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The Proposition

A Billionaire Brothers Novel

By Anna Starr and MJ Greenway


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
businesses, places, events and incidents are
either the products of the authors imagina-
tion or used in a fictitious manner. Any re-
semblance to actual persons, living or dead,
or actual events is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2016 by MJ Greenway and


Anna Starr. All rights reserved. This book or
any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any man-
ner whatsoever without the express written
permission of the publisher except for the
use of brief quotations in a book review.

First Printing, 2016 Molly Pitcher


Publishing
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www.mollypitcherpublishing.blog-
spot.com
Story Summary

Meet a hot billionaire who knows


how to get what he wants and a feisty
heroine who is resistant to his
charms.

At a charity event in San Francisco, Han-


nah confronts Rowan, a rich playboy. His
family foundation has denied a grant for her
non-profit and she needs him to reconsider.
Still stinging from divorce and infertility
struggles, Hannah has closed herself off to
love. Shes hesitant to take him up on his
proposition but fears she has no choice.
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Rowan has also suffered heartbreak at


the hands of his cheating fianc. And be-
cause hes from a famous wealthy family,
every relationship has been stalked by the
paparazzi.

As they discover they come from differ-


ent worlds and want different things, will
their stumbling blocks tear them apart? Or
will a surprising development move them to-
ward a future together that they never could
have imagined?
To twenty years of friendship.
Chapter One
Hannah

The Taste of San Francisco Event


happened every year in October, and the
dress code was strictly upscale. Hannahs
shawl slipped down her shoulder to reveal
goosebumps and pale milky skin. She shifted
the loose fabric back into place to cover her
exposed shoulders. She noticed the portly se-
curity guard give her the once over as he
checked her identification. She smiled po-
litely hiding her irritation for the fifth time
that day.
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He checked her name off a list and direc-


ted her to the elevators that would take her
to The City Clubs top floor. Other attendees
mingled around the elevator all dressed in
black cocktail attire and exuding heavy
perfumes.
Hannah had decided to come at the last
minute and called in a favor to snag a ticket.
Not only did it cost a favor, but five hundred
dollars for one of the last available tickets.
The event benefited breast cancer, a worthy
cause, but the non-profit was her direct com-
petition and going to the event might have
other repercussions. Still, there was no turn-
ing back now.
She laid eyes on her target. Rowan
Fitzpatrick. Even though he was a stranger,
she knew his face and the many women he
draped on his arms and photographed on
every society page in San Francisco. As the
oldest son of the prominent Fitzpatricks who
dabbled in oil, art, and charity, he or a
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relative dominated print and online media.


He had one hundred thousand Twitter fol-
lowers. His Facebook page got hundreds of
views per week. The Fitzpatricks were San
Francisco royalty.
A bow-tied waiter greeted her with
champagne and offered to take her belong-
ings. Hannah gave up her shawl but refused
the offer of champagne. She wanted to keep
her wits about her. Her face turned warm
with anger. It was a feeling that rarely
cropped up for her and it was hard to
control.
She needed to breathe deeply and calm
down before approaching him. Hannah
wandered through the main hall, past the
Diego Rivera mural on the grand staircase
into the main ballroom. On both sides of the
ballroom, booths served up appetizer por-
tions of fancy finger foods from some of the
best restaurants in San Francisco. The inter-
mingling scents of spicy chicken and
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Christian Dior dominated the chandeliered


room. Oval tables swathed in black table-
cloths and white roses graced the center of
the room. In the back, a seven-piece band
served up rhythm and blues that reminded
Hannah of her time spent in New Orleans
visiting her folks. The singer wore tails and
sang about frogs in the bayou.
As she expected, she recognized about
half the crowd, some of them important
donors at her non-profit, others she was try-
ing to cultivate. Usually she would have
made her rounds starting from left to right.
She liked to be methodical and to leave no
donation unturned but this wasnt her event.
And she had to admit she was impressed, but
resented admitting it. She regretted wearing
a tight knee-length halter cocktail dress to
the event because of the amount of skin it ex-
posed, but since attending was a last minute
decision, she was stuck with it. Her usual
choices were more conservative.
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She found it hard to hear in the corner


next to the band. The Loft, a trendy sushi bar
on fifth was serving foie gras on salmon
toasts. She took one small toast off a tray
with a white napkin and held it, rather than
eating it. This was more out of habit. She
found that eating at these events distracted
her, and if she held something, a glass of
wine or hors doeuvre, people stopped offer-
ing her things. The band wrapped up their
first set, thanked the crowd, and promised to
be back in fifteen minutes. And now shed
lost sight of Rowan. She sighed in
frustration.
The murmuring of conversations filled
the sound gap, and Hannah reminded her-
self to relax. It had been a long day and to
end it in this room wasnt the best laid plan.
She honestly had no idea what she would say
to him. Had he even read her grant propos-
al? How could he do this to the children?
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Surely he had enough money to fund all the


grant proposals he received.
For the next ten minutes she scanned the
crowd again but there was still no sign of
Rowan. His Twitter feed announced he
would be here with a surprise date, so she
thought that it would be easy to arrange a
chance meeting. Nothing was proving to be
easy lately.
Another waiter offered her a glass of
chilled white wine. This time she accepted
the full glass. Wine might calm her nerves.
She took a sip of the zesty sauvignon blanc.
Followed by another one. Some of it spilled
on her dress, drenching the rich fabric, turn-
ing the area a flowery peach. Damn. This is
not my day. She couldnt very well meet
Rowan Fitzpatrick with a wet spot covering
her chest. The cool liquid had permeated the
fabric and she felt it on her skin. The soaked
dress clung to the round curve of her breasts.
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She needed a restroom. Hannah made a


bee line out the side exit into the foyer to-
wards the bathrooms downstairs. She took
the stairs gingerly to avoid drawing too much
attention to herself. For a moment she
turned her head to look back up the stairs
where she heard two people arguing.
Once she neared the bottom of the stair-
well, it all happened in slow motion. Her
wine soaked torso crashed into a mans rock
hard chest. Her wine glass tumbled, crashing
violently on the floor. He gripped her arms to
prevent them both from falling over. When
her eyes met his and she realized who it was,
she was speechless.
I got you, Rowan said.
His charming smile and deep eyes
blinded her, and if it werent for the fact he
held her tightly against him, she might have
fallen over again. A warm sensation spread
from the top of her thighs to her throat. Her
breasts responded by growing more firm
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against his pecks. His lips were inches from


hers. Transfixed she almost forgot why shed
come there at all. Hannah disentangled her-
self from his grip trying her best to ignore
the heat emanating from her body.
Sorry about that, Hannah murmured.
Her voice came out dry and husky. She
smoothed down her dress.
Ive had worse run-ins.
He towered over her, and it took her a
moment to gain her composure.
Im relieved that the wine landed on the
floor and not on your tux.
It seems a little has gotten on you, he
said with a half-smile.
Yes, thats why I was headed this way.
She cursed the waiter who stored her shawl.
The added covering would have provided
more protection from his gaze.
He offered up his pocket square to her.
Thanks.
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We should probably see someone about


a mop.
Well, I am the one who spilled it, I can
hunt around for one.
That would mean I wouldnt learn your
name.
Hannah. Hannah Brown. She held out
her hand. He extended his. Rowans grip
combined with a whiff of his woody after-
shave sent a shot of electricity down her
spine.
Well, Ms. Brown. Do you often run
down steep stairs in heels, holding a
weapon?
I wouldnt call a wine glass a weapon.
Depends, on how you use it?
Why do I get the feeling we arent talk-
ing about wine glasses anymore?
What would you like to be talking
about?
She wasnt sure exactly. Then she re-
membered why shed come. She was
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supposed to be upset with this man, not star-


ing candidly into his amber eyes. Eyes that
seemed to understand more than they were
saying and willing to do a lot more, if she was
willing.
Do you think I could talk to you for a
minute about something?
Sure, he said. He gazed curiously at
her.
Im the Executive Director of Art Mat-
ters, a non-profit art program for at-risk
youth.
This meeting wasnt by chance, was it?
Hannah couldnt tell if he was flirting or
annoyed. She decided to ignore this com-
ment. Sucking in her breath, she continued.
Every year The Fitzpatrick Foundation has
been so generous with its grants to our or-
ganization. Its made all the difference to our
kids.
Im starting to think the wine glass was
a weapon. Rowan looked down at his well
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shined wing-tips. Then he let his gaze travel


up the length of her, stopping at her lips.
This year your foundation, she paused,
her lips frozen for a second, as he drank
them in. Thankfully she found her voice and
continued, denied our grant and I was won-
dering if there was anything I could do to get
you to reconsider.
Im familiar with Art Matters, and Im
sorry that we couldnt fund it this year. There
were some extenuating factors. I cant go in-
to detail now but we could arrange a date to
discuss your organizations needs.
The way he said date made her pulse
race.
Yes, a meeting to go over the grant pro-
posal again, would be great. Im free anytime
during the day.
Before he could respond, a girl of eight
or nine bounded out of the bathroom wear-
ing a purple chiffon princess dress. Her hair
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hung in long blonde ringlets around her imp-


ish face.
Uncle Rowan, she exclaimed. The
bathroom is huge. She stared adoringly up
at Rowan and grabbed his hand.
Be careful. Watch the spill.
Could this be Rowans surprise date?
Nothing she had read about Rowan
Fitzpatrick included the adoration of chil-
dren. His biography stated that he came
from a close-knit Irish family. He had two
younger brothers who he was reportedly
close to. If she recalled correctly, one young-
er brother was married with two children.
Can we get dessert?
Sure Katie, but dont tell your mother.
You always say that.
He smiled at her with equal adoration.
The sight of the two of them filled Hannah
with warmth. This was not the same Rowan
shed expected or even experienced a few
minutes ago.
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Hi there, said Hannah to Katie. Katie


smiled shyly and leaned into Rowans leg. I
can see that dessert is calling. What time is
good for you next week? I can stop by your
office anytime.
Rowan studied her intensely for a mo-
ment. Her pulse quickened again. It had
been a long time since a man affected her in
this way.
My schedule is pretty tight. How about
tomorrow night at the White Chapel for an
early dinner?
Could we make it lunch on Monday? It
would give me time to prepare.
I have a feeling you know that grant
proposal inside and out. Tomorrow night is
the only time Im free this week.
Only a fool would turn him down. Even
if he wouldnt fund this year's proposal there
would be next year and the year after that.
Not to mention he was drop dead gorgeous
and any woman would kill to spend time
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with him, even if it was all business. And he


held the hand of an adoring little girl. Still,
she sensed a trap.
When you say early, do you mean 4
oclock?
I mean after the sun goes down and all
the senior citizens have eaten.
She swallowed. This really isnt my day.
Sounds perfect.
Where should I pick you up? He asked.
Ill meet you there.
He smiled wide and laughed. Looking
forward to it.
Thank you for the opportunity. The
last part sounded false even to her own ears.
He cocked his eyebrow at her.
I cant promise that its the opportunity
you want, but I can promise youll enjoy
yourself. He held out his hand. It was nice
to meet you, Hannah Brown.
She placed her hand in his warm palm
and before he could grip too tightly she
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released it. But not before the warm sensa-


tion started to spread again.
It was nice to meet you too.
She watched him walk away with Katie.
When he reached the stairs he turned back to
give her one last lingering look. Uncon-
sciously, she lifted his pocket square to her
nose and breathed in the rich scent of dark
wood and sage.

***

Monday evening rolled around a little


too quickly for her taste. She sensed that
shed arrived at the restaurant first. Had he
remembered? Did she get the time wrong?
Pull yourself together woman.
Penny for your thoughts, the deep
voice caused Hannah to jump and clutch her
purse to her chest.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, I didnt see you there.
Hannah tried to ignore the effect Rowans
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dark good looks had on her. She now under-


stood why he was sometimes mistaken for a
young Hugh Jackman. He loomed over her
petite frame. He was the full package: broad
shoulders, deep brown hair and light brown
eyes that glinted with amusement. Perhaps it
was a mistake to meet him at night, outside
of her element. But she was desperate.
Call me Rowan. I called your name a
few times but you were deep in thought. So
how about that penny?
How about having your foundation re-
consider my grant request for Art Matters.
For one hundred thousand dollars youd
have the adoration of 460 adolescent teen-
agers. This came out before she could stop
herself. As an Executive Director responsible
for raising two million dollars a year at Art
Matters, she needed to be aggressive but also
charming. You never wanted to bludgeon a
donor over the head without first gaining
their trust. Except she wanted to be
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anywhere but on that street corner inches


away, trying to endear him to her cause.
There was something about him that made
the prospect dangerous.
Thankfully, he laughed.
Can we at least get something to eat
first before we talk? Im starving. I had a
two-hour cross-fit workout and only a pro-
tein shake right after. You dont want to see
what happens to me when I dont eat. His
smile made his eyes crinkle a little bit. She
wondered if this is what a wolf did before it
consumed its prey.
Sure.
He placed his hand lightly on her back
and nudged her toward the entrance to the
Whitechapel restaurant inside the Embassy
Hotel. His hands on her shot an electric
pulse down her spine. She smoothed down
her form-fitting knitted wool dress and
hoped that she looked professional. For
some reason she was nervous.
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She had even gone to her hairstylist for a


wash and style. She loved her hair
straightened, a treat she never had time to
do herself. Her normal curly auburn hair was
usually hastily swept up in a twist or bun,
unless she was meeting an important donor
for the first time. But even then she had nev-
er purposely gotten her hair done before she
met someone for a business meeting. She
tried to convince herself that she needed
some extra self-care after the week shed
had. First, Rowans Foundation rejected her
grant request, then her car was towed, and
her best friends upcoming baby shower
weighed on her.
You look like you need is a gin cocktail.
This place makes the best ones in town. They
make their own gin and import limes from
Guatemala. There is nothing like fresh lime
juice with gin distilled a few feet from where
its being served.
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Hannah had never been to the White-


chapel bar and restaurant, but heard it was
voted the best place for cocktails in San
Francisco. Before she had a chance to tell
him that she rarely drank, they were inside
the Whitechapel. She immediately had the
sensation of being in the London Under-
ground. The dark restaurant and bar had no
windows and was shaped like a tube with a
marble ceiling and brick walls. Missing
bricks gave the impression of decaying dec-
adence. A long bar was on one side, all the
stools were filled with diners and on the oth-
er side tables nestled against plush red
booths. Framed sketches of petunias and ir-
ises hung over the booths. The scent of gin
and citrus permeated the room. This place
wasnt her usual choice but shed rendezvous
in a dungeon if it meant she could convince
him to fund Art Matters.
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Have you ever been here before? Its


one of my favorite places. Im a gin
aficionado.
This was suddenly feeling like more like
a date and less like a business meeting. She
shook this thought away. She had to remain
focused. Without his grant money she
wouldnt be able to meet her operating costs
for the year, and she would have to lay off at
least three employees. The only time Rowan
had been available to meet her had been that
evening. The problem with this billionaire
playboy was that he was used to getting his
way. It would be hard to review her proposal
in the cave-like illumination but shed
muddle through. Although she was starting
to believe that it might not be as big a chore
as she expected. There was something natur-
al about being with him.
Is there a table with a little more light? I
wanted to go over my proposal in more
detail.
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I can see just fine in here. He motioned


with his hand for her to follow him. They
have our booth waiting.
Hannah bit her lower lip vowing to keep
her mouth closed. A moist heat was pooling
on her forehead.
An older man with a shaved head to hide
a receding hairline greeted them.
Rowan, nice to see you. The new batch
is ready. Oh hello. Im sorry, I didnt know
there would be more than one this evening.
You usually come alone.
Hannah, this is Alex. The owner of the
Whitechapel and an old friend. Alex shook
her hand.
Nice to meet you. Rowans never intro-
duced me to a date before.
Oh no, we arent on a date. This is solely
a business meeting. Did Rowan think this
was a date? She really hoped he didnt.
No, shes just after me for my money.
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Alex nodded and laughed as if this was


the simplest solution in the world.
Very funny, Hannah said. She reached
in her purse for a card. I work for Art Mat-
ters, a non-profit for at-risk youth.
Ive heard of you guys. Dont you have a
walk every year in The Presidio? I think my
wifes company sponsored it.
Oh really? Where does she work?
Baby Swap.
Connie, is your wife? I was just talking
to her yesterday.
You dont say?
Once situated, Hannah pulled her tablet
out of her orange Kate Spade bag. Moments
later glasses of water were delivered to the
table along with Rowans regular cocktail.
Do you want one?
No thank you.
I hope you dont mind me saying this,
but do you ever relax?
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Hannahs face was getting warmer. The


way he breathed relax made her want to do
just that.
She took a deep breath. Im relaxed.
Really?
So do you mind if we get right to it?
Wow, Get right to it eh? Youre forward,
but I like it.
I meant get to the proposal.
I know what you meant. Im just mess-
ing with you.
Okay. Hannah smiled half-heartedly.
Dating was not something she was ready for.
And if she did accept a date, it wouldnt be
with a guy like Rowan. He was way out of her
league.
Lets hear it. Im all yours.
She tucked a strand of hair behind her
ear. Hannah cleared her throat and began.
So do you mind my asking why your found-
ation denied our grant request this year after
five consecutive years of funding?
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I dont want to end up with a drink


thrown in my face. But Ill give it to you
straight.
Okay, Id appreciate that.
First off, all of the funds have already
been allocated for the year. And moving for-
ward, our foundation has decided to stop
awarding grants to arts organizations. Our
focus has shifted toward humanitarian aid,
more life and death causes, if you will. So in
that sense, its really nothing personal.
You know, Mr. Fitzpatrick, it could be
argued that arts education is a life or death
cause.
Every time I hear Mr. Fitzpatrick I think
of my father. He smiled. You can just call
me Rowan. My family has always supported
the arts through generous grants. We also
support the arts in other ways. Last year we
helped remodel the 2nd floor of the MOMA.
Well I appreciate that. And I know your
foundation supports many worthy causes.
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We do. I admit, I might have just about


as much passion for what I do as you do.
When I see children in a village whove gone
without clean water and dont make it past
their fifth birthday it breaks my heart. Re-
cently with our funds weve been able to put
some wells and filtration systems in some of
these areas. In fact, Im looking forward to
getting to meet some of the folks in these vil-
lages when I fly to Cambodia in a few weeks.
Thats amazing. I dont mean to under-
mine any of the wonderful work you do, I
was just hoping Art Matters could get a little
piece of the philanthropic pie.
Mmm pie, now youve made me hungry
for pie.
Hannah appreciated his humor. Sorry
about that.
No worries. So something tells me
youre an artist.
Is being psychic one of your parlor
tricks?
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Its just a hunch I have about you. Am I


right?
I paint in the spare bits of free time I
have.
I see. So I was right, Rowan grinned
like a Cheshire cat.
Lucky guess.
Is your boyfriend an artist too?
No boyfriend. Damn him for getting
me off track.
I see. Interesting.
When the food came, Hannahs stomach
clenched at what this loss of funding would
mean. Hannah only choked down a few bites
before resting her fork permanently by her
salad plate. If the funds were allocated and
they werent funding arts organizations,
what more could she say?
Hannah was shaken out of her thoughts
by the hacking cough of the hefty man at the
table next to them. When she looked over at
him, his face was as red as a fire truck. He
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stood up and put his hands around his neck.


Rowan rushed over to the choking man, po-
sitioned himself behind him and pressed
hard with his hands and arms on his abdo-
men. After the third compression, what
looked like a grape flew out of the mans
mouth and hit the wall across from them.
Are you okay? Rowan asked.
Yes. Thank you, the man said.
Rowan plopped back down in his seat
and filled his fork with a bite of tenderloin.
Nicely done. I think you saved that
guys life.
After he swallowed his meat, he said, All
in a days work.
It was hard to admit that seeing Rowan
help a stranger made her insides a little but-
tery. The man had strong hands. And was
good in a crisis. Maybe she had misjudged
him.
Are you all done there? The waitress
asked Hannah.
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Yes, can I get this to take with me?


Sure thing.
The waitress returned with the box of
leftovers. When Rowan picked up the check
and threw his card down, she didnt protest.
The least he could do was get dinner; after
all, she might be out of a job soon.
Any interest in a night cap at my place?
No thank you. She sat up higher in the
booth and played with her napkin under the
table. Wow, he was forward.
We could go somewhere for dessert.
The night is young.
Before he could say anything more, Han-
nah said, How about I take you to an Art
Matters workshop. There is a session thats
half over a mile from here. If we hurry I
could show you how important your support
would be.
You dont give up do you? He asked
with admiration.
No, I dont.
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Fine, Ms. Brown. I would love to see a


workshop.
Great!
My driver is out front. He can give us a
ride.
Against her better judgement she accep-
ted the ride. In the back of the town car she
gazed out the window at the lights of the city
as pellets of rain thudded against the glass.
She rolled down the electric window a frac-
tion to allow the fresh air to cool her senses.
Rowans legs were comfortably spread
wide, and she couldnt help but notice when
his thigh grazed her own. It caused a heat
that infused the rest of her body. She
couldnt control it and resented the sensa-
tion. Hannah would have preferred to feel
only contempt for this man.
She blew out a sigh of relief as the town
car pulled up in front of Art Matters in the
Mission District. She hopped out quickly and
waited for Rowan by the curb. She realized
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that shed forgotten to give Carmen, the facil-


itator, a heads up, but there was little she
could do about that now. She hoped that see-
ing the program would convince him to
change his mind, if nothing else.
Chapter Two
Rowan

Rowan followed Hannah inside Art Mat-


ters noticing how her dress wrapped around
her curvaceous backside. The smell of oil
paint and kid grime reminded him to behave
himself. Twenty students, seated in front of
easels, all glanced up as they walked in.
Carmens eyes grew wide with surprise
before waving them further into the
classroom.
Hey guys, let me introduce you to Han-
nah. Shes the boss lady for Art Matters.
Dont forget to tell her Im your favorite
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teacher, Carmen winked as she said this.


And you are? She paused with big round
eyes. Are you Rowan Fitzpatrick?
All the kids stared incredulously at him.
Yes, I am. Its nice to meet you. He
held out his hand for Carmen to shake. She
did with an expression of awe.
Well kids, its not often we get a
celebrity of sorts in here. We need to be on
our best behavior.
Not necessary. Act like Im not here.
Yes, Rowan is right. We dont want to
interrupt. Would you guys mind if we check
out what youre working on? Hannah asked.
The class answered with a positive shake
of their heads.
She strolled down the aisles stuffed with
canvases and admired each work of art by
giving the thumbs up sign. Rowan followed
behind as she made contact with each of the
students. He noticed how Hannahs eyes
took in the beauty of each piece. The art
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spoke volumes about what a child might be


feeling. They ran the gamut from a bright
yellow sun and a house with a tree out front
to a red devil with black horns surrounded
by flames. He paused to peruse the work of a
lanky kid sporting a tie-dyed Art Matters
shirt.
These are each unique and beautiful. I
can see how youve all put your heart into
your work, Rowan complimented the
artists.
Im just here because my mom makes
me come so she can sit at home and get
high, he retorted.
Does painting help you get your anger
out about it? Carmen asked.
Kind of. I like it here.
I will talk things over with your mom
when she comes to pick you up, okay? If you
would like, you and I can talk more about it
privately while the class finishes up.
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The boy walked up to Carmens desk.


