Reviews&Rosé: Cynthia Eden – Broken

Okay, I know I’m late to the game with Cynthia Eden (boo, hiss) I know, I know – clearly after reading Broken I now know I was only hurting myself. Because damn this one blew me away. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting but the emotional roller coaster throughout the entire novel was not it. A lovely surprise, I might add.

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Gabe, founder of LOST, is clearly a dreamboat whose sole purpose is to help people after experiencing what is clearly his own nightmares. We didn’t dive too deep into Dean and Wade but I would put money on it that they are also in their own boats, made of dreams, probably tethered together because romance authors just love to create emotional attachments for their readers to fictional characters. Who needs a real boyfriend when we have Gabe Spencer!?

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I loved the character development of Eve–Eden really had me on the edge of my seat as she learned and grew from a scared homeless girl who didn’t know her own name, to a strong, confident heroin. As her story continued and I can honestly say I was stumped with a whodunit until the very end.

The secondary characters had me fascinated–I love a strong female character and Sarah and Victoria fit the bill. Both carried an air of sadness that tugged at my heart-strings but with a collaborative goal at LOST, their badassness showed as they faced danger for a girl who couldn’t remember anything from her past.

The story between Eve and Gabe was a classic one but who doesn’t love one of those–girl in trouble, boy saves girl, girl becomes a strong, independent woman (hell yeah!), love has blossomed and I’m left at the end of the book sad that its over. Where is my wine?

Even though the story had a lot of lust and love and intimacy (which, come on–swoon), it was the suspense and mystery that had me needing to find out what was going to happen next. The story around who it could be was so well done, I tip my hat to Eden and her story-telling.

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I always love a good series, but rarely do I pick up the next book on the same day. *Opens up Twisted… oh, hi Dean 

Warm Wishes & Happy Reading! 

J Woods signature xo

 

 

 

More Than a Slave by Anaelle Gadeyne REVIEW

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Alexander Anderson has a reputation that would strike fear into the heart of the devil himself. And now, Aria Starbird is his property.

Aria has spent only a few months as a lowly slave, but already her happy childhood memories were starting to fade under the weight of her brutal existence.
When she is sold to Lord Anderson at an auction, she cannot help but be afraid. Lord Anderson is known for his cruelty. He is fiendish and handsome and as wicked as he is wealthy.

However, as she gets to know her new master, she realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. Over time, she is able to penetrate his tough exterior, and begins to understand the struggle of a man who believes love is a weakness, but whose heart is now yearning for something unknown.

As the two let down their walls and discover each other’s truths, will Aria be able to tame Alexander’s inner-beast?

More Than A Slave

REVIEW: 

I am a big fan of historical romance novels and this one definitely fits the bill. This was my first time reading Anaelle Gadeyne and her ability to draw the reader into the story is incredible.

Her visualization through description was amazing and at times I felt like I was actually there. I will say that there is a lot of violence and brutality in this novel, a lot of the times making me wince however I can understand that it was there to set the scene for the story. I loved the romance between Aria and Alexander how it grew from a lashing in the square into something beautiful. I loved the growth and change of each character through the strength of Aria Starbird and her sharp tongue. Her entire story broke my heart but it was her feminine pride and backbone of steel that I truly admired. I also really enjoyed the little snippets we got to see of the secondary characters and their romances as well, it really complimented the story line.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I was pulled in from the very beginning. I was a little disappointed with how it ended simply because it was a little abrupt and I wanted to know more about Aria and Alexander’s happily ever after.

I laughed and I certainly cried (a few times) the emotions in this novel are very real and Gadeyne had me feeling all of the feels.

 

Where to find Anaelle Gadeyne: 

Goodreads

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Spectra by Ebony Olsen – Review

BOOK DESCRIPTION: 

One touch of Spectra’s fingers leaves the predator Bay craving more.

Spectra is a Balance; a decedent of angels whose soul has been intertwined with that of sorcerer Alexander, although her heart belongs to Mercury, the son of an archangel.
Bay is a predator de Sang and sorcerer, who runs his own private security company, fighting the purist organization Essence. Seeking out Spectra for her special abilities the last thing he expected to find was a Balance strong enough to withstand his potent energy. With her heart and soul already claimed, could there be room for another in her life?

