“LOVE LIKE THIS creates a world of emotions and turmoil, describing superbly the mind of a young lady (Keira) and her struggles to balance her social life and her career. Sophie Love is a natural storyteller. LOVE LIKE THIS is very well written and edited, and I highly recommend it to the permanent library of all readers that appreciate a romance that can be savored during a weekend.”--Books and Movie Reviews (Roberto Mattos) LOVE LIKE OURS (The Romance Chronicles—Book #3) is book #3 in a new romance series by #1 bestselling author Sophie Love. The series begins with LOVE LIKE THIS (Book #1), a free download!Keira Swanson, 28, returns to New York City, this time with Cristiano in tow. Having him in New York, and having him meet her family, is culture shock for them both.Keira is soon assigned a new article, her most important yet: a 30 day trip to Paris—with Cristiano in tow. Her assignment: to find out if their love can last in a foreign country, on new ground for them both.As Keira and Cristiano take the romantic trip of a lifetime to Paris, they find their love tested in unexpected ways. When a surprise twist comes their way, everything changes.Can their love withstand it?A whirlwind romantic comedy that is as profound as it is funny, LOVE LIKE OURS is book #3 in a dazzling new romance series that will make you laugh, cry, and will keep you turning pages late into the night—and will make you fall in love with romance all over again.Book #4 will be published soon!“Sophie Love's ability to impart magic to her readers is exquisitely wrought in powerfully evocative phrases and descriptions….[This is] the perfect romance or beach read, with a difference: its enthusiasm and beautiful descriptions offer an unexpected attention to the complexity of not just evolving love, but evolving psyches. It's a delightful recommendation for romance readers looking for a touch more complexity from their romance reads.”--Midwest Book Review (Diane Donovan re: For Now and Forever)
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L O V E L I K E O U R S
(THE ROMANCE CHRONICLES—BOOK 3)
S O P H I E L O V E
#1 bestselling author Sophie Love is author of the romantic comedy series, THE INN AT SUNSET HARBOR, which includes six books (and counting), and which begins with FOR NOW AND FOREVER (THE INN AT SUNSET HARBOR—BOOK 1).
Sophie Love is also the author of the debut romantic comedy series, THE ROMANCE CHRONICLES, which begins with LOVE LIKE THIS (THE ROMANCE CHRONICLES—BOOK 1).
Sophie would love to hear from you, so please visit www.sophieloveauthor.com to email her, to join the mailing list, to receive free ebooks, to hear the latest news, and to stay in touch!
Copyright © 2017 by Sophie Love. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Jacket image Copyright Ditty_about_summer, used under license from Shutterstock.com.
BOOKS BY SOPHIE LOVE
THE INN AT SUNSET HARBOR
FOR NOW AND FOREVER (Book #1)
FOREVER AND FOR ALWAYS (Book #2)
FOREVER, WITH YOU (Book #3)
IF ONLY FOREVER (Book #4)
FOREVER AND A DAY (Book #5)
FOREVER, PLUS ONE (Book #6)
FOR YOU, FOREVER (Book #7)
CHRISTMAS FOREVER (Book #8)
THE ROMANCE CHRONICLES
LOVE LIKE THIS (Book #1)
LOVE LIKE THAT (Book #2)
LOVE LIKE OURS (Book #3)
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX
CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN
CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE
Keira looked over at Cristiano in the airplane seat beside her. Despite the long, wearying journey, he looked as beautiful as ever; with his dark hair, olive skin, and chiseled jawline. In fact, Keira thought he looked even more beautiful than normal, if such a thing were possible, because of the way his eyes were huge and sparkling with excitement. Through the window, far below them, the lights of New York City at night glistened.
“The roads are so straight,” Cristiano murmured, his expression one of awe. “Like a grid. But what is that gap?”
She glanced down at the large, dark rectangle he was pointing at. “That’s Central Park.”
Cristiano looked awed. “Oh, I get it. Central. Because it’s in the center.”
Keira laughed at his childlike wonder. “Pretty much.”
As the plane continued to shed altitude, Cristiano went back to gazing out the window.
“The buildings are so high,” he murmured aloud.
Keira giggled and ran her thumb across the back of his hand. Their hands had been interlinked throughout the entire flight, all the way from Verona, Italy, to New York City, and Keira had zero intention of letting go anytime soon.
