Meet Me in Manhattanby Judith Arnold
Fast forward fifteen years. Living in Manhattan, Erika successfully climbs the corporate ladder but her love life stinks. Ted is also living the life of a successful businessman in Manhattan, and he's involved in a serious relationship. Problem is, he still cannot get Erika out of his system. When fate intervenes and their paths cross, the result is emotionally
Fast forward fifteen years. Living in Manhattan, Erika successfully climbs the corporate ladder but her love life stinks. Ted is also living the life of a successful businessman in Manhattan, and he's involved in a serious relationship. Problem is, he still cannot get Erika out of his system. When fate intervenes and their paths cross, the result is emotionally explosive and that old black magic is back with the force of a super nova. But Erika once ravaged his heart: How can Ted ever trust her again? And now that he's seriously involved with another woman, how can Erika hope for a second chance with the man she never should have let go?
Meet Me in Manhattan is a classic love story that is told as only Judith Arnold can tell it. With a deep grasp of the complexities of the human heart, this acclaimed author explores Ted Skala and Ericka Fredell's compelling true story of a lost love unexpectedly found again.
Read an Excerpt
RELAX, ERIKA TOLD HERSELF. IT'S JUST TED.
Standing in the drizzle on a busy SoHo corner outside Fanelli's Cafe, Erika Fredell acknowledged that there had never been anything just about Ted. And ordering herself to relax didn't make her nerves stop twitching. She'd raced here from the gym after working out, showering, and blow-drying her haira lot of good that did, since it was rainingand putting on some makeup so she'd look good, even though it was just Ted she was meeting. Fanelli's was only a few blocks from the gym, and she'd covered those blocks at a trot in an effort not to be too late. Halfway there, she'd realized that she'd left her wallet at home.
Relax. Yeah, right. She was really relaxed, she thought with a sarcastic laugh.
Fanelli's had been a good choice for her reunion with Ted. A bright yet cozy establishment, the one-time speakeasy attracted a cross-section of patrons: artists, professionals, locals, anyone who preferred a good hamburger and a cheap beer to pretentious ambience and inflated prices. It was her kind of place.
Sixteen years had passed since she and Ted had been a couple, and she no longer knew whether Fanelli's was his kind of place, or, for that matter, what his kind of place was. But he was inside the neighborhood pub right now, waiting for herassuming he wasn't running even later than she was. She was supposed to have arrived half an hour ago, but time had slipped away from her. Maybe he'd given up and left already, figuring she'd chickened out. Maybe he'd concluded that she'd stood him up, that she was only going to break his heart again.
Oh, please. That had been so long ago. Teenagers' hearts get broken all the time. Then teenagers grow up, their hearts heal, and they move on. If Ted hadn't grown up, healed, and moved on, he wouldn't have contacted her out of the blue and suggested they meet for a drink.
She gave herself three seconds to check her reflection in the rain-streaked window beneath Fanelli's red neon sign, adjusted the stylish chunky necklace circling her throat above the scooped neckline of her tank top, then decided what the hell and entered the pub. Anxious last-minute fussing wasn't going to improve her appearance. She looked how she looked. Sixteen years older. Her hair was long again, the way she'd worn it in high school. Not the short, playful style she'd been wearing when they'd had that painful, awkward meeting at the airport in Denver, after she'd started college. Back then, she'd been pretty sure he hadn't liked her short hairdo. Back then, she hadn't cared what he thought. She'd wanted a new look to mark the start of a new phase of her life. No more New Jersey. No more high school. No more horses.
No more Ted.
But now her hair was once again long. She wondered if this time he would be the one who didn't care. She wondered why she cared whether he cared.
She commanded herself to get a grip. She reminded herself that she and Ted were two old friends who happened to have both landed in New York City and were meeting for a drink on a drizzly June evening. They weren't ex-lovers. They weren't high school sweethearts. They were grown-ups, living their own lives. Nothing more. She had no reason to be nervous.
Right. Tell that to her stomach, which at the moment was performing acrobatics like an Olympics gymnast hoping to score a ten.
Inhaling deeply for fortitude, she squared her shoulders, pushed the door open and stepped inside. A wave of raucous chatter washed over her; every person in the place seemed to be talking at once. And there were a hell of a lot of people crowding the tables and hovering near the bar. Maybe the boisterous crowd would buffer them, diluting the intensity of their meeting.
Not that it would be intense. Just two old friends meeting for a drink.
She surveyed the room but didn't see him. A waitress tried to stop her as she worked her way through the crowd, but she mumbled something about meeting a friend'An old friend,' she'd said because defining her and Ted as old friends soothed her bristling nervesand then she spotted him, seated at the far end of the bar, a glass of beer in his hand.
