Authors: Sylvia Selfman,N. Selfman
Copyright 2014 by N. Selfman & Sylvia Selfman
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher or writer, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
This is a work of fiction and any resemb
lance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Jessica was on the verge of tears as she repeated the spelling of her last name for the second time. “It’s Parks. P-A-R-K-S”
I’m sorry, Miss Parks,” the hotel clerk said curtly. “But you don’t have a reservation here.”
Check again. Please. It has to be there.” She was aware that in her rising panic, her voice was growing louder and attracting attention of bystanders.
pursed his lips and exhaled loudly. “I wish I could help you but we don’t have any empty rooms available for any night this weekend. There’s a big real estate convention in town and...”
I know,” Jess interrupted, forcing herself to calm down. “I’m supposed to be attending that conference. Just try again. My secretary made the reservation over a month ago.”
There’s nothing more I can do for you,” he said, looking past her to the next person in line.
I’d like to speak to the manager,” Jessica said, refusing to step aside.
the manager, madam. Now please, there’s a long line behind you and you’re blocking everyone.” He again motioned to the woman behind her to step forward.
Had her secretary screwed up and failed to confirm the reservation? It didn
’t sound like Sally, who was usually on top of these things, but she had to know for sure. Jess reached into her bag for her cell phone to call and was bumped by the woman behind her in her hurry to get to the desk.
and exhausted from her long day of travel, Jess listened as the phone continued to ring unanswered. Finally the call went to Sally’s voicemail and she hung up. Stuck in a strange town with nowhere to stay, she fought back tears as she tried to figure out what to do.
Excuse me,” a low voice came from somewhere behind her. “I think you owe this lady an apology.”
Startled, Jess turned to see a tall, broad-shouldered man approaching. He wore an expensively tailored suit and a cowboy hat that partially obscured the view of his face.
The desk clerk looked up at him. “I’m sorry, sir, but we’re very busy and…”
I’m not the one you should be apologizing to. Now am I?”
Er, uh, no,” the clerk said looking over to Jessica nervously.
You lost my reservation not ten minutes ago, and now you’ve done the same to this lady here. The least you can do is to apologize to her, then find her and me another place to stay. Or…” the Texan said, taking a step closer to the desk. “Would you like me to make a fuss?”
The reservation clerk paused for a moment, as though considering just exactly what such a
‘fuss’ might entail. Then he picked up the phone and began dialing around to other hotels in the area.
Jess watched with amazement. She turned to thank the man who had helped her, and found herself staring into a pair
of pale grey eyes. She froze, startled by the intensity with which they were studying her.
Recovering her composure, she smiled at him. “
Thank you,” she said softly.
He extended his hand, a slightly amused expression on his face. “
Zach Tanner. Pleasure to be of service,” he said with a cocky smile.
She reached out and put
her hand in his and at that moment, every nerve in her body jolted awake. She hesitated a moment then regained her voice.
Jessica Parks,” she replied. “The pleasure’s mine.”
The taxi pulled to a stop in front of the Regency Hotel and Jess reached into her bag for her wallet. But before she could get her money out to pay the driver, Zach handed him a fifty and told him to keep the change.
No, I insist,” Jess said. “It’s the least I can do. After everything you’ve done for me.”
Ma’am,” he said with exaggerated Texan charm, “I’m from Texas, and round here we don’t do things that way.” He gave her a charmingly sexy smile. “I think they’d run me out of town if I let you pay.”
Jess laughed and put her wallet back in her purse. She watched Zach
’s long, muscular body unfold from the backseat of the cab, moving with confident athleticism as he easily lifted out their bags and carried them into the hotel lobby.
He glanced aro
und at the hotel’s drab interior. “It sure ain’t the Ritz,” he stage-whispered.
Please--I’m just happy to have a bed for the night. Without your help I’d be sleeping on the streets.”
Then I’m sure glad I was there,” he said, with that same sexy smile.
Jess smiled then quickly looked away.
Where on earth did these sudden jolts of electricity keep coming from?
Whenever she looked into his piercing grey eyes she literally grew weak in the knees.
Zach walked to the front desk and cleared his throat.
The clerk looked up from his magazine. “Room for two?”
Two rooms,” Zach said.
Certainly.” The desk clerk offered Zach the guest book then handed them each a key card, before mentioning that the bell boy was currently ‘indisposed.’
Probably went to a better hotel,” Zach said to Jess as he carried their bags to the elevator. She laughed and pressed the ‘up’ button, sneaking a peek at his profile as they waited. His brown curly hair had the kind of natural golden highlights that most women would die for. His jaw was strong, square and ruggedly masculine. Though his long, black eyelashes gave off the impression of sensitivity. And his lips. His lips looked soft, and very kissable.
He looked over at her and smiled, startling her back to reality.
She blushed, worried that he’d somehow read her mind when, thankfully, the elevator arrived.
Ready?” he asked, picking up their bags. Jess nodded, and followed him inside.
