Astrophysicist Olivia Romano has always preferred to stay close to her family in Brooklyn—even at the expense of her academic career. But with her advisor missing in action and an unscrupulous professor undermining her work, she’s forced to rely on the reformed-hacker-turned-elite-computer-genius whose sexy smile she can’t get out of her head.
Nicholas DeSantis cut ties with his family at eighteen, running away from his old-school Italian American neighborhood to make it big in Silicon Valley. When Livie comes to him for help, he can’t resist the project or the quirky woman behind it. Moving into the Romano house in his old neighborhood seems like the perfect short-term solution, if he can just continue to avoid his own family.
But while living together makes working with Livie easier, fighting his growing attraction to her becomes a whole lot harder.
When Livie’s research is sabotaged, Nick takes a huge risk to get her the proof she needs to salvage her career. Moving forward means leaving Brooklyn and spreading her wings at last—just when Nick might finally be ready to put down some roots.
This book is approximately 89,000 words
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
About the Author
A native Floridian, Amanda transplanted to New York City many years ago and now considers Brooklyn home, along with her husband, daughter, two cats, and nowhere near enough space.
You can find Amanda at www.amandaweavernovels.com.
Read an Excerpt
There was only one thing about Brooklyn that Livie Romano didn't love: there were never any stars out at night. Most of the time, when you looked up, you saw ... nothing. Just a flat rust-colored glow as the streetlights reflected off the clouds. The light pollution was so powerful that it managed to blot out the entirety of the universe overhead, which was saying something.
The first time she'd seen stars — actual stars, not the random sighting of Venus that managed to puncture New York's omnipresent glow — she'd been six. Vacations had been nearly nonexistent when they were kids. There was always too much work at the family bar and too little money. But one year Uncle Vincent had rented a cabin upstate on Lake George and invited them up for the weekend. Her parents — that was back when her mother was still alive — had piled the kids into the family car and off they went.
The first night, her sisters and cousins had shrieked and laughed as they chased fireflies in the woods. Livie had wandered to the end of the dock, lay down on the worn wood, still warm from the day's sun, and stared up at the sky, at the overwhelming sight of thousands of stars. Even the Milky Way was visible — a magical, cloudy sweep across the sky, looking just like it did in books. It was like peeking into a world that had been hidden in plain sight all her life — a world that stretched into infinity.
These days, as she pursued her PhD in astrophysics, she was no longer dependent on a clear night sky. She stargazed through computers, with a telescope orbiting thousands of miles above tiny earthbound complications like clouds and light pollution. But there was still something special about just looking up and seeing the stars, silently burning away for millennia.
Livie glanced up when she reached the street corner. Nothing but a low-hanging wall of clouds tonight. You'd hardly even know the universe was up there. But it was, waiting for her with its mysteries to be unraveled, if only she could figure out how.
She dropped her eyes from the blank sky to a more comforting glow — the golden light of the front window of Romano's Bar, and the electric Michelob sign that was older than she was. Just like the Milky Way, Romano's lights seemed to burn on for eons.
The poorly oiled hinges on the front door shrieked to announce her as she entered. Her older sister, Gemma, glanced up from a stack of credit card receipts.
"Livie, you're ten minutes late. Were you mugged? Kidnapped? Did you fall into an open manhole? You're never late."
She hurried across the bar and ducked under the pass-through, banging her elbow on the edge of the bar as she did. "Sorry, slow train." She hated being late, and anything less than ten minutes early counted as late.
"Ugh, don't get me started on the MTA," her younger sister, Jessica, growled from behind her laptop.
"What are you doing here, Jess? I thought I was covering Dad tonight."
"You are. I'm filing the quarterly taxes."
Thank God Jess handled that odious task. Gemma was hopeless at math and Livie hated accounting. She could use numbers to explain the bending of time and space, but forget about finance.
"How was the first day of classes?" Gemma asked. "You're teaching this semester, right?"
"Campus opened this week, but classes don't officially start until next week. My section of Astronomy 200 starts next Tuesday."
Hard to say who was less enthusiastic about starting classes, Livie or her incoming students. Standing up in front of a room full of undergrads was her worst nightmare come to life. But since it was required as part of her grad student stipend, she was just going to have to suck it up and do her best to avoid eye contact.
"Why were you at school all day if there were no classes?"
Livie turned to face her sisters with a triumphant smile. "Because I have big news."
Jess and Gemma both looked up expectantly. Livie had been bursting to share this with someone — anyone — since she'd left campus an hour ago. And the fact was, she didn't have many people besides her sisters to share good news with.
"We got the Skylight grant. Well, Finch got the grant. Which, since I'm working on her research for my dissertation, is like me getting the grant."
Jess grinned. "That's awesome, Livie!"
"The what grant? You're getting money?"
"I told you about it, Gem."
"Livie, I love you, but you know I don't understand half of what you tell me." Gem waved her hand, miming information flying over her head. Livie wished she wouldn't do that — that flippant dismissal of her lack of education. Gemma might not have gone to college like her younger sisters, but she was one of the smartest people Livie knew.
