Just the Sexiest Man AliveBy: Julie James
“Am I correct in understanding that you dislike me, Ms. Donovan?” he asked coyly, circling around her in amusement.
Taylor followed him with her eyes, her voice even. “I won’t let my feelings about you compromise my career, Mr. Andrews. You got me in a lot of trouble at work, you know.”
Jason stopped, surprised to find himself uncomfortable at the thought. “I’ll tell you what,” he said magnanimously. “Let me buy you a drink. We can start over—get to know one another properly.” He flashed her the smile that made hearts flutter worldwide. Five and a half billion dollars in lifetime box office gross for his “little projects.” Take that.
Taylor cocked her head, appearing to consider his offer. Then, with her arms folded across her chest, she took a few steps toward him. When she was close enough that they were practically touching, she stared up at him, her green eyes boring deep into his. Jason could feel the warmth of her body, and he wondered if she knew what he was thinking right then.
Apparently, she did.
“Let’s get something straight, Mr. Andrews,” she said steadily. “This is business. Nothing else.”
Before Jason could get in one word edgewise on the matter, Taylor backed away and turned to leave. “And I’ll expect you to be at my office first thing tomorrow morning. Do try not to be late.”
To my grandfather
for inspiring me to start the journey,
and to my husband
for being my partner along the way.
First and foremost, I would like to thank my film agent, Dick Shepherd, who believed in this story, and me, from the very beginning, and without whom none of this would have happened.
I would also like to express my deepest appreciation to all my family and friends for their love and continuing encouragement.
I am forever grateful to my earliest readers who took the time to read this story back when it was called The Andrews Project, and especially to Ami Wynne, Brian Guarraci, Brendan Carroll, and Karen Schmidt for their thoughtful input, and to Mason Novick for his advice on the value of conflict in romantic comedies.
A special thanks to my literary agent, Susan Crawford, whose passion and enthusiasm are truly inspiring, and also to my wonderfully supportive editor, Wendy McCurdy; her assistant, Allison Brandau; and everyone at Berkley.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank my husband, Brian, for tirelessly reading every draft, being my toughest critic, and making it all possible.
TAYLOR DONOVAN MAY have been new to Los Angeles, but she certainly recognized a line of bullshit when she heard one.
It was 8:15 on a Monday morning—frankly, a bit early, in Taylor’s mind anyway, to be dealing with this latest round of nonsense coming from her opposing counsel, Frank Siedlecki of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But hey, it was a gorgeous sunny morning in Southern California and her Starbucks had already begun to kick in, so she was willing to play nice.
Frank’s call had come in just as Taylor had pulled into the parking garage of her downtown L.A. office building. After answering, she had let her opposing counsel go on for several minutes—without interruption, she might add—about the righteousness of his clients’ position and how Taylor and her utterly nonrighteous client should consider themselves lucky to be given the chance to make the whole lawsuit go away for a paltry $30 million. But at a certain point, one could only take so much nonsense in one Monday-morning phone call. Luscious Starbucks or not.
So Taylor had no choice but to cut Frank off mid-rant, praying she didn’t lose the signal to her cell phone as she stepped into the lobby elevator.
“Frank, Frank,” she said in a firm but professional tone, “there’s no way we’re going to settle at those numbers. You want all that money, just because your clients heard a few four-letter words in the workplace?”
She noticed then that an elderly couple had gotten into the elevator with her. She smiled politely at them as she continued her phone conversation.
“You know, if the EEOC’s going to ask for thirty million dollars in a sexual harassment case,” she told Frank, “at least tell me somebody was called a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore.’ ”
Out of the corner of her eye, Taylor saw the elderly woman—seventy-five years old if she was a day—send her husband a disapproving look. But then Frank began rattling on further about the so-called merits of the plaintiffs’ position.
“I have to be honest, I’m not exactly impressed with your case,” she said, cutting him off. “All you’ve got is a sporadic string of some very minor incidents. It’s not as if anyone slapped an ass or grabbed a boob.”