They talked in hushed whispers, Hannah
stayed out of the way and Rowan followed
suit. When the boy made it back to his easel
his shoulders dropped and his face expressed
relief. Rowan was touched by how something
as simple as being heard had made all the
difference.
Hannah approached Carmen, Im going
to show him the back office and then head
out. Youre doing a great job. Let me know if
you need anything. Call me if there is any es-
calation with the mother.
Thanks. Will do, Carmen said.
Rowan waved goodbye to the kids. Han-
nah led him to an office in the back covered
in childrens art pieces, mostly oil and water
colors. The vibrancy of the colors assailed his
senses. Hannah began to open drawers of file
cabinets along the back wall. She pulled out a
manila folder.
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Logan Francis. Age 10 when he started


the program. His parents left him at his
grandparents and never came back. Now hes
studying Computer Science at UC Santa
Barbara.
She pulled out another folder.
Sophia Munoz. Age 16 when she started
the program. Homeless at that time. Now
lives with her Aunt in Sacramento and study-
ing art at UC Davis.
He marveled at her passion and how her
eyes lit up like green sparks when she spoke
of these success stories. She definitely cared
about her job and these kids.
She started to pull out another folder.
I get it. The work you do is important.
Seeing those kids do what they do was amaz-
ing. Im so glad you shared it with me, but...
He paused.
You cant or wont help us?
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She said this defiantly looking him dir-


ectly in his eyes, but underneath he sensed
her vulnerability. He stepped closer.
Hannah, Im so sorry. I wish there was
something I could do to help, I really do.
She moved out of his reach. Was he the
only one feeling this pull? At the restaurant
hed promised to maintain professionalism
but all he wanted to do was find out if those
lips were as warm as they seemed.
You know Im not going to give up. Its
not in my DNA.
Thats what Im worried about.
He stepped closer again. He couldnt
help it.
Why dont we get some air? She sug-
gested. Before he could protest she opened
the back door leading out of the office into
the street. He was amused at how fast she
wanted to get away from him. He was im-
pressed with the work hed seen. Its too bad
there was no way he could fund the
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organization no matter how much she


pleaded. Watching her in action made him
wish he could give her what she wanted.
There was something else he could give
her. Once outside the building in front of the
waiting car, he leaned into her. She pulled
away. Hannahs eyes were wide with terror.
No woman had backed away from a kiss be-
fore. This made him want her even more.
Im sorry, Im just not looking for any-
thing other than a professional relationship.
Im sorry to hear that. But I think I
might be able to change your mind.
Wow. Youre confident. But dont waste
your time with me. There are plenty of girls
in this city that you wouldnt have to beg for
a date.
Im not begging. Im just waiting
patiently.
When the car pulled up in front of her
place, she jumped out of the car and ran up
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her front steps like she was trying to out-run


a serial killer.
Chapter Three
Hannah

On Saturday morning while seated in her


office, Hannah pulled out a hand-held Span-
ish fan that her mother had given her after a
trip to Europe. She waved it back and forth
trying to cool off, wondering if the A/C was
broken. And if it were, she couldnt afford to
fix it now.
The evening with Rowan was replaying
in her head. He was undeniably handsome
and kind of charming but so what? He prob-
ably had the word heartbreaker etched on his
chest by some hot young tattoo artist. Hmm
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his chest he probably had tan six pack abs


from all the time in the gym. Hes rich, what
else is he gonna do with his free time?
Stay strong Hannah. You are not in the
market for love. You just need this guy to
fork over some funds. Focus.
Hannah jumped in her seat, startled out
of her thoughts by her buzzing cell phone.
After a deep inhalation, she picked it up,
Hi Mom.
Long time, no hear, Rita said.
Im sorry. Work has been so stressful.
Hows life in New Orleans treating you?
Its okay. Im just afraid your father
might become diabetic from all the beignets
hes eaten in the last few years.
They are tasty.
Sowhats up with you? Seeing anyone
noteworthy?
It was inevitable. This was a recurring
question from the moment the ink on the di-
vorce papers was dry. Hannahs mom was
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the kind of woman who couldnt fathom be-


ing alone.
No. I have bigger things to worry about.
I didnt get the Fitzpatrick grant that weve
gotten every year so we are about one hun-
dred thousand dollars short right about now.
Ill have to lay off three employees and elim-
inate five program sites in the next few
weeks if I cant figure out another way to get
the money. I had my entire staff come in on a
Saturday to figure this out.
Hannah was sitting in her office with the
door closed searching the Internet for other
foundations she might be able to appeal to.
Im sorry honey. But you know, keeping
your heart wrapped in cellophane forever
isnt going to help you find happiness. Han-
nah didnt respond. Are you typing?
Yes. I am at work so I should probably
let you go. Even she was aware of how
snappy she sounded toward her mother. But
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the woman raised Hannahs cortisol levels


every time she called.
Well call me and let me know the next
time youll have a free weekend to come out.
Will do.
Hannah pressed the end call button, and
Madison, Hannahs assistant knocked on her
door.
Come in, Hannah said.
Do you have a minute? Madison asked.
Sure. Whats up?
She closed the door behind her and sat
in the chair across from Hannahs desk.
There has been some water cooler talk
about potential layoffs now that we didnt get
the Fitzpatrick grant.
Its a set-back, for sure. But Im working
to find a solution.
Hannah grabbed a hairband off of her
desk and threw her hair into a low slung bun.
She wondered how much of the truth she
should reveal to Madison. Considering the
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fact that her assistants job could also be on


the chopping block, she decided to keep her
mouth shut. She hadnt given up on finding a
solution, though time was running out.
You dont have to do it all yourself you
know? How would you feel about me
scheduling another brainstorming session
with all of the staff while you look into other
funding? We could all explore ideas and see
what we come up with. Were all passionate
about these programs.
Tears welled up in the corners of Han-
nahs eyes. Help was exactly what she
needed. She was just so used to doing
everything herself. As an only child with two
parents who worked all the time, she got
used to carrying everything on her own
shoulders.
Thats a great idea. Would you check to
see if everyone can get together after lunch
today?
I will get on that.
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Thanks.
Do you need a hug?
Maybe.
Madison moved in and wrapped her
arms around Hannah. Her black bob with
precise bangs and all black wardrobe made
Madison look intimidating, but she was a
teddy bear at heart.
Thanks so much for your help with
this.
Youre welcome, Madison said as she
headed out of the office and closed the door
behind her.
With a tissue, Hannah soaked up the
tear residue from under her eyes. Then she
willed herself to pull it together. She needed
to be a strong leader that could weather any
storm. Theres got to be a way to save Art
Matters. Think creatively. Do whatever it
takes, Hannah.
Chapter Four
Rowan

At six a.m. Rowan was staring back at his


smiling mug. It was splashed on the cover of
People Magazine. Hed been interviewed for
the Twenty Five Most Eligible Bachelors is-
sue. The glossy was on his desk in his office.
His assistant had affixed a post-it with a big
smiley face drawn on it.
When he removed the note, he noticed
his brown hair looked floppier than usual.
He liked to keep it neatly trimmed by the
barber hed gone to since childhood.
However, the week leading up to the photo
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shoot had been a busy one. The magazine


people insisted he wear a suit with a white
button-up. It was no surprise they had him
leave the shirt unbuttoned, revealing his
sculpted torso. He wished that wasnt the
case.
He rolled his eyes but then plunked
down in his Aeron chair and began to read
the article.
Q: So are you looking to settle down any
time soon?
A: Actually, yes. Now that Im about to
turn 30, Im ready to find a great woman to
settle down with. I want to have two or three
kids and a white picket fence. The whole
shebang.
Q: That might be surprising for readers
to learn. You do have a reputation of being a
bit of playboy with a long line of short-term
girlfriends. Is that phase over for you?
A: Ill just say this. You cant believe
everything you read.
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Rowan grimaced, the magazine hadnt


captured him in a good light. He really had
no idea why hed agreed to an interview it in
the first place. He opened a desk drawer and
slid the magazine inside.
At the foundation, during the work week
Rowans staff arrived around 8:00 a.m. but
he liked to get in before everyone else. On
Saturdays he was usually the only one in the
office during this time. With fewer distrac-
tions, he got more work done. There was
something appealing about the quiet solitude
of the early weekend morning. It was the
only time he truly had for himself. The rest
of the week was spent in and out of meetings
and having to make split second decisions.
Rowan found his evenings dominated by
family engagements, workouts, or nights on
the town with a good looking woman. He
tried to keep away from the online gossip
about his various affairs gone awry. He had
learned long ago that spinning the story got
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people to listen. The most common spin on


his life was billionaire playboy spotted with
yet another blonde. It was true that he had
dated more than his fair share and most of
them hadnt lasted longer than the time
between haircuts. Still, he never lied to them,
cheated on them, or promised anything more
than what he could give. He liked to have
fun, fun never hurt anyone.
His mother kept telling him to settle
down, start a family and carry on the
Fitzpatrick name. He wanted these things
too. But since Olivia, his ex-fianc had
cheated on him, he didnt want to get too
close to another woman for fear of being be-
trayed again. Dating beautiful women casu-
ally had been fitting the bill just fine.
Despite this, for some reason he woke up
thinking about serious and determined Han-
nah, with her questioning green eyes and
slender legs. Shed been adept at waving off
his advances, which women rarely did. I
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wonder what shed do if I showed up at her


place unannounced and carrying a
toothbrush?
His iPhone beeped and his schedule and
to-do list popped up. As he perused the flow
of the day, he was forever thankful for his as-
sistant Laura, who organized every aspect of
his professional and personal affairs. She
had weekends off but always left him well
prepped to get things done on Saturday
mornings.
If he cancelled his 4 oclock with his
mother then he could surprise Hannah. Of
course Fiona Fitzpatrick would have a thing
or two to say about his cancelling, but hed
listen to her frustrated rant and go about ex-
ecuting his plan. What he really needed was
a long, cool drink of Hannah.
After finishing his work, Rowan arrived
at Hannahs place and pressed the buzzer.
There was no response. He glanced up and
down the quiet street in Nob Hill. The misty
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morning added a lingering haze over the


sleepiness of the day. He waited a few
minutes and tried again. Still no response.
He reminded himself that it was Saturday, a
day when most people have fun and make
social plans. After twenty minutes of waiting,
hoping she might be on her way home, he
climbed back into the town-car.
Do you mind dropping me at The Hu-
man Bean?
Sure, the driver responded.
The aroma of dark roasted beans greeted
him as he pushed through the front door. He
ordered a large, plain black coffee. Warm
cup in hand, he contemplated grabbing a
seat and watching the fog roll in through the
cafe windows. But then he noticed a couple
of women chatting and saw the People
Magazine on the table between them. It was
a little embarrassing, and once again he re-
gretted doing the interview. He typed out a
quick text to Hannah to see if shed come
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over for dinner at his place. A few minutes


later he read her response.
Hannah: Im still worried about fund-
ing Art Matters. I will have dinner at your
place on one condition. Re-consider my
grant proposal.
Rowan studied Hannahs text, admiring
the boldness of it. He shook his head and ran
his fingers through his hair unconsciously. If
it were any other person he wasnt sure
howd he react to being blackmailed by a
little vixen in heels. But Hannah was proving
to be a force to be reckoned with, a damn
sexy one. He guessed she really did need the
money for Art Matters and didnt have any
other options. Otherwise, she wouldnt be
twisting his arm. Or maybe this was just her
strange way of flirting.
He sighed.
There really was nothing he could do in
the way of Foundation money. The board
spent months evaluating proposals and all
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the funding had been dispensed, leaving him


with little choice. Not only that, but if the
paparazzi got wind of him using Foundation
dollars to help someone he was dating, then
it could lead to ethical questions. The reason
he chose to lead The Foundation was be-
cause he believed in it. His father had
wanted him to become an investment
banker.
Was he dating her though? Hed like to
taste those lips of hers. Then it occurred to
him that he didnt have to use Foundation
funds, he could use his own money. Of
course there would be some conditions.
Rowan: Thats an expensive dinner. Im
not sure I can afford it.
He waited for a response. Seconds later
his phone pinged.
Hannah: Ill wear stilettos.
Now that wasnt a bad idea. He imagined
she might fall though; Hannah seemed like a
three-inches-at-the-most kind of girl.
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Rowan: Can I pick them out?


Hannah: Sure, if its you, and not your
personal shopper.
Rowan: Deal. But thats only the first
condition.
A minute went by. He got up from his
chair and pulled up the blinds that hung over
the window in the coffee shop. Sun was
peeking through the clouds. A surge of power
swept through him. He could probably ask
her to do just about anything.
Hannah: Conditions?
Rowan: First: date me for one month.
Second: spend a weekend in Vegas with me
and wear stilettos. Third: attend my nieces
dance recital.
He held his breath. The third condition
came as a surprise. He wanted to put: naked
in my bed the whole weekend. Instead he in-
vited her to a private family event.
He waited. Ping.
Hannah: Okay.
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Rowan: So you agree? That was easy.


Hannah: Trust me, theres nothing easy
about this. Im just determined to do what it
takes.
Rowan: I like strong women.
Hannah: When do we leave?
Rowan: Ill look at flights and let you
know.
Hannah: If you cant give me specific
date, it might cost you extra.
Rowan: I think I can afford it. Ill call
you when I have the stilettos.
Hannah: Im a size six.
Rowan: Small feet. Talk soon.
Hannah: Just to be clear...Im not going
to sleep with you.
She was constantly surprising him.
Rowan: That wasnt one of the three
conditions. But it does sometimes happen
when youre dating someone.
Hannah: Fake dating.
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Rowan: Now Im offended. Am I really


that bad of a guy?
He waited for one long minute for a
response.
Hannah: I dont know yet. Okay, youre
on for a real chaste date. Gotta go.
Rowan: See you soon.
Rowan wondered if he was making the
right decision. Hed spent a lot of money on
dates before, but this would top them all.
The thing was, in his gut he knew this girl
was worth it. There was something different
about her. Beyond being smoking hot, she
was feisty and head-strong. The passion she
had for her work was also appealing. Bottom
line, she was the kind of girl he could take
home to mom.
Although she just declared her body off
limits, he hoped shed change her mind so he
could gain carnal knowledge of her. From
head to toe, his hands would learn every inch
of her.
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He began searching for flights to Vegas.


His schedule wouldnt allow him to book
anything for a few weeks. He purchased two
first class seats to Vegas leaving on a
Saturday morning and returning Sunday
evening. He smirked as he thought of that
expression, what happens in Vegas stays in
Vegas. Although if it was something good
that transpired, he dreamed it would re-oc-
cur in San Francisco.
Chapter Five
Hannah

Perched in front of her easel, she dipped


her brush into a deep blue blob of oil paint.
Hannahs canvas was blank until she started
to paint a dark sky. After a few strokes, she
paused. Procrastinating wouldnt prevent the
day that lay ahead. Painting was her go-to
method for stress relief, but it didnt seem to
be doing the trick.
She checked her phone, secretly desiring
there might be another text from Rowan.
Though she was still working on convincing
herself that dating him was just in exchange
for the funding, she had to admit that there
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was something titillating about his proposi-


tion. Maybe the fact that she hadnt dated
anyone in a year was enough incentive to put
herself out there.
Grr! No message from Rowan. However,
there was a message from Stacey reminding
her about the baby shower.
Hannah couldnt have a baby of her own
unexplained infertility. But she got to
watch everyone around her pop babies out
like human Pez dispensers. This was the real
reason she wasnt interested in dating, espe-
cially not someone who hoped to have his
own biological children.
Defeated, Hannah tossed her paintbrush
on the newspaper lining her feet. She threw
on a green button-up and jeans. Then she
slogged through a few chores, dragging her
feet before forcing herself to leave the house
for her best friends baby shower.
Stacey had been her closest friend since
grade school, and the person Hannah could
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rely on most. Although in the last few years


they were slowly growing apart. There was a
time that she wouldnt even think of making
one major decision without hashing it out
with Stacey over pie and cappuccinos. It
saddened her that now they only spoke every
few weeks and usually through Instagram or
a hastily sent text.
As Hannah wrapped her gift that morn-
ing she wasnt even sure if Stacey would like
it. This would have never happened before.
Sighing, she signed the card and stuffed the
singing seahorse wrapped in white tissue pa-
per into the giant pink bag. She knew that if
she arrived late and left early she would only
have to endure one hour of baby shower
games and finger foods.
Staceys mother lived a few blocks from
Hannah, so it took her only five minutes to
walk to the house. The wind bit through her
coat and the ends of her scarf came undone.
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By the time she arrived she was unraveled in


every sense of the word.
Hannah, we were getting worried about
you, exclaimed Judith, Staceys mother.
You look frozen. Some June weather we are
having! Come in. Its so good to see you.
Judith enveloped her in a long hug. She re-
mained stiff in Judiths arms despite the
warmth emanating from them. Judith was
like a second mother to her. She had spent
many nights and days eating Italian food
with the Santoro family. Judith made the
best homemade pasta and meatballs.
Im sorry Im late. Ive been really busy
at work. She placed the crumpled pink bag
underneath the overflowing gift table. Maybe
Stacey wouldnt see it and open it later after
shed left.
Its Saturday Hannah. Working every
weekend will make it hard to find a new
man. And youre so thin. But dont worry,
thats going to change after today. Ive been
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up all night cooking. Judith came from that


generation that still believed being married
with a brood of children was the only way to
ensure happiness. That and parmesan
cheese.
I dont know how long I can stay. I
might have to pop in and out. From the looks
of it, Stacey wont even know Im here, she
deduced from the line of shoes at the door
and the squeals coming from the living
room.
Thats not true. Youre family to us.
Hannah ignored the hurt lines that had
sprouted on Judiths plump face. Guiltily,
she changed the subject.
Hows everything else?
I know what youre doing. Come cutie,
once you taste my raviolis you wont be able
to go anywhere. Literally. They go down
easy, but its hard to get up outta the chair
once you have a few. She laughed.
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Hannah followed Judith into the living


room. Onesies hung on strings around the
room. Different shades of pink and purple
covered everything. In the center was a long
table covered with food and at least thirty
women milling around. The baby shower in-
vitation said it was co-ed but the men were
nowhere in sight. They were probably
huddled outside in the wind by the barbecue,
scared to come in.
Hannah spotted Stacey across the room
almost nine months pregnant in a form-fit-
ting purple dress that curved gracefully over
her glowing physique. She was all stomach,
not an inch of extra anywhere else. After she
gave birth to her first child, Jordan, she went
down one shoe size and shrank two inches.
She was the only person on the planet that
could eat Judiths food and not slowly ex-
pand. She was also the kind of pregnant per-
son that other expecting mothers quietly en-
vied. For both pregnancies she never had any
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of the litany of pregnancy symptoms no


morning sickness, no heartburn, no bulging
feet, nothing. Oh, she had once experienced
a little light headedness.
Even childbirth had proven to be easy
for Stacey. She hadnt even known she was in
labor. Her husband took her to a Forty-Nin-
ers game and right at halftime she com-
plained of back pain. Two hours later she
held Jordan in her arms.
Stacey spotted her. Her face lit up and
she motioned for Hannah to come over. She
was also impossibly sweet and funny. She
hated thinking anything else. She probably
shouldnt have come. It wasnt fair. None of
it was fair.
Hannah pasted her best smile on and
hugged her best friend, trying to avoid the
baby bump. Hannah you made it. I thought
maybe you werent going to come. I thought
you might be out with Rowan Fitzpatrick.
She whispered his name.
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For the second time in the last 24 hours


Hannah blushed.
What are you talking about?
I swear sometimes you live in a bubble.
You cant go out with a heartthrob like that
and not have a few paparazzi trailing after
you.
Youve got to be kidding me. We had
dinner. A business dinner. She wasnt about
to tell her about the three conditions. She
wasnt sure how Stacey would react.
Stacey smiled knowingly and nodded. I
know that face. It wasnt just dinner.
What face? Hannah said this a little
too loud and few people stopped and stared.
That one for starters. But this one is the
one Im talking about. She takes out her
Moto X and shows her a website called
Throb Stalkers. Yes, I know. I follow this
stuff. I need something to do at the park
when Jordan plays. She thrusts a picture of
Hannah walking into the Whitechapel gazing
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at Rowan with his hand on the small of her


back. The headline reads, Seems like hot
Fitz has a new flavor and she isnt blonde.
Im horrified. I guess its best he didnt
give us the grant. Now everyone will think
that Im sleeping with him.
Not yet, he hasnt. She reminded herself
that all she had to do was pretend to like dat-
ing him, spend a weekend in Las Vegas, and
attend a dance recital. Easy. And not have
sex with him. Maybe not so easy.
Hannah, there are worse things for
people to think.
Although the subject matter was blush-
worthy, it was nice to connect with Stacey
again.
Distance between them began after Sta-
ceys baby Jordan was born. Around the
same time, Hannah and her husband Chris
had been at the end of three years worth of
trying to get pregnant, to no avail. Hannah
had finally talked Chris into trying in-vitro.
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Unfortunately, ten pounds and twenty thou-


sand dollars later, there was still no baby.
Chris said he wanted off the baby train and
filed for divorce. That was two years ago.
At the same time, her best friend Stacey
was in a baby bubble and could talk of noth-
ing else. Just seeing Stacey cradle her new-
born sent a rage of shivers down Hannahs
spine. It was awful, the uncontrollable envy
and it wasnt fair to Stacey either. So Hannah
started the slow fade away, cancelling plans,
claiming to be busy with work all the time.
But there was still no escape. Instagram and
Facebook had become Hannahs arch
nemeses. It started to look like the whole
damn world was pregnant or had hordes of
cherubic children posed at pumpkin patches
and childrens museums.
Alright ladies, lets gather round so Sta-
cey can open her gifts and then well have
lunch and cupcakes, Judith chirped.
I better get in there, Stacey said.
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Hannah took a seat next to a woman


with a baby bump that she hadnt met be-
fore. She must have been part of Staceys
new mom-brigade.
Her stomach tensed, a headache was
brewing in her pre-frontal cortex. This too
shall pass, she thought.
The loud ring coming from Hannahs
pocket caused all the ladies necks to crane.
Sorry, Hannah glanced down to silence
the ringer. It was Rowan.
I gotta take this, Hannah said and
walked into the kitchen.
What perfect timing. Hannahs body
surged with gratitude for Rowan. It didnt
matter why he was calling, shed spin it into
a reason to leave the party and pile of pink
onesies.
Hello.
Hi Hannah. This is Rowan Fitzpatrick.
Hi Rowan. Whats up?
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I got your sexy shoes here, just imagin-


ing you in them.
She was glad that she was alone in the
kitchen, no one would be able to see her face.
You dont waste any time.
No, I dont. Are you free tonight?
I could be.
An old high school buddy of mine is
doing stand-up tonight. Feel like a laugh?
She lowered her voice making sure no
one could hear her response. I could really
use a laugh right about now.
Why dont I pick you up around eight?
Sounds good. Ill see you then.
Hannah walked over to Stacey and
whispered in her ear. She told her she got a
call about a work emergency and shed have
to leave. The pained expression on Staceys
face made it hard, but Hannah left anyway.
Her chest heavy with guilt.
Chapter Six
Rowan

When Rowan escorted Hannah into The


Punchline Comedy Club his stomach
clenched a little. He figured the pulled pork
sandwich and waffle fries hed downed from
the food cart at lunch-time was the culprit.
He trailed behind her, checking out her as-
sets. He tried to be subtle. Damn. This girl
even looked sexy in jeans and a t-shirt.
They sat at a wobbly table near the front
of the stage flanked by red curtains. The floor
was sticky with booze and the room was full
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of revelers adhering to the two-drink


minimum.
Thanks for calling. You really saved me
today, Hannah said.
Happy to save the day. What did you
need saving from?
Baby shower.
Huh. I thought girls loved those things.
Hannah cleared her throat. At 35, I
dont consider myself a girl. Then she
smiled.
I meant no offense. You look younger
than 35. I assumed we were the same age.
How old are you?
Im about to turn 30.
Subtle way of saying you have a birth-
day coming up? Hannah tucked wisps of
hair behind her ears.
Maybe. Rowan narrowed his eyes.
Any big plans?
Not yet.
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A rotund MC in glasses and a Hawaiian


shirt waddled onto the stage.
We have a stellar line-up for you to-
night. First up, this guys been a finalist in
Last Comic Standing and has been gracing
our stage for the last two years. Put your
hands together and give a warm welcome to
Mr. Eric Sanchez.
After the first comic had finished his set,
the waitress took their drink order. Rowan
ordered a gin and tonic for both of them. He
hoped Hannah was okay that hed taken the
lead. She didnt say anything to protest. In
the past his alpha ways had rubbed some wo-
men the wrong way.
Two drinks and three comics later, the
show came to an end.
Do you mind if I say hi to my buddy real
quick before we leave?
Thats cool.
They got up and Rowan took Hannahs
hand and walked to the bar where the comics
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were ordering drinks. It was nice to make


physical contact with her. For the first time
she didnt pull away, but squeezed his hand
in return as they made their way through the
crowd.
Eric! You rocked the house man, Row-
an said.
Rowan hooked his arm around Hannahs
waist. There was a heat rising up within him.
He hoped to say a few quick good-byes and
take her home with him.
Thanks for coming out. Who is this
lovely lady? Eric asked.
Eric scanned Hannah from top to bot-
tom. Sometimes he wished his friends would
be more subtle.
This is Hannah.
She held out her hand and shook Erics.
Funny stuff, she said.
Thanks. Its nice to meet you. Ive never
seen Rowan bring a date here before. He
must like you, Eric said.
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Were just friends.


She had to rub that in, didnt she?
Oh. I see, Eric said. He gave Rowan a
look like seriously?
The space between Rowans eyebrows
crinkled as he contemplated the ways he
might go about changing the friends label.
Well take care. Were headed out, Row-
an said.
No problem. Thanks again for coming,
Eric said.
Once outside, Rowan opened the door to
the town car for Hannah. Usually his driver
did it, but Rowan had instructed him not to,
he needed a chance to show his chivalry.
When Rowan got in on the other side, he
put his hand on her knee and gazed into her
intense green eyes. Thanks for coming out
with me. It was fun.
Hannah didnt move his hand away.
It was fun. I needed to laugh.
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Her smile stirred something inside of


him. As the car meandered up and down the
hilly streets of the well-lit city, Rowan con-
templated his next move.
Would you be up for a night-cap at my
place?
There was a long pause as Hannahs
brow creased.
Maybe just one. But remember hands
off the merchandise.
Bingo. That had gone more easily than
hed anticipated. He ignored the last
comment.
At his place, Rowan turned the key,
opened the door and grabbed Hannah by the
hand.
Her mouth was agape as she eyed the
place. Most women appeared to be im-
pressed. Hed hired a decorator so it didnt
resemble a drab bachelor pad most of them
were probably used to seeing.
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This is nice. I guess its the kind of


bachelor pad youd expect from one of the 25
most eligible bachelors, she shot him a
smile.
Please tell me you didnt see that?
I did. Its on newsstands everywhere.
Rowan took her coat and hung it inside
the hall closet.
I hope you dont think any less of me.
If it makes you feel any better it was the
Jennifer Anniston story featured on the cov-
er that convinced me to buy it, and then I
realized the guy on the cover looked awfully
familiar.
Hannah winked. He hadnt seen her be
so playful. Maybe it was the cocktails or the
comedy. Whatever it was, it was a good
thing.
While were on the subject of the press,
I noticed there was a picture that was
snapped of us when we had dinner. Im sorry
about that. I try to choose places where I
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know the paparazzi wont be but sometimes


they find me anyway.
Rowan put his hand on Hannahs back
and led her to the sectional in the living
room. She sat down and he reclined next to
her. His heart was starting to race. He was
already imagining the curves of her body,
bereft of clothes.
I admit, my friend Stacey showed me
the picture and teased me about it. But its
no big deal.
Im glad to hear that. Can I get you
something to drink?
Rowan jumped up and headed to the kit-
chen. The sooner he could get the obligatory
beverage service out of the way, the sooner
the fun part of the evening could begin.
Do you have seltzer or something?
Sure. Coming right up.
Seconds later, Rowan returned with two
lemon flavored seltzers. He twisted off the
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tops and they each took a sip. Then they put


their drinks on the coffee table.
Their bodies were just a few inches
apart. Rowan leaned toward her.
It looks like youve got flecks of gold in
those green eyes.
Oh.
I better take a closer look to be sure.
She pressed a hand against his chest as
he leaned forward.
Rowan, we agreed.
We agreed to no sex. Imagine this is
your fathers basement and were going to
make out before your dad comes home.
So youre a horny teenager trying to get
to second base?
Right now, Ill take getting on first.
She bit the bottom of her lip.
Im assuming first base is a kiss on the
lips.
And other erogenous zones.
Above the neck only Mr.
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Shoulders?
His hands clenched in his lap from hav-
ing to resist touching her. She had no idea
what she was doing to him.
Okay, but Im the only one who gets to
do the touching, she said.
Hannah smiled and moved ten percent
in his direction. Their lips were a hairs width
apart. He could feel her hot breath cascade
over his mouth. And then...Hannah clutched
her stomach. She pulled her lips from his.
Im sorry. Wheres your restroom?
He pointed. Its just down the hall and
to the left.
So close. The sexual tension that had
been building inside him was near a boiling
point.
Five minutes passed. How could she still
be in the restroom? Rowan walked down the
hall and heard some unpleasant sounds com-
ing from the bathroom. He knocked gently.
Everything okay in there?
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After a moment he heard a mumbled re-


sponse. He checked the door. Locked. He
knocked again, this time more insistently.
No answer. She was really starting to
worry him. He banged on the door, making
the door rattle in its frame. As he was about
to ram the door, it clicked open. Hannah
stood in front him shaking.
Hey are you okay?
I dont know. I was feeling off at the
comedy club but I thought the seltzer water
might help but then suddenly it hit me. I
must look like a wreck.
You look like you need to lay down for a
minute.
Too weak to protest he led her down the
hall to his bedroom. When she spotted the
bed she tried to back up but he firmly
pressed her forward.
Dont worry, youre safe with me. Rest a
bit.
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He pulled back the thick duvet and soft


white sheets. He slipped off Hannahs shoes,
before sliding her into bed. She closed her
eyes.
Im going to get you some water.
She nodded.
A minute later he came back with the
water, and she was fast asleep. He tucked the
duvet more firmly around her. He was temp-
ted to smooth back her hair, but he didnt
want to wake her up. She appeared peaceful.
He flicked off the light and shut the door. It
occurred to him that he wasnt sure how long
it had been since a women had spent the
night in his bed.