When Bay’s infatuations bring Spectra to the attention of Essence and put her life at risk, he must learn that sometimes sacrificing the ones you love is the only way to save them.

Spectra

REVIEW:

I love a novel that allows the reader to see a glimpse into the author’s mind blowing imagination and Spectra did exactly that.
This novel involves two of my favourite things, paranormal and romance. With sorcerers and magic, angels and ghosts I found it difficult to put this book down.
This was the first time I’d read Ebony Olsen and I was impressed with the story overall as well as the development of the characters. I enjoyed the different points of view, an essential part I felt to this novel. I especially liked the secondary characters and their story lines – Calin and his wives (especially Gina – love Gina!), Luke and his son, and the taboo drama that encircled them.
I enjoyed how Spectra was a strong female lead – in the beginning I wasn’t so sure given her relationship with Alexander but as her story continued to develop she turned out to be the heroin I wanted her to be. While I wanted there to be a bit more of an elaboration when it came to Spectra and some of her past as well as her current relationships, I found that overall the story was intense and passionate and I loved the non-traditional relationships that made up this book.
I found myself immediately drawn into this paranormal world that Olsen has created – curiosity, heartbreak, lust, love, secrecy – all an integral part of Spectra.
A great paranormal, an easy read, a magical (pun intended) story.

 

Where to find Ebony Olsen: 

Goodreads

Twitter

ebonyolson.com

Amazon

Reaper’s Claim by Simone Elise

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In my motorcycle club I’ve earned the name ‘Reaper’ and now I have my claim on Abby Harrison.

Reaper:
I didn’t know what love was, but I knew what want was, and I wanted Abby. When I walked out of the club and saw her I was stone cold sober. She was quietly beautiful and unlike any other woman I’d had before. But she was the daughter of the president of Satan’s Sons MC and completely out of my reach.

Abby:
Everyone knew The Reaper and how he got his name, so I never expected him to be my salvation when my sisters drunk boyfriend wanted to lay hands on me. I thought my innocence would be lost in that alley, until he showed up and saved me. I know being with Reaper will lead to trouble, but I don’t know if I have the strength to stay away.

Being together might be dangerous, but outlaws are meant to break the rules.

Reaper's Claim

REVIEW:

A slew of leather vests, tattoos, an MC and a fight for love… Give me a motorcycle club romance and I am a smitten kitten.

I was immediately pulled into this novel, the first I’ve read by Simone Elise. The author did a great job of drawing the readers attention instantly and I was hooked. This novel definitely has the bones of a well thought out motorcycle club romance and I found myself not being able to put it down. I was surprised at the length originally and I found that there were parts the author could have omitted but all in all I really enjoyed the overall story. I found myself yelling at my iPad a few times and felt my heart break along with the smiles and joy throughout this emotional roller coaster.

I loved the star-crossed lovers story and the way Kade and Abby’s romance started out made me fall in love with the characters even more. Kade is one sexy biker and Abby is a gorgeous ball of sass and together they are explosive in the best kind of way. The secondary characters were just as frustrating and charming – Kim, Roach Trigger and Brad. Ah, Brad, the sweetest, rough and tough biker had me swooning. That explosiveness turns into danger and I enjoyed how Elise merged the two into a riveting story line.

I will tell you that I was so shocked that I couldn’t turn any more pages and the cliffhanger Simone Elise leaves you with is maddening in the best way. I will be waiting for the next novel… in the meantime, I’m off to find me a Reaper.

Where to find Seline Elise: 

Goodreads

Twitter

Wattpad 

Inkitt

Amazon

Nuts by Alice Clayton -REVIEW

BOOK DESCRIPTION: 

From New York Times bestselling author Alice Clayton, the first in a brand-new romance series telling the humorously sexy tale of Roxie, a private chef who gets a taste of love—but is it to stay, or to go?

