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Sneak Peek From The Next Sutton Capital Book, The Billionaire’s Suite Dreams

Here’s a sample from the next Sutton Capital book, The Billionaire’s Suite Dreams, coming to retailers soon! I promise!

Chapter One

PJ Cantrell laughed and waved her arm over her head one more time for the crowd before stepping off the stage. She would change in her dressing room and take a few minutes to catch her breath, then head out to the side stage door to sign a few autographs. She tried to meet with a few fans after each show, thanking them for coming out to see her—but it took only a minute for her to realize that wouldn’t be happening tonight.

Her tour manager, Lydia White met her backstage and immediately shuffled her toward her dressing room, with more urgency than usual. Lydia was always tightly wound, but this was different.  They were flanked by Lydia’s assistant—who also happened to be her younger brother—Ellis and PJ’s security detail, Carl and Jeff.

“What’s going on, Lydia?” PJ asked, glancing over her shoulder and spotting Ellis’s concern. He wasn’t very good at masking his feelings and he looked especially distressed.

“Let’s get you to the dressing room first,” Lydia murmured as they rounded the corner.

Ellis stood behind her. “It’ll be all right, PJ. It’ll blow over quickly, I’m sure,” he said, earning a scowl from Lydia. Ellis had a one-sided crush on PJ, but he was endearing and completely devoted. PJ had already recognized his importance on her team in the six months he’d been with them, even though an outsider might not see it right away given his lap-dog like devotion.

“It’s Kirt Tolleson,” Lydia said as she pressed an iPad into PJ’s hands.

PJ groaned and rolled her eyes. “What happened? I thought the media never picked up on the fact that he was ‘technically’ still dating me when he started dating his groupie?” She had managed to forget about most of her horrifying break up with the lead singer of Visceral Bond last year. She hadn’t been in love with Kirt so his betrayal had been more embarrassing than hurtful, but at least it had stayed quiet at the time. No one had known he had actually gone straight from her bed—quite literally—and into his groupie’s on a routine basis, completely fooling PJ the entire time.

“Debra is already working on getting this taken down. By the time you wake up tomorrow, we’ll have it spun––” Lydia said, but PJ wasn’t listening. She knew her manager, Debra Manning, would be in her Los Angeles office no matter how late it was, working to handle this for her. It’s what she did.

PJ stared at the screen and watched as Kirt Tolleson listened to a reporter read an entry from PJ’s journal. Her very private journal that no one should have been able to get their hands on it. She heard her words, her embarrassing words about the first time they’d slept together, being read for all the world to hear. Then her words when she found out about the breakup. How humiliated she’d felt. How ticked off she’d been when the betrayal became apparent. All of the details about his cheating, how she’d discovered the other woman’s underpants in his pocket one night after a show, the way he’d laughed at her when she confronted him, calling her nothing more than a cheap piece of ass he could get anywhere—all of it.

She watched as Kirt flushed when they asked him about the ‘indiscretion.’ So far, the interview didn’t seem that bad. She came out looking better than him, at least. But, what really had her panicking was the fact that they had her journal—or, at the very least, parts of it. This cannot be happening. PJ swallowed hard and tried to focus on the interview on the screen.

“PJ is a really wonderful girl and is still a good friend,” he said to the camera, his arm slung around the same groupie he’d cheated with. He turned away from the camera and walked off, but the video kept going for several seconds. And then PJ heard it.

A mic somewhere on one of the cameras had picked up his next comment to his new girlfriend. It was fuzzy and poor quality, but the words were unmistakable. “A little needy and sort of like screwing a dead fish, but a nice girl.”

“I’m sorry, PJ,” Ellis was saying. Lydia snapped at Ellis to be quiet and then continued on about spinning and publicity and twisting the story to show Kirt and his girlfriend as shallow and heartless and PJ as the victim. PJ gave a weak smile and nod to Ellis, knowing Lydia’s biting ways often hurt him. Lydia was intense and could be difficult to deal with, but she was damn good at her job. She took care of everything for all of them on tour and they couldn’t function without her. They all made concessions because of it. In reality, Ellis and Lydia were both equally as devoted to PJ and her career, they simply acted on that in very different ways, with very different personalities.