***

Rowan

Rowan woke up thinking of only one


person Hannah. After a moment he
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remembered that he was sleeping in the


spare room, and Hannah had slept in his
bed. He reached for his phone to check the
time when the phone flashed his mothers
name and picture. He groaned. His mom al-
ways had the worst timing and some days he
wished that her three children werent her
only hobby. Nick his younger brother was
married with two children and his middle
brother lived in Paris, too far away to take
too much of Fionas attention.
Rowans not here right now, please
leave a message. Beep. He said robotically.
Ive always said that you got your sense
of humor from your father. Certainly not
from me.
Rowan rolled his naked physique out of
bed, clutching the phone to his ear with his
shoulder. He always slept nude. He preferred
sheets or the softness of a woman to keep
him warm. And this woman right now
needed to be Hannah. If he could taste her
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for a moment, then he could stop thinking


about her.
Rowan, are you listening to me? I know
you think Im a nag but its because you nev-
er listen to me.
I heard you. Brunch is at one. I need to
pick up some strawberries before I come.
Anything else? The last part came out a
little too harsh.
No, thats it. She sounded a little hurt.
You could never tell with her though. She
had made sounding hurt a lifetimes practice.
Still, she was his mother.
Hey, why dont we go bowling this
week? I can pick you up and steal you away.
This was one of his mothers only vices
bowling. She believed that no one else knew
about it except him. She wouldnt dare tell
her card playing friends that she secretly en-
joyed video bowling at the Metreon. Oh no,
that would be uncivilized.
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Maybe on the bowling. Ill see you


soon.
She hung up. Rowan smiled and started
to whistle. He grabbed the clothes he wore
the night before and hurriedly put them on.
He was pretty sure that Hannah wouldnt ap-
preciate him coming in stark naked to wake
her up.
Before he even reached the bedroom, he
sensed her absence. There was an emptiness
that wasnt there before. As expected he
found an empty but made bed. Almost no in-
dication that she had spent the night re-
mained, except for the whisper of her re-
maining scent that clung to the sheets. He
was noticing how Hannah liked to run. Usu-
ally, he wouldnt be up for the chasing but
something told him that she ran for a reason,
and he needed to find out. Once again he
took off his clothes, leaving them rumpled on
the floor. Hannah leaving without saying
goodbye only meant hed have to invite her
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over again, so that he could solve the mys-


tery. He whistled naked all the way to the
shower contemplating unlocking Hannah.

***

The street where his parents lived with


the other wealthy residents of San Francisco
had been nicknamed Billionaires Row. Row-
an imagined it was the artsy types of Haight
Ashbury that had come up with the moniker.
Despite the family money, Rowan and
his two brothers all worked hard and had
ambition. Lazy was the only four letter word
his parents worried about when they were
growing up. As part of a large Catholic fam-
ily, his parents believed in a healthy dose of
competition and wanted them to be success-
ful in their own right, rather than being given
everything. Rowan was grateful for this be-
cause hed learned that hard work did pay
off.
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Rowan walked through the door to his


parents house in Pacific Heights with a crate
of strawberries from the Fishermans Wharf
Farmers Market, impressed that he was ac-
tually on time. This was lucky because noth-
ing irked Fiona more than tardiness, a fact
that he had taken innocent pleasure in since
he was a teenager and still hadnt exactly
grown out of it. At least he was aware that he
hadnt.
He strolled into the living room expect-
ing to find his parents, Nick and his family
chatting before brunch. Instead a slender
blonde stood at the window staring out to
the street. She must have watched him drive
up. Olivia. His mother had invited Olivia.
Now he knew why torturing his mother was
still enjoyable.
Hello Rowan, Olivia said.
Olivia, Rowan said.
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I hope you dont mind my being here.


Your mom invited me and you know how
much I love brunch.
Rowan gritted his teeth and made sure
not to get too close to her.
Its a little awkward, to be honest.
Not as awkward as the last time we saw
each other.
True. Seeing you in bed with another
guy a few days after I proposed did top the
awkward charts.
He crossed his arms across his chest. She
turned to face him. Olivias slim fitting pink
cashmere sweater and black leggings high-
lighted her svelte figure. It was hard to admit
that being in her orbit still stirred up a phys-
ical response in him.
If it makes you feel any better, I regret
how I hurt you. She paused and Rowan
didnt respond. So, I bumped into your
mom at Whole Foods yesterday and based
on her invitation, Im assuming you never
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told her the reason we broke up. That was


kind of you.
I didnt do it for you. I was trying to
save face.
Well, I miss you Rowan. Im not with
anyone now and if youre not either, I
thought maybe we could start over.
His brow furrowed and steam seemed to
be building inside of him. He feared what he
might do or say next.
Thats rich. Youve got to be kidding.
The doorbell chimed. Cheryl opened the
door and Nick and his wife Monica walked
through the door carrying Bundt cakes.
Katie, their eight year old and Jack, their six
year old ran up to Rowan. What a welcome
distraction.
Rowan leaned over and hugged Katie.
Can I have a piggy back ride Uncle Row-
an? Jack asked.
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Hop on, Rowan said as he crouched


down and Jack wrapped his arms around his
neck and his legs around his waist.
Rowan took him for a ride to the kitchen
table and deposited him into a chair.
Nick and Monica handed their cakes to
Cheryl, the house chef and she took them to
the kitchen.
Nice to see you guys, Rowan said to his
brother and Monica.
Yeah, its been awhile. These two keep
us busy with all of their activities.
Cheryl re-appeared with plates of eggs
benedict and country potatoes. Shed already
put strawberries and shortcakes on a platter,
with a ramekin of homemade whipped cream
in the center.
Everyone sat down, Olivia made sure she
took the seat right next to Rowan. Under the
table she patted the top of his thigh. He
moved her hand away and gave her a searing
look.
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Fiona smiled approvingly at him and


Olivia. He gave his mother a disapproving
look that promised hed have a few words
with her later.
Once it was time to clear the plates, he
followed his mom and Cheryl into the kit-
chen. Mom, next time please dont invite an
ex without running it by me first?
Sorry. I just thought it was water under
the bridge and when I saw her the words just
flew out of my mouth.
Things didnt end well, so Id really
rather not see her again.
Oh honey, I just wish you could find
some nice girl to settle down with.
Well Ive met someone thats piqued my
interest.
Do tell.
Ill let you know if there is anything to
tell, later.
Fionas brow knitted with frustration
and they headed back to the dining room.
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Oh, Rowan I know your birthday is


coming up. Well have to get everyone to-
gether again for that. Fiona cleared her
throat and moved the condensation around
on the top of her glass with her finger. I
dont want to bring down the mood, but dad,
your grandfather is getting worse. The
chemo isnt working anymore, so hes been
telling me about what he wants when the
time comes... Tears started glassing over in
her eyes. Rowan, hes put in his will that you
and your brothers will receive your inherit-
ance once youve had your first biological
child. Nick is set but you and Will had better
get to work.
Thats kind of a crazy stipulation, Row-
an said.
You know your grandfather. He is a bit
of a traditional Catholic. But I think more
than anything he doesnt want you boys sow-
ing your oats until youre in your 50s, Wal-
ter, Rowans dad said.
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Good thing I have a job, so I can live


without his inheritance.
Yes, but Id love to see you settle down
and get married and start a family, Fiona
said.
Olivia shot him a flirtatious smile. Sweat
grew on his brow. Monica and Nick were un-
usually quiet, probably sensing impending
fireworks. The sooner Rowan could get out
of this house and this conversation, the
better.
Yeah, make me a cousin, Katie said
and looked at Rowan.
Well see about that little lady, Rowan
replied.
Come on, Uncle Rowan...but make sure
its a boy, Jack said.
You kids are tenacious. And you know it
takes two people to make a baby. Ill need to
find a willing party first, Rowan said.
Walter changed the subject, launching
into his weekly political tirade about the
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uselessness of those in power and whatever


hed heard about on his weekend talk radio
shows. This subject usually made the family
grumble, but under the circumstances, Row-
an was thrilled to have the spotlight off of
him.
Two excruciating hours later, Rowan
made his exit. Olivia tried to run after him,
but he jumped in the town car and instructed
his driver to peel out. With all the drama of
the day he realized he never had a chance to
text Hannah. He pulled his phone out his
pocket.
Rowan: Hey Hannah. I hope you are
feeling better. When you are feeling up to it,
I would love to cook you dinner at my place.
Let me know which night this week you are
free.
Chapter Seven

Hannah

Being buried under work all morning


had stirred a tension headache in her. Han-
nah clicked the stream button on her com-
puter to play smooth jazz. It usually calmed
her down. She tapped a pen on her desk. It
was so hard to focus on grant applications,
deadlines, payroll, programs her mind
kept wandering to Rowan. That man had
been occupying far too much of her cerebral
space lately. Did agreeing to Rowans pro-
position make her a prostitute? Was she
Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman? No. She
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was being silly. But Julia and I both have


curly red hair. Crap. What have I gotten
myself into?
It also hadnt helped that she spent the
night in his bed. Thankfully, he was a gentle-
man and slept elsewhere. He took her stipu-
lation of no sex seriously. Perhaps, he
thought she couldnt control herself. After
being married for five years, she was adept at
avoiding temptation. She encountered hand-
some men everywhere, and she hadnt slept
with any of them. She took a long swig of her
now tepid tea.
Then she pictured the weekend their
weekend getaway. She and Rowan would
play the slots, lounge by the pool and stuff
themselves with buffet food. Prime rib and
macaroni salad was sounding pretty terrific,
but that could be because shed worked
through lunch.
How hard could it be to deny her attrac-
tion to Rowan for one weekend and enjoy a
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little rest and relaxation? It could be fun, just


like a weekend getaway with the girls. And
then she remembered, she didnt like to re-
lax, shed never gone away with girlfriends,
she liked to work. Spending the weekend lol-
lygagging in Vegas didnt seem very work-
like. Though she reasoned, she was doing it
to get money for her non-profit, so it would
technically be work.
With Madisons help, she was able to
power through the rest of the day and get a
few productive things done.
Around six-thirty, as she walked up the
steps to her front door, she discovered a box
out with a note attached. It said: Put these
on and Ill pick you up at 7:00 for din-
ner tonight. --Rowan, a.k.a Your
Benefactor :)
Hannah opened the box. Cushioned in-
side paper wrapping were a pair of black
strappy heels, thankfully only three inches
high. She slipped them on and walked
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through the front door, her cat Pablo smash-


ing up against her bare legs.
With only an hour to prepare, she
jumped in the shower for a quick rinse and
to shave her legs. Arriving looking like Big-
foot in heels might not inspire the guy to
write a check. She stepped out of the shower
admiring how she looked with a messy bun
and dewy skin. Not bad for a divorcee, she
thought.
Hannah put on mascara and lip gloss.
She toweled off and slipped on a red cocktail
dress shed worn to Staceys wedding years
ago. She was grateful it still fit, one of the
perks of never being pregnant. Yanking at
the zipper to get it all the way up herself had
been a bit of trick. The last time she wore it,
Chris had zipped it for her. Eat your heart
out Chris! Im dating a billionaire.
By the time Rowan was buzzing, she was
ready. When she opened the front door she
was bowled over by how handsome he
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looked in slacks and a crisp white button up.


Rowans aftershave hit her and hairs on the
back of her neck stood at attention. For a
second she thought she might reach out and
caress his stubble free face.
Nice shoes. Im happy to see I got the
right size. You look ravishing. I think Im
really getting my moneys worth.
Hannah turned one revolution to show
off the dress and the shoes. Its the least she
could do.
You dont look so bad yourself.

***

Rowans foyer was filled with the aroma


of garlic and marinara. Hannah was salivat-
ing but wasnt sure if it was a result of deli-
cious food cooking or because of the man
candy preparing it. Perhaps her dry spell had
gone on too long. Maybe she should have
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had a few more starter dates with other men


before jumping in with this big fish.
The wood floors were spotless, the mod-
ular black leather furniture looked like no
one had ever sat in it. A few paintings hung
on the stark white walls. Enormous picture
windows flanked the white kitchen walls and
provided a spectacular view of the city lights.
Rowan grabbed Hannah by the hand and
led her to the kitchen. He poured her a glass
of wine then he chopped carrots and toma-
toes to add to a bowl of salad.
Can I help you with anything? Hannah
asked.
I got it. Just relax and drink your wine,
He said with a wink.
Cheeky, this one.
So I guess youll want to see how to-
night goes before taking me all the way to
Vegas.
That reminds me, I just booked the tick-
ets this afternoon.
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Hannahs heart thudded in her chest.


She took a large sip of wine, hoping it would
calm her nerves. She was reminded of the
boy she had a crush on in junior high, Rick
Jasper. He was so cute but she only ever got
to admire him from afar. The other girls
clung to him, and Hannah was too shy to ap-
proach him despite their having lockers right
next to each other. But every time Rick
entered her orbit, her heart raced, and shed
break into a cold sweat. Now 35 and di-
vorced, this girlish residue should be gone,
but it clearly wasnt.
Wow. Youre a man of action, Hannah
said.
Rowan scooped the carrots up with his
masculine hands and poured them on top of
the bed of lettuce.
Lifes short.
Hannah curled a strand of her auburn
hair around her finger.
Thats what they say.
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Spaghetti was boiling away and sauce


was bubbling on the pristine stainless steel
gas range. There was something incredibly
sexy about a man who could cook. Hannah
had imagined when hed invited her over,
that hed have his personal chef whip
something up. It was impressive to see he
wasnt afraid to get his pedigreed hands
dirty.
Hows work going? Rowan asked.
Its going to be better now that youve
agreed to be so generous.
Im happy to help. And I want you to
know, its not just because you are stunning
and have agreed to go away with me. I was
reading more about the work you do with
kids, and its an amazing program. You guys
help a lot of kids who really need it.
The flutters came. She tried to breathe
from her diaphragm. Okay the compliments
are starting to win me over a little.
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It means a lot to hear you say that. Im


lucky to do what I love. As an artist myself,
its a privilege that I get to share the arts with
kids who wouldnt otherwise have the chance
to express themselves.
Rowan turned toward the stove to stir
the sauce.
Ive never had much creative talent my-
self, so I admire it. I tried to paint a cityscape
once and it ended up resembling food
chunks. I decided then and there my life as
an artist was over.
Good thing you have other talents.
Hannah took a slight sip from her wine
goblet. She needed to pace herself. His smile
brightened. She was overwhelmed by his
dark soulful eyes and couldnt help but no-
tice his muscular arms as he chopped cu-
cumbers. Hannah feared she might not be
able to control her urges after dinner.
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After a few beats of silence, Rowan said,


Why did you run out of here the other
morning?
She was wondering when he might bring
this up. For a second she thought he might
have forgotten about it.
I didnt run away. I had somewhere to
be, and I didnt want to wake you.
A note might have been nice.
I was tempted to rummage through
your drawers, looking for a pen and paper
but I thought you might not like that.
I wouldnt mind you rummaging
through anything.
Rowan.
Tell me why you run.
His words surprised her. Was she that
transparent? Her mouth felt dry and she
took a sip of wine to stall her having to an-
swer. He stared as if he were seeing her for
the first time.
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You know what I think? Rowan said. I


think you were hurt before. Not just hurt but
destroyed and have given up on love.
She turned her head, breaking eye con-
tact. Any more time staring into those pools
would unleash all the unshed tears. It would
be hard to hold back. The years of torment
with Chris. The stark realization that she
would never have children. And that true
love really didnt exist.
Yes, I was hurt. But that is life, she
admitted.
Tell me about it.
Most of her wanted to trust him; to pour
her heart out, but she remembered this was a
one month romance based on a proposition
for money. Revealing her fractured heart
would only bring further devastation.
I will, but not tonight. Lets not com-
pare battle stories. Im hungry.
His brow morphed into a frown and he
looked like he was about to say something
111/345

but then changed his mind. He handed Han-


nah the salad bowl and she carried it to the
table, relieved she seemed off the hook for
the moment. Rowan followed with plates of
spaghetti. She wondered how she would eat
the saucy noodles without making a mess.
Then she imagined the two of them recreat-
ing the co-noodle slurping scene from Lady
& the Tramp.
Rowan opened a new bottle of red. He
liberally refilled Hannahs glass. Shed only
taken a few sips and maybe one gulp of the
first glass. She didnt have the heart to tell
him that she didnt like red wine. At least not
usually. But she had the feeling that shed
drink anything that he poured. As she stared
at his full mouth she savored the flavor of the
bittersweet brew.
Despite being seated at a family sized
table, Rowan sat at the end and Hannah sat
perpendicular to him, inches away. After she
put her glass down, Rowan leaned over the
112/345

table and wiped a droplet of wine off her bot-


tom lip. His thumb was warm and soft and
she had the urge to take a bite. She held her
breath.
Hmmm, he groaned. She reached up to
cover his hand.
Well, since you wont tell me why you
dont have a boyfriend, Im going to have to
force it out of you. He took her hand and
placed it on his thigh. She moved her hand
away.
Im too old for a boyfriend.
You have a friend with benefits at
least?
I do have friends but none of them pay
for my health insurance, She was trying to
be funny but based on the puzzled expres-
sion on Rowans face the joke didnt exactly
land.
Youre so far away, Rowan patted his
thigh as if extending an invitation. Have a
seat. She hesitantly stood up, wondering if
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she should comply. Before she could decide,


Rowan pulled her to him and in seconds she
was snug on his lap, the dinner completely
forgotten.
How is it that you are still single?
The truth is, Ive been busy with work
and it doesnt leave me much time to date.
That was only a partial truth. She wasnt
even sure what she was saying. The warmth
of his thighs beneath her and his arms
draped around her combined with the wine
made her feel ablaze.
Thats a shame. But lucky for me I
guess.
He reached up to cup her breast, inches
from her nipple. Hannah reminded herself
that it had been a long time since a man had
touched her. It wasnt him that was causing
this cat in heat reaction. She stilled his hand
but moved her hips, almost unconsciously.
He pushed her hand away and grazed her
nipple through her dress, making her arch. A
114/345

light sweat broke out along his jaw and neck.


He kept teasing her nipple, making it taut.
They were both breathing hard. She moved
rhythmically up and down, both of their ex-
citement growing. She thought she would ex-
plode if he didnt kiss her.
Then Rowan kissed the back of her neck.
Goosebumps. She turned around to face him,
her lips grazed his. And then...Buzz. The
doorbell rang, its nagging peal jolting. Han-
nah pulled back. Rowan drew her back in
and pressed his lips to hers; their breath
mingled before their tongues touched ever so
gently. The doorbell rang again.
Hannah pushed herself up from his lap,
breaking the daze.
Do you need to get that?
His pensive eyes took her in.
Sit tight. Ill be right back.
She heard him speaking to someone in
the other room. She couldnt hear what he
was saying but from the tone of his voice he
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sounded upset. She tiptoed toward the living


room and paused by the entryway.
He was engaged in what looked like a
heated debate with a svelte blonde in a white
dress. Her tan looked real. And she looked
like she had been crying. Was this one of his
many girlfriends? Or was this someone he
cared about? She was starting to understand
that the public Rowan was very different
from the private one. But which one was
real?
I really dont understand what youre
doing here. There is nothing left to say.
Im sorry Rowan. I cant stop thinking
about you. I made a mistake.
The blonde glanced up to see Hannah in
the doorway. Hannah froze. The blondes
face twisted into a sneer.
Is this your flavor of the month?
Rowan spotted Hannah too and shook
his head, as if to say, he was sorry. She didnt
like being in the middle of what couldnt be
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anything but a lovers quarrel. It was a lot to


take in after the heated exchange in the din-
ing room and allowing herself to desire
someone for a moment.
Olivia, I think you should leave.
Olivia turned her face as if Rowan had
slapped her.
No, Rowan, its okay. Ill go. I have a lot
to do tomorrow, Hannah said.
But I dont want you to go. I want Olivia
to go, Rowan said.
Hannah grabbed her jacket and bag from
the backside of the couch. If she could have
clicked her heels together and disappeared
she would have.
No, Ill go, Hannah said.
Hannah, please stay. Olivia will leave,
Rowan said.
Before he could say anymore, Hannah
fled outside into the foggy San Francisco
mist.
Chapter Eight
Rowan

Rowan couldnt sleep all night thinking


about Hannahs face before she bolted from
his house. It bothered him that she might
have misconstrued Olivias arrival at his
home. When he and Olivia were together she
would always arrive unannounced, a habit he
found annoying when they were together and
infuriating now that she had no business be-
ing in his life. When he saw her now, he
couldnt fathom how he was ever attracted to
her. She had also ruined what would have
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been a memorable night, if that near kiss was


any indication.
After Olivia left he had called Hannah
and sent two text messages. No response.
The silence was killing him. Hannah would
have no reason to be upset if she knew the
complete truth. At one time he thought
Olivia might be the one but thankfully she
did him a favor and proved that this wasnt
the case by cheating on him. He had been
careful ever since. It was easier to date wo-
men casually than to take a risk. Hannah
seemed different though. Was she worth it?
His phone pinged and he read the text.
Hannah: What are we doing?
He contemplated this for a moment. He
normally shied away from these kinds of
conversations. This was when he knew that
the fun was about to end. But Hannah was
different.
Rowan: I have no idea.
No response. He paced by the window.
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Rowan: Why dont we meet at the


MOMA to find out?
Hannah: The MOMA is closed.
Rowan: So. I have friend wholl let us
in.
Hannah: I hope youre not teasing me
about getting to see good art. Im not the
kind of woman who takes things lightly. I
color code my to-do list and set reminders
for oil changes. Chris used to tell me that my
Blackberry could think for me.
He imagined her in a pink bra and
skimpy panties pacing in her bedroom as she
typed. Her rant was turning him on a little.
She could color code anything she wanted for
him. Wait a second, whos Chris?
Rowan: Chris?
Pause.
Hannah: Ex-husband
Oh, so this is the one who hurt her.
Rowan: Oh. Are you still hung up on
him?
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Hannah: Id rather sear my face with a


hot poker than be with him again.
To Rowan, the passionate response
meant she still felt something. He didnt like
this one bit.
Hannah: Who was that woman yester-
day? Are you still hung up on her?
Rowan: Id rather sear my face off with
a hot poker:)
Hannah: Good to know.
Rowan: Be brave. Meet me at the
MOMA in an hour.
Hannah: Were not going to break in,
are we? I cant afford to be arrested. My car
was towed last week. I dont want to get a
reputation.
Rowan: Just meet me there.
Hannah: K.
He smiled.
Rowan: Wear something sexy if you feel
like it.
Hannah: No promises.
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Rowan: See you soon hot stuff.

***

An hour later Rowan waited outside the


MOMA for Hannah. He kept glancing at his
phone to check the time and to make sure he
didnt miss a text. He gritted his teeth. He
was impatient and wanted to see her. Badly.
Rowan spotted her waiting by the cross-
walk for the light to change. He waved. She
waved back. By the time she reached him, he
had a huge grin on his face. He took her
hand and noticed how she didnt resist. Row-
an was bowled over by her curvy figure in a
hugging black skirt.
Thanks for coming. He was grateful.
And then he imagined the kinds of things she
might do to show her gratitude. If Hannah
could read his dirty mind, shed be horrified.
Or would she?
Thanks for having me.
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Oh, Ill have you all right. Devilish


thoughts took him over as he checked her
out. He had the impression she had no idea
how attractive she was. The brisk air had
flushed her pale skin and her silk blouse
stretched over her torso to reveal hard
nipples. He needed to get her inside and
quick.
Follow me.
He led her down a side alley to an un-
marked door on the backside of the MOMA.
He tapped out a quick text message. They
waited in silence. It was nice not to speak for
a moment.
A few minutes later the door opened and
an older petite woman with wild, curly red
hair greeted them.
Ro, its been ages. You look suspicious
out here. Like a cat burglar. She pulled her
loose button up sweater closed. And who is
this?
CIA.
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Ignore him. She held out her hand.


Im Hannah.
Im Jezebel The women shook hands.
Before she could finish, Hannah inter-
rupted her. Jezebel McQueen? Im a huge
fan of your work.
Jezebel turned to Rowan. Pretty and
great taste. Shes a keeper.
Youre kind, Hannah said, clearly
flattered.
Well, you two, dont just stand there.
Come inside. Im freezing my tushy off. I
really dont understand June in San Fran-
cisco. At least in New York City you know
what to expect when it comes to the weather.
Here its like San Fran has dementia.
They followed Jezebel through an art
storage room and then through another door
that led to a long hallway. At the end of the
hallway they entered the SF MOMAs office
area. The open office set-up was minus
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cubicles and in the center of the space was a


plush three-piece sectional sofa.
Jezebel pointed to the couch. I bet I
sleep there tonight. My exhibition starts next
week, and Im not even close to being ready.
What are you working on? Hannah
asked.
Come take a look.
Rowan could tell she was really inter-
ested. He had thought she might be. Jezebel
was a contemporary visual artist with exhibi-
tions all over the world. She was also famous
for working against a deadline. She was a
Detroit native with a spine of steel that re-
fused to be pushed around. She now lived in
Manhattan. He met her right after he broke
up with Olivia. She had a show at the MET
and he listened to one of her talks on using
video in art and they had become fast
friends, despite their age gap.
They entered the main lobby of the
newly renovated museum and then took the
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elevator to the sixth floor. The museum was


almost too quiet.
Are we the only ones here? Hannah
asked.
Besides the art. Just us. Oh, and a se-
curity guard. Hals his name. But dont forget
the security cameras. They are everywhere.
When they reached the sixth floor
Jezebel led them to a room to the left of the
elevator. The room looked half-finished.
Photographs of the same women at various
ages in her life ranging from about 30 to 60
years of age hung on the wall. Others were
propped up against the wall. Flat screen tele-
visions still in their boxes littered the floor.
Jezebel, are you really doing all of this
by yourself? Rowan admonished.
Dont be silly. I have my minions com-
ing tomorrow. Tonight Im getting
everything organized. This show wasnt sup-
posed to happen until this summer but since
the museums major renovation is complete
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they brought me in as part of the re-opening


celebration. She looked at every piece that
needed to be sorted. Im not sure what the
order should be here.
Rowan turned to Hannah.
Jezebel has a fellow artist friend who
found out when she was 30 that she has the
gene for early onset Alzheimer's. They came
up with the idea to film her friend Carol
telling the story of how she met her husband
on the same day once a year. It started out as
more of an experiment. I mean everyone for-
gets details and changes stories slightly.
Well, they did this for almost 30 years and
the result is incredible.
Wow, what a compelling project. I pre-
sume she did get Alzheimer's.
Yes, when she was only 41.
Alzheimer's is such a heart wrenching
disease, said Hannah with a pained face. I
cant imagine what it must be like. Im sure
your show will really help people to
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understand the process of forgetting and


how horrible that is. She grabbed Rowans
hand tightly. He pulled her into the crook of
his arm.
I really hope so, agreed Jezebel.
Jezebel glanced between Rowan and
Hannah, snuggled up close together and she
gave him a knowing look. He ignored her.
I dont mean to be rude, but would you
get the heck outta here? Jezebel said this
good naturedly and Rowan knew she could
talk their ear off for hours, but she really did
have a lot of work to get done. She let him
bring Hannah here as a favor and with the
promise he wouldnt stay too long.
No problem, said Rowan. Well touch
base next week before the opening. Im going
to try to come opening night. If not, the next
for sure.
You better. I know where you live.
Rowan laughed and then gave her a
quick hug and peck on the cheek.
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Do you think you can find your way


out?
Sure thing.
Nice to meet you, said Hannah. It was
a real honor.
It was nice to meet you too. Dont let
him boss you around.
Oh, hes already trying. But I think I can
handle him.
I think you can too.
Shall we? Rowan held out his arm.
Hannah smiled and gladly accepted.
Arm in arm, Rowan and Hannah glided
into the museum elevator. Instead of press-
ing the P for the parking level, Rowan
pressed O. A few seconds later there was a
ding and the elevator doors slowly parted. As
they stepped out, he confirmed that the ad-
ministrative office level was people-free. He
led Hannah to the orange sectional that was
situated near the gigantic picture window.
So what did you think? Rowan asked.
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That was amazing. Thanks so much for


setting this up.
Rowan slung his strong hands around
her petite waist and pulled her closer. He
whispered in her ear. Anything for you.
And then their eyes met. Hannah bit her
lip and the lingering look from her smolder-
ing eyes initiated Rowans lusty impulses. He
inched closer to her, cupping her face with
his masculine hands. Their lips grazed, his
hot breath meeting hers.
His lips teased hers and their knees
buckled as they dropped to the couch. The
kiss intensified, their tongues intermingling.
Rowan moved his hand to Hannahs chest,
her nipple stood at attention, in response to
his touch. Below the belt, he noticed his ex-
citement growing. He moved Hannahs hand
down so she could experience the frenzy
shed whipped him into.
Hannah pulled back.
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I should probably have you take me


home.
Are you sure? I can slow things down?
It took all his will power to not press his
body against hers.
That might be good.
It took everything he had to tamp down
his urges and take her home. The car ride
was quiet and tense. When the car pulled up
in front her place, Rowan yearned to follow
her but instead, had the driver take him
home.
Chapter Nine
Hannah

