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Advice From a Jilted Bride

What’s a girl to do after being ditched at the altar by text message? That’s right. Text. Message.

How does she pick up the pieces and move on? I’m no Dear Abby but here’s a little free advice…

Advice #1 – First, purge your apartment of all things him—by tossing his belongings off the balcony.

Advice #2 – Do not, I repeat do not, throw anything out into the hallway because you’ll injure your hot new neighbor.

Advice #3 – When said neighbor brings over Chinese Food do not let him stay and keep you company. It’s awkward when you realize he’s your boss.

Advice #4 – Accept his offer to help you with your side business but think twice before using a date to his sister’s wedding as collateral.

Advice #5 – Investigate who your mystery neighbor really is. Don’t trust his word even if he’s the world’s best kisser.

If you listen to nothing else, pay attention to that last one. It’s the most important and will save you a lot of heartache.

Xo,

LOVESICK IN LAKE STARLIGHT

 

Advice From a Jilted Bride by Piper Rayne is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

1

SUMMARY

What’s a girl to do after being ditched at the altar by text message? That’s right. Text. Message.

How does she pick up the pieces and move on? I’m no Dear Abby but here’s a little free advice…

Advice #1 – First, purge your apartment of all things him—by tossing his belongings off the balcony.

Advice #2 – Do not, I repeat do not, throw anything out into the hallway because you’ll injure your hot new neighbor.

Advice #3 – When said neighbor brings over Chinese Food do not let him stay and keep you company. It’s awkward when you realize he’s your boss.

Advice #4 – Accept his offer to help you with your side business but think twice before using a date to his sister’s wedding as collateral.

Advice #5 – Investigate who your mystery neighbor really is. Don’t trust his word even if he’s the world’s best kisser.

If you listen to nothing else, pay attention to that last one. It’s the most important and will save you a lot of heartache.

Xo,

LOVESICK IN LAKE STARLIGHT

Book 2 in the Baileys Series

Author: Piper Rayne

Brooklyn

Abandoned

Deserted.

Unwanted.

All those words run through my head as my younger sister Juno shoves my puffy white dress and me into the back seat of my older sister, Savannah’s, SUV.

There had to have been signs that my fiancé, Jeff, wasn’t happy, but all I recall are the smiles and the kisses and the hugs and the laughs.

Well, there weren’t a ton of laughs, but Jeff isn’t a lighthearted or laughing kind of guy—the complete opposite of my brothers. Though they aren’t laughing or cracking jokes right this minute.

“Don’t do anything stupid!” Juno screams over the hood at the boys and climbs into the passenger seat next to Savannah.

“He obviously has a death wish,” Austin says, climbing into his Jeep with my three other brothers, their suit jackets stripped off, ties hanging around their necks.

His Jeep peels out of the small church parking lot, fishtailing before it rounds the corner, almost on two wheels, and disappears down Main Street.

They’re kind of protective, and my oldest brother, Austin, never liked Jeff.

“It’s going to be okay.” Juno extends her hand into the back seat, rubbing my knee through the million layers of tulle.

Savannah looks at me through the rearview mirror, a reassuring smile perma-plastered on her face.

She wanted to stay and inform our friends and family, but I think Juno was scared to handle me by herself, so we left the job of telling all the guests there’d be no wedding in the hands of our uncle, Brian.

My grandma Dori, my twin sisters Phoenix and Sedona, and Austin’s girlfriend, Holly, stayed behind to help remove the flowers from inside the church.

“I’m fine. I’m good.” It’s a lie. I know that. They know that. But I’m fighting to keep it together.

Falling apart and having a mental breakdown will only add to the level of humiliation I already feel.

I look out the back window of the SUV and watch as the church doors open. Guests walk down the concrete stairs, confusion and surprise laced in their expressions.

Thanks, Uncle Brian.

Juno straightens in the passenger seat and looks at Savannah. They’ve been doing their whole non-verbal talking thing since Jeff’s text came through.

That’s right—the asshole ditched me on our wedding day via text.

Don’t mistake my composure as a good sign.

I want to scream and rant, and if Jeff was in front of me, I might actually beat him with my bouquet like Carrie did to Big when he left her looking like the fool on their wedding day in theSex and the City movie.

