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The reunion reminder card glared at me from the refrigerator door. The magnet holding it in place had a picture of Times Square lit up at night to remind me that I was a real person in New York. I wasn't awkward Madalyn Sawyer from Indiana anymorethe one with braces and a hick twang who couldn't walk a straight line without tripping over her own feet.
Here in the Big Apple, I was Kathryn West. That's how I signed all my books, the name I dropped at parties my publisher liked to throw, and how I introduced myself at book conventions where I met people who loved me even though they didn't know who I really was.
My stories were gritty. Rough. Raw. As Kathryn, I wrote of heroines who'd seen the very worst life had to offer and survived. Thrived, even. And happily ever after with the hero was secondary to the heroine coming out of the trial a better woman.
I didn't believe in happily ever afters anyway.
Kathryn West would be welcome at that reunion. She would have so many funny and raunchy stories to share, everyone there would adore her. Kathryn wouldn't be dragging all that baggage behind her or trying to keep all her skeletons stuffed deep in her closet.
But what about Maddie Sawyer?
She would be a proverbial wallflower. She would wear an outfit from Target and shoes from Payless. She would laugh at other people's lame stories, and no one would even remember she'd been there. Once a geek, always a geek.
I'd wished I was Kathryn West more times than I could count.
Then it dawned on me like a smack upside the head. Why in the hell couldn't I be Kathryn West? I'd invented that persona, after all.
She'd ride up on an extraordinarily loud Harley Davidson with some dangerous guy who had biceps the size of her thigh, a face with a couple of intriguing scars, and an ass every woman in the room would want to put her hands all over. She would drag him by his black leather jacket out on the dance floor and not be embarrassed at using a few grinding moves. She'd drink just enough to be funny. Kathryn West would be the life of the party and the person everyone at the reunion envied. All the women would want to be her, and all the men would want to have her.
All I needed was that guy.
* * *
After striking out in five other bars, I wound up at Trixie's. At least that would be the name of the place if all of the fuchsia neon lights had been working.
The first bar I'd chosen had great potential. Plenty of buff guys. Oodles of black leather. So much testosterone it left a haze in the air like some masculine version of cigarette smoke.
The third guy I targeted finally had mercy on me and told me everyone in the place was gay. Shit, my gaydar had to be way off.
At bar two, the moment I walked in the average age of the customers dropped a good twenty years. Gray hair and black leather really weren't a sexy combination, and I had to fight hard to prevent images of Grandma and Grandpa dressed like Hell's Angels from forming.
I blocked memories of the other three bars in hopes of avoiding post-traumatic stress disorder.
Trixie's in Jersey City looked as good a place as any to end this humiliating night.
The bar area was crowded, smoky and smelled of stale beer. Surely in this group of men I would be able to find a guy who fit the bill. All he had to be was gorgeous in a roughneck sort of way, a good actor and poor enough to need the money I offered.