But, right now PJ couldn’t worry about Ellis’s feelings. Her mind whirled.

She could handle Kirt’s comments. She’d grown a thick skin in this industry and a few embarrassing words couldn’t do very much to damage her.

But, that wasn’t what had her hands shaking and her chest feeling like someone had it in a vice, twisting the breath from her body. No, it was the knowledge that someone had gotten into her private journal that sent PJ’s heart pounding. She knew what else was in that journal. Did they have the whole thing? Did they know everything? PJ blinked as she fought back tears. That journal could not get out.

She didn’t listen to the rest of the interview as her mind raced back to the last time she’d written in her journal. Two nights ago and she was absolutely positive she’d put it away when she was finished.

“I’m going back to the hotel,” she said as she handed the iPad to Ellis and grabbed her bag. She didn’t want to face anyone else. She glanced at her phone and saw several missed calls from her parents. They might be her parents and she knew they loved her, but they’d had already dealt with a lot when she’d been younger. Now this? Hearing about their daughter’s sex life in excruciating detail?

No. She didn’t want to talk to them right now. And, she needed to find out how bad this was. She needed to know if that journalist had the whole journal or just a piece of it. Her bodyguards, Carl and Jeff, helped her slip out of the building and bundled her into her car.

She sank into the welcoming softness of the leather seat and took a deep breath, bracing herself as Carl shut the door. He would follow in a large SUV while Jeff sat in the front seat with her driver. Both men were silent as they pulled out of the secured parking garage and onto the city street. Most likely, they knew she was in no mood to talk to anyone after the night’s events.

When PJ’s career as one of the youngest country singers in the United States—and then one of the biggest crossover pop singers in the world—took off at the age of fifteen, she’d had a short time when she struggled with alcohol addiction and a spiraling private life, but she’d since cleaned herself up. Now, most people said she handled the spotlight better than most stars. At twenty-nine, she was a lot better equipped to deal with the pressures than she had been at fifteen.

But, tonight had pushed those boundaries. Before the car had gone two blocks, PJ had seen her journal words on Facebook posts, in tweets, every site she pulled up on her iPhone. Private clips with personal details about their intimate relationship….

PJ’s hands shook as she pushed the button to engage the privacy panel between the driver’s seat and the passenger area before opening the small Coach bag she carried with her everywhere. She swiped aside her tears as she felt inside the lining of her bag, but she already knew she wouldn’t find it. The USB drive, designed to look like a tube of lipstick, was no longer tucked into the tear in the lining of her bag. It was gone.

She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the cool seat. She hadn’t been stupid. She’d never kept her journal on paper, never kept it on her computer or stored it in a cloud drive. She wasn’t an idiot. She had very little privacy in her world and she knew the chances of someone finding her journal if she kept it online or on her laptop were too great. But, she never thought anyone would actually find the hidden drive.

Even if someone spotted it, they would have thought it was an old lipstick and she’d never told anyone it was there.

She’d gotten used to keeping the journal in rehab and had never given up the habit. It was her respite, her outlet for things that couldn’t even go into her songs. Things she couldn’t tell anyone. And, now it was out there.

She tried not to panic as she thought about all that was in the journal, all of the private details that whoever had taken it would be able to sell. Lord knows, they’d probably made a ton selling the entries about Kirt to JMZ’s Celebrity News, the station that seemed to be the originating point for the Kirt Tolleson interview tonight. What would they be able to sell the rest of it for? And, did she have any hope of getting it back before they did?

PJ swiped at the rest of her tears, hoping her mascara wasn’t running down her cheeks. She gazed out the window at the traffic that kept the town car moving at a crawl as it made its way to her hotel. She’d have to call soon. She’d have to warn her Aunt Susie and Uncle Brian about what might be released. They’d need to prepare Matthew.

