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Meghan March - (Real Duet 1) Real Good Man -(ang)

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R E K L A M A

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Julka_15 Dozwolone od lat 18-stu w języku angielskim
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Rea l G ood M an Book O ne o f t h e R ea l D uet Meg han M arc h

C opyrig ht © 2 017 b y M eg han M arc h L LC A ll r ig hts r e se rv ed . E dit o r: P am B ere hulk e, B ulle tp ro of E dit in g w ww.b ulle tp ro ofe d it in g .c o m C over d esig n: @ b y H ang L e w ww.b yhang le .c o m C over p ho to : @ b are ta w ww.is to ck pho to .c o m I n te rio r D esig n: S ta cey B la k e, C ham pag ne F orm ats w ww.c ham pag nefo rm ats .c o m N o p art o f th is b ook m ay b e r e pro duced o r tr a nsm it te d in a ny f o rm o r b y a ny m eans, e le ctr o nic o r m echanic al, in clu d in g p ho to co py in g , r e co rd in g , o r b y a ny in fo rm atio n s to ra g e a nd r e tr ie v al s y ste m w it h o ut th e w rit te n p erm is sio n o f th e a uth o r, e x cept f o r th e u se o f b rie f q uo ta tio ns in a r e v ie w . T his b ook is a w ork o f f ic tio n. N am es, c hara cte rs , p la ces, a nd in cid ents a re e it h er p ro ducts o f th e a uth o r’s im ag in atio n o r a re u se d f ic tit io usly . A ny r e se m bla nce to a ctu al p ers o ns, l iv in g o r d ead , e v ents , o r l o cale s is e ntir e ly c o in cid enta l. T he a uth o r a ck no w le d ges th e t r a d em ark ed s ta tu s a nd tr a d em ark o w ners o f v ario us p ro ducts r e fe re nced in th is w ork o f f ic tio n, w hic h h av e b een u se d w it h o ut p erm is sio n. T he p ub lic atio n/u se o f th ese tr a d em ark s is n o t a uth o riz ed , a sso cia te d w it h , o r s p o nso re d b y th e tr a d em ark o w ners . V is it m y w eb sit e a t www.m eg hanm arc h.c o m .

Tab le o f C on te n ts Tit le P ag e Copyrig ht About T his B ook Chapte r 1 Chapte r 2 Chapte r 3 Chapte r 4 Chapte r 5 Chapte r 6 Chapte r 7 Chapte r 8 Chapte r 9 Chapte r 1 0 Chapte r 1 1 Chapte r 1 2 Chapte r 1 3 Chapte r 1 4 Chapte r 1 5 Chapte r 1 6 Chapte r 1 7 Chapte r 1 8 Chapte r 1 9 Chapte r 2 0 Chapte r 2 1 Chapte r 2 2 Chapte r 2 3 Chapte r 2 4 Chapte r 2 5 Chapte r 2 6 Chapte r 2 7 Chapte r 2 8 Chapte r 2 9 Chapte r 3 0 Chapte r 3 1 Chapte r 3 2 Chapte r 3 3 Chapte r 3 4 Chapte r 3 5 Chapte r 3 6 Chapte r 3 7 Chapte r 3 8 Chapte r 3 9 Chapte r 4 0

Chapte r 4 1 Chapte r 4 2 Als o b y M eg han M arch Ack now le d gm en ts Auth or’s N ote About t h e A uth or

Abou t T his B ook W e’v e h ad o ur f a ir s h are o f b ad b o ys. N ow i t’ s ti m e f o r a Rea l G ood M an. Fro m USA T o day best- s e llin g a u th o r M eg han M arc h c o m es a s e x y n ew d uet w ith a h ero y o u w on’t w an t to m is s. F all f o r a w om an o ver te x t m essa g es? N o w ay i n h ell. R eality c an n ev er b e a s g ood a s th e f a n ta sy , r ig ht? W ro ng . I t’ s b ette r. B an ner R eg en t i s s m art, f u nny, a n d s h e’s s o f a r o ut o f m y l e ag ue, s h e m ig ht a s w ell b e r o yalty . I ’ m a m ech an ic f r o m K en tu ck y. S he’s a N ew Y ork C ity p arty g ir l. W e w ere n ev er s u ppo se d to m eet, b ut o ne te x t s ta rte d s o m eth in g n eith er o f u s s a w c o m in g . H ow d o y o u s e d uce th e w om an w ho a lr e ad y h as e v ery th in g ? S ho w h er w hat i t’ s l ik e to b e w ith a r e al g ood m an .

Chap te r 1 B an ner “ I t’ s n o t l ik e I s e n t h im a p ic o f m y a m azin g r a ck o r s o m eth in g , s o th ere ’s n o n eed to g et y o ur g ra n ny p an ti e s i n a tw is t, F ra u F ra n ces.” My n eig hbo r f r o m a cro ss th e h all, w ho I ’ d g uess i s o ld er th an th e g ate s o f h ell, c o vers h er e ars a n d c lo se s h er e y es l ik e a to ddle r. “O h, th at’ s r e ally m atu re . H ere I a m tr y in g to i n je ct s o m e c o lo r i n to y o ur b la ck -a n d-w hite -s ile n t- m ovie -lik e o ld -la d y e x is te n ce, a n d y o u’r e g oin g to i g no re m e? N ic e. R eally n ic e.” In a ll h o nesty , I d o n’t g iv e a d am n th at M yrn a F ra n ces d o esn ’t w an t to h ear a b o ut th is te x ti n g -b ut- n o t- s e x ti n g r e la ti o nsh ip I h av e g oin g o n, b ecau se I ’ v e g otte n to th e p o in t th at I h av e to te ll s o m eo ne. M y b est f r ie n d i s A W OL, a n d th ere fo re I ’ m l e ft w ith l ittl e c h o ic e b ut to s p ill h ere . Actu ally , th at’ s a l ie . I w ould h av e to rtu re d M yrn a w ith i t a n yw ay j u st to g et th is v ery r e acti o n o ut o f h er. I c o nsid er i t m y g ood d eed o f th e d ay. W ith o ut m y d aily d o se s o f c o lo r, s h e m ig ht d ie o f b o re d o m . Our a p artm en ts e ach ta k e u p h alf o f th e n ex t- to -th e-to p f lo or i n o ur M an hatta n b uild in g , a n d w hile I l e av e e v ery d ay n o m atte r w hat, e v en i f i t’ s j u st to r e p le n is h m y v o dka s u pply o r g o to w ork , s h e r a re ly m ak es i t p ast th e s id ew alk i n to th e o uts id e w orld . Myrn a d ro ps h er h an ds f r o m h er e ars a n d o pen s h er e y es. T he w rin kle s a ro und h er m outh d eep en w hen s h e s c o w ls a t m e. “ W hy a re y o u s ti ll h ere ? A nd w hy w on’t y o u g iv e m e b ack m y k ey, d am mit? ” “B ecau se y o ur d au g hte r a sk ed m e to c h eck o n y o u f iv e y ears a g o, a n d f o r s o m e r e aso n th at I c an ’t e x pla in , I r e ally e n jo y th at a rc h in g th in g y o u d o w ith y o ur e y eb ro w w hen y o u p re te n d to b e s h o ck ed b y th in g s I ’ m s a y in g . V ery M ale fic en t o f y o u. Y ou c an a d m it i t— yo u w atc h th e m ovie a n d p ra cti c e, d o n’t y o u?” Myrn a’s f r o w n d eep en s to v illa in ess l e v els a t th e m en ti o n o f h er d au g hte r. “ U ng ra te fu l c h ild . N ev er c o m es to v is it. T oo b usy w ith h er s u perfic ia l l if e to e v en r e m em ber th e w om an w ho g av e b ir th t o h er.” T his i s n ’t th e f ir st ti m e s h e’s s a id i t, o r e v en th e tw en ti e th ti m e. “Y ep , s h e’s r e ally s u perfic ia l, w hat w ith b ein g a m em ber o f C ong re ss a n d a ll.” “I’ m s u re s h e s le p t h er w ay to th e to p.” Ouch , M yrn a i s e sp ecia lly p is se d t o day. I p la y a lo ng w ith h er a n yw ay, b ecau se a t l e ast th is w ay I k no w s h e’s g etti n g h er h eart r a te u p. B ein g p is se d o ff i s a b o ut a s c lo se to c ard io a s s h e g ets . “Y ou k no w , I ’ ll h av e to c h eck . C han ces a re s h e r e ally d id — with e v ery m an , w om an , a n d tr a n ny i n h er c o ng re ssio nal d is tr ic t. S he’s g oin g to n eed s u rg ery to ti g hte n u p th at c o och o f h ers.” “G et o ut! ” Myrn a’s to ne h as c ro sse d i n to s c re ech te rrito ry , b ut I c an s e e s h e’s f ig hti n g a s m ile . T he o ld b at w ill e v en tu ally a d m it s h e l o ves h o w m uch I b o th er h er. Even tu ally . “N ot u nti l y o u o pen y o ur p re se n t.” Our e x ch an g e o f r id ic u lo usn ess i s n ’t g oin g to b e o ver u nti l M yrn a s e es w hat I b ro ug ht f o r h er. I h av en ’t g iv en h er a h eart a tta ck y et w ith o ne o f m y g if ts , s o I ’ m p re tty s u re s h e’s n o t g oin g to k ic k th e b uck et to day. Mum blin g s o m eth in g to h erse lf a b o ut th e w orld g oin g to h ell i f I ’ m a n e x am ple o f th e q uality o f t h e g en era ti o n l e ft i n c h arg e, s h e te ars o pen th e p in k p ap er ( n o t n o ti c in g th e e v en f a in te r p in k p en is e s o n i t, m uch to m y d is a p po in tm en t) , a n d f lip s th e l id o ff th e b o x.

