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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book Blitz: La Vie en Rose {Life in Pink} by Lydia Michaels




La Vie en Rose {Life in Pink}
Lydia Michaels
Publication date: April 12th 2016
Genres: Adult, Romance
Emma Sanders has always dreamt of being a bride, wearing fancy gowns, pretty pearls, and—of course—falling madly in love. Then life happened. Finding herself one fiancé short of her happily ever after, she leaves the fairytales behind. Some days are simply too perilous for pink gowns and pearls.

Riley Lockhart is the sort of man who can make a woman lower her gaze with only a smile. That he doesn’t realize his charm makes him all the more enchanting. Determined to save Emma the pain of her breakup, he steps in as a friend, but soon finds himself wanting more.

She was just a girl, but she somehow winds up being the strongest woman he’s ever known. Losing her is not an option and when life can’t be tied neatly in a pretty little bow, he holds tight to all that he loves—his Emma. His hero.

Sometimes the greatest scars are worn on the inside.
 
 
EXCERPTS
La Vie en Rose
{Life In Pink}
L Y D I A   M I C H A E L S
you-turned-and-smiled-at-me.-I-was-lost-in-that-moment-Em.-Between-your-smile-and-those-sweet-brown-eyes-I’m-a-goner.

 
 
Riley’s lips twitched as soft ebony curls ghosted over his bare stomach, lower and lower, tickling his hips and teasing that tight strip of flesh just below his bellybutton. A deep, satisfied growl rumbled in his chest like distant thunder as anticipation teetered on impatience—but it was a good, burning sort of anticipation. Holy fuck, was it good. Stretching, he gave Curls the access she needed and—
“So I’m thinking we’re going to settle on coral with deep navy blue accents for the main theme. That should compliment the nautical look Becket wants.”
Why was his roommate’s voice in his dream?
Shaking off the distraction, his palm lowered, fingers gently knotting in the satin ringlets to better direct the ebony waves going down on him. His body hardened as soft kisses teased his happy trail and she got to work. Yes…
Rolling his shoulders, he stretched his hips and drew in a slow breath. Heaven. The first true sensation of tongue-to-tip had his toes pointing as the heat of her pouty lips—
“Whatever you want, toots. It’s your day.”
Oh God, no! What the hell was his sister doing in his dream? Get out, Rarity! Get out!
The ethereal weight of the dark haired woman’s touch faded. No, no, no!
There was a soft girlie sigh. “I can’t believe it’s actually happening. I’m going to be Mrs. Becket Grayson.”
Emma, his roommate, was definitely there too. Damn it! They were ruining everything. This was his time. Not their time. Dream blowjob time! The anticipation of sin and sex paled, as Emma’s voice carried on about champagne toasts and processionals. His roommate’s incessant wedding planning was officially intruding on everything.
The loft used to be a sanctuary. The day Emma got engaged their living situation took a turn for the worse as girlie crap slowly corroded every square inch of his life—even his fantasies. Passing out on the couch was a dangerous gamble, leaving him widely susceptible to wedding babble bullshit when he could’ve been enjoying some nice fantasy head.
“Will I be wearing coral or navy?” his sister asked then mumbled, “Say navy. Say navy.”
Emma did that tiny chirp she claimed was a laugh. “You can wear navy, but there’s nothing wrong with coral.”
“You know how I feel about pink,” Rarity reminded.
“Coral’s not pink.”
“It’s in the family.”
“Fine. You’ll wear navy, but you’re wearing a dress.”
Rarity groaned with resignation. She’d always be the brother he never had. “Fine, but Lexi’s wearing a tux.”
“Look at these carnation balls I found in this issue of I Do. My florist can make them in the coral.”
It was as if he were invisible. They just kept yapping and yapping.
“They look pink to me,” Rarity said.
He growled obnoxiously. “That’s it! Do you two mind? I’m trying to sleep!” And I lost fantasy girl!
A throw pillow smacked him in the face. “Then don’t use the couch as your bed, dumbass. It’s noon. Go to your own room if you want quiet,” his sister snapped.
“Sorry, Riley. We’ll be more quiet,” Emma apologized then whispered, “We could use navy ribbons to hang the balls off the white chairs we’re renting for the ceremony.”
