Series: Boston Classics #2.5
Published by Home Cooked Books on December 9, 2020
Genres: Adult Contemporary Romance
Love ’em and Leave ’em Alice Kim and “Hot” Steve Lowell are perfect for each other. It’ll only take them ten years to figure that out.
Just because they throw the most bodacious wedding party ever…
Just because they’re perfect partners in pranks…
Just because they love all the same boss movies…
Just because they share one totally bangin’ night of sex together…
Does not mean they’ll break the One Time Rule.
Even if they do… they don’t do relationships.
And they’re never getting married.
In this friends-to-lovers, marriage-pact novella spanning the last decade of the 20th century, life forces a playboy and a playgirl grow up—and grow apart—before giving them a chance to create a happy-ever-after they can actually be happy about.
“Steve, you have to save me,” I whisper, tipping my head toward the guy at the other end of the bar. “Just follow my lead, okay?”
When I grab his hand, he doesn’t even hesitate. “You got it.”
Kate’s cousin Jared is bearing down on us, drinks in hand, so I turn up the volume. “Oh my gosh, you’re right! I completely forgot that we’re in charge of moving the gifts!” Taking Steve’s other hand so neither of mine are available, I wince-smile at grabby Jared. “I’m so sorry, but Steve and I still have bridesmaid duties to take care of.”
With a “Later man,” Steve circles a possessive arm around my waist and steers me out of the country club ballroom.
Plastering a smile on my face long enough to wave and throw a “Party on, dude!” over my shoulder, I let Steve decide where we’re going. I honestly don’t know who is in charge of moving the gifts from the table in the lobby, but Kate had a spreadsheet and it wasn’t in my column, so I’m sure it’s covered.
Moments later, we’re outside. New Year’s Eve in Virginia is nothing like what it’d be in Boston, but when Steve throws his coat over my shoulders, I don’t object. “Thanks. You’re the best co-bridesmaid ever.”
“One of my many hidden talents,” he says with a shiver.
“Do you want your coat back?”
“Nah.” He pulls me in close. “But you have to share the heat.”
We breathe in the crisp air for a few moments. The sound of the nearby river is soothing and my eyes flutter closed. “This is nice. I needed a breather.”
Steve grunts out a laugh. “You know what? This is where I tried to kiss Kate.”
“Oh my god I forgot about that.” I pull away. “You homewrecker.”
He pulls me back in. “Come on. They were on a break and I was curious. Kate and I never had any kind of spark, though.” He gestures toward the ballroom window. “I like to think that kiss is what got them to this.”
“Aw, Steve, I didn’t know you were a romantic.” I use the opportunity to give him a real hug.
He doesn’t resist but he doesn’t reply. Just when I’m about to suggest we head back inside to check in with Kate he says, “I had fun this week.”
“Yeah. This has been fun. For a wedding. But I’ll be glad when it’s over. I’m sure never getting married.”
“Well, I hate to say never about anything. But not till I’m a lot older.”
“When is the ideal age to settle down, do you think?”
“I don’t know. Sometime after thirty-five. Forty, maybe.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Well, that’s kind of late to have kids.”
“Exactly! That’s my plan. Like, oh…too bad, so sad Mom and Dad, you could never match me up with the perfect Korean guy and now I’m too old to pop out perfect Korean grandbabies so I guess I’ll just have to be an old maid.” I whisper the next words as if my parents were in the next room instead of hundreds of miles away. “And do what I want. Which does not include kids. I’d be a terrible mother. I’m way to selfish.”
“Wow. I thought all women wanted kids.”
“Pretty sexist, dude. I mean, do you want kids?”
His grimace matches mine. “Well, not really. I like being an uncle but I’m very happy to return them.”
“That’s how I feel. Plus,”—I gesture to the atmosphere—“there are too many people here on earth, anyway. Nope. Not having kids.”
“Alright then. Let’s make a deal.”
“I’ll take whatever’s behind curtain number two.”
Ignoring my quip, he clears his throat and continues. “Assuming they’re still together, let’s you and me throw Kate and Will a ten-year anniversary party. If neither of us is married at that point, we get hitched.” He shrugs, like this is a deal he makes at every wedding. “The last day of 1999. We’ll both be well into our thirties.”
“Sure.” I can’t even imagine where life will take me between now and then, but if my parents haven’t managed to pin me down by the year 2000, it wouldn’t be settling to settle down with a fun guy like him. Plus, this feels kind of like a dare, which I can never resist, so I pull out the wedding program from my bag. “Got a pen? Let’s make it official.”
“There’s one in my pocket, along with my program.” He points to his coat. I fish both out and turn him around so I can use his back as a desk. “I, Alice Kim, do hereby swear that if I’m not married on December 31, 1999 I will marry Hot Steve Lowell.”
After I sign, he takes his program and the pen and we switch places. His breath is warm on the nape of my neck as he recites, “I, Steve Lowell do hereby swear that if I’m not married on December 31, 1999, I will marry Love ’em and Leave ’em Alice Kim.”
As he says this, the muffled chanting of the wedding crowd counting down to midnight echoes across the water. Steve’s brow arches in question as they shout, “Happy New Year!”
What the hell. It’s breaking all my rules, but it’s just a New Year’s kiss. I step in close, take his face in my hands, and pull his lips to mine.
About the Author:
Karen Grey (also known as Karen White and K.E. White) has had several essays published, in Salt Magazine and the Nevertheless We Persisted collections (one an Audies Finalist and the other a SOVAs finalist), and a short story in the collection Vintage Love Stories. Her first romance novel was a winner of the NJ Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book contest and Hearts Through History’s Romance Through the Ages contest in the Modern History category and won second place in the GA Romance Writers’ Maggie Award. The first book in her 1980’s era romance series Boston Classics, What I’m Looking For releases June 23, 2020.
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