“Well,” John said, brushing his assistant away from his ear, “we wouldn’t want to put you in a bind by demanding a bigger cut. What if we simply went up five percent?”
“Thirty-five percent on fifteen movies?” I pretended to think about it for a minute. “That would probably work.”
“Great. I’ll have my lawyer draw up the contract.”
We stood, and John kissed my cheek—which was annoying because the man smelled like spoiled pickles!—and he was gone.
“Good job,” Carrie said, barely containing the laughter. “He never sees you coming!”
I glanced at Kirkland. He was watching me, a new interest in his eyes.
We spent most of the afternoon in meetings. Kirkland never said more than two words, but he was incredibly polite. He held open doors and pulled out chairs, the silent gentleman. And charming. He had this smile that made my bones literally melt. I couldn’t stand when he looked at me a certain way. It was the strangest thing. No man had ever affected me quite the way he did.
“He’s a playboy,” Ricki told me when I called her during a bathroom break. The bathroom was the one room where Kirkland didn’t insist on following me. However, he waited out in the hall like a bored boyfriend waiting for his girl to finish trying on clothes in a department store. “You should hear the stories David tells me about what he’s seen on the cameras. They’re almost better than your short stories on your website.”
“He pulls out my chair and holds the door—”
“He’s a Southerner. They’re all born with chivalry in their DNA.”
“Where’s he from?”
That surprised me a bit. He didn’t have any kind of accent, not even the slightest southern lilt. Not that I knew a lot about the South. I was born and raised in Oregon.
“Maybe he’ll be good for you,” Ricki said. “You know what they say about men with experience…”
I blushed. “Is that why you pushed me to call Gray Wolf?”
“No. David actually tried to have one of the other people assigned to you, but everyone else was busy.”
“So I got the bottom of the barrel?”
“Kirkland’s good at what he does. You’re in good hands. David was just trying to protect your virtue.”
“Well, tell David I appreciate the thought, but I have a daddy to do that.”
“You’re my friend. That makes you his friend, and David takes good care of his friends.”
I’d only met David once or twice. Ricki and I…we had been the kind of friends who would talk over text messages from time to time, the kind that would maybe meet for lunch once or twice a year. And then last summer, she just called me out of the blue and asked if I’d have dinner with her. We talked about everything but what she really wanted me there for. She had lost a good friend, and David was not in her life at the time because of some argument they had over his keeping secrets from her. And she’d just sold her company. She openly admitted that she felt like I was the only one she could turn to because all her other friends were gone. And I…it’s kind of hard to explain to female friends what you do for a living when you run a pornographic website. So, my dance card wasn’t that full, either.
And now…it felt like we’d known each other forever.
“I appreciate all of this, Ricki,” I said. “But I don’t know what I’m going to do when it’s time to go home. I mean, you’ve seen my apartment. It’s not that big. The two of us are going to be tripping over each other.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“You should have warned me he’d be sleeping at my place.”
“If I had, you wouldn’t have called.”
“And I wanted you to call. I’m worried about those emails, Mabel.”
“I know. And I appreciate it. It just feels like all of this is so over the top.”
“It’s not to me. Whatever it takes to keep you safe. You and David are my family now.”
I smiled. I liked that idea. “Thanks.”
“Go back to work. And be nice to Kirkland. Maybe he’ll be nice to you.”
I groaned as I hung up to the sound of her laughter.
Kirkland was leaning casually against the wall when I stepped out of the restroom.
I glanced at him, wondering if he thought I was sick or something.
He smiled, this crooked smile that made his eyes sparkle. Then he waved his hand, telling me to lead the way to our next stop. I was still so lost in that sparkle that I wasn’t sure where I was going.