Saturday rolled around and Hannah and


Rowan walked through Golden Gate Park,
hands interlaced. Her heart raced in her
chest. It was balmy and sunny when they
reached Stow Lake. A college kid in cargo
shorts and a tight t-shirt asked, You two
wanna rent a paddleboat?
Sure, Hannah said.
Rowans forehead crinkled, Just as long
as youre ready to do your share of the
paddling.
Im pretty fit.
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Oh. I know you are, Rowan said with a


wink.
Rowan pulled a twenty out of his black
leather wallet and handed it to the rental
guy.
Just come back in an hour, the rental
guy said.
Will do, Hannah and Rowan replied.
The air smelled like cotton candy. Their
knees touched. Hannah was grateful to be
wearing shorts and that shed remembered
to shave. Rowan patted her bare knee. His
smooth hands on her bare flesh sent a shiver
through her.
You ready? Rowan asked.
Lets go.
Other couples laughed as they paddled
down the lake.
I was just thinking that theres so much
about you that I dont know, said Hannah.
Like whats your favorite color?
Blue. And you?
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Green.
What else do you want to know? He
asked.
What do you want to tell me?
Hannah waved her hand around trying
to shoo a mosquito. The paddleboat slowed
down, Rowan clapped his hands together.
Got it.
My hero.
Rowan shook the mosquito off his hands
and into the lake. Then he put an arm
around Hannah.
Im from a big Catholic family. Im one
of three brothers. And my parents are con-
servative and...
Wealthy.
Yeah, I guess thats no secret.
His touch, though PG in nature, sent
shivers up her back.
It must have been nice growing up with
siblings. Im an only child. I always begged
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my mom to have a sister for me, but I think


she had a hard time getting pregnant again.
A line of brown feathered ducks quacked
as they moved away from the boats and to-
ward the shore.
If it makes you feel any better, having
siblings just means you have someone to
fight with. Rowan smiled and the crinkles
on the sides of his eyes filled with sunlight.
Did you fight with your siblings a lot?
She asked.
No, nothing serious. Sure we can be
competitive. Whatever you do, dont come
over when we play basketball. My parents
are big on family. They always made sure
that we took care of each other. Im the old-
est, so I had to set an example. My brother
Dylan works in Paris and my youngest broth-
er Nick lives with his family here in San
Francisco. He has two kids. I dont know if
you remember but you met Katie at the Taste
of San Francisco event.
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Yeah, I remember. Shes adorable. She


obviously loves you.
Thanks. Shes a great kid. I hope Im
lucky enough to have one just like her one
day.
Hannah stopped paddling.
Are you okay? Asked Rowan.
Just needed a break for a sec.
What about you, do you want kids
someday?
I did. I mean, I do. Because Im an only
child I always promised myself Id never
have just one kid, but then things didnt go
as planned. My husband and I divorced and
now Im starting all over so...
Well maybe he wasnt the right guy to
have kids with.
Maybe. Hannah tucked her hair be-
hind her ears. She wondered how much she
should reveal, if she should share the real
reason she didnt have kids yet. But they
were only going to date a month. It wasnt
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like they were seriously dating. Hed prob-


ably feel sorry for her and the rest of the day
would be ruined.
Chris hurt you, didnt he?
She wanted to lie, but the words escaped
before she could stop them. Yes, he did.
Im sorry.
Did your ex hurt you too?
He nodded his head. Yes, she was the
woman who came to my door the other
night.
What did she do?
She gave me a gift.
She cocked her head at him. A gift?
She showed me who she really was be-
fore it was too late.
Is that why you only date people for a
short amount of time?
Probably. Right now, all I can think
about is this: Rowan leaned in and kissed
her.
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The boat came to a stop. Time stood still


as the intensity of their kiss heated up.
Hannah pulled back. We should prob-
ably keep moving. I think that couple is giv-
ing us the stink-eye.
They both began to pedal, taking in the
emerald tones of the lake and the bright blue
of the sky.
You could still have kids you know.
Her stomach gurgled.
Are you absolutely certain that you
want kids someday?
After the words left her lips she regretted
it.
I just assumed it would happen when
the time was right. And with the right per-
son. But I always imagined Id probably end
up with a couple of kids. My grandpa seems
to be adamant that I have some too.
There was a long beat of silence. Hannah
leaned up against him, resting her head on
his shoulder, trying to ignore the rush of
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melancholy. He would find love, have chil-


dren, and live happily ever after. She wasnt
sure if she was sad because this seemed to
happen for everyone else or that she was
devastated that it wouldnt happen with her.
An hour had passed and they began to
peddle back to the docking area.
Rowan took Hannahs hand and helped
her out of the paddle-boat.
Do you want to take a walk over some of
these story-book like bridges?
Sure. Maybe afterward we can grab
lunch, Rowan said.
Holding hands like teenagers in love,
they strolled over the mossy brick bridges
listening to the caw of birds and the sounds
of children playing in the park.
I know this might not be fancy enough
for you, but I was hoping I could talk you in-
to grabbing a bite at Underdog. They have
organic...Hannah trailed off.
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Hot-Dogs. I love that place. You might


have the wrong idea about me. Sure I might
enjoy a little lobster tail and caviar now and
then but I like simple comfort foods too. I
made you spaghetti after all.
You did. What a shame I didnt get to
eat it.
I will happily make it again for you
sometime. Im kind of famous in my family
for my spicy marinara sauce.
Oh really? I will have to try it
sometime.
At the foot of a bridge, Rowan paused.
He pulled Hannah in toward him. She leaned
in and kissed him this time. Her body
pressed against him, awakening her senses.
Hannah yearned for more than a kiss. Why
not just sleep with him and enjoy the physic-
al part of this short-term affair? If she was
only the flavor of the month, she might as
well enjoy it. It had been too long since shed
had any kind of carnal pleasure.
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Their kiss deepened and Hannah heard a


grizzly voice call out, get a room! She
craned her neck to get a look at the guy. He
was an old man with a walker accompanied
by a woman with a shock of orange and grey
hair.
Oh you two carry on, my brothers just
cranky today, she said.
Hannah led Rowan down a wooded trail
past the bridge. A short walk later they were
at the hot dog place. Hannahs stomach
groaned. Was it hunger or butterflies? She
watched as Rowan drizzled copious amounts
of mustard on his hotdog and nothing else.
She had read somewhere that the toppings
one chooses for a hot dog can tell a lot about
a person. But for the life of her, she couldnt
remember what it was. Maybe it just meant
he liked strong flavors.
I see youre a ketchup girl, Rowan said.
And youre a red-head. I guess that means
youre sweet and spicy, he said.
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You got that right, Hannah replied.


Hannah couldnt help but notice Row-
ans pensive eyes as she sat across the table
from him. She wondered what he was think-
ing. Her heart was opening to him and she
didnt know how to stop it. Sleeping with
him could have undesirable consequences,
but in that moment, she convinced herself
that it would solve everything. She could en-
joy the rest of her time with him and when it
was over, she would just move on with her
life. And shed have a good sexy story to tell.
With a bloated belly and a mountain of
work to get done, Hannah insisted on head-
ing home after their lunch. Vegas was two
days away and she needed to get on top of
things if she wasnt going to be available for
weekend work.
After Rowan dropped her off, an odd
sensation overtook her. Rowan had only
been gone sixty seconds and she missed him
already.
Chapter Ten
Rowan

Rowan waited at the Bellini Bar in the


heart of the Venetian Casino. He took the
liberty of ordering two classic Bellinis. He
scanned the mixed crowd circling or playing
slots in the casino for any sign of Hannah.
He was disappointed that due to scheduling
conflicts, they had to arrive at different
times. The cascading beeping sound of the
machines only added to his impatience. For
the tenth time he checked his cell phone.
It had also occurred to him as he waited
that she might have wanted her own private
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suite. Hed reserved the Penthouse Suite on


the top floor that had two bedrooms and two
bathrooms, but he didnt want her to think
he was presumptuous. The Penthouse Suite
was almost 3,000 square feet of pure decad-
ence; more than enough for one. Still, if she
wanted, he would pay for her own suite.
Hannah glided towards him wearing a
navy blue and white embroidered swing
dress and dangly hoops. She smiled brightly
when she met his eyes.
He pulled her to him and lightly kissed
her on the mouth. She tasted of coffee and
chocolate.
How was your flight? Did they treat you
nicely?
It sure beats economy plus.
Come on, economy plus, has got to be
nice, he teased her.
Youve never flown economy plus have
you? she teased right back.
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He handed her a Bellini, enjoying how


relaxed Hannah seemed. He was beginning
to realize that relaxed wasnt exactly part of
her vernacular.
No, I need a little more leg room.
Well, I think thats the point of eco-
nomy plus. Hannah took a sip of her Bellini
and nodded approvingly.
Good isnt it? And Im usually a gin
man. But tonight Im all yours.
Are you like this with all the girls?
Just the pretty ones. He handed her a
room card, cupping her hands warmly
around it. For a second he thought he might
suggest skipping dinner, the show, and
gambling for a night in, but he didnt want to
send her running. He had to play things just
right.
Heres your room key. He waited be-
fore continuing. Its The Penthouse Suite. It
has two rooms, but if youre not comfort-
able... He trailed off, waiting for her to
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answer. Myriad emotions flashed across her


face but he couldnt fathom what they could
be.
So, if I didnt want to stay in the same
suite, youd get me another room?
He wasnt sure if she was testing him or
playing with him. He could never tell exactly
what she was feeling or thinking and this
drove him crazy.
Do you want another room? He
couldnt help but ask.
Do you want me to have another
room?
She seemed hurt and confused; this
much was clear. She was vulnerable after all.
No, of course Id prefer you stay in my
room. But I didnt want to force you into an
uncomfortable situation. Staying in the same
room with me wasnt included in the three
conditions after all.
He winked. Then he turned her towards
him on the stool, so that her legs were in
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between his own. He rubbed the side of her


legs as he spoke.
I appreciate that you considered my
feelings. Your room sounds like its plenty
big enough for the two of us. I bet it has an
amazing bathtub. So yes, I will stay in the
fantasy suite with you.
Sounds good. And it does have a spec-
tacular bathtub with jets and everything. But
I dont want to oversell it. You can see for
yourself. Rowans mind was more on the
bed than the bathtub.

***

After a dinner of steak frites and chocol-


ate mousse at Bouchons, a French restaurant
in the Venetian Tower, Rowan led Hannah
along the cobblestone walkway through the
Grand Canal Shoppes. They strolled along
the mile-long Grand Canal with painted blue
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sky ceilings in a silence that was comfortable


but filled with sweet expectation.
Gondolas slowly passed carrying excited
tourists. They were controlled by smiling
gondoliers in black and white striped outfits.
Despite the beauty of the walk, Rowan
couldnt take his eyes off of Hannahs slender
profile and the nape of her neck. She had
twisted her long hair up with a simple clip
and a few silky strands had escaped. He
wasnt sure if he wanted to tuck them back in
or undo the clip and let her hair spill over
her bare shoulders.
It would have to wait. They had arrived.
Rowan pulled Hannah into Cartier
Watch and Jewelry before she could even
think of protesting. As arranged, James the
manager of the shop, greeted them instantly.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, its nice to see you
again. This must be Miss Brown. I have
everything ready.
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He led them to an office in the back of


the shop for VIP shoppers. Hannah and
Rowan took a seat on the plush red velvet
love seat facing a glass table with an oval
make-up mirror. James settled in a chair on
the other side of the table. He pulled out a
flat black box from a drawer.
I apologize for not having this earlier
when you came in, but your special order
took more time than expected.
James gingerly extracted a white gold
bracelet with seven brilliant cut diamonds.
He delicately handed the bracelet to Rowan.
Hannah sat perfectly still. Rowan inspected
the delicate chain and the diamonds before
nodding his head appreciatively. James took
this as his cue to leave. He excused himself,
leaving Hannah and Rowan alone.
Rowan secured the bracelet around Han-
nahs wrist. It looked delicate against her
ivory skin.
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Rowan, this is too much. I cant accept


this.
He ignored her protests.
Dont you like it?
Of course, I do. Its the nicest gift any-
one has ever gotten me.
Do you not like the style?
No, its beautiful. I would have picked it
myself.
Then enjoy it.
Before she could protest further he si-
lenced her with a slow kiss that only left him
wanting more.

***

Two hours and a bottle of Dom Perignon


later Rowan and Hannah took the elevator to
the Penthouse Suite on the top floor. The
Suite decorated in deep golds and reds ex-
uded taste and opulence. But what really
made the suite spectacular was the view of
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The Strip below. Rowan had the sensation of


being in a snow globe. He led Hannah to the
formal living room and instructed her to
make herself comfortable. He trailed his fin-
gertips along her back.
Would you like something from the wet
bar? I must admit I love little bottles of
alcohol.
No answer.
He turned back to find Hannah staring
off into space. She clasped her hands in her
lap and absently fingered her new diamond
bracelet.
Is everything okay? He asked.
She glanced up. Tears had welled up in
her eyes. The drink forgotten, he rushed to
her and took a seat next to her on the couch.
Hannah, talk to me.
She brushed an escaped tear from her
face.
You must think Im ridiculous. I think it
must be the alcohol. Im happy, thats all.
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He laughed and shook his head, relieved


that it wasnt him. Even though he had said
he would get her another suite, he also knew
that it was the last thing he wanted to do.
The evening had been perfect.
Are you sure thats it? Nothings
wrong?
She reached up and loosened the clip se-
curing her hair. She shook her long red locks
free. They framed her face, highlighting her
moist eyes.
Positive. Its been a long time since Ive
been with anyone. Thats all.
Rowan reached up to cup the back of her
head, gliding his fingers through her hair
and drew her closer to him. He kissed the tip
of her nose. Her chin. The sides of her eyes.
The nape of her neck. She arched closer to
him but he held her back. He wanted her to
want him. The kind of want that burned
slowly, overcoming all of ones senses in the
end.
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Is that okay? He asked, already sure it


was.
She purred.
Can you make that sound again?
He finally tasted her full lips. He tried to
start slow to revel in the pleasure but he had
to have more of her. He pressed her back
against the couch, feeling his body covering
hers.
She pulled his shirt out of the waistband
of his pants. He breathed deeply when she
touched his skin.
Rowan unzipped the back of her dress
and deftly unsnapped her bra. He cupped
her breast. She wrapped her hand over his
erection and he thought he would burst.
He made himself stop. He wanted her
naked, in the bedroom where he could fully
enjoy her. He untangled their limbs and
pulled her up.
Lets go into the bedroom.
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She finished unzipping her dress and let


it fall to the floor. She slid by him wearing
nothing but her panties and slinked a few
paces ahead of him before turning back to
look at him. His eyes took her in, her slim
curves, perky breasts, she was a work of art.
Follow me, I have to put on my stilettos
first.
She didnt have to ask twice. He followed
her svelte frame to the bedroom and closed
the door.
Chapter Eleven
Hannah

Hannah turned as the door closed. She


wasnt sure who grabbed who first but the
stilettos were forgotten. They became a
tangled mess of hot limbs on the bed. He
parted her lips with his tongue and found
hers. This time the kiss was a passionate ex-
ploration of desire. There was no going back.
She found herself on top of him. She dug
at his waistband until the rest of his shirt was
freed. She skimmed her hands over his
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abdomen and chest. His torso was chiseled


and tan.
I can see that good genes and hours at
the gym has paid off for you.
Thanks for noticing. He smiled. I
could say the same about you little lady.
His hands cupped and kneaded her
backside. But she got distracted by his well-
defined pecs. She began to kiss them, enjoy-
ing the light hair that tickled her face. One
thing was for certain she couldnt get
enough of him.
Rowan grabbed her shoulders and
pushed her back to sit up. She moaned in
protest. Inches away was already too far.
I want to get a good look at you, he
said. His eyes looked heavy with desire.
Well dont you have a body made for sin?
Her self-consciousness about her own body
melted away, the result of the booze and the
compliment.
She arched her back and smiled.
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Are you sure you dont want to dim the


lights a little or turn them off?
Now wheres the fun in that? Youre
beautiful. I could look at you forever.
Forever? Thats a long time. Did he real-
ize what hed just said?
He trailed his fingertips down her quiv-
ering stomach to hook one in the edge of her
silk panties.
I think its time those come off.
Yours first.
She slid off and stood at the foot of the
bed. It was his turn to moan in protest.
Hannah took off his shoes, then slid her
hands up his muscular legs. She undid his
belt buckle and carefully pulled off his belt.
Slowly she unzipped his pants. In seconds he
was naked before her. He reached for her.
Now, its my turn. I want to take a look
at you. His eyes scanned her from head to
toe.
Do I pass?
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I think youll do.


Then come here. He crooked his finger
at her.
Her skin was blazing hot as she removed
the last piece of her clothing. All she wanted
to do was straddle him and relieve the quak-
ing desire that rippled through her. But she
held back. It had been too long since shed
been with anyone and being with Rowan was
unlike anything shed ever experienced. She
wanted to revel in it.
She never had the chance. Rowan sprang
up and grabbed her. He pulled her back
down on the bed. For the first time his body
covered every inch of hers. The sensation
rocked her core. She had to have him. Some-
where in the recesses of her mind she
couldnt believe shed ever stipulated no sex.
Not being with Rowan was like having a
raging thirst and not drinking water. She
realized how much she needed to touch and
taste him in order to survive. Her hands and
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lips were everywhere at once. Tasting and


feasting. It was hard to tell who was breath-
ing harder.
With one swift move, he was inside of
her. After a deep thrust, he filled her com-
pletely. His finger moved down to stimulate
her clit. She clung to him and minutes later
climaxed faster and more intensely than she
ever had before. Seconds later he followed
her over the abyss and slumped down to lick
the sweat off of her neck.

***
Rowan

The next morning, Rowan woke up from


a deep slumber to find Hannah watching
him with heavy lidded eyes. Her sensual
frame draped half under the sheets and half
under him. He couldnt believe she hadnt
run away.
Did you sleep any?
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Maybe a little.
Was last night as good as you re-
membered? He usually didnt like it when
women asked him this question, but with
Hannah he needed to know the answer.
You mean that wasnt just a super-hot
dream?
No. That actually happened. At least I
hope it was real.
She snuggled deeper into his arms. He
rubbed her back, enjoying the silkiness of
her flushed skin. His stomach growled.
I think you might be hungry.
Maybe. But food can wait. Youll satisfy
my hunger for now.
He flipped her over and ravished her
neck. She giggled and pushed at his face. He
began to tickle her. She tried to squirm away.
He held both of her hands down. She was
trapped.
I give up. You win.
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Enjoying her underneath him stirred an


intense heat and he had to devour her again.
Their bodies were a perfect match. He per-
ceived that he would need more than a few
nights to get Hannah out of his system.
Are you ready for round two?
Her breathing started to become heavy.
He slid in between her legs. It took control
he didnt know he had to stop from taking
her right then.
How about we try the bathtub and the
jets?
The bathroom seems far away. But if
you insist.
With the strength of Zeus he pulled her
up and carried her into the bathroom. The
stilettos were by the tub, which was more
than big enough for two.
Hannah you never cease to amaze me.
She laughed a deep throaty laugh. This
wasnt planned. But like everything with you,
it seems to unravel the way its supposed to.
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He deposited her on the edge of the tub.


He selected one of the Prada stilettos to ad-
mire. He rubbed the smooth leather while
staring into her eyes.
He slipped one on. It fit like a glove. The
other followed suit and never before did he
want a woman more. He could barely control
himself. Reaching around her he turned on
the water while nibbling on her shoulder.
She stroked his free arm, then his back and
started to move lower. Then she moved her
hand in a pattern along his length that nearly
brought him to a frenzy, he couldnt wait any
longer. He had to have her again. But he
already knew it wouldnt be enough. She was
his drug of choice and like an addict he
couldnt wait any longer or he would burst.
They stepped into the warm bath water
and sat down facing each other. Rowan
wrapped Hannahs legs around his middle
and thrust into her. The stilettos dug into his
back but he didnt care, he wasnt able to
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stop. He meant to go slowly but her thrusts


met his and the rise wasnt like anything he
had experienced before. At the top of the
peak he ravished her lips, and when they
came together, he thought they might never
leave that bathroom.
After they toweled off, Hannah said, I
might satisfy your hunger, but I think I
might need to eat some actual food. Weve
been burning a lot of calories.
Okay, you deserve a snack break
between round two and three, Rowan said.
At the Babystacks Cafe, the aroma of
butter and bacon floated in the air. There
was a dull roar that filled the room, a packed
restaurant full of conversations. Rowan and
Hannah each ordered a stack of red velvet
pancakes and with a side of Portuguese saus-
age. Rowan was impressed to see that such a
petite thing could scarf down so many pan-
cakes. It was refreshing. He was used to be-
ing with women who picked at salads. While
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the food was delicious, he was already think-


ing about having Hannah for dessert. There
was something about her that made him in-
satiable. Though tempted to lick the cream
cheese frosting off her lips, he waited. It was
a family restaurant after all.
After breakfast they walked hand in
hand through the casino on the ground floor
of their hotel. Mind if we play for a few
minutes? Hannah asked.
Sure. You wanna play the tables or the
machines?
Machines.
The stench of booze and cigarette smoke
permeated the casino. Rowan hoped Hannah
would lose interest in the slots quickly so
they could fit in a little more fun before
check out time. They sat down on vinyl seats
in front of a Wheel of Fortune machine.
Rowan handed Hannah his debit card.
Knock yourself out.
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Thanks. But Ill use my card. Youve


paid for so much this trip and if my organiza-
tion gets your one hundred thousand dollars
thats a lot, so I can kick in five bucks.
If you insist.
Five minutes later Hannah had won ten
dollars. She jumped up and down like shed
won the lottery.
Hannah, how about Ill give you twenty
bucks to stop playing and come back up to
the room with me?
Youre not a fan of the slots?
Not really. Rowan never could under-
stand peoples fascination with gambling.
Let me just press the button one more
time.
Okay.
And then she lost it all. Ten bucks was all
she was wanting to waste. They sauntered
back to the suite and the sound of the card
key beeping to open their room was music to
his ears.
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Ready for round three?


Hannah smiled and pulled off her top,
pressed herself against him and purred. He
took that as a yes.
Chapter Twelve
Hannah

Hannah chewed on the straw of her


Jamba juice shed grabbed for breakfast on
her way to work. The office phones were
ringing off the hook, but she barely noticed
because she was so deep in flashbacks from
Vegas. That was a lot of sex for one weekend.
She prayed she wouldnt end up with a urin-
ary tract infection.
Madison, strolled in with her hipster
dark wash jeans and Pac-Man t-shirt.
Hows things?
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Pretty great.
Youre so glowing!
Am I? Her cheeks started to warm with
worry that everyone could see on her face
what shed done all weekend.
So Vegas was good?
Vegas was amazing.
Madison put a cup of coffee down on
Hannahs desk and sat on the corner of her
desk.
Details, girl.
We have so much work to do. Why dont
I tell you about it at lunch?
Its a date.
Madison left Hannahs office. With her
mind numb, Hannah scrolled through her
Facebook feed. And then she saw it. Staceys
baby must have been born over the weekend.
The tiny bundle with scrunched eyes seemed
to stare at Hannah through the screen. A
pang of grief punched her in the gut.
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Under thirty five other comments Han-


nah wrote, Congrats on your little bundle.
And then she crossed her fingers that the in-
vitation to see Staceys new baby would nev-
er come.
To top things off it was 9:00 a.m. and
she hadnt heard from Rowan. Sure hed
dropped her off at her place at 10:00 p.m.
the night before but after what happened she
wanted to hear from him. There was a
chance he could still be sleeping. Im already
turning into a crazy, obsessive girlfriend.
This is why casual sex is bad for me. Didnt I
read somewhere that women get an oxyto-
cin rush during sex and it makes them feel
in love with whoever theyre doing it with?
Too bad controlling myself around that man
was impossible.
Around noon Madison came by Han-
nahs office and they walked down the street
to the diner for lunch.
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Do you want me to start with the gon-


dola rides, the penthouse suite or
How about the rocks around your
wrist? Madison asked.
A gift.
This guys a keeper, I can tell already.
How was the sex?
First off how do you know we
Oh please. That glow can only mean you
had sex or a two-hour run this morning.
I dont kiss and tell. Okay, I will say it
was the best Ive ever had.
Honey, get this guy to put a ring on it
and fast.
The thing is, he wants kids. And I cant
have kids so I dont know how it could work
out for us long term. Im just thinking of it as
a fun short term fling.
Now that was a bold face lie, but if she
kept saying it and thinking it maybe it would
morph into the truth.
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Maybe hell wiggle on the kids thing or


you could do IVF, get a surrogate or adopt or
something. Theres lots of options these
days.
Im getting ahead of myself anyway. We
havent known each other very long. Im just
trying to enjoy myself.
It sounds like you did. You go, girl.
The diner door jangled and a cool rush of
air whooshed in. Madisons face went pale.
She whispered to Hannah. Look what the
cat dragged in.
Her heart began to race. She tried to
breathe in deeply but it seemed no air would
come. It was Chris. And hed seen her turn
her head. She wished she had the power to
beam herself up to another location far, far
away.
Hi Hannah, Chris said.
Hi, Hannah said.
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Behind him stood an Asian woman who


couldnt have been more than twenty five.
Are you going to introduce us? she asked.
This is Hannah, my ex-wife. This is my
new wife, Minako.
Hannahs mouth hung agape. As the wo-
man moved out from behind Chris, a baby
bulge was evident. Something the size of a
basketball was pushing up from under
Minakos tight white shirt.
Oh. Hi, said Minako.
Hi.
You look great Hannah, Chris said.
She had the urge to punch him in the gut
as hard as she could.
Thanks.
Take care.
Nice to meet you, Hannah said through
clenched teeth. Hey wait.
Chris turned back to face Hannah. I
thought you didnt want kids.
Hannah, please dont cause a scene.
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We were just leaving, Hannah retorted


and she ran out of the diner greeted by the
cold wind. Tears started to emerge but she
tried to hold them in. Then she realized that
she ran out in such a hurry that she hadnt
paid the check. She looked in the window
and saw that Madison had stayed behind and
was putting cash on their table.
When Madison came outside, she
wrapped her arms around Hannah. She
slumped into the hug like a sad, cold noodle.
Back at the office, the rest of the work
day had been a lost cause. At 5:00 p.m. Han-
nah left early and went to peek in on an Art
Matters workshop down the street. It always
cheered her up. She chatted with the kids
and admired their paintings.
One of the children had painted a picture
of a baby in a wicker basket.
Im gonna have a baby sister soon. So I
painted this picture for my mama, the boy
said.
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Thats really nice, Hannah said. Once


again, she had to fight back tears. It had been
an emotional day.
Walking back to her car after the work-
shop, Hannah longed to be in Rowans arms.
She needed comfort. But after the day shed
had, she wondered if it was even fair to keep
seeing him. If he wanted a family, maybe she
should set him free to find a woman who
could provide that. Why wait for things to go
up in flames the way they had with Chris?
Hannah jumped in her car and checked
her phone again. Still no word from Rowan.
She looked down at the bracelet. After turn-
ing it around a few times, she pulled it off
and slipped it into her purse. Maybe the fun
was done.

