My life just went South...
Twenty-four hours. That's how long it took my life to flip upside down.
Wake up in bed alone after the best night of my life? Check.
Get fired instead of the promised promotion? Check.
Wealthy parents cut me off when I refuse to follow their path for my life? Check.
Now I'm in Cricket Creek, SC-a place where no New Yorker belongs-disowned and broke, with a new job that I can't mess up. Oh yeah, and staring at my one-night stand, who happens to be the complete opposite of my type.
Noah Hunter never should have made it back to my apartment in NYC, and I definitely shouldn't be in his small town. But fate had another plan. Or a horrible sense of humor.
Who knew Mr. Wrong could feel so right...
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.52(d)|
Read an Excerpt
No Falling Allowed
By Melissa West, Kate Brauning, Alycia Tornetta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Melissa West
All rights reserved.
"Hummingbird to Eagle, over."
I looked over the gala in search of Janey, wondering why I'd been stupid enough to give her a headset. It was a charity event, not some CIA mission.
"Hummingbird to Eagle, over."
Clearly, she'd missed the memo. Literally. Because I'd sent her a list of dos and don'ts for the event in an attempt to prevent another disaster like last year's. Last year, when Janey had thought it would be a great idea to liven up the crowd by turning the event into a karaoke night at the Met. Which didn't work, because wealthy politicians and business people were surprisingly unwilling to take the stage and sing along to the latest Katy Perry song. Shocking, I know. I shuddered at the memory.
"We've talked about this," I said into my headset, smiling at Senator Watson as he passed, one of many politicians at the Thursday night event. Add the politicians to the numerous celebrities and executives, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Annual Charity Gala had proven to be the most successful to date. If everything worked out, I hoped it would be enough to ensure my promotion to events director. Of course, technically the position didn't exist yet, but Margo, my boss, said it would be added this year, and if I kept doing things right, impressing the higher-ups, then the job would be mine. Which I would absolutely do, because I rocked and I'd earned it and ...
Please let me get the job.
"Come on, Grace. Play along," Janey whined, bringing me back to the moment. I started to tell her (again) that this was not the time for play, when she interrupted with, "Whoa, hottie alert, nine o'clock. God, Grace, if you could hire servers like that, why'd you go with so many chicks?"
"You are ridiculous."
"Ridiculously adorable, though not quite as adorable as this hot server of yours. How did you hire him without drooling all over the place?"
I scanned the perimeter in search of her, but couldn't spot her or said hot server. "Actually, I didn't hire him. I used a service. Where are you, anyway?"
"Here!" Across the room, a hand shot into the air and proceeded to wave frantically. I clenched my eyes tightly and drew a long, patience-filled breath. "She's your friend. Your friend."
"You know I can hear you, right?"
"I'm aware." I smiled as I started toward her.
"Holy hell, Grace. Hot server dude just got a beer from the bar. Like, while he's supposed to be working. And he's drinking it. He's drinking the freaking beer."
"Wait, what?" My gaze travelled to the left of her, to the server dressed in the white and black attire I'd specifically picked out for this event. He was tilting back a bottle like he was a guest instead of on my payroll. "Oh no, he didn't."
"He did. He so totally did, and — Dear God."
"Sorry, he just bent over and my brain short-circuited. Wait until you see his ass."
Rolling my eyes, I set off like a panther ready to leap on some weak little vermin. How dare he drink on the job, and do it in the open for everyone to see? Who acts like that? No one employed by me, that was for sure.
"Grace, there you are," Margo said, reaching out to stop me. Like always, she wore a beautiful, impeccably tailored black suit that cost nearly two thousand dollars, not including her Louboutin heels or the diamond necklace she paired with the plunging neckline. Margo was classy, always, and normally I tried to mirror that class in her presence. But right now I was too focused on the damn server, laughing it up with the bartender like he wasn't on the job this very second. Who the hell was this guy? "Grace?"
"What?" I snapped then at Margo's raised eyebrows, quickly added, "My apologies. Yes?"
Margo motioned to the man beside her. "Grace Soaring, this is Benedict Pendleton. He's one of our donors at the Met. He was complimenting the event, and when I spoke of how hard you had worked to pull it off, he asked to thank you personally."
Mr. Pendleton's face scrunched up in confusion and then surprise, and I readied myself for what would come next. "Soaring? As in Soaring Industries?"
Not this. Not now. "Yes, sir."
The smile that lit his wrinkled face should have flattered me, but instead it amplified my annoyance, which was already teetering close to crazy. I didn't have time to endure a lengthy conversation, all in an effort to uncover facts about my father, while that server continued to get drunk on my dime. Well, maybe not my dime, but the Met's dime, and I worked too damn hard to allow some poser to walk in here and make me look like an idiot.
"Eagle, this is Hummingbird again. Hot server has the best laugh on the planet, and I'm contemplating asking him if I can bottle it to listen to later, but does that sound stalkerish?"
