Tangled

       part  #1 of  Tangled Series  by  Emma Chase / Humor / Romance & Love
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Tangled



Chapter 1

DO YOU SEE THAT UNSHOWERED, unshaven heap on the couch? The guy in the dirty gray T-shirt and ripped sweatpants?

That’s me, Drew Evans.

I’m not usually like this. I mean, that really isn’t me.

In real life, I’m well-groomed, my chin is clean-shaven, and my black hair is slicked back at the sides in a way I’ve been told makes me look dangerous but professional. My suits are handmade. I wear shoes that cost more than your rent.

My apartment? Yeah, the one I’m in right now. The shades are drawn, and the furniture glows with a bluish hue from the television. The tables and floor are littered with beer bottles, pizza boxes, and empty ice cream tubs.

That’s not my real apartment. The one I usually live in is spotless; I have a girl come by twice a week. And it has every modern convenience, every big-boy toy you can think of: surround sound, satellite speakers, and a big-screen plasma that would make any man fall on his knees and beg for more. The decor is modern—lots of black and stainless steel—and anyone who enters knows a man lives there.

So, like I said—what you’re seeing right now isn’t the real me. I have the flu.

Influenza.

Have you ever noticed some of the worst sicknesses in history have a lyrical sound to them? Words like malaria, diarrhea, cholera. Do you think they do that on purpose? To make it a nice way to say you feel like something that dropped out of your dog’s ass?

Influenza. Has a nice ring to it, if you say it enough.

At least I’m pretty sure that’s what I have. That’s why I’ve been holed up in my apartment the last seven days. That’s why I turned my phone off, why I’ve gotten off the couch only to use the bathroom or to bring in the food I order from the delivery guy.

How long does the flu last anyway? Ten days? A month? Mine started a week ago. My alarm went off at five a.m., like always. But instead of rising from the bed to go to the office where I’m a star, I threw the clock across the room, smashing it to kingdom come.

It was annoying anyway. Stupid clock. Stupid beep-beep-beeping.

I rolled over and went back to sleep. When I did eventually drag my ass out of bed, I felt weak and nauseous. My chest ached; my head hurt. See—the flu, right? I couldn’t sleep any more, so I planted myself here, on my trusty couch. It was so comfortable I decided to stay right here. All week. Watching Will Ferrell’s greatest hits on the plasma.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’s on right now. I’ve watched it three times today, but I haven’t laughed yet. Not once. Maybe the fourth time’s the charm, huh?

Now there’s a pounding at my door.

Frigging doorman. What the hell is he here for? He’s going to be sorry when he gets my Christmas tip this year, you can bet your ass.

I ignore the pounding, though it comes again.

And again.

“Drew! Drew, I know you’re in there! Open the goddamn door!”

Oh no.

It’s The Bitch. Otherwise known as my sister, Alexandra.

When I say the word bitch I mean it in the most affectionate way possible, I swear. But it’s what she is. Demanding, opinionated, relentless. I’m going to kill my doorman.

“If you don’t open this door, Drew, I’m calling the police to break it down, I swear to God!”

See what I mean?

I grasp the pillow that’s been resting on my lap since the flu started. I push my face into it and inhale deeply. It smells like vanilla and lavender. Crisp and clean and addictive.

“Drew! Do you hear me?”

I pull the pillow over my head. Not because it smells like…her…but to block out the pounding that continues at my door.

“I’m taking out my phone! I’m dialing!” Alexandra’s voice is whiny with warning, and I know she’s not screwing around.

I sigh deeply and force myself to get up from the couch. The walk to the door takes time; each step of my stiff, aching legs is an effort.

Frigging flu.

I open the door and brace myself for the wrath of The Bitch. She’s holding the latest iPhone up to her ear with one perfectly manicured hand. Her blond hair is pulled back in a simple but elegant knot, and a dark green purse hangs from her shoulder, the same shade as her skirt—Lexi’s all about the matching.

Behind her, looking appropriately contrite in a wrinkled navy suit, is my best friend and coworker, Matthew Fisher.

I forgive you, Doorman. It’s Matthew who must die.

“Jesus Christ!” Alexandra yells in horror. “What the hell happened to you?”

I told you this isn’t the real me.

