Damn, at the rate she was going, she would never get this letter finished.
J.D. frowned as she looked at her computer screen, the letters threatening to blur in front of her face. She had put in some serious hours trying to get it just perfect so that she could send it to the printer and then pick up the copy and then put it on Ethan's desk for his signature. How many mugs of coffee had she drunk in the past 12 hours, while pulling one of her all nighters at the office while Ethan had been out playing.
Kylie walked into the office with her own mug of java and a stack of paperwork that needed J.D.'s attention. Damn it all, why did the two women get stuck inside buried in contracts and mergers while the men, most notably Ethan and his uncle Will, were out playing surveillance with the entire city as their playground?
At least Kylie's steady guy Max had been away in Europe on business drumming up more customers for their security firm which had just merged with their investigative firm to become a more powerful player in L.A.
Not that J.D. missed sitting in parked cars for hours on stakeouts of business complexes, marinas or shopping malls. That had been more up Will's alley as a former operative for some clandestine organization that went by an acronym. No, she liked the undercover jobs where she and Ethan went to parties, galas, sports events, theaters, cruise liners and the occasional wedding working insurance investigations which were their bread and butter. But since Will's return with Ethan from their weeks spent tailing and then busting some crooked art dealer, the two men had been inseparable while J.D. had been relegated to her days spent at the office. Buddy had faxed her tons of work to handle from the Ethan headquarters and that kept her very busy. But after this marathon stint at her computer, she had decided she had enough. She would turn in this last letter to Ethan and then head off to the beach for some relaxation and time in the sun.
Kylie picked up the tension in her and knew that she needed a break. They both did and in fact, they often talked about how they would pack up their bags, rent an old classic convertible T-Bird and then take off on a road trip. They would stop and check out anything including historical locations and tourist traps as they saw fit, stop and eat at a string of greasy diners and occasionally camp out beneath a sky filled with stars.
Leaving all the men behind to work themselves hard until they missed them.
"I'm so tired Kylie," J.D. said, "I'm going to need some reinforcements to keep my eyes opened."
Kylie sipped her fifth cup of coffee which left her feeling quite buzzed. She had buried in more contracts faxed by workaholic Buddy herself since she'd promised Max before he left that she'd help him seal the deal.
In the wee hours of the morning the two of them had plotted hiring someone to teach the frenzied corporate CPA of their firm on how to relax. If J.D. could just figure out how to do that herself, to get herself to relax and not feel as if she were on a treadmill all the time
"How's your novel coming?"
J.D. brightened at the question, because really her foray into fictional writing had kept her more relaxed than she had any right to be considering her rigorous schedule.
"It's coming along just nicely," she said, "Heading to Chuck's ranch that weekend really helped me create the setting for my characters."
"Oh you mean Royal Austin," Kylie said, "and Carly James."
The budding author nodded, happily.
"I'm having a little trouble with the plot but the characters, they have some intense chemistry between them."
Kylie peered over J.D.'s shoulder as she maximized one of her computer windows on top of the letter she had been drafting for over a day.
Royal looked into Carly's eyes and his gaze mesmerized her into silence as he leaned closer, to caress his lips with her own cupping her chin in his callused hand. As his mouth claimed her in one breath, she gasped, threading her arms around his waist and drawing him closer in for the kill…"
"Is he her lover or her victim," she said, "Because I'm not sure whether she's kissing him because she's hot for him or to lure him into a deadly trap."
J.D. furrowed her brow, examining the prose closer.
"I'm not sure either Kylie," she said, "but then it's pretty early in the book…"
"Well it's great that you're taking up writing," she said, "It's a great balance to kickboxing in order to reduce your stress level."
J.D. reached for her sixth cup of coffee.
"I got to do something," she said, "I'm about to jump out of my skin or be like Rupert jumping out of a boiling pot."
"You need a vacation J.D…."
"I'm heading to the beach…as soon as I finish this letter."
"Well your writing is really hot," Kylie said, "Those characters just sizzle when they're together."
"That's the effect I'm going for," J.D. said, "I want the readers to be drawn into the story."
Kylie examined the screen once again.
"Who's this Pearl Starr," she said, "Is she another character?"
J.D. shook her head.
"No that's my penname," she said, "I'm not publishing this novel under my real name. I've got a reputation to think of and this way when it's selling on Amazon, no one will know it's me."
"Good point…besides how would Ethan feels if he knew the truth?"
"He's too busy either working his cases or trying to convince himself it's over between him and his latest."
Kylie rolled her eyes.
"That girl is just the latest in a string of them since he broke up with his fiancée six months ago," she said, "It's just a guy thing."
J.D. thought about that and about how yesterday morning she had walked in his house to drop off some contracts and had looked for him on his back deck. There was Ethan naked as a jaybird beneath the swirling bubbles of his Jacuzzi and wearing his favorite hat while a redheaded woman leaned over and kissed him goodbye.
"I think I hear something," she said, suddenly, "wasn't that the elevator?"
Kylie peered out towards the lobby.
"I think I just saw Ethan come in the office…alone."
J.D. figured he probably had gone off to the gym to work out or to shoot a game of pool at a club.
"Well I'm ready to head to the beach," she said, "I just have to send this letter to the printer."
Kylie gave it a precursory glance.
"Looks okay to me," she said, "and if Ethan's downstairs, he'll get it off the printer."
J.D. nodded and looking up at Kylie, she pushed the print button.
Ethan had entered the office after having spent the morning doing a training run on the beach for his upcoming foray into a charity triathlon and then decided to head down to the office to do some strength training including lifting weights. The suite had been quiet so he figured that no one had arrived at the office. He remembered that J.D. had mentioned something about finishing that merger letter involving the oil companies and that it would need his signature.