Their loft was spacious. Did they have to stage these womanly talks right on top of him? They could have at least moved to the kitchen ten feet away—or better yet, parked this prenuptial symposium all the way down the hall in Emma’s freaking room.
The wedding plans carried on ceaselessly, as they had since Becket proposed to Emma six months ago, and Riley once again considered how much happier he’d be renting his own place. Sharing a loft with two girls, one being his sister, hadn’t been a bad setup until that damn ring and all those girlie magazines came along. Before the dawn of the bridal apocalypse everything was kosher.
They lived in the hipster section on the posh Upper West Side of New York. He liked his home, loved the industrial feel and the exposed brick walls. The raw space, exposed ductwork and battered moldings were just aged enough to qualify as vintage. Splitting the rent three ways afforded them some square footage, but things were getting a little cramped lately, with Emma’s new obsessions.
His sister, Rarity, exhibited a tolerance for girlie crap that surprised him. Rarity was seriously chill, like a pretty guy that peed sitting down. She didn’t cry or squeal like a valley girl or do that needy drama shit girls tended to do. She was easily the coolest chick he’d ever met. And being that she was a lesbian, they had plenty of shared interests.
Never giving a damn about clothes or purses, Rarity appreciated the finer things in life, like good beer, decent music, a nice set of tits, and red meat. Her unarguable beauty and confidence pulled men in from miles away. And for years he enjoyed watching his little sister turn every last one down. She was his best friend and Emma was hers.
The only girlie thing Rarity couldn’t live without, apparently, was Emma.
Rarity was uniquely striking, with dark shorn hair and high arched brows, but it was her dry wit and endless sarcasm that could make any man second-guess his worth—a neat parlor trick to watch. Emma, on the other hand, was compassionate with soft blonde curls, dimpled cheeks, and eyes that pathologically betrayed her, eyes too full of innocence to hide her inexperience.
Emma was the quiet, sweet type that never got in the way. But lately she’d really cranked up the fem-meter and was driving him insane—which made him a horrible person, because he was going to shoot her if she didn’t shut the hell up.
All this wedding talk had to be getting to his sister. Riley was ready to duct tape Emma’s mouth shut. How in depth could a discussion about linen be? The texture, the hues in natural light versus candlelight, the thread count—bullshit conversations like that went on for days. He was amazed Rarity hadn’t reached her limit and freaked yet.
“I can’t wait until my dress gets here!” Emma announced, clapping like an excited child. “I’m dying to try it on.”
Riley groaned. It was as though no one could see him at all. Screwing his eyes shut and jamming a pillow over his ear did nothing to drown out her voice. So much for dream sex.
“You already tried it on,” Rarity said.
“That was in the store. Once I get it to the loft, I’ll be able to really appreciate it. Then, when you get your dress, we can try them on together. It’ll be so much fun!”
“Sounds mind-blowing.” Rarity’s sarcasm was so expected it didn’t phase Emma.
The doorbell buzzed and Emma screeched—literally screeched. “It’s here!” The chair skidded against the hardwood floors as she catapulted out of her seat.
Yeah, he wasn’t going back to sleep.
Groaning, he twisted and cracked open his lids as she sprinted down the hall toward the main entrance. Craning his neck in the direction of the chair, he peeked at Rarity, who wore a disinterested expression as she paged through a wedding magazine.
“There’s something wrong with her,” he grumbled.
“Yup,” she agreed.
“This isn’t going to stop until she gets married, is it?”
“Nope.”
“When’s the wedding again?”
“We have nine more months of this and the closer we get the worse she’s going to be.”
Shifting, he sat up and frowned at his sister. “You’re surprisingly calm.”
“She’s my closest friend and she really wants me to be a part of this. I can do the maid of honor thing as long as she doesn’t expect me to throw her some hideously pink party where girls drink cosmos and act like prissy hyenas, while being the pole for some male stripper to rub his scabies all over.”
She sighed and turned the page. “Plus, I smoked a fat joint the second she pulled out the wedding binder. You could probably cut my leg off right now and I wouldn’t put up much of a fight.”
“Nice.” He stared at the front door waiting for Emma to come racing inside at any second carrying the legendary dress. “She’s not gonna walk around in a wedding dress for the next nine months, is she?”
Rarity shut the magazine and tossed it on the table. “Don’t let her hear you call it a dress. It’s a gown. I’ve been corrected twice. And I have no idea. I wasn’t born with the bride gene. None of this shit makes sense to me.”
