“Herrera delivers an emotionally resonant, sensually charged second Dreamers contemporary (after American Dreamer) that will knock readers’ socks off.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“American Fairytale is nothing short of magical.”—Book Riot, a Best Books of 2019 pick
“A fresh and vital new voice in romance.”—Entertainment Weekly
Fairytale endings don’t just happen; they have to be fought for
New York City social worker Camilo Santiago Briggs grew up surrounded by survivors who taught him to never rely on anything you didn’t earn yourself. He’s always dreamt of his own happily ever after, but he lives in the real world. Men who seem too good to be true…usually are. And Milo never ever mixes business with pleasure...until the mysterious man he had an unforgettable hookup with turns out to be the wealthy donor behind his agency’s new, next-level funding.
Thomas Hughes built a billion dollar business from nothing: he knows what he wants and isn’t shy about going after it. When the enthralling stranger who blew his mind at a black-tie gala reappears, Tom’s more than ready to be his Prince Charming. Showering Milo with the very best of everything is how Tom shows his affection.
Trouble is, Milo’s not interested in any of it. The only thing Milo wants is Tom.
Fairytale endings take work as well as love. For Milo, that means learning to let someone take care of him, for a change. And for Tom, it’s figuring out that real love is the one thing you can’t buy.
Book 1: American Dreamer
Book 2: American Fairytale
Book 3: American Love Story
Book 4: American Sweethearts
Book 5: American Christmas
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"You better hurry up before I do too much damage at this open bar. Holy shit this thing is lit!"
I heard a tortured groan over the phone at my excitement. My coworker Ayako was running late.
"I'm on my way! Traffic is crazy. I don't know why I took a Lyft from Astoria during rush hour. It would've taken me half the time on the subway. Don't drink all the champagne, Camilo!"
I twisted my mouth to the side like she could see me, and gave her the real talk she clearly needed. "I can't make any promises. Imma let you go. I see the bar, and it's not too busy."
"Okay." With the way she sighed, you'd think this was a life-or-death situation, not that she was running late to get her open bar drinking on. "We just passed the Brooklyn Bridge. I should be there soon."
I ended the call with Ayako as I got to the complimentary alcohol distribution area. Once again, I was glad for my finely honed fashion sense. Stopping home after work to change into a suit was the right call, because this thing was fancy. I thanked my lucky stars for my job and my boss, as I glanced around the huge and beautifully decorated room where the Roi Green Center, a social services agency for homeless LGBT youth, was hosting its annual Fall Gala.
The event was at Cipriani Wall Street, which was as posh as you could get in New York City, and Ayako and I each had a seat at one of the tables. The room was decorated to look like Central Park in the fall. Lots of yellows, oranges and reds — it was stunning.
Melissa, the executive director of New Beginning, the agency Ayako and I worked for, bought two tickets for a thousand bucks a pop, but at the last minute had to stay home with a sick wife and kid. She'd sent an email offering the tickets to all the department directors and Ayako and I had jumped on them within seconds. Being a social worker didn't exactly pay enough to be able to do this kind of thing. So, after a very stressful week at work and some personal life fuckery, I was ready to pounce on the unlimited free alcoholic beverages.
After giving the bar offerings and the bartender an assessing look I leaned on the polished dark wood surface, raising my finger. "I'll have a glass of champagne please."
He winked at me in response and got busy pouring. Within a few seconds I had a glass of chilled Moët & Chandon in my hands. I lifted my glass to him while I put a couple of bills in the tip jar with my other hand. He gave me a big smile and went to serve another customer, as I followed his movements with my eyes.
He was hot.
Had a bit of a Jason Momoa flow going on, and I wasn't mad about it. I wondered how tacky it would be to pick up a guy at this thing. I'd only been here five minutes and had already gotten in some low-key, high-quality flirting and was sipping top-shelf champagne. I was musing on how the evening was already a success even if I went home right then, when I heard a deep and smoky voice from somewhere on my left.
