Authors: Stacey Joy Netzel
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance
Holding Out For a Hero
Stacey Joy Netzel
Kelsie Newman meets the man of her dreams at the beginning of a really, really bad day, so excuse her for not recognizing him. Good thing she's a smart girl and a quick learner. When he rescues her from her Good Samaritan act gone bad later that same day, she doesn't make the same mistake twice.
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As I waited for my Chai tea, I scrutinized the books on the rack near the register of my favorite coffee shop to curb my growing impatience over the slow service. I didn’t want to ruin my current thirty-nine day on-time-to-work streak. One title in particular caught my eye.
The Trouble with Heroes.
There’s trouble with heroes?
Oh, Lord, whatever shall we do?
I grinned at my silent theatrics and flipped the book over to read the back cover. Sure, titles catch my eye—as evidenced by the book in my hand—and I love a beautiful cover as much as the next addict, but the voice on the back ultimately determined whether or not I spent my hard-earned money.
This voice intrigued my imagination with a collection of short stories about some of the most fabled heroes of all: Prince Charming, King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Perseus, Robin Hood—
I didn’t have to read any further. I loved Robin Hood—especially when I pictured Kevin Costner on the big screen saying,
“I’d die for you.”
Now there’s a hero to make my heart melt every time.
The teller finally slid my tea across the counter, so I passed her enough money to cover the book, too. I had to know what’s wrong with my precious Robin Hood; Kevin’s morphing accent notwithstanding. On the way out the door, I slipped the anthology into my carry-all bag for my lunch break in the park and hurried off to work, only seven blocks down from my Manhattan apartment building on West Fourteenth Street.
There are days I still can’t believe how incredibly lucky I am to—
A jolt to my shoulder blade sent my cup and bag flying. Steaming Chai splattered across the sidewalk as the man who barged into me cut off a fellow New Yorker and jumped into her taxi. No
“Hey!” I yelled after the taxi. “I have a day here, too!”
I glared at the departing taillights, annoyed with the guy’s absolute disrespect on such a beautiful, promising, sunshine-bathed, spring morning. For a little background, my day started with no hot water and no Super in my apartment building to fix the problem. But after leaving a message for David (my landlord), I had talked myself into remaining optimistic. Hence the forced, cheerful description of what was truthfully a blinding, chilly start to this stupid day.
That’s right, optimism be darned. And the jerk who’d made it a certainty I’d be late for work. He didn’t have to face Mr. Walker—my
boss. (Side note: sarcasm is not to be confused with optimism.)
I silently wished for a traffic jam so the guy missed whatever he was rushing to. That’d serve him right. With my jaw clenched tight, I began to gather up the scattered, now damp, contents of my bag. I rescued my peanut butter and jelly sandwich seconds before a humongous boot ground it to mush. Whew. As I reached again, for my new book about troublesome heroes, another hand beat me to it.
I didn’t relish being one second later than I had to be, so I didn’t bother to look up as he lifted the dripping paperback. Yes,
, I could tell by the large, slightly tanned, distinctly male hand. In fact, through the mass of my unruly red hair that had fallen forward to obscure most of my vision, I vaguely saw him wipe the cover of my book on his suit coat.
“Let me apologize for my crazed brother,” he said. “His wife is on the way to the hospital—her water broke.”
Smooth and rich like my favorite German chocolate cake, the man’s voice was well-modulated without sounding arrogant. Hey, gimme a break, I’m a voracious-reader-wanna-be-writer-amateur-baker; I liked to think yummy. And okay,
, I’ll take back the wish for the traffic jam. The poor woman in labor didn’t deserve to go through that alone just because her husband lacks basic consideration for others.
With everything crammed back in my bag, Mr. Apology and I straightened at the same time. I shook my curls back over my shoulder and gave him a quick glance as I accepted the book with a grudging “Thanks.” Baby or not, his brother dumped my breakfast and I had no time—
This guy was worth a double-take—I just had to be casual about it. Oh, yeah. Tall, dark and handsome. A pair of light blue eyes were all the more electrifying off-set by thick, sable lashes, elegantly arched eyebrows, and dark wavy hair to rival a certain McDreamy Seattle doctor on television. Yesterday’s stubble shadowed his strong jaw line.
Mr. Apology stood a whole head taller than me, and he looked vaguely familiar. Did I know him? Had I met him before?
Definitely no. I’d have had to have been in a coma to not remember meeting
. Especially with that voice.
“Did you get everything?” he asked before I could figure out why his face teased my uncooperative memory. He dropped his gaze to inspect the sidewalk at our feet. He was so delicious, I stared in wide-eyed fascination until his attention rose to me again.
I did a hasty scan of the cement and immediately declared, “Looks like it.”
“Again, I’m sorry. Please let me buy you another coffee.”
“Oh, that’s….no, I don’t have time.” I shook my head and broke eye contact before all my common sense flew off to La La Land. Too bad I couldn’t retain some poise
enjoy the view. “I’m already late.”
“Then I’ll deliver it—where do you work?”
Was he serious? No one was that nice in this city. “You don’t have to do that.”
“No one should have to go without their caffeine in the morning.”
“We have some at the office.”
“But I’ll bet it’s not half as good.”
