Her Lucky Charm

What happens when you end up with your own trending hashtag?

For Roxy Porter, you try to salvage what’s left of your nursing career by agreeing to billionaire Kodi Donovan’s suggestion that they pretend to be engaged… just until the trend dies down.

But pretending to be something you’re not, it turns out, isn’t as easy as it looks… especially when feelings between them become real.

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Prologue

I didn’t mean to catch the bouquet.

I’m single—have been since Jax and I broke up three months ago just as my best friend Caitlin O’Halloran and her brother’s best friend Campbell Murphy started getting serious. If anyone deserves to catch the bouquet, it’s Caitlin who was standing right in the path of that flying bouquet.

But, no. Caitlin stepped aside and before I could run as far away as I could, the bouquet landed in my arms and I almost got tackled by three very determined women.

And now here I am sitting on a chair in the middle of the dance floor while the man who caught the garter sheepishly gets down on one knee in front of me.

Poor guy. To have to rush to the church because he was one of the groomsmen right as soon as his plane landed at LaGuardia and then this, having to put the garter on my leg in front of all the guests.

Not that the guests at Addison Rowe and Jordan O’Halloran’s St. Patrick’s Day wedding are complaining… or at least, half of them aren’t. The guests from the groom’s side hoot and holler, cheering their buddy on while the the bride’s family and friends, especially her conservative and old-fashioned aunts are covering their eyes with their hands although they still manage to peek between their fingers.

As someone whistle loudly, I know it’s going to be a train wreck.

… or maybe not, considering Kodiak “Kodi” Donovan, the guy who caught the garter, is Caitlin’s brother’s best friend and a hell of a catch. Tall with reddish hair and trimmed beard, some posh magazine called Hamptons Live voted him as one of New York’s most eligible bachelors, and his nonprofit organization ReBuild to Heal was listed as one of the most successful organization in the country as of last year.

He’s also way out of my league.

I lift my foot a few inches from the ground and as if on cue, Kodi slips the garter up my ankle. His friends yell for him to slide it higher and as our eyes meet, I nod.

Knock yourself out, Kodi.

As the garter slowly makes it up my leg, the slit in my dress opens to reveal part of my thigh. Just a peek. Our friends cheer as the music stops and is replaced by something else. Kodi and I look at the each other, surprised at the song choice. Whoever picked The Stripper by the David Rose Orchestra needs to burn in hell.

The guests cheer even louder. I can hear Caitlin hollering and when I find her, I give her my best I’ll-get-you-for-this look but it’s no use. She and Campbell are clapping and laughing. Campbell even whistles.

Higher! everyone yells.

Ay! Susmaryosep! the bride’s aunts mutter under their collective breath, some of them still covering their eyes yet most of them still peeking. The uncles mostly stand and watch, amused.

Kodi turns his attention to me and with a wink, he slides the garter just above my knee. An inch, then another inch. He’s taking his sweet time and the crowd is lapping it all up.

“You better push that thing above the knee or it’ll be five years of bad luck for me,” I say, feeling the slit of my dress slide open even more, my entire thigh now revealed before him. “Unless you’re chicken.”

It’s a challenge and he knows it. Kodi grins as we lock eyes. We hold each other’s gaze a beat longer than usual and my stomach clenches. I never realized how beautiful his eyes are.

Kodi’s fingers feel warm against my skin as the garter slides higher, stopping along the middle of my thigh. He bites his lower lip, and it almost seems like he’s about to push it even higher up my thigh but then he stops and that’s as high as he goes. The crowd groans in disappointment. But then, who can blame him? There are children present, after all.

Everyone cheers as Kodi gets up and holds his hand out to me. The striptease music ends abruptly, replaced with something slow.

“I heard somewhere that the man who snags the garter is supposed to dance with the woman who catches the bouquet,” Kodi says as I take his hand and he helps me to my feet.

“Lucky you,” I mutter, rolling my eyes.

He grins, guiding me across the floor effortlessly, his mouth in line with my ear. “Just how lucky will depend on you.”

CHAPTER 1

A sliver of light shining right in my eyes is what finally gets me to crack an eye open and wake up. It’s coming from a thin slit in the vertical blinds, and of course, it has to land right in my face. I groan, desperate to get away from the freaking sunlight like a vampire who’s about to combust any second.

Too bad any movement wakes up the percussion band currently residing inside my head. Who’s idea was it to drink so much last night even when I knew I had to be at work the next evening?

Oh, right. Me.

I roll onto my opposite side and bury myself in the covers… or try to. Why is there a wall of man-chest in front of me? One that smells so good, too, like I’d just woken up inside a chocolate shop after being locked in for the night. By accident, I may add.

I follow the trail of skin that leads a neck and a neatly trimmed beard. A ginger. It matches the light scattering of hair on his chest and his arm, the one that’s draped over my waist. His warm breath fans the top of my head.

Crap, of all the guys I had to spend the night with, why did it have to be Kodiak “Kodi” Donovan? He’s only one of the most eligible bachelors of Manhattan, known for being a businessman and a philanthropist. He builds schools and clinics in third-world countries through his nonprofit, working with the local people and businesses to provide education and basic healthcare.

