Some like it hopeless a.., p.1

  Some Like It Hopeless (A Temporary Engagement), p.1

Some Like It Hopeless (A Temporary Engagement)
 

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Some Like It Hopeless (A Temporary Engagement)


  About Some Like It Hopeless

  In love with her gay best friend since forever, Cassandra Spencer has accepted that not everyone can have the fairy tale. Not everyone can have marriage and children and the same last name. But she has Shane, and she loves him and he loves her... Until he falls in love with someone else. Someone nothing like Cassandra; someone she can never accept.

  Brady Roberts destroyed his whole world, and there will be no forgiveness. No end to his guilt and pain. He exists day to day until he tangles with a woman who just won’t let him. A woman who believes that life is meant to be lived, no matter how hard it is. No matter how much it hurts. No matter how hopeless. Because sometimes, hopeless doesn’t have to mean alone. And sometimes, hopeless isn’t the end.

  Table of Contents

  About

  Prologue

  One

  Two

  Three

  Four

  Five

  Six

  Seven

  Eight

  Nine

  Ten

  Eleven

  Epilogue

  Copyright

  For Vicki-

  You were a good and true friend

  when a friend was needed most.

  If there weren’t peppermint patties and

  homemade Baileys in heaven before,

  there sure are now.

  Prologue

  Of course Cassandra would be wearing purple when it happened. The dress making her look as wide as a house, the color making her look like a zombie bride. Or bridesmaid, really.

  Because that’s what she got for being a sister. Trussed up in the ugliest dress, in the ugliest color known to man.

  And she’d worn the stupid dress. And she hadn’t complained too loud. At least to her sister.

  Because her best friend, the love of her life, the man she would die for, had looked at her and told her to work it.

  So Cassandra had pulled up her Spanx, had mentally flipped off her sister (right, like her sister hadn’t done it on purpose), and had worked it. And it had been okay. Because Shane was right there with her. Working it, too. His dress shirt and socks matching the putrid purple of her dress, his arm linked through hers, his smile wide and manic, his whispered observations snide and catty.

  And Cassandra could smile at her sister. Could tolerate her parents.

  And then. . .he wasn’t right there with her. He was off having fun. Then, off getting distracted by a pretty new bird. And then, off. Gone.

  Gone.

  Cassandra watched Shane forget about her, watched him leave the reception without her. The first time ever that he’d forgotten about her, hadn’t made sure that she was okay with him going off for a little bit of fun. They’d been each other’s wingmen for years and they’d always made sure the other was okay with being left alone. Always.

  Shane wouldn’t have even asked today because he would have known that Cassandra couldn’t handle her family without him.

  Except. . .there he went. With his pretty new bird, and Cassandra decided Shane’s pretty new bird wasn’t all that pretty. His pretty new bird looked boring– brown hair, brown eyes, and wearing a white shirt, black suit, and black tie. He looked like he wasn’t even sure he was gay.

  Cassandra had known this day would come. She loved Shane, and he loved her. But they were a bird and a fish. In love, with nowhere to live.

  She’d known that someday he would find another bird to fly with. He’d find a bird he could love and he could live with.

  Shane would have never left Cassandra alone at her sister’s wedding, wearing this dress, unless he’d found that bird.

  How fitting that on this day she looked like death warmed over. Because this day, she watched her heart walk out the door. This day, she died.

  Fucking purple.

  One

  Thirty minutes later

  The bartender poured her another shot. “You okay?”

  Cassandra didn’t look at him, just tipped her head back and tried to kick-start her heart with another shot of liquid fire.

  “It’s the dress. Purple is not my color.”

  “It’s not the dress. It’s the tears sliding down your cheek.”

  Cassandra blinked, focusing on him for an instant before taking the little square napkin he was offering.

  She patted her cheek and decided that alcohol wasn’t working fast enough. She wondered if a different sort of distraction would work better than alcohol.

  But not with this bartender. He looked young and fresh, like tragedy had never touched him, and Cassandra wanted to reach across the bar and choke him to death.

  She turned away from him, scanning the room of the swanky hotel on the outskirts of L.A. Everyone was happy; it was a wedding. Cassandra wouldn’t find what she needed here.

  She crumpled the napkin in her hand and stood, making her way to the door. She’d go home, get out of this dress, and. . .

  Do something. Maybe do nothing. Maybe do nothing for a really long time.

  She left without telling her family, gave her ticket to the valet, and waited. And waited.

  A deep voice behind her said, “I’ve called you a cab.”

  “What?”

  Cassandra turned, nearly taking a step back when she got a look at him.

  Tall, big. He wore a well-fitted suit over his bulked-up body. Black suit, black shirt, black tie. An ugly scar snaked down his cheek.

  His dark brown eyes looked nearly black. His expression empty except for the loathing radiating from him. And Cassandra knew, this man had died. Just like her.

  Cassandra stared at him. He stared back.

  “I’ve called you a cab. No one leaves my hotel drunk and driving. Where’s your designated driver?”

  Cassandra’s throat closed and she choked out, “He left.”

