Authors: Ruthie Knox
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Loveswept eBook Original
Copyright © 2013 by Ruth Homrighaus
Roman Holiday 1: Chained
by Ruthie Knox copyright © 2013 by Ruth Homrighaus.
Flirting with Disaster
by Ruthie Knox copyright © 2013 by Ruth Homrighaus.
About Last Night
by Ruthie Knox copyright © 2012 by Ruth Homrighaus.
All Rights Reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
is a registered trademark and the L
colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.
was originally serialized in its entirety on Wattpad between September 3, 2013 and November 4, 2013.
eBook ISBN 978-0-345-54526-8
Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi
Cover photograph: Deborah Jaffe/Getty Images
He wasn’t the kind of guy a woman wanted to pin her hopes and dreams on.
Not that May knew the man sitting all the way down at the other end of the bar. She didn’t. But she didn’t have to know him to understand that he was a bad bet. He’d walked in with his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his black hoodie, taken one look at her, and planted himself on a stool as far away from her as possible.
Not very friendly.
And there were other clues. The scowl, for one. He couldn’t be out of his thirties, but his full lips turned down decisively at the corners, the lines bracketing his mouth so deeply grooved that it seemed obvious he made a habit of disapproval. His three-day stubble said he didn’t care how he looked because he’d prefer it if no one was looking.
Or maybe his stubble didn’t carry secret messages. Some guys hated to shave. He could be too busy. It was possible he had a beautiful heart, and he would light up and beam as soon as someone gave him a reason to. She’d known people like that.
May doubted it, though. When she’d tried to catch his eye, venturing a friendly smile in his direction, he’d pulled a paperback book out of his back pocket and propped an elbow on the bar between them.
Do not disturb
, that elbow said.
And also, just possibly,
I am a dick
He’d ordered two beers. He was probably here to meet someone, and she was probably being oversensitive and judgmental because she was tired and mixed up, her craving for companionship outweighing her common sense.
So, fine. She’d give him his space. She wasn’t the type to impose. Well-behaved girls from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, didn’t approach men in New York City bars and ask them for help anyway—not if they had better options. If she’d somehow randomly lost half her leg on her way to the bar, she would be justified in penetrating his bubble of isolation.
I’m not sure if you noticed
, she would say,
but I seem to have a problem with my leg
Short of that … well, short of that, she sat here trying to be invisible. Which was difficult when you were five foot, eleven-and-three-quarters inches and had some meat on your bones.
Difficult, but necessary.
She nursed the last inch of warm lager in her pint glass and avoided looking at the bartender. If she looked at him he might ask if she wanted another drink, and if he did
, she would have to say no.
Which would make it perfectly obvious to all three of the people in the bar that she should be moving along.
The bartender might even ask her to go, because they did that if you hung around too long in New York. In Manhattan, loitering was a real
, as opposed to just an accusation leveled against teenagers who looked like they might be thinking about ripping off junk food and porno from the Quik Stop.
May was loitering.
She had no money.
She had nowhere else to go.
It was true that she could retrace her path, rewalk the blocks she’d journeyed in a daze, and ask the front desk to buzz her back into Dan’s apartment.
, she’d tell them.
I lost my keys. But you know me, right? You’ve seen me with my boyfriend. Can you let me in?
A totally manageable series of white lies. In fact, she hadn’t lost her keys, but it was true that she didn’t
them. They’d been stolen, along with her purse and the rest of its contents.
And really Dan wasn’t her boyfriend anymore, but even Dan didn’t seem to accept that yet—although he might change his mind when he came home from his emergency strategy session and found her gone.
It wasn’t too late to take back the note she’d left. She could walk into his empty apartment and pull the paper off the fridge, stuff it in the garbage can under the sink. She could pretend when Dan returned that none of this had happened, and she could talk to him tonight—really
to him—about what she’d done at the luncheon yesterday.
She could find something to say to him other than
I don’t think this is working
I don’t want to be with you anymore
I want to go home
Not home to Dan’s apartment nearby or his Mansion of Ostentatiousness in New Jersey, where she’d been living with him for the past six weeks. Home to Wisconsin.
Dan had made it clear that he didn’t want her to leave. He believed they could still fix
their relationship. The You Tube video documenting the entire public embarrassment had already drawn more than a million views, but even though his agent and his coaches and a good chunk of the sports fans in the greater New York metropolitan area hated her, Dan was willing to put it all behind them.
All May had to do was tell him what he’d done wrong and how he could fix it.
But she didn’t want to have to tell him. He should know. And the fact that he didn’t meant there was no way he could fix it.
When he’d proposed to her yesterday, everything about it had been wrong.
. The bright lights that made him sweat onstage in his tuxedo, the crowd of witnesses at the breast cancer luncheon where he was supposed to be giving a fund-raising speech, the fact that he’d been nervous and had braced his courage with beer—way too much beer—and worst of all the things he’d said.
Then I met May, and she changed my life
She was different, you know? No makeup, no fancy clothes, no fancy anything. Just as plain as you see her now
She was this nice, pure, innocent girl from Manitowoc … one hundred percent patient with me
I asked her out, and she said yes, and I thought, you know
, Don’t mess this up, Einarsson.
When Coach met her later, he said the same thing. “She’ll keep your head screwed on straight.”
One date had turned into two, then three. He’d courted her for three months before he kissed her—because, he said, he had so much respect for her.
How amazing that had been. Ordinary May, being pursued by the Packers’ bad-boy second-string quarterback. Being
by him. And from the very beginning, she’d kept his head screwed on straight.
Oh, she was an idiot.
A plain, unremarkable sort of idiot, standing on a stage where she didn’t belong, wearing shoes that hurt her feet and loathsome Spanx that left a red line of shame on her belly when she finally peeled herself out of them.
Unsexy. Uninteresting. Steady. That’s what Dan saw when he looked at her. He loved her for being mind-numbingly
It’s been four years since I met May
, he’d said.
I left all my old ways behind. I quit
thinking about sex and started focusing on the one thing that matters to me most
Her heart had tripped then.
, she’d thought, with encroaching dread.
Please, please, don’t make it worse
But he had. He’d told three hundred strangers that the one thing that mattered to him most was—wait for it—
And something had happened to her.
The diamond in Dan’s hand flashed under the stage lights, so bright it made her eyes hurt. So bright it set surreptitious shards of fierceness ablaze in her. Her toes had curled inside the sexy shoes she’d bought for this special occasion. Her calves had bunched beneath her silk stockings. Her stomach had tensed below its corset-by-another-name.
She’d felt so bad, it was almost good.
And that moment—those seconds—had drawn a line across her life, dividing it into Before and After.
She didn’t want to remember all the lurid details: the shouts, the camera flashes going off as Dan inspected his injured hand in shock. How placid and far away she’d felt afterward as Dan’s agent rushed them offstage and shuffled them, not to New Jersey, where they actually lived, but to Dan’s Manhattan apartment, where they were instructed to hole up and keep their mouths shut.
She was still angry, but her anger had gone underground and turned into a sort of muffled restlessness. A buried, insistent
that made it hard for her to sit still, to do as she was told, to listen to Dan reassuring her that she was being hasty, that it wasn’t over, that everything would work out.
He’d left for a meeting with the team’s PR people, and she’d written him a note, grabbed her purse, and run.
Her plan was to get to Newark Airport, change her ticket, and fly home. But she hadn’t gotten that far, because the lobby had been full of flashbulbs and shouting, and a man dressed like a security guard had grabbed her by the arm, led her to a side entrance of the building, and—just when she was feeling relieved to have escaped—plucked her purse off her shoulder and run.