Did I say that he’s also way out of my league?

I roll to my opposite side, away from him. I spot my stilettos on the carpet, and next to it, my emerald green bridesmaid’s dress draped over the back of a chair, the matching purse that’s barely big enough to fit my phone and my house key on the seat. The bouquet I’d caught at the reception sits next to it.

The memories come, like a movie on rewind. I just need to find the right section to rewatch, not the beginning which would be the wedding but later, at the reception. There was even a presentation from a local troupe that included a Filipino dance called Tinikling. It involved two pairs of long bamboo poles they positioned on the floor and the performers danced between the poles as they were clacked together and pulled apart. They even taught us how to do it afterward and we were laughing so hard it was a miracle none of us got our feet pinched by the bamboo poles. Then the bouquet toss, the garter toss, and then the moment Kodi slid the garter up my thigh. That wink. Him calling me Dark & Stormy. One dance followed by another, then a trip to his apartment where I made him a drink from his well-stocked bar. There was something about my tattoos, too, and kisses. Lots of kisses.

With tongue.

I touch my lips, as if doing so will make the vision clearer, like someone adjusting the screen. So does that mean we did it? Did we have sex and I don’t remember? 

Careful not to wake him, I slowly inch toward the edge of the bed—but not before lifting the sheets to take a peek, my face burning with shame at how shallow I’m being. But considering I don’t remember what happened after all those kisses last night, I need to at least have a look at what I got a taste of. I also need to know if what they say about him is true.

And… oh my. Yes, it is.

“Like what you see?”

I look up and see Kodi watching me, an amused expression on his face. “So, um, did we… did we do it?”

“Do what?”

My cheeks redden. “You know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t.”

I bury my face in my hands. “You’re making this even more awkward, Kodi.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, grinning before he looks at me quizzically. “You honestly don’t remember?”

I sigh. “Well, I remember coming here with you.”

“Yes?”

“You wanted to count my tattoos. You wanted every back story.”

He grins. “Yes, and you told me some of them between… between kisses. Like this, for example,” he pauses to run his finger on a tattoo of a butterfly. “This was your first tat and you got it after you broke up with some guy who didn’t want you to get one. Then you added the one with the woman right below it that goes just above your elbow, something you can hide under your sleeve. All retro designs, of course, which suits you perfectly.”

“Did I tell you the stories behind every tattoo?”

“Close.”

The vision comes again, clearer this time, of kisses soft and playful between stories. Nibbles along my lower lip. Tongue, too. Maybe a hand on my breasts, teasing, squeezing… but that’s as far as it goes. I do remember he looked tired. And once, he yawned.

“So did we do it?” I ask again. “And did we use protection?”

Kodi thinks for a few moments and shakes his head, sighing. “No, I’m afraid not.”

I stare at him. “We didn’t use protection? How could you? I… I have condoms in my purse. Sure, they’re a few month old but–”

“No, we didn’t do it,” he adds. “We didn’t have sex, if that’s what you mean.”

“Oh. You should have said that right away.” I pause, suddenly not sure if I should be more worried that he didn’t make a move on me. Am I not sexy enough? Maybe I was too wild?

“Actually, you fell asleep,” he replies, as if reading my mind.

“I did?”

“Yup. Out cold,” he says. “I was actually making my way down to… you know. But then I heard someone snore.”

“No!” I stare at him in horror.

“Oh yes. And it was a cute snore. And sure enough, I looked and you were out cold,” he says, smiling. I can almost see a mischievous glint in his eye as he continues. “At first, I thought I’d somehow lost my touch with the ladies but… I actually wouldn’t worry about it because I crashed right after you. Jet-lag.”

“At least, you have a good excuse. I was just too drunk.”

“Hey, I was drunk, too. We both were,” he says. “You made me a mean Bourbon Sour last night. Two of them.”

“That must have packed a punch.”

“They did.”

We look at each other for a few moments before I turn away, remembering I have a twelve-hour shift coming up in the evening. 

“I need to leave,” I say, scooting to the edge of the bed and gathering the sheets around me. “I’ve got work tonight so I need to take something for this hangover and catch up on my beauty sleep.” I turn to look at him as I swing my legs over the side of the bed. “Thanks for not taking advantage of me.”

“You’re welcome, Roxy,” he says as I continue collecting the flat sheet around me, doing my best to cover my ass. “I’ll drive you home.”

“You don’t have to, Kodi. You’re jet-lagged.”

“I’m awake and I need to get my body acclimated to New York time.” He sits up, his expression serious. “But I’m serious. Let me drive you home.”

I glance at the emerald green bridesmaid’s dress on the back of the chair, the stilettos on the floor next to the bridal bouquet I caught. Considering it’s the morning after St. Patrick’s Day, do I really want to make my way to the subway looking like I just spent the night somewhere else? Don’t they call that a walk of shame or something? Besides, even if I called for a cab or an Uber, that’s an easy fifty bucks from Manhattan to Queens.

