She’s his first taste of ordinary.
And everything he ever wanted.
If he doesn’t blow it.
Red-haired Petey Cavanaugh is a sculptor who welds steel and glass creations. A young widow, she lives on her in-laws’ sheep ranch in Montana where she helps out during the day, working on her art at night.
Looking to raise money to expand the ranch’s business, she gratefully accepts her art school roommate’s offer of a gallery show in Manhattan. It’s been years since she was in the city, and she’s happy to visit her old friend.
Nik is in New York on business. He’s been traveling for nearly a month, enduring endless meetings, attending obligatory dinners, and battling jet-lag. On his way to yet another business dinner, his world collides with Petey’s one rainy Manhattan night.
Their mutual attraction is immediate, but Nik’s skeptical. Could it possibly be that this gorgeous, enchanting artist has no idea that he’s Europe’s most eligible prince?
Spending time with Petey is Nik’s first-ever taste of ordinary. What will happen when she finds out the truth?
Three stops later, Petey took his hand and led him out of the train. They made their way up to street level, where the sun had set. In the glow of dusk, they made their way down the street.
When they came to a line of people waiting on the sidewalk, Petey joined them. Nik smiled indulgently. “What’s this?” he asked.
“Dinner,” she said, grinning up at him mischievously.
After about fifteen minutes, they’d made their way to the corner, where the line continued. Ahead, Nik saw a red truck which seemed to be the focus of the line. He looked to Petey questioningly.
“It’s called Yumpling. They serve the best Taiwanese in Manhattan. I had to check Twitter to find out where they’d be tonight. All these people did the same thing.”
“All to eat food from a truck?” he asked.
She laughed lightly. “I told you. Ordinary can be pretty awesome.”
They ate their chicken bowls on a park bench overlooking the river, all the while chatting about nothing in particular. When they’d finished, they dropped their trash into a nearby can.
Nik took her hand and pulled her close. “Are you ready to go back to the hotel?” he asked, pressing kisses along the side of her neck.
Giggling, she lightly pushed him away. “Soon. But there’s one more place I want to take you. We can walk from here.”
Hand in hand, they walked two blocks down and one block over, coming to a stop in front of an Irish pub. “This is my favorite bar on the planet.” She grinned at him. “Jules and I spent way too much time here back in the day. Come on.”
The red door of the four-story brick building was propped open and just inside, a man collected their $5 cover charge before allowing them to pass through a green Dutch door into the pub. The space was small, a narrow aisle between the huge oak bar down the left side and high-top tables to the right. Midway through was a small stage, where a trio of musicians played Irish music on traditional instruments.
Petey pushed her way through the crowd toward the stage and managed to snag a table a couple was just leaving. She hiked herself up onto a stool and patted the one beside her. Smiling, he joined her. Petey flagged down a passing server. “Two pints, please.”
Their Guinness was delivered and Petey touched her glass to his. “Slàinte,” she smiled. They both sipped their beers, and she nodded with the music, at times even singing along.
I need to tell her. The thought ricocheted through his mind. The time has come. Before we get to the suite. I should give her the option to change her mind. The thought caused his heart to pound. What if she changes her mind? It was something that hadn’t occurred to him before.
“Are you alright?” she asked.
Realizing he was frowning, he smiled and nodded. “I’m fine. Just lost in my thoughts. Listen, Petey, I wanted to talk to you about something.”
She smiled apologetically. “Hold that thought. I need to make a quick trip to the Ladies’. I’ll be right back.” She gave him a peck on the cheek and headed deeper into the pub past the stage.
Jorgen suddenly appeared at his side. “We need to leave now, sir. A number of photographers are outside in front of the bar. Word has apparently gotten out.”
“I can’t leave. Petey just went to the restroom.”
“The car is waiting just outside the back door. Lars and Ada are already there, and I’m keeping an eye this way.”
Nik nodded, knowing the security team had worked out the best possible plan, given the circumstance. “Alright. Let me pay our tab.”
He flagged down the same waitress who had brought their pints and pressed a crisp $100 bill into her hand. “Thank you very much.”
While Jorgen took his seat at the table, Nik headed for the direction in which Petey had disappeared, finding the restrooms just beyond the main area of the bar. Beyond that appeared to be a billiard room occupied by a pair of pool tables. From where he waited, he could see the back door.
The ladies’ room door opened and Petey emerged, startled to see him standing there. “Oh, hi! Did you give up our table?”
His voice was urgent. “We need to leave. My car is out back.”
Petey frowned. “Why? What’s wrong?”
Jorgen joined them. “Sorry, we need to move now.” He ushered the pair toward the back door.
Craning around to look at Jorgen, Petey stopped. “What’s going on? Why is he here?”
With more patience than he felt, Nik explained, “Petey, you remember Jorgen, my secretary.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Cavanaugh, but we must leave at once.” The man’s tone was soft but left no room for question.
When they got to the door, Nik stopped and faced Petey. “When we open the door, we need to move quickly into the car. Don’t stop for any reason. I promise I’ll explain everything.”
“Alright, sir, are you ready?” Jorgen asked.
Nik nodded curtly. Grabbing Petey’s hand, he pushed open the back door. As soon as he did, the night exploded into brilliant flashes of light. Unable to see, Petey felt Nik pulling her by the hand, and Jorgen pushing her from behind.
Faceless voices chorused all around them. “Prince Stefan, who’s the woman?” “Prince Stefan, over here…” “Why are you in New York?” “Is she a stripper?” “Prince Stefan…”
Nik ducked into the car and pulled Petey in behind him. Jorgen pushed Petey’s head down, preventing her from hitting it on the roof of the car, and then got in beside her, pulling the door closed. “Go, go, go,” he ordered to the people in the front seat, and the car sped off into the night.
Wide-eyed, Petey turned to Nik. “What. The ever-loving. FUCK. Was that?!”
He ran a restless hand through his hair. “I wanted to talk to you back at the bar.”
“We’ve been together all afternoon and evening. If you wanted to talk to me, you had plenty of time. Who were those people?” Her voice was shrill.
He sighed deeply. “Tabloid reporters, mostly, I imagine…”
“And what were they saying? Prince Stefan? What the hell is that about?” She crossed her arms and glared at him.
Nik looked down at his hands. “That’s my official name.”
“Your official name. I’m still not getting this, Nik. Explain it to me.”
He reached for her hand. “I’ve been meaning to tell you all day. The fact is, I’m the crown prince of Beruvia.”
She snatched her hand back. “The crown prince of Beruvia,” she repeated, blinking. “You told me you were Nik, a something or other businessman.”
“That’s true also. That’s the work I do.”
Angrily, she shook her head. “I don’t understand what’s going on, but I’ll tell you something,” she snapped. “I don’t like being lied to.”
“Petey, I never meant to lie to you,” Nik protested.
She addressed the driver. “Stop the car.”
Jorgen placed a hand on Petey’s forearm. “That’s not advisable, Ms. Cavanaugh. The photographers are no doubt chasing us.”
Petey whipped her head around. “I’m not talking to you,” she snapped.
“Petey, please let me explain,” Nik offered.
“Stop this goddamn car right now, or I will open the door and jump out!” She leaned across Nik and gripped the door handle.
Resigned, Nik spoke to the driver. “Stop the car.”
Petey opened the door as the car rolled to a stop. As she climbed over him on her way out, he reached for her hand. “Petey, please…”
“You lied to me. I can’t believe I’m so stupid.” She glared at him one last time before marching away down the sidewalk in the opposite direction.CHASING ORDINARY by Pandora Spocks