Saturday, March 17
Shannon glanced at her phone for the hundredth time since she’d been standing in line. She’d now been here for two hours and thirty-eight minutes.
“Okay, ‘bout two minutes and you’re up, missy,” the event manager called out into the hallway.
She twisted the tip of one of her long, red ringlets as she rolled her eyes. She already couldn’t stand the fact that she had to be here at all, and she certainly didn’t appreciate being talked down to by the short guy with an obviously big ego who was in charge of this whole sideshow.
This was not what she had in mind when she’d pictured her time in college. The entire reason she’d chosen to study journalism was so she could get a degree that would open the door to a career as a writer or editor. Her hope had been that, in the meantime, she could use the required yearly internships at the major newspaper in Austin to do something serious and important, such as cover state and local politics, rub elbows with lawmakers in the state capitol, all the while writing some Watergate-esque exposé about whatever scandal she knew they had to be hiding.
She’d figured when she signed up for the spring internship during her junior year that she’d get the opportunity to cover something interesting. Maybe something like the current special legislative session that would decide what would be done with the education funding that had just been allocated to Texas by the federal government.
But alas. No.
No, because when March rolled around in Austin, the only thing that anyone cared about was the film and music festival.
So, much to her disappointment, Shannon had been assigned to the entertainment beat and had spent every evening of the past week interviewing musicians and movie stars, both obscure and well known. She found that these celebrity types were either down to earth and cool or totally, utterly full of themselves.
Shannon had spent a few years in Austin, so meeting celebrities wasn’t a new thing for her. Famous people seemed to be drawn to this unique city as much as anyone else, coming here for both business and pleasure, and Shannon had bumped into quite a few of them. Each time it happened, it was pretty cool because the celebrities she encountered had been the down-to-earth, cool types. But after a week of too many annoying celebrities, Shannon would be happy if she never encountered another one as long as she lived.
It was St. Patrick’s Day, and she was supposed to have the day off, but one of her fellow staffers had come down with some kind of virus, and Shannon, being such a low man on the totem pole, had to fill in. This, naturally, had put her in a foul mood. Her brother was visiting from out of town, and she was supposed to be meeting him to celebrate their Irish American heritage, but that would have to wait. Instead, at the behest of her supervisor, who acted as if he was doing her the biggest damn favor in the world, here she stood. Out in a mildew-scented hallway of the convention center for the sixth time that week, waiting to interview yet another big shot from Hollywood about his latest film.
Jack MacCarrick: movie hunk extraordinaire.
Yes, Shannon had seen some of his movies. Yes, he was tall, dark, and handsome. Yes, he had hypnotizing blue eyes and a strong, square jaw, and was the utter embodiment of a perfect male specimen. Yes, she’d overheard the other young interns leaving just now as they gushed about his innate charm and rippling arm muscles.
But he wasn’t exactly Laurence Olivier. He was just a big-budget film star with a nice face and a nice body.
And Shannon had to play the role of a celebrity gossip columnist.
She couldn’t help feeling like this whole situation was beneath her.
But then again, she was just a girl with aspirations who had started college a few years too late, and Jack MacCarrick was actually a somebody. Somebody significant and important enough that she’d been forced to wait in yet another line for hours to ask him ten questions.
This was called paying your dues, and Shannon was semi-content to play the game that would earn her that long-sought-after degree, and then she could be the serious writer or editor that she’d dreamed of being since childhood.
“C’mon in, missy.”
Shannon huffed discreetly and rolled her eyes once more as she flipped to her list of questions and stepped into the small room.
“Remember, no pictures or video, got it?” the short guy said, wagging a finger in her face.
She pursed her lips in annoyance and nodded flippantly, then turned around to sit in the director-style chair and reached across to shake Jack’s hand.
“Shannon Callaghan, Austin American Statesman.” She introduced herself confidently, as she was not-so-subtly hit over the head by how the silver screen did absolutely no justice to his striking good looks.
“Jack MacCarrick.” He flashed a grin at her, eyes hidden behind a pair of aviator sunglasses, as he shook her hand gently. “Pleasure to meet you, beautiful.”
She managed not to groan.
She should have seen that coming. In addition to his movies, Jack MacCarrick had a reputation with women that preceded him in a big way. And Shannon wasn’t about to tolerate being treated like just another one of his sluts.
She lifted her eyebrows incredulously and clenched her jaw. “My name is Shannon.”
“I know. I heard you,” Jack replied, still grinning. “It’s a beautiful name.”
Shannon fluttered her eyelashes in total disgust and irritation as her jaw shifted slightly from side to side.
She cleared her throat harshly and opened her mouth to ask her first question, only to be abruptly halted by him asking one first.
