Thursday, October 26, 2006




Mandy M. Roth


This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.

Chapter One

“You’re going to need to move that sexy ass or I’m going to toss it onto this sofa and carry it up four floors before having my way with it.”

Turning, I saw only the green leaves of the oversized fern plant I carried. Unfortunately, I knew the voice and knew its owner, Jake, would actually do exactly what he threatened to do. “Let me go first so I don’t have to play ‘follow dink and dork’ up the stairs.”

“I’m dork,” Jake called out, chuckling from his end of the sofa. “Your brother can be dink.”

“What’s a dink?” Gideon, my brother, asked.

Jake and I laughed. I did my best to find the door handle. Although covering my eyes and finding a needle in a haystack might have been more productive. “Nothing. It’s a good thing, really.”

“Uh-huh. Why am I not believing you?”

Jake snorted. “Probably because you’ve known her for over thirty years. Now, as for you, Devan, you need to get your ass up those stairs. This thing isn’t getting any lighter. I’ve already lifted more things in one morning than I have in ten years.”

“Hey, be nice or I’ll do it.”

Gideon groaned. “If she breaks into song again I’m kicking your ass, Jake. Then I’m leaving. I thought she stopped all that. Now, I’m afraid to turn my television on for fear of seeing her dancing and singing with some guy in black leather.”

“Hey, your little sister is a gem. Back off,” Jake said, laughing. “But if you do leave, can I keep her?”

“I’d like to see you try,” I said, rushing through the door. I broke out into an interesting rendition of Do Wah Diddy replacing the she’s with he’s and hurried through the door. I knew the staircase was directly in front of the door so I lifted the fern high in the air to watch for the first step and began to jog up them.

“Watch where you’re--”

“Nope. Not stopping until you both sing along and tell me that you will miss me horribly when you leave. Next up on the jukebox is an eighties song. I’m feeling very Madonnaish. Consider yourselves warned.” I went right back into Do Wah Diddy.

I made it up about six steps before I slammed into something that felt like the equivalent of a brick wall. I went backwards instantly. When two large arms wrapped around my waist and pulled me forward instead of back, I realized the brick wall was actually a person.

Before I knew it, I was being twisted around and suddenly on said person’s lap and we ended up sitting on the stairs. The massive fern blocked my view of him but if the size of the arms were any indication--the person was male, definitely. I couldn’t help it. I burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all.

Parting the fern, I peeked through to find a pair of emerald green eyes staring back at me. The squared face they were set in made my breath catch. This was no ordinary man. No. This man was amazing. He had a pronounced jaw and forehead, giving him that dark brooding look I liked so much. His black hair was cut in one of those stylishly messy ways. It stood about two inches off the top of his head but was cut close on the sides and back.

Taking a deep breath in, I caught the familiar scent of figwood and fruits. It was something I hadn’t smelled in years and the memories it brought back made my insides flutter. Sighing was an option I was more than willing to take. As my gaze traveled over his thick, corded neck I laughed harder. “Only I would make an ass of myself in front of a living god. I am so sorry. Are you hurt?”

I leaned through the fern more and glanced down. The snug fitting short sleeved Roberto Cavalli shirt he wore drew attention to his steely upper body. I gulped as I looked down at his dirt covered groin. The flat front kakis he had on did little to hide the bulge growing quickly beneath them. “Looks really fine,” I sang softly.

“Your eyes are…”

My gaze went to his as I soaked in the sound of his deep voice. It was the kind of voice I could get used to hearing whispering sweet nothings to me in the wee hours of the night. “Disturbing? Two different colors? Yeah, I know one is blue and one is brown. Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry.” He shook his head. “They’re beautiful.”

I blushed and did the only thing I could think of, I laughed. The man’s eyes widened more before he too began to laugh. There was something about him that was so familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Do I know you?”

He stopped laughing and tipped his head a bit, seeming to study me. Something moved over his face that looked to be shock. “You can’t be her.”

“Her who?” I asked between chuckles. “If you say the tooth fairy I will kiss you. I mean, come on, dental hygiene goddesses with wands are the shit. To be perfectly honest, since I’ve already made an absolute fool of myself, you make me think of The Clash. Why is that? You aren’t planning on rocking any Casbah are you?”

