Say My Name
But there is no way in hell that I am conceding. Because while it may be true—God help me, I do want him, and that does piss me off—I don’t want what comes after. The panic and wariness. The tightness and fear. That horrible sense that everything around me is spinning out of control, and that no matter how hard I try to hold it together, I’ll inevitably get ripped apart.
“Tell me,” he repeats, his words heavy with five years’ worth of hurt and anger. “And then I’ll listen to what you have to say.”
I wince as something like guilt crashes over me. But I push it aside even as I shove his hand away and bolt up out of the chair. “Fuck you,” I snap, ignoring the low-pitched “sssshhhh” from down the row.
I stumble up the aisle, then practically slam myself against the door, not even taking a breath until I am safely in the lobby.
I lean against the wall and tell myself to get my shit together. I haven’t quite managed that task when the door opens and Jackson strides out and heads straight toward me. I think I must flinch, because I see his jaw tighten, and he comes no closer.
“Not exactly the sweet words I was looking for,” he says wryly. “But good enough.”
“Just leave me the hell alone,” I say.
“I can do that.” His tone is now all business. “Or you can tell me why you want to talk to me.”
I blink, a little whiplashed by his sudden change in tone. “A job,” I manage to say, even as my shoulders sag with both relief and, though I hate to admit it, a touch of disappointment. I push the latter firmly away—there is no room for anything but business between Jackson and me, and even imagining there might be more is a recipe for heartache.
His eyes stay fixed on mine, then he nods briskly. “All right. I’m listening.”
I stand straighter, sliding into business-mode and relishing the sense of being back in control. “It’s for Stark International,” I say. “And before you tell me that you already turned down the Bahamas resort, I’d like you to hear me out.”
I take his silence as acquiescence and continue, giving him the full rundown of the project from inception to the horrific news that Glau has not only melted down, but pulled out.
“Miss America got slammed on Facebook, and now the runner-up has the crown?”
“No,” I say firmly. “This isn’t about bringing in the runner-up. It’s about making this resort the best that it can be.”
“Really?” His gaze skims over me, as sensual as a slow caress. “I don’t recall being approached when the project was initiated.”
“You were tied up with the job in Dubai.”
“Was I?” he says, as if that commission was nothing more than a figment of my imagination. “So this has nothing to do with the fact that your precious resort is in more trouble than you’ve let on?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Problems with the FAA, Sylvia. Utility permitting. Environmental groups. Do you want me to go on?”
“Everything you’ve listed is being handled,” I say, which is technically accurate. Apparently there is a lot of red tape to cut through in order to install even a small landing strip on a tiny island. And he’s right about the environmental groups, too. As it turns out, the island is a habitat for a rare species of cave crickets, and negotiating that possible land mine was as fraught with destructive potential as disarming a nuclear bomb.
But what really concerns me is how he’s heard about those problems. Because we’ve kept a tight lid on each and every one of them.
I fight the urge to drag my fingers through my hair out of sheer frustration, and tell myself not to worry about that right now. “Dammit, Jackson, the bottom line is that it’s a great opportunity.”
“I’m not saying it isn’t.” He holds out his hand. “Come with me.”
I glance at his hand, but I don’t take it. After a moment, he lowers it, and the shadow I see in his eyes comes very close to breaking me.
He says nothing else, but turns and starts walking. I follow him in silence all the way back to the ballroom and then into a hallway that I hadn’t entered before. “Won’t they miss you?”
“This is Hollywood. They’re used to putting on a spin when the talent goes missing.” He grins, the corners of his eyes crinkling in a way I find both disarming and very, very sexy. “Besides, the after-party is here. Eventually, whoever needs me will find me.”
I nod, then take the opportunity to look around. The hallway is wide with white walls rising to a low ceiling. The floor is brushed concrete, and it’s broken up by several geometric, flat-sided pillars spaced down the length.