Late Monday morning, Kimberly drove to the office to catch up on paperwork and check messages. She’d spent the night with Bryon at her house in the suburbs. They’d even managed to get a little sleep. Come morning she’d found him in the kitchen making breakfast. He’d found the coffee supplies and had a fresh pot ready for her.
“Wait until you see the paper,” Bryon had chuckled.
She sat down at her kitchen table as Bryon placed eggs, toast, and coffee in front of her. Romance Rampant at Erotic Writer Roundup, the headline announced. Beneath it was a story on the ErotiCon, a subhead mentioning “Kimberly Ransom’s Generous Gift” — and a full-color photo of Bryon pulling her into the dressing room to make love to her.
“Oh, my,” she giggled. “If I wrote children’s stories my reputation would be ruined.”
“Admit it,” Bryon said. “I’m research for your next book.”
“Yes,” Kimberly teased. “It’s called, Find the Love of Your Life in Three Days or Less.”
“Oh,” Bryon said, sounding disappointed. “I thought it would be called, I Was Bedded Repeatedly by a Powerful Love God, by Kimberly Ransom.”
“That’s the sequel,” she said, deadpan. They had laughed until it hurt.
The memory brought a smile to Kimberly’s lips as she pulled into the Heart’s Desire Press parking lot. Patrick’s yellow Volvo was there. She wondered what he’d say about all the media coverage.
Patrick Scott was beside himself. He was supposed to be happy. Kimberly was all over the news; the media couldn’t get enough of her charitable gesture, they loved the storybook romance of this Bryon Fiore’s proposal and fling with her at the ErotiCon, and they were raving over Between the Silky Sheets — giving Kimberly’s latest book the best reviews she’d received yet in her stellar career. Heart’s Desire was sitting pretty amidst all of the promotion, projected sales of Kimberly’s work going through the roof along with HDP’s other in-house authors. Patrick, as Kimberly’s agent, stood to gain from all of that. In theory, his star was rising with hers.
He should be happy.
He was not.
He’d made no secret of the fact that he wanted her. Now she’d gone and gotten engaged? To some jerk she’d only just met? What kind of bad romance novel plot was that?
Just then, Kimberly swept in, looking as lovely as ever. Patrick felt something twist in his stomach. He was an okay-looking guy: average height, average features, blue eyes, thinning blonde hair. He was no body builder, but he wasn’t Quasimodo or anything. He had a good, professional job. He’d done a lot for Kimberly — but she was still out of his league. He couldn’t stand it.
“Patrick,” Kimberly said, stopping in his doorway on the way to her own office. “How was your weekend?”
“This… this… this…” he stammered. “This is a train wreck!” He waved a newspaper at her. “You look like a slut!”
“Oh, calm yourself, Patrick,” she waved a hand. “What’s bad about whirlwind romance? It’s exactly the type of story we sell here.” She held out her hands, indicating the HDP offices.
“I’m getting complaints!” Patrick whined.
“Complaints? From whom?”
“Uh… from the Council for Human Unity, Morality, and Principle! It’s… it’s, uh, a local community standards organization, and they won’t stand for this.”
“Patrick, the acronym for that organization would be CHUMP.”
“Do they even exist?” she demanded. Patrick shook his head reluctantly. “Look, Patrick, what’s this really about?”
“Kimberly,” Patrick stood and went to her. She backed up, but Patrick followed. Before she realized it, her back was to the wall of the hallway. Patrick put a hand on the wall, closing in on her, his free hand reaching out to touch the lapel of her jacket. “Kim, you know how I feel. We’ve known each other for years. You know me. You don’t know this guy.”
“’This guy’ is Bryon and he’s my fiancée!” she said angrily. “Now get out of my face, Patrick.”
He didn’t listen. Instead, he leaned in and kissed her on the lips — just as the door to the office opened.
“Kimberly, I couldn’t wait and wanted to surprise…” Bryon stopped when he saw Kimberly pushing Patrick away to break the kiss. “What the hell is going on here?”
Patrick marched up, leaving the shocked Kimberly staring at them both. “Look here, Pretty Boy, she’s come to her senses and you can’t just –“
Bryon hit him. Hard.
Patrick fell to the floor with a heavy thump. Bryon looked at Kimberly, his eyes sad rather than angry. Without a word he turned and stalked out the door.
“Bryon, wait!” Kimberly started to follow. Patrick got to his knees, holding his jaw and groaning. “Patrick,” she said angrily, “You’re fired. You’d better be gone when I get back. I’m informing HDP that you’re no longer my agent.”
“I’ll sue!” Patrick sputtered. “I’ll sue him, too.”
“Unless you want the entire industry to know why I fired you,” Kimberly threatened, “You’ll keep your mouth shut. Leave quietly and I’ll say we parted mutually. Sue anyone and I’ll make sure everyone knows what a pig you are. You’ll never work in this business again.” She left him with his jaw hanging open.
Running to the parking lot, Kimberly was too late. The late model Honda speeding away was Bryon’s. She found her keys and got in her own car, hoping he would not get too far away.
In the car, she tried dialing his wireless phone from hers. He didn’t answer. She ended up following him all the way to his building, an upscale high-rise in the city. She parked and took the elevator to the penthouse suite where Bryon lived. She rang the bell impatiently, then rang it again. Finally, Bryon opened the door.
“How could you?” he demanded, flinging the door open. “What am I to you? Don’t you love me?”
“Bryon, please,” she begged. She reached out for him but he turned, shrugging her off. “Please, can I come in?”
“He thought about it for a moment and then stepped aside. She walked in and looked around. His apartment was lovely and richly appointed, speaking to both success and a tasteful masculine eye for décor.
“Bryon, it wasn’t what it looked like,” she told him, feeling lame even as she said it. Patrick is my agent and has always had a crush on me. I didn’t realize just how jealous he was.”
“Wait,” Bryon said, suspiciously. He was trying to force himself on you?”
“He was,” she nodded. “It’s good that you hit him. He had it coming.”
Bryon looked like some wrathful demon. “He tried to force you? He repeated furiously. “What’s his last name? I’ll destroy that bastard. He’ll never work again.”
“You don’t have to,” she said, though his protectiveness and his willingness to fight for her left her feeling… turned on. “I fired him. He threatened to sue and I told him if he did, then he’d never work again.”
Bryon relaxed only a little, pacing around the apartment like a caged animal. “When I saw you… I thought…”
“I could never do that to you, Bryon,” she said, going to him and embracing him, resting her head against his broad chest. “I love you with all my heart. I think I knew it from the moment I saw you. I could never betray you. You’re the man for me, the only man. I want you to be able to trust me, Bryon. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Bryon shook his head. “It’s not your fault. I just lost my head. The thought of you with another man… it was too awful. I just went berserk.”
“I love you,” she said again. “That won’t change.”
“I love you, too,” Bryon said, smiling. “Come on into the living room. We’ll relax and forget about this. And I’ll put some ice on my hand.”
“He’s lucky you didn’t dislocated his jaw,” Kimberly laughed.
“It wasn’t for lack of trying.”