State attorney Bridget Nolan is successful in all aspects of her life—except romance. After breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, she's been slow to reenter the dating scene. To be honest, she has more important things to do like putting bad guys behind bars. But with her brother's wedding right around the corner, she suddenly needs a date and fast. Lucky for Bridget, the legal intern is almost done with his program.
Matt Kido is dumbstruck by Bridget—total love at first sight—but there's one problem. She's totally off-limits while she's his boss. But the moment he no longer reports to her, Matt decides to take a chance. An impulsive decision takes them to Las Vegas where, as the saying goes, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Unless you put a ring on it.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
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Christopher / NOT THAT KIND OF GUY
Bridget Nolan had decided to marry Chris Dooley the day he took a piss in her kiddie pool. Like not a British “took the piss,” but an actual piss. To her credit, she didn’t decide to marry him until his mother dragged him away by the ear from said kiddie pool and took his Game Boy. It was his tear-streaked face while he apologized—with the sole purpose of getting his handheld gaming system back—that sealed the deal.
In her four-year-old mind, anyone who could apologize as beautifully as Chris Dooley—who cared that much about hurting her feelings—had to be a keeper. It didn’t even matter that her dad had to clean out the pink plastic kiddie pool with bleach while cursing a blue streak.
The kiddie-pool incident was his first apology to her even though he’d already been the major source of consternation in her short life. Prior to the pool incident, he hadn’t apologized for pulling her pigtail so hard the curl her mother had painstakingly constructed for her brother Jack’s First Communion party went flat—and lopsided pigtails were definitely worthy of an apology. The lack thereof had made it impossible for her to stop thinking about him for weeks.
And he hadn’t apologized when he poked her in the eye with his Super Soaker at her other brother Michael’s birthday party a month later. He’d merely looked chagrined when Bridget’s mom had “accidentally” thwacked him in the back of the head with her water gun. Even her mother’s vengeance hadn’t stopped her from thinking about him.
When she’d told her mother that Chris Dooley had taken over at least half of her waking thoughts, she’d said, “He probably just has a crush on you. Ignore it and he’ll go away.” But he hadn’t gone away. And her thoughts of him had only intensified. The only solution would be to marry him. Maybe then she could stop thinking about him. It had certainly worked that way for her parents.
Her commitment to marry Chris had been deadly serious—much more so because she’d made it in the midst of her parents’ divorce. Unlike the elder Nolans, she was never going to get a divorce. She would never rip a family apart the way hers was rent at the seams.
She’d finally started dating Chris Dooley officially when she was fifteen and he was seventeen. He’d finally started using her first name instead of calling her “Little Nolan,” which constantly reminded her that she was the baby of the family, and totally below any interest of his that would include kissing.
However, even being her boyfriend had not decreased his rate of asshole moves to apologies. And Bridget had just eaten the apologies he gave her and starved the rest of the time. That’s what a relationship was to her—surviving on crumbs. In a way, it made her understand her mother leaving. It wasn’t like her dad emoted very much. But she was stronger than her mother had been and would never give up just because a relationship wasn’t precisely to her specifications. And she’d dated Chris for a dozen years to prove it.
She thought that he’d chosen her, just like she’d chosen him every day since he’d peed in her kiddie pool. She’d thought they were playing for keeps.
Until she realized that she did not want to play for keeps—definitely not with Chris. And maybe not with anyone.
All of her carefully laid plans about the kind of future she would have—where they’d live, how many children they’d have, and how they’d manage to pay off their student loans right in time to send their own kids to school—had gone up in smoke over about ten minutes. She’d nuked her whole life before her mashed potatoes had cooled off enough to eat.
After Chris left her apartment in a hurry, confused and full of the shame/rage thing that some guys did whenever things didn’t go their way, she kind of fell apart for a while. She’d shed actual tears even though she’d previously thought that she was missing the gene that would allow her to feel sorry for herself.
Bridget expressing actual human emotions had thrown her dad and brothers off a bit. They didn’t know how to handle her when she wasn’t her put-together, perfectionist self. For a while, she’d noticed that they would exchange looks when she made it over for dinner or game night. When that happened—their roles reversed so they were the ones worried about her instead of the other way around—she knew she had to get her shit together.
After she’d dealt with the emotional and physical remnants of the future she no longer had or wanted, she hadn’t looked back.
She was a Nolan, for Christ’s sake. Nolans didn’t wallow in the past. Nolans didn’t cry over the demise of a romantic relationship— at least her father hadn’t after her mom walked out on him. They bucked up and moved on.
A few months after the breakup, she’d decided that she was through with crying, thinking, and talking about the relationship. In fact, she was going to stop crying, thinking, or talking about any relationship. She wasn’t any good at them anyway. In fact, romantic relationships were the only thing that she was really bad at. Maybe she got it from her dad. Once the idea that she didn’t have to be in a relationship really sank into her psyche, it was simple to decide to focus on her career, her friends, her family, and herself. And no one else.