He looked terrific. Damn it.
He'd always looked terrific, of course. But he'd changed so much from the lanky, gangly boy she'd been infatuated with that summer after high school. He was still lean and muscular, but more solid. His face had filled in a little. His dark hair was shorter, the tumble of curls tamed, and he'd acquired enough facial hair to grow legitimate, neatly trimmed sideburns. In his preppy cords and collared polo shirt, he looked crisp and fresh, impervious to the sultry heat of New York City in June.
He must have seen her the instant she saw him. His eyes widened, his smile widened, and he tilted his head slightly. She strode the length of the bar, spotting the empty stool next to him, and slid onto it. Bar stools at Fanelli's were at a premium, especially on a busy night like this. She wondered if he'd had to fight people off to save it for her. He'd always been a scrapper in high school, willing to fight if he had to. More than willing, sometimes.
But maybe he hadn't fought to save the stool for her. Maybe it had been vacated only a moment ago. Maybe some other woman had been sitting with him. A beautiful woman. Erika was so late, he might have chosen to make the most of her absence.
The notion shouldn't have bothered Erika. They were old friends meeting for a drink, after all. Not old, mature. Surely she was a great deal more mature than she'd been the summer she'd spent mooning and swooning over him, and trying to figure out what love was all about.
'Hey,' he greeted her, then shook his head. 'Wow.'
'I know. Wow,' she responded, wondering whether they were wow-ing the fact that they'd both landed in the same city, or that they were both sitting at the same bar, or that after all this time, all these years, there they were, face-to-face. Her wow reflected her opinion of how fantastic he looked, but she wasn't about to tell him that.
So there they were. Were they supposed to hug? Air-kiss? It occurred to her that if they were truly oldor maturefriends, she would know what to do. But the truth slapped her in the face. Sixteen years after Ted had told her he wanted her out of his life for good and forever, they could never be just friends any more than he could ever be just Ted.
Her stomach executed a vault worthy of a gold medal. 'Listen,' she said, smiling nervously. 'I know it's been forever since I've seen you, but I don't have any money on me.' Oh, God, she thought, I am such an ass. And a nervous wreck, even though this is just Ted.
He grinned. 'Don't worry about it. We'll be fine.'
She managed to smile and prayed he wouldn't notice how flustered she waseven more flustered because he seemed so damned calm and collected. He gestured toward the bartender, then thought to ask Erika, 'You want a drink?'
God, yes. The bartender moseyed over, gaunt and fashionable, emanating unemployed-actor vibes like eighty percent of the servers in New York. Rather than have Ted order for herthat would imply something other than friendshipErika requested a beer. If Ted was drinking Budweiser, she would drink Bud, too.
The bartender turned to Ted. 'You ready for a refill?' he asked, nodding toward Ted's glass.
Ted appraised his glass and shook his head. 'Not yet,' he said, then took a drink. He set his glass down and Erika watched the residue of foam drip down its sloping sides. For some reason, it was easier than looking at Ted.
'So,' he said. 'How are you?'
She laughed, partly to shake off her tension, partly because the question was so banal, and partly because she wasn't sure how to answer. How was she now? How had she been last year, or five years ago, or ten? How had she been the day she'd left New Jersey for Colorado? The day she'd seen him in the airport? The day he'd told her he would never love her again?
'I'm fine,' she said. 'And you?'
'I'm also fine.' He grinned. 'Thank God we got that over with.'
Okay. Maybe this wouldn't be too awkward, after all. Maybe they'd be able to chatnot like old times, but like two people who shared some pleasant memories. If they could both chuckle about the awkwardness between them and the stilted start of their reunion, she could survive this encounter.
©2010. Judith Arnold. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Meet Me In Manhattan. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442
Meet the Author
Writing under the pen name Judith Arnold, Barbara Keiler is the author of eighty-six published novels. She has been a multiple finalist for RWA's Rita Award, and she's won several Reviewer's Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews, including awards for Best Harlequin American, Best Superromance, Best Series Romance, and, most recently Best Contemporary Romance Novel. Her novel Love In Bloom's was honored as one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly. Her Superromance Barefoot In The Grass has appeared on the recommended reading lists of cancer support groups and hospitals. Her current release is Hope Street, a single-title trade paperback from Harlequin.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Smith College, Barbara holds a master's degree in creative writing from Brown University. She has received writing fellowships from the Shubert Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and has taught at colleges and universities around the country.
Barbara lives in Massachusetts. She is married and the mother of two sons.
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