“K.A. Linde never fails. Ever. Read this book!”
—Corinne Michaels, New York Times bestselling author
A new second chance stand alone office romance from USA Today bestselling author K.A. Linde…
Walking away from Sam Rutherford was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
It’s been five years since that day, and I’ve given up on looking for love. My focus is on my career. And it’s paid off—I’m successfully managing the reelection for the mayor of New York City.
Then Sam walks into my office as the new legal counsel. Which means I have to see him every single day from now until November. We vow to remain professional, but it’s a small office. The sly glances and his blistering charm are unavoidable.
It all feels so familiar. Too comfortable. After what happened the first time…I should know better.
If I’m not careful, he’ll break my heart all over again.
And I don’t know if I can survive Sam a second time.
AUDIO: Coming on release day narrated by Erin Mallon & Jason Clarke!
“Larkin, darling, I don’t understand why you’re mad,” my mother said. She turned crisply in her sharp Chanel suit that hugged her figure perfectly.
“You don’t understand anything apparently,” I snapped back.
I nudged a pile of boxes as high as my head that had manifested in my living room out of thin air. It was six thirty in the morning. I hadn’t had my coffee. And I was ready to combust.
“I am just trying to keep you up-to-date on the latest fashions. If you’re a part of this family, then you must look the part of a St. Vincent, dear.”
“Get them out of here, Mother. I don’t need seventeen pairs of high heels,” I growled, estimating the boxes in front of me, “or thirty evening gowns or twenty new handbags. Mother, I work on the mayor’s campaign. This isn’t my life anymore.”
“Nonsense,” she said. “Who doesn’t want more clothes? I did find you a dozen new power suits to replace that number you’re wearing right now.” She pointed up and down at me. “It’ll do you wonders.”
I ground my teeth and debated whether or not this was worth the fight. My mother, Hope St. Vincent, cared about next to nothing in this world other than appearances. She still probably wondered how she had gotten so unlucky to have a daughter who didn’t want to take over the family business and live the same life she presently lived on the Upper East Side—filthy rich, married, and miserable. I swore, my parents hadn’t shared a bed in twenty years. The St. Vincents took fucked up to a whole new level.
“I honestly cannot handle you right now,” I said. “Please have this all cleared out. I have to get to work.”
“All this work causes you so much stress.” My mother strutted over to me on her six-inch Louboutins and pressed her fingers to my forehead. “There’s this new plastic surgeon everyone is talking about. I could get you a Botox appointment. It’s preventative!”
I counted slowly to ten, reminding myself this was my mother and that somewhere deep, deep down she meant well.
“I’m leaving.” I reached for my bag. “Also, I’m having the locks changed. I don’t even know how you got in here.”
“Oh, Larkin, you’re overreacting, as always.”
Any minute now, she would be inviting me to early morning martinis. It was never too early to drink.
“As you know, Mayor Kensington’s reelection campaign is gearing up,” I reminded her as patiently as I could. “I have even less time than normal to do anything. Today, I have a huge meeting about the mayoral fundraising banquet next week. So, I have to go.”
“Oh, of course,” my mother said. “Leslie told me about that. We purchased a table, obviously.” She opened a box and pulled out a lavender St. Vincent’s handbag. My mother’s signature bag—the Larkin. I cringed. God, it had been a nightmare, growing up with my name on a bag. She shoved the bag into my hand. “Too bad that Nina isn’t going anymore.”
“It is too bad,” I agreed.
Then I tossed the Larkin bag back into the box. I was not looking forward to my parents being at the banquet. It made my job so much harder.
My mother continued to fish through the new clothes and pick things out. Sometimes, I dreamed that I was adopted. It was just a fantasy though. My mother and I had the same signature chestnut-red hair. Though she kept it long and straight as a board while mine curled every which way if I let it. And under her layers of makeup, she had the same heart-shaped face, the same pouty lips, and the same bright green eyes as me. I had once thought that we had the same smile, but my mother didn’t really smile anymore.
It pained me to think that I’d once been so vapid. The Upper East Side took everyone as its victim. I’d been trying so hard to stay out of that life. Except for my closest friends—my crew, the four people in my life who were more like family than my own parents—I stayed out of the madness. But somehow, it always sucked me back in. Just like my mother tried to do right this very minute.
“Okay. You figure out what to do with all these clothes,” I said on a sigh. I knew it was stupid to give in to her. For every inch, she took a mile. But I had to leave. I had too much work to do to deal with this right now. “I’m going to go to work.”
“Oh, take the limo!”
I shook my head. “I’ll grab a cab.”
“Don’t be absurd. Your father’s Mercedes is only two blocks over. He can pick me up, and you’ll be free with the limo.”
“That’s okay. I’ll take a cab. It’ll be fine,” I said, grabbing my own purse and striding toward the door.
“Will we see you for brunch?”