Jeff’s not here though, because he’s a coward.

All I have is the text message he sent me five minutes before I was supposed to walk down the aisle. After my family spent a shit-ton of money on a huge-ass wedding I didn’t even want.

I would’ve been happy with a small affair, but nooo, Jeff wanted practically the entire town to bear witness to our nuptials, and now my humiliation.

A text… after I got up at the butt-crack of dawn to get my hair done. After I slipped into a pair of white silk panties, imagining him sliding them down my legs tonight.

After a nice Belgium lady ripped all the hair out from between my legs to give me a smooth Brazilian wax.

What a fucker! The fact I did that for him stokes the rage inside me.

“We’ll go back to the house.” Savannah flips the turn signal to head to the house I grew up in.

Yeah, I’m not going there. “No, go to the apartment.”

Juno glances at me, her eyes expressing her uncertainty. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. We’ll go to the house, wait for the guys.”

“Hopefully none of them get arrested,” Savannah mumbles. “The last thing Bailey Timber needs right now is one of us getting arrested… again.”

“Well, now that you’ve switched to those disposable coffee cups, we should be good.” Juno laughs, nailing Savannah with a dig about the time she threw a coffee mug at her enemy’s face and spent a few hours in jail.

Savannah flips her off.

Leave it to my family to bring up another sore subject right after my life has fallen apart.

Maybe it’s because we’ve dealt with so much tragedy that we search for anything to make a serious situation feel less severe.

Savannah turns toward the house, ignoring my instructions.

“Sav, the apartment.”

“I don’t thin—”

Now!”

Her gaze shoots to mine through the rearview mirror. She’s never been afraid of me, and it’s hard to tell if she is now.

She’s had to play mama bear a lot over the years since my parents died a decade ago.

I soften my voice. “I need to see if he’s there. I want answers.”

I look at my phone still clasped in my hands. A damn text message. I’m not surprised he didn’t have the balls to tell me face to face. Jeff’s not a confrontational type of guy.

Still, I thought he loved me. That’s what hurts the most—I obviously had it all wrong.

“Screw the bastard,” Savannah says.

.

“If closure is what you need, then let’s go.” She squeezes my hand and flips back around, shooting a look to Savannah to saylisten to the girl.

Savannah huffs, forever the control freak, but she does a U-turn and heads toward the apartment I signed a lease for with Jeff only last week.

Why didn’t he say something then? Like, “Hey, this whole wedding thing? I’m not so sure I want to be a husband.”

We drive for ten minutes and pull up to the cluster of white buildings, each one bearing a small balcony, some overlooking Lake Starlight. We paid a little more money in rent for the view.

Jeff said he thought the app he’s been developing for the past year was about to sell and we’d be able to afford it.

“I’m going on record that this is not a good idea.” Savannah pulls the keys from the ignition.

The three of us sit looking up at where my future was supposed to start. When we signed the lease, I’d thought of the apartment as our starter place.

I pictured Jeff and me driving by years from now, after we could afford to move, our kids in the back seat while we pointed out where it all began.

They’d roll their eyes as though they couldn’t care less, then we’d make our way back to a single-family home with a large yard and a cute sign on the front door that said “The Brickles.”

What a crock of shit.

I open the vehicle door. I really should have thought about the size of my dress when I was trying them on, but then again, I wasn’t thinking I’d be making a walk of shame in it.

My eyes are set on that small balcony on the side of the building. The one where Jeff said he’d put a grill and a chair for me to keep him company as he cooked his famous burgers.

My sisters exit the SUV and murmur behind me. Savannah’s still going on about how this is the wrong call and Juno’s arguing that I have to do this sometime.

Digging into my purse, I find the keys. Two keys on a heart keyring. How naïve was I? I roll my eyes, inserting my key into the main door of the building and turning the knob.

The foyer smelled of flowers and a future when we moved our stuff in last week. Now it smells of loneliness and despair as I walk up the first flight of stairs.

“Watch your dress,” Juno says.

“Why? We’ll be burning it tonight,” Savannah says.