After losing almost all of her clients in one fell swoop following an accident involving whipped cream, private chef to Hollywood’s elite Roxie Callahan gets a call from her flighty mother, saying she’s needed home in upstate New York to run the family diner. Once she’s back in the Hudson Valley, local organic farmer Leo delivers Roxie a lovely bunch of walnuts, and soon sparks—and clothing—begin to fly. Leo believes that everything worth doing is worth doing slowly… and how! But will Roxie stay upstate, or will the lure of West Coast redemption tempt her back to Tinseltown?

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REVIEW:

I know I’m going to get a great read if I pick up an Alice Clayton novel and this one didn’t disappoint. I finished this book in less than two days and couldn’t put it down.
I loved the story between Roxie and her sexy farmer Leo and had me wondering if I should take a drive down to Bailey Falls for my own rugged farmer and a jar of zombie pickles.
I love the relationship between Roxie and her hippie mom and the obstacles that define their relationship and the reason Roxie has to return home in the first place.
Clayton writes in a way where you can feel the passion the Roxie has for her food and her man; its a heart-warming story that is relateable and steamy and a wonderful, fun, easy summer read.
Even as a standalone, I thought the next novel was set up subtly and smoothly and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!
Cheers Ms. Clayton, you did it again!

STALKING ENCOURAGED:

http://aliceclayton.com/

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Denai Bound (book 2) by Tiffany Shand- REVIEW

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Denai witch, Cate McCray should be enjoying married life with her new elemental husband, Jason. But their arrival in a new city soon has them stumbling headlong into a new case with dangerous connections to the very people that govern their world. Cate and Jason face opposition from those they once considered allies. Together with their team of enforcers, they must find the killer before anyone else dies. With danger from all sides and the threat of ancient, dangerous magic the team must pull together and use all their strength to find their enemy before disaster strikes.

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REVIEW:

Denai Bound I thought was just as good as the first novel in this series.
The way Shand writes in the paranormal sense is incredible and draws you into the story and into a world I could only wish to experience!
I was pulled into the story almost immediately; there was a seamless flow from the first book to the second that didn’t have me asking questions or confused about what may have happened in between. I love romance but I also love paranormal in all genres and I thought there was a nice balance between the two in this book.
I always love how strong Cate is and the relationship between her and Jason. A strong female lead is the be all end all for me and this story had a strong heroin to lead it. I enjoyed getting to know some of the other characters like Jade, Steve and Ian and read how their relationships were starting to build along with how Cate was learning to manage all of the power, both magic and responsibility with her title of GM and Enforcer. I also really liked the the progression of the enemy in this story (not to name names and give anything away!) however I found my emotions evoked with each encounter. Shand did a wonderful job with the mystery behind the evil in this story and really had me guessing as to who could possibly be behind chaos.
Overall I really enjoyed this story – if you’re looking for a magical, suspenseful, romantical, summer read – Denai Bound is the one for you.
*I would definitely recommend that you read Denai Touch (the first in the series) first*

 

Where to find Tiffany Shand:

Goodreads

Twitter

tiffanyshand.com

Amazon

SWIPE RIGHT – THE CHRONICLES OF AN UNPAID PROSTITUTE – Chapter Twenty Four + Epilogue

*read all of the chapters for Swipe Right – The Chronicles of an Unpaid Prostitute in order here

Chapter Twenty Four

 

He pulled back, holding my upper arms. He cleared his throat, looking uncomfortable. I suddenly felt the heat of embarrassment; that was clearly not what he wanted. “Maddie…”

“Oh my god, I’m sorry. I just thought… oh god.” I turned and ran away, hearing him calling after me. I’d just made a pass at one of my clients and it was quite clear he didn’t feel the same.

Running into the woman’s bathroom, I felt tears on my face. What the hell was I doing? How did I get here? I placed both hands on the counter and hung my head, just breathing. After ten minutes, the bathroom door opened and Ben walked in. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Why are you always running away from me? Am I that scary?”

“No, Ben, I’m so sorry. I’m so embarrassed. I shouldn’t have done that. I just… I don’t know, I’ve developed some sort of weird crush on you and I clearly took it way too far.”

He leaned against the wall and folded his arms across his chest. “Well, I can’t say that I’m not flattered.” He paused and I could see him sorting through his thoughts. “But the thing is, I’m gay.”

