From Manhattan

EXCLUSIVE – Chapter One Manhattan Sugar

( you get Gray for a special price ) 
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One tequila. Two tequila. Three tequila; floor.

Woe is me. I’d turned to liquor to lighten my mood.

Only, I think they switched booze on me, because it stopped working an hour ago.

I’m not one of those women who dwell on the crappy hands they’ve been dealt in life. Abandoned by a father. Depressed, emotionally catatonic mother and a dead brother thrown into the cement mixer to top the crap sundae.

They’re events that have shaped me, sure.

But I don’t let those negatives define me.

And other lies I tell myself.

Of course, I do.

But like any sexually-confident, in control of her own destiny woman of New York I could shove my head in the dirt and pretend everything is fine even when the room around me was blazing fire and I couldn’t see the exits.

I could ignore the emotional downpour and ignore the quicksand around me that was trying to drag me under.

I hated the feeling of inadequacy.

Nine days out of ten I could be the sassy, outspoken fun-loving woman I portrayed to the world. Sure, it was all a farce. But still…

India Josephine Rivera, twenty-six, and the youngest Chief Creative Officer in Marina Finch advertising agency.

That’s who I am.

I’m the type who played as hard as I worked and never … ever allowed the dominoes of the past get me down.

But, fuck me. Life was horrifically unfair sometimes.

That tenth day sometimes snuck up on me like a freight train without its headlights and every shitty hand I’ve ever been dealt weighed heavier until each breath became a chore under the crushing suffering.

Each breath I wondered why I kept working my lungs.

Sometimes it just felt as though every step of life was a different chapter of goodbye.

Let’s just say that’s why I was drunk in a bar on a Tuesday night, pouring my despairs into shot glasses of tequila and into the ears of a very patient Irish bartender.

It’s also why I did something foolish.

But then what drunk woman ever said; hey, this was a wonderful idea and I don’t have regrets at all.

I said I was sassy, not that I was smart.

I don’t even know if he’ll come.

But isn’t that the point when being as drunk as my late granny Dillie every Christmas Eve? The give no fucks were in strong force. Not like during the daylight hours when my rational side wouldn’t have allowed me to text him, let alone ask for help.

I never, ever ask for help.

I’ve abided by this one rule my whole life.

Because you can’t rely on people. The moment you do they let you down.

Jaded? Oh, hell yeah, I am.

I’m also realistic.

Pessimistic with a slight allure towards optimism.

I’m a contradiction to myself.

I sloppily texted the guy I sort of had an insta-crush on a year ago. You know the kind of guy, you see them for that one brief second with their sweep of hero hair and piercing sex eyes and hard-pouty mouth, and your heart beats out from between your legs and all you can think of is carnal acts down on the floor like the farm animals do.

I wanted to fuck him is what I’m saying.

I’ve thought about him too much in the last year at odd times until my belly cramped like a pretzel. Him and his imperial eyebrows and steadfast gaze that felt like he was digging into my psyche and grabbing at all my secrets.

I’m not a sloppy drunk, nor do I cry a lot or ever.

But what I am when inebriated is emotional.

My emotions flood back under all my perfectly placed guards, crumbling like crackers and it’s like being attacked by mosquito’s.

The sting was awful.

I didn’t drink to excess for this very reason, as I teetered on my stool, elbow on the bar, hand under my chin while I watched the bartender making drinks for a lively bunch of women down the other end. He managed to pour five different drinks in a matter of a minute, also wiping the bar, taking cash, handing over the change and doing this at the same time as flirting.

Color me impressed.

“You’re good at that.” I told him when he came back my way. I was nursing a tequila, but the taste wasn’t as nice as the first sip, so I mostly was stirring the black straw through the liquid. At that point when my stomach was refusing more liquor it’s a sure sign to get my ass home.

But I couldn’t face it.

Couldn’t face the letter terminating my tenancy in one short month because the building in the meat packing district I lived in had suddenly sold to a developer who was turning them into whatthefuckever I didn’t care what. I was going to be homeless on top of losing my job—because telling my boss where she could stick her demoted position wasn’t my greatest idea on the day my life fell apart. So, I not only burnt my bridge when I tossed that match, I smoked it to the ground.

No home.

No job.

And it’s the anniversary of my baby brother’s death.

I should be drunker than I am to deal with this because shit comes in threes.

“Good at what?” The Irish lilt, softer than a warm pillowcase straight from the dryer drifted through my ears and any other time I would have flirted outrageously with the hot bartender.

He’s just my type. Handsome and forgettable.

And I mean the bang his brains out type, not boyfriend material.

I don’t even know if I have a type for that since I’ve never done long term. Shocking. Not. It’s assumed all women want marriage right from high school. I went in the opposite direction as fast as I could and never once looked back.

Not since my freshman year of college have I tried being in a relationship and even then, it was hardly anything memorable.

Plus, the bastard cheated on me with no less than three cheerleaders I was friends with. I hope he gave them herpes. I hope those cheerleaders are fat with six brats hanging off each sagging tit.

I bet they’re happy though.

Am I happy? Debatable.

Maybe the tequila held the answer. I blinked looking down in to the glass. Nope, no answers there.