When they found her room, Zach put down their bags. “Jessica, I’m going to grab a bite in about thirty minutes. Would you like to join me?”
I can’t,” she said abruptly. “I mean…It’s been a really long day and I probably should go straight to bed.”
She rolled her eyes, embarrassed by her own awkwardness as she opened the door to her
room and stepped inside. Why was she behaving like a teenage girl being asked out on her first date, instead of a soon-to-be divorced mother-of-one. It was bizarre.
Okay, well, goodnight,” Zach said as he picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. “If you change your mind, I’ll be downstairs ready to go at…” He glanced at his watch. “At 9:30. I hope you’ll be there. Otherwise, it was nice meeting you Jessica.”
Jess watched him head down the hall to his room, then shut the door behind her. She wal
ked into the musty-smelling room and put her bag down.
What the hell was that about?
Jess puzzled over her behavior as she sank heavily onto the bed. She was embarrassed at how she’d behaved. She hadn’t felt such ridiculously overblown urges for at least ten years. Not since high school. She didn’t even realize she could feel that way anymore, not after so many years in a troubled marriage.
It was humiliating. Too humiliating to even tell
her friend Maddy about, Jess decided.
s she rooted through her overnight bag, looking for her cell phone charger, she frowned to herself.
hy not join Zach for dinner
She sat on the bed thinking about it.
It didn’t have to be such a big deal. Just a harmless friendly dinner with a fellow conference attendee.
got up and plugged in her cell, then busied herself hanging up her clothes. She couldn’t deny it, after ten years of marriage, the thought of going to dinner with a handsome, sexy man filled her with terror. Pure abject terror.
Of course there was also the fact that she didn
’t need to complicate her life any further--what with the custody battle hanging over her head. She didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize her getting full custody of Danny.
She glanced at her watch. It was 9:00 which meant it was an hour earlier in LA. There was still time to say goodnight before he went to sleep.
Jess dialed the number that had been hers for the last ten years and Lars picked up on the second ring.
Lars, it’s Jess,” she said. “I want to say goodnight to Danny.”
Danny's asleep,” he said in a voice that was cold and slick with a trace of the martini he always had in the evening. “You know what time he goes to bed.”
I know. But there was a mix-up at the hotel.” She hated how easily he could put her on the defensive but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. “My hotel reservation was cancelled and...”
Dammit, Jess,” Lars interrupted. “If you really wanted to call Danny you could have found a way. If you’re going to keep treating him this way you’re going to make it very easy for me to gain custody. You shouldn’t promise him something and then not do it.”
Jess seethed a
s Lars continued to instruct her on how she should behave toward her son. As though he hadn't practically ignored Danny for the first five years of his life. That is, until he recently decided that he wanted full custody—which she knew was just a ploy to punish her for taking Danny and moving out.
She resisted the urge to hang up on him. Instead she waited for him to finish his harangue, then gave him the number of her new hotel, “
in case of an emergency.”
I’ll call Danny in the morning,” she said, in as calm a voice as she could muster. She hung up the phone quickly before Lars could respond.
Jess sank down onto the green floral bedspread and closed her eyes, trying to will her anger away. It was so easy for Lars to make her feel guilty. He knew exactly
which buttons to push to make her feel responsible for everything that went wrong. He'd done the same thing throughout their marriage and she'd just been too blind to see it at the time. Those little comments about her weight, or the way she wore her hair. Or if she made what he considered a social faux pas. He'd been a master at playing on her insecurities. And she'd allowed him to do it.
Even now she felt a twinge when he would try to guilt her into coming back to him. "It would be the best thing for Da
nny to have his parents together,” he would say. And maybe it would, but that was the one thing Jess couldn't do. Not even for Danny. Not after those emails she’d found…
It had happened eleven months ago. She’d gone into the den to answer the phone and sitting at Lars’ desk she noticed his computer was on––an open email on the screen. She was about to turn off the computer when she froze, staring at what was written there.
Oh how I wish you were here with me now. I feel so empty without you.”
it again. It had to be a mistake. Of course it was. There was no mention of Lars’ name. Someone else’s email had somehow landed in Lars’ inbox by mistake.
Hurry back to me, Lars, my love.”
Jess read the words over and over like a mantra. Then, shaking
herself out of her stupor, she looked at the date of the email. It had been written a week before, on the day Lars returned from a business trip to Chicago.
She clicked on
The computer seemed to be working in slow motion as Jess scrolled through email after email. Business deals, notes to other lawyers, comments to clients.
Then she saw it.
Soon. We’ll be together. Soon.
Jess sat immobile for what seemed like hours in front of the traitorous glare of the computer screen. Her world, which had once seemed so neat and predictable, had been smashed beyond recognition.
Jess looked around at the insipid green walls of her hotel room. She wasn't going to allow Lars to take up one more minute of her thoughts. Her friend Maddy was right, she needed to enjoy this trip, even if it killed her.