At least he wasn’t alone. Rubbing a hand over his jaw he yawned. “You’re bringing Lexi to the wedding?”
“Yup.”
He chuckled.
“What?”
“You realize Mom and Dad will probably be invited.”
“They won’t go,” Rarity said, matter-of-factly.
“What makes you so sure?”
It shouldn’t matter anyway. His sister was twenty-four years old. She and Lexi had been a couple for over a year. It was absurd to hide that she was gay from their parents. Who cared what they thought?
“It’s the Devonshire’s fortieth wedding anniversary. They’ll pick that over Emma’s wedding. You know how they feel about her.”
He grunted. His parents—mostly his mother—had always been weird about Emma. Though he and Rarity were nothing like the people that spawned them, they were still blood, so his and Rarity’s liberal attitudes were often overlooked, but that didn’t mean their parents would abide the same socialist standards from others.
Their parents were proud black card members of the upper crust society that summered in the Hamptons, went yachting on the weekends, and dined on ridiculously hard to pronounce small foods like Foie Gras.
Riley was once grounded and accused of being a ‘recalcitrant activist’ because his friend Jake came over in a PETA T-shirt and asked if he wanted to play Frisbee. To his mother’s way of thinking, that was a gross and barbaric display of uncouth trash.
He and Rarity were generationally wealthy trust fund babies. No matter how much they survived off their independently earned incomes, Mumsy and Daddy would always be there to bail them out if needed. It was their shared goal in life to never need their parents in such a way.
Their wealth should be comforting, but it felt more like a noose around Riley’s non-conformist neck. The entire white pants, polo-playing, fracking-investing group of peers was repellent to him.
Emma didn’t have a house in the Hamptons or an au pair as a child. She had parents that worked nine to five and wore—gasp—denim. Her association with the Lockhart’s was the result of her grandmother’s trust fund, which included scholarships to the same schools he and Rarity attended.
Once, while walking the topiary garden with his mother as she sipped a crushed Valium cocktail, she referred to Emma as ‘that new money filth having a bad influence on Rarity’. It was clear then that his mother would never approve of Emma, which quite possibly could have permanently cemented the girl into Rarity’s life.
Emma’s fiancé, Becket Grayson, wasn’t a guy he or Rarity would voluntarily hang out with, but he made Emma happy. The Graysons were paying for the wedding, of course, so it was nice she was finally getting a fantasy she never expected. That was why they let her carry on about linens and bows and whatever the hell a nosegay was. Because she was nice.
“What’s wrong?” Rarity’s voice broke the comfortable silence.
Riley glanced at the door and scowled. Emma stood, trembling. Big brown eyes, rimmed in red, shimmered under a sheet of unshed tears, as she stared at them.
“Did they send you the wrong dress?” he asked stupidly, then corrected, “Gown.”
He never saw her upset. It was filling him with all sorts of uncomfortable emotions, feelings he didn’t know the names of. He wanted her to stop being upset that instant so he could have his manly emotions back. Dear God, it was like staring at a helpless basket of kittens floating down the river.
“Emma, say something,” Rarity insisted.
“It wasn’t the delivery from the bridal boutique. It—” A stuttering breath intersected her words. “It was Becket.” The heel of her palm swatted away the tears as they quickly fell. “We—oh God—we broke up.”
Silence.
This was bad. How long was an appropriate length of time before someone could say something in situations like this? And why hadn’t he gone to his own room when he had the chance? Now he was stuck there, smack dab in the awkward—
“He what?” Rarity snapped.
Emma blinked, sending big crocodile drops unchecked down her round cheeks. “We aren’t getting married,” she croaked. “We’re through.” She spoke as though she was still convincing herself.
“What do you mean, you’re through? You just ordered ugly invitations with stupid anchors on them. Becket insisted on the anchors!”
Her head crooked as she blinked those big innocent eyes at his sister. “You thought my invitations were ugly?”
Who cares what I thought? What happened?”
Shuffling to the living room without shutting the door, she delicately sat on the edge of the overstuffed chair. The picture of the carnation ball was still in her hand, drawing his attention to her enormous engagement ring as it winked in the sunlight.
“He was supposed to be in class,” she whispered.
