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Authors: Sarah Morgan

Sleepless in Manhattan

BOOK: Sleepless in Manhattan
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USA TODAY
bestselling author Sarah Morgan introduces From Manhattan with Love, a sparkling new trilogy about three best friends embracing life—and love—in New York

Cool, calm and competent, events planner Paige Walker loves a challenge. After a childhood spent in and out of hospitals, she’s now determined to prove herself—and where better to take the world by storm than Manhattan? But when Paige loses the job she loves, she must face her biggest challenge of all—going it alone.

Except launching her own events company is nothing compared to hiding her outrageous crush on Jake Romano—her brother’s best friend, New York’s most in-demand date and the only man to break her heart. When Jake offers Paige’s fledgling company a big chance, their still-sizzling chemistry starts giving her sleepless nights. But can she convince the man who trusts no one to take a chance on forever?

Praise for Sarah Morgan

“Uplifting, sexy and warm, Sarah Morgan’s O’Neil Brothers series is perfection.”

—Jill Shalvis,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Morgan’s romantic page-turner will thrill readers.
The well-paced narrative is humorous [and] poignant…The chemistry between the misunderstood hero and the victimized heroine is combustible [and] her storytelling rocks. Brava!”


RT Book Reviews
, Top Pick, on
Suddenly Last Summer


Sleigh Bells in the Snow
[is] a great wintery romance with plenty of chemistry and heart… You will be swept away by the winter wonderland and steamy romance…Morgan has really shown her talent and infused so much love, both romantic and familial, into her characters that I am anxiously looking forward to what she writes in the future.”


All About Romance

“This touching Christmas tale will draw tears of sorrow and joy, remaining a reader favorite for years to come.”


Publishers Weekly
, starred review, on
Sleigh Bells in the Snow

“Morgan’s brilliant talent never ceases to amaze.”


RT Book Reviews

“[Morgan] managed to really bring everything I love about holiday romances in general into one beautiful story full of fantastic characters, steamy chemistry, and Christmas spirit. From sleigh rides to puppies, quiet time in a snowy forest to learning to ski and the scent of gingerbread—I loved every page.”


Smexy Books
on
Sleigh Bells in the Snow

“Each book of hers that I discover is a treat.”


Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Also available from
Sarah Morgan
and HQN Books

The O’Neil Brothers

Maybe This Christmas

Suddenly Last Summer

Sleigh Bells in the Snow

Puffin Island

First Time in Forever

Some Kind of Wonderful

One Enchanted Moment

You’ll definitely want to visit Manhattan again.
Be sure to watch for
Sunset in Central Park
,
coming soon.

SARAH
MORGAN

Sleepless in Manhattan

Dear Reader,

I can never decide if I’m a country girl or a city girl. If you’ve read any of my books before, you’ll know how much I love mountains (especially snowy ones) and also the beach. I love breathing in fresh outdoor air and being close to nature, and if you follow me on Instagram you will have seen plenty of my beach and mountain photos. But the truth is I also love cities. I love the energy, the buzz and the pace of life.

When my editor (her name is Flo and she is brilliant in every way) suggested I set my next series in a city, I wasn’t convinced. “I don’t know if I can write about a city,” I said, to which she replied, “But you’re not writing about a city. You’re writing about love, friendship and community, which is what you always write about. And besides, you love New York.”

She’s right. I do. I’ve been lucky enough to visit New York several times, and each time has been more exciting than the last. Because New York features in so many of my favorite movies (
When Harry Met Sally
and
Hitch
, to name just a couple), I always feel as if I’m walking onto a film set. I have to stop myself from gaping with my mouth open and pointing. (And in case you’re wondering, my favorite New York landmark is the Chrysler building. It’s magical, and yes it appears in this book.)

The idea for the characters came easily, and New York worked so well as a setting it felt like another character. It added a touch of urban sparkle to each story, and when my publisher proposed the titles, I was really excited.
Sleepless in Manhattan
is Paige’s story and begins at a point in her life where everything is about to fall apart.

I hope you fall in love with these characters and enjoy following their adventures as they negotiate love and life in the Big Apple. If you want help visualizing the setting, take a look at my Pinterest boards! They’re packed full of photos I used as inspiration while I was writing this series.

Welcome to From Manhattan with Love!

