Authors: Matt Dunn
OTHER BOOKS BY MATT DUNN
The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook
From Here to Paternity
The Good Bride Guide
The Accidental Proposal
A Day at the Office
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2014 Matt Dunn
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Lake Union Publishing
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Lake Union Publishing are trademarks of
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Cover design by bürosüd
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014937701
For Tina. Forever.
THEN . . .
bet you’d look super wet, too.’
The man sounded a little drunk, and as he continued to stare at her chest, Sarah Bishop’s first thought was to slap him, until she realised his pathetic chat-up attempt was a reference to the ‘Superdry’ T-shirt she was wearing. She sighed to herself and tried her best to conjure up a smile that suggested polite
‘Well, that’s something you’re never going to find out,’ she said, raising her voice to make herself heard above the noise of the
The man elevated both eyebrows, reminding Sarah of a
dummy. ‘You’re an American!’
‘Yes,’ she said patiently. ‘I know.’
She peered towards the stage, hoping the band were about to come on and save her from what was the fifth chat-up attempt in as many minutes, though it was impossible to tell, seeing as the man was blocking her view. He wasn’t bad looking, she had to concede, but given the bright-red braces she could see peeking out from underneath his pin-striped suit jacket, he was probably a banker, and the last thing Sarah wanted was to spend what was left of the evening hearing him boast about how much money he earned. She got enough of that in the office every day.
‘Where from?’ asked the man, and Sarah was tempted to reply ‘America,’ but a response like that might have been construed as flirting, and that was the last thing she wanted.
‘Aha!’ He clicked his fingers to summon the barman, and Sarah frowned.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Ordering you a Manhattan. Should make you feel right at home.’
The man grinned down at her, obviously pleased with himself, so Sarah swivelled round on her stool and indicated the untouched glass of wine on the bar next to her.
‘I’ve got a drink, thank you.’
‘Well, I’m getting you a Manhattan,’ he insisted. ‘Unless you want something else?’
was Sarah’s first thought, glancing towards the club’s entrance, where a man as wide as he was tall was guarding – or rather, blocking – the door.
‘Well?’ said the man, and Sarah took a deep breath.
‘Listen, I just came here to listen to some jazz,’ she said, and as she met his gaze defiantly, he rolled his eyes.
‘Suit yourself,’ he said, adding ‘Bloody Yanks!’ under his breath before disappearing into the crowd, and Sarah had to resist the temptation to follow him and throw her drink over his expensively tailored suit, but that wouldn’t have been a good idea – not in the least because it would have left her without one. She’d been in enough clubs like this to know a single woman was seen as fair game – or on the game – and since she wanted to be able to enjoy the music, a full glass of wine was a useful prop if guys came up and offered to buy her one. Not that it seemed to be working this evening, but perhaps this part of London was simply too close to the City. The guys who worked there were different. Weren’t used to being told to take a hike. And often even struggled to take a hint.
She gazed around the faded interior of the club, eyeing the
paint, grateful she wasn’t sitting underneath what appeared to be a very precariously secured mirror-ball hanging from the
. Even in the more run-down parts of Harlem, a building like this would probably be condemned, and Sarah couldn’t help but
whether it was typical of the London jazz scene. She was used to the traditional, smoke-filled New York clubs, having spent many an evening watching her father play sax in venues with names that formed parts of album titles, and they – well, they’d been a world away from this place.
Worried she might suddenly burst into tears, Sarah reminded herself why she’d come here this evening. Her first six weeks away from New York had been pretty tough, but places like this had the potential to make things a little more bearable, so when she’d
the flickering neon sign alternately proclaiming ‘The G-Spot’ and ‘Jazz Club’ from her cab on the way home from a night out with a few of the women from the office, and a sudden
feeling of homesickness had overwhelmed her, she’d seen it as a chance to feel like a New Yorker again, at least for one evening. So she’d told the driver to pull over in front of the entrance, handed her share of the fare to Sally, the woman she’d been sharing the cab home with, and had all but run inside.
Her Blackberry buzzed, and as Sarah fumbled for it in her jeans pocket, she noticed another man trying to make eye contact from the other side of the room and hurriedly looked away. She’d become good at declining the many male advances that came her way – as a woman working in the City, you had to be – although recently, she’d run out of excuses where David, her boss at the bank, was concerned. She glanced down at her phone to see his number flashing on the screen, and quickly answered the call.
‘Just calling on the off-chance you’re still awake?’
She glanced at her watch, saw it was only eleven o’clock, and smiled. ‘Well, if I wasn’t, I am now.’
‘Are you having a good time with the girls?’
Sarah almost laughed. ‘Girls’ was pushing it – Sally had been the next youngest, and she was probably nudging fifty. Old enough to be her mother, she realised with a start. And while she hadn’t wanted to go out with them this evening, David had suggested it might be good for her. Would even help her integrate. And she’d been too uncertain of her position – either at work, or relationship-wise with David – to refuse.
‘It’s been a blast,’ she said, flatly.
‘Pleased to hear it,’ he said, failing to pick up on her tone. ‘
, I can hardly hear you. So, you know, have fun, and I’ll see you at the office tomorrow.’