But quick flings with guys like the hot bartender? I used to think I was awesome at those.

Love ‘em and leave ‘em. Two weeks max had been my record for seeing the same guy. Leaving me less satisfied than ever.

God. I’m truly pitiful.

It might be the booze talking, but I felt cheap.

What the fuck was wrong with me?

The monosyllabic drum pounding through my temples answered to only one name and its tequila. That rancid whore.

I’m never drinking again.

There comes a time in every wild party girl’s life that the jig is up, and you have to admit you’re not having fun and haven’t in a long fucking time.

For me it was about two years ago.

But it’s easier to pretend you’re the soul of the party scene with the big hair, ruby red lips and loud personality than it is to admit why you’re not happy.

I went through the motions because while I did I could forget the reality of what my life really presented.

And that wasn’t much of anything.

A job I didn’t really like but was surprisingly great at with excellent money I couldn’t walk away from.

A circle of friends I didn’t let get too close to me.

And relationships? What were those?

I’d forgotten how to truly connect with another person.

I belatedly realized hot Irish barman was waiting on my answer. I tracked my gaze up his loose gray shirt over a white tee and keep on going up the strong jawline and piercing green eyes before I took a second look at his mahogany colored hair, shaggy in style. Perfect for hands to grip onto if—

But I felt nothing for that pretty face and it’s no point in pretending just to use him as a distraction.

I smiled and motioned to the crowd. “Handling a lot of people.”

He inclined his head with a twitch of a charming smirk and nope, I felt nothing.

I stewed on my seat and wondered how long I’d stay before I eventually had to go home and face the shit-storm life just crapped into my lap.

Maybe another hour.

After all I had a good sulk going.

No point in wasting it.

And my heart hurt.

I didn’t want to be known for being the woman with a string of one-night stands on her rap sheet because she was afraid of emotional intimacy.

I’m a serial dater. I lapped up any crumb of attention and do you know why?

Here it is. Get ready for it; I’m lonely.

India’s always good for a fast screw. Yeah, I overheard that mess on my way out of the office.

Any other day when I wasn’t holding my emotions together with duct tape I would have ripped shitface Dominic’s balls off in front of his tiny, little cackling friends. Asshole.

Was he right? Is that what people think about me? Fuck them. They can’t sex shame me. I’m so done with men though.

In the same vein I didn’t want to only be defined by my crippling anxiety either.

The chaotic stretch of island we’re all packed into didn’t afford me much shelter or peace on a night like tonight. Long stored grief was attacking my heart one hard guilt riddled thump after another.

I sat grasping my unwanted drink, with hockey fans cheering around me.

It’s always been easy to get lost in the heart of Manhattan.

The city that never sleeps packed to the rafters of people and all their own wants and needs. I could have moved anywhere after college, the choices were limitless, but I ended up right back here not far from my parent’s house because why? I didn’t want mom on her own in the grief we were trapped in.

And then when dad of the year took off suddenly one day because his grief was worse than everyone else’s apparently, there was no way I could leave mom.

Now I was stuck.

She refused to move into the city with me and being in the suburbs of Staten Island I would have died a slow, boring jam making death.

So, I existed in two worlds.

Belonging in neither.

Pathetic, right?

I’m twenty-six with the burden of everyone else’s problems on my plate and no one had a clue.

How I wish I really was the party girl I’m known for.

Good old India. Always up for a good time. Partying until dawn. Doing crazy things and hooking up with faceless guys.

That’s me.

I’m a closeted mess.

And I hated being me.

Okay. I don’t hate all of me.

I’m never going to shame myself for liking sex.

I like sex and I’ve liked sex with a lot of different men and women.

Some better than others.

I’m accomplished. I can get shit done on very little notice.

I’m reliable as a fucking mountain donkey carrying a back full of bricks.

My legs never buckled out from underneath me.

But emotionally? Mess dot com.

Most days I’m a contradiction to myself.

From who I outwardly portray to the anxiety peppered woman I truly am inside.

I’m like the duck.

Elegant as hell gliding his shit on top of the water, not a feather ruffled at all, just enjoying the shit out of his day.

But beneath the water his little legs are working madly just to stay afloat.

I can feel it now. Even as my brain swam drunkenly around its own intoxicated pond and the memories of things I’d rather forget started knocking on the door.

The anxiety was there waiting for the best opportunity to fuck me up.

My palms sweated.

And my breathing became irregular.

All I needed now was the deathly heavy sensation in my chest to make my head dizzy and we have the trifecta of an impending anxiety attack.

Oh, joy.

I tried to concentrate on the big TVs up above the bar.

Distract and refocus.

I drank to drown the pain, but the pain had learned to swim.

There’s so much shit crowding on my plate it’s insufferable to know which to deal with first.

Obviously, it needs to be the job.

Or my apartment.

Without either of those things I’m royally screwed.

I need a job to afford an apartment and I need an apartment because I’m not strong enough to be a bridge troll. Where would all my shoes go?

Suddenly I’m a mouth breather.

In and out I chugged air as the swell of panic rose.

God. Not here. I came out tonight for this very reason, so I could be surrounded in people and noise and commotion.

