“Doesn’t explain the kiss,” Thom laconically stated.
“Jaci, on impulse, kissed me because Leroy was hitting on her and she needed an escape plan.”
That explained her first kiss. It certainly didn’t explain why he went back for a second, and hotter, taste. But neither Thom nor his staff needed to know that little piece of information. Ever.
“I told him that she was my girlfriend and that we hadn’t seen each other for a while.” Ryan kept his attention on Thom. “I had it all planned. When next we met and if Leroy asked about her, I was going to tell him that we’d had a fight and that she’d packed her bags and returned to the UK. I did not consider the possibility that my five-minute girlfriend would also be my new scriptwriter.”
Thom shrugged. “This isn’t a big deal. Tell him that you fought and that she left. How is he going to know?”
Ryan pulled in a deep breath. “Oh, maybe because he told me, last night, that he wants to meet the key staff involved in the project, and that includes the damned scriptwriter.”
Thom groaned. “Oh, God.”
“Not sure how much help he is going to be.” Ryan turned around and looked at a rather bewildered Jaci, who had yet to move away from the door. “My office. Now.”
Well, hell, he thought as he marched down the hallway to his office. It seemed that his morning could, after all, slide further downhill than he’d expected.
Jaci waited in the doorway to Ryan’s office, unsure whether she should step into his chaotic space—desks and chairs were covered in folders, scripts and stacks of papers—or whether she should she just stay where she was. He was in his private bathroom and she could hear a tap running and, more worrying, the steady stream of inventive cursing.
Okay, crazy, crazy morning and she had no idea what had just happened. It felt as if everyone in that office had been speaking in subtext and that she was the only one who did not know the language. All she knew for sure was that Jax was Ryan and Ryan was Neil’s friend—and her new boss—and that he was superpissed.
And judging by their collective horror, she also knew that Banks’s clumsy pass and her kissing Ryan had consequences bigger than she’d imagined.
Ryan walked out of the bathroom, shirtless and holding another dress shirt, pale green this time, in his right hand. He was coffee-free and that torso, Jaci thought on an appreciative, silent sigh, could grace the cover of any male fitness magazine. His shoulders were broad and strongly muscled as were his biceps and his pecs. And that stomach, sinuously ridged, was a work of art. Jaci felt that low buzz in her stomach, the tingling spreading across her skin, and wondered why it had taken her nearly twenty-eight years to feel true attraction, pure lust. Ryan Jackson just had to breathe to make her quiver...
“You used to be Ryan Bradshaw. Why Jackson?” Jaci blurted. It was all she could think of to say apart from “Kiss me like you did last night.” Since she was already in trouble, she decided to utter the only other thought she had to break the tense, sexually saturated silence.
Ryan blinked, frowned and then shook his shirt out, pulling the fabric over one arm. “You heard that Chad was my father, that Ben was my brother, and you assumed that I used the same surname. I don’t,” Ryan said in a cool voice.
She stepped inside and shut the door. “Why not?”
“I met Chad for the first time when I was fourteen, when the court appointed me to live with him after my mother’s death. He dumped my mother two seconds after she told him she was pregnant and her name appeared on my birth certificate. I’d just lost her, and I wasn’t about to lose her name, as well.” Ryan machine-gunned his words and Jaci tried to keep up.
Ryan rubbed his hand over his face. “God, what does that have to do with anything? Moving rapidly on...”
Pity, Jaci thought. She would’ve liked to hear more about his childhood, about his relationship with his famous brother and father, which was, judging by his pain-filled and frustrated eyes, not a happy story.
“Getting back to the here and now, how the hell am I going to fix this?” Ryan demanded, and Jaci wasn’t sure whether he was asking the question of her or himself.
“Look, I’m really sorry that I caused trouble for you by kissing you. It was an impulsive action to get away from Frog Man.”
Ryan shoved his other arm into his sleeve and pulled the edges of his shirt together, found the buttons and their corresponding holes without dropping his eyes from her face.
“He was persistent. And slimy. And he wouldn’t take the hint!” Jaci continued. “I’m sorry that the kiss was captured on camera. I know what an invasion of your privacy that can be.”
Ryan glanced at the paper that he’d dropped onto his desk. “You seem to know what you’re talking about.” Ryan tipped his head. “Sexual scandals? Engaged?”
“All that and more.” Jaci tossed her head in defiance and held his eyes. “You can find it all online if you want some spicy bedtime reading.”
“I don’t read trash.”
“Well, I’m not going to tell you what happened,” Jaci stated, her tone not encouraging any argument.
“Did I ask you to?”
Hell, he hadn’t, Jaci realized, as a red tide crept up her neck. Jeez, catch a clue. The guy kissed you. That doesn’t mean he’s interested in your history.
Time to retreat. What had they been talking about? Ah, their kiss. “Look, if you need me to apologize to your girlfriend or wife, then I will.” She thought about adding “I won’t even tell her that you initiated the second kiss” but decided not to fan the flames.
“I’m not involved with anyone, which is about the only silver lining there is.”
Jaci pushed her long bangs to one side. “Then I really don’t understand what the drama is all about. We’re both single, we kissed. Yeah, it landed up in the papers, but who cares?”
“Banks does and I told him that you’re my girlfriend.”
Jaci lifted her hands in confusion. This still wasn’t any clearer. “So?”
Ryan started to roll up his sleeves, his expression devoid of all emotion. But his eyes were now a blistering blue, radiating frustration and a healthy dose of anxiety. “In order to produce Blown Away, to get the story you conceived and wrote onto the big screen, to do it justice, I need a budget of a hundred and seventy million dollars. I don’t like taking on investors, I prefer to work solo, but the one hundred million I have is tied up at the moment. Besides, with such a big budget, I’d also prefer to risk someone else’s money and not my own. Right now, Banks is the only thing that decides whether Blown Away sees the light of day or gets skipped over for a smaller-budget film.
“I thought that we were on the point of signing the damn contract but now he just wants to jerk my chain,” Ryan continued.
“Because he knows that I caught him hitting on my girlfriend and he’s embarrassed. He wants to remind me who’s in control.”
Okay, now she got it, but she wished she hadn’t. She’d put a hundred-million deal in jeopardy? With a kiss? When she messed up, she did a spectacular job of it.
Jaci groaned. “And I’m your screenwriter.” She shoved her fingers into