Maybe This Time by Lauren Blakely



“Yes. It is.” I tilt my head, trying to get a read on his reaction. “Does it sound made-up?”

He squeezes my shoulder. “It sounds like a motherfucking awesome name. Like you’ve got a TV show at nine p.m. Tune in to Jackson Pearce, aka The Fixer.”

I laugh lightly. “It’s good that you already think of me as a fixer. Let’s keep it that way.”

“Let’s keep it that way indeed.”

Stone keeps his hand on my back as we head to a room full of couches and chairs at the end of the office. Two women are in there, laughing, looking up something on a tablet. But before we step inside, he squeezes my shoulder once more. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look like a bodyguard.”

Things I’d never take the wrong way.

“Thanks.”

“That’s a compliment.”

“Yeah, I figured. You mentioned it in a good way.”

“I definitely meant it in a good way,” he says, almost a little flirty. Or is he just being appreciative?

I can’t quite get a read on him. If we’d met someplace else, I’d think he was flirting with me.

But as soon as one of the women rises, he wraps her in a hug, runs a hand down her arm, squeezes her wrist, and says, “Candi Kane, look who I found in the hallway. My next bodyguard.”

Candi tsks him. “We have an interview, Stone.”

“Yes, let’s talk to him first,” the other woman says. She must be Veronica.

He taps his chest. Then he points at me again. “I’ve got a feeling. Trust your gut.”

And I have a feeling too. And that’s why I was wrong about that eye gaze. And I was wrong about the clap on the back.

Thank God. Thank the Lord.

It’s all just a part of who he is. He’s friendly. He’s outgoing. He’s magnetic.

And I’m damn grateful for that because the last thing I want is to feel like my skin is sizzling and my bones are on fire for a man I’m hoping is about to hire me.

I don’t need that man to flirt with me. That’d be the worst kind of trouble.

And trouble is the last thing I need in my life.

I’ve had enough of it, and I don’t need any more.





3





Stone





For the record, I don’t dabble with employees, or potential employees.

So, yeah, Jackson Pearce is in contention for an award along the lines of, oh, say, hottest guy ever.

But I’m not interested in hiring him just because he’s the spitting image of Thor.

I mean, come on.

If I wanted to hang out with the spitting image of Thor, I’d call up Chris and we’d hang out. The dude likes my music. And you know what? I like his films, so it works out really well that we’re buds who see each other from time to time when he’s in the US.

So the fact that Jackson Pearce is meme-worthy, that he could inspire a thousand new fainting, swooning, and fanning-myself GIFs, is irrelevant to the job opening.

After intros with Candi and Veronica, I sit down on the couch across from him in a chair and toss out the first question. “Where would you most want to go on a vacation?”

Dude doesn’t even blink. “Tokyo seems pretty cool. I’ve always been enamored with the temples and the teahouses. Would love to check that out.”

“That’s a great place. You definitely need to go there. Wait, what am I saying? We’re actually going to be there in a couple of weeks because I have a tour stop there.”

“Excellent.” He raises a brow playfully. “I’m already looking forward to it.”

I give him an appreciative nod. “Confidence. I like that in a bodyguard. In anyone,” I add.

Veronica clears her throat, peering over her electric-blue glasses. “Yes, we like confidence too, but again, maybe we should actually interview Jackson before we offer him the job.”

I roll my eyes like that’s a ridiculous thought, though of course she’s right. “Fine, if you insist.”

“I do,” she says.

I dig into my roster of getting-to-know-you questions and fire off another one at the job candidate. “If you could live anyplace for a year, where would it be?”

Candi busts out laughing, clasping her stomach. “Stone, you are such a character.”

I snap my gaze to my publicist. “And why is that?”

Candi gestures at Jackson. “You do realize we’re interviewing Jackson for the open position of your evening bodyguard? Not for The Newlywed Game?”