Rarity scooted to the edge of the chair and removed the crumpled magazine page from her grip. “Toots, look at me. What happened?” she asked again, slowly.
Drawing in a shaky breath, Emma shook her head. “He said he couldn’t marry me. He said he’s…in love with someone else.”
“What?”
Emma sniffled. “Her name’s Goldie.”
Rarity drew back and made a face like she tasted vomit. “Goldie? What is she, a retriever? Who the hell has a name like Goldie?”
“Good question, Rarity,” he chimed in. Goldie Hawn’s hot. Don’t mention that now.
His sister’s evil stare snapped to him. “Shut up, dick.”
Yeah, he’d better stay out of this. Figuring now was a good time to escape, he gripped the arm of the couch and—
“How could he do this to me? I’m so humiliated!” Emma burst into tears again.
Riley dropped his head to the back of the couch and shut his eyes. This was going to take a while.
 


 
It was amusing how the girls on the subway watched Riley. Emma supposed he was above-average handsome, but since he was Rarity’s older brother she never looked too hard.
Now, seeing him in his element, riding the subway in a Pet Shop Boys T-shirt, jeans, and battered chucks, she recognized what the other women on the train were seeing. Riley was hot.
His brown eyes were so clear they shined as though they were blue. Sloppy chestnut waves curled in perfect careless disarray, complimenting his naturally tanned olive skin. He even had the five o’clock shadow down to an art.
Scanning the surrounding female passengers, she counted six of them gawking at him, begging with their eyes for him to glance their way. Amazing. The pheromones could choke a prostitute.
Skimming the male passengers, she frowned. Not a single one was looking at her.
What if she was Riley’s girlfriend? They were standing close enough, but the other girls didn’t seem to notice her at all.
She rolled her eyes. Invisible. Meanwhile, Riley scratched his nose with his thumbnail—it was practically a casual pick—and three of the six leering women sighed as if he read a verse of poetry. So unfair.
“Wait until you taste some of the food there,” he whispered in her ear.
Her chest filled with warmth as his voice sent a thrill of excitement tearing through her belly. It wasn’t sexual. It was what being feminine was all about. Who cared what he said? He was talking to her; the guy every other girl was drooling over was talking to her. And in that moment, the other women finally registered her presence. Every stink eye she got was so totally worth the thrill of attention.
Ha! Not only does he talk to me, he lives with me. I’ve seen him in his skivvies. Take that, ladies.
As the ride continued, her pride mended with each spiteful glance tallied in her favor. Not used to this catty need for attention, she chalked it up to recently being dumped. It was against her nature to behave like a clingy girlfriend, but with Riley it was all make believe, a temporary tonic for her battered ego.
Sometimes it was nice to be seen, though a great deal of her life had been conducted as a wallflower. Perhaps her affability gave her fiancé the impression that she wouldn’t mind him delving into another woman’s panties. Or maybe he’d already lost interest…maybe she wasn’t good at sex. Oh dear God, was she vanilla? A wallflower in bed?
Again, the emphasis she placed on other people’s perception concerned her. Riley didn’t care what anyone thought and people loved him. Even when they were in school, he was always a popular guy. Teachers loved him, jocks loved him, and, of course, women adored him.
Rarity was popular by default, because she was Riley’s sister. Publicly kissing girls promoted her to a novel level of cool only genuine lesbians could achieve in high school, but she’d always been cool by proximity first.
Emma was drawn to their energy like planets to the sun. No one was immune. They were simply attractive people. And as the permanent sidekick that existed in the cool guy’s sister’s shadow, it felt nice to have a bit of Riley’s innate popularity rub off on her as they stood together on the subway.
You’re pathetic. Those girls only know you exist because you’re pretending to be something you’re not. Oh, well! Self-esteem is in the gutter and pretending is helping.
She arched a brow at one of the gawkers.
“What are you grinning about?” he whispered.
Her attention jerked to his smiling russet eyes. He was almost a foot taller than her. Should she tell him? Would he laugh at her? Deciding she didn’t care, she whispered, “You’re inadvertently inflating my ego.”
Confusion tightened his brow so she tipped her head at the other passengers. Shockingly, it seemed the first time he noticed the other women.
“They all assume I’m with you. They hate me.”
He glanced at the other woman, each glare transforming to a seductive pout the moment his attention fell upon them. With his hand gripping the rail above her head, he leaned close. “And them hating you is a good thing?”