I rolled my eyes. “Depends on how busy I am after the banquet this weekend! I’ll talk to you later.”
With a sigh, I pushed out of my door and hurried to the elevator. Dear god, I thought somewhere in my brain that it would get easier to deal with my parents. That someday, they would come to accept that I actually enjoyed working on campaigns. That I liked being a campaign manager for the mayor of New York City. It didn’t help that my parents ran St. Vincent’s Resorts, a multibillion-dollar company that had been in my family for generations. Or that my mother had created St. Vincent handbags and cosmetics. Not only did they want me to take over the family business, they also had a long list of suitors they found acceptable for me to marry. They didn’t even seem to care which one I picked as long as I kept the wealth among other old-money families.
Not that I had any intention of dating any of them or taking over the business for that matter. One day, they would get that through their skulls. I hoped.
I just shook my head and hopped into the first cab I saw. I grinned a little as I passed my mother’s limousine.
It took me under thirty minutes to get into the office, even without my parents’ goddamn limo. Which was fortunate because I was there a good hour before everyone else arrived. It was the only way I would get through all the work piling up on my desk. The fundraising banquet was our biggest event thus far, and it would set the tone for the campaign season. And that was on top of everything else that was on my plate.
I’d been under a pile of paperwork for who even knew how long when a text hit my phone.
Are we still on for coffee later?
“Fuck,” I grumbled.
I had completely forgotten that my friend Anna English was coming into town today, and I had promised her coffee. That was before I’d known how swamped I’d be with the banquet. But English lived in Los Angeles, and I never saw her anymore. I couldn’t just bail.
“Ugh,” I groaned again. I’d have to figure it out.
Yes! I might be a few minutes late.
When aren’t you, babe?
I laughed. At least she understood.
“Ready for the fundraising department meeting, boss?” my assistant, Aspen, asked, popping her head into my office. Her long platinum-blonde hair fell like a waterfall over one shoulder, framing her pale skin and sky-blue eyes.
I checked the time. Somehow, two hours had already passed.
“All set,” I lied.
“Okay! Let me know if you need anything else from me.”
Aspen was a godsend. I’d gone through so many assistants before finding her. She was always eager to learn, which I’d found out was not a common trait among campaign assistants.
“Will do,” I told her.
I grabbed everything I would need for the meeting off of my desk and stumbled into the conference room, scattering papers on the giant table. I arranged them into a neat pile, perfectly ready for this meeting. Even if I would have felt more comfortable after another twenty hours of prep.
Not that I had twenty extra hours. Not as the deputy campaign manager, where I had to oversee all six major departments—fundraising, communications, field, legal, tech, and political. I could spend every day on just one of these areas and not get enough done. But since the mayor’s banquet was the most important thing on the agenda, this meeting was at the top of the list. And I was going to be sure that it went off without a hitch.
“Hey, girlfriend,” Demi said as she entered the room.
Demi was the head of the fundraising department and probably my favorite person in the office. She was a short, curvy black woman from Brooklyn, who always seemed perfectly put together. In fact, she carried her own papers in a notebook with each person’s name labeled on the front and a presentation board with every banquet guest’s name on a sticky note.
“Aspen said you came in early again. Are you always going to show us up?” she asked with a grin. She set the board down on the table and then turned to face me, twirling a short corkscrew curl around her finger.
“Too much to do, so little time,” I told her with a shrug. “I’m just going to grab my laptop. We can get started once everyone else is ready.”
I hastened back to my office and grabbed my MacBook, pulling up the figures I had been looking at yesterday.
“Oh, hey, Lark. Do you have a minute?”
I glanced up to see Kelly from HR, peeking into the office. “Um, I have, like, three minutes before my meeting.”
“Perfect! I’m trying to introduce the new attorney we just hired to everyone.”
“You finally filled the position?” I asked in surprise.
We’d been searching for a while for someone with the proper qualifications in campaign finance. I hadn’t thought it would be hard to find someone like that in New York City. Didn’t everyone have a JD here?
“Yep! Come meet him real quick. I sent him to get coffee.”
I shut my laptop and passed Kelly as she sank her hip against Aspen’s desk and started chatting. Clearly, this meet the new guy thing was an excuse to chitchat, but I really did like to know everyone who worked here.
I stepped into the break room just as the new guy turned from the crappy coffeemaker. Our eyes met. Time slowed. Then froze. For the first time, I understood the meaning of my heart skipping a beat. Because it did.
I took in the deep dark brown orbs. Let my eyes crash over the swish of brown hair, the lethal cut of his jawline, the Cupid’s bow of his perfect lips. That body. Holy fuck, the way that body filled out that black suit. And those hands. Builder’s hands.
A part of me ached to step forward.
A part of me remembered what had happened.
How we had fallen apart all those years ago.
“Lark?” he asked in disbelief.
My traitorous heart fluttered.