I scowl down at the bowl of soup and the sleeve of crackers on the tray. If I never have to look at another bowl of soup or porridge again I’ll be content.
Getting hit by a car was no picnic but I’m not dying. This food is making me feel like I have one foot in the grave already.
That’s it. I’m going out. They told me that I should take it easy for a few days. They didn’t say anything about treating me like a grandfather or boring me to death.
“Where are you going? You’re supposed to be resting.” Andre asks in Italian, gesturing to the bed.
We usually speak Italian when we’re alone since he’s not concerned about practicing his English. The Italian accent simply adds to his mystique and of course, women love it. Funny how the same people who admire the accent in social situations assume it means you’re less competent in business negotiations.
I sigh. “I’m just going for a walk. I need to stretch my legs.”
“I’ll come with you.”
He looks a little hurt so I run a hand through my hair. It’s not my brother’s fault that his presence inevitably draws a crowd. But I can’t deal with that today.
“You have a lot to do getting ready for the marketing launch. You don’t need to babysit me. I’m just going to stretch my legs. Maybe find us some snacks. I’m sure there must be a shop or grocery close by.”
He looks dubious at the idea. Probably just the idea of buying your own groceries is what’s throwing him off. We are definitely spoiled by the lifestyle we grew up living.
“Okay, just be careful. Do you have your phone?”
“Yes, Mamma. Don’t worry so. I’m a big boy now.”
He scowls. “I would have thought so but then you walked in front of a taxi.”
“Sorry about that. Especially since I pulled you away from the beautiful Mya.”
“That wasn’t going to happen anyway. But going to the agency for marketing meetings should be interesting going forward.”
“You just had to hit on a woman working on the most important launch of our company’s history?”
He’s already walking away but he gives me the finger over his shoulder. I’m still chuckling by the time I change into a pair of jeans and a cashmere sweater from last year’s line. It fits perfectly and is long enough to cover the bandages on my sprained wrist. I need to get out of here before Andre notices I’m wearing something that’s out of season.
Once I’m out of the hotel, I use my phone to search out the closest grocery. Then I use the navigation to point me toward a place called Trader Joe’s. Whenever we plan to spend extended time in a city, I always investigate the best clubs and restaurants but I’ve never really thought about things like groceries before. Living out of a hotel means you don’t have to.
But today, I want to feel normal. I need to be around people and noise and life. As I walk the chatter of the people I pass flows around me. The many different American accents are a fascinating jumble and then there are the occasional foreign accents thrown in. Being the capital, DC always maintains a healthy community of dignitaries and visitors from other countries along with many foreign exchange students. Although I know it’s not Andre’s favorite place, I always love it when we come here.
The entrance to the store is covered in a riot of flowers. The blooms are festive and my mood lifts instantly. Shoppers mill around outside looking at the potted plants and there are even bales of hay strewn around the displays. Before I came to America for the first time I’d imagined meeting cowboys on every corner. The reality wasn’t quite as fun but I can admit to still carrying a bit of fascination for the idea even now.
Following the crowd, I take a little basket just like the woman in front of me. It shouldn’t be that difficult to blend in. I’ll just watch what everyone else does and then follow suit. There are large displays of vegetables set around the open space. It reminds me of the outdoor markets in Europe. The woman I’m following picks up some kind of melon and taps it.
Is that how you’re supposed to choose fruit? I pick up a clump of bananas and tap them before placing them in my basket. This grocery thing isn’t so bad. Next I see a display of large tomatoes. I tap several before choosing one that looks the biggest. A man in the aisle next to me stares as I pick up an orange and tap it.
Am I doing it wrong?
When I turn to observe how everyone else is picking fruits, I bump into the person behind me.
“Sorry, sir. I didn’t see you.”
The sweet voice doesn’t match the devilish face that comes into view when I turn.
“Oh my god. You have got to be kidding me.” Ariana waves the cucumber in her hand at me. “How does this keep happening?”
“I told you already. Fate.”
* * *
What is it with this guy? First in the bar, then in the hospital and now I can’t even manhandle phallic-shaped veggies without him hanging over my shoulder.
