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Copyright © 2018 Jennifer Woodhull

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Chapter 1

Chloe

Resolution Number 1: Stop procrastinating.

 

I’m feeling pretty good about this one. Considering I’m already starting my list of new year’s resolutions and it’s only mid-November, I’m pretty much crushing it. Last year I didn’t start my list until February. Of course, last year’s list was filled with wedding-related items, like lose ten pounds to fit into perfect dress, and learn to cook Blake’s favorite dish from scratch: lasagna! Of course, now that I’m single, all those items are out for good.

 

I mean, dumping me the week before my birthday was bad. Throwing me over for my maid of honor and best friend was worse. But the most painful part was losing my whole bridal party. Lacey, Kelly, and Jana all took Blake and Lydia’s side.

 

“I mean, they did date in college before you two did,” Lacey offered when I called them together to help me salve my wounds.

 

“Yeah, it’s kind of fate, Chloe. Really, it was you that got in the middle, not Lydia,” Jana added.

 

Two dates. They went on two dates, seven years ago, and Blake and I had been together for over a year, but yeah, okay, I guess I’m the homewrecker.

 

On top of losing my fiancé and my tribe, my mother, who loves me so much that she shows it by offering her critiques, “to make you a better person, dear,” has just married a healthcare mogul, and they’re off honeymooning in Switzerland through the new year. That leaves yours truly broke and alone for the holidays.

 

Bah humbug.

 

I am trying to look on the bright side, though. That’s Resolution Number 2. Try to see the upside of problems.

 

I remind myself that at least I found out about Blake and Lydia before we were legally bound to each other. Unfortunately, I worked for Kelly’s fiancé, David, at his law firm. He determined things were just, “Too weird between you and the rest of the group. I think you should find something else.” With a pity severance of five hundred dollars, that was it. No fiancé. No friends. No job.

 

On the bright side, though (see resolution number 2), tons of companies are finishing up end-of-the-year work at the same time people are trying to take holiday time off. Temp agencies are swamped this time of year. I am in the talent pool of two of the major temp agencies that service large companies and high-end clientele: Jameson Dunlop, and The Frost Agency.

 

I have actually enjoyed temping more than I thought I would. I have my college degree, and have experience as a legal secretary, which makes me fairly marketable. The last assignment I had was for six weeks, ending the first week of December, working for a small brokerage firm. I had become friendly enough with some of the other assistants that I had been invited to happy hour on Friday nights. That is, I had been invited to happy hour until the incident.

 

To be fair, it wasn’t entirely my fault. I mean, it was Blake’s birthday. I had already started planning a surprise party for him when he broke things off in August. Lydia picked right up where I left off, and actually had the nerve to hold the party that I had been planning for him. I heard that through the grapevine…and by grapevine, I mean by drunk-stalking them on Facebook.

 

***

‚Äč

It was the third time I had attended the weekly happy hour the girls at the office had invited me to. Cindy was a little older than me, maybe early thirties, and married. The other two girls, Leslie and Deidra, were both around my age and single. We had gone out to one of those hot Manhattan nightclubs that I absolutely couldn’t afford. Leslie and Deidra assured me, though, that single guys there were plentiful and I’d have no trouble scoring free drinks.

 

About an hour and a half into the night, we had already had several rounds sent our way, and I’m getting pretty tipsy. My phone dings, and when I look down, it’s a reminder popping up on my calendar.

 

Call Florentino’s to confirm catering menu.  

 

I thought I had removed all the reminders from my calendar related to anything to do with Blake, our wedding, or our life together. This was one I must’ve missed. I absolutely lose it. I start to cry a little, and when the girls ask what’s wrong, I tell them the whole sad story.

 

I decide to take the last twenty dollar bill in my wallet, waltz up to the bar, and order a fancy cocktail for myself. It is an act of defiance—of independence. I decide right then and there that I will learn to look after myself, be self-reliant, and that asshole ex of mine could be damned. I sidle up to the bar and wave my hand theatrically in the air.

 

“Barkeep?” I slur more than say. “I’m an independent woman, and I want to order a drink!”

 

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” A deliciously deep voice purrs into my ear.

 

I look over to see an absolute Adonis of a man standing next to me, staring down at me with a smirk of amusement. I can clearly remember his broad shoulders, dark hair, smoldering eyes, and a scent like money and sin wafting off of his impressive frame.

 

“And just who are you to tell me when I’ve had enough? I do not answer to you or anybody else!” I throw my head back a little, jutting my nose in the air with the last word. He responds with a throaty chuckle.

