Authors: Madi Merek
First published by The Writer
s Coffee Shop, 2014
Madi Merek, 2014
The right of Madi Merek to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her under the
Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000
This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
All characters and events in this book
even those sharing the same name as (or based on) real people
are entirely fictional.
No person, brand, or corporation mentioned in this book should be taken to have endorsed this book, nor should the events surrounding them be considered in any way factual.
This book is a work of fiction and should be read as such.
s Coffee Shop
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E-book ISBN- 978-1-61213-314-0
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the US Congress Library.
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Cover Artist: Jennifer McGuire
To Jonny, who taught himself to do laundry and dishes so that I’d have time to write. I love you. To Scarlett, my little rosebud potato, who likes to cuddle with me as I write. To Mom, for reading my smut and loving it. Kiki, my dear sissy, may you and Robert be as happy and passionate as the characters in my romance novella; congratulations on your marriage this year. To Mars, who will forever be in print. For Kimberly, Christy, Bella, Di, Lauren, Lori, and Carrie—the girls who make my world go ’round and make me feel like a spectacular writer even on my worst days. To Shondra and Ashley for supporting me since high school in my writing endeavors. To the fangirls who’ve done a great job of flailing—Tins and Court and everyone else: you guys rock!
I’d been undone by him—wrecked—and every moment of it was utter perfection.
Los Angeles, California
“Look, I understand that it was delivered in the wrong shade. Just call Marian and tell her that if they don’t get the correct fabric to the studio within the hour, we’ll be forced to go with Hunter’s House instead,” I said as I tried to balance my phone between my ear and shoulder. I reached for my luggage on the conveyor belt. “Damn it!” I huffed in frustration as my Louis Vuitton bag passed, heading around for another loop. Los Angeles International Airport was a mess with the hustle and bustle of business travelers, tourists headed for Disneyland or the Walk of Fame, and natives like myself, reluctant to be back and just trying to get the hell out of this damn airport. It smelled of sweat and jet fuel and baby vomit, and all I wanted was a nice, relaxing afternoon at the pool. “Okay, Sky, I’m on vacation as of yesterday. Don’t call me again unless it’s an actual emergency.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Chapman, I just wanted to run it by—”
I ended the call before she could get another word in. My apprentice was a nice girl, but I’d had enough of people not knowing how to handle a mini-crisis on their own. The fact that the fabric had come in indigo instead of cobalt was a problem, of course, but it didn’t require the fourteen missed calls and nine text messages I’d received since switching my phone back on after the plane landed.
As I shoved my phone into my Burberry bag, freeing up my hands to catch my luggage as it came around again, a rich, deep voice from my past spoke over my shoulder. “Here, let me get that for you. Looks like you have your hands full.”
My breath caught, and a whirlwind of memories transported me back into a world of cheering at football and baseball games, of proms, broken lockers, and teenage hormones. Spinning around, I met the azure eyes of Anthony Ricci, along with his solid body. My palms flattened against his muscled chest, and my heart hammered against my ribcage.
He hadn’t changed a bit. Well, that wasn’t true. He’d aged, of course. I even noticed a few gray hairs dusting his thick, black locks, and he’d grown into his strong, square jaw and handsome, tall body. He wore his hair just a little bit longer than the preppy style he’d always sported in high school.
Ugh. High school. That was the disaster that had brought me back to LAlaland from my life in New York City in the first place. Ten years ago, I’d been the nerdy girl with red-framed glasses and eclectic clothing, sewing costumes for the drama department. Not many of the popular drama kids had ended up in Hollywood like they’d planned. Though I saw Lindsay Cohen in a toilet paper commercial a few years back, none of them had made a name for themselves like I had.
I was Winifred Lynn Chapman-Jensen of WinnLynn House of Design. My label had struck it big four years earlier when the First Lady wore one of my more conservative designs to a presidential dinner. Afterward, the clothes were being snatched up left and right. When awards season rolled around in Tinseltown, the representatives for many of Hollywood’s leading ladies were calling at all hours of the day and night for a one-of-a-kind WinnLynn.
“Ma’am?” Anthony’s voice pulled me out of my racing thoughts, and back to the current, older versions of ourselves. A bright grin was fixed on his lips. “I want to make sure I have the right bag here. You are Ms. Jensen, right?” he asked with a hopeful and perplexed expression.
Ah, the married name. I still hadn’t been able to separate myself from it. That was the name I had when I landed on the fashion scene, and was what I would always be known by. Though, I suppose it was my fault for leaving it on my luggage tag and not changing my name.
