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       You're (Not) the One Alexandra Potter, p.1

           Alexandra Potter
 
You're (Not) the One Alexandra Potter


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  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

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-one

  Chapter Thirty-two

  Chapter Thirty-three

  Chapter Thirty-four

  Chapter Thirty-five

  Chapter Thirty-six

  Chapter Thirty-seven

  Chapter Thirty-eight

  Chapter Thirty-nine

  Epilogue

  Acknowledgements

  ALSO BY ALEXANDRA POTTER

  A PLUME BOOK

  YOU’RE (NOT) THE ONE

  Award-winning author ALEXANDRA POTTER was born in Yorkshire, England. Having lived in Los Angeles, Sydney, and London after university, she finally decided to settle where the sun is and now lives full-time in L.A. She has worked variously as a features editor and subeditor for women’s magazines in the United Kingdom and now writes full-time. Please visit her website at alexandrapotter.com.

  Praise for The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather

  “This feel-good novel is a Sliding Doors–style romance.”

  —Glamour UK

  “Warm, funny, and hope for us all that there are such things as second chances.”

  —Company (UK) 4-star review

  “A quirky, hilarious read, sure to get you in touch with your younger self.”

  —Candis (UK) Book-of-the-Month selection

  “This novel has a satisfying ring to it, pulled happily along by the charm and honesty [of] both Charlottes.”

  —Daily Mirror (UK)

  “[A] fun, feel-good novel . . . an escapist treat.”

  —Sainsbury’s

  Praise for Me and Mr. Darcy

  “Unexpectedly charming . . . Me and Mr. Darcy offers a Pride and Prejudice–appropriate surprise . . . it turns out to be one of the wittier of this summer’s offerings, not to mention sharp and sad in its observations about what spinsterhood, identity, and aging look like for women in 2007.”

  —Salon.com

  “[Me and Mr. Darcy] takes the reader on an extended daydream with an appropriately pleasant ending.”

  —The Indianapolis Star

  “Pure candy for the imagination . . . Ms. Potter has worked literary magic with the creation of Me and Mr. Darcy.”

  —CoffeeTimeRomance.com

  More Praise for Alexandra Potter

  “Nobody does it quite like Alexandra Potter.”

  —Daily Mail

  “Feel-good fiction full of unexpected twists and turns.”

  —OK!

  “Funny, romantic . . . tale about what might happen if all your wishes suddenly came true.”

  —Daily Mirror

  “Fantastically funny.”

  —Elle

  ALSO BY ALEXANDRA POTTER

  The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather

  Me and Mr. Darcy

  Do You Come Here Often?

  Calling Romeo

  PLUME

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0R L, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camber well Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Published by Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Originally published as You’re the One That I Don’t Want by Hodder and Stoughton, Great Britain.

  First American Printing, December 2011

  Copyright © Alexandra Potter, 2010

  All rights reserved

  REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

  LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

  Potter, Alexandra.

  [You’re the one that I don’t want]

  You’re (not) the one / Alexandra Potter.

  p. cm.

  Previously published in Great Britain as: You’re the one that I don’t want.

  ISBN : 978-1-101-55895-9

  I. Title. II. Title: You are the one.

  PR6116.089Y69 2011

  823’.93—dc22

  2010031392

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  PUBLISHER’S NOTE

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE AT QUANTITY DISCOUNTS WHEN USED TO PROMOTE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES. FOR INFORMATION PLEASE WRITE TO PREMIUM MARKETING DIVISION, PENGUIN GROUP (USA) INC., 375 HUDSON STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10014

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  For my beloved Barney

  Prologue

  Venice, Italy, 1999

  The summer heat creates a shimmering haze, through which Venice appears like a Canaletto brought to life. The dome of Saint Mark’s Cathedral rises above the pastel-colored buildings, with their peeling paint and time-weary elegance. Vaporetti buzz. Tourists throng. Among the crowds, children run in the square, scattering pigeons; men in sharp suits and designer shades sit smoking cigarettes; a guide with his umbrella talks history to a group of German tourists.

  And two teenagers. They’re weaving a lazy path across the cobbles, her arm wrapped round his denim hips, his arm slung loosely over her bare, freckled shoulder. She’s eating an ice cream and laughing at some joke he’s making as he puffs on his cigarette, waving his arms around and making silly faces.