 

Chapter Two

Gabe Sawyer was in as foul a mood as he’d ever been. He stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows that lined one wall of his hotel suite, providing a view of the New York City skyline that was just one of the things that had made his hotels famous. The opulence that surrounded him was nothing but the best furnishings with rich fabrics and textures that screamed lavish and wrapped visitors in luxury and comfort. The off white tones with deep garnet and orange accents added to the beauty of the room and matched the flowers that graced vases strategically placed throughout the suite.

His cell phone rang, drawing his attention away from the ice cubes melting in the glass of whiskey on the glass end table beside him.

Caller ID showed Jack Sutton was calling….

Gabe and Jack had been friends for years and he was one of the few people Gabe talked to when he was in the kind of mood he was in tonight. They’d talked a lot lately, trying to figure out the next direction Gabe should take with Grand Hotels. He’d built his luxury line of hotels first, fifteen years ago with a large chunk of the start-up money coming from Sutton Capital, Jack’s company. Grand Towers was now established as one of the elite five-star hotels with locations across the country and around the globe. Each hotel had dual towers with luxury penthouse suites in the ten-thousand-dollar per night range. He stood in one now and watched the New York skyline through his window.

After he’d made his name with the Towers, he’d ventured into executive suites for long-term stays, creating Grand Garden Suites. This was followed shortly after with Family Grand Hotels—a chain targeting families with family friendly pricing and destinations. And, now, he was bored. Bored and—though he hated to admit it—done. He’d set out to do what he had planned with his hotel chains: bury himself in work to forget the falling apart of his family and to create the largest chain of hotels across the country. But, what now?

Where did you go when you realized your entire life had been focused on work and business? What did he do now that it just wasn’t enough? He’d even asked his friend.

Jack hadn’t had any answers for him, other than to tell him he’d help find buyers if Gabe wanted out. Well, that and to encourage Gabe to find the right girl, settle down and have kids like Jack—but Gabe had a feeling that wasn’t exactly in the cards for him. Then again, a few years ago, who would have thought it would be for Jack?

“Hey, Jack,” he said into the phone.

“Wow, you sound like shit, Gabe.”

This brought a bark of laughter from Gabe. “Thanks, man. So nice of you not only to notice, but to point it out.”

“More of the same?” Jack asked.

“Yeah.” Gabe paused. “I think I’m done, Jack. I do want out.”

The line was quiet for a minute and he could picture his friend leaning back in his chair, his expression inscrutable.

“Good. I think that’s good,” Jack said, surprising the hell out of Gabe.

“I thought you’d tell me to wait, not to sell. That my hotels were everything to me.”

“Are they?” Jack asked.

Now it was Gabe’s turn to be quiet.

“No. Not anymore,” he finally said. “I thought for a while there I might start a new chain or something, but….” He didn’t finish. He didn’t have to. He knew Jack understood.

“But, you’re finished,” Jack said, reading Gabe’s mind.

“Yeah. I am.”

“All right. I’ve got a few groups who would be interested to buy you out. I don’t think there’s any single investor ready to take over your majority share, but I’ve got some ideas. Let me make some calls and I’ll get back to you in a few days.”

“Thanks, Jack. I appreciate it,” Gabe said, refusing to question whether he was doing the right thing. He still had no idea what he’d do once the deal was done. He didn’t actually need to work, but the idea of retiring and sitting on his ass at the age of thirty-nine didn’t appeal either.

“And, I may have an idea for a new project for you,” Jack said, his tone cryptic.

“Oh yeah, what’s that?”

Jack Sutton was known for having the Midas touch and he was also always trying something new and interesting—which was exactly what Gabe needed. He couldn’t imagine he’d want to pass up anything Jack offered.

“I’ll tell you about it the next time I see you. You coming home for Maddie’s birthday party?” Jack asked.

“Of course,” he said and a grin found its way to his face before he realized it. No matter what was going on in his life, the mention of Jack and Kelly’s two-year-old daughter always brought a smile to his face. “I’ll arrive in town sometime tomorrow morning. I’ll see you guys Saturday.”