I pick up the front of the big skirt. Why did I decide on the Cinderella princess style again? What a waste of money.

When we reach the top floor, I look at the numbers on the outside of my apartment door. Three twenty-two. I thought it was a sign—my parents’ anniversary date.

They married on March twenty-second and that number was magic for them. I had hoped it’d be the same for me. Shaking my head, I insert my key.

Juno’s hand covers mine. “Are you sure you’re ready?”

I look at her. No one would imagine we’re sisters. Her auburn hair is contrary to my blond, her green eyes to my blue.

But if you look closely, our noses slope the same way and our lips hold the same smile. But that’s where our similarities end.

I nod. “I told you. I’m good.”

Juno steps back, and I open the door to what was supposed to be my future home. We all walk into the apartment, and the door shuts behind us.

The light in here isn’t nearly as bright as I remember. The space looks smaller and older.

“I’m going down to talk to the landlord. I’m getting you out of this lease,” Savannah says, and the door opens and closes with her departure.

“She’s in fix-it mode.” Juno’s hand lands on my shoulder, and I ignore the tingling in my nose. “Want me to go down to Liquory Split and get us something to take the edge off?”

My gaze veers to the couch we bought one another as a wedding gift before I smile at her. “That’d be great. Thanks.”

“Consider it done.” Her heels click on the hardwood while she makes her way to the door. Another selling point for the apartment. “Are you sure? I mean, you’ll be okay?”

I circle back around, keeping the smile on my face. “Yeah. I’m sure Savannah will be back soon.”

Appeased by my answer and my smile, she opens the door and leaves the apartment.

The silence that cloaks the room feels like nails on a chalkboard. I scour the small apartment. Jeff’s suit jacket from yesterday still hangs off the chair.

The coffee cup he drank out of this morning sits in the sink. Did he sip that while typing that text? I look at my phone again.

“Coward,” I say, my voice echoing through the half-empty apartment.

I pick up the coffee mug, inspecting it for lipstick. What other reason could there be for him to break every promise he ever made to me? There has to be someone else.

It’d be easier for me to handle this if someone convinced him to leave me, rather than thinking he came to some realization himself between the time he kissed me goodbye on my family’s porch last night and texting me this morning to tell me I’m just not what he wants.

But I don’t find the evidence I’m seeking.

I toss my phone on the table and blindly throw the coffee mug with no thought of direction. The smashing sound lifts my mood slightly. A piece of him. A piece of our promised future gone.

God, it feels so good.

I grab his jacket, pulling hard on one sleeve. It rips, and I throw the scrap of fabric to the floor.

I search his pockets for any evidence of a cocktail napkin with a woman’s name and phone number scrawled on it. Nothing.

After stepping out of my heels, I run down the short hallway into our master bedroom.

I pounce on the disheveled bed like a puma, burying my nose in the pillow, wanting to smell the perfume of a woman. I toss it, smell the other one, and toss that one to the floor as well.

I open every drawer, only finding the box of condoms we bought the night we moved our stuff in.

In the bathroom, I open the medicine cabinet; cologne and aspirin bottles crash to the bathroom floor.

I dig madly through the trash, finding nothing except a small piece of bloody toilet paper he must have used when he cut himself shaving. Is that when he decided I wasn’t who he wanted?

Coming up empty of any evidence that there’s another woman, I head into our closet, the main reason I decided to sign a lease on this apartment. His clothes are on one side, mine on the other.

I smiled like a fairy princess after we hung up our clothes. I’d dreamed of the whole his-and-hers closet since I was sixteen.

Star Wars T-shirts from the shelf.

Opening the built-in drawers, I pull out socks, underwear, and every other stitch of his clothing and throw them onto the floor. “Screw you, Jeff Brickle!”

Still without a sign of any other woman, I sit in the middle of our closet, looking at my neat and orderly side and the pile of his belongings on the floor in front of me.

My throat locks up, and I struggle to breathe as my chest constricts.

I pick up an armful of his clothes and stomp out of the closet and into the living room.

I open the patio door to our small balcony, throw the clothes over the banister, and head back inside for another load.

“I’m throwing you out of my life!” I toss another pile of his shitty wardrobe.

