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Love on Lexington Avenue (Central Park Pact #2)
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1508296324 (ISBN13: 9781508296324)
From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes the second delightfully charming installment in the Central Park Pact series, following a young widow whose newfound cynicism about love is challenged by a sexy, rough-around-the-edges contractor.
There are no good men left in New York City. At least that’s Claire Hayes’s conviction after finding out her late husband was not the man she thought he was. Determined to rid her home of anything that reminds her of her cheating husband, Claire sets out to redesign her boring, beige Upper East Side brownstone and make it something all her own. But what starts out as a simple renovation becomes a lot more complicated when she meets her bad-tempered and rough-around-the-edges contractor Scott Turner.
Scott bluntly makes it known to Claire that he only took on her house for a change of pace from the corporate offices and swanky hotels he’s been building lately, and he doesn’t hesitate to add that he has no patience for a pampered, damaged princess with a penchant for pink. But when long workdays turn into even longer nights, their mutual wariness morphs into something more complicated—a grudging respect, and maybe even attraction…
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SATURDAY, JULY 21
It would have been downright tacky to say so out loud, but anyone who was anyone in New York City knew that the funeral of Brayden Daniel Hayes was the social event of the summer.
Not because Brayden was at the top of Manhattan’s A-list.
He’d been more on the periphery, the type of guy who was in the solar system but was a forgettable moon, orbiting around someone else’s more impressive planet. Brayden had money, but not big money. He’d been on the attractive side of average, but still average. Well-liked, but not adored.
For most of his relatively short adult life, Brayden Hayes had been solidly in the oh yeah, that guy category of society. The type who came and went through life without causing much of a blip.
Except, of course, if the way one left said life was an accidental drowning.
At the age of thirty-five.
With two empty bottles of sauvignon blanc rolling around one’s sailboat. To say nothing of the rumors of what he’d been doing before he’d set sail. Or who he’d been doing.
That kind of death could catapult just about anyone to Page Six for the season.
And so, on a sunny afternoon in July, Manhattan’s elite sat in Central Presbyterian Church on Park and Sixty-Fourth, their expressions the perfect masks of somber respect, even as they quietly exaggerated their closeness to the deceased.
Did you hear? He’d just accepted my dinner party invitation the day before they found him.
I should have known something was up. When we caught up just last week, he wasn’t at all himself.
He and I dated once, years ago. I can’t help but think what might have been . . .
Others had never met the man, and so merely gossiped amongst themselves, wondering if the rumors were true that his body had been found naked. If it was true that it was an NYU undergrad who’d called the Coast Guard when he hadn’t met her at the dock as they’d planned.
But at the heart of all the hissed whispers beneath black hats and somber suits was one delicious, looming question mark.
Where was Claire Hayes?
As it turned out, not everyone was at Brayden’s funeral.
In the front pew of the church, where Brayden’s family sat stoically listening to placid words of a life ended too soon, a prime front-row seat stayed conspicuously, shockingly vacant.
Even as the theories on why reached a fever pitch, three women who’d only just met sat a mere few blocks away on a bench in Central Park, having two vital things in common:
1. Matching Louboutins.
2. A very intimate connection to Brayden Hayes.
And so, as strangers who’d barely known the man began filing out of the church, murmuring plans of mimosas and imminent returns to Hamptons vacation homes, these three women who knew him better than anyone were making a very different sort of plan altogether.
They had a pact. To never, ever let one another fall for a womanizer like Brayden Hayes again.
ONE YEAR LATER
TUESDAY, AUGUST 6
It all started with a cupcake.
Well, the cupcake and the cards.
Claire Hayes stared down at the lone cupcake, with its single pathetic candle and wondered why she’d bothered. Some things didn’t need acknowledgment, much less celebration. And as far as Claire was concerned, thirty-fifth birthdays were one of them.
Particularly the thirty-fifth birthday of a widow who was woefully short on optimism, whose metabolism was getting increasingly lazy, and who was celebrating said birthday alone.
At least the alone part had been her choice.
Claire’s parents had offered to come back from their retirement home in Florida to take her out to dinner, but she’d nixed that. She loved Helen and George Burchett to pieces, but the last thing Claire needed right now was her dad’s constant muttering.
I swear, Princess, if Brayden hadn’t been such an idiot as to fall off that boat, I’d kill him myself.
Nor her mother’s well-meaning but exhaustive concern over the state of Claire’s reproductive organs. Did I tell you that Annmarie’s daughter froze her eggs? She thought it was prudent, and she’s only thirty-two . . .
So, no. Claire’s parents had not been what she’d needed on this particular birthday. And though she felt guilty admitting it, she hadn’t been up for seeing any of her friends, either. Partially, because friends—the real kind—were hard to come by these days. Her once thriving social circle had all but dried up after Brayden’s death.
Some of that was on them. They’d apparently decided a widow at a cocktail party was a downer, and the invitations had stopped rolling in just as abruptly as the sympathy flowers.
But a little of her current isolation from her old social group was on Claire.
Even the well-intentioned friends, the ones who cared more about her than the gossip, hadn’t understood. Not what it was like to lose a spouse so young, and certainly not what it was like to lose a spouse who’d turned out to be downright odious.