 
; That’s me and Nathaniel. We just rolled out of bed an hour ago and are spending Sunday in Venice like we always spend our Sundays in Venice: drinking espresso, eating ice cream, and getting lost in the cat’s cradle of alleyways that crisscross the maze of canals. I’ve been here the whole summer and I still get lost. Leaving the square, we turn a corner, and another, and another, until now we stumble across a market selling brightly colored Murano glass and Venetian masks.

  “Hey, what about this one?”

  I turn to see Nathaniel holding a mask up to his face. It’s got huge pink feathers and is covered in gold sequins. He does an absurd exaggerated bow.

  “It suits you,” I giggle.

  “You making fun of me?” He pulls it from his face and frowns.

  “You? Never!” I laugh in mock indignation as he tickles my nose with the feather.

  “I thought I’d get it for my mom.” He puts it back and picks up another. This time it’s a grotesque one with a long, hooked nose and beady eyes. “Or what about this?”

  “No, the first one. Definitely.” I shudder.

  “Sure?”

  “Sure.” I try to mimic his American accent, but my Manchester burr makes me sound ridiculous and he laughs at my rubbish attempt.

  “What would I do without you?” He grins. “Though I think we’re gonna need to work on that American accent of yours.”

  “It’s better than your English one!” I protest.

  “Awright, luv, let’s ’ave a butcher’s,” he replies in a jumble of Cockney and Lancashire, and I crack up laughing as he grabs hold of me and silences me with a kiss. “Bad?” He pretends to look hurt.

  “Terrible,” I say with mock seriousness as he turns to pay for the mask.

  Left standing in a patch of sunlight, I smile happily to myself. For a moment I watch him, puffing on his cigarette, trying to barter with the stallholder. Then, glancing away, I let my gaze drift absently over the market. I don’t want to buy anything—I’ve already got all my souvenirs—but there’s no harm in looking....

  My eyes fall upon a stall. Tucked away in a shady corner, it’s not really a stall—more a fold-up table—but it’s the old man sitting behind it who attracts my attention. Wearing a battered fedora and thick, black-framed spectacles balanced on the end of his nose, he’s peering at something under a small spotlight. Curious, I slip away from Nathaniel and wander over to see what he’s doing.

  “Buon pomeriggio bello come sei oggi.” He looks up at me.

  I smile shyly. I’m useless at languages. Even after nearly three months in Venice studying Renaissance art, my Italian still only stretches to “please,” “thank you,” and “Leonardo da Vinci.”

  “Inglese.”

  “Yes.” I nod, meeting his eyes.

  They flash mischievously. “What is a beautiful girl like you doing here alone?” He smiles, revealing teeth stained by a forty-year cigar habit. He reaches for one burning in a nearby ashtray, and takes a satisfied puff.

  “Oh, I’m not.” I shake my head and gesture to Nate, who’s having his mask wrapped. Putting it under his arm, he strolls over and slides his arm casually round my shoulders.

  “Ah, to be young and in love.” The old man nods approvingly as Nate and I look at each other, our faces splitting into embarrassed grins. “I have just the thing for you.”

  We turn back to see him holding out what appears to be an old coin.

  I look at him in slight confusion. “Um . . . thanks.” I smile, wondering what he’s doing, and then suddenly it registers. Oh God, he’s trying to give us money. Do we look that broke? OK, so we’re students, and Nate looks a bit scruffy in his ripped jeans, and my dress has seen better days, but even so. “Actually, we’re fine,” I begin explaining hastily, and am about to tug on Nate’s arm and drag him away when the old man places the coin on a small piece of machinery and breaks it in half.

  I watch as he proceeds to punch a hole in each half, through which he threads a piece of leather. Then triumphantly he holds them up, letting them dangle like pendants. “For you.” He smiles. “Because you are like the coin,” he explains. “You are two halves of one whole.”

  I gaze at the jagged edges of the half coins, like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. On their own they’re each just half a broken coin, but together they make a seamless whole.

  “Wow, how romantic,” I murmur, turning to Nathaniel, who’s watching me and grinning in amusement. I feel a flash of embarrassment. “What? You don’t think it is?” I yelp, poking him in the ribs.

  “Of course it is,” he laughs. “Don’t I always call you ‘my other half,’ any way?”

  “Only three thousand lire,” says the old man.

  I turn to see his palm outstretched expectantly.

  “Even romance has a price,” quips Nathaniel, digging out his wallet.

