Maybe This Time by Lauren Blakely



“Yes, I am well aware,” I say, straightening my spine, acting all faux haughty. “And that’s exactly why my questions are important.”

“You need to know where your potential bodyguard wants to vacation?” Candi retorts.

“No,” I say, rolling my eyes at her in an over-the-top manner. “I’m asking these questions because the evening bodyguard is literally the most important one on the rotation. He’ll be my regular companion. We’ll be hanging out together. He’ll be walking with me when I have shows, walking with me after shows, heading to press appearances. He’s not interviewing for the job of the overnight guard when I am sound asleep.”

Candi laughs, then looks at Jackson. “Stone loves his sleep.”

“Sleep is a very good thing,” he says to Candi, intensely serious. “They say you should get eight hours.”

He turns his hazel eyes in my direction, and I get a nice, long look at them—they are the definition of soulful. Mmm, I could get lost in them. I could write a song about those eyes. His gaze holds mine, that look of intensity in them as he adds, “I hope you’re getting your eight hours a night, Stone.”

It comes out deadpan, and I love it. Just like I loved his door banter in the hallway. I love that he’s already unafraid to just talk to me like this. That he’s not being all deferential and shit.

That he’s giving me a hard time in his own way.

That’s what I want from someone I have to spend so much time with. I want someone I can shoot the breeze with, someone I like chatting with.

Because I like to talk.

But I also need to know he can do the job.

Fortunately, that’s Veronica’s role—to figure that out.

For now, I want to laser in on whether I can handle being around him for so damn long every day.

“I am definitely getting my eight hours a night, Jackson,” I say, answering him. “Often more.”

“Lucky you,” he says.

“Lucky me indeed.” Then I turn to Candi. “And the reasons I’m asking him these questions is we might just have to shoot the shit for a long period of time together. I know you’ll get to all the hard questions.”

Jackson shoots a bring it on grin to all of us. “I don’t mind the questions. Any questions at all. Hard or easy.”

Hard.

“Fine,” Candi says, laughing. “Proceed with the Would You Rather game.”

“Please,” I say with a scoff. “Would You Rather is what we’ll be playing when he’s been on my detail for a few weeks.”

“Good to know. I like all sorts of board and parlor games,” he adds.

I gesture to the big man, then to Candi and Veronica. “See? He even uses the term ‘parlor games.’ This is going to be epic,” I say, then I narrow my eyes. “But I have a very important question, Jackson.”

“Hit me up.”

“If you had an extra hour each day, how would you spend it?”

His answer is instant and earnest. “Learning a new language. I want to speak more languages. I know basic Japanese, and I’m learning Spanish. I use it in Los Angeles occasionally, but I’d like to try using it on a regular basis.”

“Excellent answer.”

“How would you spend an extra hour each day?” Jackson tosses back at me, and I like that. I like that he has no problem turning the questions in my direction.

“I’d read,” I answer. “Or read more. I love old mysteries—Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard.”

“I bet you like them because they’re a total escape from your world.”

Dude, it’s like he can see inside my soul. “Yes, exactly. What do you read?”

“Nonfiction. Magazines. News articles.”

“You like to learn,” I say.

“I do.”

I rub my palms together. “All right. Now for the hard ones.” I draw a deep breath, like I’m prepping for the final Jeopardy! round. “Pizza or Chinese food?”

“Both,” he answers.

“Library or museum?”

“Absolutely both,” he says, his hazel eyes glinting with playfulness at his own answers.

“And finally,” I say, making the sound of a drumroll, “music or sports?”

“Not fair. You can never pick between two of the greatest things ever.”

I hold my hands out wide, pleased as hell with how he handles me. I turn the reins over to Candi and Veronica, relaxing into the couch as I let them interview the guy.