“W hat i n th e h ell i s th is ? ” S he l if ts th e b la ck -a n d-s ilv er s ilic o ne p hallu s o ut o f th e b o x. “Y ou to ld m e to e at a b ag o f d ic k s l a st ti m e— good u se o f Urb an D ic tio nary , b y th e w ay — so I bro ug ht y o u a b ig b la ck c o ck . I t e v en v ib ra te s. I s w ear th at th in g c an e v en g et yo u o ff.” I’ m n o t s u re h o w to d esc rib e th e s o und th at c ro ak s f r o m h er o ld l a d y l ip s, b ut i t tu rn s i n to a s h rill battl e c ry a s s h e h urls th e g org eo us f a u x p hallu s to w ard m e. J o rd an a, M yrn a’s d o g, b o unds o ff h er pin k p rin cess c u sh io n a n d p o unces i n th e d ir e cti o n o f th e v ib ra to r. “A re y o u tr y in g to k ill m e w ith th at th in g ?” Myrn a r e co ils a s th e d ic k r o lls h arm le ssly a cro ss th e f lo or a s th e C hin ese c re ste d h air le ss d o g, cla d i n a g re en -a n d-p in k a rg yle s w eate r, s n if fs a t i t. Q uite f r a n kly , I ’ m i m pre sse d th at th e b atte ry co m partm en t d id n’t b urst o pen . Good t o k n ow i t’s d ura ble . I r is e f r o m th e to rtu re d ev ic e M yrn a c alls a c h air a s J o rd an a g iv es th e c o ck a l ic k . “Jo rd an a, d o n’t y o u d are — U gh, B an ner! G et i t a w ay f r o m h er! S he’ll c h o ke o n— ” “A d ic k ? T hat w ould b e a s a d w ay to g o f o r M s. J o rd y.” M y w ord s a re s in cere . W ell, th ey a re th ro ug h m y l a u g hte r. I g ra b th e v ib ra to r o ff th e f lo or b efo re th e d o g c an s in k h er to oth le ss g um s i n to th e s ilic o ne, a n d to ss i t b ack o nto M yrn a’s l a p . “A ll r ig ht, e ste em ed e ld er o f th e w orld . H av e a l o vely d ay p lo tti n g m y d eath .” “G et o ut! A nd ta k e th is w ith y o u!” “N ope. Y ou n eed a g ood O m ore th an I d o . S am e ti m e to m orro w ?” She g la re s a t m e w ith s u ch f o rc e, I ’ m a l ittl e s h o ck ed I ’ m n o t f e elin g th e d ag gers s h re d m y s k in . “O f c o urse , y o u h o rrib le c h ild .” “T hat’ s w hat I th o ug ht.” I g iv e h er a c h eek y w av e a n d a w in k. Sofia , M yrn a’s c are ta k er, e m erg es f r o m th e k itc h en w ith a fte rn o on te a s e rv ic e c o m pris e d o f cru stl e ss w ate rc re ss s a n dw ic h es, p ep perm in t te a, a n d F ig N ew to ns a s I h ead f o r th e d o or. N asty co m bin ati o n, b ut I n ab a N ew to n o ff th e tr a y a n yw ay a n d p o p i t i n m y m outh . “Y ou b ette r n o t b e s te alin g m y c o okie s,” M yrn a y ells f r o m th e l iv in g r o om . Sofia r o lls h er e y es. “ W hy d o y o u b o th d elig ht i n to rtu rin g e ach o th er? I t’ s a m yste ry o f th e univ erse I ’ ll n ev er q uite u ndersta n d.” Sofia ’s E aste rn E uro pean a ccen t c lin g s to th e w ord s, d esp ite h o w h ard I k no w s h e’s w ork ed to lo se i t. T he s ta tu esq ue b ru nette l o oks l ik e s h e s te p ped o ff a r u nw ay, b ut th e tw en ty -tw o-y ear-o ld c am e fr o m a m uch r o ug her b eg in nin g . “D rin ks to m orro w n ig ht? ” Sofia ’s e y es l ig ht u p. “ Y es, p le ase .” “G ood. C om e o ver w hen y o u f in is h y o ur s h if t. I s h o uld b e h o m e f r o m w ork .” Befo re I c an e sc ap e f r o m th e a p artm en t, M yrn a c o m es o ut f r o m th e l iv in g r o om , l e an in g h eav ily on h er c an e to i m part o ne l a st b it o f w is d o m . “Y ou k no w w hat’ s w ro ng w ith y o ur g en era ti o n, B an ner? Y ou d o n’t u ndersta n d a d am n th in g a b o ut re la ti o nsh ip s. Y ou’r e a ll te x ti n g th is a n d s e x ti n g th at. Y ou d o n’t a ctu ally m eet p eo ple i n p erso n a n d ta lk to th em . Y ou h o ok u p a n d s n eak o ut. M en d o n’t a sk p erm is sio n to c all b ecau se th ey ’v e a lr e ad y gotte n w hat th ey w an te d . Y ou d o n’t h o ld b ack a n d m ak e th em w ork f o r i t.” “A re y o u c allin g m e e asy , M yrn a?” She s h ru g s a f r a il s h o uld er. “ Y ou s a id i t, n o t m e.” Her i n sig ht s ti n g s, b ut I k eep m y s m ile p in ned i n p la ce. “E njo y th e b ig b la ck c o ck . I t m ig ht j u st c h an g e y o ur m in d a b o ut h o w g ood i t c an b e to g et s o m e dic k .” She w av es m e o ff w ith a m id dle -fin g er s a lu te , a n d I e sc ap e h er p earls o f w is d o m a n d j u dg m en t.