And, to be honest, she was kind of relieved. She was done doing the emotional labor for an overgrown baby man.
She was happy to be helping to plan her brother’s wedding instead of her own. This brunch wasn’t really planning—it was more of a war strategy session—with her brother’s newly minted fiancée, Hannah, and Hannah’s best friend, Sasha. They were both wedding and event planners, so this shit was serious.
And, to her surprise, she didn’t think about what it might be like to be doing this with Chris. It had been so long since they’d broken up, she barely thought about him at all anymore. At first, he’d been sort of like a phantom, haunting her at odd moments. But when she focused on other things, she realized that she was definitely better off without him.
Bridget was grateful that they’d hit a cycling class first, because she’d needed to burn off some energy before diving into wedding planning. Not that Hannah wasn’t beyond lovely and way too good for her middle brother. The whole thing just made her remember that she was a failure at relationships.
Bridget’s future sister-in-law raised her glass. “So, here’s the game plan—no hashtags, no fairy lights, not a single, solitary, fucking mason jar.” She pointed her mimosa at Bridget and Sasha. “Just you two as my bridesmaids.”
“Me?” Bridget hadn’t known Hannah for that long, and she’d assumed that her bridal party would be populated by her college friends. Not being a part of the wedding party would also aid in her efforts to avoid running into Chris at the wedding. She could wear green and white and blend in with the giant floral arrangements with a magnum of champagne. She’d emerge for the toasts and then slink back into the greenery like that GIF of Homer Simpson disappearing into a hedge.
As a bridesmaid, she would have no such quarter. There would be the rehearsal dinner, the pictures, the dancing—thank God Hannah wouldn’t do a big bridal party entrance at the reception—but there would also be the toasts and the smiling and the keeping her inflamed case of irritation toward her ex bottled up for hours at a time. She would probably snap at least one molar if she couldn’t land at least one or two cutting barbs about how his suit game had deteriorated since she’d stopped picking out his clothes.
She didn’t want him back, but his face had turned remarkably punch-worthy since they broke up.
“Yes, you.” Hannah scoffed as though Bridget’s surprise was ridiculous. “We have brunch almost every weekend and you’re going to be my sister, for Christ’s sake.”
“Is this just for Jack’s sake?”
“Well, he does make me see God on a regular basis.” Hannah smirked, and Sasha blushed. Bridget just tried to keep her shrimp and grits down. “But I wouldn’t invite you to be in my bridal party if you were an asshole. I’d make you be his groom’s bitch.”
Bridget shook her head, suppressing a laugh. Hannah was nothing like any of the girls Jack had dated before her, who were all fine. But Hannah was irreverent—bordering on crass—and Bridget loved the hell out of her. Hannah was the only kind of woman she could see her brother with in the long term. Her brother needed someone who wouldn’t let him get away with anything.
Sasha leaned in. “Are you seeing anyone?” That seemed apropos of nothing right now.
“Of course not.” Bridget had just told her family that she didn’t have time to date. Which was true. She also prosecuted sex crimes as an assistant state’s attorney. Given what she saw at her day job, she didn’t have the inclination to meet strange men, even in public places.
“It’s been two years.” Like Hannah needed to remind her.
Sasha leaned in even closer. “Are you still in love with Chris?”
“No,” she answered firmly. That was one thing she was sure of. Sometimes she missed being part of a couple. Missed having someone to text or call when something interesting or funny happened. She missed having someone to cuddle up with on a Friday night with Netflix. But if that was all she missed, she could just get a dog. A dog would probably be more loyal than a guy she’d wasted almost half her life on. “I just haven’t met anybody worth considering.”
That lie came out smoothly enough. She had no intention of meeting anyone ever. She would not fuck up her life again, just for the sake of someone to binge television and eat expensive cheese with. Even if a second salary would make it easier to afford said expensive cheese.
“Well, you need to meet someone before the wedding,” Sasha said. “I simply won’t have you sitting alone while Chris swans about with his ‘flavor of the week.’ ”
“There are flavors?” Bridget had purposely not thought about Chris dating anyone else. It was the only thing keeping bees from flying out of her mouth every time she ran into him. She didn’t want him back, but she hated the idea of him being happy. She was petty, and she accepted that about herself. But now that the topic had been introduced, she couldn’t stuff the bees back down her throat.
Hannah’s mouth flattened out and she shot Sasha a look. “None of them have lasted more than a few weeks.”