  He looked at her and she knew he could see the death in her eyes as well as she could see it in his.

  He said, “We make our own tragedies,” and Cassandra whispered, “Yes.”

  He turned back to the hotel, holding the door open for her, and she followed. Searching for a way to stop the pain, even if it was for a little while.

  Looking for a way to forget that she was a dead woman walking.

  Cassandra let herself into her little bungalow the next morning. Rumpled, used, abused. Two people had come together last night, punishing themselves. Punishing each other.

  It hadn’t been pretty, but it had been exactly what she needed.

  She threw her phone on the counter without turning it on. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. She didn’t want to talk to a specific someone.

  She didn’t want to find out that Shane hadn’t called her yet. That he still hadn’t remembered her.

  She jumped at the knock on the door, whirling to face it. Telling herself that she wouldn’t cry in front of Shane, telling herself she had to open the door because he had a key.

  But when she looked through the peephole, it was No Name the Giant. In a different all-black suit, looking clean and crisp. Still scarred.

  She opened the door slowly, narrowing her eyes at him. “Did you follow me?”

  He held out her driver’s license. “I tried to catch you before you left. You can’t drive without a license.”

  Cassandra had stuffed it inside her bra yesterday along with her phone so she wouldn’t have to buy a purple clutch. It must have been lost in the scuffle of clothing removal.

  “You could have mailed it to me.”

  “And you would have been driving around for three days without a license.”

  She said, “You’re a real stickler about driving. Do you
follow every law to the letter?”

  “I do now.”

  She waived him inside, grabbing her license as he passed her. “I’m not going to ask.”

  “Good.”

  “Because last night was a one-night stand and I’m not ever going to see you again.”

  He nodded, looking around her little living room. He’d taken her to the penthouse of his hotel last night, bigger than her whole house, and Cassandra had wondered if his hotel was actually his hotel. It could be. His suits said money, the hotel staff jumped when he so much as glanced at them.

  Of course, they might have been jumping because he looked like he could crush anyone who got in his way and would enjoy doing it.

  He said, “Maybe you’ll never see me again. And since you won’t ask, I guess I’ll tell you.”

  “Yeah, I noticed you were a bit contrary last night.”

  “I follow every letter of the law now because I’ve been to prison and I don’t want to go back.”

  Cassandra eyed his body, the girth of his biceps. The dead look in his eyes.

  She said, “For how long?”

  “Not as long as I deserved.”

  “Any tattoos?”

  She’d seen his body last night but it had been dark. She might’ve missed one.

  He pointed to the scar on his face. “This is enough for me.”

  “Did you get that in prison?”

  His hard face got harder. “No.”

  Prison. Cassandra wasn’t sure how she felt about prison. About someone who’d actually been in prison.

  He didn’t ever want to go back, so that might be a point in his favor.

  He’d come right out and told her, and Cassandra didn’t know if that was in his favor or not.

  Cassandra climbed onto a bar stool in her hideous, and now wrinkled beyond repair, bridesmaid dress. Not that she cared. She had plans for this dress and it involved a pair of scissors and then a match.

  “Well, thanks for the license. And last night. Good-bye.”

  He sat down on her couch, taking up all the room. He relaxed, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. “I feel like we have some leftover business from last night. I brought some rope.”

  “Ick.”

  “Maybe next time.”

  “Maybe never.”

  He opened his eyes to stare at her, obviously not believing there wasn’t going to be a next time.

  She said, “I don’t think you know how a one-night stand works.”

  He smiled a little, just the corners of his mouth moving up. “I know how a one-night stand works. I don’t think you know how a fling works.”

  Her eyebrows hit her hairline. “You want to be upgraded to fling?”

  She thought back to last night. It had been hot and fast. Cold and emotionless. She might be willing to upgrade him to fling. Might be willing to use him to warm her sheets.

  He said, “Not right now. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”

  She’d been there, she knew.

  “First, tell me why you went to prison.”

  “For killing a woman and her child. For killing my woman and my child.”

  Cassandra’s breath rushed out. She looked at the scar on his cheek, felt the fear dance in her belly. He probably weighed a good hundred pounds more than her and she knew that if he turned out to be some psycho, she was toast.

  She scooted off her bar stool, walking around the kitchen counter and pulling a glass out of the cupboard. She filled it with water, all the while getting closer to the knives. If he tried, he would take her, but she’d make him suffer for it.

  She took a long drink, watching him over the rim and finally asking, “How?”

  He’d been watching her through slitted eyes, his head still leaning against the back of the couch, but at that he closed his eyes completely.

  “I was drunk and high. Driving too fast. I flipped the car and killed them both.”

  She didn’t say anything, just traced the scar on his cheek with her eyes and remembered what he’d said yesterday. We make our own tragedies.

  And last night, when she’d asked, he’d had no alcohol in his suite. Wouldn’t order any up.

  He said, “Don’t think that because I didn’t mean to that it makes me any less of a killer.”

  Cassandra said, and it wasn’t a question, “You don’t drink anymore.”

  He shook his head and she said, “No one drives away from your hotel drunk.”

