chapter 1 - A Reclusive Heart (Hollywood Hearts #2) 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 f**k 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 f**k 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 ass**le 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.

Gag.

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.

Right.”

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 this 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.

© 2018