The contract on Bellamy Blake's desk was a doorstop waiting to happen. She flipped through the pages absently, rolling her eyes at the legalese. Hell, it could be
as far as she was concerned. Being a real estate analyst for the second largest bank in Philadelphia had sounded so much better when she'd started, fresh out of graduate school. After three years, an endless supply of doorstops and a boss who made Attila the Hun look like a lapdog, the whole thing had lost most of its luster.
Bellamy sank back in her sleek leather desk chair and stared at the waste of foliage that was her current contract, trying to ignore the headache forming behind her eyes. Still, the doorstop-slash-contract wasn't going to negotiate itself. It was time to buck up and take one for Team Paycheck, headache be damned.
Bellamy had no sooner waded to her knees in fine print when the phone on her desk rang. She was so grateful for the distraction that she didn't even check the caller ID before she scooped the phone to her ear. Maybe it would be a cheesy office supply salesman with a well-rehearsed spiel on the virtues of buying toner cartridges in bulk. That would be good for at least twenty minutes of distraction.
This had to be an all-time low.
“Bellamy Blake,” she murmured, pushing her blond curls over her shoulder to tuck the phone to her ear.
you didn't tell us you're moving to San Diego, you hideous bitch!”
Bellamy sat back, unfazed at her best friend Holly's theatrics, and grinned. This was even better than the toner guy. “Slow down there, Encyclopedia Dramatica. What are you talking about?” she laughed. “And by the way, hello is usually customary for the whole phone-greeting thing. Just so you know.”
“Screw hello! You're
?! If you told Jenna and the two of you kept it from me because you knew I'd freak out, I'm killing you both!” Holly wailed. Man, her flair for the old melodrama was on fire today.
“Are you out of your mind? I just re-upped the lease on my condo. Why would I . . . oh! Hold on, my cell phone is ringing.” Bellamy paused to dig through her purse. “You know how my boss is. If I let her go to voice mail even once, she'll light that thing up like Times Square on New Year's Eve until I answer.”
“Boss, schmoss! For once, the Wicked Witch can wait!”
The caller ID made Bellamy sag with relief. “Oh, it's Jenna! Hang on.” She slid her cell phone under her other ear and tipped her head toward it.
“Hey, Jenna, let me call you back. I've got Holly on the other line, and she's ranting aboutâ”
“California? God, Bellamy! Did Derek propose or something to get you to go? Why didn't you say anything?”
Did anyone stick with a good old-fashioned
anymore? And what was with the idea of her moving across the country?
“Okay, remind me not to sample whatever Kool-Aid you and Holly have obviously been sharing. I'm not moving to California, and I'm
not getting married. What the hell is going on?” If her friends wanted to pull one over on her in the practical joke department, they needed to work on their skills, big-time.
?” Holly's screech from the forgotten office phone rivaled that of a tornado warning going full bore, grabbing Bellamy's attention.
She fumbled as she scooped the other receiver back to her ear. “No! Jeez, Holly. I just said I'm
getting married!” Bellamy huffed, starting to get exasperated.
“I'm Jenna, not Holly,” her other best friend replied from the cell phone, confused.
Bellamy released a heavy sigh. “Holly's on my office phone, and I've got one of you on each ear, even though you're both insane. Look, if this is some kind of sick candid camera thing that you guys are planning to throw on YouTube, so help me . . .”
“Bellamy, are you watching Derek's newscast?”
Whoa. What was with Jenna's talking-down-a-suicide-jumper voice? She only reserved that for Holly when she was going full-tilt, so something must really be up. Bellamy paused.
“Just because he's my boyfriend doesn't mean I watch all of his newscasts, Jenna. I'm at work, and my boss just dropped a couple hundred pages' worth of contract on my desk.” Bellamy's stomach shifted uncomfortably. “Why?”
“Oh my freaking God. You don't know,” Holly breathed.