"Professor Finch —"
"Your thesis advisor," Gemma said. "See? I remember some things!"
"Anyway, Janet applied for this big grant from Skylight last year. You know, the telecommunications company?"
"I remember you helped her with the grant application," Jess said. "It took you forever."
"Thanks for proofreading it, by the way."
"Well, she found out over the summer that she got it. Which means her research is fully funded. Which means I can work on it with her for my dissertation. Working on this with her is the whole reason I chose Adams. And now we've got the money to do it."
"I can't wait to see how her research pans out. It's amazing that you get to be a part of it, Livie." Jess was the only person in the family who understood even half of what Livie's work entailed. Everybody supported her, but Jess really got it.
"It is, but it means I've got a lot of work to do. Janet wants to start purchasing as soon as possible, which means I've got to start pulling together ordering info." She sighed. "I love research, but this administrative stuff is so boring."
"Agreed," Gemma said. "Why do you think I make Jess do the bookkeeping?" Jess made a face at her.
"I also need to find a programmer, and I have no idea where to start with that one."
Gemma held her hands up. "Don't look at me. You know I can't even reboot the cable box."
"But, Livie," Jess said, "I thought you had a programmer listed as part of the grant proposal."
"We just included a line item for it. Janet had someone in mind when we drew up the budget. The guy is good. One of the best. But he's so expensive. It's going to eat up a huge chunk of the money before we even get started. If I can find someone to do it for less, then the grant money will go so much further."
"Isn't there someone at Adams who can do it?" Gemma asked. "They must have a computer department. Then it'd be free."
Livie didn't say so, but she doubted anyone in Adams's computer science department could program their own smartphones. There were a few academic bright stars at Adams, like Janet, but it was not a powerhouse university.
"This is beyond some college programmer. This is like, NASA-level coding. People who can program at that level aren't just wandering around looking for a part-time gig."
"You need help with your computer, Livie?" Frank, one of Romano's die-hard regulars, had been listening in on their conversation, as usual. Outside of football season, Mondays were quiet at the bar. Romano's was mostly empty, just the handful of regulars, like Frank. "Dennis, you remember that DeSantis kid? Gloria DeSantis's nephew? He was some kinda computer whiz, wasn't he?"
Dennis Mulchahey, another old-timer, rolled his eyes and set his beer down. "A troublemaker, that's what that kid was. But yeah, he was all into computers and stuff."
"No offense, Frank, but a kid who's good at video games isn't what I need." Although that's what she loved about their regulars. They felt like family, and, like family, were always ready to pitch in when there was a problem.
Frank ignored her, because, well, he was like family. "He went to some fancy college, didn't he?"
"He went to Jess's college," Dennis confirmed. "When he was just sixteen. Full ride, too. Those DeWitt guys were desperate to get him in there."
"He went to DeWitt at sixteen?" Jess interjected. "He's gotta have something going on if he graduated from DeWitt, Livie."
DeWitt was Ivy League, one of the best universities in the Northeast. A computer programmer who went to DeWitt sounded promising.
"Don't think he graduated, though," Dennis said. "He got into some trouble."
"Trouble?" Gemma asked. "What kind of trouble?"
Dennis and Frank looked at each other as they searched their memories. "He got mixed up with the law, I remember that," Frank finally said.
"What, like a drug bust or something?" Gemma, ever protective of her younger sisters, had taken over the interrogation.
If he was some drug dealer, then Livie wasn't interested, computer genius or not. This research was too important to risk that way.
"Nah, not NYPD," Dennis replied. Dennis and Frank, like many of Romano's patrons, were both retired cops. "This was FBI, I think. The kid was mixed up in some serious stuff. Left college and disappeared."
"Disappeared?" Livie's tiny spark of hope snuffed out. It sounded like the guy was a dead end.
Frank turned to Livie. "You want me to get his number from Gloria for you?" She didn't have the smallest hope that Gloria DeSantis's nephew was the person for this project, but if what Dennis said was right, and he worked in computers at that level, then he might be able to help her find the right person. And a tiny lead was better than no lead at all.
"Sure. Thanks, Frank."CHAPTER 2
The address was in DUMBO, almost to the water. At the end of the cobblestone street, Livie could see the Manhattan Bridge, arching away into the city. This guy must be doing pretty well for himself, because real estate in this neighborhood was not cheap.
It might be a warning sign, though, one to add to all the others. Gloria DeSantis had been able to provide her nephew's name, but she didn't have a clue where he was, because in her words, "there was bad blood," whatever that meant. When Livie tried to find him online, she'd hit another dead end. There were mentions of him from his teenage years — stuff about his early acceptance to DeWitt, listings in the student directory, but nothing recent. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. What kind of twenty-something had zero social media presence? Well, she didn't, but Jess had informed her in no uncertain terms that it made her a freak.
In the end, Gemma had asked their uncle Robert, an NYPD detective, to dig up a phone number for the guy. Livie had protested at the ethics of it, but Uncle Robert had produced a number, so despite her misgivings, she'd used it. Despite the mysterious Mr. DeSantis's incognito existence, he'd replied instantly to a texted inquiry from a complete stranger about a freelance project. There was definitely something sketchy about this whole situation.
