Friday January 12 9:00 PM / 8:00c
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Hello, It's Me Book Excerpt

Somewhere in the midst of her groggy dismay, Annie notes that his pinkish-red shirt is dotted with pinker, redder splatters, that he currently smells more of frying onions than cologne, that his hair is spikier than it was earlier, as though he’s been raking his fingers through it.

“You’ve been watching my kids?” she asks, shaking her head in a futile effort to clear it.

Nothing makes sense.

“Yup.”

James Brannock looks pleased with himself.

Well, bully for him.

Annie has never been more disappointed in herself. What kind of mother just… goes to sleep? Entrusts her children to the care of a complete stranger and… goes to sleep?

A lousy mother.

That’s what kind.

A lousy, incompetent mother.

Annie definitely isn’t a survivor. She sucks at survival. The house could have burned down while she was lying here catching a few “z”s. Somebody could have been hurt, or killed.

Tears spring to her eyes.

“Annie?” James touches her arm.

She jerks reflexively out of his grasp.

“Annie, don’t,” he says softly, his hand finding her again and holding her steady this time so that she can’t slip away. “Don’t be upset with yourself. You’re overwhelmed.”

She opens her mouth to protest, and to her horror, a sob escapes.

“It’s okay.”

She stops fighting his grasp.

No, his… embrace?

Yes.

Embrace, because, somehow, impossible though it is, he seems to be… hugging her?

Yes.

This total stranger—this billionaire tycoon total stranger—is hugging her.

Comforting her.

This, Annie thinks, should not be comforting. This should, in fact, be the most uncomfortable moment of her life.

She must be delirious, because she seems to have decided that she fits very naturally into James’s arms, a place she has absolutely no business being. Ever.

But he’s right. She is overwhelmed.

Awash in self-pity, she allows herself to lean against his broad chest, the way she used to do with Andre.

He even touches her hair the way Andre always did, tenderly weaving his fingers through the tangle of waves.

She looks up to tell him that she’s sorry, that he can leave now, but the unexpectedly provocative look in his dark blue eyes robs her of speech, of breath.

He’s going to kiss me, she thinks frantically, and realizes, even more frantically, that she wants him to.

She can hear his ragged breathing, feel it stirring the wisps of hair that have fallen around her face.

Something flutters to life in the pit of her stomach, sending gossamer quivers along dormant pathways into places that long ago ceased to exist for her.

His mouth is inches from hers.

He really is going to kiss her.