  “No one.”

  “How do you stop them?”

  He opened his eyes and Cassandra thought stupid question. He could stop a bull in a china shop.

  He said, “I either sit them down at the bar and pour more liquor down their throat until their wallet is empty or the cab has arrived, or I take them upstairs and fuck ‘em until they’re sober.”

  A little tingle made her want to fidget. She took another drink of water instead.

  “And do you upgrade all of those sobering fucks to flings?”

  “You’ll be the first.”

  Cassandra snorted. “And how many of them believe that?”

  “So far, none of them.”

  She wanted to laugh, dammit. She wanted to take him back to her bedroom and stop all this talking.

  “So, why me? I’m sure there are lots of women leaving your hotel drunk enough to believe their car is in your penthouse.” She narrowed her eyes. “Maybe lots of men, too.”

  “Not reliably enough.”

  She waited. Waited for him to say one way or the other whether he was a bird slumming with the fishies. She didn’t care, really, she just couldn’t handle it now.

  He didn’t answer her question, just said, “Shane,” and Cassandra’s stomach clenched.

  He said, “It’s not my name, though I answered to it a few times last night.”

  Cassandra thought about blushing, thought about being embarrassed, but decided she didn’t care. She didn’t care what he thought, she didn’t care that she was pathetic.

  “I alternate between Shane and Ethan. I’m just warning you in case I take you up on the fling.”

  “Who’s Ethan?”

  He didn’t ask who Shane was and Cassandra wondered what else she’d told him last night. She hadn’t thought she was that drunk.

  “My other best friend’s husband. She won’t send naked pictures so I have to project.” She looked at the brooding hulk sitting on her couch and said, “You’re nothing like him. I probably won’t call you Ethan.”

  “That’s good. I’m easily confused.”

  He didn’t look like he was easily confused. He looked sharp and dangerous, and Cassandra wondered why he’d followed her. Last night had been. . .maybe not fun. But it had been just what she’d needed.

  He might be just what she needed.

  And she knew suddenly why he’d followed her. Knew why he was sitting on her couch.

  Because she understood. She’d known that a part of him had died, had known before he’d told her that he’d killed his wife and child that whatever he was looking for he would never find.

  Cassandra knew what it meant to live like that. How to get up in the morning, hopeless. How to make do with second best.

  She loved, hopelessly. She could never have what she wanted most in life. She couldn’t have Shane, couldn’t be what he needed, couldn’t have his children and his name.

  The man sitting on her couch would never have what he needed, either. Would never find forgiveness for his sins.

  She put her glass down, rounding the kitchen counter and stopping to stand in front of him. She turned her back to him, indicating her zipper. “I need a shower. You may join me.”

  He scooted to the edge of the couch and pulled the zipper down slowly. He murmured, “So magnanimous.”

  “Yesterday, you got lucky. Today is the tryout. If you please me, Shane, I’ll think about your upgrade request.”

  He pushed himself off the couch, following her. “Cassandra Elaine Spencer, don’t yo
u want to know my name?”

  She didn’t, not particularly.

  “Why? You answer to Shane.”

  When they entered the bedroom, his eyes met hers in the full-length mirror. He was big and dark, brooding. He was dressed head-to-toe in rich black and his mouth looked like it only smiled when he had you cornered in a dark alley. He was nothing like Shane.

  But he only said, “Hope you have a big shower, your majesty.”

  And Cassandra thought she’d probably grant his request. He was big, he was distracting, he just might be funny.

  He might be just what she needed.

  Carlton Brady Roberts IV left Cassandra drowsing in her bed and headed back to work. Seven days a week, sometimes twenty-four hours a day. He lived and breathed his work. Early morning conference calls with New York, late nights tracking Asia.

  He took his sleep when he could get it, living in the penthouse and rarely making it back home. He’d find a couple hours this afternoon to sleep and let himself feel that sweet oblivion of nothing. So tired that he wouldn’t even dream.

  Despite what he’d told Cassandra, he only occasionally invited someone up to spend some energy on. He chose carefully, and not very often, because that smacked of hedonistic pleasure when he deserved none.

  But he’d seen Cassandra sitting at the bar, in that ugly bridesmaid dress, her short brown hair curling as much as the length would let it. Her tears leaking down her cheek. Had seen her looking for a distraction and finding none in that happy crowd.

  And then she’d tried to drive away from his hotel drunk.

  He still hadn’t been thinking of taking her up to his penthouse when he’d made sure the valet was calling her a cab. His staff was well-trained, but the day staff wasn’t as familiar with spotting drivers who shouldn’t be driving. And when she’d turned, Brady had seen in her eyes that it was an old wound, recently re-opened. That it was something that would never get any better and she’d accepted that. Just sometimes it struck hard enough to make her bleed.

  Brady knew all about that.

  He went about his life because he couldn’t do anything else. He’d killed those he loved most in this world. There would be no forgiveness for him. He’d served his time– six years was what the state had demanded for the death of his family, and then he’d been let out early because of good behavior. And prison crowding. And because of his money.

 
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