Maybe This Time by Lauren Blakely

She sweeps her arm out. I nod and pass the elevators that she pointed to, going straight for the stairwell. I bound up the steps two by two until I reach the fourth floor.

Because why take the elevator when there are stairs?

As I swing open the door, it nearly smacks into the man himself as he emerges from the restroom.

Stone jerks his head in my direction, stepping away from the door, but he barely seems taken aback.

“Shit, sorry,” I say.

“No worries,” he says, then, like it’s in slow motion, that million-dollar, megawatt, shooting-star smile flies my way again.

Holy hell.

Does this guy know how to make you feel like you’re the only person around?

Well, dipshit, you are.

I scrub a hand across the back of my neck as Stone gives me a tip of the chin. “But just so you know, I’m pretty damn sure that door is out to get me,” he says dryly as he walks down the long hallway.

“Doors can be like that,” I say, responding in kind.

“Right? Some days they are out of control. Just so damn rude.”

“Maybe you pissed off the door once,” I offer, since he seems like the kind of guy who appreciates a dry sense of humor.

He smacks his forehead. “Shit, you’re right. I did. It was the time I used the elevator instead of the stairs. I think that door is jealous.”

“Now, that’s totally understandable,” I quip.

He arches a brow, his lips quirking up again. “Jealousy is always understandable.”

There’s a hint of something more in his tone, but now is not the time to explore whatever that is. Never is the time.

Still, he’s easy to talk to. “Seems we agree.”

We both keep walking. He tips his forehead toward the office at the end of the hall. “I can promise you that door is not an asshole.”

“Good to know. Important, too, that you keep tabs on it,” I say, as I take in the details of the man, because that’s part of the job. Stone is wearing jeans, a gray T-shirt with an illustration of a pineapple playing a guitar, and motorcycle boots. He drags a hand through his hair, his eyes traveling up and down my frame once more, a look in them that says he’s trying to place me maybe.

Does he remember the other night in the green room?

He taps his finger against his chin. “I’m guessing you’re either Chris Hemsworth’s biggest threat in Hollywood, the next rising star in superhero films, or the guy we’re about to interview?”

A laugh bursts from within me. “Those are pretty good guesses.”

He holds out his hands, and a waiting look gleams in his eyes. “What’s it going to be? Am I right?” He points at me. “You are going to have your name on the silver screen.”

I dip my face, a little embarrassed. I shake my head. “I assure you, Chris Hemsworth has nothing to fear from me. And I can say with certainty that all the superhero roles will be safely cast with other actors.”

“I guess it’s what’s behind door number three.” He holds up his hand, his index and middle finger twined together.

“Yes. I’m the guy you’re interviewing.”

We reach a door with Edgely Kane Talent Management emblazoned on it. He grabs the handle, yanks it theatrically, and sweeps his arm out like he’s a valet in England opening the door wide. “Do come in, then, through this most friendly door.”

He’s quite a performer.

Once inside, he claps me on the back. It’s a friendly gesture, something you do with a buddy. I don’t read anything into it. I don’t think about how that hand feels on my shirt.

I swear I don’t.

Stone says hi to the guy at the desk, a hipster dude with glasses and sleek black hair, then adds, “I believe I found my one p.m. appointment.”

The man smiles at me. “You must be Jackson Pearce, then?”

“I am.”

Stone’s green eyes gleam with a wicked sort of glee. He arches a brow and quirks up his lips. “Dude, shut the hell up.”

I shoot him a curious look. “And why do you want me to shut the hell up?” I ask, tossing his words right back because I can go toe-to-toe with him, and I want him to know that.

Since I’m pretty sure that’s what he wants from me. From a bodyguard. I’m getting that message loud and clear.

“That’s your name?” he asks, surprised. “I mean, I knew it was Jackson. But Pearce is your last name?”