A/N: Guess what? Today is the day that Three and a Half Weeks, formerly known as One Shady Character, makes its public debut. Please, please, please, if you read it and almost all of you did, go to Amazon and Goodreads right now before you forget and leave a glowing review (all right, it doesn't have to be glowing but it would be nice if it were). If you love me, you'll do it. Love means never having to beg for a review. FF doesn't allow links but I'll spell out some of it. One is:
www dot amazon dot com slash Three-Half-Weeks-Lulu-Astor-ebook slash dp slash B00K026F6G slash
www dot goodreads dot com slash book slash show slash 20335816-three-and-a-half-weeks
"What are you reading?"
Christian looks up from his newspaper and winks at me. "It's the Journal. I'm reading an article about Daniel."
"Butler? What's the article about?"
Christian tosses the paper onto the table and gets up, gets in my face, and wraps his long, muscular arms around me. "Oh, something about him being a business wunderkind…"
"Hmm," I breathe, relishing his intense body heat—are all men this hot, literally? "Isn't that what they call you too?"
Laughing, he pats my backside. "Yes, actually. They used to, anyway. I think Daniel hates it as much as I do…"
"Why does Daniel hate it?"
"It's hype. He's just trying to save companies worth saving and in the process he makes a boatload of money. Everyone wins. My business model now is very similar… but years ago, I made money from capitalizing on the misfortune of others. I hated racking up praise for it—it seemed wrong."
I caress his face. "I'm glad you're happier now… and I like you better now."
"Mmm," he says, nipping my earlobe and sending shivers up my vertebrae, "not sure if you can say now since you didn't know me then. But I'll let it slide… if…"
"If?" I say, my voice dropping into a lower register.
"If you slide… up and down… on me."
As I savor his embrace, I think about him and Daniel. I'm so happy Christian now has him as a friend. It's sort of shocking, given how personable a man he can be but other than Jackson Delacroix, Christian really doesn't have any male bonds, apart from his brothers. He spent so much time building his companies and wasting his time with the woman whose name will remain unmentioned, that he never established lasting friendships. Daniel is a perfect friend for Christian: they're both strong, confident, even arrogant young men with eerily similar personalities. Plus, I don't mind looking at Daniel, truly. He's a stand-up guy all around. There's also the bonus of Olivia who is a sweetheart. The only drawback is that they live on the opposite side of the country. Still, we're all lucky to have access to private jets to whisk us anywhere at a moment's notice. That's easily one of the best perks about having shit-tons of money though I'm still getting used to it. In some ways, I probably never will.
Yesterday afternoon, Christian surprised me on the set of the film. The producers recently changed the title of the movie from Three and a Half Weeks to Light Eyes. The rationale behind it was that my title was too close to Nine and a Half Weeks—which it was, intentionally—and they took the name from my description of the male lead or should I say antagonist? For Christian surely is that. I wasn't happy but it was better than the other frontrunner, Intimate Encounters, which sounds like a cheesy Lifetime movie.
I was feeling extremely self-conscious: everyone on the set was looking at me, from the cameraman to the PAs. I wasn't sure if it was because I was the author, or due to all the media hype surrounding the rumors by Brooklyn Hyatt, blogger extraordinaire. I powered through it, though, holding my head high. It wasn't too difficult when I remembered who my husband was, what my bank account looked like because readers love my book, and that I was wearing the most kick-ass shoes any girl could ever find. Two things that always give me confidence are beautiful shoes and a great haircut. Yesterday I had both.
Christian sailed onto the set, not a care in the world. It was sort of comical. Picture this: everyone looking at me covertly while I made a mammoth effort to pretend I didn't notice. Then Christian saunters in, the tallest person in the room, looking like a model on a fashion shoot. All eyes swivel from me to him, simultaneously. I couldn't help it: I laughed out loud, and all the eyes swung back to me. It was like a tennis match.
Anyway, he gave me a quick peck on the cheek and sat down beside me. They were filming the encounter in the bookstore—in the novel, I changed our initial meeting place from boutique to bookstore for obvious reasons. The woman playing Gia happens to look a lot like me but the actor playing Rafe doesn't look too much like Christian. Then again, no one does. He's in a class by himself.
"How's it going?" he whispered as they prepared to shoot the scene.
I nodded my head. "Very good. It's actually thrilling to see my book come to life."
We fell silent with the entire room as the director shouted for quiet and yelled, "Action."
I sat there wondering if Christian would recognize the dialogue. I wrote it as I remembered it happening, word for word. I watched his face instead of the actors. Yes, I definitely saw the recognition in his expression and I smiled slyly. Who would ever have believed he'd not only not be angry about my book but that he'd actually enjoy it? Life is indeed stranger than fiction.
We're sound asleep when Christian's cell starts chiming. The bedside clock reads six minutes after two a.m. Christian glances at the caller and snatches up the phone.
"Kim, what's going on? Did the alarm go off? Well, all the windows and doors are wired… so, yes. If anyone tried to get in, the alarm would sound. It's probably just the wind... No problem, Kim. By the way, our code word for real trouble is blue. Got it? Yes. Are you sure? All right, I'll speak with you tomorrow."
I put my hand on his arm. "Is she just jumpy?"
"Probably. The alarm would go off if anyone breached the house. Still, with that bastard, she can't be too careful."
"Would he hurt her… like, seriously?"
He shrugs. "I'm not certain how far he'd go but I don't want Kim to find out. Hopefully she's been smart about keeping a low profile and not letting anyone know where she's staying. Her best bet really is to get out of town. Maybe I'll talk to her about it tomorrow."
"Okay," I say, snuggling under his arm, "tomorrow. Let's go back to sleep."
He pulls me in tightly to his chest and we both drift off but I have bad dreams of men hurting women and a room full of broken glass and dripping blood. I wake up twice more in a cold sweat with memories of Lucien knocking around my head.