Bridget barely contained her sneer. She’d gotten to know both Hannah and Sasha pretty well in the last couple of years, but not well enough to tell them that her relationship with Chris had put her off relationships—permanently. Before Jack and Hannah had met and fallen in love, Hannah had been in no-man’s-land herself. Bridget had a feeling that if her future sister-in-law got a whiff of her extreme reticence about romance, she would descend upon her with the enthusiasm of the newly converted. “It’s fine. We broke up . . . for a lot of reasons. I didn’t exactly expect him to remain celibate.”
She even leaned back in her chair to emphasize how cool she was with all of this. Totally cool with her ex-boyfriend banging anyone and everyone.
“But I agree with Sasha.” Hannah was declarative. “We have to find you a date.”
“I don’t want a date,” Bridget said.
Apparently, they were going to ignore her. “Most of the decent guys I know are gay,” Sasha said.
“Other than Jack, I know married guys and professional athletes.”
“I would take a professional athlete.” Chris had always hated that he’d never been good enough at sports to make varsity in anything. Taking a professional athlete to a wedding would leave her ex feeling woefully insecure. It would make for a much more enjoyable evening on her part.
“I don’t think you’re ready for a professional athlete,” Sasha said. “Chris is your first and only, which means you’ve never dealt with a guy who had a tight end, much less an actual tight end. Dating is actually insane. It’s a whole lot of work with a regular guy—like you have to decide if you want to have sex with him the first few minutes of a date, because if he senses that you aren’t down to go to Bonetown, then he won’t call you again. But if you do have sex with him, you have to be very careful not to spook him into thinking that you want to marry him that day.” Sasha hadn’t paused to take a breath.
Hannah raised her glass. “And that’s just with a regular guy.”
“And I’m supposed to want to meet one of these regular guys?” Bridget doubted their utility even more after this conversation.
All three of them looked at one another for a beat before bursting out laughing so hard they all lost their breath.
Bridget supposed Sasha was right. Every time she’d been approached by a dude since her breakup, she’d been frozen in place. A deer in headlights. Luckily, she knew how to excuse herself quickly enough that she hadn’t been run down yet.
“Do you know anyone at work?” Bridget groaned inwardly at Hannah’s suggestion. Even if her work wasn’t the unsexiest thing ever, none of the guys at the office were desirable. For one thing, she found only two of them attractive—and only in the right light, if she squinted. But the killing blow was that they all knew Chris. In fact, she was pretty sure Jake was in Chris’s weekend five-on-five league.
“I can’t date anyone at work.” It would be unprofessional. She had a reputation as a hard-ass bitch to maintain. Dating someone at work would compromise that. In the past couple of years with so many changes—getting dumped, her brother finding the perfect girl, and her parents getting back together after more than a decade apart—her work had been the only constant. “But I have a few months. I’ll come up with something.”
She paused for a moment, thinking before she revealed the next thing. “I don’t think I want to date anymore.”
“Like, at all?” Sasha looked concerned.
Hannah just nodded. “That’s how I felt before I met Jack.”
Oh shit. Hannah was now going to try to set her up with religious fervor. Honestly, Bridget would be more likely to change her mind if Hannah was trying to get her to repent and accept Jesus. At least Bridget would be good at religion. She’d had plenty of practice believing in that which could not be seen when she was with Chris. During the course of their relationship, she’d believed that time together would outweigh her growing dread at spending the rest of her life with someone who’d ceased to inspire anything in her other than mild disgust. She’d also believed that he knew her.
But Hannah wasn’t going to try to sell her on Jesus—lapsed Catholics didn’t do that sort of thing. Hannah was going to try to sell her on love like an ex-smoker trying to pry the ciggies out of her hands.
It absolutely wouldn’t work. “Don’t even think about it.” Bridget pointed at her future sister-in-law. “I can see what you’re thinking, and I’m not interested in it at all.”
Hannah held her hands up. “Thinking what?” She even had the audacity to have an innocent look on her face.
But Bridget narrowed her gaze and stared down both of her friends. “I. Don’t. Want. To. Be. In. A. Relationship.”
“But don’t you want partnership?” Sasha was still a romantic even though her dating life was a continuing disaster, right underneath issues of national and global importance on the horribleness scale. And if she wasn’t such a genuinely nice person, Bridget would start her point-by-point summary on why it was completely illogical to continue searching for love when a successful conclusion of that search was not supported by any past evidence.
Instead, she simply said, “No.”
“Really?” Hannah sounded surprised. “We’re not judging you, but did Chris really fuck you up that much?”
“Chris didn’t fuck me up at all, but our breakup clarified some things for me.” Bridget paused, like she did before making an argument before a jury. “I just . . . I decided it wasn’t for me.”
“But that’s like saying you don’t like cheese after trying one—very shitty—kind of cheese.” Hannah did sort of make sense— and yet . . .
“There is no bad cheese.” At least Bridget had never hated a single cheese.
“The kind that has toxic mold on it?” Why did Sasha have to choose this moment to make sense?
