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Chapter 61

While Michael is inside for the day, Roland and I hit up every store we could find. Shopping in New York is almost as great as shopping in Paris. The fashion is extraordinary. While I would have loved to shop with Michael, it's actually a good thing that he decided to stay in and recoup. That way he has his space to think and so do I. I couldn't escape that photo of Michael and Tatiana. It was everywhere. And if I didn't see it, I heard someone talking about it. How great Michael looked and how he and Tatiana actually made a cute couple. If only they knew that behind all that beauty was a crazy woman. But no. All they saw was "that girl from the 'The Way You Make Me Feel' video" and how lucky she was to kiss Michael. I don't know if it was luck since she got herself fired, but hey. They don't know that.

"Nine hundred sixty-eight dollars and twenty-eight cents," the clerk told me. I pulled out my AMEX and handed it to her.

"You sure know how to shop, don't you, Mrs. Jackson?" Roland asked me.

I shrugged, "it's Bergdorf Goodman. I'm only allowed to splurge like this when we're here."

"Mrs. Shayla Jackson?" the clerk looked up at me as she looked between me and my card.


"As in, Shayla Jackson the author of 'Josephine?'"

I smiled, "and 'Beyond the Dance.'"

"Oh, my goodness! I love your work! I'm your biggest fan. I'm actually reading your book right now," she pulled a copy of my novel from underneath the counter and placed it beside the register.

"Oh wow," I blushed. "Thank you!"

"Do you mind signing this for me? I'd really love it if you did," she slid a pen toward me.

"Sure. What's your name?"

"Aubrey," she gushed as she watched me sign the book. This is the first time I've ever had anyone ask for my autograph. I didn't know what to put. Although I went under Shayla Jackson, I had never practiced writing my name without 'Elizabeth.' It felt weird. Always follow your dreams. As cliché as it was, it was the only thing I could think of. Following my dreams got me two book deals. Aside from the small help I got from Michael, it was all up to me to write a bestseller and I did, so hey. "Thank you so much, Shayla. This means the world to me," she smiled as she put the book back under the counter and swiped my card. It felt good to be appreciated for my work. It felt good to be noticed. Wow. This is only a small fraction of what Michael feels every night. As I think more about this announcement, I imagine there will be way more people asking for my autograph at once. I'm grateful for the one right now. "Have a great day, Ms. Jackson," she smiled as she handed me my bags.

"You too," I returned the smile as Roland retrieved my bags from the counter.

"How does it feel to be a star?" Roland asked me.

"I'm far from a star, Roland. I'm just an author," I shrugged.

"A famous author."

"This is the first time anyone has ever noticed me."

"Watch. You'll get more people noticing you soon enough. We just got back in the states not too long ago. She was one of many."

"If you say so," I laughed.

"Where to next?"

"We still need to hit up Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales, and Saks."

"Aren't we going to be here for a week?" he groaned.

"Yeah, but I want to get all my shopping done before this week is out. Don't chicken out on me now, Roland. How often do you see me shop?"

"In every city we've traveled to, you've shopped, Mrs. Jackson."

"No... Not in Kansas. I only shopped overseas. This is my first-time shopping since we've been back in the states. I probably won't shop anywhere else though. The only two cities worth shopping in after this are Houston and Atlanta."

"Yeah, but when we get to Europe..." he shot me a look.

I laughed, "just be glad we'll have a break between cities while we're in the states, okay?"

He smiled, "sure thing." Roland's smile is to die for. Am I even allowed to say that? From what Michael and Roland have told me, bodyguards aren't supposed to cross personal boundaries with their clients. But Bill was like a father to Michael and I. Roland was around me twenty-four seven. How could we not form some kind of friendship? If I wasn't with Michael, I was with Roland. That's just how it was around here. He's almost like my best friend. I can't be business professional with someone who's around me twenty-four seven. We had to break the ice sometime.

"You may as well take advantage of some of the stores around here," I suggested.

"I think you've done enough shopping for the both of us."

"You sure?"

"Positive," he nodded.

"Okay, well, let me at least get you something. You've been nothing less of a great bodyguard. You have to let me buy you something."

"Oh no... It's okay, Mrs. Jackson. Trust me. Besides, how would Mr. Jackson feel if he found out you were buying something for your bodyguard?"

"Please," I waved off the thought. "He bought Bill a new car a while back. He'll be fine."

"I mean... Bill is like family."

"And so are you. Come on. Let's go to Bloomingdales," he followed me out of the store. "I'll buy you anything you want. You deserve it."

"Thank you," he nodded. Walking down the busy streets of New York felt like a dream. It's the city where something is always happening. It almost reminded me of Cincinnati. Except bigger. Brighter. The capital of the world. New York and Los Angeles were essentially one and the same, however. Dreams come true in both. The opportunities are endless, and the people were radiant.

"So, what are we shopping for? Clothes? Jewelry? Shoes?"

"I don't know... Surprise me?" he shrugged.

"You sound so unsure," I laughed. "Come on! We're in New York! You aren't going to find half of these stores anywhere else."

"Let me think."

"Okay, well, while you're thinking, I'm going to run through Saks real quick. Take all the time you need," I made a beeline toward the department store. The Saks here had a much better selection than the one in LA. I wanted to catch all the deals I possibly could. I didn't think about a budget in Bergdorf, but then again Bergdorf was only in New York. I didn't have much of a choice but to splurge. Shopping gave me a peace of mind. Especially with all this crap going on. Knowing my parents, my brothers have already heard about this scandal and I just know they're ready to kick Michael's butt. If they had known what led up to this, they'd want to kill him. I wonder if Michael's family will call to inquire about it. I hope they do. Because it's as if my opinion didn't matter to Michael at all. I'm sure he'll think twice about something like this if both families talk to him about it. It sucks that it has to be like that. But he just didn't want to listen to me. I don't understand that.

"You can just get me some socks," Roland finally caught up with me.

I turned around to face him, "socks?"

"Yeah. I'm running low."

"Out of all things you could get. You can get a new suit, shoes, haircut, jewelry. Anything your heart desires, and you want socks?"

He laughed, "my heart desires socks."

"Why do you have to be so simple, Roland?"

"Socks are a necessity," he shrugged.

"You want socks out of New York City. Wow. Fine. I'll buy you fifty packs of socks. Go big or go home."

His face lit up, "thanks!"

I laughed, "whatever." As simple as he was, Roland was the coolest, yet simplest guy, aside from my husband, that I've ever met. I only want the best for him. No wife. No children. And he's stuck with me twenty-four seven. That's no life to live. He's going to make me play matchmaker one of these days. I'm just itching to do it. Michael chose the right bodyguard when he chose Roland because there's no way I would have been so friendly with anyone else. Even in the midst of what Michael and I have going on, Roland offered sound advice and listened to me. He was like a brother. Something I greatly appreciated since I was raised with three older brothers. I just can't wait for this whole thing with Tatiana and Michael to die down. Because to the world, it's entertainment. To me, it's humiliating.

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