As the plane descended further through the clouds, their view of the magnificent city below grew sharper. Everything began zooming into focus as they got closer and closer to touch down; until they could make out individual taxis speeding along the roads, then the street lamps glowing yellow in the darkness, then the brighter lights of the airport. Finally, with a thud and squeal of tires, the plane was on the runway, juddering along whilst shedding speed until it was slow enough to taxi towards the terminal.
“We’re here,” Keira beamed to Cristiano.
He nodded, his expression eager. “I cannot quite believe it,” he muttered.
“Honestly, neither can I!” Keira replied.
Her last minute decision to invite Cristiano home with her had been, well, slightly ludicrous. But at no point throughout the flight had she felt as if she’d made the wrong decision, or acted in haste. It felt so right to have Cristiano beside her.
At last the aircraft slowed to a halt and the seatbelt sign flicked off. They stood in unison, Cristiano collecting his small leather satchel from beneath his seat; the only bag he’d brought with him. Keira picked up her purse, then they filed off the aircraft with the rest of the passengers.
Keira revelled in the sensation of stretching her legs properly for the first time in hours. Spending the best part of day on an airplane was becoming far too regular an occurrence for her, though she wouldn’t trade her job for the world. How many people would kill to spend three weeks touring Italy for work? She knew she was lucky to be a travel writer, and Viatorum, the magazine she wrote for, was becoming so much more than just a job to her. She had friends there -- like Nina, the editor, and Elliot, her boss -- not to mention a purpose. The opportunities Viatorum had given her were like dreams come true.
But it was during the last trip to Italy that she had gained much more than just another published piece to her name. There, she had found love with Cristiano.
As they waited at the baggage claim for her large traveling case, she could feel Cristiano’s eagerness to get out of the airport and start exploring the city. She could appreciate his impatience. She felt it too.
Finally, her case appeared on the carousel. Like the gentleman he always was, Cristiano took it upon himself to collect it, then insisted on wheeling it on her behalf.
They exited the airport in a hurry, filled with anticipation and excitement.
They took the subway to the part of town where Bryn’s apartment was located, and headed up the steps towards the exit. The air was very cold, and Keira could feel a blast of icy air swirl down towards them. Cristiano heaved her case up the steps for her, then stopped on the sidewalk, placing the case beside her. Keira had never felt so excited at the prospect of doing laundry before, but the thought of cleaning and unpacking her luggage seemed suddenly very appealing!
The sidewalks pulsed with energy, filled with busy people hurrying through life. Cristiano looked bemused by the sight, as though he simply could not understand why anyone needed to walk so fast.
As they began to walk the couple of streets between the subway station and Bryn’s apartment, Cristiano looked around himself, wide-eyed with wonder. Keira found his childlike enthusiasm charming, and wondered whether she had made it look quite so endearing when they’d been on their whistle-stop tour of Italy.
“There is so much of it,” he said to Keira. “Building after building after building! It is enormous!” But then he began to shiver and his teeth chattered as he spoke. “Is it always this cold?”
Cristiano was dressed in one of his swanky Italian suits, gorgeous but entirely impractical. He started rubbing his arms. She rubbed them too, trying to warm him up through the thin fabric.
“Only at this time of year,” she told him. “We ought to buy you a better coat.” She gestured to the closest high street clothes store. It was a big outlet store selling cut price, end of line stock. “We can find something for you from here.”
By Cristiano’s expression, Keira could tell he was less than impressed with her choice!
“I would rather wait and find a proper store,” he explained. “I can cope with being cold for a little while longer.”
“You’d prefer to freeze than appear even temporarily unstylish?” Keira mocked him.
“Of course,” Cristiano replied, with a smirk.
But no sooner had the words left his mouth then a large gust of icy November wind rushed past them. Keira shivered, folding her arms tightly about her, then looked at Cristiano.
“Poor thing,” she said, laughing. “You’re not in Italy anymore!”
Cristiano relented quickly, and she steered him into the brightly lit store. He perused the racks of garishly colored wind breakers looking less than thrilled. So much for their days of fine Italian designer clothes shopping, Keira thought.
Finally, he found a quilted black jacket -- a cheap knock off version of the sort of thing a fashionable Italian man might wear -- and purchased that.
“Ten dollars,” he said, shaking his head. “It will fall apart within a week.”
“It only needs to last you until we find the nearest Gucci,” she joked.
