Recovering addict Nick Dorsey finds solace in his regimented life. That is until he meets Shyla Metha. Something about the shy Indian beauty who delivers take-out to his Greenwich Village loft inspires the reclusive writer. And when Shyla reveals her desire to write a book of her own, he agrees to help her. The tale of a young Indian girl growing up against a landscape of brutal choices isn’t Nick’s usual territory, but something about the story, and the beautiful storyteller, draws him in deep.
Shyla is drawn to Nick, but she never imagines falling for him. Like Nick, Shyla hails from a village, too…a rural village in India. They have nothing in common, yet he makes her feel alive for the first time in her life. She is not ready for their journey to end, but the plans she’s made cannot be broken…not even by him. Can they find a way to rewrite the next chapter?
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By MK Schiller
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 MK Schiller
All rights reserved.
Nick Dorsey ran every morning, although he no longer ventured to guess whether he was chasing dreams or fleeing demons. As he exited the brick building on Bleecker to a grim, grayish sky, the promise of another sunless day revealed itself.
His feet pounded the pavement in a stride that ranged from sprint to run to jog, matching the same footpaths as TS Eliot, Faulkner, and Poe. He'd insisted on the Village because it was a literary mecca. Although, these days, it could be argued the high rents favored capitalists over the creatives.
He'd hunted for months with a petite blond realtor until she found a place in his price range. The realtor was intelligent and assertive — during negotiations and sex — two traits Nick valued. In the end, it got him a nice place in the West Village with a working elevator, architectural charm, and original hardwood floors. It got her a fat commission check and about the same number of orgasms. Too bad the only thing he turned on these days was his computer ... and that relationship was near terminal.
He rounded Thompson Avenue, passing the bookstore where his latest novel occupied the window. He allowed the smallest flicker of pride before picking up speed. How far he'd come from the poor kid whose life was hand-me-down clothes and secondhand books.
He reached Washington Square Park ready to do a complete loop. Nick's runs used to consist of random thoughts about his characters and plot points. The beauty of being a writer was you could work anywhere anytime. One of the best scenes he'd ever written was during a tax audit. Now, his mind lacked the spark required to conjure creativity. He emerged from the park, slowing his pace until he reached the glass door of The Ole Time Floral shop with its annoying wreath of greenery and bells that signaled his arrival.
"A white rose, please," he said to the florist, who was already reaching into the barrel to retrieve the item.
"You know, dear, its romantic how you buy her a rose every day, but I'm sure she'd be more impressed with a whole bouquet at once."
Nick frowned. "I don't want to impress her. I just want her to know I'm there."
The lady arched a bushy brow, waiting for further explanation, but Nick did not intend to satisfy her unsolicited curiosity. He shoved the money at her and clutched the thorny bud in his hand. She no longer asked if he wanted it wrapped with a sprig of greenery.
He ran an additional mile until he reached the tranquil snow-covered grounds behind an ornate metal gate on Sullivan Street. It looked like a park with its lush landscape of willow trees and benches, but the stone angels, marble pillars, and simple markers jutting from the ground gave away its identity.
He fell to his knees, the crunch of fresh snow against hard earth disturbing the serenity. Nick gulped in the cold desolate air, reading her gravestone for the thousandth time, even though every curl of the fancy lettering chiseled on the surface was already etched into his brain. He'd become a creature of habit, and the repetition of every act provided a strange comfort. He bowed his head, joined his hands together, and begged in silence for forgiveness that would never come.
An hour later, showered and freshly dressed, he walked through the heavy wooden doors of the old church on Grand, the location of his second daily errand. Nick originally chose the ten a.m. timeframe to avoid crowds. It was flawed logic, bordering on reckless naiveté since the term "avoid crowds" was a fool's ambition in this city. Although there weren't any stockbrokers or executives, plenty of actors, singers, and housewives packed the large room. They all chatted amicably while drinking percolated coffee, which Nick, a coffee connoisseur, admitted was the best he'd ever had.
He sat in the uncomfortable metal chair, waiting for the meeting to come to order. When the time came, Nick spoke clearly and honestly.
"I'm Nick Dorsey, and I am a meth addict. It's been eighteen months, two weeks, and three days since my last fix." He talked about his addiction until his three minutes of indulgent introspection were up and his Styrofoam cup runneth empty.
He arrived back at the Bleecker Street loft with all his errands accomplished, but no sense of accomplishment for it. Gaping at his keyboard, a fresh cup of caffeine in his hand and a stifling lack of imagination, he sat down.
Wanting to alleviate the harsh glare of the blank page, he clicked on the keyboard in quick snapping strokes. The rain fell in thick sheets as if the sky weighed in on Max's decision.
Did he actually start the fucking book with a weather report? The greats — George Orwell, Charles Dickens, or Dr. Seuss were capable of such openings, but Nick Dorsey was not. He hit the backspace, erasing every individual character with a scorning strike. He wondered what other words could describe rain. He walked over to the large bookshelf that spanned an entire wall. As it turned out, Webster's had thirty-two words for precipitation from the descriptive drencher to the very simple wet stuff.
