Breathe, p.3
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         Part #1 of Sea Breeze series by Abbi Glines
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Chapter Two

  I didn't have to be searched, and I was even given a card to show at the gate when I arrived from here on out. Things went much smoother. Fran even smiled at me once. After lunch, Ms. Mary sent me to the third floor, which housed most of the bedrooms. It was easy to forget whose house I cleaned. I had no friends to tell about the job. Not thinking about the fact I stood in the rooms where the hottest teen star in the world would be sleeping al summer wasn't real y so big of a deal. I stepped into his bedroom and spun around. This wasn't a typical teenage boy's room. It seemed so comfortable it struck me as odd.

  One wal displayed bats and bal s signed with different signatures while some just looked wel used. Jerseys he must have worn during childhood hung on the wal s proudly. I could easily picture the little boy I'd seen in the pictures yesterday wearing these and playing city bal just like an ordinary kid. I went for a closer inspection and found pictures under each one of the teams he'd played on. In the earliest ones, I struggled to figure out which little boy was the now famous rock star. After he appeared to be ten or eleven, I identified him easily. The jerseys and pictures were in year order from about kindergarten until age thirteen, and then they stopped. It would have been about a year or so before I remembered hearing his name the first time on the radio. He seemed to lead a normal life up until the time a record label discovered him.

  The wall space above his bed set the room apart from an ordinary teenage boy's room. Guitars of every shape, size, and color hung on the wal s.

  Many were autographed; some sparkled with newness. One appeared to have real gold on it, which wouldn't be surprising at al if it did. I got on my toes and examined it more closely. It said Fender on it. I continued examining the signatures on the more expensive guitars. I ran my finger over the name Jon Bon Jovi and smiled. Apparently, even rock stars have idols. In the center of them al hung a smal , worn guitar. The fact it hung in the center of this col ection made it obvious this must have been the first and most loved.

  I peeked back at the door to make sure no one stood outside, and then went to stand under the smal guitar I imagined had started it al . I wasn't a crazy fan but seeing something responsible for spurring a dream seemed almost holy in a way.

  My cleaning cart sat untouched in the doorway, and I knew I needed to get busy. I didn't want to learn new, personal things about him. I wanted him to stay shal ow and untouchable in my eyes. Knowing he once was a cute, little boy with dark brown curls and a smile that would one day cause a frenzy made him seem more real and not so godlike. I needed to keep my interest in him to a minimum. I quickly went about the room dusting and sweeping, and then I mopped the expensive hardwoods. I decided I'd better get through with this room quickly before I came across anything else that'd have me picturing him as the little boy in the photos. I focused my thoughts on my future and blocked out al thoughts of Jax Stone. "Sadie, are you finished yet? The family has arrived, and we need to exit to the servant's quarters," Fran said from the doorway. I placed my cleaning supplies back on the cart and headed toward the door where a very nervous Fran stood.

  "Sure, just finished up. " Fran nodded and headed toward the back elevator in which house staff traveled from floor to floor without being seen by the family. Fran hurried inside as it opened, and I started to fol ow when a bottle of glass cleaner fel off the cart. I reached for a smal rag and picked the bottle up from the floor. I wiped up the spil the best I could.

  "Hurry, please," Fran cal ed in an anxious tone from inside the elevator. The family must be headed upstairs. I stood up, and a tingling sensation raced through the hairs on my neck. Startled, I turned and saw him standing there watching me. It wasn't the saw him standing there watching me. It wasn't the cute little curly-headed boy but instead the famous rock star. I froze unsure of what to do since my presence being acknowledged this soon wasn't something Ms. Mary wanted. A smile broke across his ridiculously sexy face, heat burned through my cheeks, and I glanced away and pushed the cart into the elevator.

  He didn't appear to be angry that a teenage girl worked in his home. His smile seemed more amused. Fran frowned when I glanced at her, but she said nothing. I put my cart away and went to report to the kitchen since I no longer worked upstairs. Ms. Mary stood with her hands on her hips, waiting on our arrival. A silent conversation seemed to take place between Fran and Ms. Mary. After Ms. Mary nodded, she reached for something on the table and handed me folded black clothing.