“Brook!” Savannah screams from below.

I ignore her and snatch up every other belonging of Jeff’s. His precious collection of Star Wars movies. His stupid alarm clock that blares his shitty music.

I’m heading back to the balcony when Savannah rushes in through the apartment door. Her hair has fallen out of her perfectly styled updo. “Brooklyn. Stop.”

The man to her right is the guy we signed the lease with.

I toss everything in my hands over the balcony.

“Please, Miss Bailey, you need to stop. You could injure another resident.”

I inhale a deep breath. “How could you let me sign this lease? Surely you have some sense of these things? I mean, he called off our wedding!

“You had no inkling of that happening when you pointed at that dotted line?”

“Sorry,” Savannah says to the man.

“I’m not sorry.” I point at the building manager. “You should let me out of this lease. It’s the least you can do!”

I pick up the sci-fi novel Jeff claimed was better than any of my romance books. Should have figured out then that we weren’t compatible.

The manager runs over and locks the screen door. “Please.”

He blocks it, but there’s fear in his eyes. If I step closer, he’ll move. Somewhere in my sensible brain, I know I need to calm down, but it feels impossible at the moment.

“What the hell?” Juno rushes in, a brown paper bag in each hand. Her hair has also fallen out of the pretty bobby pins with little flowers I glued to the ends. What a waste of fucking time!

I chuck the book at the open apartment door. Juno dodges it, thank God. Her reflexes always were stellar in our adolescent fights.

Fuck!” a man yells from the hallway.

Savannah’s eyes widen, and she turns toward the sound.

I nibble on my lip, praying that was one of my brothers.

Juno places the two bags on the table and follows Savannah.

The manager slides along the wall so he doesn’t have to come close to the possessed bride as he heads toward the door.

“What the hell?” the same deep voice says.

Nobody has to leave the apartment though, because the person I hit walks in, holding Jeff’s book in one hand while rubbing his head with his other.

A small trickle of blood runs through the crease of his fingers.

Savannah takes the reins because she’s the one who handles any crisis in the Bailey family. “Oh, we’re so sorry!”

“Are you really?” His tall figure eats up the entire doorway. He’s in a pair of slacks and an untucked button-down shirt. You’d think he was a guest invited to my wedding.

His dark beard is scruffy, his hair neatly gelled—except one chunk that’s fallen loose, probably from the book hitting him.

“I’m sorry, really,” I say and step forward.

His gaze moves from Savannah to me. He blinks three times as though he can’t believe what he’s seeing. After a few seconds, he looks down at himself and chuckles. “Nope.

“I’m not naked or in a tux… thank fuck. For a second, I thought my worst nightmare had come true.”

I raise my arms. “Great, just what I need. Another man afraid of commitment!”

“Let me grab you some ice.” Juno breezes into the kitchen. “Oh, a broken coffee mug.” She picks up a piece and holds the evidence up to Savannah. “What does our family have against coffee mugs?”

The laughter Juno’s going for never arrives.

I disappear down the hall and slam my bedroom door. I know this is only the second worst day of my life.

The first was the day I lost my parents, but at the moment, it sure feels a hell of a lot like things couldn’t be worse.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

Wyatt

I crack my neck, passing the sign on the side of the road that welcomes me to Lake Starlight. According to it, it’s “My new home and I just don’t know it yet.”

Whatever.

Small-town life isn’t meant for me. The only exciting thing to happen since I rented my car at the airport and drove an hour west were the goats walking up a cliff on the side of a mountain.

I took the bait and parked my car next to the scattered line of vehicles alongside the highway, joining the rest of the people watching a baby mountain goat try to follow its mama or daddy.

I’m not sure which. Does one sex have horns and the other doesn’t?

See, I’m not meant for this life. I’ll admit it was interesting though. Not a moose, but it beats the ass cracks I see from the street vendors in New York on a daily basis.

My phone rings through the Bluetooth speaker.

“Hey, Mom,” I answer.

“Wyatt. You landed safely, I presume?”

“Yeah, sorry. Everything here is like extracting a tooth with a pair of pliers and no drugs.”

She giggles. “Enjoy it. Maybe you’ll like a slower-paced life.”

