One Unforgettable Favor - Sneak Peek

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Cassius

This city, the Big Apple, is electric. It has always been. As long as I can remember, the bustle of the city was an enigma to me. As a child it enthralled me. As an adult, not so much.

“Good evening, Mr. Morgan.”

“Good evening, Arthur. How is your family? Did Ella have her baby yet?” Arthur is the concierge at my high-rise apartment building. He’s been a constant in my days since I purchased my condo here.

“They’re doing well. Still waiting on our newest granddaughter. And you, sir?” Arthur and his wife have three grown children. A new grandchild seems to be born each year lately.

“I’m well, also. Thank you. Have a good night.” Entering the elevator, I slide my key into the slot and select the top floor. A diminutive blonde with piercing blue eyes steps inside the elevator as well.

“What floor?”

“Same as you,” she replies.

I can readily admit, she’s beautiful. However, I’ve realized in the last few years, my forever woman is not in this city. I’m ready to settle down—not that my social life is crazy; it isn’t anymore. I’ve had my fair share of wild nights in the big city. Now I spend my days looking for amazing investments for my clients, and I moonlight as a private pilot on the weekends. When I’m not working, I’m home.

“There’s only one unit on my floor. Who are you?” I ask, wondering what kind of prank is going on and who is pranking me. Likely Sam, only because he thinks I have a type, but Mina is a dark horse in the prank game.

“I clean the unit. I was tied up at school and haven’t gotten there yet today.”

“Beatrice?” I’m utterly shocked by the appearance of the woman sharing this elevator with me.

“Yes. You must be Mr. Morgan.” She extends her hand to me. This woman cleans my home, but she’s so young and has perfectly polished fingernails.

“I am. I’m sorry, I was expecting someone older and, well, dressed to clean.”

“I was expecting someone older too. I have clothes in my bag.” The door opens into a small alcove outside my door.

“Beatrice—”

“Mr. Morgan—”

“Ladies first.”

“I can come back at another time. If I recall correctly, you prefer to be out while your home is cleaned.”

“Thank you. I’m sure it can wait another week. Why don’t you join me for dinner instead?”

Surprise crosses her pale features. “I appreciate the invitation, but I’m engaged.” She lifts her left hand, showing me her ring. Classy, not flashy.

“My apologies. I didn’t notice. Please take this week off,” I say, pressing the down button for her.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. Good night.”

“Good night, Mr. Morgan.” She steps into the elevator.

Once the doors close, I strip off my tie and head inside. I bought this unit for a few reasons. Primarily, it’s the penthouse with an outdoor terrace that rivals most suburban backyards. With entrances off the living room and master bedroom, I have a large patio with two seating areas, a firepit, and a four-person jacuzzi. Second, the privacy it affords me has been a blessing and a curse. My family is well-known in this city, as am I. Very few people who aren’t related to me by blood know where I lay my head at night. It’s much easier that way.

I exchange my suit for some shorts and a T-shirt. Pulling out the pans, I start cooking some dinner. I’m not a chef by any means, but I get by. Someone with my means could eat out daily, but I prefer to cook at home. Flicking on some national news for background noise, I make a masterpiece of chicken and veggies. White wine and plate in hand, I walk out onto the private terrace to enjoy my dinner alone.

I would love to spend this time with a partner, but I haven’t found her yet. Frankly, the women in my social circle aren’t right for me. My parents, Warren and Margaux Morgan, for lack of a better term, have an arranged marriage. My grandfather offered my mother up in a business deal similar to how my father attempted to offer up my sister last year. My father didn’t realize Mina is much stronger than Margaux.

Margaux is the epitome of a corporate wife and mother. She handled the house, business events, and carried the four of us with grace. Along with my three siblings, I never wanted for anything, except our mother’s attention. Instead we had a gaggle of nannies to care for us. When we were of appropriate age, they shipped us off to boarding school. To be fair, I see both sides of that coin. We were out of the house, but we received the best education money could buy.

As the classic literary tales would suggest, my parents are old money and new money combined. My father started making a name for himself in his own right in the mailroom. He worked his way up to the top of a Fortune 500 company, making sound financial decisions along the way. Marrying my mother was a business deal, a smart financial decision. Just like Mina didn’t want an arranged marriage, neither do I.

Mina is blissfully happy with her fiancé, Peter, in Maine living her dream of taking on the fashion world. When I learned about my sister’s fiancé, I needed to check him out myself. Not only is Peter a stand-up guy, but he extricated my sister from my father’s business deal—a deal that would have my sister marry someone for my father’s gain. Technically, she’s my half sister, and the bidder for my father’s shares learned that fact and tried to leverage it. He failed, thanks to Peter’s quick thinking and my sister’s strong backbone and sharp tongue. He stood next to her as she went toe to toe with our parents and won. Rarely do my parents fail. It was epic.