“Great. I think she’s expecting you to buy her a pony,” Jack joked. Gabe knew perfectly well Kelly would kill him if he spoiled Maddie that much. Besides, you didn’t buy two-year-olds ponies, did you?

Gabe laughed and holding his cell to his ear, stepped out onto the terrace that overlooked New York City. The night air was warm, having only dropped a few degrees when the sun slipped out of sight beneath the horizon that evening. He leaned against the edge of the railing about to press Jack for more details about his mysterious project, when noise from below drew his attention.

“Hey, Jack, I gotta go—I’ll see you Saturday,” he said and disconnected.

Gabe looked down on the front entrance of the hotel. The paparazzi were hawking the door. Gabe had expected that tonight, with PJ arriving, but he had to be honest, he hadn’t expected quite the number he saw jockeying for position on the sidewalk outside the hotel.

What the hell? Three more of the vulture-like paps had just walked up.

Gabe grabbed his iPhone and punched PJ’s name into a search engine then scanned the top headlines…. He bit back a curse when the news flashed on the small screen. He didn’t have to watch much of the video to know why the scumbags waited at the hotel entrance to get at her tonight. Kirt Tolleson was a dirtbag who had cheated on PJ like the idiot that he was. Gabe couldn’t imagine another man on the planet who’d willing to walk away from PJ Cantrell. An asshat like Kirt Tolleson had never deserved PJ in the first place.

When Gabe had asked PJ about it shortly after the breakup appeared in the news, she’d been good and ticked off. But this? Having the public see her humiliation…. Gabe knew she had to be reeling from this.

Movement on the street below pulled Gabe’s attention back to the front entrance and he watched as PJ’s car pulled up to the curb. The driver stayed in the car while one bodyguard stepped from the front of the car and opened the back door. Where the hell was her other bodyguard? Gabe hoped to see him appear from the back, but, no. Only PJ stepped out.

He couldn’t make out her face, but he knew it was her. Her coppery red mane of hair and tiny body would register with him anywhere. Register and make him hard as a rock in an instant, though he’d learned how to control that reaction around her. They were friends and nothing more.

Gabe growled and picked up the hotel phone that sat on a side table near the balcony doors. Whenever he stayed in one of his suites, his line was directly routed to the general manager of that location or to the manager-on-duty when the GM was out. He didn’t know who picked up and at the moment, he didn’t care.

“Get more security out front. PJ just arrived and she only has one bodyguard with her. Get some of our guys out there,” he ordered before hanging up and going back outside. As he watched, someone with a camera reached right past the useless man in a suit trying to block access to PJ. The camera man yanked PJ around as he held his camera up in her face, snapping off shots the whole time. It took her bodyguard too damn long to get the guy off her.

Gabe watched as his staff poured out the front doors and surrounded PJ, whisking her into the lobby and away from the crowd.

He had only minutes before PJ would step off an elevator. He hoped she’d remembered his invitation and headed to his tower instead of going up to her suite. Two years ago he’d told her if she was looking for privacy or a friend to talk to, she could come up to his penthouse when he was at the hotel at the same time that she was—which was often. Over time, they talked more and more often because they were both night owls.

He hoped on a night like this, when she had to be feeling angry and hurt by the betrayal of her privacy, she’d come to see him.

He grabbed his keycard and slipped it into the back pocket of his jeans, then drew a shirt over his head before stepping onto his rooftop garden and charging down the circular stairs to the private elevator entrance. He knew within minutes she was on her way up. Only he, his secretary and PJ had the key fob that would allow them to enter the elevator.

Gabe paced until the elevator chimed her arrival and smiled slightly when PJ’s glance fell on him immediately.

“Pru,” he breathed out, using her first name rather than the initials the world used to address her. She always laughed at him for that, but he liked her full name. Prudence Jane. No one other than her family used it any longer. When she’d been ‘discovered’ she had been using the nickname PJ and that was part of her branding to the world.

She blinked those long, sexy eyelashes his way and he saw she was fighting back tears.

“You saw?” she asked. He didn’t know if she was asking about the video or what had happened with the photographers down below, but he nodded.