"I like your suit." I lifted my eyes and saw a gorgeous man smiling down at me. I answered him without fully turning around.
"That's a pretty lame pick up line," I said, as I ran my free hand over the front of my jacket. "But I agree this suit looks amazing on me." He laughed, like I wasn't being one-hundred-percent serious.
I was rocking my Topman burgundy suit with a navy shirt and tie. I'd even gone for the messy man bun Ayako always said made me look extra fuckable.
I knew I was popping.
I turned so I was fully facing the guy and gave him a thorough once-over as I sipped my Moët. I had to admit there was a lot to like there. He must have been a few inches over six feet, because he was a full head over my five feet and eight inches.
He was big too.
Dark brown hair in a short-but-stylish cut and hazel eyes. His mouth was small, but perfectly shaped and, at the moment, the corners were tipped up into a tiny grin while he stood there letting me run my eyes all over him. I had an urge to push up and nip on that bottom lip, just to see what he would do.
Instead I kept looking further down his very large body, and barely withheld a sigh. He was a very good-looking man. His suit was navy blue and he had a boring white shirt and red tie on. It fit him well though, like it was painted on. Once I was done with my inspection I shrugged as he smiled at me.
"Your suit is pretty boring, but it's —" I cleared my throat "— a pretty good fit. Although I have a feeling you could wear a trash bag and you'd still look hot." I went out on a limb on that one, assuming — given the type of event — we were all family here.
Besides, he started it.
Another deep laugh burst out of him, his eyes crinkling as he shook his head. Like he couldn't believe I'd just said that. He looked like he was about to say something else when Ayako barreled in between us.
"Oh my god! I saw bottles of Moët, this is fancay." After she gave me a kiss on the cheek she leaned back to get a good look at me. "Damn, you got your 'Come Fuck Me' suit on, niiiiice." She stretched out the last word as she leered at me, totally unaware she had interrupted something. Meanwhile Tall, Dark and Swole behind her was turning purple from trying not to laugh.
Ayako was wearing a short magenta cocktail dress which looked amazing on her and she kept shaking her shoulders at me, clearly fishing for a compliment. I rolled my eyes at her and complied. "You look stunning, friend."
She preened at that. "You're fucking right I do."
"You're so modest." I said, as she laughed and kept blocking my view of Hot Guy in the Boring Suit.
Ayako and I went way back, were extra tight because we both had Jamaican dads, and our moms were also immigrants — hers Japanese while mine was Cuban. We met in grad school and bonded over our sick love for Golden Krust and hip hop classes. After school we'd both ended up working at the same agencies. She was a fucking riot and I loved her, but right now she was totally cock-blocking me.
I tilted my head to let her know where I wanted to be focusing. "Hey, hon, I was just about to ask the gentleman behind you for his name. Before you parked your luscious ass on the stool between us that is." She turned around and immediately did a double take.
She and I had done this particular routine too many times for her to miss a beat. As if on cue she spoke up, "Oh pardon me, kind sir." She extended her hand, those perfect teeth flashing. "I'm Ayako, and the lovely man you were just conversing with is my friend Milo." She pronounced it in Spanish, Mee-loh, like I preferred, as she waved a hand in my direction.
The guy looked at us like he was starting to suspect he was being punked, but he played along and extended his hand first to Ayako and then to me.
"I'm Thomas, nice to meet you both." He winked as we shook hands, then turned to Ayako. "Would you like a glass of champagne, miss?"
"Yes please! And its Ayako," she said, waving her hand at him. "It's an open bar. We'll be on a first name basis soon enough."
He chuckled at her and nodded. "Fair enough. Give me a minute." Then he looked at my empty flute and raised an eyebrow. I lifted my glass to let him know a refill would be much appreciated.