Myrn a i s th e c ra n kie st o ld w om an I ’ v e e v er m et, b ut f o r s o m e r e aso n, I l o ve b ein g a ro und h er. Her d au g hte r a n d s o n-in -la w d ro p i n n o m ore th an th re e ti m es a y ear, a n d th e r e st o f th e d ay s s h e’s le ft w ith p aid c are ta k ers l ik e S ofia , w ho a re k in d b ut a re s ti ll n o s u bsti tu te f o r f a m ily . Basic ally , M yrn a’s e x actl y w hat I ’ m te rrif ie d m y f u tu re i s g oin g to l o ok l ik e— old a n d a lo ne w ith no o ne w ho g iv es a d am n e x cep t th e p eo ple w ho c o lle ct a p ay ch eck f r o m m e. A t l e ast h er d o g i s l o yal. If I w ere n ’t s ti ll o ne h undre d p erc en t s e lf is h a n d c o uld a ctu ally k eep a g old fis h a liv e, m ay be I ’ d g et one. Nah. T o o m uch c o m mitm en t. Annnd w e’v e j u st c ro sse d i n to t h e dep re ssin g -a s-s h it p ortio n o f t h e a fte rn oon . My p ho ne v ib ra te s w ith a te x t a s I j a m m y k ey i n to th e l o ck o n m y a p artm en t d o or. I f r e eze, ex cite m en t h um min g th ro ug h m e. I c an ’t b elie v e I ’ v e g otte n s u ck ed i n to th is w eir d te x ti n g re la ti o nsh ip w ith a m an I ’ v e n ev er m et. B ut I c an ’t s to p. I m ean , I w ould h av e s to pped , b ut th en m y i n vesti g ati v e ( o kay, c all th em s ta lk eris h ) s k ills g ot th e best o f m e, a n d I f o und h is p ic tu re . Wearin g f a ti g ues, a w if e b eate r, a n d c o m bat b o ots , L ogan B ra n tl e y l o oks l ik e o ne o f th o se p ic tu re s wom en p o st o n P in te re st b o ard s b ut k no w th ey ’ll n ev er m eet i n r e al l if e u nle ss i t’ s p o ssib ly o n th e sta g e o f s o m e Magic M ik e s tr ip s h o w . E xcep t L ogan i s th e r e al d eal. But w e d o n’t s e x t. W e d o n’t s e n d n ak ed p ic s. A nd th ere ’s n o d ir ty ta lk . W e’v e a ctu ally b eco m e fr ie n ds in th e l a st c o uple o f w eek s, a n d h is te x ts f ill s o m e k in d o f n eed i n m y l if e I d id n’t k no w I h ad . Man hatta n ’s Q ueen o f O ne-N ig ht S ta n ds, m y s e lf -p ro cla im ed ti tl e , h as s u dden ly f a lle n i n to a fr ie n dsh ip w ith a g uy w ho l iv es h undre d s o f m ile s a w ay. A nd th e m ore w e te x t, th e m ore I r e aliz e th at may be th e m en o f N ew Y ork I ’ v e b een o ne-n ig hti n g a re n ’t th e m ost m asc u lin e s p ecim en s a ro und. Basic ally , e v ery ti m e I g o o n a d ate , I e n d u p te x ti n g L ogan th e s a m e q uesti o n, b ut w ith m ulti p le varia ti o ns. Would a r e a l m an . . . an d I ’ d f ill i n th e b la n k. Wea r a r o se -a nd-g ra y c a sh m ere s c a rf? Pair a b ow t ie w ith p re sse d j e a ns? Ord er a n e ld erflo w er m artin i? I th in k i t’ s s a fe to s a y th at L ogan B ra n tl e y ’s o pin io n o f th e m en o f M an hatta n , a t l e ast th e o nes I ’ v e gone o ut w ith l a te ly , i s s in kin g f a ste r th an th e T ita n ic . I p ull o ut m y p ho ne, a n ti c ip ati o n z in g in g th ro ug h m e. T hat a n ti c ip ati o n d ie s a q uic k d eath w hen th e n am e o n th e s c re en i s n ’t L ogan ’s . I n ste ad i t’ s th e g uy I m et o n th e s id ew alk o uts id e m y o ffic e while w aiti n g f o r m y c ar s e rv ic e to p ull u p. N o c ash m ere s c arf, b o w ti e , o r p re sse d j e an s. S o m ay be he’s a b ette r b et? I s w ip e a n d r e ad th e te x t. B RAN D ON S ID EW ALK : H ow a bout w e g ra b a d rin k a t 8 ? M y f r ie n d’s n ew b ar i s o pen in g t o m orro w , and h e’s h avin g a p re vie w t o nig ht. My f in g ers a re p o is e d o ver th e k ey bo ard to s a y n o . A ll I w an t r ig ht n o w i s a n a m azin g o rg asm , an d I a lr e ad y k no w I ’ m n o t g oin g to g et i t f r o m B ra n do n o f th e S id ew alk . I h av e a s e n se f o r th ese th in g s. But . . . m ay be I c o uld g et m y m arti n i f ix th ere . I a m a s u ck er f o r th e e x tr a d ir ty . B AN NER : W here ? B RAN D ON S ID EW ALK : 8 th a nd 4 3rd . T he b ar i s c a lle d O liv esq ue. I p ull u p G oogle a n d d o s o m e q uic k s e arc h in g . T here a re a f e w a rti c le s a b o ut O liv esq ue’s im pen din g o pen in g a n d l o ts o f g ood th in g s to s a y a b o ut i t. A ppare n tl y B ra n do n S id ew alk h as s o m e

fa n cy f r ie n ds, b ecau se i t’ s p re d ic te d th at O liv esq ue w ill b e i m po ssib le to g et i n to f o r a t l e ast th re e o r fo ur m onth s a fte r i t o pen s. As a b o rn -a n d-b re d N ew Y ork er w ith a ta ste f o r th e e x clu siv e, I c an ’t s a y n o . I’m o nly g oin g f o r t h e m artin i, I te ll m yse lf . B AN NER : I ’ll m eet y o u t h ere a t 8 . B RAN D ON S ID EW ALK : G re a t! L ookin g f o rw ard t o i t.

Chap te r 2 B an ner I ’m th an kfu l th e s m ell o f s m oke d o esn ’t c lin g to m y c lo th es a s I l e t m yse lf i n to m y a p artm en t. O h, a n d th at I e sc ap ed f r o m o verly f r ie n dly B ra n do n w ith o ut l e tti n g h im s h o ve h is h an d u p m y s k ir t. I d id n’t s e e th at c o m in g . I f ig ure d h e’d b e o verly p o lite , b ut i n ste ad h e w as p re tty m uch a d ic k . P ar f o r t h e M an hatta n c o urse , I s u ppo se . With th e b uzz o f g ood v o dka th ru m min g a lo ng w ith i n dig nati o n th ro ug h m y v ein s, I p ull o ut m y p ho ne. B AN NER : W ould a r e a l m an t r y t o f e el u p a w om an i n a b ar w hen i t’s c le a r s h e’s n ot i n te re ste d a nd te lls h im t o k eep h is h ands t o h im se lf? A sk in g f o r a f r ie n d. I m ak e a b eelin e f o r m y b ath ro om a n d tu rn o n th e s h o w er a n d th e tu b. F ir st, I n eed to w ash th e f ilm o f g ro ssn ess o ff m e, a n d th en I ’ m g oin g to s o ak f o r a n h o ur a n d ta k e c are o f b usin ess. A nd b y b usin ess, I m ean I ’ m g oin g to g et th at k ille r o rg asm I ’ v e b een d yin g f o r a ll d ay. I’ m a lr e ad y o ver h alf w ay th ro ug h m y s h o w er r o uti n e w hen m y p ho ne v ib ra te s o n th e c o unte r. I f i t’ s B ra n do n S id ew alk a sk in g m e to g o o ut a g ain , m y r e p ly w ill b e e p ic . I r in se th e c o nditi o ner o ut o f m y h air a n d e n d m y s h o w er e arly . I te ll m yse lf i t’ s o nly b ecau se I ’ m w orrie d th at th e tu b w ill r u n o ver i f I d o n’t c h eck o n th e w ate r l e v el. Riiig ht. I t h as n oth in g t o d o w ith t h e t e xt w aitin g o n m y p hone, a nd m e h opin g i t’s L ogan. N oth in g. Hoppin g o ut, I d o n’t b o th er to w elin g d ry b efo re I g ra b m y p ho ne o ff th e c o unte r. L OGAN R EAL M AN B RAN TLE Y : W ho d o I n eed t o k ill? Sho uld th at a lp ha-c av em an r e sp o nse s e n d s h iv ers th ro ug h a ll th e b est p arts o f m e? N o, b ecau se w e’r e j u st fr ie n ds. But th at d o esn ’t c h an g e th e f a ct th at m y n ip ple s a re h ard a n d g oose b um ps r is e a lo ng m y a rm s. B AN NER : I ’ll c h eck w ith m y f r ie n d. L OGAN R EAL M AN B RAN TLE Y : C ut t h e s h it, BAN NER . N o r e a l m an t o uch es a w om an w hen s h e s a ys n o. B AN NER : A r e a l m an w ould h ave h er b eg gin g h im i n ste a d, r ig ht? I k n ow y o u w ould . I f r e eze a s e co nd a fte r I h it S EN D . Cra p. I o ffic ia lly c ro sse d t h e l in e. I h o ld m y b re ath a s I w ait f o r a r e sp o nse . T here a re th in g s I th in k a b o ut s a y in g to L ogan , e sp ecia lly w hen I p ic tu re h im n ak ed w hile I ’ m l y in g i n b ed , b ut I ’ v e b een so good b y n o t s a y in g th em t o h im o ver th e p ho ne. I to ld m yse lf I w ould n’t d o th is w ith h im . I ’ d k eep h im i n th e s a fe z o ne s o I d id n’t s c re w e v ery th in g u p a n d l o se w hate v er i t i s w e h av e b etw een u s. But I d id i t a n yw ay b ecau se I s u ck . I r e le ase m y b re ath a n d c are fu lly a n d d elib era te ly l a y m y p ho ne b ack o n th e c o unte r a n d w alk n ak ed a n d d rip pin g to m y k itc h en to p ull a b o ttl e o f v o dka o ut o f th e f r e ezer. I d um p tw o f in g ers i n to a g la ss a n d to ss i n a c o uple o f i c e c u bes b efo re c alm ly m ak in g m y w ay b ack to th e b ath ro om a n d m y