***

In the early morning, Hannah opened


her door so she could grab the newspaper,
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she liked to clip the coupons in it and organ-


ize them for her next trip to the grocery
store. She turned the knob to her front door
and there she was.
Surprise, Rita said as Hannah opened
the door.
This is a surprise. Wheres Dad?
He had a work trip and I figured, why
sit at home twiddling my thumbs when I
could fly out and see you?
Come on in? How long were you plan-
ning to stay?
Rita handed her unwieldy floral suitcase
to Hannah. They walked into the warm living
room. Pablo spotted Rita and ran in the oth-
er direction.
Looking to get rid of me already are
you?
No. I was just wondering.
It would be hard to see Rowan with her
mom in town. Hannah hoped her internal
grimace wouldnt show on the outside. But
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perhaps it was better considering she


couldnt give him a brood of children.
Oh. I guess I should have checked with
you first. I fly home Sunday.
Yes you should have mom. Most people
dont show up unannounced under the as-
sumption that a person has no plans, no life.
Hannah hugged her mom. Its good to
see you.
Its good to see you too. So what should
we do tonight?
They both plunked down on Hannahs
squashy beige couch. It seemed to swallow
them up.
I had a long week at work. Do you mind
if we stay in, order junk food, and binge
watch Netflix?
Rita put her hand on Hannahs knee.
Oh, honey live a little.
Here we go.
Hannah was well aware that her mother
believed that she should be out on the town
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trying to snare a man. Rita was never a fan of


Chris from the start. In that way, her mother
did know best.
Im just beat. But if it makes you feel
any better I am kind of seeing someone. She
failed to mention that there was a time limit.
She wasnt sure her mother needed to know
that.
Rita popped up and walked into the nar-
row kitchen, Hannah followed. She pulled
down to two cups. Hannah filled her electric
kettle. Rita pulled peppermint tea bags out of
the cupboard.
This is great news. Tell me all about
him.
After the hot water was poured over the
tea, Rita put the cups on saucers. They car-
ried their tea to the kitchen table that was
situated in front of a big bay window. Cars
swishing by in the rain, headlights penetrat-
ing the night, made a background hum Han-
nah had become accustomed to.
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Its a new thing. So dont get your hopes


up.
Hannah wondered if she was saying this
more for herself. She was uncomfortable
with the speed of her developing feelings for
Rowan. When shed heard other women tell
of their whirlwind romances, she thought it
was bunk. That stuff only happened in the
movies, shed reasoned. Also, another more
pragmatic voice reminded her: you cant give
him children.
You know I just want you to be happy,
Rita reminded her.
I am happy.
Good. Lets make French toast and ba-
con then.

***

The next morning, as the sun peeked


through Hannahs blinds, she grabbed her
cell-phone from the charger on her bedside
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table. She called the office and let them know


shed be in an hour late. Rita had suggested
they go out for breakfast before Hannah
went to work. After working so many extra
weekend hours over the past few months,
she figured shed earned one late morning.
After getting ready for the day, Hannah
walked into the kitchen to get a glass of wa-
ter but saw no sign of her mom. She went to
knock on the door to the guest bedroom.
Mom, are you awake? Ready to go grab
breakfast?
No answer.
Hannah turned the door knob and
peeked inside. All she saw was a pile of
rumpled sheets. She figured her mom had
gone out for a walk. With her fingertips, she
messaged her temples trying to force away
the anxiety. At this rate, she wouldnt make it
into the office until lunch time.
Beep. Phone still in hand, she picked it
up and saw the text icon. She opened it.
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Rowan: Good morning sexy:)


Just as Hannah was about to reply, her
mom walked through the front door.
Mom, where have you been?
Just took a little stroll while you were in
the shower.
I have to get to the office soon. Lets just
grab some bagels from the place down the
street from here.
Oh. I was looking forward to a nice
omelet.
Why dont I just drop you off at the
diner by my work and when you are done,
you can take my car and go exploring while
Im at work.
Thats fine, I guess.
Rita looked down at her pink Keds as if
she was waiting for Hannah to change her
mind.
Hannah was not taking the bait. She
pulled open her cupboard and grabbed a
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peanut butter granola bar and threw it in her


purse.
Lets head out then.
Once Hannah had plunked down in her
office chair, she noticed six message slips for
calls shed missed. She always told people
that when you work for a non-profit, you
could work 24/7 and still have more work to
do.
Her cell-phone beeped again.
Rowan: Everything okay? When are
you free?
Hannah found it endearing that he sent
another text, maybe he had a sixth sense that
something was up. She typed a quick note
back to him.
Hannah: My mom showed up on my
doorstep yesterday, so shell be with me until
Sunday. How are you doing?
Rowan: Im hanging in there. Question.
Tomorrow night is my nieces recital. I
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originally thought it was next week. Want to


bring your mom and meet us there?
Wow, it seems really early to have our
families meet.
Hannah: Thanks for the invite. Ill ask
my mom tonight and let you know.
Rowan: Dont worry, if you cant make
it. I will come up with an alternative third
condition so you can earn your funding:)
Had this guy read Fifty Shades of Grey?
Was this taking a dominate-submissive turn
or was he just flirting? She wasnt sure it
mattered, shed go with it. His spell had been
cast.
Hannah: Im sure you will:)
Chapter Thirteen
Rowan

At the office, Rowan was day-dreaming


about Hannah wrapped in his arms and
tucked in his California King. He hoped to
take things to the next level after the perfect
weekend in Vegas. He pressed down the level
on the steaming French press that Laura had
left on his desk.
An unexpected vision of curling up with
Hannah and a couple of rug-rats while
watching TV caught him by surprise. But it
brought a smile to his face. Despite having
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recently met her, his gut had already told


him she was the one. He hoped he wasnt
pushing too hard. Hed made a game of her
spending time with him in exchange for
money for Art Matters. But now he
wondered if that was the right thing to do.
He was anxious to see if shed still be inter-
ested if the money werent a factor.

***
Rowan and Fiona arrived at the dance
studio a few minutes before seven. Rowan
could feel perspiration gathering on the back
of his neck. The meeting of the moms was
moments away. They grabbed seats near the
back and Rowan craned his neck looking for
Hannah and her mother.
Rowan checked his phone and clicked on
the text icon.
Hannah: Must have written down the
wrong address. Were standing in front of a
deli.
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Rowan: Its right across the street.


A few minutes passed seven, Hannah
and Rita walked through the studio door.
The lights had just dimmed and the little
ballerinas had begun their performance as
Hannah and Rita sat down. Rowan noticed
the frazzled look on Hannahs face as she
mouthed Sorry.
Rowan kissed Hannah on the cheek and
waved to Rita. She resembled an older ver-
sion of Hannah, it was uncanny.
An hour of pink tutu clad girls bouncing
around had come to an end and Rowan was
relieved. Sitting next to Hannah and not be-
ing able to touch her was torment. It had
been too long since Vegas.
When his niece walked over, Rowan gave
her a pick up hug and a kiss on the cheek.
I enjoyed your performance, Hannah
said.
Thank you. You like my costume?
Katie asked.
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Its beautiful, Hannah said.


Monica and Nick walked over and Row-
an introduced them to Hannah.
Nice to meet you, His brother and his
wife said in unison. They gave Hannah huge
smiles.
Nice to meet you. Katies a talented
little ballerina, Hannah said.
Katies smile beamed from the
compliment.
Im Fiona, Rowans mom she said ex-
tending her hand to Hannah and then to
Rita.
Ive heard good things about you, said
Hannah.
Thats nice to hear. Ive been hearing
similar things about you. Im glad that Row-
ans finally taking his grandfathers advice
seriously.
Rowans face darkened and he crossed
his arms.
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More like a mandate. I really dont un-


derstand why this is so important to him.
What is? Hannah asked. Sorry, Im
being forward. Forget I asked.
Dont worry dear, its nothing. Family
business.
Fiona gathered her coat and jacket. She
gave Rowan a kiss on the cheek. He pulled
away slightly. His knew his mother meant
well, in her own way, but he really didnt
want to talk about this now.
It was nice to meet you all. Mom and I
are going to head home, I have an early
morning tomorrow, Hannah said.
He was disappointed that they wouldnt
have any alone time until the weekend.
Everyone gave a wave and she headed to-
ward the door.
Can I walk you to your car?
Sure.
What a gentleman, Rita said. Can we
stop at the ladys room first?
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Rita went inside the bathroom and Row-


an and Hannah waited outside. It was the
first time hed been alone with her the whole
evening.
He touched her nose with his forefinger
playfully.
Hey there.
Hey.
They gazed at each other and smiled. He
wanted to take her in his arms and soak up
her essence but it would have to wait.
What was your mother talking about
earlier?
Its nothing. My mother can be con-
trolling. You get used to it.
It didnt seem like nothing.
She was reminding me that in order for
me to get my inheritance from my grandfath-
er I would need to settle down and have a
family.
What? Hannah exclaimed. Rowan was
surprised by her outraged tone. It was
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ridiculous but Hannahs reaction bordered


on hysteria.
My grandfather is old school. He was
married for fifty-five years. He claims the
best thing he ever did was ask Helen, my
grandmother to marry him. They had five
children. My mother is the oldest and the
closest to Edward, my grandfather. There
has always been this expectation that we
would have kids, but now hes become afraid
that Ive become a permanent bachelor.
He doesnt understand that people are
waiting to have kids nowadays. And five
seems like a lot. But he is right about two
things.
What is that?
I want to marry the love of my life.
Hannahs faced glowed. He wasnt sure if
it was what he said or the heat in the room.
The second?
To have two kids. One that looks just
like me and the other just like their mother.
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Her face went white. Her hands began to


shake. He grabbed her shoulders to help
steady her.
Are you okay? Are you that shocked by
my confession? I know Im supposed to be a
womanizing Don Juan, but I really dont
want to sleep with every woman I meet.
As soon as he said sleep with, he regret-
ted it. Her face turned a shade of white not
on the color chart.
Rita, who usually had impeccable timing,
came out of the bathroom. She took one
glance at Hannah and became still.
Is everything alright?
Hannah patted the top of her chest and
cleared her throat. Everythings fine. I think
I just need some fresh air.
Lets go outside, Rowan suggested. He
wished Rita would disappear so that he could
figure out what was wrong. He hated seeing
her like this.
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Rowan opened up his giant golf umbrella


and handed it to Hannah so that she and her
mom could stay dry in the downpour.
When they arrived at the door of Han-
nahs Audi, Hannah said, Thanks for the
walk. It was nice to meet your mom and
brother and his wife. They all seemed nice.
Except it didnt sound like she meant it at all.
Hopefully youll all get to know each
other better over time.
Rowan couldnt believe hed said that. It
was his hope, he wanted more than a fling
with Hannah.
It was nice to meet you Mrs. Brown. I
can see where your daughter gets her good
looks.
It was nice to meet you too, Rita said.
Hannah handed back the umbrella and
Rowan kissed her on the lips. It was just a
peck, but the warmth of her soft lips pressed
against his, made him long for more. This
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woman had tied him up in knots. He only


wished he knew what was wrong.
Chapter Fourteen
Hannah

Hannah was turning the key in the lock


of her front door while being pelted by rain.
Why could she never remember to carry an
umbrella with her?
Rowan was sure charming and hand-
some, well done, Rita said.
He is.
So youre a bit of a cougar, big deal!
Hes only five years younger.
Coats were removed and thrown on the
coat rack. Hannah just wanted to go to bed.
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Rita collapsed into the couch and turned on


20/20. It looked like it was some grisly crime
story about a woman pushing her husband
out of a four story building.
Mom, can we please watch something
else. Its hard to sleep after watching those
true crime shows, dont you think?
Doesnt bother me. Turn it off if you
want.
Hannah grabbed the remote and clicked
off the TV. Her table lamps cast a golden
glow on the scene and Hannah had to admit,
it was nice to get a chance to spend time one-
on-one with her mom. Sure they could drive
each other crazy. But they didnt see each
other often, so shed try to make the most of
it.
Im glad you liked Rowan, it was nice
that you got to meet him and his mom.
She seemed a little cold.
A little.
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Hannah laid down on the couch and put


her feet on her moms lap.
Does this guy want a family?
Its funny you should ask. Thats what
we were talking about when you were using
the bathroom. His grandfather is very sick
and has stipulated in his will that Rowan will
not get his inheritance until he has a family.
That sounds like a silly stipulation.
It does. Thats why Im not sure if we
should keep seeing each other.
Did you tell him about what you went
through with Chris?
Rita rubbed Hannahs feet.
Not exactly.
I see. But there are lots of ways to have
a family you know?
I know. But I dont want someone to re-
sent me because they have a dream that cant
be fulfilled because of me. I cant help that
Im broken.
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Sweetie. Youre not broken. The doctors


said your infertility was one of those cases
they couldnt pin down. Maybe it was Chris
who was the problem. Maybe with the right
guy
It wasnt Chris. I ran into him at a diner
the other day, and he was with his new preg-
nant wife.
Oh sweetie, Im so sorry.
So I dont want to get my hopes up. And
Im getting older, at thirty five Id already be
labeled a higher risk pregnancy. Advanced
maternal age.
Negative Nelly. Rita squeezed Han-
nahs feet tight.
Im just afraid of being hurt again. I
dont know if Ill ever fully trust a man
again.
Thats understandable. When I met
your father I hadnt been with anyone else so
I didnt know what to compare it to. But over
the years our marriage has been tested.
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There are always highs and lows. If you can


get through the lows together, no matter
what they are, thats the test of a good
partnership.
The other thing is, I only started dating
him because we made an agreement that if
I dated him for a month hed give me fund-
ing for Art Matters.
Hannah Elizabeth Brown!
Hes good looking, I figured Id have
some fun, get my check and move on with
my life. I never planned on falling in love.
Youre in love with him? Are you sure
its not just lust?
Could be.
If you dont see a future with him be-
cause he wants kids and you are afraid you
cant give him that, maybe its better to end
things sooner rather than later. You could
get online and meet a guy who is happy not
to have children or to adopt. There are plenty
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of fish in the sea. If you let this one go, youll


catch another, my beautiful girl.
I have a lot to think about.
Youll do the right thing, just mull it
over a little and follow your gut.
What if my gut says I want to keep see-
ing him because hes a hard habit to break?
No one can decide for you, but there is
nothing wrong with trying to protect your
heart.
I love you.
I love you too.
***

Rita wanted to do a walking tour of the


city. Hannah dropped her off with the tour
group on her way to work in the morning.
When she got to her desk there was a stack of
folders with a Post-It written in Madisons
handwriting. It said: Im doing payroll and
coming up short. What are we going to do?
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On the way out the door Hannah said to


Madison, I have a few donor checks that
just arrived. Im going to deposit them and
that should cover the payroll.
Hannah raced down the street to the
bank. She waited in line for thirty minutes
and then deposited the checks in the Art
Matters account. Luckily payroll was pro-
cessed one week before employees received
checks. Hopefully that would be enough time
for the checks to clear and cover the whole
payroll.
Outside the bank, she pulled her cell
phone out and called Rowan. His phone
went to voicemail so she just left him a
checking in message.
Her phone rang right after she left the
message. Maybe it was Rowan.
Hello.
Hey girl. Its Stacey. When are you
gonna come see my baby? Its getting lonely,
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the casserole drop-offs have died down. I


miss you.
This was a call shed been dreading.
Shed been ambushed by one of the baby
brigade.
Id love to but my mom is in town
Bring her too.
Okay. Ill talk to her about it.
You could come over tomorrow after
work for dinner. We could order Chinese or
something.
Sounds good. Ill text you to confirm
tonight.
Great. See you then!
Chapter Fifteen
Rowan

The orange sun had dipped down low in


the sky and was peeking through a few
clouds. At the end of the work day, it was
hard to focus on the beauty of the sunset,
though it would have been nice to savor with
Hannah by his side. Rowan was still turning
the bad news about his inheritance around in
his head. He didnt want to be bullied into
marrying and having a baby. He didnt want
to be rushed either. His love for Edward and
grief over knowing he was likely in his final
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days was being overshadowed by the news of


his demands. Leave it to Irish Catholics to
dole out money based on the stipulation of
promised breeding.
His salary from running the foundation
was enough to live like the average working
person in San Francisco. He could get by
without it. Rowan took the elevator down to
the ground floor and hopped in the town car.
The evening ahead would help him take his
mind off of things.
Rowan scanned the buzzing crowd for
Jezebel. He was attending her soft opening
at the SF MOMA and he wanted to give her a
quick congratulations before making an exit.
The last few days had been a whirlwind and
he wasnt sure how much energy he had left.
Thankfully he found the bar and ordered a
double gin and tonic. If he had to hang
around longer than necessary, he might as
well enjoy it with a cocktail. It would take the
edge off at least.
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He wished for the tenth time that Han-


nah was here with him. They kept playing
phone tag and her last message said that she
had to see her girlfriends new baby. It was
like all anyone could talk about lately, ba-
bies! Hannah still hadnt shared why she was
upset the night of the recital. Not seeing her
to get to the bottom of it had put a knot in
his gut. He would give anything to be back to
Vegas again. To close the bedroom door and
sink in.
We have to stop running into each other
like this.
Olivia slid next to him and smiled coyly.
She wore a black pantsuit and black Prada
heels. Her acrylic nails were long, painted
red, and filed to form spiky mountains. He
always wondered why some women found
these kind of nails attractive. When they
were together she hadnt worn her nails like
that or maybe she had and he had packed
this information away somewhere.
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Im beginning to think youre my


stalker.
She didnt take the bait. In fact, melan-
choly hung on her face like a worn out sweat-
er. She had big circles under her eyes and
wasnt wearing much makeup.
Well, Im not drunk and ruining your
evening, thats for sure.
He had tried to forget about her showing
up at his apartment and chasing Hannah
away. It was only a week or so ago, but
everything now seemed different. He was
different. Even Olivia seemed different.
He thought he might regret it, but he had
to ask.
Is everything okay?
Not really. But I suppose this news
would make you happy.
Six months ago. Definitely. Last week.
Probably. Now. Not really. Lifes too short, or
so the saying goes. He finished his drink.
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I lost my job today. She nodded her


head sadly.
The news surprised him. Olivia was a top
marketing executive at iConnection known
for having celebrity clients and throwing
huge promotional parties. She had helped
grow the company into a marketing power-
house. No wonder she looked lost. He almost
felt sorry for her.
What happened? What did you do?
You always did blame everything on
me. She flared up for a second then released
her shoulders in defeat. But in this case
youre right. It was me. I actually didnt come
over to talk about that. Im tired of talking
about it. When I saw you here, I came over to
say Im sorry. You were a great guy, and I
took advantage of it. Or maybe it scared me.
I dont know. Either way I know that it really
is over for you. Take care. She leaned in to
give him what he guessed was a farewell kiss.
He pulled away from her. He didnt want her
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to get the wrong idea. He considered himself


a taken man. Before he could say anything
she disappeared into the crowd.
Watching her walk away reminded him
of the day he realized their relationship was
over. After he found out she had cheated on
him, he knew he could never forgive her. The
betrayal sent shards of pain through his
heart. He wasnt sure hed ever be open to
love again. Hannah was the first woman
whod began to heal his injury.
Rowan, you made it. Jezebel pounced
on him with a huge grin.
There you are. You know these open-
ings make my toes cross.
Did you see it? What do you think? Her
face lit with joy. Jezebel could talk about her
art for days. Hed known her long enough to
understand that she spent months worrying
that no one would like her next show and
then once the show opened she became a
butterfly.
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Amazing. You had half the room in


tears.
I know. That was my master plan.
She glanced around. Wheres that
knockout Hannah? Dont tell me you did
something.
He laughed. I basically said the same
thing to Olivia a few minutes ago.
Jezebels eyes squinted and her face
turned sour.
You better not be getting back together
with her.
Rowan shook his head distastefully. Oh
no. Our meeting was accidental. She came to
apologize to me.
Did she join cheaters anonymous and
needed to make amends?
He laughed. Jezebel always made him
laugh.
I didnt ask. But she lost her job. She
was a broken woman.
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Karma, is what I say. Plain and simple.


Seriously though, was she sincere?
He considered this for a few seconds.
Yes, she actually was. Or maybe I really
dont care anymore.
Jezebel nodded her head slowly. I know
why. Youve got the bug.
He knew she wasnt talking about a cold.
Maybe I do.
I know you Rowan Fitzpatrick. Youve
got it bad. She raised her eyebrows up and
down. Listen, I have to go. Thanks for com-
ing. Youre the only one here I can trust to
give me their honest opinion. So tell me
again, how was it?
Amazing!
I love you for saying that. Now, remem-
ber to invite me to the wedding. She
squeezed his hand.
Will do. She hadnt heard him. She was
already engaged in another conversation.
She was, after all, the star of the evening.
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It was time for him to go home. As he


was leaving he noticed Olivia across the
room. She glanced up and their eyes met. He
lingered for a brief moment, long enough to
say goodbye.
Chapter Sixteen
Hannah

Rita and Hannah decided to walk to Sta-


ceys place. The night air was crisp and the
streetlights illuminated the sidewalks, along
with the crumpled men holding signs and tin
cans.
Hannah paused when she heard the dull
roar and bright lights shining through the
lobby windows of the MOMA. Then she
flashed back to the amazing night shed
spent with Rowan there. She couldnt help
herself. She pressed her face against the
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window, peering in to see if Rowan was


there. But what she saw made her sick to her
stomach.
Rowan was there alright. And sidled up
next to him at the bar was Olivia. And then
that vixen moved in for a kiss. Hannah
pulled her face from the glass, shed seen
enough. Now she was glad shed begun to
distance herself. When Rowan called the last
few times she had let him go to voicemail or
hurried off the phone. She had said she
wouldnt have much free time until her mom
left town, which was true. This was her last
night with her mother before she flew back
to New Orleans. But she just didnt want to
get hurt and figured if she slowly faded away
hed move on to someone he could have a
family and a future with.
What is it, Hannah, Rita asked.
Hannahs eyes were filmed with poten-
tial tears.
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I just saw Rowan sitting in there next to


Olivia.
Whos Olivia?
His ex!
Were they kissing or something?
She kissed him.
Did he kiss her back? Maybe she just
showed up at the same art opening.
I dont know, I couldnt keep watching,
but they looked close.
Why dont you go in there and ask him
whats up?
No. We have to get to Staceys before
the baby goes down.
Rita shook her head.
I just dont understand why you cant let
yourself be happy.
Youre the one that said I should protect
my heart. And Rowans the one making that
happiness for me impossible now.
I did say that you might need to break
things off to protect yourself, but I can see
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how you feel about him. Think things over,


communicate. Dont be too rash.
Ok, Hannah said, happy to end the
conversation.
Hannah intuited what she said wasnt
making sense. She hadnt exactly caught him
doing anything. What she glimpsed just
made it easier to justify her distancing her-
self. Now she could blame him for the dis-
tance. But maybe her mom was right. Some-
times she did seem to sabotage her own hap-
piness. Shed seen the writing on the wall
with Chris for two years before things finally
ended. In her gut she knew it wouldnt last,
but she couldnt give up. She wouldnt. Now
she wondered why she was giving up so eas-
ily on Rowan.
It was a relief to get to Staceys house.
The aroma of dirty diapers and vanilla scen-
ted candles was a shock to the senses. But
Stacey poured Hannah and Rita a cup of
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chamomile and it helped calm her jangled


nerves.
Staceys baby Charlotte was plunked into
Hannahs arms without warning. At Staceys
insistence, Hannah made sure to put her
palm behind Charlottes head to support it.
Feeling less than maternal, Hannah couldnt
help but notice that it was like holding a
warm sack of potatoes that smelled like baby
powder. The babys red, pinched expression
morphed into wails seconds after she was
put in Hannahs arms. It was official. Babies
hated her, she wasnt maternal, she wasnt
fertile and Rowan was probably hitting the
town with his ex-girlfriend.
Its okay. Just get up and walk around
with her. She likes to keep moving, this one,
Stacey said.
Hannah complied despite her secret
wish that Stacey would just take the baby
back. Hannah tried to put on a good show by
doing a little baby talk and wandering back
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and forth from the kitchen to the living


room.
Craning down to Charlottes tiny ear,
Hannah whispered, Your mommys lucky to
have you.
Charlotte got quiet. Her eyes, unblinking
honed in on Hannah as if she was sending
her some sort of subliminal message.
See. She likes you, Stacey said.
Staceys husband Daniel and other kiddo
Jordan were upstairs completing their bed-
time ritual. A pang of envy rippled through
her. Stacey had hit the husband jackpot too.
Things went so perfectly well for her. It
wasnt fair to be angry or jealous but she
couldnt help it.
Mom, you want to hold her? Hannah
asked Rita.
Yes. She looks precious.
As Rita strolled off to the kitchen with
Charlotte, Hannah leaned in, Hows it go-
ing? Are you getting any sleep?
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A few hours here and there. But I know


this lack of sleep phase doesnt last forever so
Im just trying to muddle through. Its so
great to see you. Ive missed you, Stacey
said.
Ive missed you too. Im sorry I havent
been a good friend lately.
I understand. Youve been through a
lot.
Hannah swallowed hard. If she wanted
this friendship to work, she was going to
have be honest. Rowan wasnt the only one
shed pushed away.
The truth is, Ive been jealous of how
easy it was for you to get pregnant and then
you did it again without hormone shots and
youve got this great husband to top it off.
You have the life I wanted. Its a life that
feels so out of reach that being around you
can be painful.
Stacey leaned in and wrapped her arms
around Hannah and squeezed her tight.
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That makes me sad to hear that. But


good things are coming for you soon, I prom-
ise. And Im sorry if you have the impression
that things are perfect here. Im a hot mess
and my husband seems sweet now but Ive
had to fight him to get the help I need with
the kids. Im so used to this mom-petition
that I try to make it seem like things are easy
for me, especially in front of other mothers.
Its all a facade.
Well, thats nice of you to say. But I do
want you to be happy. Although I wouldnt
mind if you showed me some of these warty
parts of your life sometimes.
How about the fact that I couldnt make
enough breast milk so I started using for-
mula but when Im out I tell the moms its
milk that I pumped. And I had horrible post-
partum depression when I had Jordan.
I am feeling better now, thanks, Han-
nah said with a smile. Im going to try and
be a better friend to you. If you ever need a
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few hours of free babysitting so you can take


a nap or something, give me a call.
Really? Dont offer if you dont mean it,
because that sounds incredible.
I mean it. Its the least I can do to make
up for being such a stinker.
By the way, how are things going with
your billionaire? I should be the jealous one.
Hes hot and rich.
Things were going well but tonight on
the walk over here, I saw him at the MOMA
with his ex. She leaned in for a kiss.
Im sorry. That sucks. But you could be
misinterpreting what happened. Did he kiss
her back?
I dont know. I turned away after Olivia
leaned in.
Dont let what very well may have been
nothing keep you from a happy life with a
billionaire!
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The other thing is, he really wants kids.