When Livie pressed the button by his name, someone buzzed her in without even asking who she was. Okay. She took the elevator to the fourteenth floor, which turned out to be the top one. It opened onto a small vestibule, and there was only one door. Meaning he had the whole floor.
She knocked and had just glanced down to double-check the info in his text, when the door opened in front of her. Livie's eyes flew up and she froze.
Whatever she'd been expecting, it was certainly not this. He was incredibly, unbelievably good-looking. Tall, with messy dark brown hair and riveting dark eyes that made her feel pinned in place. He had one hand braced on the door frame, making his biceps flex and his tight gray T-shirt stretch across his broad shoulders.
This couldn't be right. There was no way this was Gloria DeSantis's computer geek nephew. He had to be his hot, soccer-player roommate or something, right?
"Um ... Nicholas DeSantis?"
A tiny line formed between his heavy, dark brows. "It's Nick. You Olivia?"
The corner of his mouth twitched — almost a smile — and she melted inside. There was no other way to describe it. Her insides had gone all warm and golden and glowing. An absolutely ridiculous physical response to have to another human being.
"Okay," he said, backing away from the door. "We cleared that up. Come on in."
So he was Gloria DeSantis's computer geek nephew. And he was also spectacularly hot. Livie rarely noticed such things, and she'd never, ever been so rattled by a guy's appearance before. They hadn't gotten past exchanging names and she was almost too flustered to speak.
He turned and walked away, leaving Livie to come in and close the door behind herself. "How'd you get my name again?" he asked over his shoulder. There was a restless energy in his body, evident even as he casually walked across a room, like he was a steel spring, tightly wound and ready to explode. He seemed like he might already be in the middle of a hundred other things. Why had he even bothered replying to her text?
Livie hurried after him. "Gloria DeSantis, your aunt."
The sudden appearance of the Manhattan Bridge looming just on the other side of a wall of glass stopped her in her tracks. His apartment was huge, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bridge, the East River, and the Manhattan skyline. The furniture was all that low, sleek, leather stuff you only see in magazines. There were no family photos on the walls, no opened mail scattered across the coffee table, no shoes kicked off in a pile by the door. It barely looked like anyone lived there.
He stopped and turned back to look at her. "But Aunt Gloria doesn't have my number. Nobody in my family has my number."
"I know." She swallowed thickly. "I got your number from a cop. He tracked you down."
Nick's expression shifted, like he was really seeing her for the first time since he'd opened the door. "Okay, that's interesting and also a little bit alarming."
"Sorry. I tried to find you online first, but you're not really online anywhere."
He waved away her apology. "You wouldn't be online either, if you'd seen what I've seen. So, Livie — you said it's Livie, right? — you know my aunt Gloria?"
"She's my neighbor."
Those thick, expressive eyebrows lifted in surprise. "You're from the neighborhood?"
"Yeah. I grew up there. Romano's Bar? That's my family's place."
Nick let out a surprised huff of laughter. "Romano's? That place is still around?"
Hey. The Romanos might complain about the lousy business, but she wasn't about to let someone else slag on the bar.
"Since 1933, and still going strong." Limping along was perhaps more accurate, but he didn't have to know that.
"I haven't seen that place since I was a kid."
"It's three subway stops away." How could he be this close to home and yet his own aunt didn't have a clue how to reach him? Her sisters could track her phone's location at this very moment.
The little line between his eyebrows came back. "I don't get home much."
He turned and kept walking across the very large open-plan living area, passing through a door on the far wall, which led to a smaller room. This one, obviously his office, was tucked into the corner of the building, with walls of windows on two sides and the same spectacular view of the bridge. Up against the windows were two long black tables, meeting at right angles in the corner. And every square inch of their surface was covered with computer equipment. Livie counted four jumbo displays and at least three CPU towers buried in a snaking nest of cables and peripherals. Maybe this guy was good enough to tackle the project after all.
Nick dropped into a black office chair and swiveled around to face her.
"So what are you looking for?"
Her eyes were still busy cataloging his setup. Top-notch research labs didn't have this much computer equipment. There were pieces of hardware she didn't even recognize. It must have cost him a fortune.
"I'm looking for some help with a computer program."
Nick sighed. "I don't know what you might have heard about me, but I don't do tech support. Call Geek Squad."
She turned back to face him. Okay, he was extremely attractive and obviously successful, but did he have to be so arrogant? "It's a little more complicated than that. I need to write a new program for my dissertation."
Nick leaned back in his chair, stretching his legs out and crossing them at the ankles. Threading his fingers together, he rested his hands on his abdomen — which looked like it would be firm to the touch. If she were to touch it. How did this computer geek have a body that was so hard and sculpted and distracting?
"Okay, pitch me."
Livie blinked, embarrassed that he might have caught her staring. "Excuse me?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Love and the Laws of Motion"
Copyright © 2019 Amanda Weaver.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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