Love,
Sarah

xx

This book is dedicated to Nicola Cornick, who is a wonderful author and everything a friend should be.

There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.

—Simone de Beauvoir

CHAPTER ONE

When you’re climbing the ladder, always assume someone is looking up your skirt.

—Paige


P
ROMOTION
.
I
THINK
it might be my favorite word. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this.” Swept along by the tide of commuters, Paige Walker followed her two friends Eva and Frankie up the steps from the subway and emerged to blue skies and sunshine. Far above her the skyscrapers of Manhattan reached up to fluffy clouds, a forest of steel and glass winking in the bright morning sunlight, each competing to be taller than the next. The Empire State Building. The Rockefeller Center. Higher, bigger, better.
Look at me.

Paige looked, and smiled. Today was the day. Even the weather was celebrating.

New York had to be the most exciting city in the world. She loved the vibrancy, the promise, the pace.

She’d landed a job at Star Events straight out of college and had been unable to believe her luck, especially when her two best friends got jobs there, too. Working for a big company headquartered in Manhattan was her dream. The sheer energy of the city seeped through her skin and into her veins, like a shot of adrenaline. Here, she could be whoever she wanted to be. She could live her life without being asked how she was feeling twenty-five times a day. In the breathless bustle that was New York City, people were too busy thinking about themselves to have time to think about other people. Interaction skimmed the surface and never went deep. She blended into the crowd and that suited her just fine.

Paige didn’t want to stand out. She didn’t want to be different, precious or special. She didn’t want to be anyone’s poster girl for brave.

She wanted to be anonymous. Normal, whatever that was. And here in New York, finally it had happened.

Urban chaos offered its own type of privacy. Everything moved faster.

Everything, that was, except her friend Eva, who was not a morning person.


Promotion
isn’t my favorite word.
Love
is probably my favorite word.” Eva yawned sleepily. “Or maybe
sex
, which is the next best thing. I think. I can’t honestly remember because I haven’t had it in so long. I’m worried I’ve forgotten all the moves. If I ever get naked with a guy again, I might have to buy a ‘how to’ book. Why is no one in Manhattan interested in a relationship? I don’t want a hookup. I want to mate for life. Ducks can do it—why can’t we?” She stopped to adjust her shoe and soft waves of blond hair bounced forward along with her breasts, as generously curved as the plumpest cupcake. The man walking toward her stopped abruptly, mouth open, and four other men slammed into him.

Attempting to avert a human pileup, Paige grabbed Eva’s arm and pulled her to one side. “You’re a walking hazard.”

“Is it my fault my laces untie themselves?”

“Your laces aren’t the problem. The problem is that you just announced to the whole of Manhattan that you haven’t had sex in ages.”

“The problem,” Frankie said, closing in to form a blockade, “is that a dozen investment bankers are now getting in line to manage your assets. And I’m not talking about your finances. Stand up, Sleeping Beauty. I’ll tie your shoe.”

“I don’t have any finances to manage, but at least that means I don’t lie awake at night worrying about yield and interest rates. That’s a bonus, although not quite the bonus those bankers are probably used to.” Eva stood up and rubbed her eyes. Before ten in the morning, she had trouble focusing. “You don’t have to tie my shoe. I am not six years old.”

“You weren’t this lethal when you were six years old. It’s safer if I do it. I don’t have cleavage that should come with a health warning or a brain incapable of filtering what comes out of my mouth. And move to the side. This is New York City. It’s virtually a criminal offense to block the flow of commuters.” There was a hint of irritation in Frankie’s voice, enough to make Eva frown as she stuck her foot out.

“You can’t be prosecuted for being in someone’s way. What’s wrong with you this morning?”

“Nothing.”

Paige exchanged glances with Eva. They both knew “nothing” meant “something,” and both knew better than to push for answers. Frankie spoke when she was ready, which was usually only after she’d bottled it up for a while. “Blocking the flow of commuters could be deemed provocation.” Paige said. “And she was this lethal. You’ve forgotten her eighth birthday party when Freddie Major threatened to beat up Paul Matthews if she didn’t agree to marry him.”

“Freddie Major.” The memory drew a ghost of a smile from Frankie. “I put a frog down his shirt.”

Eva shuddered. “You were an evil child.”

