The Thing About Love by Julie James

  Praise for the novels of Julie James

  “I love Julie James’s voice . . . Suddenly One Summer is another jewel added to her basket of treasures.”


  “A Lot Like Love kept me up way past midnight!”

  —Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author

  “Remind[s] me of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy movies: They have that funny edge.”

  —Eloisa James, New York Times bestselling author

  “Read Just the Sexiest Man Alive, and you will be adding Julie James to your automatic-buy list!”

  —Janet Chapman, New York Times bestselling author

  “Fueled by equal measures of seductive wit, edge-of-the-seat suspense, and scorching-hot sexual chemistry . . . [a] scintillating novel of romantic suspense.”

  —Chicago Tribune

  “A tantalizing dessert—a delicious, delightful read that all hopeless romantics will enjoy.”

  —Chicago Sun-Times

  “A fast-paced romantic comedy . . . A talented writer . . . Expect a lot of sparks to fly.”

  —San Francisco Book Review

  “James’s smart heroines and fun dialogue are becoming her signature elements.”


  Titles by Julie James











  An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

  Copyright © 2017 by Julie James

  Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

  BERKLEY is a registered trademark and the B colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: James, Julie, 1974–, author.

  Title: The thing about love / Julie James.

  Description: First Edition. | New York : Berkley, 2017.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2016058820 (print) | LCCN 2017004215 (ebook) | ISBN 9780425273777 (paperback) | ISBN 9780425273784 (ebook)

  Subjects: | BISAC: FICTION / Contemporary Women. | FICTION / Romance / Contemporary. | FICTION / Contemporary Women. | GSAFD: Love stories. | Romantic suspense fiction.

  Classification: LCC PS3610.A4426 T48 2017 (print) | LCC PS3610.A4426 (ebook) | DDC 813/.6—dc23

  LC record available at

  First Edition: April 2017

  Cover photo © Carlos Cossio / Getty Images

  Cover and stepback design by Rita Frangie

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


  For my grandmothers,

  Arline and Margaret


  Praise for the Novels of Julie James

  Titles by Julie James

  Title Page




  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Readers Guide

  About the Author


  As always, I’m grateful to my friends and family who graciously shared their professional and personal experiences during the writing of this book. From the heartfelt conversations about divorce, to the amusing discussions with my male friends about “guy code” and whether they could ever forgive a friend who knew about cheating, to the answers to my many technical questions about everything from firearms to private equity, I’m so appreciative for all you do to enrich my books. Please never stop opening those random late-night e-mails from me with subject lines like “Just curious,” “I was wondering . . .” and “HELP,” because I would be lost without you.

  I could not have written this book the way I wanted to without the insight of one such friend, Brent Dempsey. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being so generous with your time and for helping me get it right. I solemnly swear to never again use the words stakeout or perp.

  I’m also grateful for the support of my former editor, Wendy McCurdy, who worked with me on eight books and also helped me brainstorm ideas for this one. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my stories and for making me a better writer. Your voice saying, “These people like each other too much!” will continue to motivate me to push myself every time I sit down at a keyboard.

  Special thanks to Elyssa Patrick, Kati Brown, Brent Dempsey, and Brian Kavanaugh for reading early drafts of this book and sharing your thoughts with me. Thanks as well to my agent, Robin Rue, and to Mollie Smith for her advice and know-how in all things digital marketing related.

  Thank you to everyone at Berkley for your support of this book. First and foremost, to Kate Seaver, my editor, and also to Ivan Held, Christine Ball, Claire Zion (Go, Cubs!), Jeanne-Marie Hudson, Craig Burke, and Erin Galloway: I deeply appreciate all the discussions, strategy talks, and warm conversations we’ve had this last year. I’m thrilled, and humbled, to be working with such a wonderful team of people.

  Finally, thank you to my husband, Brian, who doesn’t bat an eye when I call him at work with questions like, “So, if you were going to bribe a politician, would you divide the cash into two payments or just give him the whole fifty thousand up front?” You’re my first sounding board in all things, always. And thank you to my kids, just for being my favorite people to hang out with. Love you guys.


  Three minutes after the plane took off from the runway, FBI Special Agent John Shepherd knew he was doomed if he didn’t act immediately.