His green eyes widened. I fought the urge to trace a line with my thumb over his full lips. It was hard. Somehow, I managed.

“So, should I stay or should I go?” I asked, giving him a smile I hoped appeared to be sexy while I continued my Clash skit.

“Stay.” He shook his head slightly and smiled back. His smile was for sure sexy. “How?”

“How?” I cleared my throat. “How am I me? Or how am I her? Are all sexy New Yorkers this odd? Do you feel like you know me, too?”

The slight, stunned nod was the only answer I got out of him.

“My guess is we’ve crossed paths. You don’t play a professional sport, do you?”

“No,” he said, staring at me with an odd fascination. “Is that a prerequisite?”

Liking the man more than I should, I shook my head. “No. My list of must haves isn’t too long. Not playing a professional sport is at the top.”

Jake snorted. “If you can pick up a phone and order a pizza she’s yours. If you can actually make one yourself, you may never get rid of her. If you’re able to make anything above that you just met your future wife.”

“Why thank you, Jake.” I shot him a dirty look. He grinned like a schoolboy. “I always love it when my friends try to push me off on men who could be married, in a serious relationship, or not ones to pick women over men.”

“If you would spend less time trying not to drool and more time looking at the guy, you’d see he’s staring at you like it’s taking everything in him not to touch you and I don’t see any rings on his fingers.”

I snorted. “Oh, like that means anything. How many times did other women have at you know who?”

“Oh, right. I forgot.”

The man touched my cheek lightly and I drew in a sharp breath as familiar feelings washed over me. Closing my eyes I savored the moment.

“Devan, get off the nice man and move. This thing is heavy,” Gideon said, sounding annoyed.

The man’s eyes lit. “Devan?”

“Right.” I nodded and stood slowly. Lifting the fern off him, I gasped. “Ohmygod, you’re covered in dirt now. I’m so sorry. Here, give me those and I’ll take them to the cleaners.” I set the fern down on the stair and turned to face him. “Wait, umm, I didn’t mean to just ask you to get naked. But I’d honestly be okay with that.”

“Devan,” Gideon growled out. “I get you’re an adult. All I’m asking is to not be reminded of that--ever.”

“Jake, do you still have my wallet?” I glanced at Gideon. “Just so you know, I’m ignoring you.”

Jake laughed. “Yeah, what do you need?”

“Five hundred dollars to replace the nice man’s clothing. I’m guessing he doesn’t want to take a check from a lady he just met in the stairwell. The Cavalli alone is three. It’s in this season which tells me the guy pays attention to fashion. I’d get into the jeans but Gideon would demand to have his eyes gouged out and I’d enjoy it too much.”

Gideon coughed, not bothering to hide his shock. “People here wear five hundred dollar outfits? I was with you when you bought a dress for a dollar at a thrift store, Devan.”

“The one that’s brown with obnoxious orange flowers on it?” Jake asked, knowing full well it was that one.


I rolled my eyes. “It’s a Betsy Johnson. I saved a few hundred dollars. And how can you think brown and orange is obnoxious, Jake?” I rolled my eyes. “Ooo, I really liked the avocado green sweater I got that day, too.”

Gideon sighed. “What was that? A Lou Reed?”

Flipping him off, I smiled at the sexy man and did my best to avoid touching him. It was hard. “I feel like singing Little Orphan Annie songs. Who’s up for a night of that?”

“Put the sofa down. I’m going to tape her mouth shut and hide her wallet. She does not need to be spending money.”

Jake laughed hard. “Stop being over protective. If the girl wants to hand the man money to replace his clothes then let her, Gideon. Don’t you think she’s had enough issues with having control of her own life? Stop making her out to be on the verge of poverty. She’s worked her ass off to have what she does and I, for one, am damn happy to know that she doesn’t need to worry about money. You know, she still hasn’t accepted a penny of the, umm, other stuff.”

I wanted to throw my shoe at Jake. His code words for alimony were ridiculous. Instead, I glared at my brother, already anticipating the coming argument. “And I’m not going to, Gideon, so don’t try to make me.”

“Milk the bastard dry, Devan. You earned the right.”


“Hey, you’re entitled to half. Ask Jake.”

Rolling my eyes, I sighed. “I’ll pretend you didn’t say that.”