I felt it. The upheaval then the drop of my stomach. Well that was unexpected. “What?”

“I’m gay, Maddie.”

I dropped my head against the mirror with a loud moan. “What the hell? But you’re always with different women.”

“Different women who are business associates.”

“But my grandmother told me that her friend Marg’s grandson was single and living in San Francisco and that we should hook up.”

“Well, I am single and living in San Francisco and we should hook up, for like shopping or grabbing a coffee. I think I’m a pretty fun guy. And I’m an awesome fucking friend.”

I stared at him before laughing. I’d never heard him swear before, he’d always been so stuffy, so proper. “Can we go get drunk?”

“Yes!” He took my hand and we walked back toward the party. “You know I do have a brother.”

“Is he gay too?”

“No, he is very heterosexual.”

“Ah, as tempting as that promo sounds, I think I need to take a step back from the non-dating, dating world.”

“Yeah, revenge fucks get old real quick.”

“How did you know?”

“You’re pretty easy to read,” he told me with a wink.

“You’re right, they do. My grandmother called me a prostitute tonight.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Are you at least getting paid?”

I sighed. “No. If anything I’m losing money.” We both started laughing at the ridiculous state I found myself in.

“And it wasn’t a new campaign I wanted to talk to you about.”

“No?”

“No. I wanted to run an idea past you. I want to open up a firm, and if you’re willing, I want it to be yours. You run it, it’s your name on the sign, and it’s your baby.”

“What? But I’m just starting out.” I felt all my dreams colliding together as I stared at him.

“No you’re not. You’ve been sitting in a cubicle for three years with other people taking credit for your work. I’ve been paying attention which is why I specifically asked for you to take my campaign. You’re too good to be stuck behind someone else’s name, Maddie. You’d be surprised how much weight your name carries in the marketing world.”

 

Epilogue

 

A year later, I was emptying one of the last boxes in my new office of my new company, the one that had my name on the door. Ben had become one of my best friends, my very gay best friend, and he was a person I relied on in my daily life. I was meeting up with all of my friends tonight to celebrate and Ben asked if he could bring someone, there was no other answer than yes. Especially because I was very curious who this new man friend of his was. Oh la la.

For the first time in a long time, I felt independent. I didn’t need to have sex with a stranger in order to validate myself in some ass backward way. I was comfortable being alone because I finally knew my self-worth. If a man didn’t want to take me out on a date, a real date without sending a dick pic or taking me to a sex club or asking me for money or was on parole, then I didn’t need them. I wanted to let it happen organically so I closed all of my dating site accounts. Maybe in six months I would try again, but right now I was okay without the one night stands.

Laughing over drinks, the girls and I were waiting for Ben to show. In a non-business setting, the man was consistently fashionably late. When he finally arrived, silent looks were exchanged around the table as they approached. Dayum, the man friend was fine. “Maddie, ladies, this is my brother, Corey.” Ah, the resemblance now made sense.

Reaching out his hand, I gripped it with mine. “Nice to meet you, Maddie. I’ve heard a lot about you.” I heard the suggestive noise Lisa made from beside me as she sipped her drink. I pretended to ignore her.

I felt my smile, the warmth that was these people as they surrounded me while we drank and laughed and celebrated.

Ben, who placed another drink in front of me (like I needed another), wrapped an arm around my shoulders as he leaned in to whisper in my ear. “Not gay.”

“Got it, thank you so much.” I rolled my eyes at him and shoved him away.

“Very single,” he mouthed as he took at seat across from me.

“Ben’s told me that you just moved into your new office.” I turned to Corey whose attention was solely on me. He continued to ask me questions and it was a conversation that was interesting and intriguing. He was asking questions that no other guy had ever asked me before; he asked about my family, what I liked to do. He was so attentive. It was the first conversation I’d had in a long time in a casual setting where the man wasn’t acting like he wanted to immediately take me home to bed. Besides Ben, that was. Because he liked the p just as much as I did. I found out more about Ben’s brother, that he lived right here in San Francisco, and I’d never seen this fine piece of man meat, and that he owned his own consulting firm. I wondered then, if this was the grandson Marg wanted to set me up with.