  Next to John, the guy in the middle seat was in his early forties and dressed in a suit and lime-green shirt. “Man, it’s a packed flight tonight.” He held out his hand in introduction. “Steve Fox. Corporate motivational speaker, leadership consultant, and occasion
al author. When I can motivate myself to write, that is.” He laughed at his own joke. “So . . . you heading to the Windy City for business or pleasure?”

  Yep. Steve in the lime-green shirt was going to be a Talker.

  Not that sitting next to a chatty passenger was uncommon for John. He accepted the fact that in his line of work, it was an occupational hazard. Occasionally, someone would notice the FBI badge clipped to his pants—specifically placed there in case someone also happened to notice the Glock 22 on his right hip, under his suit jacket—and that inevitably led to a few questions.

  FBI? Cool! Are you watching someone on this plane? Is it the guy in 10C? It’s totally the guy in 10C, isn’t it? He got snippy when the flight attendant tried to help him with his carry-on. You saw that, right? Ooh, do you think he has drugs in there? Or something worse? Oh my God, it’s not a bomb, is it? Whew. So, an FBI agent . . . what’s that like?

  But tonight, having just completed a rough eight-month undercover investigation, John was hoping to have a few quiet minutes to unwind before the plane landed in Chicago.

  And also to start thinking about how he was going to get things back on track with his girlfriend, Alicia.

  “I live in Chicago,” he answered Steve. He took earbuds out of his briefcase and plugged them into the armrest, then smiled apologetically. “I’m a bit of a nervous flier. It helps if I listen to air traffic control.” The lie rolled easily off his tongue—as an undercover agent, he was well practiced in the art of bullshit.

  “You know what else helps for that?” Steve grinned. “Vodka. Lots of it.” Moving on to another target, he turned his head and eyed the woman seated on the other side of him. She had her e-reader in hand and gave him an unmistakable Don’t even think about it, buddy look.

  Steve sighed resignedly and pulled out his laptop.

  The Talker now successfully contained, John turned toward the window and watched as the bright lights of Detroit faded in the distance. With any luck, it would be the last time he would see this city for a long time—hopefully not until he had to testify in court about his investigation. Not that he had anything against Detroit. In fact, for three years he’d called it home, having been assigned to work in the Detroit field office after graduating from the FBI Academy at Quantico.

  Joining the Bureau hadn’t been part of John’s original career plan. Actually, for a while, he hadn’t had much of a career plan. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he’d joined the Army—both to help pay off his student loans and to buy some time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

  As it turned out, that had been the best decision he could’ve made.

  Army life had suited him. He’d always been an athletic guy, and he’d done well with the physical challenges of being an enlisted soldier. But being in the Army also required mental toughness, determination, and discipline. So he’d pushed himself, more than he ever had, and after Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, he’d gone on to Airborne School and then had volunteered for the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.

  Eight weeks later, he’d proudly joined the elite ranks of the 75th Ranger Regiment. And it was at Fort Benning, where his battalion had been stationed, that he’d first been approached by Sean Piser, an operator and recruiter for the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team.

  “We’re federal law enforcement’s only full-time counterterrorism unit,” Piser had told him when they’d met at a pub on base. “HRT has the ability to respond within four hours’ notice to hostage situations, major criminal threats, and terrorist incidents anywhere in the U.S. Our motto, servare vitas, means ‘to save lives’—and that’s exactly what we do. We’re badasses that way.”

  As John sat dressed in his ACUs across a bar table from the recruiter, his answer, admittedly, had been cocky. “With all due respect, sir, I’m a Ranger. If I wanted to put ‘badass’ on my résumé, I think I’m set.”

  Piser had cocked his head at that. “I hear you’re considering a career in law enforcement after you finish your tour this summer.” Now it was his turn to sound cocky. “We’re the FBI, Shepherd. You want to catch bad guys for a living? We’re pretty much the cream of the fucking crop. So you might want to listen to what I have to say.”

  An announcement from the cockpit interrupted John’s thoughts.

  “Good evening, folks. On behalf of the flight deck, we’d like to welcome you aboard. Looks like it’s going to be a smooth flight into Chicago, with an on-time arrival of ten twenty P.M.”

  John checked his watch. Thirty minutes and they’d be on the ground, which meant he didn’t have a lot of time to figure out the logistics of his current mission: Operation Get Out of the Doghouse.

  It was a working title.

