Authors: Jennifer Simms
“Now?” Jordan asked, the corners of his mouth still pointing downward.
“Yes, now.” She rolled her eyes. “You’re impossible to get a hold of.”
“And what about the paparazzi?”
“We’ve dealt with those vultures before, remember?” she said, grinning.
“I remember,” Jordan said, his frown melting away. He looked at me, seeming to just remember I was still there. I tried to smile. “Lori, have the driver take you home.” He pointed at the limo that was waiting on the other end of the alley. “The paparazzi’s attention isn’t something you need in your life. I’ll call you later.” He handed me my dress and smiled briefly before returning his attention to Vanessa.
Dismissed. I’d just been dismissed.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and nodded before walking away. Once in the limo, I looked back down the alley through the tinted glass of the window. Vanessa seemed to be talking earnestly, her hand on Jordan’s broad arm. The limo drove away before I could see anything else.
I knew I should be a little more mature about it, but I still felt crushed. The optimist in me wanted to believe they were probably just talking business. I mean, Jordan was one of the CEOs of a media corporation and Vanessa was an actress. Makes sense. But during the ride back, something clawed at my gut that I couldn’t ignore. After the amazing sex in the dressing room, I thought I might have meant a little more to Jordan. I really wasn’t crazy about Vanessa Price—or the idea that she and Jordan were discussing “something private.”
The limo pulled up to the apartment and the driver opened the door for me. I thanked him, grabbing my tote and dress before dashing up the stairs. I was desperate to vent my frustrations to Sam. She didn’t even know about the limo incident yet. I knew she’d help me sort everything out.
“Sam?” I called, closing the door behind me and hanging up my keys. I draped the dress over a chair in my room before going to the kitchen. The apartment was as quiet as a tomb. There was a piece of paper hanging from a magnet on the fridge.
“Out with Anthony,” the note read. “Don’t wait up. Sam.” Out with Anthony? Again? The way she’d acted at dinner around him didn’t make me think they’d be seeing each other again. I was dying to get the scoop on that, too.
I made myself a sandwich half-heartedly but only ate part of it. Exhaustion hit me with a heavy blow. This week had been one of the craziest of my life. New job, surprise visit from Eric, sex with Jordan Bishop...
After what happened with Vanessa, I wasn’t sure if I was excited about going to the ball with Jordan anymore. Flopping down on the bed, I checked my phone.
No missed calls.
I couldn’t say I was surprised, but it still hurt. He said he’d call.
It occurred to me that I could call him and find out what was going on but that would look needy. And what if he just let it go to voicemail anyway? That’d make me feel even worse. Just what was our relationship anyway? He was my boss and I was his assistant. We had sex twice and gone out on arguably one shopping date—if that could even be considered a date. The backwards sequence of courtship steps had never seemed that worth analyzing before. Go where the flow of life takes you had always been my philosophy. Maybe I had just been naive.
I looked at my dress wondering if I would get to wear it at all.
Taking my Ipod out of my gym bag, I listened to some Enya to calm my nerves. I knew the dangers of overanalyzing. I’d seen it too many times in high school and in college. The girl reads too much into a guy’s actions, causing unnecessary miscommunication and drama and ultimately sabotaging the relationship. The mature course of action, I assured myself, would be to mellow out and see what happens.
The buzzing of my phone woke me up, but it was already past noon. I stretched, yawning and feeling well-rested. It felt like an eternity since I slept in. Reaching for my phone, I again eyed the dress draped over the chair. The text was from Jordan.
“Sorry about not calling,” it read. “It was late and I didn’t want to wake you.” It was late before he got away from Vanessa? That thought wasn’t comforting. “Can’t wait to see you. I’ll be by in the limo at 3.” I blinked rapidly. He’d be by at 3? As in less than three hours from now? I tore the covers from around my body and leapt to my feet.
“Sam?!” I yelled, dashing out of my room and knocking madly on her door. When there was no answer, I pushed it open. Her bed was neatly made. Had she even come home last night? Rushing to the kitchen, I couldn’t see any signs of habitation. I couldn’t believe she’d spent the night with Anthony. I wanted to dish about it with her, but more than anything, I needed hair and makeup advice—and fast.