“You live in Austin?”
Her eyes shot up from the notebook, and she gave him an exasperated look. “Well, seeing as I’m interning at the local paper, I think one could deduce that I live here, yes.”
The grin that had been glued to his face the whole time was now peeking around one of his fingers as he leaned into his palm and tilted his head to one side.
“Interning, huh? So you’re still in college?”
Shannon briefly pressed a finger into her temple as she mentally talked herself down from biting his head off and forced a polite smile. “Yes. I’m still in college. I’m also the person who’s supposed to be asking the que—”
“So what are you studying?”
She flipped a palm toward the ceiling and let out a quiet huff. “Journalism. Which is why I’m here to ask you questions. Now, may I?”
Jack smiled and gestured in a go ahead motion. “By all means. Ask away, sweetheart.”
“My name is Shannon,” she growled through gritted teeth, then aggressively pointed a finger at him. “But you can call me Miss Callaghan.”
“Miss Callaghan,” he repeated, still flashing that cocky grin at her in what Shannon perceived to be an utterly condescending manner. “So you’re not married. Are you single?”
Shannon’s jaw gaped open briefly as she glared at him. Then she snapped shut both her mouth and her notebook as she prepared herself to give him a serious tongue lashing before walking out on her own interview. “Who in the hell do you think you are?”
Jack smirked and lifted his shoulders in a small shrug. “I think I’m just a guy talking to a girl, hoping to get to know her better.”
Shannon lifted her eyes to the ceiling in utter disbelief before unabashedly glaring at him. “This is not a round of speed dating. It’s an interview,” she hissed then stood up and headed for the door. “Or at least it was. Thank you for your time, Mr. MacCarrick. I’ll see myself out.”
* * * *
Jack chuckled to himself as he jumped out of the chair and stepped over to the door with the intention of apologizing and asking Shannon to come back.
He instantly realized he’d been a bit too forward, even by his own standards. His inability to keep from flirting with the pretty girl had probably inadvertently ruined her work assignment, and that was definitely not his intention. He had just wanted to make her smile and giggle, as young women had a tendency to do when he’d grin at them and call them cute.
Women loved Jack. He had a rabid, worldwide fan base, and after ten years in the spotlight, he was used to girls and ladies turning into putty in his hands whenever he’d interact with them. He loved the attention. It was the perfect distraction from plenty of things about his life that he didn’t love and didn’t care to think about.
Given his busy lifestyle—and all the stuff he didn’t love and refused to think about—he didn’t really have the time or desire to accommodate an actual girlfriend, and that was perfectly acceptable to him. Jack had no trouble getting all the perks that came along with a relationship, without any of the commitment or emotional intimacy. And in spite of his behavior, he really didn’t consider himself a womanizer or even a sleazeball.
Jack might have made a name for himself as a film star, but he was famous because of his arrangements.
During his frequent stops in cities around the world, he’d usually pick up a lady he found to be intriguing or sexy, chat her up, and then level with her about his intentions. Then, if she was on board with it, over the course of the two or three days wherever he was, he’d wine her and dine her, seal the deal a few times, then bid her a fond farewell. No strings attached. Nobody gets hurt. He always had a great time; so did they.
And when the lovely Miss Callaghan was immediately and obviously disgusted with him, he was intrigued, to say the least.
He’d never seen anything like her. Wild red hair, flawless fair skin, bright green eyes that pierced him relentlessly as she became more and more pissed off while taking on a ferocious appearance that made her seem far more intimidating than her diminutive stature and slight frame suggested she actually was. She was like a fiery Irish warrior princess wielding an imaginary sword, and Jack immediately wanted to get slayed, as well as… well, something else that rhymed with slayed. So much that he couldn’t help shamelessly toying with her when he knew he should have been behaving himself.
But he’d apparently come on too strong, and he’d offended her. He wasn’t used to being rebuffed, and he definitely wasn’t used to upsetting people, which he had obviously done, so he felt the need to apologize.
Unfortunately, when Jack whipped the door open to go after her, instead of finding that mass of red curls, all he found was himself face to face with his best friend, stunt double and martial arts guru, Dylan Jacobs.
“Are you done yet, douchebag?” Dylan cackled as he flipped the sunglasses off Jack’s face. “It’s beer o’clock!”
Jack laughed to himself as he briefly skimmed his eyes over the length of the hallway. She was nowhere to be seen, and he felt just the tiniest twinge of guilt over his behavior, knowing he’d never get the chance to say he was sorry.
Oh well. Not your problem.
He let the pretty girl slip from his mind, never to return again, and slapped Dylan firmly on the back.
“Yep. All done,” Jack said, sliding the shades back over his eyes. “It’s definitely time for a drink.”