And he needs to have children to get his in-
heritance. Doesnt seem fair, does it?
You cant predict the future Hannah.
You deserve some joy. Maybe he doesnt
want the pile of money. Maybe he wants you
instead. At least enjoy the sex because once
youre married it can become a little less hot
and a lot less frequent.
Wow. You make marriage sound amaz-
ing! Hannah smiled.
Dont give up on this guy. I have a good
feeling about him.
Okay, Hannah said. She wasnt sure if
she meant it or was just placating her friend.
But it did feel good to say that she wouldnt
give up.
Chapter Seventeen
Rowan

After dinner Hannah and Rowan strolled


hand in hand along bustling Chestnut Street
on a Friday night. Rowan suggested hitting
up Cozmos for dessert but Hannah said she
wasnt feeling well. Throughout dinner she
seemed distracted. It didnt help that their
table was right next to a family. At one point
Rowan discovered the toddler hiding by his
feet from his frantic mother. He spied the
boys bare feet sticking out from under the
table. At some point hed lost his shoes and
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socks. His mother apologized profusely and


tried to get her son out from under the table,
but every time she tried to grab him he
would laugh hysterically. Rowan couldnt
help but laugh at his antics. Hannah barely
smiled.
Forget dessert. How about we work off
dinner and walk along the Marina Green?
Right by the swim club. There are usually
seals out at night. Or better yet, we can make
out by moonlight.
Okay.
Okay, didnt seem like a glowing en-
dorsement. Something was definitely
wrong.
You dont sound too excited.
Im sorry. I dont think the meal agreed
with me.
We can go home then. I have seltzer wa-
ter with lime. That always helps me.
No, I think the walk will help. Im
already feeling better.
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They walked in silence for bit. The night


was peaceful away from the bar and restaur-
ant scene on Chestnut. During the day The
Promenade was filled with twenty-
somethings running or biking. At night the
walkway was almost empty except for the oc-
casional passerby. The Golden Gate Bridge
lit up the sky with streaks of orange light cas-
cading and hitting the water. In the distance
the glow of Alcatraz beckoned. Slowly they
walked along until they found an empty
bench and took a seat. The lapping of the wa-
ter and the occasional high-pitched bark of a
seal punctuated the silence.
Without warning Hannah kissed him
hungrily. He met her fierce passion with a
cascade of tongue and warm lips. He cupped
the back of her head, threading his fingers
through her hair. Her now familiar smell of
flowers and spice was an aphrodisiac. His
lips and hands werent the only part of his
body responding to her touch. He ached to
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show her how much his whole body wanted


her. And then just as suddenly she pushed
him away and stood up.
The quickness of the action left him dis-
oriented and confused.
Hannah, whats wrong? Youve been
acting weird all night.
She turned to stare at him with an ex-
pression of anger and resignation.
You never told me that you saw Olivia
last night?
It took him a moment to even under-
stand what shes was saying. The only time
he even thought of Olivia was when she was
standing right in front of him.
What are you talking about?
Dont play dumb, she said.
It then clicked that she must have seen
him at the MOMA. Was she following him?
Yeah, I ran into her last week at MOMA
and we talked briefly. He stood up to face
her.
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I saw her kiss you. If it was nothing,


how come you didnt mention it? She
crossed her arms.
This was a side of Hannah he had never
seen before. He wondered if he should tell
her that seeing Olivia had solidified what he
suspected all along he had never really
been in love with Olivia and being with Han-
nah had made that clear to him.
He tried to reach out to Hannah. She
only pushed him away. It was time to put up
his shield. He wouldnt let himself get hurt
again.
I didnt kiss her back. His hand grazed
her cheek. Olivia means nothing to me
now.
This didnt seem to appease her. In fact,
she became even angrier.
Now. She means nothing to you now.
Its that easy is it?
Despite his attempt to keep control of his
temper, shed unleashed it.
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I dont have to justify myself to you. If I


wanted to see Olivia I could. But I dont. She
just happened to be at the same art opening.
He realized his volume was increasing. Han-
nah backed away from him. He stopped. She
stared out at the water and then back at him.
Her face ashen and streaked with tears. He
had made her cry. His mother always told
him that when he became angry, he could
scare the skin off of a rattlesnake. It only
caused him regret.
It doesnt matter. Im not having a good
day. Could you please take me home?
He started to protest but something
stopped him. He didnt want to see her cry
and all he wanted to do was console her but
the questioning and her confusing behavior
stopped him. He was never good with these
kinds of situations. Plus, wasnt she the one
who started it in the first place? It occurred
to him that this kind of thinking might be a
little unfair but the fact that she had accused
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him of deception only pushed him further


away. He pulled out his cell phone and sent a
text to his driver.
Hell be here in five minutes, he said.
His voice sounded colder than he meant it to,
especially when all he really wanted was to
fold her up in his arms. Hannah only nod-
ded. She drew her coat tighter around her
waist and stared off into the blackness of the
bay. The light from Alcatraz mocked him.
The car ride to Hannahs condo, only one
neighborhood over on Nob Hill, seemed to
take an eternity. At times he was about to
apologize for upsetting her; at others he
wanted to kiss her until the fight became
laughable. Instead he acted like he was read-
ing emails on his phone.
Finally, the driver stopped at Hannahs
building. She lived at the top of a steep hill,
even by San Francisco standards. She turned
to him and swallowed; her bottom lip
trembled.
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Rowan, I dont think its a good idea if


we see each other anymore. Were too differ-
ent. Its better to end things now rather than
later.
He wanted to say many things, but the
only one that he managed had to do with
their agreement.
But we had a deal. One month of dating.
That doesnt end until next week.
I know. But this isnt working out for
me anymore.
He had a lump in his throat, making it
hard to swallow.
But what about the money?
Ill figure something out, I always do. I
shouldve never said yes in the first place. I
told you in the beginning that Im not inter-
ested in dating anyone. It was a mistake be-
fore it even started.
He couldnt believe she was breaking up
with him. It was as if she was running him
over with her car. The shock made him
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speechless. This was a thousand times worse


than when he caught Olivia cheating on him.
In a short time, Hannah had crawled her way
into his life and hed let her. He couldnt be-
lieve hed been so stupid.
Yeah, I think youre right. It was defin-
itely a mistake.
She hesitated for a brief second and in
that second he wanted to ask her to recon-
sider. He wanted to believe that she wasnt
walking out of his life.
The second had passed.
Take care.
And with that, she was gone, leaving him
more confused than ever.
Take me to the Blue Iguana, Rowan
told the driver.
Are you sure thats a good idea sir?
Just drive!
When things hadnt ended well with
Olivia, he would frequent the Blue Iguana. At
one time he knew the entire staff by name
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and most of the regulars. He considered it


his sanctuary. But then the paparazzi dis-
covered his penchant for their stiff drinks
and cool jazz and he stopped going.
He plunked down at the bar and ordered
a double gin and tonic.
Here ya go, handsome. Thatll be seven
bucks, the bartender said. She was in her
late twenties, had a nose ring, and wore
bright red lipstick.
Rowan handed her a twenty and told her
to keep the change. Youd think after what
theyd shared in Vegas that parting ways
would be harder for her.
He was blinded by a flash.
The paparazzi.
When he stepped into the lounge he
didnt think it was possible to feel worse than
he had when Hannah walked away but
things were certainly not getting better.
He turned to the bartender who was sli-
cing a lime in front of him.
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Can I get another, please?


Already?
Its been one of those nights.
Do you need something more than a
drink, perhaps?
A handbook for how to deal with wo-
men. He slumped down in his stool. He nev-
er understood why relationships had to be
this hard. Hannah was a mystery to him.
And to be honest her sudden break-up hurt
more than he was willing to admit. His only
solace at this point was a gin and tonic and a
stranger with a nose ring.
Dude, cant help you there.
Ill settle for the Gin and tonic then.
The bartender poured him another drink
and put it down in front of him. She scooped
the limes into the square plastic container on
the bar.
So you got lady problems?
You could say that. We just broke up.
Except we were never together. The whole
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situation is confusing. Hannahs cold yet


melancholy eyes filled his vision, and he
closed his eyes briefly to break the spell.
There still might be hope if you want
her back. Im a fan of the grand gesture, like
in the movies. Theres the boom box playing
outside her window or catching her at the
airport before she flies out of your life
forever.
Interesting ideas, but I think I might be
out of grand gestures. I offered to give her
non-profit one hundred thousand dollars.
Hows that for a grand gesture?
He chugged down half of his drink like
his life depended on it.
Thats pretty grand. The bartender
picked up a bleachy smelling rag and wiped
down the bar next to him. What do you
mean offered?
We had a deal. Long story. She broke
the agreement, so I never gave it to her. He
realized in that moment that he never should
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have come up with such a messed up plan. At


the time, he only wanted to get to know her
better. He probably ruined it from the start.
Hey, I think I recognize you. Youre
Rowan Fitzpatrick, arent you?
The one and only.
It seems like you should never have
proposed the agreement, in the first place.
You could have just asked her out for coffee.
Rowan crossed his arms over his chest.
Yes. It was a mistake. Hindsight is twenty
twenty, as they say. So what would you sug-
gest I do to win her back?
I dont know. Just think of some senti-
mental or meaningful way to show her you
wont give up on her. Or better yet, give her
the damn money anyway. A good woman is
worth a little chase, dont you think?
This woman had a point. A grand gesture
might change Hannahs mind after all, he
had nothing to lose.
Chapter Eighteen
Hannah

A week had passed since the break-up


with Rowan. Work had been nightmarish.
Hannah had just informed three employees
that their positions would end in two weeks
because Art Matters didnt have the funding
to continue to pay them. She hadnt had the
heart to tell the program managers and kids
at four of the program sites that there would
be no more art programming by months
end. Shed been balled up in her office crying
all week.
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On Saturday morning Hannah woke up


with a splitting headache. She had a glass of
water, only to throw it up a few minutes
later. All she wanted to do was go back to
sleep. After rinsing her mouth out, she
climbed back under her duvet and hunkered
down. Except she couldnt sleep. She kept
thinking of Rowan and the expression on his
face before she exited the car; a mixture of
hurt and indifference. Or was it relief? In all
honesty she couldnt tell and knowing exactly
became her obsession. Does he feel as sad as
I do? He hadnt called or texted. Despite
breaking up with him, shed secretly hoped
he would have tried to get in touch.
She had read once that people have close
to 70,000 thoughts per day and 80% of them
are negative. She needed to stop being so
negative, but it was hard when nothing in
her life seemed to be working. Now she had
pushed away the one person that provided a
ray of hope in her uncertain future. Its
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because you werent honest with him, a little


voice inside her head mocked her. She hadnt
been. How was she supposed to tell him that
she was doing it for his own good? That he
would never be happy without a family and
he would only resent her in the future. She
knew this from experience.
Chris hadnt wanted a family with her
and this tore them apart. Breaking up with
Rowan was hard now but his leaving her
when he realized that she could never give
him what he wanted would have been worse.
Better to get out now while she retained the
strength to recover. Then why did it feel as if
she had made the worst decision of her life?
When she finally left Chris, there was no hes-
itation and leaving meant she could begin to
heal. It was the staying that caused the sleep-
less nights. She missed Rowan. But she knew
that it was for the best. Or was it? She dug
down deeper into the pillows and cried her-
self to sleep.
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A few hours later she woke up to incess-


ant knocking at her front door. Go away she
wanted to scream but then she thought it
might be Rowan. She jumped out of bed and
bolted to the door. She flung it open. Fiona
towered over her. Hannah regretted not
looking through the peephole first. Not to
mention that Hannah wasnt wearing a bra
and her sweats had splotches of her throw up
from earlier that morning. She pulled the
door back to partially cover herself.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick. What a surprise? Is
something wrong?
Im not sure. Im sorry to disturb you,
but I was wondering if Rowan might be
here? Fiona asked.
Hannah wasnt so sure she was sorry for
disturbing her, but it was clear she was wor-
ried about Rowan. Her usual immaculate ap-
pearance was offset by two mismatched
gloves one white and the other black. And
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she seemed to blinking her left eye


continuously.
Im sorry, but hes not here.
Fiona pursed her lips tightly and sighed.
I dont mean to impose, but may I come
in? I seem to have gotten something in my
eye. My contact is hurting me. Fiona waited
expectantly.
The thought of Fiona poking around her
home made the nausea erupt again.
Normally she was tidy but the last twenty
four hours had taken their toll and cleaning
had been the last thing on her mind. She
prayed she hadnt left any undergarments
out.
Of course. Youll have to excuse the
mess, Ive been feeling under the weather.
She opened the door for Fiona who
pranced by her holding one gloved hand to
her eye. The bathroom is down the hall on
the left. Do you need anything? I dont wear
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contacts, but I could run to the corner mar-


ket to see if they have solution?
No, that wont be necessary dear. I al-
ways keep a small bottle in my purse. She
paused for a second. I always wanted to
know what these work lofts looked like. Bet-
ter than I expected.
Before Hannah could respond she was
down the hall and closing the bathroom
door.
Its not a work loft, she muttered. Its
a duplex condo. She whisked the dirty cer-
eal bowl and juice glass off the coffee table
and shoved them in the dishwasher. She
quickly grabbed the miscellaneous clothes
off the recliner and threw them in the closet.
There was nothing she could do about the cat
hair but upon further inspection it didnt
look that bad. Pablo was probably hiding on
the windowsill upstairs sunning himself.
Right then she wished she was a cat.
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A moment later, Fiona returned from the


bathroom. She had removed her gloves and
inspected Hannahs open kitchen and living
room with both eyes. The best part about the
condo was the floor to ceiling windows that
showcased a breathtaking view of San Fran-
cisco Bay and Coit Tower. The view was the
reason Hannah bought the place. After a
long day she found peace staring at the fog
rolling in, sipping a cup of peppermint tea.
She knew her home was nothing like Fionas
must be but for her it was an escape.
What a lovely view, Fiona commented.
Isnt it? Would you like something to
drink? Water, tea, a glass of wine?
No thank you. I cant stay long.
Hannah breathed a sigh of relief. Why
did you think Rowan was here? Is everything
okay? She really hoped everything was okay.
Fiona gripped the back of the couch, a
little unsteady on her feet. On second
thought, a nice cup of tea would be nice. All
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the excitement today must be catching up to


me.
Of course. Please take a seat. Ill get the
tea. What kind do you like? I have pepper-
mint, chamomile or black teaand some
other random tea bags.
Do you have green tea with lavender by
any chance?
Hannah foraged around in the cupboard.
This woman sure was particular. She
breathed a sigh of relief when she found the
kind Fiona had requested. Why was she sud-
denly so concerned with pleasing this wo-
man? Rowan was out of her life. And then
her gut clenched. What if something terrible
happened to him? Shed never be able to for-
give herself for how shed ended things.
What do you know, I do have one of
those tea bags floating around up here.
You really are a tea connoisseur.
Hannah put the kettle on and grabbed
the accoutrements. She couldnt tell if Fiona
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was being sarcastic or not. And she wished


Fiona would cut to the chase and just tell her
about Rowan.
After a few minutes she sat next to Fiona
on the couch and tried not to look as uncom-
fortable as she felt. She blew on her tea and
took a sip. She couldnt wait any longer.
Is Rowan okay?
While I was in the bathroom I got a text
from him. Hes fine apparently. He said he
needed some time to think. I became worried
when he didnt pick me up this morning. It
wasnt like him not to show up. I called him a
few times but no answer. I went to his house
but no one was there. Then I had my driver
bring me here.
Hannahs stomach relaxed, it must have
been relief washing over her. Rowan was
probably out celebrating that he didnt have
to deal with the confusing Hannah Brown
ever again.
How did you know where I lived?
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His driver told me. I was able to get him


on the phone. Its his day off.
Fiona put her cup down on the table and
crossed her hands in her lap.
This is the first time weve had a chance
to chat. My husband always tells me that I
scare Rowans girlfriends. I can never ima-
gine how that would be possible. I like to
think of myself as approachable. Sure I may
be a little overprotective at times, but when
you have children youll understand. You just
want the best for them.
No. Sadly, I wont ever know what that
feels like.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick, Hannah began.
Dear, call me Fi. After all, I barged into
your house and demanded tea.
You didnt demand anything, Mrs.
Fitzpatrick. Fiona gave her a searing look.
Fi. I know you love Rowan and want the
best for him. Ill admit, you are a little intim-
idating but only because youre Rowans
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mother. Youre also probably the kind of per-


son used to getting her way. Hannah
wondered about her candor. Its like she
couldnt stop herself from saying these
things. In addition to being under the weath-
er, she was cloaked in a little cloud of what
must have been PMS, post break-up rage.
Watch yourself.
Hannah went pale.
Im kidding. Im trying to be approach-
able, Fiona said. This is exactly what hap-
pens. I scare people even more. She patted
Hannah on the leg.
Dear, who painted that lovely water col-
or? Im not familiar with the artist. Fiona
pointed to the painting hanging over the fire-
place. For people like Fiona art on walls was
usually worth money and had a famous
name attached.
A student from one of our Art Matters
workshops. After he was done he gave it to
me. It reminds me of why I do what I do.
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Well, he is a talented young man. You


should be proud. You love your job, dont
you?
Hannahs eyes lit up. Yes, I really be-
lieve in the mission. I believe my work there
is really changing peoples lives. Of course,
The Fitzpatrick Foundation has been critical
to this over the years. She purposely did not
say: except for this year.
Im going to tell you a secret. But dont
tell Rowan or anyone connected to The
Foundation. I fought for Art Matters to be
funded this year, but others had different
ideas about wanting to support other worthy
projects. I once attended a workshop, years
ago, when Betty Mann was the Executive
Director. It really left an impression. I ad-
mire what you do.
She wasnt sure if she was hearing her
correctly but her compliments warmed Han-
nahs heart. She did seem sincere. Fiona
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would make a pretty good mother in law.


Why had this absurd thought popped up?
May I ask you something? Fiona asked.
Hannah was surprised that she asked
permission. But perhaps she had judged
Rowans mother too harshly.
Sure, Hannah said.
Did you and Rowan have an argu-
ment? She asked.
Hannah wasnt sure what she had expec-
ted her to ask, but this wasnt it. And she
wasnt sure if she was ready to answer any
questions about him, especially with his
domineering mother, regardless as to how
nice she was being. Would she continue be
nice once she found out that she had broken
up with him?
Yes, we did, Hannah boldly stated,
fighting the urge to cry. She was not going to
break down in front of Fiona. She already
looked a mess; tears would be the icing on
the flattened wedding cake.
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That explains his sudden disappear-


ance, Fiona remarked half to herself. She
then focused all her attention on Hannah
again. Im sure its nothing that cant be
worked through. Right?
Hannah wanted to lie. She even thought
she was going to, but lying to Rowans moth-
er seemed sacrilegious over tea in her living
room so she decided against it.
No, it cant. Rowan and I broke up last
week. She didnt dare say more. The flood of
tears that she kept at bay would spill of their
own volition.
I see. I dont mean to pry. Okay, of
course I do. May I ask why?
It just didnt work out, is all. We want
different things.
Fiona looked disgusted. She started to
take out her cell phone. I love my son, I
really do, but he cant keep treating women
like this. Hes had at least ten different girl-
friends since Olivia.
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Thats not making me feel better, com-


mented Hannah, but Fiona kept on her
tirade.
I keep telling him he needs to find a
nice girl to have a family with. And he finally
found a good one.
Thats nice of you to say. I didnt even
think you liked me.
You didnt think I hated you. That
means I liked you. I like you. And I know my
son, he cares for you very much.
Thats where youre wrong. He doesnt.
Hannah burst into tears and covered her
face.
Fiona lightly touched Hannahs back a
few times but barely made contact, in what
must have been an uncomfortable effort to
console her.
There, there dear. Im going to tell him
that he should be ashamed of himself for
breaking your heart. Fiona tapped her
phone to dial Rowans number.
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Please dont do that, Hannah begged.


It isnt his fault. Its mine. There. She had
said it. Finally.
Im sure thats not true. First Rowan
treats you badly and then he stands me up. I
didnt raise that kind of son. Im going to tell
him so. Before she could hit the green but-
ton, Hannah took the phone from her hands.
Fiona lifted her brow in shock.
Stop. Please. I broke up with him be-
cause I cant have children and Rowan wants
children. There is also his inheritance.
Hannah was deflated. She rested back
against the couch, exhausted. Fiona put the
phone back in her purse, clearly at a loss for
words.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Fi. Im tired. I need to
rest. Hannah pulled herself together and
stood up.
Do you mean biologically you cant have
children or that you dont want them? In-
quired Fiona compassionately.
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I physically cannot get pregnant. Unex-


plained infertility. It ruined my first mar-
riage. Im not about to ruin Rowans life too.
Even though the words hurt to say, it felt
good to express the truth. Maybe she would
sleep tonight. It then occurred to her that
Fiona might tell Rowan. This terrified her.
She didnt want to have this conversation
again.
Please dont tell Rowan.
You mean he doesnt know?
Not exactly. I thought it was best to just
break things off. But I would appreciate it if
you would keep this conversation just
between us.
Im truly sorry that youre unable to
have children. I can see how distressing this
is for you. And Im sure it is for Rowan too.
He did truly care for you. But his grandfather
is requiring children in order for him to re-
ceive his inheritance. Its not just a large sum
of money but his legacy. Now you mustnt
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think of me as money hungry. The most im-


portant thing is family, but in this case
theyre entwined together. Still, Rowan
should know. In the end its his decision to
make.
Youre wrong there. Its mine.
Fiona crossed her arms over her chest. I
can see youve made up your mind then.
Hannah had nothing more to say.
Ill see myself out, Fiona said. She
walked to the door and stopped. If you dont
tell him, youll never know. Isnt this worse?
Fiona didnt wait for an answer. She
thanked her for the tea and left. It hadnt oc-
curred to Hannah that by not telling him she
would never know if he would pick her over a
family. Even though the short time together
had been intense she broke it off before he
could hurt her. She pretended that it was for
his own good, but deep down it was ulti-
mately for both of them. Fiona could be
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right, she should have told him, but it was


too late now.
Chapter Nineteen
Rowan

Bag of almond croissants and hot tea in


hand, Rowan rang Hannahs doorbell. After
two rings there was no response. Maybe he
should have called or texted first. He was the
last person shed expect to see on a Sunday
morning. He could only hope that once she
saw him that they could work out the differ-
ences between them. It would help if he truly
knew what they might be. The week without
her had been sheer hell. He shuffled the bag
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from hand to hand as he waited. And break-


fast in a bag might not be enough to win her
back, but when he woke up everything inside
urged him to go to her.
Five minutes later Rowan accepted de-
feat and turned to walk back to the town car.
And then he heard her voice. It was the best
sound hed heard in days.
Rowan? What are you doing here?
Hannah said.
His heart raced. When he turned and
met her eyes, the breakup weighed heavily
between them and for the first time in a long
time, he had no idea what to say. He gripped
the bag tightly crunching up the paper. The
seconds ticked by and the longer he didnt
speak the tighter the tension became and he
knew it was now or never.
Hi Hannah. I brought breakfast
pastries. I was hoping we could talk.
He took a step toward her and waited for
her to respond.
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She hesitated. I dont know if thats


such a good idea.
Rowan turned to leave her alone, head
hung low. Okay. Got it.
Then she asked, Wait. What kind of
pastries?
Almond croissants. And I got you a hot
tea, but I didnt know what kind was your fa-
vorite. So its a hot water and there are six
different tea bags in there.
He pointed to the pastry bag and exten-
ded his arm with the tea. When she took it
their hands touched and his whole body
warmed. She was an elixir he was learning
was hard to live without.
You know I cant say no to almond
croissants. Come in.
Relief flooded him. She hadnt turned
him away. Now, to win her back.
Thank you, Im sorry I didnt call first
but I thought you might try to avoid me if I
did.
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Rowan stood inches away from her, try-


ing to read her eyes. He knew ambushing her
like this could go sideways. But it was a risk
he was willing to take.
You were probably right. Hannah
tucked loose strands of hair behind her ears.
Its been a terrible week.
For me too.
Rowan dropped the pastry bag on the
coffee table. Hannah put the tea down at the
same time. There was a beat of awkward si-
lence as they gazed at each other wondering
what would happen next.
I have something else for you.
Rowan pulled an envelope out of his
pocket and handed it to Hannah.
Whats this?
As per our agreement. You earned it.
And I figured its not fair for me to deprive
the kids at Art Matters just to save my
pride.
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She opened the envelope and as she


looked at the check for one hundred thou-
sand dollars, her eyes grew wide.
Is this from your personal account?
Yes. The foundation funds had already
been allocated, as Id said. But aside from
our amazing time together, I could see that
Art Matters was really deserving of the
funding.
Even though I didnt live up to my part
of bargain?
Im beginning to realize that wanting to
date you had nothing to do with our
bargain.
Rowans body relaxed. Being honest and
finally getting the check to her, sent relief
through him.
Thank you so much. I cant tell you how
much this means to me and my employees
and to the kids.
Hannahs face beamed gratitude. Even if
she told him to leave, at least he got to
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experience this moment with her. Before she


could protest he found himself next to her.
She wore no makeup and her hair was twis-
ted up and back in a makeshift bun. Being
this close to her and not touching her made
his skin come alive with anticipation. It took
immense will power not to close the gap
between them. He became completely rigid
as his eyes flared with desire.
The current emanating between them
sizzled and finally snapped. It had been too
long. His brain screamed that they needed to
talk but talking wasnt what his body wanted.
Rowan grabbed Hannahs waist and pulled
her to him. Their bodies met in a crescendo
of touch that burned and flamed the fire. He
wanted to show her how much he desired
her and slammed his hips against hers and
moved intently.
Slow down, his mind kept telling him.
But now that he had her pinned there was no
way he could press the brakes. Having her
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completely was the only thing that mattered.


Even if she never wanted to see him again af-
terwards, he would have the pure pleasure of
seeing her flushed face moan in ecstasy. Her
eyes looked full of yearning too. He grabbed
her hands and pulled them above her head,
keeping them from moving with one hand
and the other traced a trail from the side of
her neck to her waist. She had begun to
lightly perspire. He breathed in deeply her
heady musk. Hannah leaned in, Rowan felt
her hot minty breath and he crushed her lips
to his. All tongues and fire their kiss grew
more passionate as the seconds ticked by.
Like hungry animals, their bodies
pressed against each other. Rowan pulled off
Hannahs pajama top, revealing her bare
breasts. Hannah stripped off Rowans t-shirt
with his help. It dropped to the floor. His tan
muscular chest was exposed and Hannah
began kissing his neck and worked her way
down to his belt buckle.
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She removed his belt, unzipped and un-


buttoned his jeans and they dropped to the
floor.
Hey, you seem to be the one wearing
more clothes. How about I make it even?
With Hannahs approving smile he
pulled down her pink pajama bottoms. Then
she took his hand and pulled him toward her
bedroom. She sat down on the bed. Rowan
pulled off her black bikini underwear. She
inched her body back to the center of the
bed. He climbed on top. He kissed her neck
and worked his way down to her breasts. His
tongue grazed her breast and she moaned.
He moved his mouth down to her stomach.
And one kiss at a time moved back toward
her mouth.
Why dont you take these off, Hannah
said as she snapped the band on his boxer
briefs.
If you insist, Rowan said as he took off
his last stitch of clothing.
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Hannah whispered in his ear, Take me.