While he turned to get our drinks, Ayako tried to engage in a silent conversation with her eyeballs that I had no hope of understanding, even as sober as I was. So I just shook my head to indicate she needed to play it cool.
"Here you go." He passed around flutes and lifted his own glass. "To kind strangers."
We all lifted our glasses in a toast, and drank in silence. After a moment my mind started to wander. How was a man this hot and seemingly socially competent here by himself? He had to be waiting for someone to join him and just be killing time with me. Just as I was about to inquire, I heard a woman's voice call out.
"Tom! There you are. Please tell me there are mocktails, because I'm thirsty."
The three of us turned in the direction of the voice, and I saw a very beautiful and very pregnant woman dressed in a stunning purple silk gown walking towards us, holding hands with an equally dashing man. I noticed the matching weddings bands they were wearing, and immediately felt annoyed at the butterflies fluttering in my stomach when I realized she probably wasn't carrying Thomas-who-I'd-only-met-five-minutes-ago's baby.
The man in question waved over the new arrivals. "Hey, guys! Thanks for saving me from sitting through dinner with boring rich people."
The woman came up to us and kissed him on the cheek, while the guy gave him the bro half hug/back slap combo. Thomas looked over at us and spoke to his friends. "Guys, these are my new friends, Ayako and Milo." He waved his hands in the direction of the new arrivals while looking at us. "This is my best friend Sanjay and his much better half, Priya."
We did the appropriate introductions and then proceeded to help Priya figure out what non-alcoholic drink she could have that, in her words, "wouldn't make her want to stab us in the neck for drinking champagne while she drank soda."
Ayako and I loved her immediately and I was about to ask her where she was sitting to see if our tables were close by when the MC announced that people should start heading to their tables. Thomas gave me a long look, as if he was struggling with whether or not to say whatever was on his mind.
I was disappointed when after a few seconds he just raised his hand.
"Have a good dinner, Milo." He said my name perfectly. Most people struggled with the Spanish pronunciation. I wondered where he'd learned it, but I never got to ask because after I nodded and waved back, Tom just walked away.
Ayako, who knew me a little too well and could probably tell I was disappointed, gave him some side-eye and mouthed "his loss." I finished up my drink and looked around to spot where Thomas and his friends were sitting. I almost choked when I saw them take their seats at a table right next to the stage. The tables I knew for a fact went for ten grand a plate. I heard a whistle from my side as I tried to pick my jaw off the floor.
I turned around to find Ayako looking very impressed by Tom's status at the very top of the gala food chain. "Damn he was pretty low-key for a dude dropping thirty grand on Friday night dinner. He's just like you like 'em too. Huge and looks like he could fuck your lights out."
"We don't even know he's gay," I offered, prompting an eye roll from Ayako.
"I'm going to point out the facts," she said, holding up two perfectly manicured pointy bright pink nails. "We're at an LGBT benefit and the guy dropped ten grand a piece for three tickets. If that's not commitment to the cause I don't know what is. So there's at least a slim chance the dude's into dick. He was certainly eyeing your privates with interest." She gave my crotch area a pointed look, like there was some kind of indicator down there I was too dumb to notice.
I sighed and gestured to the other side of the room. "Fine, you may be on to something. Let's go find our seats, way back there." Ayako sipped the last of her champagne and signaled for another as I made my way to our table.
Just as I was sitting down I opened my Instagram app and saw a new post from my ex, which only worsened my sinking mood. It looked like the adoption he and his partner were working on finally went through. I scrolled through his recent posts and saw photo after photo of the tired but elated couple, looking adoringly at the bundled infant in their arms.
I didn't even know why seeing the photos made me feel like someone was squeezing my insides. Paul wasn't a guy I wanted to co-parent a kid with. At least not based on how he behaved while we were dating. It wasn't even about the baby though, it was about how fast he'd found someone who he wanted to make that kind of commitment with. Yet when we were together he could barely agree to keep a toothbrush at my place.