“What can I say? I’m not good with men. Of any age.” Frankie thrust her can of drink into Eva’s hand. “Hold that, and if you throw it in the trash our friendship is over.”

“Our friendship has survived more than twenty years. I like to think it would survive me throwing your junk food in the trash.”

“It wouldn’t.” Athletic and supple, Frankie dropped into a crouch. “Everyone is allowed a vice. Unhealthy eating is mine.”

“Diet cola is not breakfast! Your eating habits are life threatening. Why won’t you let me make you a delicious kale and spinach smoothie?” Eva pleaded.

“Because I like to keep my breakfast down once I’ve eaten it, and my eating habits are no more life threatening than your dress habits. Anyway, I wasn’t in a breakfast mood today.” Frankie tied the laces of Eva’s bright green Converse as a river of commuters flowed past them, all intent on reaching their destination as fast as possible. She winced as someone knocked into her. “Why don’t you ever do a double knot, Ev?”

“Because I dressed in my sleep.”

Frankie stood up and plucked her diet cola from Eva’s hand, her hair tumbling in fiery flames past her shoulders. “Ouch! Excuse
me
.” She adjusted her glasses and turned her head to glare at the retreating figure of a man in a suit. “It’s good manners to anesthetize someone before you remove their kidneys with your briefcase.” Mumbling threats under her breath, she rubbed her ribs with her hand. “There are days when I want to go back to living in a small town.”

“You’re kidding. You’d move back to Puffin Island?” Paige shifted her bag onto the other shoulder. “I don’t ever feel that way, not even when I’m on the subway and I’m so squashed it feels as if I’m being hugged by a boa constrictor. Not that the island isn’t pretty, because it is, but—it’s an island. Enough said.” She’d felt marooned from civilization by the choppy waters of Penobscot Bay, smothered by a thick blanket of parental anxiety. “I like living in a place where people don’t know every detail of my life.”

At times it had felt like collective parenting.
Paige, why aren’t you wearing a sweater? Paige, I saw the helicopter taking you to hospital again, you poor thing.
She’d felt trapped and constrained, as if someone had grasped her in a tight fist, determined to keep her from escaping.

Life had been all about keeping her well, keeping her safe, keeping her protected, until she’d wanted to scream out the question that had burned inside her for most of her childhood—

What was the point in being alive if you weren’t allowed to live?

Moving to New York City was the best, most exciting thing that had ever happened to her and it was different from Puffin Island in every possible way. Some would have said worse.

Not Paige.

Frankie was frowning. “We all know I can’t set foot on Puffin Island again. I’d be lynched. There are a few things I miss, but one thing I
don’t
miss is everyone staring at me angrily because my mother has had yet another affair with a husband who doesn’t belong to her.” She shoved her hair out of her eyes and finished her drink. Anger, frustration and misery radiated from her and when she scrunched the empty can in her fist her knuckles were white. “At least in Manhattan there are a couple of men my mother hasn’t had sex with. Although there is officially one fewer than yesterday.”

“Again?” Finally Paige understood the reason her friend was so brittle. “She texted you?”

“Only when I didn’t answer her fourteen calls.” Frankie shrugged. “You were asking why I wasn’t in the mood for breakfast, Ev—apparently he was twenty-eight and banged like a barn door in a gale force wind. The level of detail kind of put me off my food.” Her flippant tone did nothing to disguise how upset she was, and Paige slid her arm through Frankie’s.

“It won’t last.”

“Of course it won’t last. My mother’s relationships never last. But in the time she’s with him she’ll manage to strip him of a significant quantity of his assets. Don’t feel sorry for him. I blame him as much as her. Why can’t men keep it zipped? Why don’t they ever say no?”

“Plenty of guys say no.” Paige thought about her own parents and their long happy marriage.

“Not the ones my mother hooks. My biggest dread is that one day I’m going to meet one of them at an event. Can you imagine that? Maybe I should change my name.”

“You’re never going to bump into them. New York City is a crowded place.”

Eva took Frankie’s other arm. “One day she is going to fall in love, and all this will stop.”

“Oh please! Even you can’t romanticize this situation. Love has nothing to do with it,” Frankie said. “Men are my mother’s job. Her income. She is the CEO of the BMD corporation, otherwise known as Bleed Men Dry.”