ste am in g tu b. What i f h e d oesn ’t a nsw er? What i f h e n ever t e xts m e b ack a gain ? Then I ’ ll d rin k m ore v o dka a n d m ourn th e l o ss o f th is r id ic u lo us c o nnecti o n to a m an I ’ v e n ev er met. What’s m y f a sc in atio n w ith h im , a nyw ay? The a n sw ers c o m e i n r a p id -fir e s u ccessio n. He’s b lu nt a n d to th e p o in t, a n d n ev er b ulls h its m e w hen I a sk h im a q uesti o n. H e’s n o th in g l ik e th e men o f M an hatta n w ho I d ate . H e’s s a fe a n d f r o m a c o m ple te ly d if fe re n t w orld s e v en h undre d m ile s aw ay, a n d I f ig ure d th ere w as n o w ay I c o uld s c re w th is u p b y s le ep in g w ith h im . Is n ’t t h at e n lig hte n in g? The ta il e n d o f a v ib ra ti o n tr a ils o ff a s I w alk b ack i n to m y b ath ro om , a n d m y h eartb eat im med ia te ly k ic k s u p. I s n atc h m y p ho ne o ff th e c o unte r. L OGAN R EAL M AN B RAN TLE Y : I f s h e’s n ot b eg gin g, h e’s d oin g s o m eth in g w ro ng. L adie s a lw ays c o m e fir st. I w ant a n am e. My h an d s h ak es a s I c arry th e p ho ne a n d m y d rin k to th e tu b, a n d p o siti o n b o th o n th e e d g e a s I slid e i n to th e s te am in g w ate r. Afte r d ab bin g m y w et f in g ers o n th e to w el r o lle d u p i n a b ask et to m y l e ft, I ta p o ut m y r e p ly . B AN NER : Bra ndon S id ew alk , n ever t o b e r e p ea te d . I f lip m y p ho ne f a ced o w n o n th e l e d g e a ro und th e tu b a n d s in k i n to th e w ate r. Logan c o uld d efin ite ly m ake m e b eg . Je su s, th is i s th e w orst i d ea I ’ v e e v er h ad . W hat m ad e m e th in k I c o uld k eep f r o m r u in in g th is ? When I f ir st g ot a te x t f r o m L ogan B ra n tl e y ’s n um ber, i t w as r e ally c o m in g f r o m m y b est f r ie n d, Gre er, w ho ’d b een w ith o ut h er p ho ne d ue to s o m e r e ally c ra zy s h it. G re er, b ein g th e a w eso m e f r ie n d sh e i s , f o und a G ood S am arita n w ho l e t h er u se h is p ho ne to te x t m e s o I ’ d s to p l o sin g m y f r e ak in g min d. But i n ste ad o f g etti n g G re er w hen I te x te d b ack , I g ot th e G ood S am arita n — Logan B ra n tl e y, fo rm er U S m arin e, o ne h undre d p erc en t K en tu ck y r e d neck , a n d th e o ppo site o f e v ery m an I ’ v e e v er met. O nce I f in is h ed m y o nlin e s ta lk in g a n d s a w h is p ic tu re , i s i t a n y s u rp ris e I k ep t te x ti n g h im ? I r e ach b elo w th e s u rfa ce o f th e w ate r, w is h in g I ’ d g ra b bed a to y to a id th e Get B anner t o O rg asm Rea lly , R ea lly F ast cau se , b ut I c an d o th e j o b w ith o ut a n y a ssis ta n ce. Adju sti n g i n to a m ore c o m fo rta b le p o siti o n, I l e t m y l e g s f a ll to th e s id es o f th e tu b. P le asu re buzzes th ro ug h m y v ein s a s I p ic tu re th e f o rb id den : L ogan o n to p o f m e, p o undin g i n to m e o ver a n d over. My p ho ne v ib ra te s f r o m th e l e d g e. I s h ak e o ff th e w ate r a n d o nce a g ain b lo t m y f in g ers o n a to w el. L OGAN R EAL M AN B RAN TLE Y : I ’ll b e t h ere o n F rid ay. BRAN D ON S ID EW ALK b ette r h ave a r e a l n am e b y th e t im e I g et t h ere . My p o undin g h eart k ic k s u p, th uddin g w ith a j a ck ed -u p r h yth m a s m y p ho ne s lip s f r o m m y fin g ers a n d tu m ble s to th e f lo or, s lid in g a cro ss th e tr a v erti n e ti le s a n d o ut o f r e ach . M oti o nle ss i n th e tu b, I s ta re a t i t a s I f r e ak th e h ell o ut.

No. N ot p ossib le . L ogan h as n o r e a so n t o b e i n N ew Y o rk . H e’s k id din g. I t’s f in e. M y f a nta sy i s n ’t goin g t o c o m e t o l ife o nly t o b e s h atte re d a s s o on a s I m eet h im . N oth in g i s g oin g t o h appen . I c a n k eep him i n t h e s a fe z o ne. N o m ore d ir ty t e xts . J u st d ir ty t h oughts . I t’s f in e. I s ta y i n th e w ate r u nti l i t c o ols d o w n, n o o rg asm i n s ig ht, b ecau se m y b ra in w on’t s to p s p in nin g with th e p o ssib iliti e s. He h as to b e j o kin g . T here ’s n o p o ssib le w ay th at L ogan B ra n tl e y o f G old H av en , K en tu ck y, i s co m in g to N ew Y ork . N oth in g to w orry a b o ut h ere . When I f in ally c lim b o ut o f th e tu b a n d w ra p m yse lf i n a f lu ffy to w el, I ta k e m easu re d s te p s a cro ss th e f lo or to r e tr ie v e m y p ho ne. M y h an d i s n ’t s h ak in g w hen I p ic k i t u p, o r s o I te ll m yse lf . With th e r a m pag in g b eat o f m y h eart n earin g l if e -th re ate n in g l e v els , I s ta re d o w n a t th e s c re en a s it c o m es to l if e . L OGAN R EAL M AN B RAN TLE Y : W hat’s y o ur a ddre ss? Holy . S hit.

