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The most beautiful man I’ve ever seen is the one who can ruin everything…
The first time I lay eyes on Callan Walker, I know he’ll be trouble. With his smug grin, hot Aussie accent and thousand dollar shoes, he’s just the kind of rich guy who always gets what he wants.
And he wants two things: a night of sin, and my cooperation as he outmaneuvers his powerful mother to take control of his uncle’s estate.
I can’t afford either one. I’m the only thing standing between my little sister and the foster care system. He may have money and charm on his side, but I have something even more powerful — pure desperation. This temp job at his mother’s company can become a full time job for me. It has to.
But when Callan’s eyes rake over my body, sometimes I forget my obligations. His piercing gaze finds the fun, optimistic girl I used to be and not the tired person I’ve become.
And it works–if only for a moment. Our night together was a mistake. I can’t afford to get sucked into his high-powered family’s treachery. But the closer I get to Callan, the more layers I find beneath those expensive clothes. Though I can’t forget this is temporary. He’s temporary. I have too much to lose.
Too bad my foolish heart didn’t get the memo…
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New York, New York
“Have you seen my MetroCard?”
Later, when I looked back on the whole disaster, I’d settle on this innocent-sounding question as the moment it all began.
“No…” I told my fifteen-year-old sister. “Shouldn’t it be in your wallet?”
“You’d think,” she mumbled.
We spent the next fifteen minutes tearing up our tiny living space. It was astonishing that anything could go missing in four hundred square feet. “Olivia, how much money was on that card?”
“Not sure,” she dodged. “But I’ll find it.”
She didn’t, though. And as the clock ticked forward, I panicked, letting my opinions on her housekeeping and life choices fly as I sorted through the papers on our dining table and searched the pockets of Olivia’s two jackets.
She’d suffered in silence, but I knew I’d pay for it later, in the form of sullen dinner-table conversation.
Finally, I dug my own MetroCard out of my wallet and thrust it at her. “Take this and go.”
“Just do it. I can’t be this late. You know I need this job.” I was only a temp, but I was hoping against all odds that my current assignment would turn into a permanent role.
Sparing more arguments, Olivia took my card, and we hustled out the door and down the creaky stairs of our apartment building. It wasn’t even eight a.m., but my blood pressure was already sky high, and I hadn’t had a sip of coffee.
“Have a good day at school,” I told my sister as we parted ways.
Olivia’s only reply was to shoot me the kind of glare that comic-book villains used to kill people. Then she stomped away, up Essex Street toward the subway stop at Delancey, while I headed west toward the Grand Street station.
“Deep breaths,” I coached myself as I hurried along the sidewalk, hugging my trench coat to my body. The stiff November breeze off the Hudson River sliced right through the thin fabric.
I’d become a New Yorker at eighteen, when I’d started design school. And I’d thought of the city as the brightest, shiniest, most exciting place in the world. Mornings had brought the scent of dark coffee and lemon lavender scones wafting from pristine cafes. Boutique windows were decked with beautiful things that I might someday own—or design.
I’d looked at all the luxury and thought, Why not me? When New York had smiled at me, I’d seen opportunity everywhere.
But these days New York was really good at giving me the stiff arm. I could never stop inside one of the cute little cafes on the way to the subway. Coffee and a scone would cost six dollars, maybe seven. That was money I didn’t have. And my dreams of designing beautiful things were derailed long ago. My college degree took years longer than I’d expected. Even though I’d switched to a more practical field, a good job was elusive.
On mornings like this one, I no longer asked, Why not me? It was more like: What now?
Just before I reached the stairs leading down to the subway platform, I spotted a hand waving to me from across the street. It was Mrs. Antonio, the woman who ran the gourmet deli on the corner. Polite to my very core, I paused to wave back at her before dashing down the stairs.
As I tapped carefully downward, mindful of my kitten-heeled ankle boots, I wondered how long it had been since I’d ducked into Mrs. Antonio’s store. Months, probably. Before my boyfriend had ditched me for a new job in France, he and I used to stop at the deli for last-minute groceries. Marcus would usually pay, and I’d cook. It was one of the little arrangements that made things work between us.
Then he’d yanked the rug out from under me.
It had taken me a long time to trust Marcus, to believe in him. Yet it had taken him less than a day to decide that a plum promotion in another country was more important to him than I was.
Shaking my head, I jumped the last stair and bolted toward the MetroCard machine. This was no time for a pity party. I had sixteen minutes to get to the office in Midtown. Not enough to be on time, but I could come close.
I was working the touchscreen like a champ when I heard a squeal of breaks in the distance. And then I felt the telltale wind of a train pulling into the station. Still, I didn’t panic, swiping my credit card and typing in my ZIP Code so fast my hands were a blur. I could do this.
Why not me?
The train pulled into the station just before I finished my transaction. The doors slid open and commuters began to pour out as I grabbed my new card and ran toward the turnstile. I was so close to victory. But a man in a charcoal suit came storming toward the turnstile from the platform side just as I raised my new card to swipe through.