“You holding up?” he asked, but he wanted to kick himself. He knew she’d say yes, even when it was clear she wasn’t okay.

“I’m okay,” she said but her bottom lip caught between her teeth and he knew she was anything but okay. He wanted to reach out and hold her, comfort her. But, they’d never had that kind of relationship, though at times he felt so close to her it stunned him. They had spent hours talking on the rooftops of his hotels, and it hadn’t been that long ago that Gabe had started to feel a lot more than friendship toward her, but Pru, so much younger than him, had never indicated she wanted more from him.

For whatever reason, Gabe Sawyer—a man who routinely dated models and actresses and other people in the spotlight—froze up a little when he got around Pru Cantrell. He was sure he came across as some stiff CEO and he didn’t blame her for thinking that. He was ten years older than her and was usually wearing a suit or a tux when he saw her. He glanced down at his jeans and bare feet and cringed. Well…until today.

“I just wasn’t really up to going to bed,” she said with a little laugh, and Gabe’s mind immediately filled with images of her in his bed. He pushed them aside as he always did when he was with her.

“Come inside?” Gabe asked, gesturing over his shoulder to the stairs that led to his suite. He’d never invited her in before. They’d always sat in the rooftop garden and talked. Would she think he was trying to take advantage? Or would she accept he just wanted to be there for her after the night she’d had?

Gabe felt his heart kick as she nodded yes and followed him up the stairs.

***

PJ gulped and stared at Gabe’s bare feet as he led her into his suite that was an exact duplicate of hers, but located on the opposite tower of the hotel. She was in Gabe Sawyer’s hotel room. And, good lord, why couldn’t she take her eyes off his feet? How were feet sexy?

They’re not.

Except those particular bare feet topped by those soft, faded jeans were distinctly sexy. Those were somehow hot as hell. But she’d always appreciated his good looks…. Everything about Gabe was hot as hell, from his deep-brown eyes to his almost-black hair that sometimes got a tiny bit messy late at night—when PJ itched to comb it back into place with her fingers. Sometimes the attraction she felt made it difficult for her to talk coherently and PJ just clammed up around him. She felt like a teenage idiot around Gabe, not a grown woman with a career that demanded she regularly make small talk with all kinds of people. Around Gabe, she just couldn’t think of any intelligent thing to say.

Conversely, Gabe didn’t seem to have any issues around her. He tossed his keycard on the table by the entrance and nodded toward the couch in the living room.

“You hungry, Pru? I was planning to make an omelet. I do mine with egg whites but I can add whole eggs to yours. Have a seat and I’ll whip up something for us.” He didn’t seem to care that it was two in the morning and he sure didn’t seem to be obsessing over her presence in his suite the way she was.

“Um, thanks.” She lowered herself to the couch, but then quickly got up and followed him into the kitchen, looking over his shoulder as he leaned into the fridge. “You cook?”

Gabe stood, pulling a carton of eggs and an armload of veggies out of the fridge. When he spun around to answer her question, it put them almost toe to toe.  PJ’s breath caught.

His gaze met hers with an intensity that made her mouth drop open in an involuntary plea for him to kiss her. OMG. PJ blinked and stepped back, realizing she’d put herself much too close to him. Much closer than he probably intended to get to her.

He’d always treated her like a friend, a kid sister even. Nothing more. With most men, that’s what she wanted—friendship. With Gabe? Well, she’d known for a few years that she knew she wanted a lot more than friendship from Gabe.

What am I thinking? Someone has my journal and all of my secrets could be shared with the world at any moment…and I’m lusting after a man who’s utterly unreachable.

Gabe cleared his throat and dumped the ingredients on the counter.

“Yeah. I got tired of having room service about….” He raised his eyes to the ceiling as if calculating something in his head. “Oh, eight years ago.”

The grin he threw her way made her panties melt. PJ slipped onto one of the bar stools that lined the counter separating the kitchen from the spacious living room. Still, he continued to affect her and she pressed her legs together to douse some of the heat she felt.