I don’t answer her. I don’t have the energy. I just leave the door open and fall face first onto my couch. It’s soft and warm, but firm.

I love you, couch—have I ever told you that? Well, I’m telling you now.

Though my eyes are buried in the pillow, I sense Alexandra and Matthew walking slowly into the apartment. I imagine the shock on their faces at its condition. I peek out from my cocoon and see that my mind’s eye was spot on.

“Drew?” I hear her ask, but this time there’s concern woven throughout the one short syllable.

Then she’s pissed again. “For God’s sake, Matthew, why didn’t you call me sooner? How could you let this happen?”

“I haven’t seen him, Lex!” Matthew says quickly. See—he’s afraid of The Bitch too. “I came every day. He wouldn’t open the door for me.”

I sense the couch dip as she sits beside me. “Drew?” she says softly. I feel her hand run gently through the back of my hair. “Honey?”

Her voice is so achingly worried, she reminds me of my mother. When I was a boy and sick at home, Mom would come in my room with hot chocolate and soup on a tray. She would kiss my forehead to see if it still burned with fever. She always made me feel better. The memory and Alexandra’s similar actions bring moisture to my closed eyes.

Am I a mess or what?

“I’m fine, Alexandra.” I tell her, though I’m not sure if she hears me. My voice is lost in the sweet-scented pillow. “I have the flu.”

I hear the opening of a pizza box and a groan as the stench of rotting cheese and sausage drifts from the container. “Not exactly the diet of someone with the flu, Little Brother.”

I hear further shuffling of beer bottles and garbage, and I know she’s starting to straighten the mess up. I’m not the only neat freak in my family.

“Oh, that’s just wrong!” She inhales sharply, and, judging by the stink that joins the putrid pizza aroma, I’m thinking she just opened a three-day-old ice cream container that wasn’t as empty as I’d thought.

“Drew.” She shakes my shoulders gently. I give in and sit up, rubbing the exhaustion from my eyes as I do. “Talk to me,” she begs. “What’s going on? What happened?”

As I look at the troubled expression of my big bitch of a sister, I’m thrown twenty-two years back in time. I’m six years old and my hamster, Mr. Wuzzles, has just died. And just like that day, the painful truth is ripped from my lungs.

“It finally happened.”

“What happened?”

“What you’ve been wishing on me all these years,” I whisper. “I fell in love.”

I look up to see the smile form. It’s what she’s always wanted for me. She’s been married to Steven forever, has been in love with him for even longer. So she’s never agreed with the way I live my life and can’t wait for me to settle down. To find someone to take care of me, the way she takes care of Steven. The way our mother still takes care of our dad.

But I told her it would never happen—it wasn’t what I wanted. Why bring a book to the library? Why bring sand to the beach? Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

Are you starting to see the picture here?

So, I see her beginning to smile when, in a small voice that I don’t even recognize, I say, “She’s marrying someone else. She didn’t…she didn’t want me, Lex.”

Sympathy spreads across my sister’s face, like jam on bread. And then determination. Because Alexandra is a fixer. She can unclog drains, patch dented walls, and remove stains from any rug. I already know what’s going through her head at this moment: if her baby brother is busted, she’ll just put him right back together again.

I wish it were that easy. But I don’t think all the Krazy Glue in the world is going to piece my heart back together again.

Did I mention I’m a bit of a poet too?

“Okay. We can fix this, Drew.”

Do I know my sister or what?

“You go take a long, hot shower. I’ll clean up this disaster. Then, we’re going out. The three of us.”

“I can’t go out.” Hasn’t she been listening? “I have the flu.”

She smiles compassionately. “You need a good, hot meal. You need a shower. You’ll feel better then.”

Maybe she’s right. God knows what I’ve been doing for the last seven days hasn’t made me feel any better. I shrug and get up to do as she says. Like a four-year-old with his wooby, I bring my prized pillow with me.

On my way to the bathroom, I can’t help but think of how it all happened. I had a good life once. A perfect life. And then it all got shot to shit.

Oh—you want to know how? You want to hear my sob story? Okay, then. It all started a few months ago, on a normal Saturday night.

Well, normal for me anyway.





