What am I thinking? He had spent most of yesterday rehashing all the poor choices he’d made in life, and today he’d made two more spectacularly bad decisions: the first to crash Pooja’s wedding, and the second to get involved with Divya’s escape.
Last night he’d been at his condo in Los Angeles, unable to sleep. He barely recognized the furniture in the place, let alone remembered how to operate the overly complicated coffee machine. He owned a condo in every major city where he had to spend time for his business. He was tired of hotel rooms, yet none of these condos was home. The closest he’d come to feeling grounded was living with Pooja for three months. But when he’d been with Pooja, all he’d been able to think about was all the things that didn’t work in their relationship. After she’d left, he’d been unable to stop thinking about how great things could’ve been between them.
He’d woken up in a cold sweat this morning, wondering whether he’d die alone in one of his ubiquitous condos. Living on his airplane, jetting from city to city was getting old. He wanted a place where he belonged; he wanted what his brother and his parents had—a soul mate. In her email, Pooja had accused him of setting an impossible standard that no woman could ever meet. Maybe she was right. He had a black book full of failed relationships. So he’d put his jet on standby and charged into Vegas, intent on getting Pooja back.
But here he was, with another woman, thinking about how her luscious pink lips had tasted of vanilla when she’d kissed him earlier. Was his mother right? Was he afraid of commitment? As he watched Divya negotiate the narrow steps of the plane in her heavy skirt, he knew it was a bad idea to spend time with her. He was attracted to her and felt the familiar urge to throw caution to the wind and pursue her like he did any endeavor that caught his attention.
“Welcome back, Mr. Connors.” Kathy was one of the regular cabin attendants who worked the plane. While the jet was his, he used a contract service to provide pilots and staff. She greeted them as they entered, dressed in her regular black pantsuit, white-collared shirt and red scarf around her neck. Her graying dark hair was knotted stylishly at the nape of her neck.
“Long time no see, Kathy,” he quipped.
She looked at her watch. “This isn’t our fastest turnaround. I believe your record is fifteen minutes. We did get new pilots, though.”
Kathy had flown with him from LA earlier in the day. If she was surprised to see Divya instead of Pooja, she kept it to herself.
He turned to Divya. “There’s a bedroom in the back that has some of my clothes. Feel free to borrow something if you want to change.”
Divya looked like she was going to say something, then thought better of it. While Divya was changing, Ethan discussed the flight plan with the pilots.
Divya emerged wearing one of his black T-shirts and a pair of shorts. She looked like a kid wearing a grown-up’s clothes. The T-shirt swelled over her breasts, then hung down to her thighs, and his basketball shorts looked like cropped pants. She looked impossibly sexy. Her feet were bare, revealing pink-tipped toes and intricate henna patterns like she had on her hands and arms. Her black hair fell in waves over her shoulders. She’d taken off the heavy jewelry and scrubbed her face, making her look incredibly young.
Kathy closed the outside cabin door. They were in the main seating area, which consisted of several tan-leather recliner chairs, a couch with a coffee table and a mahogany-finished bar. Another door separated them from the cockpit and service area, where Kathy now disappeared. “Are we really going to New York City?”
Her voice held such longing that it wrenched his heart.
“What’s so important in New York?”
A mischievous smile played on her lips. “Can I have your phone again?”
She took it, quickly typed in an address and handed it back to him, open to a webpage for Café Underground.
“It’s a club that does open mic for new singers.”
She shrugged. “I like to sing. But I don’t know if I have any talent. I sing at family events and my relatives and friends pump me with praise. I love singing. If I could do anything in life, that’s what I’d want to do. But I need to know whether or not I have real talent. Just once, I want to stand in front of a real audience and see what it’s like to perform live.”
Her face held so much hope that all he wanted to do was make it happen for her. “You can probably find an open mic right here in Vegas. Why go all the way to New York?”
“This place is special to me.” She took a breath. “When the entire world was under lockdown, Café Underground started doing these video open mics. They gave me a chance to perform, and it’s the only time I’ve sung for someone other than my family. It went well, but it was different sitting in my bedroom, singing to a computer screen. They made me promise I’d come to do my first live performance at their club. I know it’s superstitious, but I believe the place is my good luck charm. I would never have thought about a singing career if I hadn’t accidently found out about their virtual open mic.”
“It’s a done deal. Tonight, you’ll be singing at Café Underground.”
She launched herself at him and gave him a hug. His arms automatically went around her waist and the feel of her took his breath away. His body went hot at the way her breasts crushed against his chest and her breath warmed his neck. “Thank you, thank you. You have no idea what this means to me.”
He gently disentangled himself before his body gave him away. What’s wrong with me? How could he go from wanting to marry Pooja to being insanely attracted to Divya? This was what he was always afraid of: that he’d turn out like his father. Connors men have a hard time holdin’ on to good. The pattern was always the same. His father, Wade, would lose a job, his mother would work longer hours to make money for the household, and his dad would go day drinking. His mother would come home and make dinner, while his father sat in front of the TV, drinking Jim Beam until he passed out. To this day, Ethan couldn’t stand the smell of whiskey. His mother had eventually left his father and married Bill. That’s when Ethan had learned what an ideal marriage looked like. Bill had adopted Ethan, and his father hadn’t thought twice about signing away his parental rights in exchange for never having to pay child support. Ethan wanted what his mother and Bill had, but he lived in fear of ending up like Wade.
(C) Sophia Singh Sasson, Harlequin Desire, 2020. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Nights at the Mahal #2
Stop the wedding! Steal the bride!
And fall for a perfect stranger?
Billionaire Ethan Connors vows to stop his ex’s wedding so they can be together. But crashing the wrong nuptials and spiriting away the wrong wife-to-be is more than he bargained for! Divya Singh is beautiful, talented, passionate…and from a traditional Indian family who won’t accept him as a match for their daughter. Can Divya and Ethan’s unexpected relationship stay the course or will one of them run again?
From Harlequin Desire: Luxury, scandal, desire—welcome to the lives of the American elite.
Romance | Multicultural Romance [Harlequin Desire, On Sale: January 12, 2021, e-Book, ISBN: 9781335232670 / eISBN: 9781335232670]
Sophia puts her childhood habit of daydreaming to good use by writing stories she hopes will give you hope, make you laugh, cry, and possibly snort tea from your nose. She was born in Bombay, India, has lived in the Canary Islands, Spain, Toronto, Canada, and currently resides in Washington DC. She loves to read, travel, bake, scuba dive, watch foreign movies.
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