I tried to smile at Mr. Pendleton while Janey continued to dissect whether her pickup line was flirty or weird, and my teeth ground together more and more with each passing second.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Pendleton, but it appears I'm needed at the bar. I'll return shortly."
"Please do. I'd love to discuss your fa — I mean, you and your career in more detail."
I smiled again, because what else was I supposed to do with a comment like that? Rick Soaring wasn't merely one of the wealthiest men in the world; he was also one of the most influential. Which meant every single person who knew of him wanted something from him, and as an extension of him, that neediness tended to transfer to me. Clearly, Mr. Pendleton was no different. "Of course."
Turning with as much poise as I could muster in light of the fire singeing my eyes, I marched toward the bar, the server now standing beside it, with Janey to his left, an infatuated expression on her face while she stroked his arm like it was a freaking cat.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Janey jerked back, her cropped purple bob swaying around her face. "He's pretty. You know I can't resist the pretty ones."
"Not you. You." I pointed at the server, my anger taking over. He had buzzed brown hair, deep tanned skin that hinted at hours spent working in the sun, intense blue eyes that were almost navy, they were so blue, and the sort of smile that could stop a heart. But not mine. I didn't fall for guys like this — carefree guys who used their smile to get in a girl's pants and never held a salaried job.
I wanted a man with a clear-cut future, who dated with the sole purpose of finding a wife, who worked through life in order. Education, career, family — the trifecta of a successful person. What I didn't want was a guy who thought smirking was sexy, and clearly, this guy had the smirk down to a science.
He glanced around, confused, and then a deep Southern drawl left his lips, irritating me even more. "Are you talking to me, sweetheart? Because unless I'm mistaken, I don't think we've met." He squinted at me, his gaze flicking down before returning to my face. "Have we?"
I sucked in a breath that sounded more like a hiss and that infuriating excuse for a grin of his stretched wider.
"Maybe you should have a drink. You seem a little stressed. Trick?" He eyed the bartender, whom I had met when I hired him, and who shook his head rapidly back and forth, like he wanted no part of the impending war.
"Not a good idea, dude."
"No?" The server glanced back at me. "No?"
"Um, no." I plucked the beer from his hand and tossed it into the trashcan behind him without looking. "Not sure what your service told you about this job, but we don't allow our staff to participate in the event. Or drink on the job."
He laughed lightly as he peered around at the gala, and my head lifted just a touch, until his attention fell back on me. "Maybe you should. Kind of dead if you ask me." I gasped before I could help it, and his lips twitched. "You're cute when you're angry. I'm Hunter, by the way." He held out his hand for me to shake, but I made no effort to move.
Instead, I leveled him with the trademark Soaring stare-glare. "Yeah, I don't think so. Please grab your things."
"Because I'm asking you to leave."
"And I'm the coordinator of this event."
"Which means ...?"
"That you have to leave when I ask you to leave."
He cocked his head and crossed his arms, clearly enjoying himself. "Says who?"
"Says me. I just explained this."
That smirk of his returned. "So you did."
I stared at him, every ounce of me wishing I could scream for him to get out of my museum, but then I remembered the donors, the celebrities, all the people there counting on me to remain in control. Poised. Like always. My whole life revolved around expectation, holding my breath when I wanted to speak, standing straight when I wanted to slouch. With Rick Soaring for a father, I had faced one of the toughest businessmen in the world on a semi-daily basis. I wouldn't back down now.
"It's time for you to leave."
He started to respond, then closed his mouth slowly, his eyes squinting a bit as he took me in. "All right, no worries. I was just leaving, anyway." He shrugged and started walking away, his hands slipping into his pockets, causing his dress slacks to tighten around his ass, and I remembered Janey's comment from before. Curiosity took over, and my gaze dropped at the same time he spun around, catching me in the act. His grin could have lit the entire museum. Dammit!
"Look, sorry to mess with you. No hard feelings, all right? This was a random thing I did to cover for a cousin of mine who's sick today, and I told the service I could only stay an hour. Hence, the drink once I was off duty. Didn't think it would be a big deal, but then I'm a little out of my element."
"And what's your element?" My inside self screamed at me for asking, for keeping this disrespecting jerk here when I should have security show him out. But behind that arrogance there lay something deeper in his eyes. Not something soul-searching and romantic. No, his eyes showed exhaustion. The kind that was more than mere work. It was life experience. Enough to make me wonder if the arrogance was nothing more than a facade to cover the fact that inside he was so close to done that one word would seal the deal.
Hunter's blue, blue eyes fell on Trick, then flipped back to me. "I'm a bartender down South. Only here for the weekend. Helping out a cousin at Route 6 tonight if you'd like to stop by."
"A cousin? The same cousin who's sick?"
Amusement crossed his face, like he was remembering something funny, and I wished I could ask him to explain, but I forced myself to remain silent. "Nah, different cousin, same family."
