Taking the elevator up to my office floor, I smiled at some of my co-workers, as they shared the small space with us, to try and ease their tension when they kept eyeballing my bodyguard. As the elevator stopped and we stepped off, my phone started buzzing. I glanced down at it in my hand as I walked past the receptionist on my floor.
“Morning,” I called distractedly as I walked toward my office and put my phone to my ear. “Hi.”
“Bambach’s nurse just called to remind me you needed to fill your prescription today,” my husband’s voice growled in my ear. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to see him today?”
I grimaced. “I didn’t want you to worry,” I told him as I unlocked my office and stepped in, closing the door behind me—so I wouldn’t have to see Peterson all day, just as much to keep anyone from actually overhearing my conversation.
No one knew about me continuing to see Dr. Bambach. Well, no one except for Emmie. I’d decided after that initial appointment with the fertility specialist that we would keep the possible hope of getting pregnant to ourselves. Emmie knew because…well, she was Emmie. She knew everything, and even if she hadn’t, I was sure Shane would have lost his mind not having her know. It was maddening at times, having her know every little thing that went on in our lives, but I understood why. Still, I’d kept the news to myself and hadn’t even told Dallas or Linc, the two people I told everything to.
He blew out a frustrated breath and I could imagine him pacing in our living room or even Emmie’s office. “You not telling me worries me more than me actually going to see the damn doctor, beautiful. We’re a team in this, Harper. We do this together. I don’t like you going by yourself even once.”
I sat down behind my desk and closed my eyes as I ran my free hand through my hair. “I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad. I just… You’ve been so tense lately. I didn’t want to put this on you too.”
There was a long pause and I pictured him raking his hands through his hair in frustration. “No matter what I have on my plate, I want to do this with you. Okay?”
“Okay,” I whispered.
“So, what did the old dude have to say?”
I sank my teeth into my bottom lip as I recalled the visit with the fertility specialist. “He thinks the stress of the summer has affected my hormone levels. He switched my dosages again.” I heard him grunt and so I quickly went on. “I told him this was the last time. That I’m done after this. He asked me to continue until Christmas and I agreed, but after that I’m through with it, I promise.”
He was quiet for a long while before he let out another breath, this one sounding relieved. “Thank you.”
“After Christmas…” I clenched my eyes shut and swallowed the sudden lump in my throat. “…I’d really like to look at the paperwork to start the adoption process.” It was time I stopped being so selfish. Time I faced the truth. I was probably never going to get my one wish, and I needed to start planning the rest of my future with the man I loved.
“I think that would be a great way to start the new year, beautiful.” His voice was so tender, it brought tears to my eyes.
“Yes. I think so too.”
I was going over possible covers for the week’s edition of Rock America when there was a single, firm tap on my door. I had barely lifted my head when the door opened and my personal assistant stepped into the office.
Sean Caldwell was a thirty-one-year-old man with a slightly receding hairline, but he was still good-looking enough with his leanly muscled, six-foot frame. His eyes were always full of something that resembled amusement. Resembled, but I wasn’t sure if it was believable or not. There were a lot of things that I didn’t find believable about the man. To me he came across as too…everything. Fake was what I would call him. As fake as they came.
If I’d been in Sean’s position, I might have been the same way though. He’d worked for Rex at the L.A. office long before I’d been a freelance photographer and reporter for the magazine. From what a few of the friends I’d made at work had told me, Sean had been itching for the editor position and up until I’d shown up, had thought it was a done deal. Then out of nowhere—or so it had seemed to Sean—I’d arrived from New York and been given a week trial period to show Rex what I could do. By the end of that long, tedious week, I’d been offered the position.
I knew most people thought that I’d been offered the job because I’d been dating Shane Stevenson, that I still had my job because I was now his wife, but that wasn’t true. I’d gotten my freelance job with Rock America on my own merit and I’d worked my ass off to get to where I was now. Shane or Emmie or anyone else hadn’t pulled any strings, hadn’t used their influence, hadn’t so much as sneezed in Rex’s direction to get me where I was today.
Not long after starting my new job, I’d found out exactly why Sean hadn’t been offered the position. No sane person would have ever given him such an important job. The man was incompetent. He had no eye for detail, no originality or creativity. He had to be told, in detail, what you wanted from him and even then all instructions had to be either written down or repeated several times before any task was completed properly. Under his overly charming—overly fake—smile, I could see his dislike of me growing like a cancer. Could almost hear him cursing me and hating me with each inhale he took while in my presence.
I could have asked Rex for a different personal assistant and I knew he would have let me pick anyone I wanted within the company—if not have hired a new one. Maybe all those years of living with Dallas had rubbed off on me without me realizing it and I’d turned into an evil bitch, but I got a sick kind of joy out of making Sean smile all day long in that overly cheerful way. Each night as I said my goodbyes to everyone and stepped on the elevator, I was hoping his face ached from having to keep that grin in place all day long. I was starting to get tired of it though. My fun in torturing the stupid man was growing dimmer by the day while my irritation grew more and more with each passing hour I had to deal with him.