They continued on, turning the corner onto Bryn’s street and walking its length before drawing to a halt outside the shabby brownstone apartment. It was boasting fresh graffiti, recently broken railings and numerous dead plants.
“So this is it?” Cristiano asked, looking up at the tall apartment block ahead of him.
To say he looked unimpressed was an understatement. His expectations must have been dashed by the shabby neighborhood Bryn lived in. He was probably feeling similar to how she had when she found herself in Naples.
She hoped he wasn’t too disappointed, because things were only going to get weirder from this point onwards.
“My sister’s a bit… well… let’s just say crazy,” she warned him. “You might want to brace yourself.”
Cristiano laughed, clearly thinking she was making another one of her jokes.
‘Poor boy,’ Keira thought. ‘He has no idea what he’s in for!’
That Bryn had completely forgotten Keira would be returning today was immediately apparent the moment they stepped inside her apartment.
It was a state. There were clothes and shoes strewn everywhere, a collection of stained wine glasses on the kitchen counter, and empty chips and dip containers covering the coffee table, which was also coated in a layer of crumbs. Keira winced at the sight of it. What would Cristiano think?
To complete the picture of utter disarray, Bryn herself was lying on the couch snoring loudly. Makeup was smeared all over her face. Her sparkly sequined dress was barely covering her. Her red-lipped mouth hung-open.
Keira grimaced and looked at her watch. It wasn’t even that late. Bryn must have had one of her marathon Saturday drinking sessions, starting at midday before bar hopping around town until she returned home and passed out on the couch.
Just behind her, Keira could feel Cristiano lingering, hesitating. She was too filled with dread to turn around and assess his expression. Yes, she may have told him to brace himself, but this was worse than even she had anticipated!
Keira slung her purse onto the floor and Bryn jolted awake at the noise. She sat up with a startled snore. Swaying, she touched the mess of knotted hair on top of her head. Then she peered at Keira through squinted eyes.
“You’re home?” she asked.
“Yup,” Keira replied tersely. “You forgot I was coming back today, didn’t you? And you forgot I was bringing a guest.”
She said the last statement between her teeth, as a prompt to Bryn that they had company, something else she had seemingly failed to notice.
Bryn squinched her eyes, looking past Keira to Cristiano. With a few blinks of disbelief, she suddenly sprung to life.
“Oh hi,” she said, sounding awake and alert for the first time. “I’m Bryn. You must be Cristiano.”
For the first time since entering the apartment, Keira turned to see Cristiano’s reaction to the chaos she had brought him into. Far from looking appalled, he seemed to be wearing an amused expression. Even whilst Keira cringed at Bryn wobbling to her feet and staggering towards him, Cristiano seemed to be taking the whole thing light-heartedly.
“Wow, you are gorgeous,” Bryn said as she drew up close to Cristiano and embraced him. “I thought Keira was just exaggerating to make me jealous.”
Keira got a waft of alcohol mixed with too much perfume.
“Thank you, I guess,” Cristiano replied, sounding uncertain but chuckling nonetheless. “Both you and your sister have inherited very beautiful genes.”
Bryn raised her eyebrows at Keira, making no attempt to hide her swooning. Keira was struck by a sudden fear. Her sister was considered by most people the more attractive of the pair. She was also an outrageous flirt. What if Cristiano fell for her charms? For her more exuberant personality? It was impossible to tell by studying Cristiano’s behavior what he truly thought of Bryn since he acted in the same charming way to every pretty woman he met.
“Do you guys want something to drink?” Bryn said, her gaze fixed upon Cristiano’s perfect features. “Beer. Wine. Prosecco?”
“Is that a good idea?” Keira asked, raising an eyebrow at her sister’s dishevelled appearance.
Bryn rolled her eyes and looked over at Cristiano again. “Was she like this the whole time in Italy too? Keira can be such a square.”
“Hey!” Keira protested.
“Not at all,” Cristiano said. He seemed to be taking this all in good humor, even if Keira herself felt extremely awkward. “We spent many evenings drinking fine wine, didn’t we my dear?” He flashed his gorgeous eyes in her direction and grinned in that way that made her feel like she was the only woman in the world.
“Yes,” she murmured dreamily.
Bryn interrupted in her usual brash way. “Well, you must have rubbed off on her, Cris, because getting her out the house for the evening can be like trying to get blood from a stone.”
Keira shook her head at Bryn’s teasing.