  Originally, he’d planned to come home tomorrow, since a bunch of agents in the Detroit office were heading out to celebrate wrapping up the investigation with a round of drinks—an investigation that had resulted in the arrest of twenty-seven suspects, including one state senator. But two days ago, the last time John had spoken on the phone with Alicia, she’d been . . . distant. Actually, she’d been distant a lot this past month, but more so than unusual in their last conversation. So, as a start to getting back in her good graces, he’d decided to catch an earlier flight and surprise her.

  Obviously, he was aware that Alicia wasn’t thrilled with all the traveling he’d been doing as part of his investigation. And he got that; he had been gone a lot as of late. Officially, he now worked in the Chicago field office, having transferred to his hometown over two years ago, when his mom had been diagnosed with lung cancer. But he’d been called back to the Detroit FBI office to revive one of his undercover roles, part of a large-scale sting operation into a criminal organization involved in money laundering, narcotics and firearms trafficking, and murder-for-hire schemes. Although, technically, he had only a part-time undercover role, he’d spent the last eight months traveling to Detroit anywhere from two to five days per week.

  The job itself was interesting—he’d been doing undercover work for three years and liked the challenge of taking on new roles, as well as the adrenaline rush that came with knowing that he was getting something over on the bad guys. But from a relationship standpoint, it wasn’t an ideal setup.

  He’d always been honest with Alicia about his lifestyle. And when he’d first taken on the Detroit undercover investigation, she’d been great about the situation. They’d texted several times a day whenever he was out of town, talked on the phone every night, and had hot reunion sex as soon as he walked through the door of the two-bedroom apartment they shared. But when it became apparent that his travel schedule wasn’t easing up anytime soon, Alicia had become less enthralled with having a “part-time boyfriend,” as she’d put it one night while they were talking on the phone.

  “It won’t be that much longer. Then I’ll be home so much you’ll be looking for ways to get rid of me,” John had joked. He’d been trying to keep the conversation light, despite his frustration that she’d chosen to bring up this subject—again—at that moment. He’d been about to walk out the door of his rented fake apartment for a key undercover meeting with a guy who not only was selling him illegal firearms but had also hinted that he was willing to commit murder for a fee. The thugs he was dealing with were armed and undoubtedly dangerous, and seeing how he was lying to them with every word that came out of his mouth, it was pretty important that he have his head in the game.

  “Whatever. How many times have I heard that this year?” Alicia had asked sarcastically.

  Honestly, he’d had a couple of tough days and long nights, and he’d just wanted to call his girlfriend and hear her voice without rehashing the same damn argument. “I can’t deal with this right now, Alicia,” he’d said brusquely.

  “Fine. Not that it matters to you, but I probably won’t be around much this weekend, if you try to call,” she’d said
. “I’ve got a work thing on Friday, and then I’m going out with Beth and Mia the next night.”

  In his frustration, John had told her to do whatever she wanted, and that he didn’t expect her to sit around and wait by the phone for him.

  Two days later, he’d called back and they’d both apologized and just let the argument go. But things hadn’t been quite the same between them ever since.

  Now that he was back in town, however, that would change. No more long-distance relationship, or being a “part-time boyfriend.” From here on out, he would be in Chicago and they could get back to the good place they’d been in eight months ago, back to the days when they were just a normal couple doing normal couple things, like coming home every night after work and trading work stories, or spending lazy weekends together without it hanging over both their heads that he’d be leaving again on Sunday night.

  Feeling good about this, after the plane landed at O’Hare, John stopped at a kiosk next to baggage claim and bought fresh flowers as phase one of his mission: Operation Sorry I’ve Been Gone So Long (But You Did Know the Score When We First Started Dating).

  Still a working title.

  Then he got a better idea. In the cab on the way home from the airport, he asked the driver to wait outside Sweet Mandy B’s bakery while he ran in and picked up a half dozen of Alicia’s favorite cupcakes.

  It was after eleven o’clock by the time the cab dropped him off at home, armed with flowers and chocolate. He and Alicia had moved into their apartment a year ago, renting the top unit of a graystone on a quiet residential street. At the time she’d wanted to buy a place together, but he’d hesitated, thinking it had been too soon in their relationship for that.

  But now, he thought, maybe it was time to revisit that idea. It wasn’t easy being in a relationship with a guy like him, an undercover agent who always had a go bag packed and might have to travel to another state—or country—with no notice. Yet despite all the ups and downs these past eight months, Alicia had stuck by him.

No Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]