Mmm. I tried cooking for a while for that same reason,” she said. “It g-got more than…complicated,” she stuttered. What an idiot.

Gabe raised his eyebrows at her as he whisked the eggs together and then tossed the vegetables to sauté in a pan on the burner.

PJ felt her cheeks burn as she tried to figure out how to explain herself without sounding like an arrogant, spoiled celebrity. Gabe helped her out.

“Complicated? Oh, right, shopping. I guess going to the grocery store can be a bit tough.”

She nodded and shrugged. “My mom and I used to cook together when I was a kid. I loved it. When she was with me on tour, in the early days, she would shop and we could still cook together. But now she doesn’t go on tour with me very often. I tried having Ellis get stuff for me, but it’s weird having someone else do your shopping. You know? And grocery shopping online isn’t really the same.”

Gabe nodded and turned his attention back to the stove. The smell of the melted butter and onions made her stomach growl and she realized he really knew his way around a kitchen. Her suspicions were confirmed when Gabe placed a plate in front of her a few minutes later and she took her first bite. She may have groaned a little more loudly in appreciation than she intended, but the omelet melted on her tongue and the sound just slipped out before she could censor herself.

Gabe stilled, his laser eyes on hers, but then quickly moved back to plating his own omelet. Had she imagined his reaction?

“Good?” he asked, grinning again. “When did your parents leave the tour?”

“They came on tour after I left rehab and stayed until I was nineteen. By then, I had a good manager and support staff around me so they were able to go back to their lives. They come out for a week or two with me each year now.” PJ looked at Gabe’s intense gaze and wondered if it were inappropriate to fantasize about pulling him across the counter and stripping his shirt off to reveal his chiseled chest…. Would it be wrong to ask to have him for dessert?

So wrong, PJ. So very wrong.

She blushed and focused on her plate before she made a fool of herself. The last thing she needed to think about was sex. She had a lot bigger problems on her plate than a delicious omelet and the simple fact that her sex life with Kirt would be plastered all over the Internet by now. Though, for the moment that seemed a world away, she needed to figure out who had her journal before they sold more of it. Her thoughts must have shown on her face.

“Hey,” Gabe said, his voice soft, “you thinking about that jerk again?”

PJ cleared her throat and shrugged her shoulders. She couldn’t tell him the other part of the story, the part where her whole world could be torn down around her. The part where her family would be destroyed—they’d be more affected than she would by what might come out in the press ‘reveal.’

PJ pulled her phone from her pocket when the vibrating she’d been ignoring got to be too much. Her mom.

Are you okay?

Not even remotely, PJ thought, but she didn’t tell her mother that.

Yeah. Hanging out with a friend. Talk to you in the morning.

The next text was from Debra, her Manager: Got a response out to the media. Do you want to do interviews?

No: PJ answered. She had almost a week off before her next show and she’d decided to take it off and bury her head in the sand for a bit. I’d rather ignore Kirt and the media for now.

You got it: came Debra’s response a minute later.

A few seconds passed and PJ knew Gabe was watching her as he ate his omelet. PJ tucked her phone back in her pocket and finished the last bite of her meal.

“So what else do you cook? Breakfast food only, or are you more versatile than that?” she asked and was relieved when Gabe seemed happy to go with the light conversation.

“I’m not all that bad with comfort foods—pot roast, meatloaf. I make a mean chicken pot pie,” he said with that grin that made her legs quake. PJ wondered if maybe she was in some sort of denial. Rather than dealing with the fact that someone out there had her very personal and private journal and, she could only assume they would be revealing its contents to the highest bidder as soon as they could get a buyer, she was here lusting after a man who probably still thought of her as a nineteen-year-old.

That’s how old she was when she and Gabe Sawyer first met. She’d been nineteen and he’d been twenty-nine. And of course, he’d seen her as a kid. He’d always been very kind to her, respectful, making sure his hotels provided the highest level of care for her whenever she stayed in any of them. That was one of the reasons she always inserted the clause in her contract that provided she be put up in a Grand Tower if there was one within twenty miles of her concert site. He’d always treated her the same and she assumed he still saw her as that nineteen-year-old girl.