“Just pour the drinks please,” she muttered.
Bryn grinned wickedly at Keira, clearly enjoying the process of winding her up, then smiled sweetly at Cristiano. “What’s your poison, Cris?”
Keira grimaced. She already hated the way Bryn had bestowed him with a nickname. It was far too familiar. Keira herself hadn’t yet called him anything other than Cristiano! If anyone should be giving her a pet name it should be her!
“Wine, red,” Cristiano replied. “A New Zealand Shiraz if you have it.”
Bryn giggled loudly, in her usual flirtatious way. “I’ll see what I can do,” she purred. Then she looked over at Keira. “Can you tidy the place up a bit?” she asked, waving her hand in the general direction of the messy room.
Keira grit her teeth. She could feel the heat rising into her cheeks.
As she stomped around the apartment collecting debris, she could overhear Bryn and Cristiano chatting at the kitchen island.
“So how long are you in town for, Cris?” Bryn was asking.
Keira stopped what she was doing and glanced over her shoulder. She and Cristiano had not discussed that yet. In fact, their relationship had been such a whirlwind since day one they had planned very little. She hadn’t even thought about the fact there was only one bed in Bryn’s home! Where were they even going to sleep?
“I don’t know yet,” Cristiano replied. “We’re living for the moment. Taking each minute as it comes.”
Keira exhaled. It was a reassuring answer.
She finished tidying everything up quickly then went over to the kitchenette to supervize her sister and Cristiano’s interaction. Bryn poured an extra glass of wine.
“I think I should let you guys sleep in the bed,” she said, as she slid the wine glass across the table. “There’s no way you’ll both fit on the couch.”
“Really?” Keira asked, surprised by her generosity. It wasn’t like Bryn to think of other people. “But what about you?”
Bryn gestured to the couch. “Most nights I just pass out in front of the TV anyway. If I’m home that is.”
She raised her eyebrows and wiggled them. Keira groaned; thinking about Bryn’s frequent and numerous conquests made her feel more than a little icky.
“That’s very kind of you,” Cristiano said, clearly oblivious to undertone.
“Sorting out an apartment is at the top of my priority list,” Keira added. “I promise we’ll be out of your hair asap.”
In the seat beside her, Cristiano became suddenly straight backed. He sipped his wine, his gaze averted. Was he tensing? And if so, what in her comment had made him do so?
A sudden terror struck Keira then. Did Cristiano think she was suggesting they get an apartment together?
Awkwardness swelled inside of her. Keira hunkered down in her seat. That had not been what she was implying at all! It would be absurdly presumptuous of her to expect Cristiano to want to move in with her immediately, especially since they had not discussed anything. Especially since she herself had no idea how long she wanted him around for. There was a whole spectrum between the present day and forever!
Suddenly, their throwing caution to the wind in a giddy haze of romance felt a little rash. It had felt amazing on the airplane but now they were on her home turf it felt different. It felt real. At some point she would need to summon the courage to have an actual conversation with him about all the practicalities of how to negotiate their long distance relationship, but the last thing she wanted to do was scare him away.
Keira fell silent, lost in her thoughts, taking small sips of wine. She became a spectator rather than a participant to the conversation, watching on as Bryn giggled at Cristiano and commented on his lovely accent, gazing at him with adoring eyes. When she reached across the kitchen island and lightly touched his arm, Keira snapped back to attention. It was time for an exit strategy. She let out a loud yawn.
Bryn flinched with surprise, as though she had completely forgotten Keira was even there.
“Are you tired?” she asked. “Don’t feel like you need to stay up on my account. You’ve only got one day before you have to go back to work and you don’t want to be exhausted for it.”
Usually, Keira found Bryn’s mother-hen impersonation irritating, but this time she welcomed the invitation of getting an early night. And getting away from her sister.
She stood. “Sorry, I’m just so exhausted from all the traveling. Let’s catch up properly tomorrow. I have a gift for you.”
Bryn grinned. “Awesome. I can’t wait.”
She stood too, and the sisters hugged. Then Keira looked at Cristiano, who was still seated.
“Are you coming?” she asked.
He looked surprised, as though it hadn’t crossed his mind that Keira expected him to come to bed with her.
“Ah, yeah, sure,” he replied, sounding anything but certain.
“You don’t have to,” Bryn said hurriedly. “If you’re not tired, feel free to stay up with me and chat. I have more New Zealand Shiraz.”
