Maybe This Time by Lauren Blakely



A rush of heat jolts down my spine. Adrenaline spins higher in me, and my mouth goes dry.

My cells are buzzing.

What the hell?

I like his gaze more than I should, and I shouldn’t, even for a fraction of a second, enjoy that kind of gaze from a potential employer. From someone checking me out like we’re at a bar, or a club, like it’s just us and everyone else has faded away and I’m going to walk up to him, buy him a drink, talk to him, get to know him, and then ask him out on a date.

Because that’s the kind of guy I am.

I don’t do hookups. I don’t take men home that I meet in bars. And if I met this guy at a bar . . .

Nope.

Can’t go there.

I have got to stop this thinking.

Trouble is, my skin is prickling, and my bones are buzzing from the way his eyes take a tour of my body.

Just let it go.

It’s a moment in time.

I don’t need to let my mind get carried away. This is merely a moment where a star is showing exactly why he’s a rock star. Because he’s magnetic. Because he connects with people. Because he has charisma and sex appeal and all that jazz.

Fortunately, I have something going for me too. Stoicism. I mastered that a long time ago.

So I don’t acknowledge the eye sweep, and then, just as quickly as it happened, it ends, and he’s talking to another fan.

That’s my cue to go.

After slipping out of the green room, I make my way through the hubbub backstage, past the roadies and the crew packing up after the show. As I go, I do my damnedest to shuck off that moment, those three seconds when he swept his eyes over me, when he looked at me like there was no one else in the room.

I’ve got to erase that fragment of time.

I’m not here to meet a man.

I’m here for the job, and my work is done for the night.

I’ve gathered my intel. Later this week, I can make my case for what I can bring to the table when I have my meeting with Stone.

But still, my muscles are tight. My breath staggers as I reach the stage door that leads to the street. I grit my teeth, trying to will away those three seconds.

Once outside, I walk down the block, away from the concert hall, and turn the corner. I inhale a deep and necessary gulp of air. The tension unwinds some. Another big, calming breath, and I let the warm evening air of Los Angeles wash over me.

Put it behind you, man. It means nothing.

This is the last thing I ought to be thinking about before a job interview.

So I dismiss it.

Just erase it from my memory banks.

I head to the parking garage, get into my car, start it up, and then blast some music.

The Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” will kick me out of this case of lust I’ve found myself in.

Just in case, though, I hit the gym on my way home, lifting weights to a hard rock playlist, and working out my case of instalust till it’s gone.





2





Jackson





At the end of the week, the memory is so far gone, it’s not even in the back of my mind. It’s barely parked in my subconscious. When I pull up to the trendy office building in Venice, I cut the engine, step out of my car, and check my reflection one more time.

I’m ready.

Pressed slacks, a button-down shirt, cuffs rolled up showing some of my forearms.

That’s deliberate.

I’m not above playing up my muscles, playing up my strength.

It’s part of my résumé, and I’ve got a fantastic CV.

I want Stone and his team to be able to see the whole six-foot, four-inch package, the breadth of me, the fact that I’m a lot bigger than the average guy, but sturdier too, and solid—all muscle.

I head into the office building where Stone’s manager has a corner suite. Inside the lobby, the space is arty and creative. The walls are bright colors, one painted yellow, another orange, and posters of movies, concerts, and TV shows break up the citrus shades.

Clearly, this is a very LA type of building, where all the businesses wheel and deal in talent.

That’s what this town is best known for.

At the front desk, a woman in a paisley dress looks up from her screen and flashes me a smile. “Can I help you?”

I give her a grin. “I have a meeting with Edgely Kane Talent Management. I’m Jackson Pearce.”

With a polished peach fingernail, she scans the screen in front of her, then nods and says, “Yes. Go right ahead. They’re on the fourth floor.”