  "Everyone wears uniforms while the family is in residence. Also, you won't be cleaning the house anymore, but you wil help me in the kitchen and help Mr. Greg in the gardens. However, tonight I need you to serve supper. Mrs. Stone has requested al servers seen by family and guests are attractive in appearance. Wil iam, the young man I hired to assist Marcus in serving the family, cal ed in sick about ten minutes ago, and you are al I got. You've proved to be a hard worker, and you seem to be serious about this job. Your age concerns me since the master of the house is around your age and is an idol in most girls' eyes. My gut tel s me that means little to you. I hope you continue to show such maturity. " I didn't real y know what to say after that mouthful from her, so I only nodded. "Good. Now, you're to wear this every day. I'l have two more made in your size, and they are to be left here each night to be washed and pressed. Make sure you continue to enter at the same location and immediately change in the laundry room. Now, I need you to help me begin preparing for the evenin' meal before you put these on. You gotta be tidy and clean when you serve. "

  For the next two hours, I chopped, sliced, stirred, and stuffed al types of meats and vegetables. By the time Ms. Mary told me to get changed and tidy up my hair, exhaustion already fil ed my body. I changed into the black skirt, which hit right above my knees, and the white button up shirt with a round col ar. I put on a black apron over my shirt and skirt. Pul ing my hair loose, I piled the curls up high on my head. I washed my face and hands and sighed at the face mirrored back at me.

  My mother's face landed me a job as server tonight, but my reserved personality gained me Ms. Mary's trust. Where my mother's eyes sparkled with mischief, mine stayed serious and guarded.

  Jax Stone's smile in person dazzled me as much as it did on the millions of pictures I'd seen in magazines and on posters. However, it didn't mean I would be sil y enough to be attracted to him like the rest of the world. With a deep breath, I opened the door and went back to the kitchen where Ms. Mary stood waiting. "Okay, now, remember, you set this in front of Master Jax at the exact moment Marcus here," she waved to a tal young guy I'd not met yet, "places Mrs. Stone's in front of her. They wil be the only two at the table tonight. Mr. Stone and Jason wil be arriving tomorrow.

  So tonight, you two wil be the only two serving. "Make sure you stand back quietly behind Master Jax while he eats and fol ow Marcus's lead. He'll help you with anythin' you aren't sure about. " I turned my ful gaze on Marcus who seemed to be only a few years older than I was, probably col ege age. His sandy blond hair and smiling green eyes immediately relaxed me.

  He held out his tanned hand and grinned. "Marcus Hardy. " I slipped my hand into his, and he shook it. "Sadie White. " He nodded, stil grinning, and reached for his tray, "I saw your brave performance yesterday as you secured your job here. It amazed me how your eyes went from nervous to determined in less than a second. " He picked up the tray in front of him, and I smiled and lifted the tray set before me.

  "You will follow me. . . since I wil be serving Mrs. Stone's food. " He gave me a wink before turning and heading for the entrance to the dining room.

  The large room wasn't new to me. I'd scrubbed the floors in there that morning. Marcus took his place behind Mrs. Stone, who sat with her back to the entrance. The natural alarm in my body alerted me as I walked around to stand behind Jax, who sat at the head of the table. I looked to Marcus to guide me. He nodded, and we set the salads down at the exact same time. I stepped back. Marcus nodded his head for me to stand beside him, so I did.
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  "I stil don't see why Dad is making Jason go to the interview at Yale if he doesn't want to go there. " Jax voice sounded so smooth it seemed almost unreal. I felt as if I'd walked into a movie, and I stood watching the scene before me. "Your brother doesn't know what is best for him.

  He has the brains to be more than just Jax Stone's younger brother. He can make a name for himself if he wil just focus on it instead of spending so much time fiddling with the stock market. His head for numbers is being wasted. "

  Jax's eyes gazed up at me and seemed to smile before directing them back down at his mother. "You both are going to push him away. You're right, he is smart and doesn't need you to think for him. "

  Mrs. Stone let out a short, hard laugh. "And you wouldn't be where you are today if I hadn't pushed you so hard. All you wanted to do was play baseball with your buddies and play in a silly garage band with absolutely no talent other than yourself. " Jax sighed, took a drink of his ice water, and turned to his mother. "Enough, Mom, don't start talking bad about the only real friends I ever had. " Mrs. Stone leaned back, and Marcus touched my hand to draw my attention back to him and the reason we were in here. We stepped forward and, at the same time, removed the salad plates from in front of the Stones.