Quickly, I wolfed down a yogurt and then hopped in the shower. I could straighten my hair or put it in a ponytail, but that was the extent of my styling abilities. As I dried it, I paged through hair tutorials on the web until I came across one that looked doable. After a few tries, I was the proud owner of a chignon. I pulled a few strands out of it to frame my face and carefully applied my makeup. I made my eyes a little darker than usual—this was a ball, after all—and finished it off with a shimmery gloss over my lips. I didn’t look like myself and I wished Sam were there to help. I realized how much I’d come to rely on her for beauty tips.
Borrowing a pair of Sam’s black stilettos that I was confident I could walk in, I checked the time. I had about fifteen minutes. What time could the benefit start if Jordan had to pick me up at three? Once my dress was on and I was wearing the shoes, I stared at my appearance in the full-length mirror. Oh, a purse! I borrowed one of Sam’s many clutches—a sparkly black one to match my outfit—and shoved my phone and a couple of cards in it just in case. As an afterthought, I added the lip gloss. Sam was always lecturing me about the importance of reapplying.
Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I peeked out the window and saw the limo pull up. Locking the apartment behind me, I carefully made my way down the three flights in my stilettos and stepped outside. I smiled at the driver, who gave me a discreet thumbs up as he opened the door for me.
“Lori, you look amazing,” Jordan said as I ducked into the limo. “Absolutely breath taking.” He took my hand and kissed it gallantly. He looked amazing in a tuxedo.
“Thank you,” I said, blushing. I wanted to ask him about Vanessa, but, then again, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. “So what time does the ball start?” I asked instead.
“About six,” Jordan said, offering me a flute of champagne. I took it, not wanting to tell him that I’d barely had breakfast. “We’ll be a little fashionably late, of course.”
“So why are we leaving so early?”
Jordan cocked his head. “Oh, did I not tell you? It’s in Los Angeles.”
My jaw must have hit the floor. I had no idea I’d be traveling from coast to coast on my weekend.
“I’ve never been to California,” I admitted.
It was typically a four to five hour flight from New York but Jordan assured me that his private plane would make it there in just over three hours. I wondered if my chignon would get messed up during the long trip to the west coast but figured I could fix any loose strands before we landed.
We arrived at the airport and were ushered to a private jet. I felt like a star walking across the tarmac on Jordan’s arm. Shortly after takeoff, we were served dinner by the lone flight attendant. Unlike flight food I was accustomed to, this was delicious—steak and asparagus with wild rice. The accompanying red wine was a
, the taste perfectly offsetting the meal.
Feeling a little flushed from the alcohol and the rush of everything, I paused after the flight attendant bustled our plates away and pressed my hands to my cheeks. I was on a private jet, flying to a ball in Los Angeles for the evening. Jordan slipped his hand through the slit in my dress and rested his large palm on my bare knee.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m fabulous,” I said. “It’s just—wow. I could never imagine just taking off in a plane to go to a ball. It’s something that’s kind of foreign to me.”
Jordan smiled, his eyes warm. “I remember when it was new to me, too. Of course, most of the time I’m flying for business. This ball is a little different. I always make time for it.”
“So orphans are your charity of choice?”
“One of them, anyway. Let’s just say it’s an issue very close to my heart.”
Before I knew it, we were landing in Los Angeles. A waiting limo took us to a gorgeous venue, complete with red carpet. The driver opened the door and Jordan helped me out.
“Don’t be nervous,” he said before a cacophony of flashes went off. Paparazzi were photographing…me? I tried to mimic Jordan’s smoothly nonchalant smile, but a blush engulfed my face. How could famous people do it? I couldn’t imagine my every move being followed with a camera.
“Who’s that gorgeous woman on your arm, buddy?” one of the photographers called. Jordan just grinned and shook his head. I relaxed once we were inside the cavernous hall, but not for long.
“Is that Faith Hill?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“Of course it is,” Jordan said, snagging a pair of champagne flutes from a passing waiter. “She’s here every year. She was an orphan.”
I’d never known that. My breath caught in my throat again. “Is Christina Aguilera an orphan, too?”
Jordan chuckled. “No, but she does care about them a lot.” He pointed discreetly across the room. “Jamie Foxx was one.”
I followed his finger, gaping. The room was full of stars. I felt like I didn’t belong, and I wished I could just blend in. However, it was impossible to hide when I was clutching the arm of the biggest man in the room. People made room for us, greeting us with smiles and kind words. Jordan was apparently well known in the Hollywood sect.
“Jordan, my man!” I turned and tried not to stare at George Lopez, the comedian, shook Jordan’s hand and slapped him on the shoulder. “How are you—oh my.” George took me in with a single up and down gaze.