Didn’t he get it? “They’re jealous of me. Not many people are.”
The train rattled and slowed. People got off as new passengers climbed on and settled into seats as it whistled back up to speed.
His scrutiny heated her cheeks as he unabashedly studied her. “I can play that game,” he whispered.
“What game?”
Rather than answer, his mouth hooked in a half smile and he winked. She flinched as he dragged his curved knuckle down her bare arm, making the fine hairs rise in its wake. His fingers laced with hers and she watched, amazed, as every female followed the motion.
Her belly tightened with the thrill of exhibitionism. Her feet pointed toward the aisle. His pointed to her, his hip angled at their audience. Shifting a step closer, still holding on to the bar above, he spoke loud enough for the others to hear. “I caught you.”
Her eyes traveled past his lips, no longer shaped in a smile, and landed on those dark eyes. Her brow knit in confusion, unsure what he was doing.
“Looking at me,” he clarified. “You know how that makes me crazy.”
Oh, my God. She should have never told—
“It’s like this morning, when we were spooning in bed, my body pressed tight against yours, flesh to flesh, belly to back, nook to cranny. Everything was fine until I pressed that one kiss on the back of your neck right here.”
Her body tensed with awareness as his finger touched an extremely sensitive spot behind her ear. She couldn’t remember anyone ever touching her there.
“The second I kiss that spot you turn to liquid in my arms, soft and wet, and I can’t help but drink you up, taste every square inch of you on my tongue. My lips. Everywhere. When I catch you looking at me like that, it’s my kryptonite, my secret neck kiss.”
She swallowed and glanced at the women watching them. They were literally gaping, some even appeared to be quietly panting. Holy crap he was slick. “Um…”
Thank God he didn’t let her say anything. She didn’t have his skill. “Next time you look at me like that…” He tucked a curl behind her ear as chills raced over her shoulders. “I can’t be held responsible for what happens.” His fingers squeezed hers tightly and the train hissed and whined to a stop. He winked. “Let’s go. I’m suddenly ravenous.”
He tugged her off the train and into the loud subway. Musicians played for coin and people bustled through the underground world, racing to get where they needed to go. She saw it a thousand times before, but now it was brand new, her senses overstimulated and raw.
As they climbed the stairs to the street her heart pounded wildly. Wafts of traffic, people, and city food greeted them under the August heat. Voices and motion mingled into a cacophony of commotion until she was standing above sea level, fighting to catch her breath. What the hell had he done to her?
Laughing, he released her hand and turned—a totally unaffected grin on his charming face. “That was fun.”
“Y—yeah.” It wasn’t fun, it was thrilling and telling, and in some secret way, quite embarrassing. He’d been toying with those women, putting on a show, yet in those few seconds of phony attention, his artificial reverie trumped every real experience she had. She needed to get a grip.
Demanding her emotions go back into the shadows, she focused on their purpose. “So where’s this Smorgasburg?”
“Can’t you smell it?” He breathed deeply and grinned as his chest expanded, raising his broad shoulders. Weird. She didn’t want to keep cataloguing his every masculine trait, yet she couldn’t stop. “Ah, it’s just past the bridge. Let’s move.”
The snap of her flip-flops put a melody to their strides. As the impressive Brooklyn Bridge stretched before her, she had one of those out of body moments that reminded her she lived in one of the coolest cities on earth. “I don’t appreciate New York the way I should.”
Walking beside her, a pleasant set to his mouth, he sent her a sidelong glance—not bothering to disagree.
“Becket and I never walked around like this. Once he took me to Tiffany’s, but we were in and out. I’m not even sure what he was picking up.” Probably something for his mistress. “He never stopped for street meats or pretzels. We only dined at restaurants that held reservations.”
“You can’t plan New York through a concierge. It’s meant to be experienced. It’s alive, pulsing, like an animal. We can only observe it and let ourselves be led by its verve. The minute we try to control it we miss something spectacular, like with nature. It really is the world’s largest organism. There are so many people setting its rhythm, better to experience it organically.”
“I never thought of it that way.” The scent of ethnic faire grew thick in the air; tempting her appetite out of hiding and drawing her steps toward the mouth-watering aroma of succulent meats grilled over open flames.
Voices traveled, rising in volume as they stepped into a mass of people patronizing what appeared to be a market of New York’s cleverest food venders. How had she not known about this event?