  "May we get you something other than water to drink with your meal?" Marcus asked with a charming southern drawl. I found eyes once again watching me. I fought the urge to al ow my eyes to shift back in Jax's the urge to al ow my eyes to shift back in Jax's direction and to those eyes. Mrs. Stone sighed. "I suppose one glass of Merlot won't hurt me. " She glanced over at her son and straightened her napkin in her lap as if trying to decide. "Bring me a glass of the best Merlot we have in the cellar. "

  Jax leaned back, and I could see he stil watched me. So, I took a calming breath and looked at him. "If I could have a glass of Ms. Mary's sweet iced tea please. " I nodded and kept myself from returning his smile. "Yes, sir," Marcus replied. He stepped back and waved his hand so I would lead the way back to the kitchen.

  I exited the large dining room and immediately took a deep breath. I hadn't realized how nerve wracking this would be. As soon as we entered the kitchen, Marcus smiled at me.

  "What? Did I screw up?" Marcus shook his head and a blond lock of hair fel into his eyes. "No, you were great. Now let's get the crab bisque out there before Ms. Mary has a fit. " He turned toward the housekeeper. "Ms. Mary, we need Merlot from the cellar. "

  Ms. Mary handed him the already opened bottle along with a glass. "I already figured as much, and here's Jax's sweet tea. "

  "I'll deal with the drinks," Marcus said. I was too grateful to ask why. I just nodded and fol owed him back down the hal toward the dining room. Right before we reentered, Marcus glanced back at me. "Ignore his watching you. You're a treat to the eyes. I can't blame him, but if you want to keep this job, try to become invisible. " He winked then opened the door. My goal in life was to become invisible. I thought I'd been attempting to do just that. Apparently, I needed to try harder.

  "I intend to get in a lot of time just relaxing on the beach. I like the private beach access we have here and the thought of being able to chil on the beach with no one wanting to speak to me, meet me, or get me to sign an autograph is what I've been craving al year. I need a break. I know Gregory hates the idea of my being unavailable for three months, but I need this for my sanity. " Jax glanced up at me as I sat the bowl of bisque in front of him. "Thank you," he whispered.

  "I want you to have a break too. Gregory thinks a little time in front of your fans this summer would be great PR. Maybe you could do a beach concert, or just do a few movie premiers. " Jax shook his head. "No way, Mom. I refuse to make my presence here known. I chose Alabama because it is not a highly populated area. Better yet, this little island here is private. I wil consider a few movie premiers but nothing else. No concerts. " Mrs. Stone shrugged her shoulders.

  "Well, I told Gregory I would try, and I did. He can deal with you. You're an adult. I'm not going to pressure you anymore. " Jax continued to eat, and I stood beside Marcus staring out the window and back at Jax's bowl waiting for the moment when I would need to remove it. I glanced up at Marcus, and he met my eyes with a smile. He was al business, and I could tel he wanted me to do wel here. I'd made a friend. Marcus lightly touched my arm and stepped forward. I immediately fol owed, and we removed their bowls.

  "More sweet tea, sir?" Jax glanced at me and flicked his gaze toward Marcus. "Yes, please. " Mrs. Stone's glass of wine was missing a sip at most. Marcus once again stepped back and al owed me to lead the way out. We did the same routine as before.

  Once in the kitchen, we picked up the tray already prepared with the most rich, exotic foods I had ever seen. "Wow, they sure eat a bunch. " "Mrs. Stone has only tasted her food so far, and my guess is she will barely touch this as well. " "He eats al of his. "

  "Yep, but then he's a growing boy. " I laughed at Marcus's imitation of Ms. Mary, picked up the tray, and fol owed him back down the now familiar hall . Once inside, I placed the food in front of Jax again, and Marcus handled the sweet tea for me. Jax and his mother ate in silence this time.

  Occasional y, I sensed him watching me, and a brief touch from Marcus's hand no doubt reminding me I needed to appear invisible. I never acknowledged the curious steel blue eyes. Mother and son exchanged a few casual words, but for the most part, they ate in silence. Final y, after what seemed like an eternity, I inspected Jax to see if he'd finished, and our eyes met. I tried to tear my gaze away, but his eyes held a hint of laughter. I stared down at my feet, and Marcus squeezed my arm. It startled me. I looked up at him, and he nodded for us to take their plates. We cleared the places in front of them at the same time, and I walked toward the door already in routine.

  "I won't be having dessert," Mrs. Stone said to Marcus. "I hate to leave you to eat alone, but I am exhausted. I'l be in my room if you need me. " Jax stood as his mother left the table. Once she exited, he sat back down. "I would love dessert," he assured us. . . or he assured me. Marcus nodded. "Yes, sir," he said in his businesslike tone, and we left.