Rowan was caught off guard when she
pushed him off and he rolled next to her on
the bed. I think Ill take you instead, Han-
nah said with a wink.
She climbed on top of him and when
they merged it was as if the earth was mov-
ing underneath them. All the more bitter-
sweet because of the unfinished business
between them. They moved as if it was the
last time and each thrust was pushing off the
inevitable. Being one with Hannah was so
right. He couldnt believe hed let her get
away so easily. Their bodies fit like pieces of
a puzzle. Moving in tandem, the heat built to
a frenzied crescendo, Hannah let out a gasp
and Rowan moaned with satisfaction. Her
body relaxed and collapsed on top of his. He
put his arms around her, determined to nev-
er let her go.
Chapter Twenty
Hannah

Moments after orgasm, Hannah pulled


out of Rowans grasp and rolled off of him.
She gazed at the wall where a family picture
hung. Without warning it slid off the wall,
shards of glass clattered as they hit the wood
floor. It wasnt their passion stirring things,
the earth literally had been shaking beneath
them.
Hannahs bookshelf towered over them
and was just two feet from her bed. It was
piled with books and potted plants and was
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starting to wobble. Rowan threw his body on


top of Hannahs, shielding her from the top-
pling bookcase. Books clattered on top of
him, a potted plant fell a centimeter from his
head. She gasped.
Are you okay? Hannah asked.
All your heavy reading gave me a bit of
a flogging but Ill be fine. Are you okay?
Thanks to you. It was very chivalrous of
you to protect me.
That was easy. I can definitely do that.
Im also going to get you a kindle. E-books
are less hazardous in an earthquake.
Rowan began pushing the books off of
him and onto the floor. Hannah sat up next
to him.
Very funny. I just hope therere no af-
tershocks. Hannahs hands gently trailed his
back. Let me look at you, Hannah said.
Bits of blood oozed from scratches
caused by the falling books. Maybe we
should take you to the hospital.
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It stings a little, but Ill be fine. I dont


think anything is broken.
Are you sure? Im gonna go get a wash-
cloth and some band aids so I can clean you
up.
Okay. Ill let you nurse me back to
health. Thats kind of hot.
She returned and said, You really
rocked my world. Get it?
Rowan smiled. I could say the same to
you. But seriously. Im gonna hire someone
to come in and bolt down everything in here.
You know we live in an earthquake country,
right?
Yes. Yes. Thats sweet of you to worry
about me.
Rowan picked up the bookshelf and star-
ted to re-shelve the books.
We can do that later. Lets eat
croissants!
Queasy stirrings swished in her stomach.
She hoped eating a bite would settle things.
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Sounds good. You really worked up my


appetite.
Hannah grabbed some plates from the
kitchen and they sat down on the couch.
Did you want something to drink?
No, thanks. Im good.
I know youre good. I asked if you
wanted something to drink.
She wasnt sure why she was always try-
ing to get Rowan to crack a smile, she
couldnt help herself. The fact that her fur-
niture had hurt him, made her want to light-
en the mood. Hannah tore a piece of the
croissant off and put the sweet, buttery con-
fection in her mouth. A few sips of tea later
and her gut was beginning to calm down.
Thanks again for the croissants, they
are delicious.
So were you.
The reality of their situation hit her, and
despite the quenched passion, she knew that
they had much to discuss. Nothing had
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changed. She took a sip of lukewarm chamo-


mile tea, hoping that it would give her
courage.
She couldnt look him in the eye. Shakily
she got up from the couch and then sat back
down. She had no idea what to do with her
body. It screamed run away but she forced
herself to stay. She had nowhere to run to.
I want to be honest with you. I still
dont think we can be together.
Rowan pulled back as if shed slapped
him, his pained expression caused a knot to
form deep in her gut, twisting her insides in-
to bitter coals. She reached up to smooth the
expression off his face, but he turned away,
as if her touch revolted him. A gasp of des-
pair escaped her lips and sobs threatened to
overcome her. Breathing in deeply she man-
aged to control them.
Why not? I dont understand why you
keep pulling away from me. His voice be-
trayed a shocked hurt that only added to her
265/345

misery. She wanted to be with him. But if


that were to be a possibility, shed have to tell
the truth.
Hannah inhaled deeply. Heres the
thing. I was too afraid to tell you before or
ashamed, I dont know. Anyway, I cant have
kids. Im infertile.
What do you mean?
My husband and I tried for years and it
never happened. Doctors said it was unex-
plained infertility.
She watched the understanding flash
across his face and some of the hurt
dissipated.
Did you guys think about adoption?
I cant have biological children. We
hadnt talked much about adoption. I would
consider it for sure, I just had a hard time
letting go of the idea of having my own.
I understand. Im not sure if Id have
the courage to adopt. I admire people who do
it, but you hear so many horror stories. And
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my family might not approve. Which as I say


that out loud sounds bad. But I know how
they are.
Hannahs heart thudded, her brow was
getting wet with sweat. Hearing Rowan
speak that honestly wasnt bringing comfort
at all.
Adoption isnt for everyone I guess. But
Ive heard wonderful stories about things
working out well for the parents and the
kids. Like I said, I havent crossed that off as
a possibility, for me at least.
Rowan folded his arms across his chest.
I understand why it might have been hard
to tell me this. But why break up though? We
were just dating and having a great time.
Kids are something to talk about way down
the line.
But you already said you wanted kids
and you have to have one to get your inherit-
ance. I didnt want you to resent me if I
couldnt give you that. And if I let myself
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keep seeing for you, Im just gonna fall


harder. I thought it was easier to tear the
band aid off sooner rather than later.
I see. Rowan cleared his throat. He dis-
entangled his long limbs from the couch and
went to stand by the window. The absence of
his body next to hers made the room seem
empty.
She watched him study the skyline while
waiting expectantly with a hopeful heart.
After what seemed like an eternity he turned
back to her, his face ashen.
Hannah...She waited. He stared at her
with an expression of deep sadness and hurt.
Having children is important. Family is the
most valuable thing in the world to me. My
Grandpa Edward taught me that. The truth
is, I want to be a father one day.
He paused, as if what he was going to say
was too painful to utter.
I guess if Im being brutally honest, not
having children isnt an option for me. This
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has nothing to do with my family but


everything to do with how I envisioned my
life.
She recoiled as his words sunk in. All of
her worst fears realized.
So its about the money.
He spun around and in a split second
was back next to her on the couch. He
gripped her hands tightly.
What? No. My inheritance isnt just
about the money. Its about a family legacy,
one that Ill need to pass on to my children.
But is that what you think of me? That Im
what the media portrays me to be? It has
nothing to do with my inheritance but
everything to do with something I want most
in my life, a family.
So what are you saying exactly?
He ran his fingers through his hair.
What Im trying to say is He grim-
aced and looked away.
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Her mouth started to water. She knew


what he wanted to say but was too afraid to,
but she wasnt sure if she had the guts to ut-
ter it.
I dont want to hurt you, he said.
Ice water raced through her veins. Chris
had uttered similar words before he left. Ex-
cept Rowan had no obligation to stay, but
why did it seem like he did?
Ill save you the trouble. You cant hurt
someone if they dont care to begin with. I
told you to give you an out. Now you know.
She began to hurriedly collect the cold
tea and remnants of croissant.
You should go. Maybe the media was
right about you. You only care about
yourself.
She watched hurt flare up in his dark
eyes. She regretted saying such awful words,
but she wanted to make it easier for him to
leave. She certainly didnt want his pity.
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Thats cold. I was just trying to be hon-


est with you.
He reached for her but she scurried past
him into the kitchen. It was hard to believe
that less than an hour ago she was moaning
in his arms, and now she was trying to get rid
of him. She wanted to save them from a
drawn out scene. He obviously had made his
choice. He followed her into the kitchen.
Okay.
Hannah, this is a lot all at once.
She sighed and almost slid down the re-
frigerator. Her reserve of energy waning. She
wanted him to leave, so that she could
mourn in peace.
Rowan, please go. You dont have to ex-
plain yourself. If I were in your shoes, I
wouldnt want to be with me either. Not hav-
ing children is a huge decision.
I never said I didnt want to be with
you.
But you never said you did either.
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He only stared at her.


She clutched her hands to her chest,
afraid shed stop breathing. She couldnt be-
lieve shed let him in the door. She spent the
last few years protecting herself so she
wouldnt have to experience this kind of hurt
again.
He started to move toward her.
Please just go.
Fine.
Without another word he left. She slid
down the refrigerator onto the kitchen tiles.
The coolness soothed her scorched skin.
Then the sobbing began and she thought it
would never stop.
Chapter Twenty One
Rowan

Cambodia. Thats where he was headed.


He started to text Hannah but stopped mid
message. Her scathing review of him still
burned. She obviously didnt think much of
him and this twisted his gut into bitter knots.
People always assumed he was the one to
hurt women, but they were the ones who al-
ways betrayed him. And her not being able to
have children had deeply shocked him. Hav-
ing a family was everything to him. He
hadnt put it on the front burner because he
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figured he had plenty of time to find the right


person. Then his Grandfathers stipulations
came out and now Hannahs confession. But
none it mattered anymore, shed kicked him
out. His forehead was warm, he hoped he
wasnt coming down with something. His
mother would call it lovesickness but it was
probably the start of a cold.
Would you like something to drink?
the flight attendant asked.
Rowan was so deep in thought the voice
of the woman shook him back into reality.
Just water. Thanks.
The Clean Water organization was one of
the non-profits partially funded by the
Fitzpatrick Foundation. There had been
some controversy within the organization.
Based on recent financials, some were specu-
lating that most of the budget was going to
the Executive Director and the staff and only
a small piece of the pie was going to the clean
water efforts. This trip would be a photo op
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for the media to ease peoples concerns and


show how the work was changing the lives of
people without clean drinking water.
If things hadnt blown up between them,
he would have taken Hannah along for the
trip. Hed contemplated showing up at her
place and telling her to pack a bag. Come
with me on an adventure, Rowan imagined
saying. He would get to be like Indiana Jones
and shed fall back into his arms. Then he re-
membered her words and the thought
dissipated.
As the days passed, the disappointment
about her not being able to have kids had
sunk in. But it also occurred to him that if he
met and married another woman, there was
no guarantee she could have kids either. Its
not like women walked around with fertility
signs draped around their necks. And now
these thoughts made him feel angry with his
sick grandfather. But he was angry with
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Hannah too. Shed injured him in way that


took him by surprise
Ever been to Cambodia before? the wo-
man next to him asked.
She was curvy with long wavy blond
locks and probably in her early twenties. He
noticed that he wasnt attracted to her at all,
even though in the past she would have been
his type.
This is my first time, you?
Mine too.
Rowan pulled the inflight magazine out
of the seat-back. He started flipping through
it. He wasnt in the mood for small talk. And
he didnt want to seem flirtatious. Despite
everything he still considered himself
claimed by Hannah. He crunched on ice
cubes and contemplated the gray sky out the
airplane window, noticing how everything
was covered in a deep grayness. Everything
seemed dull and lackluster. Movies helped
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pass the time and before he knew it, hed


arrived.
Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia
struck Rowan as dusty and chaotic. He
wasnt sure what hed expected but he was a
world away from home. Despite the grit of it,
he still longed to have Hannah by his side.
This knowledge hung heavily on his
shoulders because he wasnt sure if they
would ever be together. Giving up children
might be an impasse he couldnt look past.
Instead, hed met up with the journalist who
would be covering the story of the founda-
tions work with clean water.
Talia was a tall brunette with a pixie cut.
The fact that she wore a business suit to
Cambodia seemed like an unwise choice.
Shed mentioned that she thought it was im-
portant to look professional regardless of the
environment she was in. Her business suit
was tight and sculpted her trim figure. She
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wore stylish black Prada frames that covered


smoky grey eyes.
They boarded a tuk tuk, a two-wheeled
carriage pulled by a motor bike. Talia wasnt
sure this was a great idea, but Rowan reas-
sured her that this was the best way to navig-
ate the madness of Phnom Penh. The roads
didnt have any clear lane markings and tuk
tuks seemed to go in every different direc-
tion. Their driver pulled right out into the
middle of traffic without looking and some-
how the sea of vehicles parted to allow them
entry. Rowan noticed the French architec-
ture left over from colonial days and the op-
pressive heat. He was glad he was wearing
khaki shorts and a t-shirt. Every now and
then hed catch her staring at him, before
looking quickly away. The Clean Water Or-
ganization told him that she was an excellent
journalist and photographer.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket to
see if Hannah had tried to contact him. It
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was becoming a habit he couldnt break. He


had no bars. No service wasnt a surprise.
His brow furrowed. He hoped the hotel had
good wi fi.
After an exciting ten-minute ride
through the streets of Phnom Penh Rowan
checked into the Foreign Correspondents
Club. The FCC was a city landmark with an
impressive view of the Tonle Sap River. Row-
an checked into his suite and then headed
back down to meet Talia and the Executive
Director of the Clean Water Organization be-
fore dinner. There was a short meet and
greet planned for the evening and then a day
touring the offices and water sites the follow-
ing day.
Talia and Bora Chann waited for him at
the bar lounge. Bora was educated in Eng-
land and spoke perfect English with a south-
ern English accent. He had studied water
conservation and after he finished his studies
returned to Cambodia and started the Clean
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Water Organization to improve Phnom


Penhs drinking water. Rowan had actually
never met him in person but had Skyped
with him more than once since The Founda-
tion had begun funding his project. He knew
him to be a modest yet determined individu-
al who in a short amount of time had done
extraordinary work. Yet, the financials
screamed otherwise. Rowan really hoped
there was a good explanation.
Rowan and Bora shook hands. Bora then
lightly pressed his hands together against his
chest and bowed slightly, in the traditional
Cambodian greeting. Rowan knew that this
wasnt a requirement given to a foreigner.
Welcome to Phnom Penh, Bora said.
Getting here from the airport was quite
a ride.
Everything must seem disorganized
compared to home. Believe me there is a
method in the madness.
I believe it. I arrived here in one piece.
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Bora handed him a box wrapped in red


paper and tied with a white ribbon. A small
token of our gratitude. Rowan thanked him
and took the gift. They chit chatted for a few
minutes as they waited for their drinks and
appetizers to arrive. After the formalities
Rowan began to ask a few questions.
Bora, you know why Im here. Is there
anything to worry about? asked Rowan.
Talia leaned forward in her seat, expos-
ing the tops of her breasts. He glimpsed the
edge of her lacy black bra. He glanced away.
Was this by accident? Perhaps, he should
have waited until they were alone to inter-
view Bora.
I know what it looks like. On paper the
finances paint an interesting picture. But
things work differently around here.
Rowan arched his eyebrows skeptically.
What do you mean differently?
Boras face took on a paler tone. In the
United States you apply for a permit if you
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want something done on city property. You


go to an office, file the paperwork, and pay
the fee. Right?
Yes, Rowan said, unsure where this
was headed.
Here, its the same except there are a lot
of fines to pay. There is always someone to
pay.
Rowan understood. Bribes. He must be
using funds for bribes. He just didnt want
to say it out loud.
If the fines arent paid, nothing gets
done here. Do you understand?
He wasnt sure he did. What he was
telling him was that there was no reliable
way to keep track of the money and that half
of it ended up in greedy hands.
What can be done about this? Rowan
asked, already sure there was probably pretty
little that could be done.
We are a poor country. This is the way
its been for a long time. But I want to
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reassure you, Im not taking the money. To-


morrow youll see. I promise.
Rowan had no choice but to believe him
for now. He genuinely liked Bora and hoped
that the following day would bring clarity.
They continued to chat for a bit about the
different water projects. Eventually Bora ex-
cused himself and left, leaving him alone
with Talia.
Would you like to get dinner? They have
a good selection of Western and Khmer
cuisine here.
Youve eaten here before?
Most foreign journalists come here
when visiting Phnom Penh. I can show you
around, if you want?
Talia wasnt his usual type, but from the
way she was feasting her eyes on him, he was
hers. She played with the gold chain around
her neck and waited for his reply. He thought
of Hannah.
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No, I think Im going to have an early


dinner and then hit the sack.
She seemed disappointed. Clearly, she
liked to mix business with pleasure. She ex-
cused herself, and Rowan decided to explore
the city before dinner. Once outside in the
sultry air, he thought better of it and headed
back inside. He checked his phone again. He
was going to have to complain to his phone
company, he should be able to make phone
calls in Phnom Penh. Not being able to reach
Hannah was killing him.
Instead of eating in the restaurant he de-
cided that the bar was better than a table of
one. He slid onto a bar stool and seconds
later Talia climbed up next to him. She had
changed into a light summer dress and
strappy sandals. She wasnt wearing her
glasses and smelled freshly showered.
You dont look like a man who wants to
be alone. Talia bit her bottom lip, lowered
her head and shot him a sultry look. She
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handed him her room key. Would you like


to come blow off a little steam with me?
Rowan cleared his throat. You and I
should just keep things professional. Even
though he wasnt with Hannah anymore, the
thought of another woman turned him off.
Talia crossed her arms over her chest.
Got it. I thought an infamous playboy like
you would want to have some fun.
For the record, Ive never been a play-
boy. Because of my familys public profile
and people in your profession my dating life
has been scrutinized. I just want the same
thing as everybody else, someone special to
share my life with.
Thats not what everybody wants. I like
my freedom. A future of folding some guys
boxers and changing dirty diapers isnt
something Im looking for.
To each his own.
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Talia moved to the end of the bar and


started her whole seduction routine with a
new guy.
After dinner, Rowan headed to his room
and checked out the wi-fi situation. When he
typed in the hotel password he was in. He
wrote an email to the board with an update
on the trip and what hed learned about
where the money was going. If Bora couldnt
provide more clarity, it was unlikely that the
foundation would be able to provide funding
again the following year.
It was time to put his thoughts together
and email Hannah. A knot formed in his
throat as his vulnerability appeared on the
page.

Hannah,

Im in Cambodia for work. I tried to


reach you before I left. I didnt like how we
left things. I hope you are okay. You have
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been on my mind a lot. Ive given a lot of


thought to everything we talked about. I
dont like my days as much without you in
them. When I return at the end of the week
would you consider meeting me for dinner
so we can talk?

Love,

Rowan

He started to press send but then


stopped. Rowan wasnt sure if he could
handle making himself vulnerable to her
again.
During the rest of the week Rowan saw
the wells and met the children whose lives
had been changed by access to clean water. It
brought a smile to his face when one of the
children came up to him and gave him a hug.
Pride welled up inside of him and he re-
membered why the work at the foundation
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was so important to him. While there, Talia


snapped some photos but kept her distance.
The email to Hannah waited in his drafts
folder. He kept checking to see if she contac-
ted him. Nothing.
As Rowan packed his bags for the flight
home he began to worry that something bad
was about to happen. His mother had always
claimed he had a keen sixth sense, a natural
knack for knowing what would happen next
or if something was wrong. Something was
off, he could feel it. He tried to push his mor-
bid visions out of his head. As he zipped up
his suitcase, sweat gathered on his neck. He
needed to get home ASAP!
Chapter Twenty Two
Hannah

Thanks for coming over to help me. Its


almost impossible to put one child to bed
and watch another.
Hannah was holding Charlotte against
her chest, shushing her as she fussed. She
emitted a strong odor of diaper cream and
sour milk. Hannah wanted to fold the moun-
tain of laundry on the living room couch or
clean up the coffee table that was littered
with sippy cups and goldfish crackers. But
she needed both hands for holding Charlotte.
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She couldnt figure out how to get the baby


carrier contraption on and gave up while Sta-
cey was upstairs with Jordan. Stacey re-
entered the living room.
It must be hard with Daniel out of town
for work. How long will he be gone?
A week.
Yikes. I dont know how you do it.
I dont know how I do it either.
Hannah made silly faces for Charlotte in
an attempt to calm her cries. Nothing
seemed to be working. Although helping
Stacy was still a welcome distraction, consid-
ering the last time she spoke to Rowan. She
should have known better than to expect
anything more from him. She didnt regret
telling him. Now, she realized there would
never be a possibility of them being together.
The heaviness of this knowledge weighed on
her and every time she thought about it, her
hands began to tremble. Only the warm
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softness of Charlotte gave her any kind of


comfort.
Is Jordan asleep?
Finally. I had to read Where Is the
Green Sheep five times before he even
looked sleepy.
Put your feet up. Id rub them but my
hands are full.
Youre the best. Sitting down sounds
good. Stacey plopped onto the squashy
brown couch. Ive become so overwhelmed
when Daniel leaves now. I know he has to go,
but I still wish there could there be two of
him. One that leaves and one that stays.
Stacey reached into the pile of laundry
and started folding onesies.
I think I feel the same way about Row-
an. There could be one who goes off to have
kids and one who stays with me and doesnt.
At least now I know that there will never be a
possibility of us being together.
Stacey sat up straight.
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So you told him? Youve been here for


two hours and said nothing about this. What
did he say?
Hannah rubbed Charlottes fingers.
He told me how important having kids
was for him.
She studied Charlottes chubby hands
hoping to lose herself in them, in order to
ease the pain that circled her trembling
heart.
Oh no, thats awful. Im sorry. I really
thought he was the one. Have you heard
from him since?
Hannah shook her head sadly. No, I
havent. Hes probably out gallivanting with
someone else. Someone who can give him
what he wants. I said some pretty awful
things to him.
Im sure it wasnt as bad as you think.
She grimaced in remembrance. The look
of sheer pain in his eyes haunted her. She
never meant to hurt him.
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No, it was. I was upset.


Well, Im sure he was too.
If I could only guess what he was think-
ing. How can I ask him to give up kids for
me? His inheritance? He needs to be sure.
Dont sell yourself short. Youre pretty
special. Hed be nuts to give you up.
Thanks. Youre the best.
Stacey smiled and then grabbed her
phone. You know, if you want to find out
what hes doing all you have to do is check
his fan page.
He has a fan page?
Sometimes I think you still live in the
90s.
Hey! The 90s were great, a simpler
time. I know he has a fan page, but I stay
away from it. Seems like a disaster waiting to
happen.
Oh no, Stacey exclaimed.
What?
Rowans grandfather died.
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Hannahs heart skipped a beat. His


grandfather meant the world to him. She re-
gretted ever thinking anything bad about
him. It wasnt his fault that he wanted his
grandson to have children. Rowan had to be
in agony.
The funeral is tomorrow. This probably
explains why you havent heard from him.
Well, that and I kind of kicked him out
and totally broke things off. Where is it?
She only half heard what Stacey said be-
cause her entire body and thoughts were
with Rowan. All she wanted to do was hold
him, bring him comfort.