“I don’t know if Chris is really toxic . . .”
Hannah rolled her eyes. “What did he do, anyway?”
Bridget chewed on her grits along with her answer. She hadn’t told anyone in her family about the real reason she and Chris had broken up. Part of her was embarrassed about it, afraid that they would blame her for putting a perfectly fine relationship out of its misery. And part of her couldn’t really name why they’d broken up. But her growing friendship with these two women made her want to try.
“He put a down payment on a house.” She paused, and both women’s eyes widened. “I’d never even seen it.”
“It makes sense that you broke up with him, then.”
Now that she’d started talking, it seemed that she couldn’t stop. “No, I freaked out because—I just flashed forward to my future and realized that spending it with him would mean that I was tied to his boneheaded choices for the rest of my life. And then he broke up with me when I freaked out.”
“The nerve.” Hannah’s voice was filled with venom—definitely for Chris.
“Yikes.” Sasha didn’t look like she had much more to say.
“I think it’s totally reasonable for you to want to go to the wedding alone.” When Hannah said that, Bridget was glad she’d trusted her.
“Unless you meet someone great.” Of course, Sasha left room for hope.
Bridget sipped her mimosa to stop herself from saying something sarcastic.
At least she had work. There, she exerted control and she never lost. As an assistant state’s attorney in the Special Prosecutions Bureau, she prosecuted sexual assault cases and crimes against children. Although her work dealt with difficult topics, it was deeply rewarding. The people she got justice for were often afraid of seeking it, and being able to give them some measure of peace—sending the people who hurt them to prison—made her feel useful.
A lot of the friends she went to law school with worked at big firms. Most of them hated their lives, and they rarely got to see the inside of a courtroom. Bridget was in court at least a few times a week. And she was always moving and doing something different.
She knew she couldn’t do it forever, though. Otherwise, she would end up as an embittered husk, smoking multiple packs of Camels a day. But she didn’t know what she would do next—certainly not a big firm—but she had to find a job that would let her pay her student loans.
She loved her work, but she was going to be paying off her student loans until she was ninety—since her salary upon which her income-based repayment plan was predicated was way below the median income for lawyers. Like the basement of the basement without the median even in sight.
Although she could count on her dad to help if she asked— she hated asking. Her new lease on single life included not running to her dad just because she couldn’t afford the same vacations and homes her former classmates now could.
Despite all the downsides to her job, she looked forward to going into work and rarely had that sinking feeling on Monday morning when she got into the office—except for today.
Her boss, Jackie, was sitting in her office. Jackie was only a couple of years older than her—even though the job was great, the pace of the under-resourced office burned people out. She was married, with two little kids and constant dark circles under her eyes. Sometimes she even had a tic. Jackie was much more ambitious than Bridget and had her eyes on political office, which meant that sometimes she butted in to Bridget’s cases when the public was particularly invested.
They got along, but only to a point. And definitely not before coffee.
“What do you need?” She wouldn’t be here if she didn’t want something.
Jackie smiled at her. A bad sign. “I need you to take on one of the interns.”
“Are you serious?” Bridget closed her eyes and put down her bag. “I don’t have time to teach some baby lawyer anything.”
Bridget wasn’t even going to let her finish. “And I’m not bringing a man around my mostly female, traumatized complaining witnesses.”
“You know that fellowship you applied for last year?” Jackie was referring to a fellowship for public interest lawyers from the University of Chicago, which would have allowed Bridget to pay off her student loans. It would have meant vacations with fruity drinks the size of her head and never having to hit up her dad to make ends meet. It would have meant freedom. But she hadn’t gotten it.
“I recall.” She was careful not to betray her disappointment to Jackie. They were colleagues rather than friends. “What does that have to do with taking on this intern?”
“His parents—the Kidos—fund it.”
Oh fuck. The Kido Family Trust was a big deal and sort of explained why her taking on this intern and getting this fellowship was so important to her boss—it was going to make her look good. Jane Kido’s father was a beloved former senator from Hawaii and had been a decorated soldier during World War II, when many fellow Japanese-Americans were interned. And Jane’s husband, Brian, was the son of a famous Japanese photojournalist who chronicled the end of the war, and a Boston Brahmin heiress. If the United States had nobility, the Kido family would be among them.
However, Jane and Brian’s son, Matt, had a reputation as a louche playboy. One that even Bridget—with her head perpetually occupied by her caseload—knew about.
“So, what you’re saying is that, if I take on this little, rich shithead as my intern, I might get the fellowship this year?”
Jackie held up a hand. “I’m not saying that. I can’t guarantee it, but I think it would go a long way.”
“I’m not giving him any cases until I verify that he’s not going to fuck them up.” Bridget sat down, knowing she’d lost.
“Just make sure you don’t call him a little, rich shithead to his face.”