Keira narrowed her eyes at Bryn. Cristiano looked from one sister to the other as though caught between something he didn’t fully understand. Finally, he stood, clearly deciding to follow Keira. She nodded decisively in acknowledgement of her win.
“Tomorrow,” Cristiano said to Bryn. “Thank you for the wine.”
Keira noticed he hadn’t finished his glass. She felt bad for spiriting him away, but she knew Bryn better than he did. Leaving her alone with him would be potentially dangerous!
“Good night,” Keira called back to Bryn, as she dragged her suitcase into the bedroom.
Cristiano entered after her. As soon as he was inside, Keira shut the door behind him. She leaned against it and took a deep breath.
“I’m so sorry about her,” she said.
Cristiano looked bemused. “I don’t understand. She seemed very nice.”
“She was flirting with you!” Keira replied, shaking her head.
Cristiano didn’t seem concerned at all. “I don’t mind.”
“Well, I do,” Keira told him. “She’s my sister. It’s rude.”
Cristiano just shrugged. He came over and wrapped his arms around Keira. “You know I only have eyes for you,” he told her, squeezing her body closely to his.
“It’s not you I’m worried about,” Keira replied, relaxing into him. “It’s every other hot blooded woman in the world.”
She was hit by a sudden realization then. In Italy, Cristiano, though undoubtedly handsome, was one among many. Here, in New York City, he was an exotic creature, a real Italian man, a model come to life from the pages of a fashion catalogue. Her home city posed a whole new set of challenges to their relationship that she had not yet even considered.
There was only one solution. She would have to keep Cristiano completely occupied from dawn ‘til dusk, supervized morning, noon and night!
“We should get an early start tomorrow,” she said, moving from his embrace. She began undressing for bed. “Only one day of the weekend to enjoy before I’m back at work. We have a lot of sightseeing to do.”
Cristiano grinned. “I can’t wait. But we’re not going straight to sleep are we?” He gave her one of his suggestive looks. “I’ve been cooped up on an airplane for hours. There’s a lot of pent up energy inside of me.”
Keira’s smile quirked up. She reached for the lightswitch. “Whatever you desire,” she murmured, then she flicked it off, plunging them into darkness.
Keira woke to the shrill sound of her alarm clock. It read seven a.m, but thanks to the jetlag and the relatively small proportion of time she and Cristiano had used the bed for sleeping, her body felt like it was still the middle of the night. She felt groggy, like she’d had a very badly timed nap in the middle of the day.
But despite the physical discomfort, mentally she was incredibly excited for the day ahead. She leaped straight out of bed, powered by excitement and exhaustion-induced adrenaline.
She looked back at Cristiano. He was still sleeping soundly.
“Wake up,” she said, leaning over him and kissing his forehead.
His eyes fluttered open. “Do I have to?” he said, yawning. “That long flight exhausted me.”
“It was the flight that exhausted you, huh?” Keira said suggestively, with a wink.
But she realized Cristiano had fallen straight back to sleep!
She decided to leave him to rest and went to freshen up for the day.
She crept into the living area. It was dark and Bryn was snoring loudly. Careful to be as quiet as possible and not waking the sleeping beast, she tiptoed past her sister and took a quick shower, cleaning away the airplane residue and last remnants of Italy from her skin.
When she made it back to the bedroom, she saw that Cristiano was still in a deep, peaceful sleep. She sighed and decided she may as well take her dirty clothes down to the laundrette on the corner. No point wasting this time, since she was back in the office tomorrow.
She quickly emptied her case and collected last night’s strewn clothes, adding them to the bundle before hurrying out of the apartment, along the corridor, down the steps, and onto the streets.
It was an exceptionally chilly morning, and she felt a wonderful sense of nostalgia. She had spent next to no time in New York over the last two months and it felt really great to be home; the familiar sound of traffic, the familiar smell of fumes. It made her think of Thanksgiving, and she smiled to herself knowing she didn’t have too long to wait until her favorite holiday. This year would be extra special with Cristiano there to enjoy it with them. If he stayed that long, anyway.
It was empty inside the laundrette, and Keira loaded several weeks worth of dirty clothes into the machine, filled the drawer with detergent, and added some quarters. She only had enough change on her for a quick wash -- she’d not yet had time to get any local currency -- but a thirty minute spin was better than nothing.