I couldn’t go into full blown anxious meltdown in an Irish bar full of fucking strangers watching hockey.

I’d rather die.

And isn’t that my motto in life; I’d rather die than let another human being see me being human with real human emotions.

I’m a fucking wreck.

I’m a god damn robot is what I truly am.

I locked so much away a long time ago that my storage key rusted, and I can no longer access it even if I wanted to free it.

“You okay, darling?” The barman asked and when I looked up his green eyes were masked in concern.

I think I smiled and nodded. “Oh, yeah. Just tired.”

I’m great at lying.

I wouldn’t be able to sleep for love nor money.

And especially not when I have two fat problems to worry over.

God, how laughable is this? I probably have twenty thousand buck’s worth of shoes in my closet and I’m contemplating where I could afford to live in a months’ time.

Where will I work now? I’ve been in advertising since I graduated college. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. I fancied myself in hotel management, but the job landed in my lap and I thought why not. I could do it for a year or so. Fast forward these years later.

I hated the job, but I liked the routine and focus of it.

Knock me off my routine and the swell of my worry became like a fucking tsunami.

“Looks to be you have company.” The bartender informed. My brow puckered confused. Until his gaze drew mine to the door and there he was.

Oh, fuck, shit.

He’d come

My text.

Suddenly the distraction I’d been looking for was gazing right back at me and my heart began hammering in a disjointed tempo inside my breast bone.

God. I’d just about forgotten that damn text.


India: Hey, mister sugar daddy shoe man, do you remember me? It’s India. We met one time in a café and you wanted to take care of me like a dirty old man. I’m in need of a white knight if you have ten minutes. I’m at O’Dooley’s.


He’s doing nothing but standing in the doorway.

I knew of man-spreading on the subway.

Is stand-spreading a thing?

He’s got to be at least 6 feet and more inches.

I’m desperate to ask if anyone had a tape measure so we could know the exact number of how gorgeous he was. I’d forgotten how lovely and big he was.

I clipped my ravenous gaze over his form.

A brown leather jacket I could tell would be well worn and soft to the touch, distressed jeans encased to his long legs, a white V-neck T-shirt and his ensemble was finished perfectly with scuffed Timberlands.

He was so casually fuckable.

His chin had the kind of scruff that made a woman weak in the knees and then I moved up to his hair and my fingers itched to thread through the dark locks. It was styled but messy enough to indicate he probably didn’t have a 200 bucks cut from his personal stylist.

Five minutes ago, I was done with men and now I’m slurping back drool before it could drip from my gaping mouth and hungry-eating eyes.

And just like that those low, intimate muscles between my legs tightened up in a fast clutch, my nipples turned to spikes beneath the thin cotton. Inside my shoes, all ten of my toes curled under.

His gray eyes—and I knew they were gray because I’d stared at them constantly when he was opposite me that day at brunch. The color magnetic—already trained on me, he’d watched me peruse him from top to toe.

I wouldn’t be unnerved by him.

No matter how utterly, devastatingly gorgeous he was.

My head swam as the alcohol coursed through me. It was hard to discern between fantasy and reality and the bar narrowed down to one man standing in the doorway watching me. My pulse thump-thump-thumped.

That stare. Holy god. It’s what intense was invented for.

He moved then.

Glided like a fucking Roman warrior parting the crowd with just his lean frame to get to me.

My brain too dazzled in internet shopping mogul Gray Ellison and watching the mechanical way his body shifted in alignment to get him from A to B that I’m overwhelmed now for a whole new reason.

And it has to do with the throbbing between my legs.

My god, could he hear my vagina humming?

Has walking ever been considered sexy before? Maybe in a Henry Cavill movie. Not real life. Not in a bar and not walking towards me.

Sexual longing jangled my bell and now it wouldn’t shut up.

Why the hell did I text him again?

He hadn’t replied, and I’d sagged a breath of relief that maybe I’d gotten the wrong number, or he was involved with someone and ignored it.

Oh, shit. What if he’s married? A lot could happen in a year. He could have a kid even!

I’m too drunk to rationally work through the logistics of why he came and if he’s entangled with a gorgeous brunette with legs up to her perfectly threaded eyebrows.

I have great sculpted brows, thank you very much. I paid enough for them from a little Turkish lady who almost always ripped off my skin.

My walloping heart nearly knocked me from the stool when he got closer.

I wouldn’t mind working up a good steam with him.

And then. Oh shit, Gray Ellison smiled from one side of his mouth.

Perfect fucking pillow soft lips and I felt it happen.

The crash and the tumble of my insides.

My belly turned and flopped over. A dead fish of lust.

One devastating smile and I was gone.

Reflexively my fingers grabbed the bar.

“Hello, sweetheart. Your message was better late than never. I heard you’re in need of a rescue.” He said just like that. A deep timber scratching over my skin making me warm and dizzy. A great bear growl from soft, pink lips surrounded in day old facial hair and I’m toast.

Gray Ellison with ten short words tied my tongue in knots and caused my clit to pulse.

Why the hell did I text him again?



PREORDER: ( you get Gray for a special price )


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