Kodi doesn’t wait for me to answer. He flings the covers off the bed and stands up. I can’t help but stare. Even his backside is perfect, like a Greek statue. Did the ass have muscles? Of course, it does. Kodi’s ass is perfect along with the rest of his back and his thighs. I bet you could bounce a quarter off it.

“I’ll take the bathroom down the hall,” he says before pointing to a door along the far wall. “You take the main one over there. There should be a brand new toothbrush in the medicine cabinet, in case you want to use one. Oh, and aspirin, too, for your hangover.”

As Kodi leaves the room, I grab my clothes from the chair and hurry to the bathroom. Does he keep a stash of brand new toothbrushes in his medicine cabinet for every woman who spends the night?

The sight of his spacious bathroom and a shower stall that does not have a shower head or nozzle anywhere makes me want to jump in and try it out. I probably need a shower anyway. Last night had been wild. But as much as it would be nice to take a shower, I don’t want to overstay my welcome. I just need to get dressed and get out of here. And brush my teeth.

As I gaze at my reflection in the mirror, there’s no denying I look like I have a hell of a hangover. My hair is standing up in all weird angles, and my mascara has run to give me the perfect set of raccoon eyes. I may even have lost a few eyelash extensions along the way. I wash my face and do my best to remove any remaining makeup with a tissue.

I don’t even know how to feel knowing that Kodi and I never had sex. A part of me is disappointed that I fell asleep while a part of me is glad that at least, there won’t be any complications between us.

The guy’s so out of my league anyway, the type of guy you dream of, classic, handsome, and perfect. I’ve seen many gorgeous men before, but Kodi has something no other man I know has, and last night proved it. Maybe it was that twinkle in his hazel green eyes when he led me across the dance floor so effortlessly. Or perhaps it was his man-smell, one that got me all wet between my legs by the time the dance was over and later when he whispered he wanted to see my tattoos, the ones hidden under my dress.

But none of that matters now, the morning after when hangovers take over and reality sets in. For no matter what happened between Kodi and me last night, it’s time to wake up and accept reality: guys like Kodi Donovan don’t fall for quirky tattooed girls like me.

Kodi is already dressed when I emerge from the bathroom. Wearing a white tee and dark jeans, he’s sitting on the edge of the bed slipping his feet into his boots. He doesn’t even have to tie his shoelaces, he still looks more put together than I do. I sigh. Just great. Next to him, I look like I’d just spent the night.

“Do you have sunglasses I can borrow?” I ask, wishing I had taken that shower. But it’s too late for that. Already the clock on his bedside table says it’s almost ten in the morning.

“Sure.” He grabs a pair of sunglasses from his dresser and hands it to me. “My car’s parked in a garage a block away. Why don’t you wait here and I can get it and then drive by and pick you up? That way you don’t have to walk in your…. your high heels.”

I shake my head. “I’m fine walking to the garage with you. It’s not far, right?”

“Just a block away,” he says. “But I’m serious, Roxy. I can get the Jeep and–”

“Oh please, Kodi, what’s the worse thing that can happen?” I scoff. “Unless you don’t like to be seen with me.”

He rolls his eyes. “You know that’s not true, Rox. Come on.”

In the living room, Kodi grabs a wool coat from behind the front door and drapes it over my shoulders before getting another one for himself. While my sexy bridesmaid’s dress was perfect for indoors, it’s still March which means it’s biting cold outside. Sure enough, even with a coat to keep me warm, my feet feel the cold as soon as we step outside. I can feel people watching us, the fact that I’m wearing the same dress from last night making me wish I’d taken Kodi’s suggestion to wait for him until he got his car. I slip my arms into the coat sleeves and keep walking.

We get to the garage five minutes later, and the attendant brings around a red Jeep with black trim. I don’t know, but it’s so like Kodi to get a Jeep instead of a BMW. But as I get in the passenger seat and he shuts the door, I can feel our connection waning, like a fairy tale making way for reality to settle back in.

We don’t talk a lot on the way to my apartment. And since I usually take the subway to and from Manhattan, we have to consult the GPS to get there.

“Just drop me off right here,” I say when the GPS tells us that he’s arrived at his destination.

“Let me walk you inside.”

“No, you don’t have to. Just stop right here,” I say abruptly, acutely aware that there’s a stained mattress leaning against the side of the building. Not the best representation of my neighborhood, that’s for sure. “I just need to shower and get into bed so I can make it to work tonight.”

“You’re a nurse, right?” he asks. “What department?”

“Intensive Care,” I reply, opening the door and stepping outside. I need to get inside. New Yorkers may not care what the locals do, but around Rego Park, my neighbors love to talk. “Anyway, thanks for driving me home.”

“Hey, Roxy, I was wondering if we could–”

“Thanks so much for the ride,” I blurt out. “I had a great time yesterday, but I’ve got to go. Bye.”

I shut the door and hurry up the steps to the front door. I don’t know what Kodi was about to ask but I also don’t want to prolong an awkward moment longer than necessary. We had our fun last night and now it’s over. It’s easier that way. Besides, he’s out of my league and I’m better off not wasting his time… or mine.

At the top of the stairs, I pause, realizing I’m still wearing his coat. I turn around to yell for him to stop but Kodi is already driving away.