November 26, 2013
November 26, 2013
Miller Sisters Book #1
"I am setting the Squee Cannon to STUN for this review…….Ripped is an adorable holiday-set novella, a mix of sweet, hot, funny and poignant. There is so much emotion and empathy packed into a shorter length...” Grade A Smart Bitches Trashy Books
"...one of the best novellas I've read this year...a perfect blend of sexual tension, laugh out loud scenes and romance.” Grade A Smexy Books
June 6, 2014
Also published in the UK as
The Notting Hill Diaries
October 21, 2014
Also published in the US as
‘Dearly beloved,’ the priest droned, ‘we are gathered here today to witness –‘
A mistake of massive proportions, I thought gloomily, holding my breath and sitting up straight in a bid to stop my bridesmaid dress splitting at the seams. Any moment now I was going to burst out of this pukey-yellow tube and the wedding would forever be remembered as the one where the bridesmaid exposed herself. Not that I’m prudish. Far from it. I’ve danced on plenty of tables in my time, but on an ideal day I preferred not to find myself revealing all Victoria’s Secrets to great Uncle Henry.
Some girls went through their lives dreaming of being a bridesmaid. You heard people talking about it as if it were a life goal. I had a list of life goals. I wanted to build a robot, visit Peru (I’ve always had a thing about lamas), work for NASA. Bridesmaid? That was nowhere on my list.
My parents married when they were both twenty-one. They stood at the front of a church much like this one wearing ridiculous clothes they wouldn’t normally be seen dead in, made all the usual promises – have and hold, death us to part, blah, blah – and then divorced when I was eight. Which taught me one thing –
That a wedding is just a party by another name.
Because my neck was the only part of me that could move without straining a seam, I turned my head and glanced sideways. Through a forest of fascinators and absurd hats that made think of UFOs, I could see the door that led to a pretty private churchyard, now covered in a light dusting of snow. I was glad it was pretty because I was sure I was going to be there soon. Here lies Hayley, who exploded out of her dress at the most inconvenient moment of her short, very unsatisfactory life and promptly died of shame.
The tiny church was crammed with people and stuffed full of extravagant flower displays, the cloying scent of lilies thickening the air and mingling unpleasantly with the smell of perfume from the elderly aunts. My nose tickled and my head started to throb.
The priest was still droning on in a hypnotic voice that could have been recorded and sold for millions as a cure for insomnia. ‘…..if anyone knows any reason why these two may not be joined, speak now….’
Was he kidding?
I could have given him at least ten reasons without even revving up a brain cell.
Number one – the groom was a total bastard.
Number two – he’d slept with the bride’s sister and at least two of the bride’s friends.
Number three – it was three days until Christmas and who the hell was dumb enough to get married when they should have been rushing round buying last minute presents?
Number four – it was far too cold to be wearing a strapless dress and at this rate I was going to be eating my Christmas dinner in hospital with a nasty bout of pneumonia.
Number five –
‘Hayley, are you OK?’ My sister Rosie nudged me in the ribs, increasing the strain on my dress.
Of course I wasn’t OK. We both knew I wasn’t fucking OK. That was why she’d agreed to come with me, but this was hardly the moment for sisterly bonding over Margaritas. To be honest if she’d passed me a Margarita I wouldn’t have known whether to drink it or drown myself in it.
I was good at statistics and I could tell you right now there was a ninety nine percent chance this wedding was going to end in tears. Probably mine.
‘You should have said no when she asked you to be her bridesmaid,’ Rosie hissed. ‘It was a mean thing to do when everyone knows you used to date him.’
And there it was. Right there. Reason number five why the bride and groom shouldn’t get married. Because he’d once said he wanted to marry me.
I told him no. I didn’t want to get married. Ever. I’d never had ambitions to be a bridesmaid and I had even fewer to be a bride. I assumed if he loved me, it wouldn’t make a difference. I mean, what was the big deal about a wedding ceremony? It wasn’t as if it stopped people breaking up. All that mattered was being together, wasn’t it?
Turned out Charles was very traditional. He was climbing the ladder in an investment bank in the city and needed a wife prepared to devote herself to the advancement of his career. I’ve always been crap on ladders. I tried explaining I was as excited about my own career as he was about his and his response had been to dump me. In a very public way, I might add, just so that no one was under any illusions as to who had done the dumping.
Admittedly it hurt to be dumped, but nowhere near as much as it hurt to admit I’d wasted ten months on a guy who wasn’t remotely interested in the real me.
I realized everyone in the church was looking at me accusingly, as if I’d come here on purpose to make things awkward. To somehow punish him for not choosing me.
