Dirty Pleasures (Page 12)

“Duly noted.”

I flick my gaze up to Creighton’s for only a moment before I cut into the filet. Lifting it to my mouth, I pop it inside and groan appreciatively as I chew. Other than the meal at Johnny Utah’s, this is the first time I’ve really indulged.

After I swallow, I mumble, “Fourteen months without red meat. Should be a crime.”

Creighton catches my comment. “Why would you go fourteen months without red meat if you clearly enjoy it so much?”

I’m too focused on the delicious meal to give him anything but an absent account of the absolute truth. “Before the show, I was living on PB&J and ramen, putting every spare cent toward my gran’s medical bills. And during and after, it was on the don’t you dare think about putting that in your mouth list.”

Creighton lifts his glass and takes a sip of wine. “Then I’m glad you’re having it tonight. Tell me about—”

I interrupt what I’m sure will be a question about Gran. I may have brought her up, but I don’t want to talk about her. I’ve already bared my body tonight; I don’t think I can handle baring my soul.

“Just don’t tell my manager or the costume people. They’ll get out the pitchforks. I’m not allowed to gain weight. Actually, I’m supposed to lose another ten pounds before the ACM Awards. But I hate exercise, and after tasting steak again, I’m not sure how I can go back to chicken and steamed vegetables.”

Creighton’s fork clatters against the china. “That’s fucking ridiculous. I forbid it.”

Cue my What the hell did you just say? look.

“Um, excuse me, but it’s not your place to forbid anything,” I reply, losing the nice Holly attitude.

“You lose another pound, and I will ensure it’s the last pound you lose.”

Well. That sounds ominous.

“And it’s still not your place to make that kind of call.”



We both lapse into stubborn silence for a few moments, and I drop my attention back to my plate. He does the same, and I wonder if he’s going to drop the issue. Then I take another bite of my steak and forget to care.

I’m almost finished with my dinner when Creighton’s cell rings. He pulls it from the pocket of his jeans and apologizes.

“I have to take this.”

He leaves the room, and I can’t hear much of his side of the conversation except for a few comments like “that motherfucker” and “we’ll never concede.” Neither of those two sentiments indicate he’s enjoying the phone call.

While he’s gone, I polish off the rest of my steak and salad, and one of those jumbled song lyrics from earlier starts nagging at me. I’m at the desk, scribbling away on a pad of paper, when Creighton returns.

His hair is sticking up in the front, as if he’s been jamming his fingers into it over and over. Just one more sign it wasn’t a good phone call.

This is where a real wife stops what she’s doing and asks what’s wrong. I finish off the lyric and decide to give that wife thing a try.

“What’s up?” Okay, admittedly it’s not the most brilliant of conversation starters, but it’s open ended, and I’m inviting him to share what all the cursing was about.

“Nothing you need to worry about.”

And there it is—the difference between this marriage and one where the spouses are actually trying to make a connection. Something about it breaks a little piece inside me. A piece of what, I refuse to speculate.

“Oh, you don’t say. Darling, that’s awful. I wish there was something I could do to help.” My babbling, batshit-crazy response earns me a sharp look from Creighton. “What? I’m trying to pretend that I’m a wife whose husband actually just shared something in his life, and I give a crap.”

His look, if possible, gets sharper. But it’s his words that surprise me the most. “You really want to know?”

“Lay it on me, hubs. I’m living dangerously tonight,” I drawl, letting my accent loose.

Creighton crosses the room to the desk and leans against it so he’s facing me, his thigh only inches from my arm. Which means his dick is probably only a foot from my mouth, and I can’t help but think about dessert.

I tear my eyes away from his package, which is displayed rather prominently in his jeans, and meet his dark brown stare—a stare that’s still narrowed on me. He’s taking my measure, gauging my actual interest in what he’s dealing with.

I decide to make it easy for him. “All sass aside, I really am here if you want to talk about what’s going on.”

Something flashes through his expression, but before I can pin it down, it’s gone.

“That was Cannon.”

“Okay,” I say, prompting him to continue.

“We have an activist shareholder causing trouble. He’s getting the street wound up about the company’s business strategy, and he’s demanding changes as well as additional independent directors on the board to balance the decision-making.”

I’m following him, but most of this means nothing to me.

“What exactly is an activist shareholder?”

“Someone with enough of a stake in the company that we have to take him seriously when he makes a big public stink. It’s an inflammatory way of trying to effect change in the way the company does business.”

“Okay.” I consider his explanation for a beat. “Isn’t that kind of par for the course in your business?”