not to think about what might lay ahead.

J.D. MADE UP his mind: Payton had given her answer and that was that.

Truthfully, he wasn’t sure he disagreed with her concerns. Come Tuesday, one of them might very well resent the other for making partner, and—given the animosity that had been the cornerstone of their eight-year relationship—who knew where that could take them?

While it was true that J.D. had some definite reactions to Payton’s “wait and see” approach—to put it bluntly, he hated it—he didn’t want to have to tell her that. And he certainly didn’t want to spend any part of their remaining time together arguing. So for the rest of the night, he said nothing.

Similarly, the next morning, when he woke Payton up by sliding over her, when he laced his fingers through hers and kissed her neck, not wanting to waste another moment with sleep, he said nothing.

During breakfast, as they joked about whether they could bill their time for the weekend, and about how Ben and Irma and Kathy and everyone else back in the office would react if they only knew what they had been up to, he said nothing.

During the airplane ride home, when Payton leaned her head against his shoulder and kept it there nearly the entire flight, J.D. may have reached over the armrest to take her hand, but he still said nothing.

And finally, when the plane landed at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, and Payton gave him a sad, regretful smile, J.D.’s heart sank because he knew he was losing her.

But even then, he said nothing.

AS THE TOWN car pulled to a stop in front of her building—and despite the fact that it was only mid-afternoon—it finally struck Payton that the weekend was over. She turned to J.D., not having a clue what she was going to say, and was surprised to see him already getting out of the car. He took her suitcase from the driver and asked him to wait, saying he would only be a few minutes.

Once inside her building, J.D. carried her suitcase upstairs and deposited it on her doorstep. But when Payton unlocked her front door, he didn’t follow as she stepped inside her apartment.

“I should get back to the car,” he said.

She nodded. “Thanks for helping me with my suitcase.” Lame. They had been home for all of about thirty seconds and she already hated the way things were between them.

She leaned against the doorway. “I don’t want things to be strange between us.”

“I don’t want that, either,” J.D. said. He hesitated. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to say, Payton, something I need you to understand, and that is . . .”

Payton caught herself holding her breath.

“. . . that I’m not going to chase you.”

Payton blinked. Whatever she thought J.D. was going to say, that hadn’t been it.

“You’ve made your decision,” J.D. said. “You want to see how things turn out once the firm makes its decision, and I get that. And while I’m not angry, at the same time I don’t know what you expect me to do in response to your decision. So I just felt like I needed to say, for the record, I guess, that—”

“You’re not going to chase me,” Payton finished for him. “I got it. We’re all clear.” She tried to decide how annoyed she was with J.D. for thinking she might be the type of girl who wanted to be chased. Then she tried to decide how annoyed she was with herself for secretly thinking that maybe she did.

J.D. gave her a half smile. “Okay. I just didn’t want you to be expecting me to show up outside your window blasting Peter Gabriel from my car radio or anything.”

Payton couldn’t help but laugh at that. The thought of J.D. standing in front of the Bentley holding a boom box over his head was just too priceless. “Are you too proud for that kind of thing, J.D.?” she teased.

She’d meant it as a joke, but J.D. suddenly turned serious.

“Yes,” he said softly. He gently touched her chin. “With you, Payton—actually, only with you—I am.”

As he held her gaze, Payton realized that he might have been trying to tell her a lot more than she’d initially thought. But she didn’t get a chance to do anything further, because he turned and headed down the steps and out the front door.

Payton shut her door, walked over to the window, and watched as J.D. stepped into the town car that waited below for him. For a long while after the car had driven off, she continued to stare out the window, running through his words again and again.

She knew she was in over her head. After a weekend like the one she’d just had, she needed input. Guidance. She needed someone with an objective eye with whom she could review the past two days, someone with whom she could conduct the proper analyses of tone and facial expression, someone whose skills she trusted in that nebulous and precarious art known as Reading Into Every Word. She needed someone who not only understood her, but the enemy as well.


Tags: Julie James Romance
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