“Doubtful.” I’m no sooner in Lake Starlight than I’m in their “downtown,” which I think might have been inspired by Stars Hollow.

Gilmore Girls. I have a sister who used to spy on me then blackmail me in order to force me to cede control of the television to her.

. Mom had this ridiculous rule about having only one television in a ten-bedroom brownstone. Mom was a reader, so now that I’m an adult, I can understand her reasoning a little more.

. Luckily, Haylee is her fiancé, Bradley’s, problem now.

“You’ll be back for the wedding?” my mom asks.

Right now, only two things matter in my mom’s life: my sister’s nuptials and who’ll be my date for the big event.

“Yes. We’ve been over this.” I bring the car to a stop at the stoplight.

“And?”

“And I’m probably coming stag.”

“Unless you find someone in that cute town.” Eagerness fills her voice.

“Doubtful.”

A long, exasperated breath flows through the receiver. “I don’t know why you insist on this bachelor life.

“Weren’t your father and I a good example of how much a committed relationship can bring to your life? I know we’ve had our fights, but we love one another. Your sister is doing great.”

I roll my eyes and press the gas when the light turns green. “It’s not off the table, but I have a lot more I want to do before I’m stuck in Connecticut, playing house.”

“Most people don’t feel like marriage is being stuck.”

“See, I’m not like most people. I’m the exception. Remember?”

She giggles again. One thing I’m great at is making my mother laugh. “You’ve always been the exception to every rule. I think I’ve convinced your dad to come out there after the wedding.

“I’m eager to see the new place.”

I roll my eyes, turning right to head toward the latest hotel my dad has added to his empire. “It’s a podunk hotel. Probably a three-star.”

“I’ve spoiled you. When I was younger—”

“Yeah, you were a poor peasant girl begging for a crumb of bread on a corner.”

“Wyatt Whitmore, you better take back that tone. I’m serious. You need to find a wife. Fall in love. Live for someone else besides yourself.

“You do what you want, when you want without any regard for anyone else.”

“That’s the whole point of being single.”

I blow out a breath. Man, she must be stressed to ping between moods so fast. I’m not sure why my mom is so obsessed with the idea that I get married.

If I did, I’d be divorced after the lust phase ended a month later.

Resort is being used loosely here. It could probably be torn down and rebuilt, but my dad bought it to have a presence in Alaska before anyone else.

He wants to buy up these small, independent hotels before his competition does. Thinks Alaska is the next great escape everyone will be flocking to.

This isn’t a year or two operation though—his clear instructions were to get my assessment done in six months. Before ski season starts.

“You make me feel like I’m a bad mom.”

I swear, menopause is no fun for either my mother or myself. “You’re not. I’m not even thirty.”

“A couple months shy,” she mumbles, but I hear the thickness in her voice from crying.

“A couple months? Mom, don’t buy me a walker yet. I have ten months before I’m thirty.”

She giggles.

Thank fuck she’s back to happy. For a second, I was going to tell her I’d marry the first girl I saw here. That thought moves my thinking from the resort to who I’ll spend my nights with here.

Six months in Alaska and only one weekend with an excuse to head back to New York. Maybe I should take a vow of celibacy while I’m here and see if it helps me concentrate more.

I could get out of here in four months.

“Where is your dad having you start?” Mom asks.

“Bellhop. For a man who doesn’t watch television, it’s odd that I’m doing something that feels like a reality show.”

“He just wants you to appreciate what you have. He didn’t have an easy road, you know? When he bought his first place, he had five investors—”

“I know, Mom. You and Dad had a horrible upbringing. I gotcha.”

Look at the line of pick-up trucks. My rental might be the only sedan in the parking lot.

“I just want you to be happy.”

“Which I am. Well, I will be once I finish here and Dad finally hands over what he promised.”

She’s quiet. We both know there’s a chance my dad could change his mind. He swore to me that if I proved myself, he’d finally release the reins and let me own one of his many hotel chains.

Not that I want whatever this chain in Alaska will be. I’d settle for our high-priced skyscraper hotels in the theatre district though.

“I know. But after this, maybe you’ll think about finding someone.”