  Once back in the kitchen, Marcus sat down his tray. "Okay, this is sticky. You're supposed to take him his plate, and since his mother has left, I have no reason to return. I could go in your place, which would be the best idea, but I am afraid it will anger him. He has noticed you, which I knew would be pretty unavoidable, but I'd hoped since he is famous, he wouldn't pay attention to another pretty face. " Marcus sighed and leaned his hip against the table and crossed his long legs. "I am leaving this up to you. "

  "Me?"

  "What do you want to do, Sadie? It isn't about your job; it is about mine. If you don't go back, I could lose mine for taking your spot. I think he has already picked up on my protecting you. If you go or not, your job is secure. . . for now. " I sighed and reached for the tray holding the dessert. I wouldn't jeopardize someone else's job to help myself out. "I'l do it. " Without another word, I headed back down the hal al by myself.

  Once I entered, steel blue eyes met mine and he smiled. "Ah, so he did let you come alone. I wondered if I would be seeing him instead. " I didn't want to smile at his comment but I did. I sat his dessert down in front of him and took my place. "Do you speak?" he asked.

  "Yes. " Marcus had spoken for me al night. "We don't normal y have young female employees. How did you get through Mary?" "I am mature for my age. " He only nodded and took a bite of some sort of chocolate cake with more chocolate oozing out of the inside. After he chewed and swal owed, he looked back at me. I turned to stare out the window at the waves crashing against the shore.

  "How old are you?"

  "Seventeen. " I hoped my simple reply would end his interrogation.

  "How did you know I lived here?" His question caught me off guard and I met his gaze. "It is hard to miss the photos of you as I dust and mop. " He frowned. "You applied for this job not knowing I lived here?" I realized he assumed a fan sq
ueezed through the cracks of his security and he wanted to know how I did it.

  "My mother has been cleaning here for two months. However, her pregnancy has progressed and she sent me in her place. I proved my worth, and Ms. Mary kept me. My being here has nothing to do with you, sir, but has everything to do with the fact I want to eat and pay the rent. " I knew I sounded annoyed, but I was annoyed, and I couldn't help it.

  He nodded and stood up. "I am sorry. When I saw you, and you were young and wel . . . attractive, I thought the only reason someone like you would be working here would be to get close to me. I deal with females quite a bit, and my assuming you were working here to get near me wasn't fair. Please forgive me. " I swallowed the lump in my throat. I felt this job slipping out of my hands, but I would not cry. "I understand," I managed to get out.

  A boyish smile tugged at his lips, and he nodded his head toward the door. "I guess I should have figured you were taken by the possessiveness of the other server tonight. I stared at you more than I should have, but I kept waiting for you to ask for my autograph or slip your number to me on a napkin. " I raised my eyebrows in surprise.

  He shrugged. "Those things are a way of life for me. I just expect it. " I smiled back at him this time. He wasn't as bad as I'd made him out to be. He wasn't about to fire me. "I am here to do my job, sir, and nothing more. " "Do me a favor and don't cal me 'sir. ' I am just two years older than you. " I took the plate, careful not to touch his hands, and stepped back. "Okay," I replied, hoping I could leave.

  "So, is he your boyfriend?" He caught me off guard with his question, and I halted in my tracks.

  "Who? Marcus?" A crooked grin appeared on his face. He was hard not to stare at. "If Marcus is the guy who seemed quite determined to make sure you made no mistakes tonight, then yes. "

  "No, he is. . . he is a friend. " It was strange saying those words. I'd never cal ed anyone a friend in my life. Jax smiled and leaned down to whisper close to my ear. "I hope someday soon you wil consider me a friend as wel . I don't have very many of those. " My face grew hot, and my skin tingled at his nearness. His warm breath on my skin made it hard to form words. I swal owed hard, trying to focus on his comment and not swooning at his feet like some crazy lunatic. "I only have one," I blurted out like an idiot.

  Jax frowned. "I find that hard to believe" I shrugged. "I don't have time for friends. " Jax stepped forward, opened the door for me, and smiled. "Wel , I hope we can find some time in your busy schedule because I happen to be in need of a friend myself. . . . Someone who doesn't care who I am. . . . Someone who doesn't laugh at my jokes when they're not funny. If I'm not mistaken, you could care less about the fact I am on the cover of Rol ing Stone magazine this month, and on the bedroom wal s of every teenage girl in America. " His comment seemed to ease my momentary lapse of common sense from his nearness, and I shook my head. "Not every teenage girl in America. You have never been on my walls. So, I guess you're right, I don't care. " I walked away, leaving him standing behind me.

 
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