I looked around at my friends who were all happy and laughing, most of them now relationships, and I knew that I wasn’t the same girl I was a year ago. I didn’t feel some misplaced need that if my friends were in a relationship, I had to fuck my way into one too. If a man wanted to take me out, I wanted to know it was going to be worth it. I wanted to try the friends before lover’s thing; I wanted conversation and romance and wooing and hearts and flowers and everything in between.

As the night came to a close, the fantastic four were left – me, Jamie, Ben and his sexy brother Corey. Jamie and I stood on the sidewalk hailing a taxi while we said our goodnights. As the yellow car pulled up, Corey opened the door, like a fucking gentleman. Jamie climbed in before me; I felt his strong had on my wrist as I moved to follow her. “Let me take you out for dinner.”

I smiled. “Like a date?”

His grin did something to my lady parts. “Yeah, like a date.” A real date! I felt butterflies and as much as I wanted to jump at the opportunity and tell him yes, then ask why he was still clothed and point to the dark alley behind us, I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t that same girl anymore. Ben’s brother was different, a good, delicious, sexy different. But so was I. “Maybe.”

The End

I hope you enjoyed reading about Maddie and her shenanigans as much as I loved writing about them. If you take away anything from this online book, I hope its that its better to be safe than sorry – wrap it up.

My deepest gratitude & Warm Wishes.

J.

SWIPE RIGHT – THE CHRONICLES OF AN UNPAID PROSTITUTE – Chapter Twenty Three

*read all of the chapters for Swipe Right – The Chronicles of an Unpaid Prostitute in order here

Chapter Twenty Three

 

There were so many people at the party. The DJ was playing music and people were dancing. It wasn’t a typical early bird special, senior citizen party, no sir, Mimi and her friend liked to dance and they liked to drink. Music was bumping, drinks were flowing, food was being served. It was the perfect way to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday.

I took a glass of pink champagne on my way in with eyes on the food table. Mimi stayed behind with her friend Marg so they could make an entrance. A girl always needed to make an entrance. There was a round of loud cat calls and cheers when they finally walked in – queens, both of them.

Guests immediately gravitated toward the dance floor. I watched with fondness from the sidelines. “I think she’s enjoying herself,” my mom mused as she sidled up next to me.

“Me too, good job on the party mom.” A man approached us with a broad smile. He was about my mom’s age, give or take a few years. They seemed familiar, comfortable, some twinkle in both of their eyes as he asked her to dance. And wouldn’t you know, she actually looked flustered. My mom had a crush. I leaned in, “Go, Mom. Dance, have fun.” And as I was left standing alone, I could almost see the spotlight on the bar.

“Fancy meeting you here.”

I whipped around at the familiar voice behind me. “What the hell are you doing here?”

He laughed. “Nice to see you too.”

“Your level of stalking is starting to become alarming.”

“Oh Maddie! There you are. Marg wanted to introduce you to her grandson,” Mimi almost shouted from across the room. Her and Marg with champagne glasses in hand, arm in arm came walking over.

“Oh! You two have already met, how wonderful.”

“Ben is your grandson?” I asked, almost outraged.

“Mimi is your grandmother?”

“Wait, you two know each other?” Mimi and Marg asked at the same time.

“Yes, we know each other.”

“Ben, doesn’t she look beautiful.” I immediately felt my face flame. I downed the rest of my champagne in one sip. Oh god. “Ask her to dance.” This is what it felt like. This was what utter mortification felt like.

Ben, bless him, took me out on the dancefloor and placed his hands on my hips as I wrapped mine around his neck. Damn, the man smelled so good. “You do look beautiful, by the way.”

I smiled up at him, “Thanks.” The rest of the song was silent, and when it ended I, for some insane moment, decided I was feeling brave. I was an idiot. “Do you want to go talk somewhere more quiet?”

“Sure.” He grabbed us both a glass of champagne and I slipped my arm through his. He ushered me out on to one of the balconies. It was a now or never moment and I felt the butterflies. Ben was the perfect guy. He was handsome, successful, nice.

“You had mentioned that you wanted to talk to me about another campaign?” I’d made sure to touch his arm, all the little tricks I’d learned over the past few months.