While heading to the workout machine, he heard the familiar sound of the printer copying some document that had been electronically transferred to it and then converted to a hard copy. He slung his workout towel around his neck and headed on over to see what had come off the printer, and noticed the pages stacking themselves neatly enough in the cache. He reached down to pick one up believing it had to be that merger letter, but instead of legalese, he found something else.
His eyes furrowed while he perused the document and then they widened. This sure the hell didn't read like any merger contract letter he had ever read in his entire business career. It appeared to be some kind of story about a cowboy…who raised horses and commuted to his business in a…helicopter…and wait a minute…he continued onward through the pages until he reached a scene where he…some shapely brunette named Carly and a pool table factored in to what…wow…this was some writing, made him forget about the horses for a while. He looked on the sheets for anything to identify its author but saw very little except…
"Who the hell is Pearl Starr," he whispered incredulously.
Kylie and J.D. sat by the wet bar eating some egg burritos that they had heated up and drenched with salsa.
"I'm so glad I got that letter done," J.D. said, "Now it's out of my hands and after I'm fed, I'm leaving for the beach."
"I'm heading home to my dog," she said, "and lying on the hammock for the rest of the day."
They heard footsteps coming up the stairs, and Ethan appeared still dressed in some sweats and a college tee-shirt.
"Hi Ethan," J.D. said, "I finished the letter and sent it down there but you need to sign it. And then I'm heading out…"
Ethan rubbed the bridge of his nose, not sure how to proceed.
"What letter," he said, "I haven't seen it, and do you mean the merger one?"
J.D. folded her arms and blew a tendril out of her way in exasperation. She had one foot out the door already and now she might have to remain her longer. Well, no he had to get on downstairs and find the copy of the letter she forwarded to the printer.
But wait a minute, he had some papers in his hand…that had to be the letter except…it looked like what he held was more than two pages long.
"What you got there?"
Ethan looked at the papers in his hand as if they had just appeared there because he still felt the shock.
"Someone sent a rather…interesting story, someone by the name of Pearl Starr," he said, scratching his head, "Wires must have gotten crossed."
Damn, she hadn't sent her letter to the printer, she had sent her draft of her novel and right now he had it in his hands.
"Ethan…how much of it have you read?"
He looked up from having glanced at it again.
"Enough…to know it will be interesting to see how it turns out."
She read the look on his face, and sighed inwardly in relief. He didn't seem to have associated what he had just been reading with anyone and certainly not with her. But Ethan was pretty smart and he had the kind of investigative skills that if he really wanted to find Pearl Starr, he would and then what would he be thinking?
Because come to think about it, Royal Austin did sound a lot like him. But he didn't seem to notice that at least not right now.
"That scene with the pool table…"
Her face flushed. Ah, yes she remembered writing that one with a glass of wine and some dark chocolate while sitting on her back patio. Two evenings after Ethan and Liza had broken up and gone their separate ways, both still in love but knowing what they shared together had ended. Ethan had gone out to dinner with her a couple of times, a custom they shared when either one of them had just broken up with someone. But he had seemed to recover from his disappointment rather quickly, heading back into the social scene picking up where he left off.
She of course had been too busy working at the office and so had retreated to her novel writing because frankly she had grown tired of the singles scene. She wasn't a woman who enjoyed one night stands although the most dangerous one herself.
After her last disastrous relationship with a two-timing businessman, she had sworn off men and switched to writing romances. If she couldn't be in a great relationship then her characters would fare much better.
"It almost seems like the male character…"
She closed her eyes for a moment, thinking no you don't, don't think that it has anything to do with you or that Royal has a real life counterpart. It's all fiction, made up to pass away grueling hours spent looking at contracts and merger forms and listening to Buddy's demands all day on the phone.
"No Ethan, it's just your imagination…you don't even know who the writer is after all," she said.
Technically that could have been the case because most of the people who worked throughout the building could send drafts of anything they wrote to the printer in the suite. It didn't happen that often but it could…and if he believed it did this time that was fine with her.
"It's good writing," he said, thoughtfully, "I thought about starting a publishing firm for books. No matter what the economy's doing, people always want to read either for escape or recreation."
She knew he loved to read when he had time though he favored Zane Gray.
"I'm sure this one's not quite that good," she said, "Not that I've read it but it's very hard to write well unless you've done it for years."
Ethan nodded, but his attention was already drawn back to the pages he held. He thumbed through them and then his eyes widened.
"This part is really good," he said, "I've never tried this myself."
Oh she wanted to blush but if she did, how would she explain it?
"What part," she asked tentatively.
He looked up at her.
"Royal and…what's her name…Carly are on a horse…together."
Oh dear, that part. She bit her lip.
"Sounds interesting," she said, "Well I've got to be going…"
He looked up again, obviously tearing himself away from the manuscript with some reluctance.
"Already," he said, "I thought maybe we'd look at those new documents that Buddy faxed…together…"
Her brows furrowed.
"Now, don't you have some stakeout or something?"
He shook his head.
"I need to go through these papers with you," he said, "and maybe we could…order some pizza with it. Make it a working lunch."
She shrugged, and nodded. This would make a great story to tell her writing group later on tonight about how her novel had wound up in the wrong hands.
"Okay, that will be fine…just let me get my notepad."
She left him and he watched her go, that sashay of her hips that always caught his eye. He looked at the manuscript written by this Pearl Starr and then at her departing figure. And then he smiled, his eyes twinkled as he thought about what he had just read. He just never thought...
Damn in all the years he had known her, he had known her to be many things, hold many talents but he had never known her to be a writer. Oh life was about to get interesting, he would make sure of that.