Chap te r 3 L ogan I ta k e a s w ig o f m y B ud, g ra b m y w re n ch , a n d l e an o ver th e e n g in e o f th e c ar I ’ m w ork in g o n. M y g rip f le x es h ard a g ain st th e s te el a t th e th o ug ht s o m e g uy w ould d are to uch a w om an w ith o ut h er c o nse n t. W hat th e f u ck i s w ro ng w ith th o se N ew Y ork er a ssh o le s? I t’ s n o t h o w I p la n ned to te ll B an ner I w as g oin g to b e i n to w n, b ut f u ck i f th at w om an d o esn ’t g et m e a ll k in ds o f ti e d u p. Banner. What th e h ell k in d o f n am e i s th at f o r a w om an , a n yw ay ? Afte r o ne e n co unte r w ith h er f r ie n d G re er, I k no w e x actl y w hat k in d o f w om an s h e h as to b e— th e k in d w ho ’s s o f a r o ut o f m y l e ag ue, I s h o uld n’t e v en b e th in kin g a b o ut h er. And y et h ere I a m s p en din g ti m e I n eed to b e u sin g to tu rn c ars i n to c ash , te x ti n g w ith h er. If y o u a sk ed m e a m onth a g o, I w ould h av e l a u g hed m y a ss o ff a t th e i d ea th at I ’ d g et i n to s o m eth in g w ith a w om an I ’ v e n ev er m et i n p erso n. I ’ v e n ev er e v en th o ug ht a b o ut tr y in g th e d is a ste r o f o nlin e d ati n g . B ut s o m eh o w I e n ded u p s u ck ed i n to s o m eth in g I ’ m n o t s u re h o w to e x pla in , w ith a w om an l iv in g h undre d s o f m ile s a w ay. But d am mit, I ’ m i n tr ig ued b y h er. H er would a r e a l m an questi o ns n ev er f a il to m ak e m e l a u g h. W hat th e h ell k in d o f m en a re l iv in g u p th ere ? J e su s f u ck in g C hris t. T hese d o uch e b ag s m ak e i t s tu pid e asy to m ak e f u n o f th em . Then a g ain , th e s a m e g uys w ould l o ok a t m e a n d s e e a f o rm er j a rh ead , l if e lo ng r e d neck , a n d n o w p ro fe ssio nal g re ase m onkey tr y in g to c arv e o ut a l iv in g i n a o ne-s to plig ht to w n. T ho se W all S tr e et t y pes w ould n’t e v en s h ak e m y h an d. Fuck ’ e m . So, w hy a m I h aulin g m y a ss a ll t h e w ay t o N ew Y o rk t o d eliv er t h e R oad R unner i n ste a d o f t u rn in g i t o ver t o a c a r h aule r? Becau se I h av e to m eet h er. I n eed to f in d o ut o nce a n d f o r a ll th at s h e’s n o t r e ally a s f u nny a n d c u te a s s h e c o m es a cro ss o ver th ese d am n te x ts . T he b est w ay to r u in a f a n ta sy i s to m eet th e r e ality , r ig ht? I ’ m s u re s h e’ll ta k e o ne l o ok a t m e a n d tu rn u p h er n o se . But w hat i f s h e d oesn ’t ? The f a ct th at s h e h asn ’t a n sw ere d m y te x t y et i s n ’t s itti n g r ig ht w ith m e. T hat’ s a ll f in e a n d g ood b ecau se a r e al m an i s n ’t a fr a id to f ig ht f o r w hat h e w an ts — an d w hat I w an t i s to c u re m yse lf o f th is f a sc in ati o n. At l e ast, th at’ s w hat I ’ m te llin g m yse lf . I f I w ere to a d m it th e tr u th , i t’ s th at h er m essa g es s e em to p ull a s m ile f r o m m e e v ery ti m e, e v en w hen I ’ m s ta rin g d o w n th e d ead lin e f r o m h ell l ik e I h av e b een o n th is r e b uild . S om eh o w , w hate v er w e h av e g oin g o n r e m in ds m e th at th ere ’s m ore to l if e th an m ak in g a d o lla r. I to ss th e w re n ch a sid e a n d g ra b a r a g o ff m y w ork ben ch to w ip e m y h an ds. I ’ m d o ne f o r to nig ht. Over th e e arsp litti n g s o und o f M eta llic a, s o m eo ne p o unds o n th e g ara g e d o or. What t h e h ell? It’ s q uarte r a fte r te n , a n d th is w ho le s le ep y to w n i s tu ck ed i n e x cep t f o r th e d ie h ard s d rin kin g a t th e b o w lin g a lle y f o r W ed nesd ay n ig ht l e ag ue. T he o nly r e aso n I ’ m u p i s to h it th is r id ic u lo us f u ck in g d ead lin e s o I c an l o ad th e c ar o n a tr a ile r to m orro w a n d c o lle ct th e r e st o f m y c ash . I s tr id e to th e s e rv ic e d o or, f lip th e l o ck , a n d p ull i t o pen . “D am n, L ogan . W hat’ s a g ir l g otta d o to g et y o ur a tte n ti o n th ese d ay s? ” J u lia n ne L ie fe r s ta n ds a t

th e d o or w ith a f if th o f W ild T urk ey a n d a b uck et o f a f r ie d c h ic k en f r o m C lu ck Y ou. “D id y o u n eed s o m eth in g ?” I a sk a s th e w afti n g s c en t o f g re ase h its m y n o se . “T ho ug ht y o u m ig ht n eed s o m e d in ner. I j u st f in is h ed a s u per-fu ck in g -lo ng a p po in tm en t tu rn in g a clie n t’ s h air i n to a f r ig gin ’ m aste rp ie ce, a n d s h e h ad h er h usb an d d ro p m e o ff s o m e f r ie d c h ic k en a n d bo oze w hen h e p ic k ed h er u p. I s a w y o ur tr u ck , s o I f ig ure d I ’ d o ffe r to s h are . T here ’s p o ta to w ed g es, bis c u its , a n d s la w to o.” Ju lia n ne’s s a lo n s its r ig ht a cro ss f r o m m y r e p air s h o p, a n d w e’v e f a lle n i n to a n e asy f r ie n dsh ip . The p eo ple o f G old H av en j o kin g ly r e fe r to h er s a lo n a s C ut a B itc h , r a th er th an th e r e al n am e, C ut I t Best. C ut a B itc h i s m ore a ccu ra te w hen i t c o m es to h o w s h e tr e ats th e p eo ple w ho p is s h er o ff. Ju lia n ne r e cen tl y b ro ke i t o ff w ith m y b uddy G ra n g er, a n d I ’ m r e ally f u ck in g h o pin g s h e h asn ’t decid ed I ’ d m ak e a h ell o f a r e b o und. There ’s n o w ay I ’ d g o th ere , e v en i f s h e i s n ’t l ik e m ost o f th e w om en i n th is to w n— ju st l o okin g fo r a m an to ta k e c are o f th em . J u lia n ne w ork s h er a ss o ff a s h ard a s I d o . “I a lr e ad y h ad s o m e d in ner.” She g iv es m e a l o ok th at s a y s oh r e a lly ? “A H ot P ock et d o esn ’t c o unt a s r e al f o od.” S he s lid es b y me, th e b uck et o f c h ic k en c ru sh in g a ro und th e e d g es b etw een u s. “Y ou’r e b o und to g et g re ase a ll o ver y o urse lf i f y o u’r e n o t c are fu l.” She l o oks b ack a n d w in ks a t m e. “ A l ittl e g re ase i s n ’t g onna h urt a r e al w om an . I l ik e g etti n g dir ty .” Ban ner’s b lu nt m essa g e c o m es b ack to m e. A r e a l m an w ould h ave h er b eg gin g h im i n ste a d, r ig ht? I k n ow y o u w ould . She c alle d i t r ig ht, b ecau se th ere w as n o th in g I l ik e m ore th an a w om an a t m y m erc y, b eg gin g f o r re lie f. I g la n ce a t w here m y p ho ne w aits i n m y to olb o x, a n d w onder i f B an ner h as r e sp o nded w ith h er ad dre ss o r i f s h e’s g onna c h ic k en o ut o n m e. I d o n’t h av e ti m e to th in k a b o ut i t f o r l o ng b ecau se J u lia n ne d ro ps th e b uck et o f c h ic k en o n th e work ben ch a n d p ulls tw o s to ols to geth er. S he tw is ts th e to p o ff th e W ild T urk ey a n d ta k es a s w ig befo re h o ld in g i t o ut to m e. “T oday h as b een f o r s h it. O ne o f m y s ty lis ts g ot i n to i t w ith m y n ail te ch a n d th ey b o th w alk ed o ut, le av in g m e to d eal w ith th e m ess o f a p po in tm en ts th ey h ad s c h ed ule d . I c o uld ’v e g one h o m e a n d e ate n my f r ie d c h ic k en a lo ne o n m y c o uch , b ut th at w ould p ut m e i n a n e v en w orse m ood th an I ’ m i n n o w , so j u st f u ck in g h um or m e, L ogan .” I ta k e th e b o ttl e f r o m h er a n d tw is t th e c ap b ack o n b efo re g ra b bin g a p ie ce o f c h ic k en f r o m th e buck et. “A t l e ast y o u d o n’t h av e to w orry th at I ’ m u sin g f o od to tr y to tr a p y o u i n to a r in g l ik e E m my Harris . I j u st w an t s o m e c o m pan y.” I a lm ost c h o ke o n m y f ir st b ite o f c h ic k en a t th e m en ti o n o f E m my H arris , th e m an ag er o f H om e Cookin ’ w ho b rin g s a p ple d um plin g s a n d p each p ie to th e s h o p o n w hat s e em s l ik e a r e g ula r b asis . I t sta rte d o ut i n no cen tl y a b o ut n in e m onth s a g o w hen I g ot s o f r ig gin g b usy I d id n’t h av e ti m e to g o ho m e a n d c o ok f o r m yse lf , a n d e n ded u p a t H om e C ookin ’ d am n n ear e v ery d ay o f th e w eek . Em my ta lk ed m e i n to ta k in g h er to th e m ovie s a c o uple o f ti m es, a n d d in ner s o m ew here o th er th an H om e C ookin ’ o nce, b ut w hen s h e s ta rte d d ro ppin g h in ts a b o ut w an ti n g to s e e e ach o th er ex clu siv ely a n d ta lk in g a b o ut h o w th e h o use s h e’s b uild in g w ould b e g re at f o r a f a m ily , I b ack ed o ff. I th o ug ht w e w ere f r ie n ds, b ut s h e s e em s to h av e d ev elo ped d if fe re n t i d eas. I t h elp s th at I ’ v e b een to o busy to g o o n a d ate a n yw ay, s o m y e x cu se s to h er h av en ’t b een c o m ple te B S. Esp ecia lly s in ce I ’d r a th er w ork m y a ss o ff a nd t a ke r a ndom b re a ks t o t e xt a w om an I ’v e n ever met.