Kristoffer Jensen and I had divorced sixteen months earlier, right after our son, Walter, turned four. Kris was five years my senior, and we’d married while I was a junior in college and he was getting his masters in economics. I got pregnant with Walt almost right away, but was lucky things worked out well for me—I managed to finish school with flying colors.
One afternoon, I walked into Kris’s Wall Street office to surprise him with lunch. What I found was him balls-deep in his assistant . . . who happened to be a man. So, after five years of marriage, I decided to throw in the towel and get a divorce.
We’d made the entire thing as easy as possible on Walt, explaining to him that Mom and Dad would still love him very much, we just wouldn’t live together anymore. To everyone’s amazement, we managed to end our marriage in a civilized, mature way, belying the typical idea of a high-profile divorce. Of course, I didn’t allow Kris to touch any of the money I’d made through WinnLynn. He had a huge cash flow of his own. Even after Wall Street took a nosedive when the 2008 recession hit, our little family had been financially protected, so I wasn’t worried about Kris being on his own. Not that I had to be worried, but it made me feel better knowing he was secure since Walt still spent a lot of time with his daddy.
This trip was the longest I would be away from my little man since . . . ever. Though Walt was the best company and he helped fill my lonesome days with sweet laughter and cuddles, I’d been on my own for a while. I hadn’t been heartbroken over Kris’s affair, but it left me lacking in the adult-connection department. Socializing consisted of people who wanted into my business, and everyone had an angle—whether it was men and sex, or women and my work. I’d learned to protect myself over the years.
“I’m really sorry, Ms. Jensen, I-I didn’t mean to pry,” Anthony spoke again, stammering over his words before clearing his throat. It was endearing to watch him in this alternate reality than the one in which we’d once known each other, and it reminded me of why I’d been one of the girls who’d wanted him so much throughout high school. “I thought you looked familiar for some reason, but I think it’s because I’ve seen you in magazines. You were dating Max Guerrero from the Yankees, weren’t you?”
I raised a questioning eyebrow at him. I hated being known by the men I’d dated as much as I hated being known by my married name. I was a well-known designer, and it irked me when people only saw me as a pretty face connected to a famous man. Max and I had enjoyed a wonderful affair, but when baseball season started back up, we called it off. It had been nice while it lasted, though—lots of hot sex and tropical vacations to his Puerto Rican plantation house—but I wasn’t
Max Guerrero’s ex.
“I’m also a fashion designer. WinnLynn. Maybe you bought your wife one of my designs?”
He still had no idea who I was, though he continued to search my face, sensing our connection was deeper than an image on a glossy page of a gossip magazine. I was happy to keep it that way. Despite sharing many classes during our high school years and the fact that I’d been his tutor for our philosophy class, I certainly had changed a lot since then. Gone were the thick-framed glasses, and my once homemade clothing had been transformed into world-renowned couture since my first spring line had hit the runway. My hair was no longer the frizzy mess that I’d been forced to keep in a ponytail. Instead, I wore it in stylish, tamed waves over my shoulders.
Embarrassed, Anthony nodded. “WinnLynn? Wow. I just purchased half of your fall line as a gift for my sister’s birthday. She’s a huge fan.”
I smiled a little at his babbling, laughter bubbling up in my throat like fizzy champagne. That tiny bottle of Captain Morgan I’d tossed back on the plane wasn’t helping the current situation at all, but I pushed the laughter down and put a cork in my grin.
“Well, thanks for your help and for supporting my designs, Mr. . . .” I said, trailing off and waiting for him to provide his name, despite knowing just who he was—and his pitching earned run average and his rushing yards for all four years of high school. I refused to give in first and admit we knew each other from another place and time.
“Tony,” he provided as a mischievous grin lit his face and his hand shot out to shake mine.
I shifted my purse higher on my shoulder to free myself to meet his grip. The way his eyes glanced down to my bare ring finger didn’t escape my notice, and I couldn’t contain a snort of irony—the tables were turning from the decade before, but I wasn’t game.
His face lit up, and his grin widened. Releasing my hand, he pulled a business card from his charcoal-gray suit pocket and slipped it into my palm. “Tony Ricci. You should give me a call if you have some downtime this week. I’m an LA native and at your service for a tour.”
I forced myself to hold in a second snort that wanted so desperately to escape. I couldn’t believe he was trying to hit on me in an airport. Taking the card, I gave the dear Mr. Ricci a show by slipping it into my bra. His pupils dilated as his eyes followed my hand. He looked as though he wanted to say more, or perhaps pull me into an empty bathroom stall and have his way with me. Instead of allowing him the opportunity, I gathered my things.