Gideon growled. “Fine, whatever.” He nodded towards the stranger before me. “Give the guy the money and get him off the step. This isn’t getting any lighter. Tell me again why I didn’t let movers do this for her?”

“Because you have a guilt complex that won’t quit and the very idea of your baby sister being so far away from you is killing you on the inside. And you keep running various ways to get her to come home, or move your practice up here, through your head.”

I snorted. “Jake, he pushed me through the living room window when I was five. I don’t think that’s it. Try again.”

“I did not push you. You were spinning around pretending to be a princess ballerina and hit my model car,” Gideon bit out. “I just moved you away from it.”

“Yeah, and right through the screen. That bush had so many wasps in it that my ass hurt for weeks. It did get me out of a few annoying recitals. Thanks for that.” I glanced down at the sexy man on the step. “For reference, wasps don’t take kindly to people invading their area.” I rubbed my butt for effect and winked.

He just stared up at me, looking as though he was both shocked and pleased. I hoped he was both. It wasn’t every day that I felt I wowed someone.

Jake laughed so hard he sounded like a seal barking. “Why didn’t I know about this?”

“You did,” Gideon said. “Remember the month I refused to come… err… couldn’t come out and play? It was because of that.”

“Mom did not ground you. She didn’t have to. You were a mess. You grounded yourself. Uncle Robert talked to you for like twenty minutes about how you only have one sister.” I put my hand out and started to impersonate my very Italian uncle. “Gideon, look at her. She hurts but is worried about your toy. She is a gift, a dove sent to bring us all joy and happiness. Treat her as such for you do not know when they will ask for her to return home.”

“Holy shit, that’s why you were on your porch crying your eyes out. You were upset you hurt her.” Jake’s laughter wrapped around me and was infectious.

“Worse than that,” I blew Gideon a kiss, “he kept sneaking into my room at night to make sure I wasn’t dead. Uncle Robert convinced him that angels would show up at any minute and snatch me up. Tell him what you did, Gideon.”


Jake grinned and gave me a ‘spill it’ look.

“Gideon found a spool of ribbon from one of those overdone dresses mom used to put me in and tied my ankle to my bed. I woke up with it wrapped around me so tight that dad had to cut it off and then point out that if Gideon did it again I could lose my leg. That only made him worse. How he became a doctor is beyond me.”

Jake laughed. “See he loves you. He dedicated his life to understanding how not to kill you.”

Gideon growled again. “I would like to get this to the fourth floor and then beat the living hell out of you, Jake.”

“I’ll sue you,” Jake offered.

“And I’ll fuck up the meds I prescribe you next time you’re sick. How’s a little birth control sound? Having issues with feminine itch? Oh, what? You have flames shooting out of your dick?”

Rolling my eyes, I put my hand out to the sexy man staring at me on the step and offered him a smile. “I’m sorry. This is what happens when you take a doctor and a lawyer too far from home. If you give us a minute to get the sofa upstairs, I’ll get you what you need to replace the outfit and I’ll still have this one cleaned for you.”

He shook his head, taking my hand and standing slowly. Warmth spread up my arm from his touch and my nipples hardened almost instantly. “No. It’s fine.”

Yes, you are.

“Wonderful, can we please get this up the stairs?” Gideon smiled at me and glanced at the sofa. “You would buy this before you moved. Couldn’t you buy it once you got here?”

My jaw dropped. “Excuse me but you bought that for me. You and your shadow,” I pointed at Jake, “insisted on it.”

“In our defense, Devan, we did break your other ones,” Jake said, running his hands through his hair.

“The idea of three grown men going at it like school boys had to be a sight to see. And for the record, you three trashed my entire lower level.”

Jake glanced at Gideon nervously. “Yeah, school boys.”

“Gideon, tell me you didn’t go all Bruce Lee on him. You’re thirty-four. You could hurt yourself.” I let out a soft laugh. “You already had Jake helping you out. What more did you need?”

Jake cleared his throat. “Umm, Devan, I was actually trying get Gideon under control. I wasn’t helping beat the crap out of anyone. I didn’t think you wanted to have to visit your brother in prison or see his career get flushed down the shitter. I can get him off of just about any charge. Murder isn’t one of them.”