 As odd as it may sound, I want the fairy tale. Yes, it’s abnormal for a guy to want a fairy-tale marriage. Nonetheless, I want a partner who challenges me to grow with her emotionally as well as professionally.

I spend my days investing other people’s money. On my own time, I search for investments for myself and fly planes. Tonight, though, I plan to enjoy my solitude. Tomorrow, despite my objections, my mother has set me up on a blind date. No doubt, it’ll go up in flames, but I assured my mother I would have dinner with Miss Templeton. If anything, I’m a man of my word.

The closer I get to this blind date, the more I want to cancel. I won’t, but deep down, I want to. Brittany Templeton attended a fine boarding school in Connecticut, then earned her bachelor’s degree in business at Harvard. I see why my mother thinks we have some things in common.

As I approach the hostess, I’m greeted by name. “Mr. Morgan, a pleasure to see you again. Miss Templeton has already arrived. Right this way.” The curvy, blonde hostess leads the way.

Our table is near the back of the restaurant in the corner. I appreciate not only the privacy but the ambiance the table will afford, even though I have no intention of seeing Brittany past tonight.

“Cassius, so good to meet you.” Brittany rises from her seat, kissing both of my cheeks.

“It’s Cash. Good to meet you as well,” I reply, taking in her dress, or lack thereof. Unlike most men, I don’t have a type, despite what Sam thinks. That isn’t to say physical attraction isn’t important, just I don’t have a thing for only blondes or curvy women. Her dress leaves little to the imagination. I’m all for a woman being comfortable in her own skin, but there is a line of how much skin should be showing. Brittany vaulted over it with her deep V-cut wrap dress. It’s surprising, considering her upbringing.

Our server shares the daily specials and drink with us.

“Why don’t you order for us?” she says, closing her menu.

“Are you sure?” Not only is that an odd request, but I don’t really know her at all.

“Of course, my father always orders for our table.”

I order our dinner, and we chat about her job as the Director of Giving at a charitable organization. Reading between the lines, I determine she makes phone calls to her parents’ wealthy friends asking for donations and throws parties for a living. Nothing wrong with philanthropy; it just doesn’t take much work when you have a Rolodex stacked like her parents. Outside of our parents’ social status and tax bracket, we have nothing in common. No common interests or mutual friends. We eat in silence. When our server offers us dessert, I request our bill.

“Can I walk you to your car?” I offer, hoping she declines. She’s nice, but not for me. I kept my word. That’s all Margaux could ask for.

“I was hoping you would walk me to your place,” she replies in a sultry tone.

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m not interested.” I hold her coat for her as she slips into it. I’m not sure what type of reaction I was expecting, but I certainly didn’t peg someone with her background to cause a scene. She begins shouting and making a fuss, disparaging our server and the restaurant in general. Everything about our meal was perfect until I turned her down for a one-night stand. An hour later, after the police took my statement, I walked home . . . alone.

 

 

Noelle

Rays of sunlight filter through my blinds. That could only mean one thing, it’s the weekend. I rise before the sun during the week to open the center. Just two weeks ago, I watched my oldest brother and Hollywood’s Sexiest Man pledge his undying love to one woman. On a private overlook in Aspen, Nicholas and Kelly got married in an intimate ceremony that I almost missed. Thankfully, my brother’s private pilot was able to finagle another plane to get me there on time. I was so overjoyed, I kissed him. Embarrassed doesn’t even begin to cover it. It’s still impossible to set aside the butterflies I felt when I was in his arms. With chocolate eyes, flawless skin, and dimples, drop-dead gorgeous doesn’t do him justice. He’s remarkable and unforgettable. I shake that delicious thought away.

My older brothers and I have an understanding. We agree to get together for weddings and at least one major holiday each year. Our pact originated a few years after our parents died in a horrific car accident. We were born and raised in Colorado and lived there until our parents’ deaths. I came to California for college and never moved back home. Nicholas has a home in Colorado and now Maine where his wife is from. Noah never left.

I hurry through the shower and dress. I have a date with my bestie for moral support for her sister’s baby shower.

“Noelle,” Kate shouts from the foyer, “I’m here.”

Only Kate and Nicholas have keys to my cute condo. I bought this home solely for the outdoor sitting area. There’s a private patio with a pergola. The remodeled kitchen is clean and modern, and the bedroom is huge. My décor is simple and cozy. The couch is perfect for cuddling while watching movies on a rainy day.