“George, this is my assistant, Lori,” Jordan said. “She’s been gracious enough to be my date tonight.”
“Lori, it’s an absolute pleasure.” He shook my hand before moving on.
“I can’t believe I just met George Lopez,” I said.
“He’s a pretty good friend of mine,” Jordan said, laughing. “I guess I just forget he’s supposed to be famous.” A man I didn’t recognize waved at Jordan and beckoned him from across the room. “Lori, forgive me,” Jordan said. “There’s a little business I need to attend to. I’ll be right back.”
I clutched my flute, watching Jordan move across the room, and then took a nervous sip. I didn’t know how to interact with anyone here, but they all seemed nice enough, smiling at me when I accidentally caught someone’s eye. A waiter supplied me with a full champagne flute and I welcomed the slight buzz the alcohol was giving me. Jordan and the man were talking earnestly.
“Working when he’s supposed to be enjoying himself. That’s just like Jordan.” I looked to my left and was shocked to see Vanessa Price. Her clingy blue dress brought out her eyes and left precious little to the imagination.
“Lana, right?” She downed her cocktail and snapped her fingers at a passing waiter for another.
“It’s Lori, actually.”
“Whatever. Lana, Lori, Vanessa, Rachel, Bev, I’ve seen ’em all come and go.”
“I’m sorry,” I said as politely as I could manage. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” It didn’t take a genius to see that Vanessa was well on her way to drunk.
“No woman can keep Jordan Bishop,” she sneered, grabbing her fresh cocktail from a waiter’s tray and sloshing half of it on the floor. “You have to share him with his work or his brother. He’s never yours.”
“I’m just his assistant,” I said slowly, trying to keep my hands from trembling by grasping the champagne flute tightly.
“Don’t bullshit me, Lana,” she slurred. “You’re young and you’re pretty enough. I know he’s hitting that.”
I swallowed hard. What could someone like me say to a rampaging Hollywood star? Vanessa had a bug up her ass about something and nothing I was going to say could help her. I decided to stay quiet and let her talk herself out.
“Just remember one thing.” She poked me viciously on the shoulder with her French tip nail. “He’ll never be yours.”
She stalked off, stumbling once on her tall heels, and I stared after her. What had that been about? Vanessa seemed to be obsessed with Jordan but why was she angry with me? Was it because I was Jordan’s date to the ball? I looked across the room, but he was still in conversation with the same man. I decided to go to the bathroom to try to regain my composure. As I walked across the floor, the band started playing and people paired off. Maybe Jordan would want to dance. I was hopelessly clumsy, but I liked the idea of him holding me on the dance floor.
Once in the bathroom, a woman attendant offered me a warm dampened towel and I patted my flushed face. Even the bathroom of this place was nicer than anything I’d ever seen. A light pink leather couch had been placed in a dimly lit alcove for the people who just liked relaxing in the bathroom. All of the fixtures were a sparkling gold, and the light pink marble on the countertop and walls was gorgeous. I stared at myself in the mirror, trying to shake off the ugly feeling I’d gotten when talking to Vanessa. What was her deal?
I reapplied lip gloss and pursed my lips at my reflection and went off in search of Jordan.
He wasn’t where I’d last seen him. The dance floor was full of people, but Jordan stood out in a crowd. Puzzled, I roamed around the hall, smiling at fellow attendees.
Where is he?
I took up another glass of champagne just so I could have something to do. I noticed for the first time a line of rooms toward the back of the hall. Maybe Jordan had moved his meeting there because the band was too loud. I picked my way across the hall, until I reached the back. I poked my head in the first, but it was empty, furnished with a sumptuous rug and several leather armchairs.
When I opened the door to the second, I gasped.
I’d found Jordan, but he was holding Vanessa by the wrist, their lips locked passionately together. My full flute of champagne slipped from my fingers in shock and shattered against the floor. Jordan pulled away from Vanessa and stared at me.
How could I be so stupid? Vanessa wanted Jordan—that’s what our little “chat” had been about. And God only knew what they’d done yesterday when Jordan sent me home in the limo.
I whirled around, not willing to let either of them see a single tear and hurried out.
“Lori, wait!” Jordan called after me, but I didn’t stop.
Tears welling in my eyes blurred my vision. I was determined to escape, even if I had to take a cab all the way back to New York.
First Eric, now Jordan?
I was through with this. Absolutely through.