Once the machine was spinning, she scurried back out, wanting to get back to Cristiano, to wake him and usher him from Bryn’s apartment (and claws) as soon as possible.
But once back in the bedroom, she discovered that Cristiano was still in a very deep sleep. She kissed him again to try and wake him.
“Sleeping beauty” she said, more brightly this time, her a voice a little louder, more obnoxiously demanded. “We have to get up and get going!”
Cristiano groaned. “Can’t we have a lazy day in bed?” he moaned. “We’ve been on the go for weeks. We deserve to relax for one morning, don’t we?”
Keira shook her head, thinking of Bryn in the other room. They had to make their escape before she woke up.
“Nope,” she replied. “The whole of New York is waiting for us!”
Cristiano yawned, turning away from her loud voice. “And it will still be there in the afternoon after breakfast.”
“But it’s best enjoyed in the morning,” Keira contested, heaving the covers off of him. “Take it from a local.”
Cristiano gave up arguing, and, shivering, got out of bed.
“Why are you in such a hurry?” he moaned.
“Because there’s so much to do!” she replied, quickly pulling on a pair of Bryn’s winter boots. All her winter footwear was stored in a box somewhere, her stuff from Zach’s apartment strewn in various locations from her room in her mom’s house, to Shelby and David’s attic, to Bryn’s closet. There was even a sneaky box under her desk at Viatorum.
“Can I have a shower at least?” Cristiano asked.
Keira chewed her lip. Every minute wasted was another minute closer to Bryn waking up and attempting to get her talons into Cristiano. But Keira couldn’t deny him his basic human needs.
“Of course,” she said, brightly, feigning calmness. She went over to Bryn’s closet and pulled out a fluffy towel. “Here,” she said, handing it to him along with some shampoo and shower gel from her luggage. “The shower is just down the hall.”
He kissed her in thanks and disappeared from the room. Keira slumped to sitting on the bed, already exhausted. This was not going to be easy. She would need to find a new apartment as soon as possible. Like yesterday.
But that relied on getting her deposit back from Zach for their old apartment. She didn’t really want to initiate contact but it was clearly the lesser of two evils in this particular situation. She grabbed her cellphone and fired off a text.
Any news on the deposit? K
Against her better judgment, she added a x on the end. Buttering Zachary up wasn’t something she enjoyed doing, but if it meant she got her deposit back then it was worth it.
She peeked out the bedroom door into the living area. The blinds were still down and the room was black. The only sounds were the shower from the other end of the corridor and Bryn’s loud snoring. Luckily Cristiano hadn’t woken her on his way past either.
But she began to grow impatient. Cristiano was sure taking his time! She checked her watch and saw that her clothes in the laundrette would soon be reaching the end of their cycle. She decided to fetch them, rather than run the risk of some local stealing them the moment the lock clicked open on the machine’s door. Even at seven thirty on a Sunday morning you could never be too careful!
She left the apartment again and hurried to the laundrette. There were a couple of people in there now, both organized-looking middle aged women clearly attempting to beat the queues. Keira collected her warm, damp clothes. She didn’t have enough change for the drier so would have to hang them up around Bryn’s apartment.
She left, heading back along the street towards Bryn’s. It felt really good to do normal chores again, to be a normal person again rather than a travel writer in an exciting foreign land. There really was such a thing as too much of a good thing, it turned out.
Her phone vibrated in her pocket just as she began climbing the stairs up to Bryn’s apartment. It was a text from Zach. She bit her lip with anticipation then read what he’d written.
Bon jour Keira! I’m in France for work. A week long conference event starting tomorrow! Can we chat about $ when I’m back?
She sighed with frustration. It would be another week before they could speak about it, not that she could even understand what there was to speak about! It should be a simple case of transferring her share of the money into her bank but of course he wasn’t going to make this easy on her.
Her eyes still on her cell phone, Keira went into Bryn’s apartment. She was immediately surprised by the sound of laughter, and looked up.
Everything had changed. The blinds were open, the lights on, the coffee machine bubbling away, and there was Bryn in the kitchen, looking far more awake than someone who had spent the last day drinking ought to. Perched with his back against the counter was Cristiano, his bare torso glistening with water droplets, nothing but a towel tied around his waist to protect his modesty.
“What’s going on?” Keira cried, startled.