Yeah , I ’ v e g ot n o e x pla n ati o n f o r th at. The m ore I th in k a b o ut i t a s I p ack a w ay th e g re asy c h ic k en , I d ecid e th ere ’s s o m eth in g s e rio usly wro ng w ith m e. I ’ v e g ot f le sh -a n d-b lo od w om en i n G old H av en w ho u ndersta n d e x actl y th e k in d o f man I a m , b ut i n ste ad h ere I a m g etti n g r e ad y to d riv e to N ew Y ork b ecau se I n eed to s a ti s fy m y cu rio sity a b o ut B an ner. S he’s f r o m a to ta lly d if fe re n t w orld , a n d w e’r e n o t g oin g to h av e a d am n th in g i n c o m mon, b ut e v en th at k no w le d g e i s n ’t s to ppin g m e f r o m d o in g i t. Ju lia n ne k no ck s b ack a n o th er s h o t o f W ild T urk ey, n o t e x pecti n g o r w aiti n g f o r a r e p ly f r o m m e, whic h i s s m art. I d o n’t h av e a w ho le l o t to s a y w hen m y th o ug hts a re a ll tw is te d a ro und B an ner. Why a m I p ush in g t h is w ith h er? Becau se th ere ’s s o m eth in g a b o ut h er I c an ’t g et o ut o f m y m in d. One tr ip . O ne m eeti n g . T hat’ s a ll I n eed , a n d I ’ ll k no w e x actl y h o w r id ic u lo us th is h as b een f r o m th e b eg in nin g . My p ho ne b uzzes f r o m i ts s p o t i n th e o pen l id o f m y to olb o x, a n d b o th J u lia n ne a n d I l o ok to w ard it. “S om eo ne w ho ’s g oin g to b e j e alo us th at I ’ m s itti n g h ere ?” Would B anner b e j e a lo us? I h av e n o f u ck in g c lu e. I w ip e m y h an ds a n d r e ach f o r i t. In ste ad o f th e a d dre ss I a sk ed f o r, I g et a d if fe re n t m essa g e. B AN NER N YC : A re y o u s e rio us? I g iv e h er th e tr u th . L OGAN : Y es. F rid ay. I t’s t im e w e m eet i n p erso n. I w ait f o r a m om en t, b ut w hen h er r e p ly d o esn ’t c o m e r ig ht a w ay, I p ut th e p ho ne b ack i n i ts p la ce an d r e sp o nd to J u lia n ne. “A f r ie n d.” “D oes s h e k no w s h e m ak es y o u l ig ht u p l ik e th at? O r th at s h e’s a l u ck y b itc h b ecau se o f i t? ” “S he’s n o t u p f o r d is c u ssio n.” Ju lia n ne w his tl e s a s s h e g ra b s f o r a n o th er p ie ce o f c h ic k en . “ D oes E m my k no w a b o ut h er co m peti ti o n?” “T his i s n ’t a n y o f E m my’s b usin ess.” Ju lia n ne r a is e s a n e y eb ro w . “ S o . . . w ho i s th e m yste ry w om an ? D o I k no w h er? ” Fin ally , I s n ag th e b o ttl e o f W ild T urk ey, u ncap i t, a n d d um p s o m e i n th e e m pty c o ffe e m ug th at’ s sti ll s itti n g u nw ash ed f r o m m y l a st f ill- u p th is a fte rn o on. “ N o.” “F in e; b e d if fic u lt. I ’ m s u re I ’ ll f in d o ut o ne w ay o r a n o th er.” S he p au se s, a n d th e s h it- s ti r re r i n her c o m es to l if e . “ Y ou te ll h er y o u’r e w ith a n o th er w om an r ig ht n o w ?” I g iv e h er a h ard l o ok. I f I ’ m n o t c are fu l, J u lia n ne w ill s p re ad m y b usin ess a ll o ver to w n. S he’s th e queen o f th e g ossip g ra p ev in e, a n d I d o n’t n eed a n y p art o f i t. “T here ’s n o th in g to te ll. Y ou s a id i t y o urse lf — th is w as a b ette r a lte rn ati v e th an g oin g h o m e b y yo urse lf a n d r e aliz in g y o u j u st b ro ke u p w ith th e b est th in g th at e v er h ap pen ed to y o u.” Ju lia n ne’s s h o uld ers s ti f fe n . “ G ra n g er R yan w asn ’t th e b est th in g th at e v er h ap pen ed to m e. I w as th e b est th in g th at e v er h ap pen ed to h im . H e j u st c o uld n’t g et h is h ead o ut o f h is a ss l o ng e n o ug h to ap pre cia te w hat h e h ad , s o h e l o st i t.” My f r ie n d G ra n g er, th e f ir e c h ie f i n th is s m all to w n, i s s ti ll p is se d a b o ut h o w s h e m arc h ed i n to th e sta ti o n a n d to ld h im i t w as o ver— in f r o nt o f a ll h is v o lu nte er f ir e m en . Eith er w ay, th e s u bje ct o f w ho i s te x ti n g m e c lo se s.

Now , I j u st g otta g et B an ner’s a d dre ss s o I c an tr a ck h er d o w n a s s o on a s th is R oad R unner i s i n th e h an ds o f i ts o w ner.