“You have a meeting with Rex in forty-five minutes,” Sean reminded me now.
I lifted a brow, surprised that he had dared come near my office in the first place. Out of everyone in the building I was sure Sean was the one most terrified of Peterson. “I remember. Thanks.” I gave him a tight smile and started to lower my head back to the pictures in front of me, trying to decide which needed a little Photoshop magic on them because of any possible imperfections.
There was always something wrong with a picture. From a slight blur to an unwanted object in the background when the pictures were shot on location. It was my job to make sure that the cover and any other pictures in the weekly magazine were perfect. I never touched up anyone’s body, like some magazines did. Hell, for some of the rockers in the pictures that landed on my desk it would take more than the magic of Photoshop to make them them look better.
I’d spent most of my life working with photography in one form or another. From watching behind the scenes at photo-shoots for some of the world’s most beautiful models, to working the camera myself. Getting to edit them had always been my dream job and now here I was, doing what I loved.
“It’s a lunch meeting. Rex has asked me to place your order so the two of you can eat in the conference room.”
“I’ll order my own, thanks.” It had been months since I’d had to have Sean order my lunch, but I could still taste the sandwich that had had some kind of bizarre dressing on it that had left me with a roiling stomach for hours. “Tell Rex I’ll order for the both of us.” And I’d send Theo out to pick it up.”
The usually bright smile on Sean’s face dimmed ever so slightly, but he nodded. “You’re the boss.” His tone had a bite to it that rubbed down my spine in all the wrong ways.
Yes, it was definitely time to start thinking about a new personal assistant. Sean was no longer amusing to me. The idiot man was starting to add to my stress, something Bambach said I had to avoid as much
as possible. Some things I didn’t have the power to turn off in my life, but I could certainly push Sean out the door and find someone who would make my work-life a little easier.
“If that’s all you needed, I have to get this done before they go to print tonight.” I dismissed him without another thought and turned my full attention back to the picture in front of me.
I glanced around the open space of the office building with a critical eye before turning back to Natalie who was standing beside the owner’s realtor. “Thoughts?”
Natalie shrugged. “It’s a good start. This entire floor would house a good number of staff and it’s in a great location. But you’re the boss.”
I lifted a brow at her. Did she think I wasn’t going to make her a partner eventually? It was something I’d always figured I would do, but that was still a few more miles down the road. Natalie was great at her job, but she still needed a little more experience. Then Annabelle and I would offer her a third of the company. For now, she had to get through the pregnancy that was affecting her blood pressure to the point that the doctors were already cautioning her about the possibility of preeclampsia. I probably should have insisted that she stayed home and let her husband pamper her all day, but the girl had grit and had shown up despite me telling her I could handle the realtor on my own.
“The floor is open for lease or sale, but of course the lease would—” the realtor started, sensing blood and going in for the kill.
I lifted my hand to stop the flow of words coming out of the man’s mouth. He was the best in all of SoCal, but the dude was too mouthy for my taste. “I’m not in the market to lease. I want to own. My partner and I want something that is ours, not some idiot’s who will raise the rent whenever he pleases.”
With my hand still lifted to keep the man quiet, I lifted my phone and skimmed my thumb over Annabelle’s name. It rang five times before she answered. “What’s up?” she asked, sounding distracted.
Rolling my eyes because I could just imagine why she was distracted, and every one of them having to do with Zander Brockman, I told her about the office space and asked if she thought it was a good deal. “Is it the same one you sent me the link to last night?”
“Yes.” I’d sent her the virtual tour the night before so she could take a glance at what I would be looking at today. Even though she was stationed in Nashville, I wanted her input on our L.A. headquarters. She’d sent me a few links to the small spaces she was looking at for the Tennessee office, but so far we hadn’t agreed on one yet.
“You’re the negotiator, Emmie. Work your magic. Get us the best deal you can and then let me know. I’m on board with whatever you decide.”
She was right. I was the negotiator while she was a genius at public relations. We made an excellent team.
I glanced at Natalie and smirked when she lifted a brow, blue-gray eyes twinkling knowingly. “Okay. I’ll talk to you later. Tell Z we said hi.”
Annabelle muttered a curse under her breath but I still heard her. “Today is one of the day’s I’m not speaking to Z, so tell him yourself.”
The bite in her tone wiped the smirk off my lips. “Can I ask why?” I adored Annabelle, but we weren’t close enough yet for me to just demand she tell me what was wrong. Although I could take a guess. She and Z had only been back together for a few weeks now and she was still struggling to get over the time they had spent apart. Understandable considering Z had gotten on a tour bus more than seventeen years ago and never looked back, leaving my new business partner pregnant and broken.
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
“I’m awesome at reading hidden meanings,” I tried to tease her, wanting to make her laugh. Laughter had been missing from all our lives lately and I tried to make those around me laugh at least once a day. Even if I couldn’t find the will to laugh myself most of the time. “What I heard in that was, ‘Z is a douchebag and won’t be sharing your bed tonight’.”