Look again, I wanted to yell, and see which one of us was being punished.
What girl in her right mind would choose to turn up at her ex’s wedding dressed in the fashion equivalent of a giant condom?
Was it my fault the bride wanted to make a public declaration about which one of us the groom was marrying? And I knew I wasn’t exactly guilt free in all this. I could have said no. But then everyone would have thought I was moping and broken hearted and I had my pride.
That was the first thing Mum taught us – never let a man know you’re broken hearted. Which might be why our dad didn’t stick around for long, but more on that later.
I could feel myself turn pink, which I knew had to look horrible against the pukey yellow. I think the fabric was officially described as ‘misty dawn’ but if I saw a dawn like that I wouldn’t put a foot out of bed.
Worst of all? He was looking at me. No, not Charles – he hadn’t once glanced in my direction, the coward. The best man. Charles’s friend from school although they’d grown apart in recent years and the friend was now a super successful lawyer. To be honest I was a bit surprised he’d agreed to be best man, but Charles had lost a lot of friends since he’d taken a job in the city and started only hanging out with people who were ‘useful’ to him.
The best man’s name was Niccolò Rossi and he was half Italian. And hot. Seriously hot. In the looks department this man had been gifted by the gods.
Unfortunately immediately after the gods had dished out super clever brain, dark good looks and an incredible body, they obviously decided too much of a good thing was a bad thing and withheld humour. Which was a shame because Nico had an amazing mouth. A perfect sensual curve that would probably look good in a smile. Only he never used it to smile. Never. And he wasn’t using it now as he looked at me. He clearly wasn’t amused to see me sitting there. I wasn’t amused either. It was probably the first time we’d felt the same way about anything. He lived in London. We met the same night I met Charlie and although we were always bumping into each other on the social circuit, we’d barely spoken. I knew he wasn’t my type. He disapproved of me and I was done with men who disapproved of me. Charles hated the fact I was an engineer. He always wanted me to wear frilly dresses to compensate. No wonder we came unstuck.
Nico cast me an icy glance at the same moment I looked at him.
Our eyes clashed. His were a dark, dangerous black and everything inside me turned to liquid.
I glared, taking my anger with myself out on him.
I hated that he made me feel this way. He didn’t like me. I didn’t like him. We were polar opposites. I was fun-loving, friendly and honest about my feelings. He was zipped up, ruthlessly contained and cold as the inside of my freezer. There had been moments over the past few years when I’d been tempted to leap on him with a blowtorch to see if I could thaw him out.
He’d given me a lift home in his car once when Charlie had been too drunk to walk, let alone drive. It was a night I’d tried to forget. We’d been celebrating my job, which for some reason had sent Charlie over the edge.
Nico drove a red Ferrari, just about the sexiest car on the planet, and he was ruthlessly tidy. There wasn’t a single screwed up piece of paper in sight. No mess (although by the time he dropped me off there may have been traces of saliva where I’d drooled all over his car). His suits were Tom Ford, his shoes polished and his shirts a crisp, pristine white. But underneath that carefully polished appearance there was something raw and elemental that no amount of sophisticated tailoring could conceal.
I’d been wearing my favourite black dress that night and I remember he didn’t look at me once. Not even at my legs, which were definitely my best feature, especially when I dressed them up in four-inch stilettos (no pain no gain). He hadn’t bothered to hide his disapproval then and he wasn’t hiding it now.
His burning gaze lowered to my neckline and that sensual, unsmiling mouth tightened into a line of grim censure.
I wanted to stand up and point out that the dress wasn’t my choice. That it was yet another trick on the part of the bride to make sure I looked hideous. Quite honestly my breasts were too big for this dress and breasts generally aren’t on the guest list to a wedding. Mine were so big they could have qualified for separate invitations.
Nico Rossi obviously didn’t think they should have been invited at all.
Truth? I found him intimidating and I hated that.
I was a modern, independent woman. I’d never worn pink and I’d never had the urge to coo over strange babies in prams. My best subjects at school were Math, Physics and Technology. I was the only girl in the class and I always had better marks than the boys, which usually pissed them off but I figured that was their problem not mine. I had a degree in aeronautical engineering and was working on a super secret project to do with satellites. I couldn’t tell you more than that or I’d have to kill you and eat you and you didn’t need a degree in engineering to know there was no room in this dress for two people. I loved my job. It excited me more than any man I’d ever met. But that could have been because I constantly messed up my love life.
Every. Single. Time.
