First Monday: Empire State of Mind

I’m in kind of a weird spot right now. I’ve turned in Touch. I finished the first draft of Game of Shadows, and moved on to the second book, tentatively titled Blood and Shadows. I can’t really share anything from that because no matter what I post, it’ll spoil something from GoS. So what should I post? I’ve been working off and on on a contemporary romance titled Run, but it’s been mostly off lately. I have a couple of projects I’m going to be revising soon, but I haven’t started that yet.

Another project I’ve been working on sporadically is a New Adult romance, tentatively titled Empire State of Mind. I switch to it when I need a break from all the violence and mayhem Cass and Nick create, and lately it’s been crowding my brain, demanding more face time. My editor really wants a story set in the publishing or fashion industry, which is how this whole deal got started. Sydney’s a recent graduate of FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) and just landed her first post-internship job with a new label in New York City. She didn’t want to move, but figured NYC was the best place to start honing her design skills, so she pulled up stakes and took the first – and only – job she was offered.

In this scene, she meets Liam, and, well, things get interesting very quickly.

    The bar was about half full, tiny candles in little glass cups clustered on the tables, Thievery Corporation slinking from invisible speakers. It was understated elegance, all dark wood and polished glass. Not a place you’d find in LA. Not a place you’d find a girl with a penchant for vintage and TV shows that went off the air before I was old enough to realize they were on.

    If the party was here, either it was in a separate room, or no one else had arrived yet.

    I slipped off my jacket and smoothed the wrinkles from my skirt. I’d get a drink and take a look around, and if no one else was here, I’d make myself comfortable at one of the tables and wait for someone I knew to show up.

    And next time I’d take Taryn’s advice and come later.

    The bartender noticed me after I’d been leaning on the bar for ten minutes. “Vodka tonic.” A stray lock of hair fell forward, and I pushed it behind my ear. There were a handful of patrons standing or sitting in front of the bar, ties loosened and sleeves rolled up. Two women had their heads bent close together, hands poised in that artful, casual way over the tops of their glasses. It was a kind of grace that came with years of practice that I didn’t have, and every time I’d tried it in LA it felt fake. On them, it didn’t look fake. It looked alluring. I wanted to be one of them, just for ten minutes.

    My drink appeared, and I sipped it, scanning the rest of the people clustered around the bar. They were fairly generic, business people kicking back after a long day at their desks.

    Except for the guy on the end.

    The bar disappeared, taking the sounds and smells of the place with it. He hadn’t bothered to loosen his tie or take off his jacket to roll up his sleeves. Dark hair a little messy, like some lucky bitch had been running her fingers through it moments before. A jawline so hard and stark he wouldn’t have been out of place in an editorial spread. Straight, narrow nose, firm lips, a little thinner than I preferred, but at that point I didn’t care, because for the love of all things holy the man was hot.

    It was too dark in the bar to tell what color his eyes were. Not that it mattered. He took everything in with a cool, calculating gaze, and I almost dropped my glass when it landed on me. I blinked, lifted my glass, and held his eyes long enough to not seem like a coward.

    Then I eased away from the bar and found a dark corner to hide in. First full day in a new city. I could be anything I wanted, these first few weeks. That was one of the good things about moving to a new city.

I watched the people moving around the bar for a few minutes before I got bored. Celina had made me promise to call her at the end of the day to give her a full recap, so I might as well call her. I nudged my glass aside and dug my phone out of my clutch.

“Mind if I join you?”

Hottie McHotterson stood next to the empty chair on the opposite side of the table. I swallowed hard and nodded. New person. I was a new person. That new person knew how to flirt with men who were obviously older and more experienced in everything and who didn’t live their lives by the tidal charts. “Bored?”

One side of his mouth kicked up, and my stomach swooped and jumped. I dug my nails into the side of my thigh. “You looked like you are.”

Not anymore. I shrugged. “Supposed to meet some coworkers and it doesn’t look like anyone’s shown yet.” I tucked my phone into my clutch. “You?”

    “Clients. No show.” He unbuttoned his jacket and pulled out the chair. “Liam.”

    “Sydney. Interesting place for a client meeting.” Late for one, too, but what the hell did I know? This was the city that never slept. People probably had meetings at 2AM.

    He lifted a brow but didn’t respond. “New to the city?”

    Dangerous question. Lie, or tell the truth? “Got in yesterday,” I admitted. “Flew in from LA at the last minute.”

    “For?”

    “Work.” I was cool. So cool I was vague. And mysterious. Or quite possibly an idiot who was blowing this meeting.

    This time both corners of his mouth kicked up. “Well, Sydney, I was about to walk out of here and find dinner, since it appears my clients haven’t shown. Interested?”

    I shouldn’t. Disappearing when Suzanne had told me to be here, my first day on the job…Liam didn’t look like the kind of guy a girl said no to and expected him to still hand out his number, though. I studied him, committing his gorgeous face to memory. “Can’t. First day on the job and all that.” I flashed him my best apologetic smile.

    He blinked, scooted his chair back, and stood. Then he came around and tugged out my chair, pulling me to my feet. “Text them,” he said simply.

    He was tall. Tall and broad shouldered and lanky. There was power under that dark suit of his, coiled and ready to strike. It made me wobbly, and weak, which had to be the reason I nodded and pulled my phone from my purse. I had Sean’s number, and I sent him a text that I was here but no one else was, so I was going to get some food.

    I blew out a breath. “Where did you have in mind?”

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