  And there was me thinking the old man was being all romantic, when the whole time he was just trying to sell us something, I realize, feeling foolish. Honestly, I’m such a sucker. Before I can protest, though, Nathaniel has handed him a note and is looping one of the pendants over his own head.

  “See, we can never be apart now,” he jokes, putting the other half round my neck. “Wherever you go, I go.”

  Despite his attempt at humor, I can feel my mood immediately darkening. In just a few weeks we’ll be leaving Italy and going back to our respective colleges, and I’m dreading it. Ever since we met I’ve been counting down the days until we have to part.

  “Hey.” Seeing my expression, Nate gives me a hug. “We can do the whole long-distance thing,” he reassures me, guessing immediately what’s going through my mind. “We’ll write. I can call.”

  I think back to my student digs in Manchester. I don’t even have a landline, never mind a mobile, and letters might sound romantic in books, but in real life they aren’t going to be a substitute for nuzzling my face into his neck, sharing a huge bowl of pistachio gelato with him on a Sunday afternoon, or laughing at that terrible English accent of his.

  “I guess so.” I nod, trying to put a brave face on it. I don’t want to spoil the present by brooding about the future, but it’s like a big, black cloud is just sitting there, waiting to descend.

  “If you want to be together, you can always be together.”

  I turn to see the old Italian watching us thoughtfully.

  “I’m afraid it’s not that simple—” I begin, but he interrupts.

  “No, it is very simple,” he says firmly. “Do you want to be together?”

  Nathaniel cocks his head to one side as if thinking about it. “Um . . . what do you think?” he asks teasingly, and I punch him playfully. “Uh-huh, I think that’s a yes, we do.” He grins, turning back to the stallholder.

  “Well, then . . .” The old man gives a shrug of his shoulders and takes a puff of his cigar.

  “We have to go back home,” I explain.

  “Where’s home?”

  Nathaniel hugs me tighter. “Lucy lives in England—”

  “And Nate’s from America,” I finish.

  “But you are in Venice,” he replies, seemingly unfazed. “Here, there is no need to say good-bye. You can be together forever.”

  He is a sweet old guy after all, I decide. And a bit of an old-fashioned romantic.

  “I wish.” I force a laugh and squeeze Nate’s hand. “But it’s impossible.”

  Unexpectedly the Italian lets out a loud roar of laughter. “No! No! It is not impossible,” he cries, slapping the table with the flat of his hand. “Don’t you know the legend of the Bridge of Sighs?”

  Nathaniel frowns. “You mean the bridge right here in Venice?”

  “Yes. That is it! The very one!” he exclaims excitedly.

  “Why, what’s the legend?” I ask, suddenly intrigued.

  Like a magician waiting for a drum roll before producing a rabbit, the old man pauses for dramatic effect. Only when we are both quiet does he start to speak.

  “The legend is very famous,” he
says gravely. His voice has the kind of hushed, awestruck respect reserved for churches and museums, and I almost have to stifle a giggle. “It says that if you kiss underneath the bridge at sunset, on a gondola, when the bells of the church are ringing . . .”

  “Wow, they don’t make it easy for us,” whispers Nathaniel jokingly into my ear, but I swat him away.

  “Yes?” I urge, turning back to the old man. “What happens?”

  Dragging on his cigar, he exhales a cloud of smoke. It drifts upward in front of his face, like a smoke screen. As it clears, his dark eyes meet mine, and despite the oppressive heat, a shiver suddenly runs down my spine and I feel goose bumps spring up on my arms. He leans closer, his voice almost a whisper. “You will have everlasting and eternal love. You will be together forever and nothing”—his eyes flick to Nathaniel, then back to me—“nothing will ever break you apart.”

  “Nothing?” I repeat, my voice barely audible.

  “Niente.” He nods, his face filled with conviction. “You are bound together forever, for eternity.”

  I laugh nervously and press the pendant to the heat of my chest.

  “So you like?” He gestures to the necklace.

  “Oh . . . um . . . yes.” I nod, snapping back.

  He smiles and holds out our change, and as I take it from him, his sandpapery fingers brush against mine.

  “Grazie,” I whisper, managing one of the few words I know in Italian.

  “Prego.” He smiles genially, tipping his hat.

  Then Nathaniel puts his arm round me and we turn and start walking away through the market, but we’ve gone just a few steps when I hear the old Italian call after us, “Remember, niente,” and I glance back. Only the funny thing is, he’s not there anymore. He’s gone. Almost like he simply vanished into thin air.

 
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