Honestly, how could an intelligent woman get it so badly wrong? I’d tried to apply data analysis methods to my dating history but failed to extract anything meaningful from the results except that getting it wrong hurt. I always seemed to end up compromising who I was, but that’s in the genes. Rosie and I watched our mum virtually contort who she was for a man who subsequently left her. As I said, we weren’t good at relationships, which was probably why I was sitting here single, watching my ex get married.
I breathed in the smell of this musty old church and thought about all the promises that had been made here only to be broken a few years down the line. And right there and then, I made a decision.
No more feelings.
Feelings just led to misery and I was done with misery.
Not that I’d ever been the sort of girl to wait by the phone, willing it to ring. God no. If a guy played those games with me, I deleted him from my contacts. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t be hurt. And frankly, what was the point?
‘I’ve made a New Year’s Resolution.’ I risked the dress and leaned closer to Rosie. ‘And I’m starting right now.’
‘You’re never wearing pukey-yellow again?’ She eyed my dress. ‘Good decision.’
I ignored her. ‘I’m sick of romantic relationships. Why bother? I can go to the movies with girlfriends. I can chat with girlfriends. I can laugh with girlfriends.’
‘That’s your New Year’s resolution?’
‘Everything I need in life I can get from girlfriends,’ I hissed, ‘apart from one thing-’
Rosie coughed. ‘Well you can –‘
‘No, I can’t. I need a man for that part. But only that part. From now on I’m using men for sex. Nothing else.’
‘Well as resolutions go, I predict that one is going to be a lot more fun than giving up chocolate.’
I can always rely on my sister for support.
The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was it was a brilliant idea. ‘I should have thought of it before.’ I was talking out of the corner of my mouth, trying not to attract glares from the elderly aunts. ‘Instead of trying to find a man who can make me laugh and is actually interested in me, instead of wondering what I can do for his career, I look for one thing. Sex appeal.’
‘If all you’re interested in is sex appeal, you could start with Nico Rossi,’ Rosie whispered. ‘He is scorching hot.’
Not just me then.
The problem was, I didn’t want to find Nico sexy. I didn’t want to think of him naked or wonder how it would feel to be kissed by him. He didn’t like me. It disturbed my sense of order and fairness that I should find him attractive.
I looked away, but not for long.
I couldn’t help myself. I sneaked another look. It was some consolation that every other woman under ninety was staring, too. If ever there was such a thing as raw sex appeal, Nico had it. He was the sort of guy that made you think about sin in a big way, which wasn’t a good thing when you were sitting in church with your breasts half exposed.
I couldn’t wait to get to the bathroom so that I could unzip my dress and give my ribs the freedom they deserved.
When was this wedding going to end?
Just say I do and go and live your lives until your realize what you should have said was I don’t.
But now they were staring into each other’s eyes and reciting hand written personalized messages.
I promise to love you forever and cherish you.
I promise never to cancel your subscription to the sports channel.
(OK I made that one up but you get the point)
I wriggled in my seat, wondering whether Nico Rossi spoke in Italian when he was having sex. He’d bought his younger sister to the wedding – a sleek dark vision of slender perfection. She was poised and sophisticated, just like him. Every now and then she glanced at him adoringly, as if he were a god. It seemed unnatural to me. I mean, I loved my sister but there were plenty of days I wanted to poke her in the eye. But these were perfect people who would never show emotion in public. They probably never argued. They were the sort who believed marriage to be an exciting journey.
I was always sick on journeys.
Thanks to our parents’ less than stellar example, my sister and I we were both equally screwed up about relationships. Not that there weren’t men in our lives. Far from it. Men were always attracted by Rosie’s sweet, heart-shaped face and her pretty smile. They thought she was fragile and needed protecting. Then they discovered my sister had a black belt in Karate and could break a man’s bones with one kick and they usually retreated nervously, licking their wounded machismo.
There was a guy once, but if I so much as thought his name she’d break my bones too so it was a subject I didn’t touch.
Just when I thought this wedding was never going to end, the priest benevolently told the groom he could kiss the bride. He’d been kissing the bride and half her friends regularly for the past six months without permission from anyone, but no one seemed to care about that.
I couldn’t help wondering if the kiss was for my benefit, to remind me what I’d turned down.
It was very Hollywood. No bumping noses or awkward moments. Scripted. The sort of kiss where you just knew they were thinking about how it looked on the outside, not how it felt on the inside.
There seemed to be an awful lot of tongue involved.
Rosie made sick choking noises next to me.
God, I loved my sister.
And then finally, finally, it was over.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
And my dress split.