I glanced at the sexy man. “One second.” I ran down the stairs, kicked my slip-on white tennis shoes off, hopped onto the sofa and walked across it to get to Gideon. Tossing my arms around his thick neck, I hugged him tight as I kissed his cheek. “I love you even though you made my ass hurt for a week.”

As I pulled back, I found his eye glistening. He nodded and kissed my forehead. “Promise you’ll call everyday, Devan. Twice a day even. Maybe I should get you a cell phone that you can leave on all the time. Yeah, that might work.”

Drawing back, I knew he was fighting tears and Gideon was a big guy who didn’t cry. I wagged my brows as I looked him up and down. “Hey, Jake.”


“Picture Gideon in a prison uniform. He’d no longer need me to buy all of his clothes so he matches. Plus, he’d land a boyfriend in about two seconds.” I instantly launched into Jailhouse Rock doing my best Elvis. I rotated my hips and curled my lip not caring who saw me do it.

Gideon put his hand over my mouth. I continued to sing into it, sounding muffled and still not caring. He shook his head and laughed. “Jake, get the tape. She’s back with a vengeance. If she starts laughing so hard she can’t breathe I’m going down to the corner bar and grabbing a beer. I might need two. No fear. She’ll still be laughing when I get back.”

My cell phone rang. I put my hand out to Jake who had my phone on his hip. “Devan, that ring means work, so don’t panic. It’s not an emergency.”

“You don’t say. Gee, it’s only my cell phone. The one I programmed the rings into.” I kept shaking my hips as I took the phone from him. I opened it. “Devan Charter.”

Gideon growled. “It’s Devan Seward now.”

“Everyone there knows her as Charter. It’s easier for her to let it stay that way,” Jake said, in a hushed tone.

“Fuck easier. She is divorced. I’ll put it on a billboard for her.”

I pointed at him. He shut up.

“Ah, Devan, I’m glad I caught you.”

The sound of Chas Martins voice made my eyes roll. “Mr. Martins, I didn’t realize we were on a first name basis now.”

Jake poked my arm lightly and smiled. “Is that dickhead? Dev, if it is you have to put the guy on speakerphone. Gideon never believes me when I tell him about the lounge lizard who keeps trying to get you to work for him.” He clasped his hands together and dropped to his knees. “Please, it’s funny as hell. Plus, Gideon never gets to hear you be a bitch for real. The man thinks you have no spine. Show him.”

My eyes bulged as I stared down at Jake. I nodded. “Mr. Martins, I’m currently knee deep in Open to Buy reports so I need to put you on speaker phone.”

“Certainly, I understand how that is.”

I hit the button and held the phone out. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“You can start by calling me Chas. We’ve known one another for over five years. It’s safe to say we can be on a first name basis, Devan. I consider you a friend and friends tend to share many things, including casual conversation.”

Jake grinned.

I bit back a laugh. “I’m well aware of what friends share. What I’m not sure of is the reasoning behind your call. If you are implying this is casual then I should remind you I’m on company time here.” I crossed my fingers and shoved them in Jake’s face. He laughed, planted a tiny kiss on them and stood quickly.

Chas sighed. “You do like to make it difficult for me. That is exactly the attitude I want my consultants to have, Devan.”

“Hmm, calling competitor’s top executives while they are working, to attempt to persuade them to join the team, is the absolute last sort of practice I want the company I’m with participating in. It sort of screams unprofessional. And we are all professionals here, right, Mr. Martins?”

I’d built an empire, being a Jill-of-all-trades in matters of marketing consultations. If someone had a business problem, I generally had a solution. Martins operated the same way. He provided marketing and business consultations, often placing someone in-house with the company in question.

“Call me Chas. And Devan, you’re not thinking clearly right now. This is a trying time for you coming off a messy divorce and I’d like to help ease the burden. I know we started off on the wrong foot and I’d like to correct that. I’ve been told you’re relocating to New York. This would give us the perfect opportunity to get to know one another better. I’d hate for you to be alone. This is a big city. I can more than keep you company. I think you know what I’m talking about.”

