Series: Love Unexpectedly #2
Published by Loveswept on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
New York Times BESTSELLER ÔÇó Lauren Layne brings all the unpredictable heat of Blurred Lines to an all-new cast of characters! Country musicÔÇÖs favorite good girl is hiding away from the worldÔÇöonly to find herself bunking with a guy who makes her want to be a little bad.
Jenny Dawson moved to Nashville to write music, not get famous. But when her latest record goes double platinum, JennyÔÇÖs suddenly one of the townÔÇÖs biggest starsÔÇöand the center of a tabloid scandal connecting her with a pop star sheÔÇÖs barely even met. With paparazzi tracking her every move, Jenny flees to a remote mansion in Louisiana to write her next album. The only hiccup is the unexpected presence of a brooding young caretaker named Noah, whose foul mouth and snap judgments lead to constant bickeringÔÇöand serious heat.
Noah really should tell Jenny that heÔÇÖs Preston Noah Maxwell Walcott, the owner of the estate where the feisty country singer has made her spoiled self at home. But the charade gives Noah a much-needed break from his own troubles, and before long, their verbal sparring is indistinguishable from foreplay. But as sizzling nights give way to quiet pillow talk, Noah begins to realize that JennyÔÇÖs almost as complicated as he is. To fit into each otherÔÇÖs lives, theyÔÇÖll need the courage to face their problems togetherÔÇöbefore the outside world catches up to them.
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ÔÇ£Sweetie . . . ,ÔÇØ Amber says in a gentle voice that has me tensing.
I love Amber to death, but sheÔÇÖs not usually one for sweet-talking. SheÔÇÖs more the type of friend who will actually tell you that a certain pair of jeans absolutely makes your butt look big.
I go very still, wondering if IÔÇÖm going to need more chocolate chips for this. ÔÇ£What? Tell me.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Have you ever hooked up with Shawn Bates?ÔÇØ
I make a face. ÔÇ£Yuck, no.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£But youÔÇÖve hung out?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£No. IÔÇÖve met him, like, twice. Maybe three times.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£When was the last time you saw him?ÔÇØ
My heart is pounding now, because thereÔÇÖs an urgency in AmberÔÇÖs voice that IÔÇÖm not used to hearing. ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt know. The Grammys, I guess. We had our picture taken together, I think.ÔÇØ
Shawn Bates is one of those ridiculously good-looking guys whoÔÇÖs also been blessed with a decent voice. He won best pop vocal album three years in a row.
He was up against me for album of the year. I canÔÇÖt imagine he was thrilled about losing, but he was friendly enough. A little skeevy, but maybe thatÔÇÖs because I only know his reputation. And I, of all people, know not to believe everything you hear.
ÔÇ£Do you have your laptop handy?ÔÇØ Amber asks in that scary quiet voice.
Oh, crap. Instinctively I know this is bad. Really bad.
I stand, heading into the kitchen, where I left my iPad, Dolly trotting along at my ankles, happy and oblivious with her little chipmunk in her mouth.
ÔÇ£Which site?ÔÇØ I say as I turn on the tablet.
ÔÇ£Any of them.ÔÇ£
As it turns out, I donÔÇÖt even need to go to a celebrity gossip site. I was reading Google News this morning with my coffee, and itÔÇÖs still up on my browser window.
Only this time . . .
This time I am the news.
I stare blindly, clicking on the top article, my eyes reading the headline about a dozen times before my brain finally registers it: ÔÇ£Does AmericaÔÇÖs Favorite Good Girl Have a Secret Seductress Side?ÔÇØ
Below the headline is a picture of me and Shawn at the Grammys, both of us with awards in hand. My head is tilted back in a laugh, and even though I know my happiness comes from winning the award rather than my proximity to Shawn Bates, I have to admit that I look semi-smitten with the guy.
His eyes are locked on my cleavage, his smile far more intimate than it has a right to be considering that our conversation lasted only a split second longer than the picture itself.
At the time, IÔÇÖd thought the shimmering pink dress the perfect combination of sweet and sexy, but looking at it now, with this headline, it seems garish. My smileÔÇÖs too wide, my posture too open, my smoky eye makeup too much . . .
ÔÇ£Jenny. Talk to me,ÔÇØ Amber says.
ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖll pass, right?ÔÇØ I say, still unable to look away from the photo to actually read the article.
Amber doesnÔÇÖt reply, and Dolly lets out a sad little whimpering noise before sitting on top of my foot as though trying to shield me from whatÔÇÖs to come.
ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs just another stupid rumor,ÔÇØ I say. ÔÇ£The tabloids are getting exceedingly bold. I can sue, right? And Shawn can sue, and weÔÇÖllÔÇöÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Shawn confirmed it,ÔÇØ Amber says.
My ears buzz. ÔÇ£What?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£This morning. Coming out of the gym, the vultures were all over him. Instead of keeping his mouth shut, Shawn said, and I quote, ÔÇÿLook, IÔÇÖm not proud of my actions, but I canÔÇÖt be the first guy to get pulled into Jenny DawsonÔÇÖs vortex, and IÔÇÖm sure I wonÔÇÖt be the last. At this point, all I can do is look forward and try to make amends.ÔÇÖÔÇØ
ÔÇ£What is he talking about?ÔÇØ I squeak, my eyes closing as I pull hard on my ponytail in frustration. ÔÇ£Make amends for what? My vortex? Is that a thing?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£It gets worse,ÔÇØ Amber says, her voice miserable.
ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt know how thatÔÇÖs even possible.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£HeÔÇÖs not the only one whoÔÇÖs confirmed the story.ÔÇØ
I blink. ÔÇ£Someone else is also delusional?ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Yeah. His wife.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£Oh my God,ÔÇØ I whisper.
I donÔÇÖt know much about Shawn BatesÔÇÖs wife, but pretty much everyone knows their story. Childhood sweethearts who started dating in middle school, they got married right out of high school, shortly before Shawn got famous.
There are always rumors that heÔÇÖs cheating, but like IÔÇÖve said, I donÔÇÖt put much faith in rumors.
One thing I know for sure is that if he is cheating, itÔÇÖs not with me.
ÔÇ£She posted a tearful selfie on every single social media platform along with a big old statement about how she and Shawn are going through a rough patch, but their love is stronger than any country-singing home wrecker.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm not a home wrecker.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£I know that, J. But you have that song, and thereÔÇÖs that pictureÔÇöÔÇØ
ÔÇ£The song was euphemistic!ÔÇØ I say, referring to my first hit single, a song I wrote about all the things that can come between a couple once the honeymoon periodÔÇÖs over: the TV, bills, iPhones, work. Those are the home wreckers.