A small laugh escaped her and I was glad that I’d lightened her mood even if it was just a little. “Something like that.” She blew out a long sigh. “Go work your voodoo magic, Em. I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”
“It has not been proven that I actually practice witchcraft of any sort, my friend. And I promise you I don’t stick needles into my dolls…even if they do look like the people I hate the most.” I heard Natalie snort behind me and she hid a halfhearted grin when I noticed the look on the realtor’s face. I wasn’t blind to the fact that some people thought that I made deals with the devil to get the things I did so easily.
What people didn’t understand was that I’d worked my ass off from the moment I’d become the men of Demon’s Wing’s ward to make the connections I had. As for things coming easily… Nothing in life came easy. Ever. Not one damn thing. I might make it look like it was, but it was only because I was so used to doing it. My life was anything but easy.
The smile completely faded from my face and I quickly said goodbye to Annabelle before turning to give the realtor my full attention. “We’ll think about it,” I told him. I wanted the entire floor of office space, and if things turned out as I was planning I might even buy a few more in the next few years, but I wasn’t going to give in easily.
Let the prick realtor think I was on the fence about it for a day or so and then I would make him an offer. I knew the man who owned the entire building. If I had to, Nik and I could wine and dine him and get the kind of price I wouldn’t have nightmares about paying.
Gods knew I had enough nightmares these days. I didn’t want to add one more to them.
We left the realtor once we’d made it downstairs and out onto the street. The guard who had recently become my shadow—Nik’s stipulation for letting me actually leave the house these days—was waiting behind the wheel of my Escalade and quickly stepped out to open the door for me and Natalie. I helped Nat in, since her growing stomach was making it more and more difficult for her to move around these days, before getting in beside her.
While the guard got behind the wheel and pulled into traffic, my attention was focused solely on the woman who had become my right hand in business over the years. Her face was flushed, her eyes shadowed and she lifted a hand that noticeably trembled to her temple to rub.
“Take us straight to Mrs. Cutter’s house, Roger.” Natalie’s head snapped around and she glared at me but I was glaring back. “I love you like a sister, Natalie, and that baby in your belly is going to be my little niece. There is no way in hell I’m gonna let you endanger either of your lives when I can take care of most of this shit myself. You’re going home and Dev is going to keep you strapped to the bed if that’s what it takes.”
“I’m fine, Em. It’s just a headache.”
My brows lifted. “If I took you to see Dallas right now and had her check your blood pressure, how high do you think it would be?”
Jaw clenched, Natalie looked away. “I’m fine.”
“Keep telling yourself that, babe. But you’re not welcome back at work until that little girl is out in the world screaming the place down.” I lifted my phone and shot a quick text to Devlin to let him know I was bringing Natalie home and why. Seconds later Nat’s phone started going crazy with the ringtone she’d assigned for her husband.
“Damn it, Emmie.” She let out a groan and lifted her phone to her ear with a hand that was still trembling. “I’m fine.”
“You are not fucking fine.” I could hear Devlin coming from the speaker as clear as if I were the one with it to my ear rather than sitting the length of the back seat away from Natalie. “You get your ass home so I can take care of you.”
“You’re supposed to be working on new material with Axton,” she reminded him sullenly.
“Fuck Ax. Fuck the new material. I’m headed home right now.” There was a long pause and Natalie’s chin trembled, making my heart clench for her. “I love you, Nat. You heard what the do
ctor said last week when we went in. I don’t want to lose you, baby. Please, just go home and get in bed. I swear I’ll lie beside you and rub your back all day. I’ll even stop at the store and get those grapes you’re so addicted to lately.”
Natalie leaned her head back against her headrest and closed her eyes. “Okay. Emmie’s taking me there now.”
“Good. I’ll be home in twenty minutes. I love you. Please be careful.”
“We will and you be careful too. Don’t speed. You’ll get there long before us anyway.” She scrubbed a hand over her damp eyes. I wasn’t surprised to see her tears. Damn pregnancy hormones were a bitch. “I love you, Dev. So much.”
Lowering her hand, she turned her wet eyes on me. “I don’t know why I love you sometimes.”
My lips lifted in a small grin. “It’s because I’m awesome.”
Nat’s lips twitched and after a few seconds of fighting her own grin, she finally gave in and let it free. “Yeah. There is that.”
By the time we got to Natalie and Devlin’s house, Dev was already waiting for us in the driveway. He walked around to the side of the Escalade where Nat was and opened the door. He reached into the back seat, pressed a tender kiss to her forehead and lifted her out as if she weighed nothing at all. I followed them inside and up to their bedroom where Dev laid his wife on the king-sized bed and tucked the covers around her.
Once she was settled, the big rocker turned to glare at me. I wasn’t blind to the fact that I scared the shit out of most of the guys I managed and Devlin had always been a little intimidated by me, but there was fire in his eyes now as he glared down at me, showing the backbone I knew he had with anyone other than me. “She’s not coming back to work until after the baby has been born. Maybe not even then if I can help it.”