Riley rotated, a phenomenal grin on his face as though he’d entered man heaven. “Where should we begin?”
“You’re my captain. I trust your instincts.”
Canopies and makeshift booths formed long aisles for people to wander. Steam clouded the various sites, eliciting attention with each peculiarly pleasant aroma.
Chefs acted as street performers, enchanting patrons, drawing them near with careful explanations for pairing fermented spices and specialized condiments with seared meats. It was a sort of live gallery, showcasing the artistry of New York cuisine.
Servings were sometimes dainty, offering a sampling of what could be the world’s most eclectic menu. The selection was endless, filet mignon sliders, fresh pecan bread sold by the slice, doughnuts the size of grapefruits, and even specialty booths for vegans and other diets she’d never heard of before.
“Oh, we have to start here,” he veered to the right and she followed. When the walkways became clogged with people, he reached through the crowd and pulled her to his side. “Watch this, Em. This is how meat should be treated.”
It was indeed a performance. The vendor tossed a steaming brisket onto the wood surface and unwrapped the charred foil covering. Juicy morsels of fat were trimmed away to unveil perfectly cooked, tender, pink beef. As the peddler made a show of slicing the meat in precise portions, it fell apart and her mouth watered.
Riley’s voice turned gravely. “Oh my God, we are so eating that.”
She grinned at him, loving the glazed lust in his eyes. Only men got that way with meat. She supposed beef and pork were to a guy what shoes and purses were to most women.
As the chef prepared their sandwich, Riley asked questions about the smoking process. The vendor was very friendly and informative. “You want everything on it?”
“What’s everything?” Riley asked.
“Cheese, pickles, hot peppers, sweet sauce.”
He glanced at her. “You afraid of hot?”
“No.” She wanted to taste the sandwich the way the creator intended it.
Riley grinned. “Give us the works.”
The man dressed the small sandwich until it was bursting with meat and dripping with sauce. Riley paid and she followed him to the side of the booth where coolers held the vendors’ supplies.
“Are you ready for this?” he asked, eyes set with excitement.
“You taste it first.” She wasn’t sure what would be more enjoyable, watching his exhilaration or actually tasting it for herself.
“You sure?”
She nodded as he carefully held the messy sandwich and took a bite, bits of cheese and meat falling from his fingers. “Oh my God,” he moaned over a mouthful. “You have to try this.” She reached out, but he shook his head, still chewing. “Just open. It’s too messy.”
Opening wide like a ridiculous baby bird, she let him shove the corner of the sandwich in her mouth and bit down. “Oh my God!” she echoed.
“I know, right?”
An exquisite blend of flavors burst over her tongue. “It’s amazing,” she mumbled, holding her fingers over her lips so food didn’t fall out.
“I could eat twenty of these.” He took another bite.
“We so should.” She opened as he held the rapidly shrinking sandwich out for her again.
They didn’t waste time talking for the next few minutes as they devoured the most delicious sandwich she’d ever tasted. When they finished, Riley snagged some napkins and passed her several to wipe her mouth.
As they journeyed onward they sampled maple bacon cupcakes, Bangladeshi street cuisine, and even shared a pumpkin spiced S’more cooked under the flame of a blowtorch. It was an incredible festival of food.
“Do you like oysters?” he asked as they approached a merchant standing before a bowl of crushed ice.
“I don’t know.” She’d never tried an oyster before.
“Wanna try one?”
“Sure.”
As the chef sliced open the rocklike case and revealed an opalescent inner shell, she tried not to be revolted by the goopy booger looking mollusk inside. He shucked the blob loose, leaving it resting on half a shell, and placed it in a bed of crushed ice.
“What do they taste like?” she asked.
The chef continued to shuck. “Briny, like the ocean. If you’re virgins I can dress them in a mignonette sauce to soften the taste. I have a nice ginger cucumber one.”
“What do you suggest?” Riley asked.
“I’m a purist, sir. I like them with a bit of pepper and lemon and that’s it.”
Riley glanced at her.
“I think I should try it with the sauce.” The more she stared at the little glob the more unappealing it became. These were considered delicacies? If she was remembering correctly, they were also aphrodisiacs. She didn’t see anything sexy about them.
“Ready?” Riley asked, holding his lemon oyster while offering her the one dressed in the ginger sauce.