Four months earlier



“Fuck, yeah. That’s good. Yeah, like that.”

See that guy—black suit, devilishly handsome? Yeah, the guy getting the blow job from the luscious redhead in the bathroom stall? That’s me. The real me. MBF: Me Before Flu.

“Jesus, baby, I’m gonna come.”

Let’s freeze-frame here for a second.

For those ladies out there who are listening, let me give you some free advice: If a guy who you just met at a club calls you baby, sweetheart, angel, or any other generic endearment? Don’t make the mistake of thinking he’s so into you, he’s already thinking up pet names.

It’s because he can’t or doesn’t care to remember your actual name.

And no girl wants to be called by the wrong name when she’s on her knees giving you head in the men’s room. So, just to be safe, I went with baby.

Her real name? Does it matter?

“Fuck, baby, I’m coming.”

She removes her mouth with a pop and catches like a major leaguer as I jizz in her hand. Afterward, I move to the sink to clean up and zip up. Redhead looks at me with a smile as she rinses with a travel-sized bottle of mouthwash from her bag.

Charming.

“How about a drink?” she asks, in what I’m sure she thinks is a sultry voice.

But here’s a fact for you—once I’m done, I’m done. I’m not the kind of guy who rides the same rollercoaster twice. Once is enough, and then the thrill is gone and so is the interest.

But, my mother did raise me to be a gentleman. “Sure, sweetheart. You go find a table, I’ll get us something from the bar.” Redhead put in quite an effort sucking me off, after all. She’s earned herself a drink.

After leaving the bathroom, she heads for a table, and I go toward the oh-so-crowded bar. I did mention it was Saturday night, right? And this is REM. No, not R.E.M.—rem, like REM sleep, as in when you dream. Get it?

It’s the hottest club in New York City. Well, at least tonight it is. By next week it will be some other club. But the location doesn’t matter. The script is always the same. Every weekend my friends and I come here together but leave separately—and never alone.

Don’t look at me like that. I’m not a bad guy. I don’t lie; I don’t sandbag women with flowery words about a future together and love at first sight. I’m a straight shooter. I’m looking for a good time—for one night—and I tell them so. That’s better than ninety percent of the other guys in here, believe me. And most of the girls in here are looking for the same thing I am.

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly true. But I can’t help it if they see me, fuck me, and suddenly want to bear my children. That’s not my problem. Like I said, I tell them how it is, give them a good time and then the cab fare home. Thank you, good night. Don’t call me, ’cause I sure as shit won’t be calling you.

Finally getting through the crowd to the bar, I order two drinks. I take a moment to watch the writhing, twisting bodies melt into each other on the dance floor as the music vibrates all around.

And then I see her, fifteen feet from where I’m standing, waiting patiently but looking a bit uneasy amongst the arm-raising, money-waving, alcohol-craving herd trying to get the bartender’s attention.

I told you I’m poetic, right? The truth is, I wasn’t always. Not until this moment. She’s magnificent—angelic—gorgeous. Pick a word, any fucking word. The bottom line is, for a moment, I forget how to breathe.

Her hair is long and dark and shines even in the dim light of the club. She’s wearing a red backless dress—sexy but classy—that accentuates every perfectly toned curve. Her mouth is full and lush, with lips begging to be ravished.

And her eyes. Sweet fucking Christ. Her eyes are large and round and endlessly dark. I imagine those eyes looking up at me as she takes my cock into her hot little mouth. The appendage in question immediately stirs to life at the thought. I have to have her.

I quickly make my way over, deciding then and there that she is the lucky woman who’ll have the pleasure of my company for the remainder of the night. And what a pleasure I intend to make it.

Arriving just as she’s opening her mouth to order a drink, I intervene with, “The lady will have…” I look her over to surmise what she would be drinking. This is a talent of mine. Some people are beer drinkers, some scotch and soda, some an aged wine, others are brandy or sweet champagne. And I can always tell who’s what—always. “…a Veramonte Merlot, 2003.”

She turns to me with a raised brow, and her eyes appraise me from head to toe. Deciding I’m not a loser, she says, “You’re good.”

I smile. “I see my reputation precedes me. Yes, I am. And you’re beautiful.”