I chuckle. “Isn’t love supposed to plow you over, take you by surprise? I don’t think I’m supposed to pencil in time to meet the love of my life.”

She laughs again. When I was younger, I’d always try to make her laugh with silly magic tricks or goofy faces. Same goal these days, just different tactic.

“I suppose not, but things nowadays have changed.”

I drive out of the parking lot of the resort, even if I’m anxious to get started on getting it back in the black. .

According to everyone in that building, come Monday morning, I’m the new manager/bellhop. Do they even have a bellhop? Probably not. .

My dad’s ludicrous idea is for me to work in every department while relaying to him what needs to be done and who should stay and who should go. .

I’m basically doing an untelevised version ofUndercover Boss.

“Okay, Mom, I promise to put a little more effort into finding ‘the one’ after Dad signs some properties over to me.” I fail to mention that means I’ll need to interview a lot of women, and when I say interview, I mean in my bed.

“There’s the boy I love so much. You have way too big of a heart. You need to find someone who appreciates it.”

“All right, I’m going to go and get settled. I have to find this landlord guy at the new place. I pray he got it furnished like he promised.”

“Okay, remember to keep your eye out. Your bride could pop up at any time.”

“Bye, Mom, love you.”

“Love you.”

I click off the Bluetooth as I pull into the parking lot of the apartment building I’m renting a unit in for a year, even though I’ll be here for six months.

The landlord was a stickler on the length of the lease. Then he huffed and puffed when I asked about a furnished place, so I threw a few more thousand his way.

I hit the key fob to lock the doors of my rental sedan. No bells or whistles this far north. I haven’t sat in cloth seats in… well, maybe ever.

As I’m walking to the apartment number the landlord told me to go to, I dig in my pocket for the keys he sent me. At least he was nice enough to overnight them to me.

I guess they haven’t progressed to key code entries up in this mountain town.

A piece of clothing falls on my head. I pluck it off, finding some guy’s boxer shorts.

“What the—what the fuck kind of place is this?” I glare at the pile of men’s clothes on the ground in front of me.

“Brooklyn,” a girl pleads right before a door above me shuts.

Great. I look up to see a man splayed along the glass door on the third floor. I glance at the keys in my hand. Three twenty-three, which means I’m on the same floor as whatever’s going on up there.

I sure hope there’s more than one cop in this town.

I open the front door of the building and walk up the stairs. The carpet is slightly stained, but I can’t imagine it gets much reprieve with the shit weather in this part of the country.

I’m halfway up the second stairway and I really wish I would’ve brought my suitcase with me. Where’s the elevator in this place?

The screaming grows louder the higher I get, which isn’t really a surprise.

I catch my breath when I reach the third floor and spot the door to another apartment open, a short redhead standing in the doorway.

No one pays me any attention as I insert the key into my apartment’s door.

Thank fuck. I don’t want to be a witness to something and spend the rest of the day telling the police what I witnessed. I’m incognito in this town from this point forward.

Ugh!” I hear a woman scream.

I can’t help but turn toward the sound. It’s like a reflex, even though I should mind my own business.

Something hits my head with a huge thud.

Fuck!” I yell.

What have I gotten myself into by living here?

I bend down, retrieving my keys and the weapon of choice. A book depicting an alien invasion on the cover.

I stomp across the hall. “What the hell?”

Three women and a man are inside the apartment. The man looks scared shitless, sliding along the wall, his eyes frantic.

A tall blonde meets me before I can fully step into the apartment. The redhead’s eyes flick to mine then concentrate on her shoes.

“We’re so sorry,” the blonde says.

I blink a few times to clear my vision, probably looking as if I have a twitch in my eyes. “Are you really?”

I stare between the blonde and the redhead, wondering which of them should be pitching in major league baseball.

“I am.” A soft voice reminds me someone else is here.

I look away from the two women trying to give me some type of nonverbal communication with their eyes, and I blink.

I blink again.

I blink one more time because my mom’s words from ten minutes ago haunt me like the ghost from Christmas past.

“Your bride could pop up at any time.”

The blond bride is cute as hell, and if it wasn’t for the flushed, angry look on her face and loose strands of hair going in every direction, she’d probably be the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen.

