“A kiss was all I needed.”
“Looks like you got what you wished for.”
“Yes. About that…”
I was supposed to find a finely dressed businessman, have a one-night stand and forget about my failed relationship. Instead, I meet Tanner Sexton—a gorgeous man in street clothes, messy hair and the sexiest smile I’ve ever seen.
When my ex shows up at the bar, Tanner notices my panic and kisses me just so the prick can see. Then he takes off, leaving me breathless.
So, I do what any rational person would. I chase after him onto the subway, and embark on a wild night in New York City with a complete stranger.
No matter how much I fight it, this mysterious artist painted his soul onto my skin, and I haven’t been able to forget him. Our romance is one for the ages, but age isn’t the only thing standing in our way.
“Are you okay in those?” I motion toward her shoes.
“I’m good now, but I’ll suffer in the morning.” Her lips twist with the words.
I stop and let go of her hand. Her confused expression makes me smile. When she squeals as I lift her off the ground in a cradle hold, I can’t help but let out a laugh. Her hands grip my neck, and when our eyes meet, I wink on instinct.
“I’m fine. I can walk,” she demands.
I just keep walking.
Her arms lace firmer around me as she checks over my shoulder and then looks back up at me. I might be looking forward, but I can feel her stare heating the side of my face.
“Either you’re a gentleman or a serial killer,” she says.
“Lucky for you, I’m neither.”
She groans in my arms as I carry her toward a row of townhomes. There’s a small alley between two, so I turn down it and gently place her on the ground.
Taking her hand again, I head to a stairwell on the side of the building. When we get to the bottom, I knock three times.
A small picture window on the door opens up. A man speaks from the grate, “Who is it?”
“Sapphire,” I reply.
“How many gems did you bring today?” he asks.
“There’s only one rare stone,” I say, giving the rest of the secret phrase, and add, “but I brought a pearl from the shore.”
The door opens, but the man doesn’t present himself. I look back at Harper, who has a bugged-out expression, which I should expect since I’m asking her to enter a strange building with me.
I walk inside, and she follows. We step into a small office with a couch, a desk, and a bookcase. A narrow door is open, showing a bathroom. There’s barely room for more than the three of us in here.
When the outside door is closed behind us, the man is now in full light, and he’s big. No, huge. I haven’t seen this one before. His chest is the size of a barrel, and his head nearly touches the ceiling.
He holds his palm out. “Card.”
I hand him my sepia-colored member card that has four numbers written in red. He holds the card up to a black light to confirm its authenticity.
“You okay?” I ask Harper, who is clutching her bag to her chest.
“Obviously, wherever we’re going is something very secretive and members only. I’m starting to rethink my idea to follow you. Why don’t I carry pepper spray or a machete in my purse?” Her tone is sarcastic yet serious.
She’s funny without even realizing it. I put my card back in my wallet.
“So, what now? He pulls a book from the shelf, and the wall opens?” she jokes.
“That would be cliché,” I say. “We’re going through the bathroom, obviously.”
I laugh. “I’m kidding. It’s absolutely the bookcase.”
The bouncer pulls a gold rose-shaped handle on one of the shelves, and the bookcase pulls out like a door. We walk inside to a bigger room. It’s painted black, but there’s enough light in here to give off an amber hue. Harper is tentative, but she’s still with me.
A woman is standing by a podium with a long red velvet curtain behind her. Jazz music is muffled in the background.
“Good evening, Mr. Sexton. Pleasure to see you again.”
She places a hand on one side of the thick drapery and pulls it over. Inch by inch, the curtain rises, and I keep my eyes on Harper to watch her reaction.
Catch up on the series here!
About the Author:
Lauren Runow is the author of multiple Adult Contemporary Romance novels, some more dirty than others. When Lauren isn’t writing, you’ll find her listening to music, at her local CrossFit, reading, or at the baseball field with her boys. Her only vice is coffee, and she swears it makes her a better mom!
Lauren is a graduate from the Academy of Art in San Francisco and is the founder and co-owner of the community magazine she and her husband publish. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two sons.
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Jeannine Colette is the author of the Abandon Collection – a series of stand-alone novels featuring dynamic heroines who have to abandon their reality in order to discover themselves . . . and love along the way. Each book features a new couple, exciting new city and a rose of a different color.
A graduate of Wagner College and the New York Film Academy, Jeannine went on to become a Segment Producer for television shows on CBS and NBC. She left the television industry to focus on her children and pursue a full-time writing career. She lives in New York with her husband, the three tiny people she adores more than life itself, and a rescue pup named Wrigley.
Jeannine and her family are active supporters of The March of Dimes and Strivright The Auditory-Oral School of New York.