Me: Your sarcasm smells of slain interns’ blood and the souls of missing record execs.
Sunshine: False. That is what I eat for breakfast. Keep up, Darling.
I laugh, though he can’t hear me. I can almost see his expression, always deadpan but with that hint of crinkle at the corners of his eyes and full lips. That infinitesimal twitch of a smile most people clearly miss. The world fascinates Gabriel Scott, but he does a hell of a job pretending it doesn’t. That much I know already.
Me: Aw…terms of endearment already?
Sunshine: It’s your name.
Me: A convenient excuse.
Sunshine: A legitimate answer
Me: I’ve never had anyone call me by my last name. Should I call you by yours? Call you Scottie like the others do?
I’m half teasing, because I don’t want to call him Scottie. That’s not his name to me. That’s a stranger’s name. But the emphatic force of his reply makes me wonder why he doesn’t want me to use it, when everyone in his circle does. My thumb shakes a little as I tap out a reply, adopting a more serious tone, because really, what the hell am I doing flirting with the big boss?
Me: Well, you caught me. I can’t sleep for shit. I’ll have to live with the consequences.
Little dots form at the bottom of my phone screen. They disappear, then start up again. I wonder what the hell he’s trying to write and if he’s erasing his text.
I almost send him a message just to prod his ass into whatever it is he’s trying to say, when his message finally pops up. And I gape. And gape. My heart stops and then picks up pounding. I’m not seeing things; it’s there, clear as day:
Sunshine: Would you like to come over?
What. The. Hell?
I’m clearly stuck in shock mode too long because he texts in a barrage of tense explanations.
Sunshine: For tea.
Sunshine: To help you sleep.
Sunshine: I make good tea.
He makes tea? Gabriel I’ve-no-time-for-mere-mortals Scott actually makes tea? And drinks it? Shut the front door and call me Mama.
He’s still texting.
Sunshine: Hell. Clearly sleep deprived.
Sunshine: Ignore request.
I type fast, putting the poor guy out of his misery.
Me: Where are you?
Me: Your house, I mean. Where is it?
He pauses. I know he’s frowning at the phone. Probably has been for some time now. I bite back another smile.
Sunshine: A few blocks away. I could send a car.
Me: No. I’ll walk.
Sunshine: You will not. I’ll meet you.
My grin actually hurts my cheeks. I’m already out of the bed and scrambling for my jeans.
Me: Okay. Where?
Sunshine: In front of your hotel. Ten minutes.
“This is crazy. This is crazy,” I mutter as I haul on my jeans and root around in my suitcase for a bra and top. I don’t bother with the light as if it might kick-start my common sense and I’d text Gabriel back to say forget it. Because what the hell am I doing?
Does he really want to make me tea?
Yes. I know he does. Gabriel says what he means. He’ll make me tea. But does he want more? Why invite me over?
“Stop thinking.” Talking to myself can’t be good. I slip on a loose, cream-colored long-sleeve top and toe into my Chucks.
I’m in the lobby before I realize I forgot to put on makeup or brush my hair.
The night concierge glances as me as if I’m off my nut, and I give him a tight smile before hurrying past. There’s no time to go back to my room, anyway; I might miss Gabriel. He might chicken out if he has to wait.
I love the weather in London. I don’t care if I’m the only one in the world who does. It’s crisp and cool, with enough damp to make the ends of my hair frizz. And damn if there isn’t an actual layer of fog creeping along the pavement. At two in the morning on a weekday, it’s also fairly quiet, the streets abandoned.
My hands itch for my camera. That need grows when Gabriel walks out of the shadows, hands tucked deep in the pockets of his dark slacks. A gray cashmere sweater hugs his broad shoulders and big biceps. This man could sell boats to desert dwellers just by standing there, looking pretty.
He strolls toward me, his chin slightly down, peering at me from under those sweeping brows of his.
I almost swallow my tongue. “Hey, sunshine.”
He stops a few feet away, and we stare at each other. My heart is going like a metronome. His gaze flickers over me, then steadies on my face. I don’t know what to say. Take me now, probably wouldn’t be appropriate. Or smart.
His voice is low and aggravated. “I don’t know why I’m here.”
I should be offended. But since he’s basically mirroring my own thoughts, I can’t throw stones. I fight a smile instead; he’s just so disgruntled.