He laughed. “You know, we don’t need to talk about business all the time.”

“Fair enough.”

He held up his glass, “Cheers.” I clinked my glass against his and took the plunge. I leaned in and kissed Ben Davis.

*tomorrow – Chapter Twenty Four

SWIPE RIGHT – THE CHRONICLES OF AN UNPAID PROSTITUTE – Chapter Twenty Two

*read all of the chapters for Swipe Right – The Chronicles of an Unpaid Prostitute in order here

Chapter Twenty Two

 

I was summoned to help my mom decorate the hall. I’d been informed when she’d picked me up from the airport yesterday that it was a double birthday party; Mimi and her friend Marg’s birthdays were a day apart and they were both turning the big 8-0.

I was drowning in silver balloons as I shoved them out of my face, pulling them from my mom’s little car and dragging them into the hall. There were old photos of my grandmother everywhere; photos of her and my grandfather, they looked so in love, photos of Mimi and Marg. My grandmother was currently at the salon getting her hair and makeup done; she’d blown the lid on her own party. No one could keep secrets from Mimi, it was a known fact. I don’t know how she found out, probably from the neighbors, cousin’s paperboy or something.

“Come on, the hall will do everything else,” my mom said, grabbing my elbow and dragging me outside. “I scheduled time for us to meet Mimi at the salon and get a blow out.” I wasn’t going to argue, this hair needed some love.

Mimi sat in her chair like a royal queen, her nails, hair and makeup being tended to. By different people. I was ushered into a chair and explained that I just wanted to wear my hair down. My mom sat in the chair beside me. We listened to Mimi tell the entire salon about her friendship with Marg, how they’d been friends for over forty years and lost touch then found each other again. “Marg was the one whose grandson lives in San Francisco,” she said, pointedly at me.

“Oh great, the successful business man, right.”

“I think he’s coming to the party you know, you can finally meet him.” Oh lord, this would be interesting. I couldn’t even refuse, it was Mimi’s birthday and what she said was the final word.

 

I’d changed into a tight black dress. I walked down the stairs and felt my mom’s eyes on me. Judging.

“This is a new look for you,” she mused. It was. When I was with Aaron, I would take to cardigans and button downs. Now, I felt comfortable in my body and felt better wearing tighter clothes that showed off curves I was proud of. Yes, it gained more attention and if I was honest, this was a dress that was one of my more modest outfits from my recent closet overhaul.

“It’s nice, looks good on you,” Mimi said, walking out of the kitchen. “You know I knew this girl when I was about twenty, she was just the nicest person and I would stop and talk to her when I was on my way to my job. One night I saw her and she was all dressed up wearing a dress exactly like that. I asked her where she was going and she told me she was working – she was a prostitute.”

“Mimi!”

“To like rich men, she had standards, no judgement,” she implored holding her hands up, “all God’s children.” She looked me up and down. “Does it come in my size?”

“Did she just call me a prostitute?” I asked my mom who had her hand over her mouth, stifling her laughter.

“Yes, but the way I interpreted it was that you look like a prostitute who has high standards, not one of those hood rat prostitutes, you know? One that buys Chanel and drives a Mercedes.”

“Oh my god.” I turned and moved for the front door. “Can we go?”

*tomorrow – Chapter Twenty Three

SWIPE RIGHT – THE CHRONICLES OF AN UNPAID PROSTITUTE – Chapter Twenty

*read all of the chapters for Swipe Right – The Chronicles of an Unpaid Prostitute in order here

Chapter Twenty

 

My Saturday night was dedicated to angry sex with the stranger I’d met at the bar around the corner from my apartment. The bar I’d gone to alone. I was on a mission and tonight, of all nights, all of my girls were busy and I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit at home by myself. We didn’t need to relive last night. So tonight, I was that girl. I couldn’t remember his name, Justin, Derek, something like that. He had a messy apartment; it stunk like a frat house and dirty clothes lay in the corner of his bedroom. He was snoring blissfully beside me. Me? I was empty. Everything about me was empty. Even the orgasm I’d just faked had been empty. I looked to my left at a nightstand that didn’t belong to me and there it sat, empty. How did I get here? When had I become this person?

