A reclusive heart, p.1
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       A Reclusive Heart, p.1
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         Part #2 of Hollywood Hearts series by R. L. Mathewson

  Chapter 1

  “On behalf of Rerum Publishing House,” Rick said, holding his glass of champagne up high. “I would like to congratulate our guest of honors on their five year anniversary!”

  A loud round of applause broke out among the party guests as the happy couple smiled dreamily at each other. Nick glanced over at two of his closest friends and had to force a smile.

  Rick, still grinning, held up his hand, motioning for the crowd to quiet down.

  “We are also here to celebrate a momentous occasion for Rerum Publishing House as well as for Dana Pierce. As of this month all six books of her Christian and Bailey series have sold over a hundred million copies worldwide.”

  Nick watched as the luckiest bastard, as far as he was concerned, pulled a very surprised Dana into his arms and spun her slowly around while he gave her one those achingly sweet kisses that made all the women around them “aw” and coo. It just made him gag.

  He loved his friends. He really did. They were great down to earth people with hearts of gold and had four of the greatest kids he’d ever met, but sometimes it was a little much for him to handle. Most of the time it didn’t faze him, but other times like this when their love was practically a living thing reaching out to bitch slap everyone within a thirty foot radius, it was difficult.

  It made every single woman around them get that hopeful look in their eyes just before it turned determined. Then right before his eyes, once level headed women turned into vultures, setting their sights on the single men around them in an assessing manner. Hell, five women were giving him that look right now, probably trying to determine what kind of husband and father he would make.

  Would he worship her? Be there for her? Be faithful? Take out the trash? The answer was pretty simple.

  Hell no.

  Marriage was not for him and every single woman out there should be thankful that someone like him stayed clear of the altar. Plain and simple, he was not the marrying type. Never had been and never would be. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in marriage. He did, for the right people that is and the right people most certainly did not include him.

  Hell, he was a thirty-two year old man who’d never had a girlfriend, never wanted one. That was too much commitment and way too much drama for him. He didn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s happiness or be held accountable to remember shit like birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, or not to fuck her best friend when he was bored. No, that was just way too much to expect of him.

  He was the guy that you went to for fun and always had been. As a kid he’d been responsible for giving more than half the girls in his class their first kiss. He loved women and they loved him and as long as they acknowledged that there would never be anything more than a good time and a good fuck or two then all was good in his world.

  For those who thought they could change him….well, they got what they deserved. He never lied or pretended to be something that he wasn’t. He made damn sure of that. Any woman he took into his bed knew right off the bat that he was an asshole and that she better not get her hopes up where he was concerned. It just wasn’t worth it.

  He wasn’t worth it.

  “Congratulations to Edward and Dana Pierce!” Rick said, leading the room in another toast.

  Even Nick held up his glass of scotch in their direction. Dana deserved this more than anyone. Seven years ago she walked into their offices a broken down woman trying to keep it together for her two kids. Where most women would be bitter in her situation, Dana had thrived. She pulled her life together and shared her heart with the world. Then Edward stepped into her life and showed her what love really meant.


  Where the hell was this romantic shit coming from? He needed another drink and possibly a willing woman or two. He glanced around at the marriage minded vultures and scratched the last part. He just needed a drink.

  He made his way through the thick crowd of well wishers to the bar where he had to wait for twenty women to finish flirting with the bartenders and place their orders. Christ, couldn’t Rick have hired a few female bartenders? If he had he’d have a drink and a number by now.

  “So, what do you think?” Rick asked, leaning against the bar.

  Nick sighed, giving up any hope of getting his drink anytime soon. “I think I should hire the staff for the next event.”

  Rick chuckled. “I think you’re still banned from that job, buddy.”

  “That’s bullshit. That party was memorable.”

  “Oh, yeah,” Rick said, grinning. “Hiring strippers to function as staff was definitely one for the books.”

  Nick shrugged, unconcerned. “No one complained.”

  Rick threw him a disbelieving look. “Every single female guest complained.

  Many of them demanded your head on a platter.”

  Nick waved it off as he tried once again to get the attention of a bartender only to be ignored. Fuck. “The service that night was great.”

  “Yeah, it was. With each drink the guests were offered a lap dance for half price and a few were offered a Happy Ending.”

  “See, now that’s good service, nothing like the sausage fest you got going on here.”

  Rick looked at the line of men being ignored and sighed heavily. “Guess I’m gonna have to do something.”

  “It’s your party. Go nuts. I, on the other hand am going home to my liquor cabinet and bed,” Nick said, pushing away from the bar.

  “Going home alone?” Rick asked, sounding surprised.

  Nick gestured lazily to the crowd. “All these women are looking for Mr.