He slammed the book shut, tired of his pathetic attempts at procrastination.
He didn't mind the timid knock at nine p.m., though. That was a welcome break from the unrelenting flutter of the cursor.
Sandwich girl was here and right on time.
He opened the door, and there she stood as she had almost every night for the past year since he'd discovered the corner deli delivered. The tall, thin girl with raven hair offered a nervous smile. He often speculated on the length of her hair. She always wore it in a tightly coiled bun except for the few loose strands that framed her face.
When her smile widened just right, it would create the slightest dimple on her left cheek. As much as he enjoyed the appearance of the dimple, what struck him the most was her accent. He'd heard all kinds of Asian accents, but never one as lyrical as hers with each simple word drawn out softly, a seductive hum as it left her lips. Her loose trench coat, too mild for this weather, slipped off one shoulder as she inched her knapsack higher on the other.
"Hello," she said cheerfully, handing him the brown paper bag that contained his turkey and Swiss on whole wheat.
"Hiya, Sandwich Girl." It was their usual greeting. No names — the time for civilized introductions had passed long ago.
He fished a twenty from his wallet. She shoved her hand in her pocket searching for change.
"Keep it," he said.
"Thank you. That's very generous."
Why they went through the same motions, he didn't know, except she was polite and unassuming, and he found a certain comfort in the repetition. "Don't mention it."
Her head began shifting downward, but she paused and lifted her gaze to meet his. In the beginning, the shy girl would never look him in the face, throwing the bag at him and taking off before he yelled after her that he had yet to pay. Then she'd slowly shuffle back, her head down, holding out her trembling hand. Now, they held actual conversation between them, and although it lacked any depth, those few minutes became the most enjoyable part of his scheduled day.
"It's getting nicer outside. I think spring will arrive early this year," she said.
"Is that so?" Maybe she believed Nick never went out, and her weather reports were a necessary service to give him insight into the subtle climactic shifts of his own environment. Or maybe she was just making small talk.
"Yes, but it might rain." She dropped her voice as if conveying a secret. "I think it will rain actually."
"Will it be a soaker, a mist, or a monsoon?" he asked, happy to apply the seldom-used words to his vernacular. The thesaurus hadn't been a waste of time.
She clutched her jacket around her. "Definitely a drencher. I don't think we have to worry about monsoons on this side of the world."
"Your forecasts have never been accurate ... not once."
She bit her lower lip, her expression thoughtful. "Really?"
"Nope. But in case you're right, do you have an umbrella?"
"I don't have far to go."
"Wait here." He set the bag on a console table and grabbed an umbrella from the hall closet. "Take this."
"Oh no, I couldn't."
"You can return it tomorrow." He held it out to her until she gripped her fingers around it.
She'd rewarded him with a brilliant, dimple-inducing smile the first time he'd said that, and it became his customary farewell to her in the days that followed. The smile never disappointed.
"Night," he said, leaning against the doorjamb until the elevator arrived.
A minute later, he strolled to the window and watched her exit onto the street, headed north on Bleecker, her coat flapping around her. He reassured himself it was the comfort of routine along with the quality deli meat he craved. It had nothing to do with the delivery girl. Never mind he opted for Chinese or pizza on Wednesdays and Sundays — her days off. Sure, she was a pretty girl, but definitely not his type. He preferred the kind of women he wrote about ... buxom blondes and rambunctious redheads with confident personas and hungry appetites.
This girl was shy, awkward ... and for some reason, intriguing. He had no idea why he looked forward to their silly chats, except they made him a little happier. Any ounce of happiness was such a rare occurrence in Nick's life, he seized it gratefully.
Nick started the process of shutting down the computer. He'd eat, work out for a few hours, take a shower, read, and go to bed. The same as he did every night. He hesitated at the customary question of Do you want to save changes? There were no changes to save.
He cracked his knuckles and stretched his back. His fingers landed on the keys like a mocking friend, both beckoning and humiliating him in that order. Except now, the words coursed through his hands with great speed and little consideration as the page filled.
Sandwich girl, you are a mystery. A sweet, sad smile that never reaches your big brown eyes. Silky hair tucked and clipped away as if forgotten, save for the few rebellious strands struggling for freedom. Would you welcome my advance or retreat into the shadows? I can see your inexperience, an odd fit, wrapping around you like another coat. But there's something else there, too. A profound strength that exists as if you're a lone soldier, battling your way through a battered life.
Nick highlighted the section and hovered a finger above the delete key. Instead, he labeled the document Sandwich Girl and saved it to his hard drive. It wasn't his best work and nothing he could use in a novel, but it meant something to him. It represented the first paragraph he'd managed in almost two years.
