Hollywood heartthrob Jaxon Moncrieff and Liam Lassiter are finally on the same page: committed and in it for the long haul. Now they just have to prepare for the inevitable fallout when they reveal their relationship. Between Jaxon’s career and Liam’s need to prepare for a life in the limelight, they decide to wait until filming of Jaxon’s latest project has wrapped.
Unbeknownst to them, the relentless paparazzi photographer Rafael Cacciatore, aka the Hunter, notices a change in Jaxon and is determined to be the first to break the story of who has captured Jaxon Moncrieff’s heart. In the meantime, Liam and Jaxon have enough on their plate working out the not-so-little issue of how and when Jaxon will come out to his family. The paparazzi aren’t even on their radar. The race to out Jaxon is on, and Liam and Jaxon don’t even know it.
EXCERPT: SCENE 02
“So what was last night all about, Liam?” asked Garrett, wasting no time in confronting me—I’d only just closed the suite door on Jaxon.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was leaving, or where I was going. I didn’t mean to worry you—” I began, as I walked toward him, biting my lip, but he waved off my apology.
“Talk to me, son.” His words were softly spoken, his gaze holding no anger or judgment, only concern.
Lowering myself onto the sofa, I looked across at him as he seated himself on the coffee table. He leaned forward, facing me, his elbows resting on his splayed knees and his hands lightly clasped.
“It was a lot of things,” I murmured, drawing in a deep, steadying breath and running a hand through my hair. I leaned back, wondering where to start. He gave me time to gather my thoughts, and I appreciated, not for the first time, his uncanny ability of knowing when to speak and when to be silent. When to push and when to be patient.
“I’m just going to spit it out in no particular order. Okay?” I started, pausing as I waited for his agreement. At his nod, I began, my gaze on my tightly clasped hands resting in my lap. “As we both know, when Jaxon and I go public with our relationship it will probably have an adverse effect on his career. I know he says he’s okay with that, but I can’t help wondering if he’ll feel the same way when it actually happens. I’m worried he’ll end up resenting me.”
“Well, um, anyway, he’d been distracted all week, going over an important scene they were filming on the Friday. In the past there’d been a few times when I’d gone over his lines with him, or he’d let me read a part of the script, but this time, he didn’t.” Stopping to take a breath, I raised my gaze to Garrett’s, and seeing only encouragement reflected back at me, I continued. “That didn’t seem so important until I overheard at the reception last night his leading lady telling some reporter they’d filmed some epic, pushing-the-boundaries love scene that morning, boasting of their shared history, and how neither of them needed to do much ‘acting’ for it.”
I sighed, for a moment distracted by my dislike of Ms. Sheldon. I still wanted to rip her arms off for groping him, and for implying that her relationship with Jaxon was more than merely a professional one.
“And,” prompted Garrett quietly, his gaze intent on mine.
“It felt like he was ignoring me at the reception, and I couldn’t help worrying that he’d changed his mind about me, about us, or that I was some kind of phase or experiment to him because he’d been straight up until we got together. The fact that Darcy Sheldon is very attractive, and we could almost pass as brother and sister, didn’t help matters. And then there was this guy at the reception who kept going on and on about how every man on earth would want to get into her knickers….” I trailed off—saying the words aloud made me feel a little foolish for my reaction.
“And you got jealous and probably wondered if he was another Marcus or James,” Garrett finished for me.
Lowering my embarrassed gaze from his wise one, I nodded, shame staining my cheeks red.
“Love sees sharply; hatred sees sharper still, but jealousy sees the sharpest of all, for it is love and hate combined,” quoted Garrett softly, reaching to take one of my hands in his.
“God, that’s so true! Everything just seemed so magnified. I wasn’t in a good place emotionally, even before we got there, because I know being involved with me will be bad for his career. And I hate that—I hate it so much. And then when I thought he was ignoring me, I felt so hurt and confused. It felt like someone was ripping out my guts. I couldn’t think straight, Garrett. The thought of him leaving me, or wanting to be with someone else, particularly a woman…. I—” My voice croaked as an echo of the previous night’s pain washed through me.
“And now?” He encouraged me, the gentle squeeze he gave my hand bringing me back to the present. “Jaxon seems to think you two have sorted it all out.”
“Yes, we talked, and I told him everything, and I know now he’s not like Marcus or James, and that he really does love me the way I love him. He told me how you helped him set up some art scholarships,” I whispered, smiling a little shyly at Garrett.
“Yes, I did, but that’s not what’s important here. I really do believe he loves you, Liam,” he said, his relief at my having sorted out my problems with Jaxon reflected in his clear gray eyes. Clearing his throat, a smile lighting his face, he reached over and gave my hair a tussle. He went on, obviously as keen as I to speak of other, less daunting topics. Expats or not, we were still Brits. “Now, onto more important things. Let’s order some room service as we have some time to kill. You interrupted my breakfast, and I, for one, am bloody starving.”
We chatted about Christmas, tossing around ideas on what we could do to make it special for Alison and Jaxon, and about my upcoming exhibition in London. We ate our waffles and fruit salad while we waited for one of them to phone to let us know it was okay for us to leave.
I watched as he spoke of Alison, seeing a new lightness and contentment in him, and a deep well of satisfaction filled me to see him so in love. I couldn’t have been more overjoyed for him—if anyone deserved happiness it was Garrett. Patience, kindness, loyalty, and love were woven as much into the fabric of his being as the colored cotton thread was in the pattern of his shirt.
Our phones beeped almost simultaneously, and I ducked my head, a blush creeping into my cheeks as I read Jaxon’s message.
Get BB moving. I’ve made a reservation with your deck chair.
Looking up at Garrett, I was surprised to see his face was crimson, his bottom lip firmly in the grip of his teeth. Remembering Alison’s blunt and somewhat descriptive text to Jaxon the previous weekend, I was dying to know what her text to Garrett said that had him so uncharacteristically flustered.
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” I teased, holding my phone toward him enticingly, then giving it a little shake. Seeing him torn between his curiosity and his desire for privacy, I cajoled, “Come on, you know you want to.”
Sighing in defeat, his curiosity winning over his reticence, he reluctantly held his phone out to me, taking mine in return.
Time to get your boy on the road, lover…. Hurry up and bring Picasso home…. I have an idea for another masterpiece!
“BB?” he queried, at the same time as I asked, “Picasso?”
It seemed Jaxon wasn’t the only one with a penchant for naming things.