  Rick looked thoughtful for a moment. “You never know it could be you.”

  Nick gave him a wink. “I have no plans to change my name from Mr. Wrong anytime soon.”


  “Don’t puke, don’t puke, don’t puke,” Jamie said, pressing her forehead against the faux leather covering of her steering wheel.

  She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. This was no big deal, nothing whatsoever. This was just a job, a new job, the start of her new life. Nothing to worry about. It was just a brand new stage in her life because ofHer stomach flipped over just thinking about her ex-almost boyfriend. Oh no, make that her new brother-in-law, and her ever loving sister Caitlyn. That fun little surprise was the reason why she was here. She needed this desperately. This was going to be the start of the new Jamie.

  Not that she hated herself. She didn’t. She just wasn’t particularly in love with herself. She was too boring, too shy, too plain and on top of that she was pretty darn sure that she was the world’s biggest pushover. Everyone knew she didn’t have a backbone and had no qualms about taking advantage of that little fault.

  No more. That was the old Jamie. The new Jamie was going to start saying no. She was going to take charge of her life. It was the main reason she sold her internet publishing company and took this job. She wanted, no, needed to get out in the world and this was the perfect opportunity. This job would force her out of her shell and into the world.

  “I’m good,” she mumbled to herself, not really sounding all too confident, but it was a start. She pushed her glasses back up her nose and did her best not to vomit.

  Taking one last fortifying breath, she grabbed her oversized purse, the one that really should be called a bag, and opened her door. After catching the small heel of her shoe on the floor mat and fighting her way to freedom she opened her car door and stood up.

  Satisfied that she hadn’t vomited or passed out, she closed her door, hit the alarm and took a step forward only to come to a halt and stumble backwards into the car.

  “What the….”

  She turned around and frowned. Of course th
is would happen. She somehow managed to shut her bag in the car. Her cheeks burned as the sound of laughter reached her ears. She didn’t need to look back to know that they were laughing at her.

  Keeping her eyes and face averted so that no one would be able to identify her later and point and laugh at her, she disarmed the car alarm and removed her bag. This time when she closed the car door she made sure to remain a safe distance away.

  Clutching the purse strap tightly in her hands she headed for the front entrance of Rerum Publishing House, praying nothing else went wrong. She kept her breathing even as she walked up the sidewalk, into the lobby and to the elevator. She stepped inside, pressed the button for the fifth floor and exhaled slowly. Several people in the elevator threw her curious looks, but she ignored them.

  She ran her sweaty palms down the front of her charcoal gray wool skirt and frowned as she inwardly groaned. Why hadn’t she taken the time yesterday to try on her clothes? Oh, that’s right, because Caitlyn and her little trio came into the store. She’d been forced to grab the first suit off the rack that looked like it would fit, pay up, and get the heck out of there before they spotted her.

  It was either that or endure the fake looks of pity, rude comments, and Caitlyn’s “little” stories about how Jamie never could keep any man’s attention once they met Caitlyn. So yeah, she ran for it and apparently bought a suit at least four sizes too big.

  The elevator dinged and people looked at her expectantly. It took a moment before she realized they were at the fifth floor. With an embarrassed flush and a murmured apology she hefted her bag, er purse, and stepped out of the elevator into a beehive.

  “Excuse me,” a woman in a much better suit than hers said in a crisp voice as she rushed past Jamie.

  Another murmured apology came from Jamie before she stepped back against the wall. She stayed there watching the chaos for several minutes before she broke out into a sweat.

  Oh god, she couldn’t do this.

  She hurried the three feet back to the elevator and hit the call button, and then pressed it again and again. Where was it? She pushed her glasses back up her nose to get a better look at the elevator lights. It was on the ninth floor and she didn’t have time to wait here.

  Clutching her bag tightly to her body and averting her eyes to the floor, she turned and followed the Exit signs to the stairwell. Halfway there she spotted signs for the restrooms. After taking a quick glance up to confirm their location she took another deep breath and scurried quickly through the swarm of people. She didn’t release that breath until she was in the bathroom safely locked in the end stall.

  After placing five paper barriers on the toilet she carefully sat down, dropped her bag between her feet, and cradled her head in her hands. This had been such a huge mistake. She should have kept her company and resigned herself to being the strange woman with twenty cats that all the kids would point and laugh at in twenty years. The fact that she didn’t like cats shouldn’t factor into her decision.

  Decision made, she just needed to come up with a plan to get herself out of here. She would just have to leave the bathroom and use the stairwell to leave the building. Then she’d go home and pack up her small apartment and find someplace where she could blend in and allowed cats. Maybe she’d use her new little fortune to buy a house and a new car. Wait, a house was too big for just for one person. Unless of course cats required their own rooms then she’d be all set. Then after she set up her house she’d start up another internet publishing company and everything would be peachy.