Timidly, she reached for the shell.
Their eyes met and he counted off. “One… two…three.” His head tipped back and her mouth filled with—
Oh my God. What the fuck is in my mouth?
“Not bad.” Riley grinned then started laughing. “Are you okay?”
She shook her head, booger mollusk sliding around her tongue, and desperately searched the table for a napkin. You gag and it’s all over.
“Swallow it!” he shouted, laughing at her.
The vender passed her a napkin.
“No, don’t spit. Swallow!”
Oh my God, she was going to kick him if he didn’t shut up. People stared as they walked by and she spit the disgusting thing into the napkin and balled it up.
Riley shook his head. “Oh, Emma, I’m disappointed. Good girls swallow.”
“Shut up,” she snapped, her face burning.
He laughed and nudged her, tossing a few dollars on the table and directing her into the crowd.
“That was disgusting. Now I can’t get the taste out of my mouth.”
He stopped and ordered a cup of cranberry Brooklyn soda. “Here, you big tissue.”
“I’m not a tissue. I tried it.”
“Let’s sit for a while.” He led her to a stout cement barricade along the jetties and they sat facing the East River.
They’d walked miles in a matter of hours so she was grateful for the respite. The short wall was warm from the afternoon sun. “Today was really fun, Riley. Thanks for bringing me here.”
“I had fun too. It’s nice to waste a day taking advantage of everything the city has to offer. We can get immune from living here.”
She smiled, her cheeks tingling under the moist wind off the river. “There’s so much I’ve never experienced. I’ve never even been to the Empire State Building.”
“What?”
She laughed at his shock. “I know. I’m the worst New Yorker in the world.”
“You gotta get out more, Em.”
“I want to.” Letting out a deep breath, she relaxed. “I’m so sick of being me. It’s so tedious, always doing what everyone else thinks I should do.”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I think you were right. I don’t think I loved Becket.”
“Conceivable.”
“Was it that obvious? Because if I’m being honest, I’m still getting over the shock.”
“Don’t hate me, but Becket was a prick. He didn’t bring anything to the table. You guys were always running off to meet his friends or attend functions at his father’s law firm.”
“Well, I do work there.”
“Exactly. You work for his family. When was it about Emma Sanders?”
There wasn’t an excuse at the ready. “I guess it never was.”
“Yeah, that’s not love. So when you say you don’t think you were in love with him, I can believe it.”
“You’re a pretty deep guy, Riley. Not a lot of men are like that.”
He shrugged. “I’m comfortable with you. I can just say what I feel.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, her mind drifting back to Riley as a tousled child in grass stained corduroys and wild curls. Although they knew each other since braces and bike rides, this was the first time they actually hung out alone. It was strange they never talked about personal things before, because she really was extremely comfortable around him.
“What do you say we head back and go get that mani-pedi?” he asked.
Her feet were killing her and the idea of a pedicure sounded divine. “Okay.”
He glanced down at her flip-flops and tsked. “I’m not sure they can help those stank walkers.”
She gaped at him. “There is nothing wrong with my feet!”
“Whatever. Where’s your baby toe?”
“It’s right here!” She lifted up her foot.
He leaned forward and squinted. “You can’t call that Darwin freak show a toe.”
“If it’s not then what the hell is it?” Her toes were perfectly normal!
“That’s a nubbin.”
“Whatever.” She stood.
He rose as well. “You think you can manage on you’re deformed hobbit hooves? We got a hike back to the subway.”
She stomped away. “Jerk.” And just when she was starting to think he was nice!
“Wait up,” he called. “Don’t be like that. We don’t have to wee-wee-wee all the way home. It was a good day at the market, piggy.”
She held up her middle finger and prodded on—laughing under her breath.


 
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Author Bio:

Lydia Michaels is the award winning author of 23 romance novels. Her novels from the darkly compelling Surrender Trilogy were iBooks Bestsellers and her work has been featured in USA Today. In 2015 she was the winner of The Best of Bucks Award and she has been nominated as Best Author in the Happenings Magazine two years running [2015 & 2016]. She is a four time nominee for the prestigious RONE Award. Her books are intellectual, emotional, haunting, always centered around love. Lydia Michaels loves to hear from readers! She can be contacted by email at Lydia@LydiaMichaelsBooks.com


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