Bellamy pressed her office phone to her ear, feeling like a human Ping-Pong ball. “Don't know what, Holly? Come on, you guys. What's going on?”
“Derek's moving to San Diego,” they replied, in stereo.
Bellamy's brows knit together in confusion, and her first impulse was to laugh, although it came out more like a nervous croak. “That's impossible. I think he'd have told me if he was moving across the country.” It wasn't as if San Diego was a hop, skip, and jump from Derek's upscale Philadelphia brownstone. It was on another coast, for God's sake.
“Uh, sweetie, maybe you should call him,” Holly offered.
The croak made a repeat performance. “Okay, first of all, that's going to be kind of hard seeing as how both of my phones are tied up at the moment. Secondly, he's clearly on the air right now, saying something that's making the two of you lose your marbles.” Ugh, what was that tightness in her chest? Who'd have thought turkey and Swiss could give a girl heartburn like this.
“Google him, or grab the live stream from the Internet or something,” Holly tried again. “Because I'm telling you, I'm not making this up.”
Far be it for Bellamy to be a spoilsport, especially if it would put an end to this weird little charade. “You want me to Google my boyfriend to prove that you're playing a practical joke on me? Okay, fine. Whatever blows your skirt up,” she laughed.
Bellamy no sooner had her hands over her keyboard than Jenna's panicked voice cut through the phone line attached to Bellamy's other ear. “Wait, did Holly tell you to . . . wait! Bellamy, don't . . .”
Bellamy's heart did the pitter-patter-holy-shit in her chest as her eyes focused on Channel Eight's home page. The headline
Anchorman Derek Patterson Bids Philadelphia A Fond Farewell
was splashed over a handsome headshot that was all too familiar.
Her boyfriend was moving to California, and he hadn't told her a damned thing.
There weren't a whole lot of places Shane Griffin would rather be than up to his elbows in an engine block. He swiped a flannel-clad forearm past his eyes in an effort to relocate the swath of black hair that had fallen into them.
No luck. He needed a haircut like nobody's business.
The side door to the garage swung open, bringing with it a nasty wind and a soft, steady footfall that Shane could recognize from a coma. He straightened up from the frame of the 1969 Mustang Mach 1 in front of him, wincing.
“Damn, Grady! You're bringing some nasty weather with you,” Shane called out, tipping his head in the old man's direction.
Grady gave up a gravelly chuckle. “We're in the Blue Ridge, son. That weather's part of the territory now that it's winter. And I ain't bringin' it with me. Somethin's comin' down the pike all on its own. Feels like a doozy, too.”
Shane shook his head and laughed, flexing his stiff fingers. “Whatever you say. I don't go for that superstitious crap.” Man, Grady bought into all of that stuff, right down to using the twinge in his knee to predict the snowfall. Like the whole warm-front-meets-cold-front thing had nothing to do with it.
Come to think of it, Grady's accuracy
kinda freaky, though.
“You're young. You'll figure it out eventually,” Grady quipped in his gruff voice. “You still messin' with that Mustang?”
“Yup. I finished Mrs. Teasdale's Lincoln, so I figured you wouldn't mind. You know that thing's older than I am,” Shane grumbled.
“So's the car you're workin' on,” Grady said.
Hell if he didn't have a point.
“Yeah, but the Mach 1 is a classic. Mrs. Teasdale's Continental is more of an antique.” Shane eyed the Lincoln through the filmy windows of the garage. The thing was built like a Sherman tank and was about as pretty.
“Gets her from point A to point B just fine.” Grady leaned against the rickety wooden workbench that ran the length of the far wall, blowing into the cup of coffee he'd just poured.
“It does now,” Shane corrected with a smirk. It had taken him the better part of yesterday to get that carburetor straight, but right about now, the car could do everything short of sing show tunes. Thing ran like the day it rolled off the lot.
Grady eyed him, his demeanor changing slightly. “Listen, kid. You got another call from that loan office. Something about your payment going up. I left the message on the machine in the back room. Thought you'd wanna know.”