And, then a few years ago, they’d started talking more, spending time together at his hotels, outside of events and fundraisers. She’d discovered she liked talking to him, and he’d seemed to understand her, to understand her need to have someone to simply listen without making a big deal out of who she was. She’d started to see him as more than just a friend, but he’d never given any indication he saw her in any kind of romantic way. Knowing her luck, he saw her as a little sister; someone to be taken care of—not someone to sweep off her feet with a soul-wrenchingly hot kiss that would melt them both to the core like she sometimes imagined.

Not where your imagination should be headed, PJ.

“Hmm. You go from egg white and veggie omelets to heavy, rich comfort foods.” She scrunched her nose at him and he laughed. “What’s up with that?” she asked.

Gabe glanced up at her. “I try to eat pretty healthy most of the time, but who doesn’t need some good comfort food once in a while? Most of the time I make stir fries or baked chicken and vegetables, but some days are mac and cheese days, right?”

PJ nodded, not able to lose the smile on her face. She really did know all about those mac and cheese days.

This felt good, just hanging out with someone who seemed to have no expectations. No agenda. He was certainly used to being around people like her. And, he had no reason to want something from her. He had his own money, his own fame—and everyone already knew she loved his hotels. There wasn’t anything she could give him besides what he seemed to be asking for: her friendship. Even though, at times, she wanted more from him than that, there was something liberating about knowing he wasn’t trying to get something more or to use her for his own gain. She could be herself with him in a way she couldn’t with anyone else.

“Ice cream’s my weakness,” she said. “I keep the freezer stocked with these salted-caramel ice cream bars. They’re covered in chocolate with chunks of pretzels in them. They’re amazing.” PJ was a little mortified to realize she moaned again while talking about her ice cream bars. She let her eyes glance up to Gabe’s and caught the heated intensity of his look.

Then, with the blink of an eye it was washed away.

What was that about?

“So, tell me,” he said as he picked up his now-empty plate and grabbed hers before heading to the sink. “Do you think it was Kirt who stole your journal and leaked it to the press? More publicity for him? Maybe he meant to let those words slip out. When did you have it last?”

PJ’s stomach dropped. She’d forgotten about her journal for one blissful minute.

“No. Well, maybe. I don’t really know.” She felt even more stupid, not knowing how someone got her journal or who might have it.

“Where did you keep it?” Gabe asked the question gently as though he wanted to be sure she knew he was only asking the question to be supportive.

PJ shook her head and felt the telltale prick of tears behind her eyes. “That’s the thing. Nobody knew I kept a journal. And, I mean nobody. I never wrote in it in front of other people. Only when I was by myself at night after everyone had gone home or after I’d gone into my own room. I kept it on a USB drive that I hid in a tear in the lining of my purse. The drive even looked like an old lipstick so anyone who did find it would just think it was makeup.”

“It’s not on a cloud or backed up on your computer or anything?” he asked.

“No. I should have just deleted it after each entry, you know? I mean really, what’s the point of saving all that?” She shrugged. “I just got in the habit of it in rehab and never stopped.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “That’s a lot of years. You were what, sixteen when you went to rehab?”

“Fifteen. I wanted to get that whole addiction thing out of the way early in life. Call me an overachiever.” The comment got the laugh she was looking for.

Gabe grabbed two bottles of water and tugged her toward the couch, settling down on one end while she sank into the other.

“Someone knew it was there,” Gabe said returning the conversation to her journal.

PJ bit her lip and nodded. That was the worst thing about this whole mess. Whoever took it had to be really close to her. She kept her purse with her all the time. If she didn’t have it with her, Lydia or Ellis carried it. Maybe one of them had gotten lazy and left it where a fan or stagehand could access it backstage—but she didn’t think that was likely. They were as protective of her privacy as she was. They might not have known they were protecting her journal, but they knew her cell phone was in there and they wouldn’t have left that lying around for anyone to pick up. Whoever did this was someone she trusted or someone her family or team had trusted.

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