Bryn looked over at her, and frowned, amused by Keira’s paranoid tone. “I’m making coffee,” she said, stating the obvious. “Where have you been?”
“I went to the laundrette,” Keira said, holding up her heavy bag of damp clothes. “I was only gone two minutes.”
Two minutes, clearly, was all it took for Bryn to take the opportunity to feast her eyes upon Cristiano’s well honed body.
“Babe,” Keira said forcefully, looking at him. “We’d better get dressed. We have to go.”
“We have time for a coffee don’t we?” he asked. “While you’re hanging your clothes up to dry?”
Keira dropped the bag on the floor, nonchalantly, and tried to sound light-hearted as she went over and steered him by his shoulders towards the bedroom.
“But I want to take you to the best coffee place in the whole of New York,” she said. “Small batch. Freshly ground. Much nicer than Bryn’s machine made coffee.”
“Oh… oh, okay…” Cristiano said, putting up no resistance. “But… your clothes?”
As she ushered him into the safety of the bedroom, Keira glanced over her shoulder at Bryn. She was watching, smirking, clearly amused by her sister’s flustered haste. Keira gave her a stern expression, a warning look to leave Cristiano alone.
“I can hang your clothes,” Bryn said with a sweet, knowing smile.
“Thank you,” Keira replied, tersely.
She went to shut the door but Bryn wasn’t done.
“Hun, if you think I’m bad,” she chuckled, “Wait until you get him out there.” She pointed to the window. “You’re going to find a whole lot worse than me. Trust me.”
Her body tense all over, Keira shut the door.
Their first stop was the Upper West Side where they grabbed bagels and coffee to eat on the move. It was a far cry from the long, lazy meals they had shared in Italy, but Keira wanted Cristiano to really get a feel for what life was like in New York City.
“So this is the best coffee in New York, is it?” Cristiano asked, sipping from the paper cup with careful consideration. He didn’t look convinced.
“Oh, yeah, the best,” Keira told him, remembering the lie she’d blurted out this morning. It was good but it wasn’t the small batch, freshly ground coffee she had promised. “In my opinion, anyway.”
Cristiano just shrugged.
They strolled along the sidewalk hand in hand towards the Hudson River. Keira was acutely aware of the amounts of stares Cristiano garnered. She knew there was a discrepancy between their respective attractiveness, but she felt even more like the plain Jane back in New York, because here Cristiano was more than just a catch, he was a rare beast. Bryn had been right. There were far worse than her in the city. Having him here was going to be exhausting.
“What do you think about my sister?” she asked.
Cristiano laughed. “She’s interesting.”
There was a pause, during which Cristiano was clearly trying to choose his words carefully. Finally he settled on; “Pazza.”
“What does that mean?” Keira asked, her mind conjuring up all kinds of options; beautiful, wonderful, alluring, mesmerizing.
“Crazy,” Cristiano said.
Keira laughed. It was a relief to hear him say as much. Unless he had a secret thing for crazy, she was probably safe. From Bryn, at least. There was still the rest of the female population of New York City to contend with.
They walked through Riverside Park, looking at the beautiful river, then headed towards Central Park. Since Cristiano had noticed it from the air as their plane had flown over, Keira deduced that he would also appreciate seeing it from ground level.
“This is so amazing,” he said, looking at the distant skyscrapers that surrounded them. “It doesn’t seem real.”
Keira smiled, remembering how she had said very similar things to him about Italy. It was cool to see him so entranced by her hometown, to see him marvel at things she had long ago forgotten to be inspired by.
They headed eastward, towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The culture in Italy had been astounding but Keira was competitive by nature and didn’t want Cristiano to think that his ancient European country had more going for it than New York City did! But there was so much to pack in to the day, they were only inside for an hour or so before Cristiano asked to see more of the actual city.
They took a subway to fifth avenue so Keira could show him Times Square, then headed to eleventh avenue for a stroll along the High Line so he could really take in the sights of the Manhattan skyline. They bought more coffee from one of the vendors along the bridge.
As the afternoon drew on, Keira took Cristiano to SoHo where they grabbed some lunch in one of the cafes. Cristiano seemed to especially like this part of the city, particularly all the fashionistas and interesting clothes shops. In fact, he fit right in in his Italian clothes, and found himself a new jacket that looked remarkably similar to the cut-price one they’d bought from the outlet beside the airport, the main difference being that this one cost fifty dollars instead of ten.
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