Great. As if the promise of bad weather wasn't bad enough to wreck Shane's day.
“Thanks, Grady. I'll figure something out.” Okay, now Shane was just plain talking out of his ass. A hundred and fifty grand wasn't exactly something you just
. He scrubbed a hand down his face, tempted to tell his five o'clock shadow that it was only ten in the morning.
Guess that was yesterday's fiver. Oh well. It wasn't like Shane had anybody to impress.
“I'd pay you more if I could, Shane. You're worth every damn penny.”
Shane's head snapped up just in time to catch the conflicted look on Grady's weathered face.
“You pay me just fine, Grady. You know this is something I've got to work out on my own.” He let his eyes rest on the Mustang, his gut flickering with unease. “If it comes down to it, I can sell the car.” The words tasted like a battery acid lollipop as they came from his lips.
“Shane,” the old man started, but Shane waved him off.
“I'm going to return Mrs. Teasdale's car, then go for a run on my way back. Unless you need me for something here?” The look he gave Grady said the conversation was over.
Grady nodded slowly. “You know you're gonna freeze your ass off, don't you?”
Shane tipped his dark head at Grady and went to grab the spare set of running gear he always kept in the office. “I'll be fine.”
Sure. As long as money grew on trees, he'd be freaking stellar.
“Let me get this straight. You took a job in San Diego and you're starting next
Well. Didn't Bellamy just put the sucker in sucker punched?
Derek cleared his throat and looked largely uncomfortable. “That's putting a rather fine point on it, but, yes.” He smoothed a hand over his perfectly arranged hair and looked down at her with an equal mixture of sympathy and guilt.
She should've known better than to trust a man who was prettier than she was.
Bellamy watched the waiter place their lunches in front of them and let him depart before she replied in disbelief. “Were you going to, I don't know,
at any point?” She wanted nothing more than to be angry, to deliver the words with the sassy-girl malice she knew she should be feeling right now at his lack of candor.
Somehow, though, she just couldn't work it up.
“It's, ah, a little more complicated than that.” Derek leafed through his spinach salad with quick, nervous stabs, refusing to meet her eyes.
Bellamy's brows popped. “It didn't seem complicated when you told your entire viewership about it a couple hours ago.” Okay. Maybe she could drum up a
attitude. He'd practically dumped her in front of a bazillion people, after all! A girl had her pride.
“Look, Bellamy.” He shifted his crystal blue eyes around the room. “It's not you, okay? I got this great job opportunity, and I couldn't pass it up. My career is very important. People depend on me, you know.”
A hot prickle of irritation filled her chest. He was an anchorman, for God's sake. It wasn't like he was going to give Mother Teresa a run for her money or anything.
Derek smiled and patted her hand. “And, let's face it, the long-distance thing just never works out. You understand, don't you?”
Bellamy couldn't handle another nanosecond of delaying the inevitable, and the whole thing sent her stomach into a quick churn. “Frankly, I don't. You couldn't have told me this when it was all coming about? Jeez, Derek. Did you think I'd flip out or something?”
He cleared his throat ever so softly. “Well, I
a public figure. I didn't think a scene would be in either of our best interests. Like I said, it's really nothing personal.”
Wow. She could admit to maybe being a little bit starstruck in the beginning, but how had she missed the fact that this guy was sporting an ego the size of Mount McKinley? Her intuitive skills needed one hell of an overhaul. She opened her mouth to give him a piece of her mind when the last six months flashed over her with startling clarity.
There really wasn't anything
about it at all. Kind of like their entire relationship.
“You know what, Derek? You're absolutely right.” Bellamy's pride overrode the sting of Derek's words, and she gathered her purse in a swift grab while offering up a saccharine smile. “Although I've got to say, for someone with such a
position in the field of communications, your one-on-one skills suck. Good luck in San Diego.”