Aftershock

By: Sylvia Day

1

“THAT MAN IS seriously hot. He can take my order anytime.”

I scowled at the television in my hotel room as I unpacked my toiletries. God knew why I’d tuned in to a midday talk show, but I certainly hadn’t expected to see the man I loved on the screen...or to listen to the glamorous hosts dish about how hot he was.

“Maybe he’s going to put voting booths in every Pembry-backed restaurant,” the other one said.

Shaking my head, I headed into the bathroom. Jax’s investment in Pembry Ventures still stung. I wasn’t sure I’d ever forgive him for fucking me over like that. Maybe I shouldn’t take it so personally, maybe it was just business, but there were some things you just didn’t do to someone you love and screwing up their job—an adored job at that—was one of them.

I was determined to uncover the reason why. And I was going to make him pay. Being in love with him wouldn’t change that. I wasn’t sure it changed anything.

I’d just hung my makeup bag on the towel rack when the room phone started ringing. Knowing I probably took a lot more time than Chad did to unpack, I expected he was ready to head down to see the construction site of his restaurant in the very same hotel we were staying in. The Atlanta Mondego was being turned into a destination with a capital D, and I would soon have the dust on the soles of my Jimmy Choos to prove it.

Grabbing the receiver off the bathroom wall, I tucked it into the crook of my neck and said, “Hey. You settled in already?”

“Gia, damn it. Turn on your cell phone!”

Jax’s deep, sexy voice slid across my senses, bringing with it a rush of heated and beloved memories. Something inside me tingled with pleasure that he’d gone to the trouble of tracking me down. Jackson Rutledge was a busy guy with his pick of women. Following me around the country was entirely unnecessary. And really flattering.

I leaned against the bathroom counter. “Newsflash—I’m avoiding you.”

“Good luck with that.”

My jaw tightened. So what if he was an animal in bed? So what if I was happy to hear from him? I was still mad at him. “I’m hanging up now.”

“You can’t run from me,” he said tightly. “And you can’t pull that shit you pulled yesterday. We need to talk.”

“I agree, but that usually means you tell me I’m only ever going to be a fuck buddy to you and you don’t give me any reasons why. I don’t have the patience to run around in circles. Unless you’ve got real answers for me, I’m not giving you any more of my time.”

“You’re going to give me a hell of a lot more than time, Gia.”

A shiver of awareness moved through me. I knew that tone of his. It was his I’m-going-to-bang-the-hell-out-of-you tone. “You wish.”

“I’m about to land, Gia. I’ll be at the hotel within the hour and you’re going to see me.”

“What?” My pulse gave a traitorous leap of excitement. My sex drive had been revved since I’d left him the night before. It was all too eager to cross the finish line. “I can’t believe you followed me to Atlanta! How the hell did you know where I was?”

“Your sister-in-law.”

Denise was going to be hearing from me. She knew better, which meant she’d done it on purpose. “Well, turn around and fly home again. I’m working, Jax. I don’t trust you to be around my work.”

His sharply indrawn breath told me I’d scored a hit.

“Fine,” he snapped. “I’ll send a car for you. We’ll meet at my hotel.”


“I’ve got stuff to do today. I’ll let you know when I have a moment, and I’ll find a neutral place for us to meet.” A bar, maybe, or even a shopping mall. Someplace where intimacy wouldn’t be a problem. Sadly, I couldn’t trust myself around him now that I knew how he felt about me.

“My hotel, Gia,” he reiterated. “A public place won’t save you. We’re going to fuck, long and hard, wherever we end up. Better we don’t end up in jail and splashed all over the tabloids while doing it, don’t you think?”

“You’ve really got to do something about that ego.”

“Baby, I’ll crawl on my hands and knees if that’s what it takes.”

It was my turn to suck in a deep breath. He knew how to get to me, how to open me up and leave me defenseless. I tried to do the same thing to him. “Tell me you love me, Jax.”

There was a moment of silence. “Loving each other isn’t our problem.”

He hung up, leaving me holding on to an empty connection. As usual.

* * *

“It’s finally starting to feel real,” Chad said, looking around at the construction area.

I smiled. “Good.”

He reached for my hand and gave it a squeeze. He’d met me at the site, wearing an open-collar dress shirt tucked into loose-fitting jeans. His auburn hair was just barely overlong, with the bangs draping across his brow and framing his stunning green eyes. No doubt about it, Chad Williams was a hunk.

He’d drawn a lot of female attention on the way in, but he hadn’t paid any mind to it. I hoped he would stay unaffected at least until the first restaurant opened. I’d seen more than a few chefs get too cocky from attention overload, and their businesses quickly suffered as a result.

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