I grabbed Jake’s arm and laughed hard without making any noise. It took a second but I got myself together and stood tall. “As kind as that offer is, I’d prefer to go it alone. And when I say go it alone, that covers all areas. I do not currently have a red light above my office door nor do I want one. I would strongly suggest you focus on your client’s needs and not your own. As lovely as our conversations always are, I really must be going. I’m meeting with my lawyer soon. He has some rather weighty issues he’d like to get moved forward.” I winked at Jake.

Chas made a noise that sounded animalistic, like one would make during intercourse. I jerked back and held the phone towards Jake who covered his mouth to keep from laughing.

“Devan, you are the only woman I know who dares to talk to me the way you do. You know that I’m more than willing to offer you the world. I’m in a position to do it. You just won’t accept it. I am huge.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you think so.” I snickered. “Oh, wait. You were talking size in relevance to your position. Sorry, I got a little confused on where this conversation was headed. It seemed as though it was headed south so naturally I assumed something else. I really need to be going now.”

“Name your price, Devan,” Chas said fast. “Everyone can be bought. Everyone.”

“I’m sorry.”

He sighed. “Well, at least we’ve moved to the point you’re sorry for turning me down.”

I let out a soft laugh. “No, I’m not sorry for that in the least. I’m sorry that somewhere along the line you actually came to believe that to be true. Not everyone has a price. Money isn’t the answer to everything. In fact, in the end, it means nothing. Have a good weekend, Mr. Martins.” I shut my phone and handed it to Jake. “Why do you enjoy hearing that scum bag’s spiel? Does anyone else feel like they need a shower to get his voice off you? I think my phone has been violated. It needs a bath, too.”

Jake looked proud. Gideon looked like he was about to blow. “Devan Jazz Seward, men try to buy you while you’re working? Hell, anytime?”

“I’d hardly call Chas Martins a man,” I said, hopping off the sofa and laughing. “He’s more like a good looking, walking lounge lizard. He makes my skin crawl. But, I will say, he’s a looker. He knows it, too.”

Gideon tried to come for me but the sofa was in the way. “Did this just start?”

“What? Men trying to own me or lounge lizards,” I smiled at Jake letting him know that I loved his name for Chas, “trying to bribe me to ‘work’ for them? Come on, women want to date you all the time. When they find out you’re a doctor they flip out and start talking marriage. Dork,” I pointed at Jake, “has the same problem.”

Jake grinned. “Yeah, Dink. Leave her alone. She’s not given an inch when it comes to this. Trust me, he’s been nipping at her heels from the word go. Hell, she was very married when he started it all.”

“What the hell is a dink?” Gideon asked again.

I smiled as I slipped my shoes back on. “It’s a good thing. Trust me.” Turning, I ran up the stairs and ran directly into the sexy man again. He grabbed me fast to keep me from falling. I held tight to him and stared into his emerald green eyes. “Thanks. You’re really coming in handy.”

“My pleasure.”

I couldn’t pull my gaze away from his green eyes. They were gorgeous and the same exact color as Brody’s. “I know I’m going to sound like a broken record but you look so familiar. This is going to bug me. I’m positive I know you from somewhere.”

Jake went to take his spot at the end of the sofa. “You know, I normally do my best to encourage only half of your insanity but you’re right the guy does look familiar.”

Mr. Sexy smiled. “Would you like some help moving in?”

“No, we’ll be--”

“Yes,” Gideon and Jake said, cutting me off.

The sexy man winked at me and I damn near fell over. “I’ll run up, change and come back to help.” He turned to head up the stairs. “Oh, I almost forgot. I’m Kurt Holland.”

“Hi, Kurt. Nice to dump a plant on you. I’m Devan Seward.”

The grin that spread over his face warmed me. “Well, Devan, it was my pleasure.”

I watched as Kurt jogged up the stairs. A small sigh escaped me. “I could get used to looking at that everyday.”

Gideon began to chuckle. I glanced back at him as he stood in the doorway holding one end of the sofa up while the other lay on the floor. “Didn’t Uncle Robert tell you that when one door closes another opens?”

Before we’d left Ohio, I’d finalized my divorce and said goodbye to my family. They all knew how painful the divorce was for me and my uncle did his best to cheer me up. “Yep, he sure did.”

“Ha, I bet he didn’t think you’d waylay Mr. Right before he even got to the door.”

He and Jake laughed so hard that I knew they’d be at it a while. I gave up and headed up the stairs to my new home.

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