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Come As You Are
Author: Lauren Blakely

I couldn’t have scripted a more perfect night.

For one fantastic evening, at a masquerade party in the heart of Manhattan, I’m not the millionaire everyone wants a piece of. Fine—multimillionaire. But who’s counting all those commas? Not me, and not the most intriguing woman I've ever met, who happens to like dancing, witty banter, and hot, passionate up-against-the-wall sex as much as I do.

There's no need for names or business cards. And that’s why I’m eager to get to know her more, since my mystery woman seems to like me for me, rather than for my huge…bank account.

Everything’s coming up aces. Until the next day when things get a little complicated. (Newsflash — a lot complicated.)


He's charming, brilliant, an incredible lover, and right now I want to stab fate in the eyeballs.

I've had one goal I've been working toward, and lo and behold, my mystery man is the very person who stands between me and my dream job. A job I desperately need since my hard-knock life has nothing in common with his star-kissed one.

But it’s time to put that fairytale night behind me, and focus on learning what makes him tick. Too bad it turns out his quirks are my quirks, and his love affair with New York matches mine.

And as we spend our days together, I discover something else that feels like a cruel twist of fate — I’m falling for this naughty prince charming, and that’s not an ending I can write to our story.

For Candi—for everything, and for the stories.



I’m used to whispers.

Little voices rustling around me. Asking, wondering.

That guy looks familiar.

Is he . . .?

Is that . . .?

Yes, I am that guy.

Sometimes they figure it out. Sometimes they don’t. If they do, a pitch comes next.

Today, the locker room attendant at my gym mutters under his breath—I think that’s . . .—then studies me like a philosopher studies the meaning of existence.

Good thing I’m mostly dressed.

As the short, stocky guy collects towels from the floor and tosses them into a hamper, he stares at me then pretends not to. He looks down then glances up again, and I swear I can see the pieces sliding into place as I slip the final button through its hole in my white dress shirt.

No, he’s not about to hit on me. He’s about to hit me up.

I sling my messenger bag across my chest, snick the locker closed, and run a hand through my still-damp hair. Grabbing my towel from the bench, I carry it over to him and toss it in the hamper. Lifting my chin, I nod at the dude and thank him for all he does in keeping the locker room at this high-end racquetball club sparkling clean.

He tilts his head, wags a finger, and turns his whispers into words. “Excuse me, but aren’t you Flynn Parker?”

Called it.

Bonus points that he identified me as me, and not as my identical twin. This guy has a good radar.

“Yes, I am.”

A smile lights his face, and he practically vibrates with excitement. “I’m Dale, and I need to tell you about an app I developed. I think you’d dig it.”

If I had a beer for the number of pitches my ears have heard . . . well, I’d be able to stock all the pubs in Manhattan forever. I’d be a beer supplier, rather than a high-tech CEO.

“Give me your best thirty-second pitch,” I say, as I fix on a smile. Here’s the thing—in my field, you never know when you’re going to be pitched something worth listening to. Hell, if the guy has an app that warms your slippers before you come home, I might be interested.

Or maybe I’d just throw on a pair of socks instead.

Dale rubs his hands together. “Get this. It’s called How’m I Doing? And,” he says, shaking his head like his app is blowing his own mind, “it rates your sexual performance.”

I blink. Adjust my eyeglasses. Did he really just say that? “Excuse me?”

“You turn it on when you get it on, and based on your speed and your rate of thrust and the noises of your partner, it scores you. Like, are you a five? Are you an eight? Are you a—wait for it—a ten?”

Shockingly, I’m familiar with how a scale of one to ten works. “Does it do . . . anything else?”

Dale furrows his brow. “Besides give you a grade on how well you take care of business? What else should it do? That’s hella cool. Imagine all the ways it could integrate with online dating sites.”

Imagine all the ways no one would ever want to, one, use it, and two, learn the answers. Plus, if you need to use it, I’m guessing your score is on the low end.

But my role isn’t to fund him. It’s to give some feedback on the fly. Considering how much I enjoy a clean locker room that doesn’t smell like the inside of a sock, the least I can do is provide a useful tip. The number of great ideas that have launched from the detritus of bad ones is enough for me to say to him, “Keep working on it, Dale. Keep refining it. And don’t be afraid to pivot, either, and take it in another direction.”

Preferably an entirely new one.

He scratches his head. “A new direction. Let me think about that. Maybe it can make recommendations. Positions to try. Tips on speed and such.”

Yeah, I’m going to leave him with that thought knocking around his skull. “Good luck, Dale.”

“Thanks, Flynn.”

I leave and walk the ten blocks to my office, saying hello to Claude the doorman once I’m in the lobby.

The mustached man with the blue cap and matching tie greets me. “Good morning, Mr. Parker. Did I ever tell you about my cousin Charlie, the amazing miniature golfer?”

“I don’t believe you did,” I say, wondering if this is where Claude shares a family yarn about the time his cousin landed a hole-in-one in that impossible windmill obstacle. If so, I’d like to know how to pull off that shot.

“He started a GoFundMe campaign so he can become a pro,” he says. “If you can contribute to his fundraising campaign, we can get him some new five irons, an elite coach, and some state-of-the-art golf balls. Would you consider it, Mr. Parker?”

If he’d said his ten-year-old niece’s softball team wanted a sponsor to pay for a field, or that his nephew’s middle school science class desperately needed to finance a trip to the planetarium, I’d say yes in a heartbeat. I’m not opposed to sharing my wealth.

I am, however, adamantly against bankrolling vanity projects. “While I wish your cousin the best of luck, I prefer to support non-profits that have specific charitable goals rather than individual goals.”

Claude chuckles. “If you saw my cousin you’d see he’s something of a charity case.” From his post behind the black marble counter, he slaps his thigh and guffaws at his own joke. “Thanks for listening, though.”

I give him a tip of the proverbial hat and head into the elevator. As the doors start to close, I breathe a sigh of relief. At last, I’m free from this morning’s pitch-a-thon.

“Hold the door.”

An arm thrusts forward, sending the doors swishing open again. A frazzled man in a rumpled suit wheels a suitcase behind him, the telltale sign of a salesman. Surely he has a great set of steak knives that also make julienned fries to sell me.

The guy looks me over and furrows his brow as the elevator chugs upward. “Hey, you look familiar. Are you who I think you are?”

“Han Solo, circa 1977?”

He snaps his meaty fingers. “I got it! You’re the guy in the personal injury ads that run on the local cable access channel.”

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