Home > Say You're Mine (The Gallaghers Series)(7)

Say You're Mine (The Gallaghers Series)(7)
Author: Layla Hagen

Brayden: I think I deserve some insider info.

I wrote and deleted two replies before hitting Send.

Isabelle: I don’t think so. If anything, Lars deserves it.

Brayden: How do you figure?

I was laughing now, so lost in our conversation that I forgot to even bite into my sandwich.

Isabelle: Just seems fair. Besides, I like to tease you.

Brayden: I’m starting to get that.

Isabelle: My break is finishing. I’ll keep in touch. But no insider info for you.

Brayden: We’ll see.

Laughing, I put my phone to one side or I’d never finish the sandwich before the next client arrived.

***

In the evening, I read Sasha’s email on the way home and replied that I’d be taking the assignment. I lived in the Parkchester neighborhood in the Bronx. My apartment was in a lovely redbrick building with an old-world charm.

I made myself a quick frozen pizza for dinner, because even foodies had to cut corners after a long day of work. To my astonishment, Sasha messaged me back quickly.

Sasha: Perfect. I’ll email you the contract and you can sign electronically. I’d like to start ASAP. One of the guys volunteered to drop by your office in the evening so you can start with the psychological profiles. When’s a good time for you?

Wow, she moved fast.

Isabelle: I can do it tomorrow evening.

Sasha: Perfect.

Isabelle: Who’s the volunteer?

I was pretty certain I knew the answer, but I wanted her confirmation. My breath caught anyway when she replied.

Sasha: Brayden.

***

The next evening, I was slightly nervous as I wrapped up the consultation with my last client. I’d sort of expected Brayden to message me today, perhaps to tease me about something, but he’d been completely silent, which was putting me even more on edge.

Sasha had asked if she could contact the building’s reception to make sure Brayden could come up with no issue, and I gave her the green light.

I walked my last client out of the consultation room and into the waiting area and was stunned when I noticed a man there. He had his back to us, inspecting the photo of the Brooklyn Bridge. He also had a baseball cap on; was that so no one would recognize him? When did he get in?

“Anna, I’ll see you next time. Kiss Lindsay for me,” I said. Anna was more family than client. Her brother was married to Skye Winchester. She was recovering from a messy divorce, and I was happy she’d reached out to me. I adored her daughter, Lindsay, and was eager to help them both in any way I could.

“I will. Thanks, Isabelle. You always make me feel at ease. You’re a good friend.”

I opened the door, and Brayden remained with his back to me as Anna stepped out, closing the door behind her. Then he turned around, taking off his cap and training his gaze on me.

Oh, my.

“Hey, how did you get in?” I asked.

“Sasha contacted reception, and they gave me the code for your door.”

“No one recognized you?”

“No, they brought me in through a back entrance.”

“And in the elevator?”

The corners of his mouth twitched. “I took the stairs.”

“Wow. That’s seven floors.”

“I know, trust me. My bodyguard is also here, outside the door.”

It was surreal having him here. He was larger than life somehow, fitting in perfectly on stage or at the bowling alley.

“What kind of therapy do you specialize in?” he asked, glancing around.

“I wouldn’t say I specialize in something in particular. But most clients do seem to come to me due to relationship problems, be it with family, or friends, or dating.” He looked at me questioningly, so I continued, “My degree is in counseling.”

“And you give them advice?”

“I help them find the answers. Deep down, they almost always know it, but sometimes we resist following our intuition.”

He curled his lips upward. “That’s right, we do. Why is that?”

I shrugged, unnerved by the way he looked at me. “Various reasons. Sometimes doing what we want would imply a huge change. Mostly we’re just not ready for what we want.”

His smile grew more pronounced, and God, the way he looked at me was too much.

“Are you in a relationship?” he asked.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Well, turns out dating in New York isn’t for the faint of heart.”

“So you date,” he stated in a tone that made it clear he didn’t approve.

“Yes. Why do you sound so accusatory, Mr. Rock Star? According to the tabloids, you’re quite the serial dater.”

“Not right now.” He was watching me with an intensity that made my knees weak. “You?”

I turned around, busying myself with arranging the brochures on the entrance table into a stack.

“Why are you asking?” I inquired. I felt the warmth of his body behind me as he approached.

“Don’t you know?”

I turned around, trying to get a good read on him, but it was impossible. My whole body was on alert, my mind completely clouded.

“Do you want to grab dinner somewhere? We don’t have to stay in the office for me to do the profile. There are lots of trendy places around here you might enjoy.”

His smile dimmed. “How about we order in? I rarely go to places that Sasha didn’t contact beforehand. Fans tend to crowd in on me. It’s not a pleasant experience, even with a bodyguard around.”

“That’s right. Sure, we can look at delivery services.” I pulled out my phone and opened my favorite app, narrowing down the filters to this area of Brooklyn before handing him the phone.

“Here, I’ve ordered from most of these. They’re all good.”

“Is that your official foodie verdict?”

“Yes.”

While he checked out the menus on my phone, I couldn’t help but ask, “Doesn’t it feel strange to live in this bubble?”

“Bubble?” He frowned. “I suppose you could call it that. It’s the only life I’ve known for the past ten years. I’ve gotten used to it. That’s not to say I don’t do spontaneous things, just that I prefer to know the coast is clear.”

“I can’t imagine that at all. I like the freedom of going where I want whenever I want,” I said with a laugh. “So, did you decide on dinner?”

“Yes. I want one of each of these.” He pointed to three of the tasting menus.

“Someone’s really hungry,” I teased as I tapped the screen, adding everything to the basket. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him lean in, and then his cologne invaded my senses.

“I am. Not for food but for the company.”

Was he flirting? Or did he simply long for company because he was living such a secluded life? Licking my lips, I focused on the screen, finalizing the order at a Thai restaurant.

“There, we’re getting dinner in twenty minutes,” I announced. “You’re going to like it. I recommend it to everyone on my tours.”

“What tours?”

“Oh, I’m also a tour guide once a week.”

“How come?”

“When I first moved to New York, I didn’t have many clients, so I needed the extra income. Now my roster is full enough, but I still like to do the tours. I meet so many interesting people, and every time I’m with a group, I see New York from a different perspective.”

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