Chap te r 4 B an ner I d ra g S ofia i n to m y a p artm en t w hen s h e k no ck s o n th e d o or T hursd ay e v en in g . T his i s th e a b so lu te w orst ti m e n o t to h av e m y b est g ir lf r ie n d a ro und to s p ill to , b ut I h av e to te ll s o m eo ne. “I a p o lo giz e i n a d van ce, b ut y o u h av e to l is te n to e v ery th in g I s a y a n d te ll m e w hat to d o .” Beca use c le a rly I c a n’t b e t r u ste d t o m ake r a tio nal d ecis io ns a bout t h is m an , I a d d s ile n tl y . “W hat’ s g oin g o n?” S ofia ’s a ccen t i s th ic k er th an n o rm al i n h er c o nfu sio n. “Y ou r e m em ber th e g uy I ’ v e b een te x ti n g w ith ?” “T he o ne y o u’v e b een to rtu rin g M rs. F ra n ces w ith f o r w eek s? ” “I m ig ht d is p ute th e u se o f th e w ord t o rtu re , b ut y es. H im . H e’s c o m in g h ere . T om orro w .” “H ere ? N ew Y ork , h ere ?” “Y es. H ere . N ew Y ork . M an hatta n . A nd I d o n’t k no w w hat to d o . H elp .” Rare ly d o I e v er h av e m y c o nfid en ce to ta lly k no ck ed o ff i ts a x is , b ut th is s itu ati o n i s a n a n o m aly . L ogan i s s u ppo se d to s ta y i n sid e m y l ittl e m ag ic b o x o f a p ho ne w here I f e el l ik e I ’ m s ti ll i n c o ntr o l, b ecau se th e s e co nd h e b eco m es r e al, a s i n f le sh a n d b lo od, a ll b ets a re o ff. “Y ou h av e to m eet h im . I m ean , y o u c an ’t m is s th is c h an ce.” “I c an ’t! I ’ m g oin g to s c re w e v ery th in g u p, a n d th en — ” I c u t m yse lf o ff b efo re I c an a d m it th at i t’ s g oin g to s u ck s o m uch m ajo r d o nkey d ic k i f I l o se h im i n m y l if e . E ven i n th is s h o rt p erio d o f ti m e, I ’ v e g otte n a tta ch ed to w hate v er w e h av e. “A nd th en w hat? W hat c o uld y o u p o ssib ly s c re w u p? I t’ s n o t l ik e y o u’r e p la n nin g to m arry th e g uy o r s o m eth in g , r ig ht? ” Sofia ’s q uesti o n s to ps m e c o ld a n d to sse s m e y ears i n to th e p ast. I m um ble a r e sp o nse a s I h ead f o r th e k itc h en a n d m y tr u sty b o ttl e o f v o dka i n th e f r e ezer. S ofia ’s R ussia n , I th in k, s o s h e c an h ack i t. Som ed ay, I ’ m g oin g to b e a b le to f a ce th e i d ea o f m arria g e w ith o ut th in kin g o f L iv in g sto n A rm str o ng ’s m oth er te llin g h im th at I ’ m th e k in d o f g ir l y o u b an g i n a f r a t h o use , n o t th e k in d o f g ir l y o u b rin g to th e H am pto ns to m eet th e f a m ily . I s h o uld h av e k no w n w ith a n am e l ik e L iv in g sto n, h e’d b e a p re te n ti o us d o uch e b ag . The r e st o f th e m em ory r e p la y s i n m y h ead l ik e i t h ap pen ed y este rd ay. “B ut s h e’s f r o m a g re a t f a m ily , M oth er.” Haughty M rs. A rm str o ng d id n’t c a re . “ She m ig ht b e f r o m a g ood f a m ily , b ut t h at d oesn ’t m ea n s h e’s c u t f r o m t h e s a m e c lo th . T hat g ir l i s t r o uble . M ark m y w ord s. S ow y o ur w ild o ats w ith t h at o ne, a nd t h en g o f in d a n ic e g ir l t o s e ttle d ow n w ith . H er m oth er m ust b e s o a sh am ed t o h ave s u ch a b ra sh a nd c la ssle ss d aughte r. D on’t e ver b rin g h er b ack h ere .” Liv in gsto n d ro pped h is g aze t o h is l a p a s h is m oth er l o oked u p a nd c a ught m e w atc h in g t h em f r o m a ro und t h e c o rn er. S he d id n’t t a ke b ack a s in gle w ord o r a polo giz e . N o, i n ste a d s h e t ilte d h er h ea d a nd r a is e d a b ro w . Bitc h . Liv in g sto n d id n’t g et to s o w a n y m ore w ild o ats w ith m e. I to ld th e e n ti r e f e m ale G re ek p o pula ti o n a t A m herst th at h is d ic k w as to o s m all to b e b o th ere d w ith , a n d h e h ad to f in d g ir ls f r o m o th er s c h o ols to d ate u nti l g ra d uati o n. That w as th e l a st ti m e I l e t m yse lf th in k a b o ut m y f u tu re i n te rm s o f a s in g le g uy. I’ m n o t th e m arry in g ty pe, a n d w hile I f o ug ht n o t to ta k e M rs. A rm str o ng ’s w ord s to h eart, s h e

gutte d m e w ith o ne s e n te n ce o f s o lid tr u th . M y m oth er w as a sh am ed , n o t o nly a b o ut m e b ein g b ra sh an d c la ssle ss, b ut a ls o a b o ut th e f a ct th at I r e fu se d to g o to M IT a n d f o llo w i n m y p are n ts ’ f o ots te p s. I e n ded u p a t A m herst, m uch to th eir d is a p po in tm en t, a n d th ey e sse n ti a lly w ash ed th eir h an ds o f me a fte r th at. S o i n ste ad o f b eco m in g a s tu dio us l ittl e f u tu re s c ie n ti s t, I b ecam e s o m eth in g e ls e en ti r e ly — th e l if e o f th e p arty w ith n o i n te n ti o n o f e v er s e ttl in g d o w n. “B an ner? A re y o u l is te n in g to m e?” I tu rn a ro und w ith th e v o dka b o ttl e i n h an d a n d s h ak e m yse lf f r e e o f th e p ast. “ S orry , s p aced o ut. What d id y o u s a y ?” “A re y o u w orrie d h e’s n o t g oin g to l ik e y o u? I ’ m n o t s u re th at’ s p o ssib le . M en l o ve y o u. A ll o f th em .” “M en l o ve m y ti ts , a ss, a n d d ir ty m outh ,” I r e p ly , m y to ne f lip pan t. M y p rid e w on’t l e t m e a d m it th at I ’ m te rrif ie d L ogan B ra n tl e y w on’t l ik e th e r e st o f m e. I’m b ein g r id ic u lo us. S cre w h im i f h e d oesn ’t l ik e m e. I ’m a w eso m e. I r e m in d m yse lf I d o n’t c are w hat a n yo ne th in ks, l e t a lo ne s o m e g uy I ’ ll p ro bab ly n ev er s e e a g ain . Why a m I f r e a kin g o ut a bout t h is , a nyw ay? Tak in g a s w ig s tr a ig ht f r o m th e b o ttl e , I f o cu s o n th e s m ooth b urn o f th e v o dka s lid in g d o w n m y th ro at a n d a n no unce, “ W e’r e g oin g o ut.” Sofia th ro w s b o th h an ds i n to th e a ir , a n d I k no w s h e n eed s to nig ht a s b ad ly a s I d o . “ C an I c h an g e in y o ur b ath ro om ? I d id n’t w an t M rs. F ra n ces to s e e m e g et s lu tte d u p. H er w ord s, n o t m in e.” I s m ile . “ Y es, d efin ite ly . G et o n w ith y o ur s lu tty s e lf .” She g ig gle s l ik e th e tw en ty -tw o-y ear-o ld g ir l i t’ s e asy to f o rg et s h e i s , a n d p au se s b efo re tu rn in g to w ard th e b ath ro om . “ M y s k ir t i s s o s h o rt, w e w on’t p ay f o r d rin ks a ll n ig ht. I t m ig ht n o t s o lv e y o ur questi o n a b o ut th e g uy, b ut i t c o uld n’t h urt.” “I’ ll w orry a b o ut h im to m orro w .”

