Exclusive Excerpt: ‘At the Heart of It’ by Tawna Fenske

Kate stopped as her phone began to buzz. She slipped it out of her purse and
felt her arms start to tingle as Jonah’s name popped up on the screen. She’d
programmed it in after Viv had given her the number, wanting to be prepared in
case he did call. “Sorry, I need to take this,” she said, stepping away from the
giraffe as she tapped the phone screen to answer.

“Hello, this is Kate Geary,” she said in her best professional voice.

“Kate Geary,” he repeated, his voice smooth and warm the way it had sounded
over dinner in Ashland that night. It was so different from how he’d sounded at
Viv’s house earlier that day or when she’d chased him down the boardwalk during
his shirtless dog-walking exercise. “This is Jonah Porter.”

“Hello, Jonah.”

“Tell me something, Kate Geary,” he said.

“What would you like to know, Jonah Porter?”

Kate wasn’t sure if the name or the flirtatious note in her voice made Amy
look up. The assistant producer lifted one eyebrow and turned to look at a
copper shelf on the wall.

Jonah laughed on the other end of the line and Kate had another flash of
memory to their night in Ashland. The way he’d laughed with his whole body,
nearly knocking himself off the front porch of the B&B when she’d declared
herself unavailable for a one-night stand.

“Do you have my number programmed into your phone already or do you always
answer the phone that stiffly?” he asked.

She tried to think of a reason to be coy or pretend she didn’t know what he
was talking about, but she couldn’t see a point to it.

“Did your military super-spy-catching skills tell you that, or are you
hiding behind a giant giraffe watching me?”

He laughed again. “I’m afraid to ask where you are that you’re lurking near
a giant giraffe.”

“I’m at a consignment shop at the moment. To what do I owe the pleasure of
your call?”

He didn’t answer right away, and Kate glanced at Amy to see if she was
following along. She was studying a mirror, but Kate was pretty sure she was
listening.

“I’m not saying yes,” he said. “To the TV thing, I mean.”

“Okay.”

“I need to put that out there up front. But I’m rescinding my ‘hell no’ and
replacing it with an ‘I’d like to hear a little more about it.’ Is that still an
option?”

Kate nodded, which was ridiculous. He couldn’t see her. But she was almost
afraid to speak, not wanting to scare him away.

“Yes,” she said. “I’d be happy to tell you anything. What would you like to
know?”

“Not on the phone,” he said, sending another ripple of excitement
through her.

Kate gripped the phone a little tighter. “What did you have in mind?”

“I’d prefer to meet in person.”

She glanced toward Amy again, this time catching sight of her own face in
the mirror. Holy hell, that wasn’t the look of someone having a business call.
That was something else entirely. She forced her features into a neutral
expression and hoped Amy hadn’t noticed.

Kate straightened up and looked away from the mirror. “I’m sure that could
be arranged,” she said. “My assistant producer and I would be happy to meet with
you to go over—”

“No,” he said. “Just you. Sorry, I’m sure she’s a lovely woman. But I want
to keep this casual. And I want fewer people involved.”

“Any reason?”

She expected him not to answer, or to make up some story. His answer
surprised her. “When I got railroaded into doing the Average Joe thing for the
book, it was in a big committee meeting. Everyone started throwing out numbers
and statistics and research and Viv was pleading and—I guess I just caved.”

“I appreciate your candor. I can’t promise I won’t throw out statistics and
research, but I can promise I won’t plead.”

Jonah laughed. “That’s unfortunate.”



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