***
Rowan

Losing his grandfather hit him harder


than he expected. His sickness wasnt a sur-
prise, but Rowan had hoped he might have a
few years left. His stomach clenched with re-
gret. As he and his brothers and their father
hoisted their grandfathers casket in the air
and walked it into the church, he thought
about how he should have gone to see him
more. Once the casket was in position he sat
down. He looked up at the stained glass win-
dows and took in the familiar musty smell
that permeated the churchs walls. Over the
years every major Fitzpatrick milestone from
birth to marriage took place within St.
Dominics Catholic Church. Rowan normally
viewed the church as a place of contempla-
tion and celebration. However, saying good-
bye to his grandfather turned the church into
a place of deep sadness.
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He looked at both of his two brothers,


one on either side of him, and he wondered if
they were having similar thoughts. Grandpa
always commented on how loyal they were to
each other but also how different they were
in personality and temperament. It took Nick
days to decide on something like what color
to paint the living room. Dylans number one
focus was becoming a star chef. All his de-
cisions reflected this ambition. And Rowan
made quick, sometimes rash decisions. His
mother had called him impulsive more than
a few times. He was glad to have his brothers
by his side. Grandpa wouldve beamed if he
was able to look down from heaven and see
them in their neatly pressed black suits.
With her finger tapping her forehead
and drawing a line down to her chest and
then moving it from left to right, Fiona made
the sign of the cross. Then she stood up to
give her eulogy. Her husband Walter tried to
give her a hand but she shook her head.
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Fiona patted him on the cheek, as if to say, I


know you love me but Im okay. Rowan
knew she wanted to appear strong in front of
everyone. She would expect this same resol-
uteness from her children. Rowan prayed he
wouldnt disappoint her. As his mother
spoke about Edward, Rowan was surprised
his eyes glazed and a tear was in the making
but he sucked it back inside. He thought of
Hannah and wished she was in the pew next
to him.
When it was Rowans turn to speak, he
wasnt sure if he could do it without breaking
down. His brother Nick patted him on the
back as he stood up. He glanced around at
the packed church, thankful that his grand-
father was so loved. He made his way to the
pulpit and cleared his throat. Rowan un-
buttoned his suit jacket and looked out at his
mournful family.
As he scanned the crowd his eyes were
pleasantly surprised to see a familiar face.
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He met Hannahs eyes at the back of the


room. He breathed in deeply, grateful for her
presence. He couldnt believe she had come.
She smiled, giving him the strength he
needed.
Taking a deep breath he began.
My grandfather taught me many things.
He taught me how to play golf, even though I
swore I would hate it. He taught me how to
balance my checkbook, even though I never
thought it was important. He taught me that
family was the most important thing in ones
life and to be honest, I wasnt sure I believed
him. Not until he passed away. Now its be-
came apparent that even in his death, he was
still teaching me something. During one of
our last conversations together he told me
how he wasnt sure if he would be a good
father at first. This was such a surprise be-
cause I know my mother admired and re-
spected him and as you know Edward never
showed any kind of weakness.
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There was a low murmur of laughter and


acknowledgment. His nodded her head in
approval. He continued.
He told me that having had children so
young, he worried he would make the wrong
choices. But, he went on to say everybody
should worry about what kind of parent they
will be. Its the worry that allows greatness to
develop. His greatness came through his
children and grandchildren. This coming
from a man who built a billion dollar com-
pany from nothing, climbed Mt. Everest
when everyone told him he was crazy, and
could make the best root beer float youve
ever tasted. In the end, it was his family that
made him proud.
He couldnt help but glance at Hannah.
Fresh tears streaked down her face.
My grandpa was loved. I know this for
certain. Thank you.
He stepped down from the pulpit and
took his seat next to his brothers. He craned
299/345

his neck to get another look at Hannah but


he couldnt find her among the faces. Disap-
pointment lashed at his throat. He had the
sinking sensation she had left.
Fiona whispered in a cracked voice,
What you said was beautiful. He reached
for his mothers hand. It felt icy to him. She
wasnt able to keep her resolve after all.
Moisture creeped out of the corners of her
eyes and trailed down her cheeks.
His father stared straight ahead without
an expression cracking his hard face. Past ex-
periences had taught him that his father
didnt handle grief well. He was beginning to
realize that grief was personal. There was no
good or bad way to go through the motions
of letting someone go. You had to do it your
way. Rowan just wasnt certain what his way
would be. Grandpa Ed would have told him
that a round of golf always solved everything.
Right now the only escape that sounded even
remotely comforting was to fall asleep with
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Hannah snuggled up against him. But he


knew that wasnt a possibility. The distance
between them was a cavernous abyss, one
that didnt seem possible to cross. He tried to
push Hannah from his mind. There was a
long day and night ahead of him. First he
had to go to the cemetery and then attend
the evening wake. After that he could sleep.
At the cemetery after a few words from
the priest, Rowan and his brothers stuck
their hands in the earth and pulled up a
handful of dirt. It thumped as they dropped
it onto the cherry wood casket. Bye
Grandpa. Well miss you, Rowan said.
And then Fiona tried to wrap her arms
around her three sons at once. Rowan just
wished he could take away some of her pain.
***

Fiona had rented out Kells Irish Pub for


the wake. The dark wood paneling and black
vinyl booths housing the stench of Guinness
301/345

was oddly comforting. Sixty people were


packed in, milling around and the room was
filled with the dull roar of conversation.
Rowan slid through the crowd on his way to
the bar.
How you doin brother? Rowans
brother Nick said as he handed him a pint.
Hanging in there. How about you?
Im all right. You were his favorite you
know? I dont think Grandpa was ever too
fond of me.
Rowan gave Nick a friendly punch on the
arm. Thats not true. He loved us equally.
We just understood each other more. I was
more like him.
Wheres your Hannah?
Hearing his brother say her name made
him want to groan in agony. Why did
everything have to seem so complicated?
Funny you should ask that. She came to
the funeral but left before it was over. I only
saw her for a moment.
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He rubbed the condensation on the side


of his glass irritably.
Is everything okay between you two?
Rowan shook his head and sighed, We
broke up.
What. Why?
Nick slugged down a gulp of his beer.
She cant have kids, and you know
Grandpas will stipulates that I have to have
one to get my inheritance. But its not about
the inheritance. Not really. I want kids. I al-
ways have. I want my inheritance to give to
my children. So call me selfish, call me crazy
but this is something I really want. Except
Hannah cant have children. She thinks Ill
resent her.
Rowan downed part of his pint.
Will you resent her?
Maybe. I imagined having kids before I
learned about the will. But she cant so what
can I do?
Do you love her?
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His brothers question floored him. This


was something hed been avoiding. Ever
since she came into his life hed thought of
nothing else. He leaned heavily on the bar,
struck by the confirmation that he did indeed
love her.
Yes, I do.
So, screw the legacy, man. And I have
kids. I love them, dont get me wrong. But
there is nothing wrong with not having them.
Oh, the beauty of getting to do whatever the
hell you want. Getting to sleep in. No home-
work, recitals, yelling. Oh brother, I think I
might be jealous.
Rowan polished off the last of his beer.
Thanks, Nick.
Nick threw his arms around his brother,
giving him a bear hug.
Hang on to that Hannah. Good girls are
hard to find.
Will do.
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And happy birthday bro. I think you


thought wed forgotten but considering
everything. His voice trailed off.
Rowan had completely forgotten it was
his birthday.
It doesnt matter. But thanks. I appreci-
ate it.
Turn around. Somebody remembered.
Fiona was holding a giant white frosted
cake ablaze with lit candles.
Mom, you didnt have to do this, on a
day like today.
Thinking of the day you were born and
getting you a cake made the day easier to
manage. And your grandpa wouldnt want us
to forget about it. Hes watching us from the
18th hole in heaven, wishing he could have a
piece.
Thanks, mom.
Everyone in the bar began to sing Happy
Birthday. When he went to blow out the
candles, he longed for his wish to come true.
Chapter Twenty Three
Hannah

On the way to work Hannah stopped by


the food truck parked outside her building
and placed her usual order: a hard-boiled
egg and a banana. Breakfast had always been
a quick meal for her and today was no excep-
tion. She had a day of meetings lined up, fol-
lowed by a Star Chefs board meeting.
The Star Chefs event was their biggest
non-walk fundraiser and she really needed to
focus on the logistics but she could not stop
thinking about Rowan. Seeing him at the
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pulpit speaking so passionately about his


grandfather made her love him all the more.
However, it only made it worse knowing she
was never going to be with him. She
wondered if shed made things even harder
by showing up and sneaking out at the end of
the service without saying hello. She wanted
to pay her respects, but they were no longer a
couple and any interaction with him
wouldve been painful for both of them.
A warm sensation in her center slowly
crept up to her breasts making breathing
hard. Her mouth began to water. She hoped
this wasnt the start of that horrible flu that
had been going around the office.
Rushing to get to work, she stepped into
the elevator next to a pregnant woman about
her age who smiled politely as the doors
closed. Hannah pressed twelve, and she
pressed fourteen. This was the third preg-
nant woman Hannah had seen between
BART and the office. For some reason,
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however, it didnt bother her too much. It


was time that she didnt view every single
pregnant woman as a personal attack on her.
For years she had been mourning the loss of
being a mother, and now she was beginning
to realize that she needed to live her life fully
again, even if this meant alone.
Hot today, the pregnant woman
commented.
I thought it was just me. I keep having
these hot flashes.
My ankles are the size of Texas.
Hannah glanced down. They did look
swollen and angry. She mentally checked off
another reason not to despise pregnant wo-
men. She would never have to experience
edema.
The elevator dinged and opened on her
floor. She smiled goodbye to the pregnant
woman who met her eyes kindly. Once in the
office her day began with a bang and two
hours later she realized that she hadnt had
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breakfast. She went to open her breakfast


bag and the smell of ripe banana and salted
egg engulfed her. Her mouth watered and
before she could stop herself she threw up in
the trash can next to her desk. Madison took
that moment to briefly knock and then walk
into her office.
Hannah are you okay? I told you that
youve been working too hard.
Madison quickly took the trash can from
Hannahs hands and helped her take a seat.
Thanks. Im fine. I havent eaten this
morning.
So you threw up? Not the usual re-
sponse. You know, I think I have some
ginger lozenges in my purse. That might
help.
Hannah pasted on a half-grin grimace.
She was lucky to have Madison working for
her. She reminded herself to give Madison a
raise, even it was only a buck or two. And
now that was actually possible since shed
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deposited Rowans check and the jobs and


sanity of everyone had been restored.
Madison returned with her purse and
began to rummage through it for the ginger
lozenges. Sorry, I have everything but the
kitchen sink in here. Do you mind? She held
up her purse to dump out the contents on
her desk. Hannah nodded of course.
She really did have a Mary Poppins bag.
Out poured makeup, hand sanitizer, receipts,
ibuprofen, tampons, hair ties, and what
looked to be a swim suit. Im going swim-
ming at the gym after work, and I didnt have
time to throw it in my gym bag, Madison
offered when she spotted Hannah eying it
curiously. Shoot, no lozenges. Oh here they
are, hidden behind the ibuprofen. Would you
like a couple of tablets too? After you eat
something of course. You really dont look
like yourself.
Hannah started to say, I only need
ibuprofen when I have my period, but she
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stopped in mid-sentence. When did I have


my last period? She practically pushed half
of Madisons purse contents off her desk to
find her phone hidden underneath. Out of
habit she kept track of her period by putting
a frown emoticon on the calendar date. She
swiped through her calendar to the last
emoticon. She stared speechless at the
screen. Six week ago. Six weeks ago. That
cant be right. Ive been busy. I must have
forgotten. She threw the phone on her desk
and backed away, as if shed gotten bitten.
Hannah whats wrong? Are you going to
throw up again?
She needed some air. Madison was mak-
ing her feel claustrophobic.
No. Im fine. I just need a minute to
myself.
Of course. Ill be right outside if you
need me. Madison left but not before giving
her another concerned look.
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Hannah sat back down, grabbed her


phone, and began to research pregnancy
symptoms. Not that she didnt know every
last one of them from months of analyzing
every possible feeling and sensation in her
body and somehow twisting it into, I must
be pregnant.
The Pregnancy Association website listed
the signs of early pregnancy: missed period,
nausea, fatigue, frequent urination, head-
aches and food aversions. In the past few
days she had been experiencing all of these
and more. She laughed at her silliness and
exited the website. She remembered that
pregnancy symptoms were close to flu symp-
toms and there was no way she was
pregnant.
Her period was late. End of story. All the
hot sex shed had was confusing her body. It
probably thought she was going to have a dry
streak all the way to menopause and then
Rowan arrived. He had awakened her inner
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core again, and all she wanted was for him to


be inside of her. Her body was confused.
Simple as that.
The rest of the day passed in a blur and
by the end of the board meeting Hannah
thought she might fall asleep standing up.
She could never remember being this tired.
On the way home she passed a Walgreens
and decided to stop.
She didnt even have to search or ask for
the aisle that contained the pregnancy tests.
Usually she would buy the cheap Walgreen
brand ones because of the amount of testing
she would do and the cost could add up
pretty quickly. But this time she was going
right for the digital early response. She
grabbed five for safe measure. Her heart was
already starting to beat hard. Hearing your
heart thudding in your head, was that a preg-
nancy symptom she had now too?
Hannah walked as fast as she could to
get home. She kept berating herself for even
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entertaining the notion she might be preg-


nant. Still, she had to know for certain. Des-
pite being unable to conceive, her monthly
cycle was always regular. She was never late.
Once home she went straight for the bath-
room, ripped open a test and sat down on the
toilet. She was so nervous she couldnt pee.
Relax. Relax, Hannah muttered.
Finally, she let go.
She knew that the test could take up to
two minutes for the result to show. She set
the test down on the counter and stared at
the flashing bars. Her heart raced and she
thought she might be sick again.
It didnt take two minutes. The test
flashed positive. Hannah screamed and
covered her mouth. In all the years shed
taken these tests not one had ever read posit-
ive. Not even the Internet cheapies that you
dipped in a cup and then squinted at side-
ways to make sure there wasnt a second line
that youd accidentally missed.
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She wished shed peed in a cup. Now she


didnt have any more urine to take another
test right away. It didnt matter, all she could
manage to do was hold the test in her hand
and stare.
Her phone was ringing. She put the stick
down on the bathroom counter and when
she looked at her phone she could see it was
Rowan calling. Did this guy have a sixth
sense or what? There was no way she was go-
ing to take his call.
What would she say? As the possibilities
swirled in her head, she couldnt help but
smile. Hannah looked in the mirror and tried
out a few responses. Rowan, remember that
time in Vegas when we got so drunk we had
sex without a condom? And we werent wor-
ried because wed both been tested.
Or how about this one? Rowan, I might
be pregnant. Or I could be going through
something called peri-menopause where my
periods are irregular. Ill give you a call
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next month and let you know for sure which


one it is.
Just as she was about to begin another
snide role-play her stomach roared and she
thunked down to the floor and put her head
over the toilet. Hannah kind of wished Row-
an was there to hold her hair back for her.
This was his fault after all.
After the wave of sickness had passed,
Hannah went to the living room and flicked
on the TV. She had to laugh when a few
minutes in she realized it was that eighties
movie with Tom Selleck Three Men and
Baby. As she watched these ridiculous men
try to take care of a baby, she sipped on a
glass of water. She hoped taking in fluids
would make her have to pee so she could
take another test.
Two hours later she was able to make
more liquid to add to another stick. She
looked at the clock on her cell phone and
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waited to see if the results would be the same


as the last test. Maybe it had been broken.
The following day, her OB GYN was able
to fit her in at eight, before work. The words
were still ringing in her ear. Ms. Brown, you
are pregnant. I would guess you are five to
six weeks along. Come see me again in an-
other six weeks.
On her way into the office, her brow fur-
rowed. What if Rowan got back together with
her but only because she was carrying his
child? If they ended up together, she wanted
it to be because he wanted her.
Whatever the outcome of things, shed
know soon enough. She wouldnt be able to
hide her condition for long. It would be even
harder to conceal her elation. She was going
to have a baby, a dream that had gone
dormant long ago. Hannah even relished
vomiting after shed read it could be a sign of
a very healthy pregnancy.
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***

Rowan

Rowan pounded on Hannahs front door,


trying to ignore the fact that he was getting
soaked by rain. Hannah pulled open the
door, her jaw hung agape. She looked so
beautiful standing before him with gorgeous
green eyes and soft hair caressing her
shoulders that it took his breath away. Her
skin glowed in the misty rain. He stood there
for a moment drinking in the sight of her.
After what seemed like an eternity he cleared
his throat.
Is it okay that Im here? His voice
sounded raspy and he became worried that
she would tell him to leave.
Still without speaking she held open the
door for him to enter. Such a simple action
but could it be filled with hope, expectation
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and forgiveness? He wasnt sure. But he fol-


lowed her into the living room anyway.
They both sat on the well-worn couch
and faced each other. The tension between
them was palpable, making it hard to
breathe. He remembered the last time he
was in her apartment and how they made
love before they talked and how that seemed
to backfire. Being close to Hannah made it
hard to think but he was determined to get it
right this time.
Finally she spoke.
Im sorry about your grandfather.
Thank you. Hell be greatly missed.
Thanks for coming to the funeral by the
way.
Her eyes shined. I wouldnt have missed
it. What you said was beautiful.
Beautiful enough to leave? He bit the
inside of his cheek to hide his
disappointment.
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She stiffened and leaned away from him.


He regretted his words. He only wanted to
know why she left.
Were not together anymore. I wanted
to pay my respects but I thought it would be
better for both of us if I just left after the ser-
vice. I wasnt trying to be hurtful, she said.
He glanced away briefly to break the
connection. This was not how he wanted the
conversation to go. He noticed the rain had
stopped and streaks of sunlight shone
through the disappearing clouds.
He covered her hand with his while he
spoke, I want to talk, but not here. I have a
surprise for you. Will you come with me?
She nodded. He didnt want to wait for
her to change her mind. Grabbing her hands
he pulled her up from the couch.
Can I ask where we are going at least?
Its a surprise. Youll see soon enough.
Okay, but I need to change.
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Take all the time you need. He realized


that when it came to Hannah he had all the
patience in the world.
Chapter Twenty Four
Rowan

Rowan instructed his driver to go 555


California Street. For once the weather was
behaving, a fact he was thankful for. The day
had turned bright and sunny with a light
breeze. He glanced up at the 52-story sky-
scraper and hoped she wasnt afraid of
heights.
Hannah had changed into a light blue
dress with a lace overlay that flared right
above her knees. It showed off her shapely
legs. Her lavender scent washed over him.
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You look nice.


Thanks, considering.
I think thats my invitation to ask, but
not here.
We need to talk Rowan.
He grabbed her hand. It filled his nicely.
I know. Follow me. He led her inside the
building to the elevators. Once inside he
pressed the top floor for what used to be the
Cornelian Room but now was a software
company. His father was a co-owner of the
building along with another business tycoon
and had arranged for him to take Hannah all
the way to the top. The head of security Tom
Peterson met them on the 52nd floor and
opened the stairwell for them.
Remember to be careful, he advised.
Hannahs face went a little pale. Rowan
reassured her.
Dont worry, its fine. I want to show
you the view. Theres nothing like it.
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This is exciting, she said. But maybe


not now. Rowan.
Hannah, he interrupted her. I got
you.
She nodded.
They climbed the two flights of stairs to
the top. A panoramic view of San Francisco
was their reward. It took his breath away.
From the top of the skyscraper everything
and everyone seemed small, except for them.
They were the center of the universe and
there was no place hed rather be.
Wow, she exclaimed. The wind ruffled
up her skirt revealing her thighs for a
second. The look on her face made bringing
her to the top worth it. She glanced over the
edge and then took a step back. She wasnt in
any danger, but he imagined that being so far
up would make anyone reticent about going
any closer. Hannah started to speak again
and for the third time he silenced her by
pressing a finger on her lips. He wanted to
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speak first. Hed been thinking about it all


night as he tossed and turned.
Weve known each other for only a short
time. You came into my life so unexpectedly.
The best decision I ever made was to not
fund Art Matters. Then the three conditions.
I have to say that was another smart decision
on my part. It meant that you couldnt run
away. Or at least at first. When you broke up
with me, I was heartbroken. He put his arm
around her shoulder to shield her from the
breeze. Then you told me about not being
able to have children. To be honest, this
floored me. I wanted to be with you, but I
wasnt certain if spending the rest of my life
without a family was the right thing for me.
But then my grandfather died. It made me
realize how much I need you. Just the way
you are. Not being able to have children
doesnt make you any less of a woman.
Youre by far the sexiest, smartest, most in-
furiating woman Ive ever met and thats
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saying a lot. I want to be with you. Children


be damned. My inheritance doesnt mean
anything if I dont have you to spend it with.
Hannahs eyes grew large with a mixture
of surprise and hope. Youre sure youd
want to be with me, even if I couldnt ever
have children?
Yes. I want to be with you. She smiled.
He engulfed her in his arms, pressing her
head against his chest. The Bay glimmered in
the distance and the clouds seemed so close
he could almost reach out and touch them.
So please stop making me chase you. Its
exhausting.
She pushed back against his chest.
Are you sure?
Damn it woman. Are we even speaking
the same language? He caught her lips with
his and kissed her into submission. If his
words wouldnt convince her maybe his body
would. After what seemed like hours he
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disentangled them from her. Both their


hearts raced.
I know youve been hurt. For someone
like you running is always going to seem like
an option. What your ex did to you only
makes him an idiot. Do you understand me?
She smiled brightly making his world
shine. A sense of sweet contentment filled
him up; he was finally getting through.
Yes, I think I do.
Good. I love you so much.
I love you too. It feels so good to say
that.
Rowan, Im sorry I said those things to
you. I didnt mean them.
I know you didnt. All that matters now
is that we have each other. Never before had
words sounded sweeter. He pulled her back
into his arms, planning to never let go again.
***
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Hannah and Rowan left 555 California


Street on cloud nine. But Rowans plans for
Hannah had just begun. The driver escorted
them to Rowans favorite spot for brunch
the Sweet Maple on Sutter Street. He hoped
that French toast dipped in Grand Marnier
and a side of billionaires bacon would set
the mood. Sitting at the mustard-color vinyl
booth, he took a deep breath.
Hannah.
Yes?
He took a sip of the rich French roast for
courage. He glanced around at the busy
breakfast joint, taking in the customers en-
joying mimosas and eggs benedict dripping
in hollandaise sauce and he wondered if any-
one could possibly be as scared as he was
right then. He had traveled all over the
world, jumped out of planes, and climbed
Mt. Kilimanjaro, but all of those adventures
seemed insignificant compared to how scary
it was to open up to someone. Hannah
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waited for him to continue with the sexiest


expression on her face. He put his hands on
hers on the table next to the maple syrup.
I want us to be together forever. The
thing is, when were not together I cant stop
thinking about you. I havent loved anyone
like this before.
Hannah got up and moved in to give him
a kiss. He enjoyed her full lips that tasted of
pure maple syrup and bacon cooked in
brown sugar. He made a mental note to al-
ways take Hannah out for brunch, if her lips
tasted that good afterwards. He didnt care
that others were starting to stare as he
deepened the kiss. Hannah pressed her hand
against his chest to create an unwelcome
inch between them. He wanted nothing more
than to rain kisses all the way down her neck
to her stomach, pause for a minute, and then
continue down. But they were in a crowded
restaurant. Coming up for air he glanced
past Hannah out the window in time to spy
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two photographers snapping photos before


dashing off. The paparazzi. Well, all the spec-
ulation about him and Hannah would defin-
itely not be rumors anymore. For once he
didnt give a damn.
There is something I wanted to tell you.
Ive been working up the courage all morning
but...
Rowans phone was on the table. He
swiped it to check the time.
I cant wait to hear it, but do you mind
waiting a few more minutes before you tell
me? I have something to show you. Its
outside.
At this point, a few more minutes wont
matter. Hopefully it happens in the next nine
months. The last part was mumbled under
her breath and Rowan didnt seem to hear
her.
Rowan threw cash down on the table. He
thought Hannahs comment was odd but was
focused on what he had planned for her.
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Hand in hand they left the Sweet Maple. Out


front there was a silver Model S Tesla wait-
ing for them.
Your ride my lady. Rowan opened the
passenger door for her. Once seated in the
soft leather seat, he couldnt help but think
that she looked pretty good in Italian leather.
He climbed in the drivers side and turned
towards her. The noise from the outside
world disappeared and it was just the two of
them.
Amazing. I feel like a modern day
Cinderella. Whats going on?
Rowan looked out the window and was
happy to see the sun lighting up the sky.
Did you know that this car can go from
0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds?
I didnt know that. Sounds like us.
Thats what I thought too.
Lets take this baby for a ride, shall we?
He pressed a button to start the engine.
It purred. The traffic was light for a Sunday,
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and in seconds they were off jetting around


San Francisco. Rowan cruised towards the
Golden Gate Bridge. Once on the bridge they
flew silently. The ocean to their left and the
bay and city to their right. Rowan tasted the
salt water. He turned the car on autopilot
and automatic steering. And took his hands
off the steering wheel.
See. No hands, he joked.
Put your hands back on the wheel,
Hannah squealed.
This baby can drive itself.
Oh really. You better not be lying.
Hannah, look out your window.
Hannah admired the sky. A small plane
was flying low and letters were emerging.
The air was sweet with syrup and change.
Moments later the phrase MARRY ME ap-
peared. Just as quickly as the words ap-
peared, they were gone. He glanced at her
face. She looked uncertain. He hoped she
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actually saw them, otherwise his planning


would have been for nothing.
Rowan pulled a pale blue box out of his
pocket. Inside was a ten karat princess cut
diamond ring, shimmering in the sun.
Will you? Rowan asked.
Yes. Yes, you crazy, sexy man.
His entire body buzzed with happiness.
He went to kiss her. She stopped him.
Im pregnant.
He thought shed said she was pregnant
but that couldnt be possible.
Did I hear you right?
Im pregnant, she said looking directly
into his eyes. There was no mistaking the
truth in them.
Youre pregnant. But you told me that
was impossible.
I thought it was. No one was more sur-
prised than me. When I missed my period I
thought it was stress. Then I took a test and
went to the doctor. Im five or six weeks in.
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Thats...um...Im in shock.
Are you happy? She asked. She bit her
lower lip.
He covered her stomach with his hand.
He was afraid he might hurt her.
Beyond happy. But wait. How did this
happen?
Seriously? Did your folks never have the
birds and bees talk with you?
He stopped her. I know how it
happened, but I dont know how it
happened. I thought you couldnt have
children.
Me too. My mother always told me that
it might happen with the right guy since doc-
tors didnt have a concrete reason for my not
getting pregnant. I never believed her and
just thought she was being insensitive.
You better start believing. Because here
I am. All yours. And Ill be a damn good fath-
er to our son.
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Rowan slipped the ring on her finger.


She moved it around watching the light
dance around the surface of the diamond.
Thats one big rock.
Too much?
No. Its perfect. There is only a fifty per-
cent chance it will be a boy you know?
It doesnt matter, as long as I have you
and its healthy, thats all that matters. And
besides, I could take a girl golfing with me,
just as easily as a boy. But I might need to in-
vest in a sawed off shotgun if its a girl.
Hannah moved in. Rowan came the rest
of the way and their lips met, sealing the deal
with a kiss.
Chapter Twenty Five
Hannah

A week after Rowan proposed, they tied


the knot at the courthouse. Did it feel like a
shot-gun wedding? Maybe a little.
Fiona and Rita werent happy about not
getting to plan an elaborate wedding. But
Hannah wanted to get it done before the
baby was born. And she knew her parents
and Rowans would prefer they be married as
soon as possible so they could all pretend the
pregnancy had come right after the wedding,
not before.
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The compromise had been getting the


family together for a lunch at the Cliff House
Terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was
a relief that everyone seemed to hit it off, or
at least acted politely.

***
Months of merging their things and their
lives while getting kicked in the gut by a
growing person made the pregnancy seem
like it was over in a flash. And then one day,
a week after her due date, while doing a load
of crib sheets, Hannahs water broke in the
laundry room.
Hannah picked up her cell and called
Rowan. Its happening, can you come get
me and take me to the hospital?
Ill be there in ten minutes. I cant be-
lieve this is really happening.
Hannahs primal roar, a reaction to a
contraction caused her to drop the phone.
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She called Rowan back and urged him to


hurry.
Five hours later the fluorescents shone
in Hannahs face. A still, quiet peace moved
through her. Shed just finished pushing
through the ring of fire. A naked, squishy
boy was smashed against her bare breast
tasting his first nectar of life on the outside
of the womb. As she supported his head she
smiled, noticing the thick chestnut hair on
his soft little head.
Im so proud of you babe, Rowan said.
He was situated next to the hospital bed,
and Hannah was taking in the love in his
eyes for her and their new baby.
Thanks. Can you believe we made him?
Well, you get most of the credit.
I cant argue with that. I was a rock star
with the pushing.
You were.
The baby unlatched and gazed up at her
with those eyes, the recognition that he was
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seeing his mommy for the first time. Goose-


bumps rippled her skin.
Rowan, do you wanna hold him?
He cradled his baby and held him close
to his chest. The father and son moment was
priceless. Hannah knew hed be such a good
dad.
I love you already, little guy.
Hannah broke into the moment, I know
we couldnt decide on a name but I was
thinking we should call him Edward, after
your grandfather.
Rowan beamed at the suggestion, Ed-
ward it is. He kissed the top of Edwards
freshly cleaned head and then he leaned in to
kiss Hannah. Her heart spilled over with
gratitude.
Maybe we should put some of the inher-
itance from your grandfather into this guys
college savings account.
Good idea. I wish grandfather could be
here to meet the little guy.
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Im sure hes here in spirit.


Youve made me a very happy man.
Hannah smiled in response to Rowans
kind words. Then she waved at the nurse
passing by.
Would you mind taking a picture of
us?
As the flash went off, Hannah beamed,
imagining a future of memories yet to be
made.

The End
Rowans Spicy Marinara
Sauce
Ingredients:

2 TBSP olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 small onion, minced

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes

2 15oz can tomato sauce

1 tsp dried basil


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1/2 tsp sea salt

splash of heavy cream

16 ounces cooked pasta


Acknowledgements
First off, we would like to thank you for read-
ing our first co-written romance. We are also
so grateful to our beta readers: Nicole, Jess
and Petrice. And our hats off to Barrie who
helped us with proofreading and editorial
feedback. Were also grateful to our support-
ive husbands Cristian and Alex.
About the Authors
Anna Starr is a contemporary romance
writer living in southern California with her
husband and two children. When she isn't
writing or chasing her children, you can find
her curled up on the couch with a sweet and
spicy romance.

Sign-up for her newsletter at: Author Anna


Starr's Website or follow her on Twitter:
@authorannastarr

MJ Greenway is the author of Dating


Maggie, The Siletz Bay Romantic Mysteries
and The Proposition co-authored with Anna
Starr. Her great passions have always in-
cluded reading and writing. When not en-
gaged in one of those past times, she enjoys
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baking, walks and time spent with friends


and family. She writes-in a room of her own-
under the clouds of the Pacific Northwest.
Sometimes her husband and son pop in to
check on her.

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@Created by PDF to ePub