She blushes. Actually turns frigging pink in the cheeks and looks away. Who blushes any more? It’s goddamn adorable.

“So, what do you say we find someplace more comfortable…and private? So we can get to know each other better?”

Without missing a beat, she says, “I’m here with friends. We’re celebrating. I don’t usually come to places like this.”

“What are we celebrating?”

“I just got my MBA and start a new job on Monday.”

“Really? What a coincidence. I’m a finance guy myself. Maybe you’ve heard of my firm? Evans, Reinhart and Fisher?” We’re the hottest boutique investment bank in the city, so I’m sure she’s duly impressed.

Let’s just pause here again, shall we?

Did you see the rounding of this gorgeous woman’s mouth when I told her where I am employed? Did you see the widening of her eyes? That should have told me something.

But I didn’t notice at the time—I was too busy checking out her tits. They’re perfect, by the way. Smaller than what I usually go for, no more than a handful. But as far as I’m concerned, a handful’s all you need.

My point is, remember that look of surprise—that will make sense later on. Now, back to the conversation.

“We have so much in common,” I say. “We’re both in business, we both like a good red…I think we owe it to ourselves to see where this could go tonight.”

She laughs. It’s a magical sound.

Now I should explain one thing here. With any other woman, on any other night, I’d be in a cab by now, with my hand up her dress and my mouth making her moan. No question. For me, this is working for it. And strangely enough, it’s kind of a turn-on.

“I’m Drew, by the way.” I hold out my hand. “And you are?”

She holds up her hand. “Engaged.”

Undeterred, I take her hand and kiss her knuckle, grazing it ever so slightly with my tongue. I see my reluctant beauty try to suppress a shiver, and I know, despite her words, I’m getting to her.

See, I’m not the type who really listens to what people say. I look at how they say it. You can learn a lot about someone if you just take the time to watch the way they move, the shift of their eyes, the rise and fall of their voice.

Doe Eyes may be telling me no…but her body? Her body’s screaming, Yes, yes, fuck me on the bar. In the span of three minutes, she’s told me why she’s here, what she does for a living, and allowed me to fondle her hand. Those are not the actions of a woman who is not interested—those are the actions of a woman who does not want to be interested.

And I can definitely work with that.

I’m about to comment on her engagement ring; the diamond is so small that even on close inspection, it can’t be located. But I don’t want to offend her. She said she’s just graduated. I have friends who had to put themselves through business school, and the loans can be crushing.

So I go for a different tactic—honesty. “Even better. You don’t do places like this? I don’t do relationships. We’re a perfect fit. We should explore this connection further, don’t you think?”

She laughs again, and our drinks arrive. She picks hers up. “Thank you for the drink. I should get back to my friends now. It’s been a pleasure.”

I give her a wicked smile, unable to help myself. “Baby, if you let me take you out of here, I’ll give the word pleasure a whole new meaning.”

She shakes her head with a smile, as if she’s indulging a petulant child. Then she calls over her shoulder as she walks away, “Have a good night, Mr. Evans.”

Like I said, I am typically an observant man. Sherlock Holmes and I, we could hang out. But I’m so enraptured by the view of that sweet ass, I miss it at first.

Did you notice? Did you catch the little detail that passed me by?

That’s right. She called me “Mr. Evans”—but I never told her my last name. Remember that too.

For the moment, I let the dark-haired mystery woman retreat. I intend to give her some slack, then reel her in—hook, line, and sinker. I plan to pursue her the rest of the night if I have to.

She’s just that frigging hot.

But then Redhead—yep the one from the men’s room—finds me. “There you are! I thought I lost you.” She pushes her body up against my side and rubs my arm intimately. “How about we go to my place? It’s just around the corner.”

Ah, thanks—but no thanks. Redhead has quickly become a fading memory. My sights are set on better, more intriguing prospects. I’m about to tell her so when another redhead appears beside her.

“This is my sister, Mandy. I told her all about you. She thought the three of us could…you know…have a good time.”

I turn my gaze on Redhead’s sister—her twin, actually. And just like that, my plans change. I know, I know…I said I don’t ride the same coaster twice. But twin coasters?

Let me tell you, no man would pass up a ride like that.





Chapter 2

HAVE I MENTIONED that I love my job?
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