“I’ll be right out. I’m looking for my sweater.” I scour the drawer again, trying to recall the last time I had it. To no avail, I grab another that somewhat matches. “What is the theme? Did you tell me the gender of the baby yet?”

“Evie doesn’t want to know the gender, so we’re going with a forest-theme shower.” Kate follows me out the door.

My phone vibrates, but I ignore it for now. “Where are we headed first?” I settle into the passenger seat of her car. As she drives, I watch the scenery fly by, wondering if I should expand my job search horizon to include Colorado or even Maine. I put in applications at local daycare centers after the first issue with my boss about six months ago. A few weeks ago, she and I had another discussion. Even though my title is director, as the owner, she makes the decisions. While developmentally, my curriculum change was perfect, the child’s mother didn’t agree. Hence, the sit-down with my boss.

Kate pulls into the spot and takes out her phone. I check mine as well.

Unknown: Are you free tonight? I’m in town for work.

I consider who this might be. I don’t recall giving anyone my phone number recently. Generally, I add a name. I check the history and see I have talked to this person before.

Me: Who is this?

Unknown: You forgot me already? I’m crushed. I guess that kiss wasn’t as memorable for you as it was for me. It isn’t everyday a stunning woman kisses me.

“Holy fish sticks!” I blurt out. Even though I’m an adult, I’ve trained myself not to curse because of my job. Apparently kissing Cash made more of an impact than he let on.  He was being gentlemanly about it. What did he just call me? The stupidly handsome pilot thinks I’m stunning. He needs to get his eyes checked. Wait, don’t pilots have superior vision?

“Noelle, who are you talking to?” Kate breaks into my thoughts.

“I’m not sure yet, but I think it’s Nicholas’s pilot.”

“Can you text and walk? I need to get this done before my date with Kellan tonight.”

I nod before opening my door and following her into the party store.

Me: Cash?

Cash: Yes. Were there other kisses I should know about?

No, not even close. My stomach is knotting up as I type.

Me: Maybe. Yes, I’m free tonight.

Not sure why I teased him, but….

Cash: I’ll be there by six. Does that work?

Me: Yes.

Cash: Text me your address. I’ll escort you properly.

I reply with my address and hurry to catch Kate in the store. I’m stuck on the fact that he wants to see me while he’s in town. Did he really call me stunning? In my teenage years, “awkward” and “lanky” were more the words that guys would use to describe me. Even now, stunning is a stretch.

“Here’s the section for the forest theme. What do you think?”

I hear Kate talking, but I’m not focused on her words.

“Earth to Noelle.”

“Sorry, forest theme right here. What is your question?” I look toward her, yet still not affording her my full attention. I’m a horrible bestie right now.

“What happened with the pilot that you aren’t sharing?”

“Nothing happened exactly. When he figured out a way to get me to the wedding on time, I might have kissed him.”

“You’re seriously holding out on me,” she says.

“I was grateful, and I kissed him in my excitement.” I hope my face isn’t blushing. The memory of that brief but amazing kiss is fresh in my mind. “He just asked me out for tonight.”

“Sweet, let’s focus so we both have time to get ready.”

I fumble along with Kate, nodding when appropriate while she makes so many choices for the decorations. I’m more focused on the fact I just agreed to go on a date with one of the sexiest—no, hands down the sexiest—man I’ve ever seen. And kissed.

“Where is he taking you?”

“I didn’t even ask.”

“You probably should so you know what to wear.” Kate checks out of the party store.

“Where to next?” I ask before pulling out my phone to text Cash.

Me: Where are we going?

I chuck my phone into my tote.

“The florist next, which will be quick, then the bakery. After that, we’re done for today. Thank you so much for coming with me. I want details tomorrow after your date. When is the last time you went on a date?”

I consider her question before answering. “I go on dates. The issue is the men around here are uber rich and arrogant. They don’t warrant a second date. I want the fairy tale. I don’t want to be a corporate wife, K. I love my career, perhaps not where I do it, but… I’ll find the guy eventually. I’m just not sure he’s here in this ritzy part of California.” In short order, Kate chooses flowers and we’re on to the cake tasting. My tote vibrates a brief time later.

Cash: It’s a surprise. Casual clothes will work. It’s not fancy.

Me: Okay. See you later.

After a few too many tastes of yummy cake samples, Kate and I choose a vanilla bean with a fresh strawberry filling for the shower. There will be a single-layer, round cake for her sister to cut with cupcakes for the guests. Well after three, Kate drops me off, reminding me she wants details of my date tomorrow. I sigh after waving her off.

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