Eva sighed. “She’s very troubled.”

“Troubled?” Frankie stopped dead. “Ev, my mother left troubled behind five stops ago. Can we talk about something else? I should never have mentioned it. It’s a guaranteed way to ruin my day and it isn’t as if it hasn’t happened before. Living in New York has many advantages, but being able to avoid my mother most of the time is the biggest one.”

Paige thought for the millionth time how lucky she was with her parents. True, they worried and fussed a bit too much, which drove her insane, but compared to Frankie’s mother they were wonderfully normal. “Living in New York is the best thing that ever happened to any of us. How did we survive without Bloomingdale’s and the Magnolia Bakery?”

“Or feeding the ducks in Central Park,” Eva said wistfully. “That’s my favorite thing. I used to do it with my grandmother every weekend.”

Frankie’s gaze softened. “You miss her horribly, don’t you?”

“I’m doing okay.” Eva’s smile dimmed a little. “Good days and bad days. It’s not as bad as it was a year ago. She was ninety-three so I can hardly complain, can I? It’s just that it feels weird not having her around. She was the one constant in my life and now she’s gone. And I have no one. I’m not connected to anyone.”

“You’re connected to us,” Paige said. “We’re your family. We should go out this weekend. Shopping? We could hit the makeup counter at Saks Fifth Avenue and then go dancing.”

“Dancing? I
love
dancing.” Eva wiggled her hips provocatively and almost caused another pileup.

Frankie urged her forward. “There aren’t enough gel inserts in the world to cope with shopping and dancing in the same trip. And Saturday night is movie night. I vote for a horror fest.”

Eva recoiled. “No way. I’d be awake all night.”

“It wouldn’t get my vote, either.” Paige pulled a face. “Maybe Matt would let us have chick flick night to celebrate my promotion.”

“No chance.” Frankie straightened her glasses. “Your brother would jump off his own roof before he agreed to chick flick night. Thank goodness.”

Eva shrugged. “How about going out tonight instead of Saturday? I’m never going to meet someone if I don’t go out.”

“People don’t come to New York to meet someone. They come for the culture, the experience, the money—the list is long, but meeting the man you’re going to marry isn’t on it.”

“So why did you come here?”

“Because I needed to live somewhere big and anonymous and my best friends were here. And I love certain parts of it,” Frankie conceded. “I love The High Line, the Botanical Gardens and our secret little corner of Brooklyn. I love our brownstone and I will be forever grateful to your brother for letting us rent the place from him.”

“Did you hear that?” Eva nudged Paige. “Frankie said something positive about a man.”

“Matt is one of the few decent men on the planet. He’s a friend, that’s all. I happen to enjoy being single. What’s wrong with that?” Frankie’s tone was cool. “I am self-sufficient and proud of it. I make my own money and I answer to no one. Being single is a choice, not a disease.”

“And my choice would be to not be single. That’s not wrong either, so don’t lecture me. I can’t help feeling a little despondent that the condom in my purse has passed its expiry date.” Eva tucked a wayward blond curl behind her ear and skillfully steered the conversation away from relationships. “I
love
summer. Sundresses, flip-flops, Shakespeare in the Park, sailing on the Hudson, long evenings up on our roof terrace. I still can’t believe your brother built that. He’s so damn smart.”

Paige didn’t disagree.

Older by eight years, her brother had left their island home long before she had. He’d chosen to start his landscape architecture business right here in New York City and now that business was thriving.

“The roof garden is heaven.” Frankie increased her pace. “What happened to that big piece of business in Midtown? Did that come off for him?”

“Still waiting to hear, but his company is doing well.”

And now it was her turn.

Her promotion was the next step in her life plan. It would also hopefully be another step to curing her family’s tendency to be overprotective.

Born with a heart defect, Paige’s childhood had been a raft of hospital visits, doctors and loving parents who had struggled to hide their anxiety. Growing up, she’d felt disempowered. The day she’d left hospital after what everyone hoped was her last operation, she’d vowed to change that. Fortunately, apart from the occasional routine health check, she was free from constant medical intervention and was fine now. She knew she was one of the lucky ones and she was determined to make the most of every day. The only way to do that had been to move away from Puffin Island and so that was what she’d done.

BOOK: Sleepless in Manhattan
13.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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