Forget that. I kind of like the runaway bride look.

I look down at myself, wondering if I was knocked out and am now dreaming, then I release a long breath.

“Nope. I’m not naked or in a tux. Thank fuck. For a second I thought my worst nightmare had come true.” I speak the truth, though I probably should’ve kept that thought to myself.

“Great, just what I need. Another man afraid of commitment.” The bride raises her arms then disappears down the hall, slamming a door in the process.

“Let me get you some ice.” The redhead breezes past me to the kitchen.

“Have a seat.” The blonde pulls out a chair.

I step over a ripped sports coat and sit down. “Should I watch for flying books every time I leave my apartment?”

The redhead puts a bag of ice on the table. “I’m Juno Bailey, and this is my sister, Savannah.” She points down the hall.

“That’s Brooklyn, and um… it’s just not a good day for her today.” She folds her small frame into the chair next to me, patting my wound with a wet paper towel. “It’s just a surface cut.

“I think you’ll be fine.”

“Are you the town doctor?” I deadpan.

She laughs and gives her sister a look. “Town matchmaker.”

“What?” Obviously the hit to my head has affected my hearing.

“Is this the groom?” The guy, who now has color back in his face, walks over.

“I’m definitely no groom.”

He laughs. “Just messing with you.”

Juno rolls her eyes, and a sound comes from Savannah’s throat. One that means she agrees with her sister. If I stick around long enough, maybe I’ll figure out their native tongue.

“Who are you?” Savannah asks.

“I’m Wyatt W—Moore. Someone here’s neighbor for the next year.”

Again, Juno looks at Savannah, but this time she smiles. Wide and welcoming. Another grunt comes from Savannah. They’re disagreeing now.

Look at me, I’m understanding how the natives communicate.

“So who’s my neighbor?” I ask.

The guy thumbs toward the hallway. “The jilted bride in there.”

“We still need to negotiate,” Savannah interrupts.

“I told you, she’s not getting out of the lease.” He puts his hand in front of me. “I’m Joel, your landlord. Nice to finally meet you.”

I hold out my free hand while holding the bag of ice to my forehead with the other.

“You good to walk? I can show you the apartment and go through everything with you now.”

Joel is eager to leave and I’m his excuse. Not that I want to stick around with three chicks who are probably moments away from raising pitchforks toward anyone with a member between their legs.

“Thanks for the head wound and the ice.” I nod, stepping toward the door.

“Any time. And we do apologize. Just a bad day,” Juno says.

Savannah doesn’t say anything.

“We’re going to have pizza later tonight if you’d like to join us.” Juno follows us to the door.

“Juno, stop,” Savannah says.

Juno glances over her shoulder, and her sister rolls her eyes. “Brooklyn really is a sweet girl. You’ll see, she’ll be a great neighbor.”

Juno’s smile is so bright, I feel as though I’m in a remake of The Stepford Wives movie.

“Sure. Whatever you say.”

“Yeah, bye, girls.” Joel shuts their door. “Can you believe it? Left at the altar. And a Bailey at that.

“What a moron,” he says, as though I understand any of it other than her being left at the altar.

What the hell does her being a Bailey have to do with it?

He inserts a key into my door and opens the apartment for me. “The Baileys own the big lumber company in town.” He thumbs toward the other apartment. “That’s three of them. There are six more.”

I nod, inspecting the furniture. Not the best, but not the worst either.

I do a quick sweep of the apartment and see that he’s left the mail key on the kitchen counter, along with a sheet giving instructions for garbage, etc. “Thanks a lot, Joel.

“I’ll let you know if I need anything.”

“Sure thing. I’m glad this worked out. Normally this is a quiet apartment building. I don’t know what kind of idiot stands up Brooklyn Bailey.”

I huff. Joel obviously thinks I care about whatever happened to the bride. I have no interest in involving myself in any small-town gossip. I’m here to do a job. Get in. Get out.

Not that I disagree with him. Brooklyn’s gorgeous, but you have to watch out for a girl with an arm like that. I’m not sure how things are here, but in New York, nothing is ever as good as it seems.

Maybe that’s the case with my new neighbor too.

 

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