Page 36

He didn’t glance back—he didn’t even slow down—he just kept barreling at the man who was just lifting the vending machine door to grab his morning paper. Before he’d had a chance to unfold it, Jude was on him.

Shit, shit.

I was running now, too, but was still a hundred feet away.

Snatching the paper out of the man’s hands, Jude towered over him, glowering like he was the one responsible for my teeth, tits, and toes winding up on the front page.

“Jude!” I yelled louder this time, trying to get his attention.

It worked. His glare shifted toward me for the shortest moment, but it was enough. Jude’s shoulders were lowering and the rage on his face had dimmed as I got to him.

Panting from my two-hundred-meter dash, I laced my hands around his forearm. “Deep breath in,” I instructed. “Deep breath out. Think.” I took my own breath, watching his chest rise and fall. “Think.”

When I was certain Jude wasn’t going to hammer the guy into the ground, I loosened my grip on his arm. “Sorry about that,” I said, addressing the man, who was gawking at Jude like he was a tiger who had escaped the zoo. However, he didn’t look scared, just intrigued. This guy had no survival instincts whatsoever.

“Might I suggest tempering that anger of yours with some yoga and meditation, young man,” the guy said, in an incredibly unflustered voice. Like he hadn’t just been charged by two hundred and fifty pounds of muscle and fury.

Quirking a brow, he inspected Jude one more moment before turning and heading on his merry, no-survival-instinct way.

“Dammit, Jude,” I hissed, snatching the paper out of his hands. “Could you act any more unbalanced?”

He didn’t need to answer me. We both already knew the answer to that.

Watching the man in the suit meander away, Jude inhaled. “Can you believe this?”

“What? Yoga and meditation?” I said, hoping to lighten the mood. “Sounds like it might work wonders for that temper of yours.”

When Jude turned to me, his eyes narrowing even more, I realized lightening the mood wasn’t on the agenda for the day. “Not the yoga shit,” he said, flashing the stolen newspaper in front of my face. “This shit.”

I winced when I looked at the picture again. That photographer could not have been in a better position. If my hair was two shades lighter and my boobs three sizes bigger, I could have been a Playmate.

“Oh,” I said, hoping my parents never saw this spread. I mean . . . photo. “That shit. Yeah, that sucks.”

“‘That sucks’?” Jude couldn’t have looked more flabbergasted by my blasé attitude. Truth be told, of course I was pissed as pissed could be, but what could I do? It was out there, on lord only knew how many thousands of doorsteps and briefcases. My losing my cool wouldn’t help Jude hold whatever he had left of his. I needed to control myself for him, because it was apparent he couldn’t do it for himself.

“‘That sucks’?” he repeated, slapping the photo with his hand. “You’re na**d for the whole goddamned world to see, Luce. My fiancée is going to be the fantasy of every jerk-off in the county tonight. And you have nothing more to say than ‘That sucks’?”

I counted to five before answering, because the reply that wanted to roll right off my tongue wasn’t going to help calm him down. It would have done the opposite. Calm, calm, calm, I reminded myself before replying.

“Is there another word you’d like me to use to describe it?” I asked, working to keep my voice flat. “Is there a certain way you’d like me to be acting right now?” Good job, Lucy. Keep the temper in its cage. “So if ‘that sucks’ doesn’t work for you, how would you describe it?”

“This is f**king war,” he said, his eyes onyx.

Shit. He was a rare shade of pissed.

Pulling his phone from his pocket, he punched in a number at the same time he charged toward the newspaper vending machine. He could have been about to beat the crap out of it, just as much as he could have been about to light it on fire. When Jude was in the rage zone, I never knew what he might do. The only thing I knew was that the end result was never a good one.

However, what he did next wasn’t even on my top-ten list. Jamming a few quarters into the machine, he dropped the door and, instead of tearing the machine to pieces, he grabbed the entire stack of newspapers in his arms.

Okay, he was in the rage zone that leaned more toward crazy than angry.

That was just as bad, if not worse.

“Jude,” I hissed, glaring at a few people who’d stopped to watch the show, “what in the hell are you doing?”

“I’m taking every goddamn newspaper in this machine,” he answered, depositing his armload into the closest garbage can, “and then I’m going to go find every other newspaper machine in the airport and do the same. And then I’m going to every damn newspaper machine in the city and destroy every last one of these motherfuckers until the only copy left is the one I own.”

My mouth was open. It had dropped at some point during his little speech, but I wasn’t sure when.

“Hammon,” Jude seethed into the phone. I felt sorry for whoever was on the other end. “You checked out the morning paper—”

Jude’s face darkened. “If you don’t go shred that front page right the hell now you will not be my agent by lunchtime.”

He was quiet for a few seconds while Hammon was saying or doing who knew what. I didn’t doubt he was actually shredding the paper now. Given Jude’s annual salary and multiyear contract, Hammon could retire a happy man in five years’ time if he played his cards right and didn’t piss Jude Ryder off.

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