Home > Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3)(8)

Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3)(8)
Author: Staci Hart

“He came out of nowhere,” Val said. “No one had ever heard of him, and then he started dating Olivia Nash and broke the internet with his hair.”

I laughed. “Have you seen that video of him putting his hair into a bun in slow motion?”

“Pretty sure I got a hysterical pregnancy from that video,” Val said. “Man, when he and Olivia Nash broke up, GIFs of their breakup was in my news feed for a week.”

“When she took off her Manolos one by one and threw them at him? Oh my God, in that moment, she was every woman,” Rin added.

“I use that GIF all the time,” Val said on a laugh. “When it bounces off his face? I die.” She wrenched her face up and pretended to get hit in slow motion.

“That was just before his first book came out,” Katherine noted.

“He has gotten some of the best and worst publicity,” Val said. “Though I’m not at all mad he dated Marley Monroe. That breakup album is one of my favorites of hers.”

Rin bopped in her seat and sang, “I don’t care if you look like an angel.”

“All I want is for you to be faithful,” Val chimed in.

And we all sang, “But all you give is the hot, lovin’ danger. And all you were was a beautiful stranger.”

“God,” I said on a giggle, “he’s just too much. I can’t believe I’m going to work with him. Like, all the time.”

“When are you supposed to start?” Katherine asked.

“Tomorrow, I think,” I answered. “He’s supposed to get in touch.”

“Well, has he?” she pressed.

I picked up my phone to prove her wrong. “He couldn’t have. It’s only been a few—” My email notification bubble said I had three emails, and when I opened the app, all three were from his office. I scanned the first email. “His assistant wants me to come over in the morning to discuss payment, timelines, and materials. There’s…” I swallowed. “There’s a nondisclosure for me to sign.” I lowered my phone. “I already told my boss.”

Katherine shrugged. “Let him know. You’re not in breach. You haven’t signed anything yet.”

“God, remember when he got arrested at that rally?” Val asked. “The coverage of his arrest was awful.”

Katherine snorted a laugh. “I don’t care what Us Weekly says. With hair like his, there’s no way he’s a skinhead. Not that they’re mutually exclusive. But I believe him when he said he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Plus, why else would he be all beat up? I think he stumbled into that rally and picked a fight, just like he said. I think it’s hot,” she said with a shrug. “I’d do a guy who punched a Nazi in the face.”

Val laughed. “Like Indiana Jones. It belongs in a museum!”

I couldn’t help but giggle. “No, I think you’re right. But man, the firestorm was horrible. He got dropped from his publisher and lost all his sponsorships. No one would touch him. It’s a miracle he picked up a contract with Blackbird after such awful press. And who could blame them? When coupled with public indecency and a penchant for getting in fights at nightclubs all over the city, he’s a publicist’s nightmare.”

“Or dream come true,” Katherine countered. “Depends on their angle. Maybe the whole thing was a show for media attention. In which case, he’s performing exceptionally well.”

I chuckled. “Maybe. But everyone dropped him like a bad habit. That couldn’t have been part of anyone’s plan.”

“Not everyone,” Katherine amended. “You’ve seen the TAG billboards. He doesn’t seem to be hurting.”

“Well,” I started, “it’s been two years, and the public is split. People love to argue about the truth. Remember the Team Tommy T-shirts?”

“I have one,” Katherine said.

We all turned to stare at her.

“What? All proceeds went to a fund for the New York Public Library.”

I shook my head. “See? The controversy keeps him relevant.”

“And now you’re going to be associated with him.” Rin frowned.

“But it’s not like anyone will know. Trust me, I will still be as invisible as ever.” I sighed. “I really do think I can help him with his story. Although I don’t know why he’d want me after I doled out a boatload of criticism on books he couldn’t change.”

“Maybe he’s sick in the head,” Val offered. “Or a masochist. Maybe Marley Monroe and Thomas Bane broke up because he secretly loved being spanked with a riding crop, and that was just too much pressure for her.”

“Maybe. Tomorrow will tell the tale,” I said.

“What about the NDA?” Rin asked. “I guess we won’t ever know how it goes if you’re gagged.”

“I mean, if she’s lucky she’ll get gagged,” Val said with a waggle of her brows.

“I am one hundred percent sure there’s no way I can survive this without you guys,” I said. “Trust me, you will know even if I have to make you sign an NDA of my own.”

The doorbell rang, and Rin and Val both lit up with smiles.

“I’ll get it,” Rin said, slipping off her stool and striding to the front door.

I heard Sam’s voice first. Val’s gaze shifted to a spot behind me, her eyes eager as a puppy at a barbecue. And then I heard Court, followed by a smooch.

“Hey,” Sam said, pulling off his jacket and hanging it next to the door. He glided into the room, his eyes locked on Val’s as he approached. The second he was in arm’s length, he scooped her up for a kiss, her paella spoon in hand.

I sighed with a schmoopy smile on my face as he broke the kiss and set her to rights.

“Smells delicious,” he said, grabbing a spoon to dip into the pan.

But she popped his hand, laughing. “Get outta there, you.”

He smirked. “Can’t. Won’t.” And he kissed her nose, distracting her so he could lift a spoonful when she wasn’t looking.

She rolled her eyes. “I hope you burn your mouth.”

The way he was chewing, I had a feeling her wish came true.

Rin took her seat next to me again, and Court stood behind her, smiling.

They were all too much. Especially seeing Court so gooey. The man was about as light and easy as a Brontë novel. Which was to say, not at all.

I looked over both couples, considering how they’d come about. And I daydreamed for a moment as they conversed around me that I’d find someone someday, too. That somehow I’d meet a man who would see all the things I thought were faults and love every one of them until I did, too. Just like Rin and Val had.

Of course, I’d have to leave the house for that to happen.

And with a small, resigned smile, I submitted to my fate as a spinster.

Absolutely Ridiculous


“What the fuck are you doing?”

Theo stood in the entrance of my living room, brows drawn and arms folded across his chest.

I fluffed the pillow in my hand and set it in the corner of the couch. “Making sausage. What the fuck does it look like I’m doing?” I spotted a rogue sock peeking out from under the coffee table and kicked it under the couch. “My housekeeper doesn’t come until tomorrow. This place is a mess.” I stopped, lifting my nose. I sniffed. “Does it smell weird in here to you?”

Theo rolled his eyes. “Seriously, what is wrong with you?”

“Nothing,” I said, moving for the bookshelf where a candle sat. I stuck the tip of my nose in the opening and sniffed again with a shrug.

“You’re lighting a candle.”

“Well, it smells like a shoe in here.” I opened a drawer in my desk, looking for a lighter.

“It smells like it always does.” The flick of flint sounded before the lighter appeared in my periphery.

I tilted the candle, meeting the flame to the wick. “How come you never told me I lived in a pigsty?”

“You never asked.” He returned the lighter to his slacks pocket, leaving his hand there. He eyed me with suspicion.

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