* * *
Shyla Metha watched his window from a darkened corner some distance away. On warmer days, she'd stand in this area for twenty minutes until sufficiently shamed by her lurking. Still, she was drawn to him.
It wasn't just his looks, although she couldn't deny the pull of his broad shoulders, sandy hair that fell somewhere between brown and blond, and dark ocean-colored eyes. The beard was interesting, too, creating an air of mystery around him. Funny, she'd never expected to be attracted to physical characteristics so different from her own, yet she'd developed a dimwitted crush on this boy ... man.
He'd been aloof in the beginning, and she was timid, a combination that never mixed, but one day she'd added a comment about the weather, and he had grinned, the rigid stiffness of his posture easing for a few seconds. Although they came from different worlds, they had something in common. Nick Dorsey was lonely and sad ... perhaps even broken.
She clutched the black umbrella in her hand. Her time was growing short. She'd be returning home when her student visa expired at the end of the semester. Now was the time for risks! Or rather tomorrow when he ordered another sandwich.CHAPTER 2
Dressed in a charcoal suit, Nick entered the fancy fusion restaurant, wondering why he hadn't tried to cancel again. Not that Carrie would accept anymore of his bullshit excuses. He adjusted the noose-like knot of his navy necktie as the maître d' showed him to the table. Carrie sat in the corner booth sporting a bright pink dress and even brighter red hair that rebelled against the sedate opulence of the monochromatic colors surrounding her. Unlike him, she enjoyed dressing up. She crossed her legs, pointing the toe of her red-soled, polished heel toward Nick.
"Do you always have to pick a pretentious restaurant?" he asked before kissing her cheek. He took the seat across from her.
"When it's a tax write-off, I do." She leaned in as if revealing a secret. "The duck here is to die for."
"I won't be dying today," Nick replied.
"You look great, Nick. You've been working out ... a lot," she said, reaching across the table to squeeze his bicep. "You have a license for these guns?"
"I'm taking advantage of the gym in my building."
"What's your regimen?"
"I doubled up on my running time. I do reps of one-armed push-ups, sit ups, and chin-ups." He continued on, detailing his nightly ritual, until he noticed her eyes shifting around the room. "Shit, you don't want to hear about this, right?"
"It's interesting, but honestly you lost me somewhere between progressive overload and muscle confusion. Who knew there were so many terms?"
"I do," he snapped. "I'm trying to explain them to you." Nick sucked in a deep breath, wishing he could erase his harsh statement. Carrie was there for him when he needed someone most, and here he was acting like a complete dickhead.
"I'm sorry." He ordered a tumbler of Johnnie Walker Blue from the waiter.
"Nick." She leaned into the table, her voice stern but compassionate at the same time. "It's me, remember? Your best friend?"
"How are you, friend?"
"I'm well." The waiter set down her Chardonnay and Nick's Scotch. Carrie interrupted in the middle of his specials spiel, requesting another moment. "Are you allowed to drink?" she asked, as soon as the waiter departed.
Nick winked, trying to put her at ease, because the line of questioning certainly wasn't doing much for either of them. "I'm twenty-seven years old. I'm pretty sure I've surpassed the legal drinking age in this town."
"You know what I mean."
"I wasn't an alcoholic, Carrie."
Nick searched for the waiter, but he was nowhere in sight. "What did you want to talk about? As I recall, this is a business meeting."
"We can get to that," she replied, waving a hand at the hot bread on the table like a game show hostess, displaying a parting prize.
"Are you trying to con me with carbohydrates?"
"You have to try this bread. You can dip it in this extra fine, extra virgin olive oil or use this French herb butter."
"I prefer my olive oil with a little experience. It should, at the very least, mature to second base."
Carrie laughed much louder than the joke required. "I swear you'll make me bust a button on this dress."
"I'd be a very talented man if I could undress a woman without touching her."
"Indeed," she agreed. "Flirting has always been your ..." She paused, searching for the right word.
"Strong suit?" Nick offered.
"Coping mechanism," she retorted.
"Ouch. Well then, I suppose we should get down to business."
"Why the rush? I haven't seen you in a long time, Dorsey. Let's catch up."
"I want to make sure you get your well-earned tax deduction."
She bit her bottom lip, her telltale sign of anxiety. "The publisher wants you to do a book tour."
"No," Nick said with enough bark that the waiter stopped just shy of approaching them and veered off in a different direction.
"I've never done one, and I'm sure as hell not about to now."
"Not that your sales aren't high, but this could catapult them." She gestured toward his face. "Even though I don't approve of the Duck Dynasty beard, the fact is you're gorgeous."
"Duck Dynasty?" he asked, tilting his chin and running his fingers through the thick growth, mocking offense at her joke. "Are you fucking with me?"
"Try again," he said, fighting a smirk.
"All right, Brad Pitt circa Legends of the Fall, but that's my final offer."
Excerpted from Unwanted Girl by MK Schiller. Copyright © 2015 MK Schiller. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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