  The only glitch in her plan as far as she could tell was that little issue of the signed contract stating that she was not allowed to start another internet publishing company and a few other factors that would keep her butt here working.

  She needed an antacid or something. She looked down at her oversized purse and frowned. She wasn’t the antacid carrying type of woman. Although there was a good possibility that she had a half roll of spearmint Lifesavers or a few root beer barrels somewhere in her bag.

  Deciding that a root beer barrel sounded great, she picked up her bag and nearly cried out in frustration as her bag tipped upside down, which normally wouldn’t have been a problem except that somehow at some point her bag had opened. The soft whir of the air conditioning unit was momentarily drowned out by a loud gasp and the clanking sounds as everything in her purse hit the tiled floor.

  “Why me?” she mumbled pathetically as she grabbed her bag and started to shove things back in. Things started to look up when she found a twenty dollar bill that she’d forgotten about and her favorite pen that she thought she lost a few months back. Well, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all, she thought as she kneeled on the cool tile floor so she could reach several items that escaped the confines of the stall.

  After a minute it became obvious that her arms were just too short to reach the items that escaped the stall. Sighing heavily, she opened the stall door and crawled out picking up items as she went. Two tampons and a quarter later she was frowning at a pair of very large black leather shoes.

  Her first thought was one of sympathy for whatever woman had feet that large. That feeling slowly disappeared as her eyes traveled up a pair of men’s black slacks to a very masculine jacket, shirt and tie that in her opinion really looked good on the obviously fit torso. Slowly, ever so slowly, she looked all the way up and gulped when she saw beautiful laughing green eyes and perfectly combed short honey blond hair.

  Why on earth did it have to be him? A month ago when she came in for a meeting he had been the reason why she nearly choked on her own tongue. It was really unfair that someone so shallow should look so gorgeous. Really, it wasn’t fair.

  No one person should be blessed this much. He had everything going for him in life and he knew it. It was a constant reminder to people like her that life really was unfair and was kind of sucky sometimes.

  His eyes lit up with amusement as he held out a tampon to her. Not just any tampon, but a purple tampon with the words “Super Super Heavy” written in clear bold letters.

  “I believe this is yours, Miss. Harris,” he said, sounding close to laughing.

  Jamie grabbed the tampon and shoved it back into her bag as she quickly got to her feet all while avoiding his gaze. When he tried to help her up she took a step back.

  “T-this isn’t the women’s room, is it?” she asked, knowing someone up there was having a heck of a time with her today.

  “No, no it’s not,” that deep smooth voice that wreaked havoc on her heart said.

  She nodded. “Of course it’s not,” she muttered to herself. Really what else could she expect?

  Still avoiding his eyes she said, “Well, ah,” she cleared her throat, “it’s ah, very nice. Spacious, clean and all that.”

  He chuckled.

  Darn it!

  “I’ll ah, I’ll just go see what my desk looks like now. It was nice to see you again, Mr. Quinn.”

  “Oh, the pleasure was all mine,” he said in an amused tone.

  Another nod and she turned to leave only to have her escape halted.

  “Miss. Harris?”

  She froze mere inches from freedom. “Yes?” she asked, her voice cracking.

  “You have a little something on the back of your skirt.”

  Of course she did.

  “Thank you,” she said, trying to decide whether she should duck back into one of the stalls or risk further embarrassment by looking for the woman’s room to remove whatever it was when Mr. Quinn took the decision out of her hands for her.

  She heard the telltale sound of crinkling paper and gasped. Heat rushed up her neck to her face, leaving her to wonder if she could die from embarrassment.

  “Got it,” he said, chuckling.

  “Thank you,” she mumbled as she made her mad dash to the bathroom door, wondering what else could go wrong today.

  Chapter 2

  Nick was still laughing twenty minutes later as he took his seat in the confe
rence room. Who knew hiring the little recluse would make his day? He certainly hadn’t expected this little bonus. She’d certainly made his morning.

  Ah, good times……

  “What has you in such a good mood?” Beth or Janet or whatever the hell her name was asked as she took the chair next to his.

  “Good coffee,” he said, gesturing to his steamy cup of coffee. He wasn’t about to further embarrass the poor recluse. He was an asshole yes, but a nice asshole.

  The poor thing was going to have a hard enough time here, he could just tell with that shy manner and frumpy clothes. There was no need to add to it. In fact, his plan was to stay away from the poor thing and sit back and watch. Maybe she’d provide him with another good laugh.

  “So, Nick, I was wondering what you were doing tonight,” Beth or Janet or was it Marcy? said.

  “Washing my hair,” he answered, hoping she’d take the hint and
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