When would I find someone who saw me as their forever person? Who looked at me and saw exactly who they wanted? Not just a warm body to pass the time with until their soul mate came along.
And that was my other problem, despite all the firsthand knowledge I had of just how fucked up relationships could be, I was still holding out for some kind of fairytale. I always jumped in too fast, gave too much, put all of myself out there, and every time ended up getting my heart crushed. Why were these photos even bringing all of this up? I didn't have any feelings for Paul and we'd been barely speaking when we broke things off over two years ago.
Why do I care?
"Oh no you don't," Ayako whispered as she swiftly took my phone from my hand and put it in her clutch.
"Ayako, please give me my phone back."
"Why, so you can mope over that asshole and his stupid baby? Camilo, don't you remember how much of a jerk he was to you?" She sighed squeezing my hand. "Babe, Paul was not baby-daddy material. If you're going to feel sorry for someone, feel sorry for the poor bastard who's now stuck co-parenting with him for the next twenty years. He already looks like he wants out and that kid is only like three days old."
I chuckled at her attempt to make me feel better, but still felt annoyed with myself. Paul and I had been over and done with a million years ago. Why was I letting this ruin my night? A night at an amazing event for a cause I was passionate about, where I could drink as much as I wanted.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
I took a deep breath and tried to shake off my funk then turned around to give Ayako my best smile.
"You're one-hundred-percent right. Fuck Paul and his perfect baby. I have unlimited champagne at my disposal tonight, and two days to recover before work on Monday. So Imma put that open bar to good use."
"Attaboy!" she said enthusiastically then held up her hand. "I solemnly swear to monitor your alcohol intake and phone use if you want to take your drinking to the next level. You held it down this summer when we went to that beach party in the Hamptons, and I owe you."
I saluted her, remembering the very wild night in question. "Anytime, babe. Let me finish this one and I'll go get myself another." I sipped from my glass, looking around the room. It really was beautifully decorated, with gorgeous centerpieces laden with lilies and roses in fall colors.
Each place setting had a menu printed on bloodred card stock and gold font. On one side we could read the courses we'd be enjoying during dinner, and on the other the story of one of the young people who benefited from the center's services. It was a smart and touching way to get people to pull out those checkbooks again before the end of the night.
After a few minutes the servers started coming around with bowls of delicious butternut squash and apple soup and to pour more champagne for us, and we got busy eating and moaning over how good everything was. Gorgeous courses kept coming as Ayako and I chatted with the other people at our table. Before long, dinner was over and the lights in the room were dimmed to begin the more formal part of the evening.
Between the couple of glasses of bubbly I'd had and the delicious meal, I was feeling pretty relaxed. As the speeches started to get on their way, I stood up and touched Ayako's shoulder to get her attention.
"Hey, do you want to go with me to the bar for one last glass of bubbly?" She looked up at me smiling and pointed at her half-full glass. "No thanks, hon. I'll wait for you here." She turned around and went back to the conversation with a woman sitting next to her.
When I got to the bar I found it empty again, so I got the bartender's attention immediately. He poured me another glass of Moët without asking and pushed it toward me across the bar with a flirty smile. I thanked him but could not muster up the energy to flirt back. I stood by the bar sipping slowly and listening to the person speaking from the stage.
"Still enjoying the open bar, I see."
His voice was coming from behind me this time, and I felt a flutter in my belly. Suddenly my lack of enthusiasm was replaced by a burst of energy. I smiled to myself before turning around.
"Yes I am. How is your evening going so far?"
I gazed up at him and saw him lift a shoulder, as he asked the bartender for a Zacapa on the rocks. "It's another gala. This organization's mission is particularly important to me, so I try to push through. Once you've gone to enough of these, they all sort of blend together." He took a sip of the amber liquid in his glass, his eyes fixed on me. "Nothing terribly memorable ever happens at these things."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "American Fairytale"
Copyright © 2019 Adriana Herrera.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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