“That’s an excellent question. It was painful for me to have to do that knowing how closely linked I am to higher education, but other aspects of the bill were unacceptable to me. I couldn’t fully support the bill with those parts still in it,” he stated.
Liz narrowed her eyes as he stealthily evaded her question, not even touching on the tax cut component. He really was a natural.
“Thank y’all for coming out and I’m sure I will see y’all again on the campaign trail.”
He waved at the reporters, ending the press conference. Several people shouted at him for one more, but he never stopped his purposeful stride offstage.
Liz couldn’t believe that had just happened. She had asked a hard-hitting question at her first press conference and alienated a sitting politician. She thought she might throw up any second.
Hayden reached forward and turned the Record button off. “Fucking amazing, Liz,” he cried. He threw his arm over her shoulder and pulled her in for a hug. She folded into his chest. Any other day she might have reveled in the embrace, but she couldn’t get Brady Maxwell III’s eyes out of her head.
“Did you see his face?” Hayden asked. “You stumped him. He didn’t see that question coming at all. This is going to be an incredible article.”
Liz smiled weakly, and tried to push down the rising taste of bile in her throat.
“Liz, are you going to be okay?” Hayden asked, holding her arms and looking into her blue eyes. “You look kind of sick.”
“I feel a little sick,” she admitted.
“Well, you have no reason to. Calm down. That was great. I’m so glad you came with me!” He released her and slung his messenger bag on his shoulder.
They got halfway across the room when Calleigh Hollingsworth headed them off. “What a question!” she said. “I knew Lane would pick the right person. I never saw Camille stump a politician.”
Calleigh Hollingsworth was complimenting her. She might die.
“Oh, I don’t think I actually stumped him.”
“He hesitated, honey. That’s enough for me,” Calleigh told her before shifting her attention back to Hayden. “Some other reporters are coming with me to get a drink. I’ve already told them you’re coming with and they’re excited to meet you.”
“I’m really not up for it, Calleigh. We have to get this story out,” he offered.
“No way. Unacceptable, Lane. I’ll see you tonight. Liz, you are more than welcome, of course,” she said politely.
Liz looked at Hayden expectantly. She wouldn’t mind mingling with other reporters, but if they needed to work on the story she would go back with him. “What do you want to do?”
He shrugged, clearly preferring to leave.
“You’re not even running the story until Monday,” Calleigh told him stubbornly. She placed her hand on her hip and sat into the movement. “Come out and play. You’re too uptight.”
“All right. If Liz wants to go, then I’m game. Otherwise I’ll just drive home and work on the piece.”
“Liz?” Calleigh asked pleading with her big green eyes.
“Uh . . . yeah. Sounds like fun.”
“Great! I’ll text you the details, Lane, and see you later,” she said, waggling her fingers at him as she departed.
Hayden sighed and readjusted his bag on his shoulder. “I guess we’re going out.”
“Sorry,” Liz said. She followed him out the door.
“Don’t be. It wasn’t likely that I would have been able to get out of it anyway. At least I have company now.” Liz smiled, butterflies jumping around in her stomach. “Do you want to go get dinner? It’ll probably still be a few hours before they go out.”
“Uh . . . yeah, sure,” she said. Was he asking her out?
“Cool.” They walked into the half-full parking lot and veered toward his black Audi. Liz took a seat as Hayden popped the trunk open and deposited his equipment before opening the door and sliding onto the leather seat.
“Do you have a preference for dinner? I’m really craving Italian.”
“Fine with me,” she agreed easily. She didn’t know how to judge the situation.
It didn’t help that her mind was still captured by the Senator. The way his eyes found her in the crowd, the tone of his deep, husky voice, the borderline arrogance in his every movement was so . . . appealing in a way she had never even known before. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been attracted to a bad boy in the past, and that was exactly what Maxwell portrayed under that charm, but she didn’t know whether he really was that bad boy underneath the image of the upright senator.
It was a paradox she wanted reconciled. Who exactly was Brady Maxwell?
First and foremost, I want to thank my husband, Joel. Despite himself, he loved Clay and truly helped me mold and shape this character. Without him, I might have gone crazy through this entire process. I’m very grateful to have someone so understanding of my career and the men that I create. Also, for taking care of the cutest puppies in the world when I was engrossed in this story.
This book wasn’t created in a vacuum nor did it get into readers’ hands without the assistance of a group of incredible women. Thank you Rebecca Kimmerling and Katie Miller, who read this book chapter by chapter throughout the entire process. I appreciate all the late nights, the brainstorming sessions, the message after message after message during rewrites and edits, and the continual joy and appreciation for the project. Thank you Polly Matthews for loving my bad boy, even when you didn’t think you would, and for giving me your particularly picky input on my guy. My wonderful beta readers—Holly Malgieri and Autumn Review—I couldn’t have done this without you! Christy Peckham and Anjee Sapp, I appreciate you giving me another set of eyes and always supporting me!
Thank you for the tireless support of my agent, Kimberly Brower. You helped mold this book, even through the self-publishing process. I appreciate all the content edits, early morning breakfast conversations about marketing, and the innumerable emails back and forth to make sure this was right. Danielle Sanchez, the queen of PR! You know I’ve gone through hell and back with publicity, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have your beautiful face working with me on this project!
To all of the advocates for this book behind the scenes—Jovana Shirley at Unforeseen Editing for editing and formatting (thank you for being so flexible!!!), Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations for the wonderful design that held true to the originals and yet breathed life into the series, Lauren Perry at Perrywinkle Photography for the amazing work with the model for this book and your incredibly wonderful heart! Also, my Linde #squad girls who championed this book from the start! I couldn’t have done it without you guys!
And, of course, my readers! Thank you to everyone who read and loved the Record series. Thank you for giving Clay a chance even though he isn’t Brady and, as you just read…never wanted to be Brady. I love you all so much and hope that you’ll stick around and read Savannah’s story, Broken Record!