‘Sure. See you tomorrow,’ she said, then slipped her phone back into her pocket. In truth, she was a little irked that David had called, and wondered whether it was more to check she’d actually taken his advice and not cried off. He’d been the one who’d engineered her move from the U.S. – although not strictly for professional reasons, she suspected. From almost the moment she arrived he’d begun asking her out, and she’d been flattered by his refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer, so eventually she’d stopped giving it. And while their first date – dinner the previous weekend at Nobu, a breathtakingly expensive sushi restaurant on Park Lane, where David had completely failed to get her ‘this place is called
?’ joke and instead had given her a lecture on Japanese pronunciation – hadn’t quite been the beginning of the fireworks-going-off-
romance she’d been hoping for, Sarah had begun to suspect that the only fireworks she’d ever experience would be every Fourth of July. Assuming she ever made it back to the States, that was.
She looked up to see the man still watching her and considered
just drinking her wine and leaving, but like she’d told
she was here to hear some jazz, and Sarah was blowed if she was going to let anything – or anyone – spoil her plans. Besides, and to her relief, the lights were finally dimming, so she relaxed and focused on the stage, grateful that at least now she could enjoy the music.
The band appeared through the curtain at the back, the traditional line-up of a drummer, double bass, and – she saw the familiar golden glint – a sax player, and as he stepped into the spotlight, Sarah caught her breath. He was tall, the mid-length, dark brown hair that framed his regular features unstyled enough to be stylish, and
not quite athletic, but not skinny either – remarkably healthy for a Brit, she thought. While the bright stage lights perhaps emphasised his lack of a tan, Sarah didn’t worry about that. She knew jazz
didn’t get to see a lot of daylight; plus, this was England, a country not exactly known for its summers. And while she always paid special attention to sax players, given her father’s influence, they rarely looked this good – or had a smile that was capable of melting her inside like the one he’d given as he’d appeared onstage.
The band launched into
I Just Want To Make Love To You
– one of her father’s signature numbers. They were good, too: a little out of sync, possibly because they hadn’t performed together that much, but more than competent, and Sarah enjoyed the familiar tune. Then the sax player began his solo, and she found herself suddenly transported back to Harlem, back to the club on 112th Street where her father would take her to see him play. The club she’d take him to when he’d eventually become too frail to even pick up his instrument. The club where they’d held the tribute concert the night of his funeral . . .
She reached for her glass and gulped down a mouthful of wine as she fought back the tears, willing herself to concentrate on the music, and for the minute or so the sax player held centre stage, Sarah was mesmerised. He was good, better than her father, even, and there was something magnetic about the confidence he exuded when he played – a confidence he hadn’t shown until he’d put the instrument to his lips. She watched his fingers dancing over the keys and shivered with anticipation at the prospect of them dancing over her body like that, wanting the solo to never end, though once it did, Sarah had to stop herself from clapping louder than anyone else in the room. Then he smiled awkwardly at the audience – perhaps a little overwhelmed by their
– leaned into his microphone, and said something she couldn’t quite catch, and at the rich, sexy sound of his voice, Sarah couldn’t tell whether the thumping sound she could hear was her own heartbeat, or the drummer beating a steady rhythm on the stage next to him.
The sax player seemed to be searching for someone in the crowd, and – surprised to feel a flash of jealousy – Sarah looked for them herself, then felt a little foolish when she realised the woman she presumed it must be was in fact an older, bald man leaning against the other side of the bar. His manager, maybe, or more likely, the club’s owner – she recognised the type. Whichever, Sarah knew he was lucky to have someone as talented as that playing here. They didn’t come along that often in life.
The man caught her eye, and she smiled shyly, suddenly embarrassed. ‘He’s good,’ she mouthed, jabbing a thumb towards the stage, and the man nodded, then picked his glass up and
‘I know,’ he said. ‘Though I’m not sure he does.’
‘Do you think he’d be playing a dump like this if he did?’
‘It’s not so bad . . .’
The man broke into a grin. ‘It’s okay. I own it.’ He held out his hand, and Sarah shook it. ‘Melvin. Mel, to my friends.’
‘I’m Sarah. Nice to meet you, Melvin.’
She pointed to the sign behind the bar. ‘I have to ask. The
Mel shrugged. ‘It should say ‘J-Spot.’’
‘As in “J” for ‘jazz’?’
‘Exactly. But the guy who made it had this strong Brummie accent, and things kind of got lost in translation. Anyhow, it’s a talking point, isn’t it?’
‘I suppose.’ She glanced back at the stage. ‘So what’s his story?’
‘Evan?’ Mel puffed air out of his cheeks. ‘He used to be famous. And then gave it all up.’
‘You’d have to ask him that. But nowadays, he just . . . plays.’
‘With a talent like that, wherever he wants. Though that does
seem to be here, fortunately for me. Bums on seats, and all that.’ Mel
grinned again. ‘And I don’t mean “bums” like you Americans might.’
‘You mean “arses”, right?’ Sarah said, in her best Dick-Van-Dyke-in-Mary-Poppins British accent, and Mel laughed.
‘Yup.’ He nodded. ‘Arses.’
Sarah spotted the man who’d tried to chat her up earlier sizing up his next target over in the corner. ‘Well, the place is certainly full of them,’ she said.
She wanted to ask more, but Mel had moved to serve someone at the far end of the bar, and besides, the sax player –
, she reminded herself – had resumed playing, and as Sarah turned her attention back to the stage, her eyes met his.
And while she wasn’t naïve enough to believe in thunderbolts – except for the ones the British weather kept throwing at her – at that exact moment, though it lasted almost no time at all, Sarah knew they’d sleep together.