He calls it fate. But it’s probably more like karma. The universe seems to be having a good laugh shoving the one guy I might actually want in my face at the exact time in my life that I can’t keep him.
That thought reminds me of the appointment I have coming up that I’ve been ignoring. With a sigh, I place the cucumber I’ve been waving around in my basket before moving on to the peppers.
“I hope you’re making something that tastes better than the bland shit I’ve been eating lately.”
He peers into my basket curiously before I can switch it to the other arm. His wrist still has a splint on it but his long sleeves cover most of it. He looks a little odd wearing a cashmere sweater when it’s so hot outside and his hair definitely hasn’t seen a brush in days but otherwise he looks like a slightly rumpled guy with a perfectly stubbled jaw.
I blow out a breath. The man really is too sexy for his own good. Which means I need to get rid of him. Stat.
“Is this a good orange?” He holds it up and taps the side, putting his ear next to the peel.
“What are you doing?”
“Tapping it. Isn’t that how you do it? I saw a woman tapping her fruit so I thought it was supposed to sound a certain way.”
Holding back a smile, I take the orange from his hand and place it in his basket. “You only tap certain fruits. Usually melons.”
He looks disappointed. “Oh. And I was enjoying it so much.”
As I move to the salad section, I’m acutely aware of him following closely. This can’t really be a coincidence, can it? Seeing him in this many places in DC has to violate all the laws of statistics. But I can’t deny the little flash of pleasure that zipped through me when I saw him. He has a way of grinning that makes me feel it all the way down to my toes. Like seeing me has made his day.
It’s the kind of thing that’s really hard to forget.
When he reaches in the next display case for a single serving of salad, his sleeve moves back revealing the splint. I tell myself that I’m just checking him out in a medical sense, making sure he’s really okay after his accident. When he catches me watching him, his lips curl.
“Keeping a close eye on me, bella?”
“I’m just looking at your wrist. You seem to be healing nicely. That’s good.”
His brow furrows. “That’s it? You aren’t going to ask how I felt about you abandoning me at the hospital?”
“I didn’t abandon you. My shift was over and I had to go.”
“Uh huh. Well, I was very hurt. First you fall asleep on me. Then you abandon me.”
He continues, clearly on a roll now that I can’t escape. “Your continued indifference to my feelings is very hard on me. Almost as hard as wanking with a sprained wrist. That was a real challenge. Thank you for asking.”
“I wasn’t going to ask. I figured you’d manage somehow.”
He shrugs. “Being ambidextrous had to come in handy at some point.”
Not wanting him to see my smile, I move away from the produce and suddenly notice all the people who definitely just heard what he said.
An older lady with her almost white hair styled in a profusion of rigid curls watches us with an open mouth. My face heats.
For the first time in years, I’m feeling something. It’s unfamiliar but I think it might be… embarrassment?
He’s done the impossible. He’s managed to out-crazy me.
Mess with Me / The Mirage Agency
A hilarious twist on How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days about the last single woman in her friend group who meets “Mr. Right” at the “wrong” time.
Happily Ever After is overrated. There I said it.
Call me a buzzkill but after watching all of my friends and roommates succumb to the love virus, I’ve decided to sit this one out. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you’re looking for a ring, then all you attract are one-night stands. Girls who prefer to fly solo, you guessed it – we attract nothing but Mr. Will You Marry Me?
So I’ve been playing a little game to see just how far I can go before I send these guys running for the hills. Until I meet my match. No matter what I do, this guy just keeps showing up. Listening when I vent about work, remembering my fears and being annoyingly present when I don’t want to be alone. And all the crazy stuff I do doesn’t even faze him. In fact, I think he likes it.
Which is a problem when I find out that my Mr. Outrageous has the power to ruin my best friend’s career. So I’m taking the gloves off. It’s time for Operation: Get Rid of Mr. Perfect. If being crazy didn’t get rid of him maybe I have to try the scariest thing of all.
WARNING: This book contains depictions of flying phallic objects, a smart-mouthed heroine, a tiny dog who likes to lick her butt and everyone’s favorite little furry buddy, Edward.
Content Warnings: on page descriptions of parental neglect, emotional abuse, divorce, slut-shaming, cancer, anxiety, depression, billionaires,