 

“Well, that’s true. I’m nobody to you. I was just offering a little friendly advice, that’s all. You look pretty far gone already, and I’d hate to see you topple over and ruin your pretty dress,” the Greek god of sensible drinking replies.

 

“Oh, you like my dress? It is pretty, isn’t it?” I twist my hips to make the red skirt swirl, and lose my footing. Just as I’m about to go heels-over-head, Adonis catches me, and I grab his muscular arm in both hands.

 

“You okay?” His words are accompanied by another sexy chuckle of amusement at my expense.

 

“I’m fine, thank you.” I reply curtly, and return my attention to the bartender. “Barkeep!”

 

“Give the lady a comodoro sin ron sobre mí, please.” Adonis says to the bartender.

 

“I don’t know what you said just now, but I can buy my own drinks.” I cross my arms defensively.

 

“I am certain you can do whatever you put your mind to, gorgeous, but it would mean a lot to me if you’d let me buy you this one drink. Please.” He cocks up an eyebrow and leans forward. He has the faintest look of vulnerability in that moment. I look at him intently, realizing he is even more handsome than I first thought. His jaw is square, and he has beautiful, full lips that are incredibly sexy drawn up into a smirk. Damn, Chloe. This guy could make you forget all about what’s-his-name.

 

The bartender hands me the drink that Adonis ordered for me. I take a sip, then a gulp.

 

“This is freaking delicious!” I exclaim. “It’s a little strong, but good.”

 

He gives a deep, full laugh. “I’m glad you like it,” he says.

 

I throw back the rest of the small glass of sweet, fruity nectar. “Thank you,” I say, putting the tips of my fingers on my benefactor’s muscular forearm.

 

“You’re most welcome.” He says with a slight nod.

 

“You know that…might have been one too many, actually. I’m feeling a little…weird.” I say, the room suddenly spinning.

 

“Maybe you should call it a night. Why don’t I get you a cab?” Adonis says.

 

“Oh, my friends are right…oh. They were right over there.” I say, pointing to the empty table where my co-workers had been what I was sure was only a few minutes before.

 

“Here, let me walk you out and put you into a taxi so you can get home safely,” Adonis says.

 

I concede and the god-man leads me outside, where he hails a cab for me. I am vaguely aware of him leaning over to tell the driver something, and handing him what was presumably the fare for my ride. He opens the door for me and I step toward the cab.

 

“You be safe, gorgeous. No more stops. Go right home, okay?” He says, his hand still on the top of the taxi door.

 

“Thank you,” I reply, looking up at his chiseled jaw. “You smell yummy, by the way,” I add, inhaling his rich, musky scent. Eau de Trust Fund, no doubt.

 

Then, I do something so out of character, that I can only blame that last, potent cocktail for my behavior. I step up onto the edge of the cab door, reach up, and kiss him. I am kissing a complete stranger. He is taken off-guard, but doesn’t push me away. Instead, with one big palm planted respectfully but firmly planted between my shoulder blades, he kisses me back. His lips are full, soft, and strong. I’m not sure if it was real, or if the whole memory is tinted with rum goggles, but it is one of those kisses that keeps you awake at night. It’s the kind of kiss dirty dreams are made of.

 

“Ya wants I should leave ya here?” The cabbie yells at us through the open window.

 

Adonis steps back, breaking the spell. “That was unnecessary, but greatly appreciated, gorgeous.”

 

“Um, I don’t…I mean…I’ve never…,” I trail off.

 

“You’ve never gotten this drunk before? Yeah, I guessed.” He chuckles again.

 

“No, I mean, I don’t kiss strangers.” I say, the heat of the kiss and the cold night air working together to sober my blurry brain just a little.

 

“Give me your number and we won’t be strangers,” he says with a sexy grin.

 

“What? Oh, no. No, no, no.” I chuckle, shaking my head. “You’re too much. Men like me don’t go out with girls like you…I mean, girls like you don’t date men like me.” He is laughing wildly. “No wait! I mean…,” I trail off again, trying to shake the cobwebs from my head.

 

“I know what you’re trying to say, but you don’t know me. Maybe I’m just what you’ve been looking for,” he says, grazing my cheek with his thumb.

 

“The meter’s running people,” the cabbie yells again.

 

“I’ve gotta go. Thanks for…whatever this was.” I hurriedly tuck myself into the cab and slam the door, leaving the most beautiful specimen of masculinity I’ve ever seen standing on the sidewalk with his hands tucked into the pockets of slacks that cost more than I pay in rent for a month.

 

***

 

The following morning I find out the girls at the office were off-put because they thought I was picking up a random man at the bar, which is why they ditched me. Bitches. My temp assignment ends and I never look back.

 

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© 2019 by Jennifer Woodhull.