I needed to leave. He wouldn’t even notice, the sounds coming from him were ones that would rival a freight train. I picked up my things and slipped from his apartment.

Jamie was home when I arrived. “What the fuck are you wearing?”

I looked down at myself, not recognizing the tattered shirt I had on. Shit, did I take this from his apartment? “I don’t know.”

“Where the hell did you get it? Behind a dumpster?”

“Let’s be real,” I told her, my words slightly slurred. “My last memory of this past twenty four hours is a bowl of icing. From yesterday. So I’m not ruling anything out.”

 

Everything felt foreign in my own bed, in my own apartment. I needed to go home. I remembered my mom had sent me an email about Mimi’s birthday party in two weeks. I booked my plane ticket.

At work on Monday, I called Ben’s office and spoke with Val. We’d made plans to grab a drink before I asked for Ben. “He’s unavailable right now, but I’ll let him know you called.” I didn’t know why I felt disappointed. As I hung up the phone, my computer lit up with a new email. My dad was in town and he wanted to meet for lunch. Today.

I met him at a swanky restaurant, one I’d never been to before. He looked good, had lost weight. Had he been tanning? He’d definitely gotten his teeth whitened. And there it started, the midlife crisis stage. I was only waiting for the twenty year old Instagram model with big boobs and blonde hair to walk in and introduce herself as my new step mommy.

“How are you, peanut?” he asked, pulling me in for a bear hug. I’d always felt like I needed to prove myself to my dad. He was an accomplished man and he held his standards higher than anyone I’d ever met. I proceeded to tell him about my latest successful project and some of the new ones my boss had thrown my way since. I’d gushed about my goals for the future and how this campaign and every one following only brought me closer to what I wanted. He’d told me what he’d been up to, how he’d just returned from a vacation in Maui and living the ultimate life as a bachelor. I couldn’t ever see my dad re-marrying. He loved the freedom too much, the ability to take off to faraway lands without needing approval from anyone. He was a wanderer, that was simply who he was. I’d held that against him for too long, I’d realized. He was a man that craved adventure, the ability to hop on a plane and get lost in a foreign land. He was never meant to be a family man, tied down to a wife and a child and a house in the suburbs. As he was showing me his latest tattoo, one that finished the full sleeve he’d started a year ago, I turned at the sound of an overly loud feminine laugh. I felt my eyes widen. God damn, this kid was everywhere. “Shit.”

I watched him do a double take as he recognized me. He guided the overly touchy woman to their table before walking over to ours. I forced a smile as he approached. “Ben, hi. Dad, this is Ben, we worked together on my last project.”

“Nice to meet you, sir. Your daughter is making big waves in the marketing world.” I was taken aback by his compliment.

“Glad to hear it.”

At the same time, our server brought us our bill and I could have kissed her then. I wasn’t sure why I felt weird but I did and I wanted to leave. I knew Ben could feel it too. “Well we’ll let you get back to your lunch, we have to get out of here,” I said to him, throwing cash down on the table before my dad could. I was speaking too fast, why was I speaking so fast?

Ben frowned at me, “Okay.”

“Enjoy.” Enjoy? I rolled my eyes at myself, grabbing my coat.

“We’ll talk later? I have a few things I’d like to run past you.”

“Sure, just have Val call me and we’ll set something up.” I turned my back and moved to follow my dad who was already halfway out the door.

“Maddie.” I closed my eyes; I needed to pull myself together. Really, I just needed this week to be over. It was all too much, too many emotions and I didn’t want to deal with any of it. Seeing Ben with someone else did things to my insides I didn’t want to acknowledge and all I wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed until I could climb on a plane and go see my mom. Letting out a slow breath, I turned around and forced a smile to my face. “Is everything okay?”

“Its fine, Ben. Why?” He was looking into my eyes, searching for something. I’d made sure I was shuttered.

“Just making sure.”

“Go back to your lunch, I don’t want to be the reason you keep your date waiting, we’ll talk later, okay?” Before he could answer, I turned and left.

*tomorrow – Chapter Twenty One