Chap te r 5 L ogan I s ti ll h av en ’t g otte n a n a d dre ss f r o m B an ner a s I l o ad u p th e R oad R unner to h ead o ut b efo re th e s u n r is e s to m orro w m orn in g . I h av e h alf a m in d to p ull s o m e s tr in g s a n d f ig ure o ut w here s h e l iv es o n m y o w n i f s h e d o esn ’t r e sp o nd. I ’ m n o t g oin g to w aste th is c h an ce j u st b ecau se s h e’s s u dden ly h av in g c o ld f e et. B esid es, th at’ s n o t th e w om an I ’ v e g otte n to k no w . S he ta k es l if e h ead -o n. By th e ti m e I c ra n k d o w n th e l a st r a tc h et s tr a p , I d ecid e I ’ m n o t g onna l e t h er c h ic k en o ut. E ven w ith o ut h er a d dre ss, I ’ m g onna m eet B an ner a n d s a ti s fy m y r a g in g c u rio sity . R eg ard le ss o f w hate v er e ls e d o es o r d o esn ’t h ap pen , th e l e ast I c an d o i s s h o w h er h o w a r e al m an tr e ats a w om an . As th o ug h I c o nju re d i t th ro ug h m y th o ug hts , m y p ho ne b uzzes w ith a te x t m essa g e. I p ull i t o ut, a n d a s m ile tu g s a t th e c o rn er o f m y m outh . It’ s a n a d dre ss. A s e co nd m essa g e c o m es th ro ug h i m med ia te ly a fte r. B AN NER N YC : W e’re n ot m eetin g a t m y p la ce. I ty pe m y r e p ly . L OGAN : Y o u d on’t t r u st m e. B AN NER N YC : M ayb e i t’s m e I d on’t t r u st. Well n o w , i s n ’t th at a n u nex pecte d d ev elo pm en t. L OGAN : M ayb e I ’m h unch backed w ith o ne e ye a nd t in y T . r e x h ands. B AN NER NYC : I m possib le . I ’v e s e en y o ur p ic tu re . L OGAN : H ow ? There ’s n o w ay G re er c o uld h av e s e n t h er o ne b ecau se s h e w as u sin g m y p ho ne, a n d I r e ad th e m essa g e s h e s e n t B an ner. S o w hen a n o ld p ho to f r o m m y d ay s i n th e c o rp s a p pears o n th e s c re en o f m y p ho ne, I ’ m m ore th an a l ittl e s u rp ris e d . L OGAN : Y o u s ta lk in g m e? B AN NER N YC : H ave y o u c h anged m uch s in ce t h en ? L OGAN : I d on’t c a rry a n M 16 e very w here . B AN NER NYC : N o, b ut I b et y o u’re p ackin g b elo w t h e b elt. A t l e a st, t h at’s w hat I a ssu m e . . . B AN NER NYC : I d id n’t m ea n t o s a y t h at. I ’m d ru nk. I g nore e very th in g. Now , s h it’ s g etti n g i n te re sti n g . I ’ v e b een c are fu l to k eep m y m essa g es to h er o n th e f r ie n dly s id e o f th e s c ale , b ut B an ner h as h in te d a t m ore n o w tw ic e. I t’ s ti m e to s to p w ith th e g am es a n d p ut i t o ut t h ere f o r r e al. L OGAN : Y o u i m agin in g m e n aked ?

Chap te r 6 B an ner “ I th in k I j u st m ad e a te rrib le m is ta k e.” As S ofia r e tu rn s to th e ta b le f r o m th e b ath ro om , h er s le ek b ro w n e y eb ro w s k nit to geth er. “ W hat d o y o u m ean ?” S he l o oks d o w n a t th e e m pty c o ck ta il g la sse s b etw een u s. “ A nd w hat h ap pen ed to m y d rin k?” “I d ra n k i t. T his w as a n e m erg en cy.” I h o ld u p m y p ho ne. “ I b asic ally to ld h im I th in k a b o ut h im n ak ed .” Sofia ’s b lu e e y es w id en a s s h e s ta re s a t m e. “ I th o ug ht y o u s a id n o d ru nk te x ti n g ?” I s h ru g a n d p eer d o w n i n to th e e m pty g la ss. “ Y ou l e ft m e w ith o ut a d ult s u perv is io n.” She s lid es i n to th e c h air a t o ur ta ll c o ck ta il ta b le a n d l a u g hs. “ Y ou’r e th e a d ult h ere , B an ner. Y ou’r e h o w m uch o ld er th an m e? A nd w hy d o es i t m atte r, a n yw ay ? Y ou’r e th e q ueen o f d ir ty te x ts .” “Y ou s e rio usly c an ’t b e a sk in g m e to d o m ath r ig ht n o w , a n d i t m atte rs b ecau se I w asn ’t d o in g th is w ith h im . I w as tr y in g th e f r ie n ds th in g .” Sofia l o oks a t m e l ik e I ’ m n o t s p eak in g E ng lis h . “ I d o n’t u ndersta n d.” I tr a ce th e r im o f th e g la ss w ith m y i n dex f in g er, h esita ti n g b efo re I s p eak . “ I’ m b asic ally g ood a t t h re e th in g s w hen i t c o m es to g uys. T alk in g d ir ty , o ne-n ig ht s ta n ds, a n d th e w alk o f s h am e. A nd th en t h ere ’s L ogan . H e’s th e f ir st o ne i n f o re v er w ho ta lk ed to m e w ith o ut d o in g i t j u st to f u ck m e. H e h as n ev er a sk ed m e to s e n d h im a p ic o f m y ti ts . H e a ctu ally lik es me, a n d w ith o ut k no w in g i f I l o ok l ik e C ru ella d e V il. H e’s . . . d if fe re n t. S o I th o ug ht th at m ean t w hate v er h e a n d I a re d o in g w ould b e d if fe re n t. B ut I c o uld n’t h elp m yse lf . I h ad to s c re w i t a ll u p.” I l o ok to w ard th e b ar r a th er th an m ak e e y e c o nta ct w ith S ofia , b ut m y g aze s n ap s b ack to h er w hen s h e a sk s, “ D oes h e h av e a b ro th er? I c o uld u se s o m e diffe re n t to o.” “W e h av en ’t g otte n th at f a r. M ay be w e n ev er w ill. U gh, I s u ck a t th is .” Sofia p o in ts to m y p ho ne w here i t r e sts o n th e ta b le b etw een u s. “ A re y o u g oin g to a n sw er h im ?” “I h av e to , d o n’t I ? ” “H e’s c o m in g h ere to m orro w ?” “Y es.” “A nd w here a re y o u g oin g to m eet h im ?” “I g av e h im th e a d dre ss o f th e ta p as b ar o n th e c o rn er.” “R eally ?” Her q uesti o n m ak es m e r e co nsid er m y c h o ic e. “ B ad i d ea?” Sofia s h ru g s. “ If h e’s s o d if fe re n t, m ay be ta p as i s n ’t y o ur b est c h o ic e. Y ou’ll f in d o ut to m orro w , I s u ppo se . I n eed a n o th er d rin k, a n d I ’ m n o t w aiti n g f o r th e s lo w -a s-h ell w aitr e ss. D on’t d o a n yth in g r id ic u lo us w hile I ’ m g one.” “O f c o urse n o t,” I s a y, m y to ne i n dig nan t. I ta p m y p ho ne s c re en a s s o on a s S ofia s tr u ts a w ay, a n d s ta re d o w n a t th e m essa g e f r o m L ogan . L OGAN R EAL M AN B RAN TLE Y : Y o u i m agin in g m e n aked ? I’ m s o s c re w ed , b ecau se I ’ m d efin ite ly p ic tu rin g h im n ak ed now . A ll m y r e so lu ti o ns a b o ut h o w t h is i s s u ppo se d to b e d if fe re n t d o n’t s to p m y th um bs f r o m f ly in g a cro ss m y s c re en w ith th e a b so lu te