“Why can’t I just stay in the background?” Jaci asked. She didn’t want to—it wasn’t what she’d come to the city to do—but she would if it meant getting the film produced. “He doesn’t know that I wrote the script.”
Ryan carefully replaced the paperweight, folded his arms and gave her a hard stare. After a long, charged minute he shook his head. “That’s problematic for me. Firstly, you did write that script and you should take the credit for it. Secondly, I don’t like any forms of lying. It always comes back to bite me on the ass.”
Wow, an honest guy. She thought that the species was long extinct.
Jaci dropped into the nearest chair, sat on top of a pile of scripts, placed her elbows on her knees and rested her chin in the palm of her hand. “So what do we do?”
“I need you as a scriptwriter and I need him to fund the movie, so we do the only thing we can.”
“We become what Leroy and the world thinks we are, a couple. Until I have the money in the bank, and then we can quietly split, citing irreconcilable differences.”
Jaci shook her head. She didn’t think she could do it. She’d just come out of a relationship, and she didn’t think she could be in another one, fake or not. She was determined to fly solo. “Uh...no, that’s not going to work for me.”
“You got me into this situation by throwing yourself into my arms, and you’re going to damn well help me get out of it,” Ryan growled.
Ryan narrowed his eyes. “If I recall, your contract hasn’t be signed...”
It took twenty seconds for his words to sink in. “Are you saying that you won’t formalize my contract if I don’t do this?”
“I’ve already bought the rights for the script. It’s mine to do what I want with it. I did want some changes and I would prefer it if you write those, but I could ask Wes, or Shona, to do it.”
“You’re blackmailing me!” Jaci shouted, instantly infuriated. She glanced at the paperweight on his desk and wondered if she could grab it and launch it toward his head. He might not lie but he wasn’t above using manipulation, the dipstick!
Ryan sighed and placed the paperweight on top of a pile of folders. “Look, you started all this trouble, and you need to figure out how to end it. Consider it as part of your job description.”
“Don’t blame this on me!”
Ryan lifted an eyebrow in disbelief and Jaci scowled. “At least not all of it! The first kiss was supposed to be a peck, but you turned it into a hot-as-hell kiss!” Jaci shouted, her hands gripping the arms of the chair.
“What the hell was I supposed to do? You plastered yourself against me and slapped your mouth on mine!” Ryan responded with as much, maybe even more, heat.
“Do you routinely shove your tongue into a stranger’s mouth?”
“I knew that I’d met you, dammit!” Ryan roared. He sprang to his feet and stormed over to his window and stared down at the tiny matchbox cars on the street below. Jaci watched as he pulled in a couple of deep breaths, amazed that she was able to fight with this man, shout at him, yet she felt nothing but exhilaration. No feelings of inadequacy or guilt or failure.
That was new. Maybe New York, with or without this crazy situation, was going to be good for her.
“So what are we going to do?” Jaci asked after a little while. It was obvious that they had to do something because walking away from her dream job was not an option. She was not going to go back to London without giving this opportunity her very best shot. Giving up now was simply not an option. She had to prove herself and she’d do it here in New York City, the toughest place around. Nobody would doubt her then.
“Do you want to see this film produced? Do you want to see your name in the credits?” Ryan asked without turning around.
Well, duh. “Of course I do,” she softly replied. This was her big break, her opportunity to be noticed, to get more than her foot through the door. She’d been treading water for so long, she couldn’t miss this opportunity to ride the wave to the beach.
“Then I need Banks’s money.”
“Is he the only investor around? Surely not.”
“Firstly, they don’t grow on trees. I’ve also spent nearly eighteen months thrashing out the agreement. I can’t waste any more time on him and I can’t let that effort be for nothing.”
There was no way out of this. “And to get his money we have to become a couple.”
“A fake couple,” Ryan hastily corrected her. “I don’t want or need a real relationship.”
Jeez, chill. She didn’t want a relationship, either.
“So I can see some garden parties in the Hamptons in our future. Maybe theater or opera tickets, dinners at upscale restaurants because Banks will want to show me how important he is and he’ll want to show you what you missed out on.”
Ryan shoved his hands in his hair and tugged. “We don’t have a choice here and we have to make this count.”
Jaci rubbed her hands over her face. Who would’ve thought that an impulsive kiss could lead to such a tangle? She didn’t have a choice but to go along with Ryan’s plan, to be his temporary girlfriend. If she didn’t, months of work—Ryan’s, hers, Thom’s—would evaporate, and she doubted that Ryan and Thom would consider working with her again if she was the one responsible for ruining their deal with Banks.
She slumped in her chair. “Okay, then. It’s not like we—I—have much of a choice anyway.”
Ryan turned and gripped the sill behind him, his broad back to the window. He sighed and rubbed his temple with the tips of his fingers, his action telling her that he had a headache on board. Lucky she hadn’t clobbered him with that paperweight; his headache would now be a migraine.
“For all we know, Leroy might change his mind about socializing and we’ll be off the hook,” Ryan said, rolling his head from side to side.
“What do you think are the chances of that happening?” Jaci asked.
“Not good. He doesn’t like the fact that I have you. He’ll make me jump through hoops.”
“Because you’re everything he isn’t,” Jaci murmured.
“What do you mean?”
You’re tall, hot and sexy. Charming when you want to be. You’re successful, an acclaimed producer and businessman. You’re respected. Leroy, as far as she knew, just had oily hair and enough money to keep a third-world economy buoyant. Jaci stared at her hands. She couldn’t tell Ryan any of that; she had no intention of complimenting her blackmailer. Even if he could kiss to world-class standards.
“Don’t worry about it.” Jaci waved her words away and prayed that he wouldn’t pursue the topic.
Thankfully he didn’t. Instead he reached for the bottle of water on his desk and took a long sip. “So, as soon as I hear from Banks I’ll let you know.”
“Fine.” Jaci pushed herself to her feet, wishing she could go back to bed and pull the covers over her head for a week or two.
Jaci lifted her eyes off her boots to his. “Yes?”
“We’ll keep it completely professional at work. You’re the employee and I’m the boss,” Ryan stated. That would make complete sense except for the sexual tension, as bright and hot as a lightning arc, zapping between them. Judging by his hard tone and inscrutable