His charming, crooked grin made those blue eyes twinkle. He was absolutely right, our office coffee couldn’t hold a candle to the spilled taste buds party darkening the sidewalk at our feet.
I opened my mouth to tell him my floor and office number when someone else in a hurry jostled me from behind. Just the reminder I needed—I was digging myself deeper by the minute. If some miracle put Mr. Walker in a good mood this morning, then it’d go
the moment he saw me mooning over some guy delivering coffee to my desk.
Yes, I’d moon over the man. If he actually showed up. But he probably wouldn’t, so no sense setting myself up to cry over spilled Chai later. I forced a stiff smile and cursed my miserable luck this morning.
“Really, it’s not necessary. I really have to go.”
Really. Before I said
I brushed past him, past a gentleman who held open the door of a cab for the woman whose was stolen moments earlier, and glanced at my watch as I headed for my office building. Mr. Walker would not be happy with me. We’d just had a talk last month about my habitual tardiness. Well, he’d yelled, I’d cringed. Right now the words,
“This is your last warning, Kelsie,”
echoed relentlessly in my head.
It hadn’t mattered to him that I routinely brought work home with me, so I knew it wouldn’t matter that I’d succeeded in being on time every single day since then, and it certainly wouldn’t matter my valid reason for being late today. Unless…my heart leapt with hope. He’d had a morning meeting scheduled, I just couldn’t remember for sure if it was today or tomorrow. I prayed for today.
A co-worker breezed into the building ahead of me, rudely ignoring the universal courtesy of holding the door for the person behind her. With everything that’d happened, unfortunately I forgot the door had a heck of a rebound, and my reflex grab resulted in two broken nails. Lovely.
, don’t let this be one of
days. In the middle of my low frustrated groan, someone reached past me for the door.
“I am very sorry about what happened.”
German Chocolate Cake Voice. Seriously, it’s like he just poured the warm batter all over me. He stood close enough that his chest brushed my back. A delicious shiver ran up my spine and tingles erupted from his overwhelming male magnetism. I barely kept myself from leaning against him by digging my jagged nails into my palm.
“Forget it,” I murmured. His spicy, enticing scent enveloped me, making me long for a pen and paper so I could close my eyes and put the experience in writing. I took a deep savoring breath… and realized he held the door open for me.
“Oh, thank you.” Ducking my chin in embarrassment, I made myself leave his magical presence. It was all just so strange; I never acted like this. Yes, I am single, but happily so, and by my own choice. I wasn’t even looking at the moment.
After the door closed behind me, I had a sudden compelling urge to congratulate him on becoming an uncle. Spinning around, I collided with someone else entering the building.
“Watch it,” the man grumbled.
My turn to apologize…and my guy had already disappeared. Served me right, I guess. I wasn’t exactly friendly to him. I mentally kicked myself a good one and joined the crowd bee-lining for the elevator doors. The ride proved an exercise in patience as it stopped at every…single…floor. Eventually I arrived on seventeen and pushed through the other passengers, only ten minutes late.
When I arrived at my cluttered desk, the sight of Mr. Walker’s empty office brought a wave of such dizzying relief I had to sit in my chair before my wobbly knees gave out. Amazing. My luck was still somewhat intact.
Should’ve known I spoke too soon. All before ten a.m., I managed to rip another nail, run my nylons, jam the copier, stub my toe kicking said copier, accidentally delete a press-release I’d spent twenty minutes composing, and lose one of my favorite earrings.
Then Mr. Walker’s press-secretary arrived and dumped a stack of poll research folders on my desk, to be reviewed and cataloged by the end of the day. I took a fortifying breath and rubbed my temples because, yes, obviously, this was one of
days. No getting around it.
I looked up to see a little old lady standing by my desk holding a kettle with pot holders. Very odd, and somehow, today, not surprising.
“Where might I find Nalinda Michaels?”
Her warm, sweet voice conjured up a memory of my grandma pulling fresh baked cinnamon rolls from the oven. My mouth watered at the thought and my empty stomach growled, but the lady in front of me was still waiting for an answer. I directed her toward Nalinda’s office just as Mr. Walker stormed through the reception area and past my desk.
“Kelsie. My office. Now.”
I should make him call me Ms. Brooks. I mean, I don’t get to call him
, now do I? Although, to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to keep a straight face if I did. Who names their son Eunice? Even now, I found myself grinning through the nervousness churning my stomach as I dug through the piles on my desk for my pen and notebook.
Had he found out I was late? Would he make good on his promise and kick my butt out the door? How would I pay my rent? Buy groceries? I
I should’ve updated my resume last night instead of watching that romantic comedy on cable.
Nalinda’s visitor glanced back with a concerned frown, but I sent her what I hoped was a reassuring smile on my way to answer my summons to the gallows.
I quickly discovered Mr. Walker’s meeting did not go well, and luck has nodded its fickle head in my direction once more. I swear it’s toying with me today, but since I haven’t lost my job yet, I’ll ride the waves as best I can for the time being.
In the middle of Mr. Walker’s tirade about corrupt politicians—which I’d heard so many times I could recite the diatribe in my sleep—I began to fantasize about being rescued from my mundane existence by Robin Hood. With a medieval cloak tied about his throat, he’d burst through the doors, sweep me into his arms, and carry me down in an express elevator to the trusty white steed waiting outside.