"That sounds complicated."
"It's family. You help each other out. What's complicated about that?" His stare held, and I wondered again why I hadn't walked away yet, why I felt cemented to the spot.
"Why don't you stop by Route 6 when you're done here? Let me prove I'm not the ass you think I am."
At first, I could see it all playing out in my mind — Janey and I going to Route 6, my heart skipping a beat as I waited to see if he would remember me, all of it so normal for a twenty-something like me. But then I saw Dad's face in my head, the judgment in his eyes. Never forget who you are, Grace.
I drew a breath to clear the thought. "I don't think so."
"Think about it."
"I don't need to."
He studied me again, those eyes of his searching me in a way I'd never been searched before. Like every thought I'd ever had, good and bad, lay before him. It was unsettling, intimidating ... hot. "Maybe you'll change your mind."
The corner of his mouth curved up. "Something tells me you will. See you in a few hours, sweetheart," he said, the moment passing and the arrogance returning in full force. Before I could reply, he turned and walked slowly down the stairs, every female set of eyes following him like he and he alone could answer all of their prayers.
"See, hot, right?" Janey asked from beside me.
I started to say yes, holy hell, yes, but managed to stop myself. I shrugged. "Decent, I guess."
"Pfft, decent? He was better than freaking chocolate."
"Says you, too, if you hit up Route 6. He's a master," Trick the bartender said, then immediately apologized when I glared at him.
"We should go, Grace. Come on. It's Lauren's birthday, and you already said you wanted to go out. Why not there?"
A second later, my cell vibrated from my pocket, and I pulled it out to find a new text from our friend Lauren that simply read: PLEEEEAAAASSSEEEEE!
My head snapped over to Janey.
"What? I texted her the moment I heard 'Route 6.' Some of the girls were talking about it in the break room earlier this week. They said it's super fun, and now we have all the more reason to check it out!"
"All the more reason?"
Janey waved her arms toward the stairs. "Hello, hot dude. Plus he's helping out his cousin, and I'm just betting those hot genes run deep in that family."
"You are impossible. And sneaky! You should be working for the government or something."
Janey beamed. "Aw, that's so sweet. So, we can go?"
I sighed as I scanned the gala, double-checking that it was flowing well, everyone content. "If I go, he'll think I want him." And my dad will have a heart attack. Grace Soaring going to a bar to see a guy. I cringed, but I couldn't deny that I was curious.
"Don't worry about him. He won't even know we're there. Let's just check it out. Please? For Lauren." She threaded her fingers together, pleading.
"You mean for you."
"Fine, for me. For all of womankind. Did you see his ass?"
I shook my head, but I was smiling despite myself. "Fine. But we stay away from the bar."
Janey grinned back, her expression anything but innocent. "Whatever you say."CHAPTER 2
I stepped out of the Met and turned around to take a look at the famous museum. Every light imaginable shined bright inside, wasted on people who didn't appreciate the wonder and amazement of electricity and warmth. I did. I knew what it felt like to shiver in the cold by a fire that had long since died out and wouldn't return until the next morning. But when the chill was my own fault, I no longer deserved sympathy.
I thought back to the day I'd ran away, a sixteen-year-old shit who had no idea how good I had it. What I wouldn't give to go back.
Pulling out my cell, I checked the time, then hit the number I'd called no less than a dozen times since I'd landed at JFK that morning. The phone rang in long whines, and like always, I tensed, worry replacing ease so quickly that I wondered if I would ever truly relax again. Maybe this was what Mom and Dad had felt like all those years, when reckless became my middle name, and I spent far too many nights sobering up in Fred's jail cell, a new drug in my system and new ink on my body — and no memory to how either had gotten there.
The voice hit me straight in the heart, and I smiled as I slithered through the forever-busy streets of New York on my way to the subway so I could make it to Route 6 on time. "Hey, buddy. How was school today?"
I laughed. "It gets easier."
I chuckled again. The kid was only nine and already he wanted to drop out of school. He was so much like me. "Yeah, but you still have to go. How are you going to become an astronaut without going to school? Hate to tell you this, but you're going to need lots of school. College. Then some advanced college. Then probably a PhD. Then more certification or some shit. Before long, you're going to have more degrees in your house than walls. They'll talk about you on the news and everything."
"You really think so?"
"With you? I know so." My chest buzzed with warmth, and I wished I could get back home that second and tell him how great he was going to be in person so that doubt would disappear from his voice. It was hard to believe in dreams when you lived in Cricket Creek, South Carolina, but he would reach every dream he could conjure up. Even if I had to work myself to the bone for him to do it. A yawn sounded from the other side of the phone, and I slowed. "Get a good night's rest, and hug Aunt Sandy for me."
Excerpted from No Falling Allowed by Melissa West, Kate Brauning, Alycia Tornetta. Copyright © 2016 Melissa West. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.