Home > The Broken One

The Broken One
Author: Brittney Sahin




New York City, New York – Three years ago

“Would you stop acting like you’ve got a burr in your saddle?” Ella tipped her head, pointing her big blue eyes at Jesse. “We flipped a coin. Not my fault you called heads and lost. Better luck tomorrow.” She slapped him on the back and sent him a playful wink.

Ella. Ella. Ella. What was he going to do with her? Sure as hell not put her over his knee and swat her ass the way she’d just whacked his back.

“Did you really have to pick a Broadway show earlier and now this place?” Jesse released a heavy breath, trying to wrap his head around the fact he’d sat through the Cher Show tonight, and now they were in a nightclub.

“You had a nice nap during that show, if I recall. You should be awake enough to dance with me tonight.” Ella’s bright red lips parted to show her white teeth, one front tooth a tiny bit bigger than the other. An “imperfection,” as she liked to call it, but to him, she was perfection, currently wrapped in a tight dress.

Sharing a room with his best friend’s little sister would not be perfect or ideal though. The swanky hotel that was a few blocks from Rockefeller Center had been completely booked when he tried to get his own room at the last minute, and since this was supposed to be his sister and Ella’s girls’ trip, there’d been no need for two rooms in their original reservation.

But his sister, Rory, developed a stomach bug at the last minute, and she insisted Ella still go on the trip. And in Rory’s place, Jesse had been selected (more like coerced) to fill her shoes. And well, he didn’t wear heels or Prada. And he also had a dick, which meant sleeping in the same room with Ella was going to be a problem. Thankfully, when they’d checked into the hotel to get dressed for the show earlier, there’d been a room available with two beds. Otherwise, he’d be sleeping on the floor.

He thought back to when she’d walked out of the bathroom in her outfit for the evening and did a little twirl. She’d called the one-shoulder dress she’d designed “New York candy apple red.”

More like “siren” red, drawing the eyes of everyone with a pulse that night. And damn, did her dress have to have a bow at the waist? With Christmas next week, he’d thought a dozen times how much he’d like to unwrap her.

But he wasn’t just any man. At least, he wasn’t the man she thought he was.

And she wasn’t just any woman. She was a Hawkins. His best friend’s sister. Plus, she had three other brothers.

“Did you say dance?” Jesse finally reacted once he’d let her words sink in.

“I reckon I did.” Ella shrugged and flicked her light blonde hair to her back as she set both hands on the bar-top counter, looking left and right for anyone available to serve them.

Her bare shoulder brushed against him as she leaned his way a bit, and he half wondered if she might place two fingers in her mouth and whistle for a bartender the way she’d done for a taxi earlier.

“Whiskey neat. Two. Not too expensive. But none of that cheap shit either,” Ella ordered once she’d garnered the attention of one of the bartenders who had a Jim Morrison look going for him along with a handlebar mustache.

The man eyed Jesse with raised eyebrows, but Jesse lifted his chin in a silent request to “do what the lady says.”

The bartender grabbed a bottle of Woodford Reserve and poured two fingers of the whiskey, then slid the drinks across the dark wood counter.

“Cheers.” Ella clinked her glass with his and threw back the amber liquid as if she were taking a shot.

“Well, I guess I’m adding, ‘Keep Ella from drinking too much’ to my list of responsibilities tonight.” Jesse shook his head and took a small sip, deciding he ought to stay as sober as possible to keep an eye on the firecracker.

Hell, it was the real reason he’d booked the last-minute flight to accompany her to New York for the weekend. Rory knew damn well he wouldn’t want Ella going to the big city alone.

According to Rory, no one else was available to go with Ella. Yeah, he’d called bullshit from a mile away, and he was pretty sure he and Ella were being set up. Everyone in town, aside perhaps from the Hawkins brothers, had been rooting for them to get together for as long as he could remember.

Ella positioned her back to the bar, her gaze cutting to the dance floor, which wasn’t all that crowded since, by Manhattan standards, it was early at only twenty-three hundred hours. Or, eleven o’clock in civilian-speak. He doubted anyone there had to rise before the sun came up to tend to a farm or horses on a ranch like back home.

“Was New York City your idea, or Rory’s?” he found himself asking.

“Why? Do you think I’m trying to pull a Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama? Leave Bama to pursue fashion design?” She twisted her neck to steal a look at him, and his stomach squeezed at the idea of Ella moving to New York and leaving her students behind. She was a damn good designer, but so far, it’d only been a hobby. “I just wanted to see New York at Christmas. Christmas movies are my absolute favorite. And nothing feels more Christmas-y than this city.” She smiled. “Well, that’s what I thought before coming here.”

“And now?” He cocked a brow, curious.

“Our home is definitely more Christmas-y. I haven’t seen a single caroler since we arrived. Have you?” She grinned, her smile meeting her eyes.

“Not a one,” he returned with a smile of his own.

“Well.” She slapped her hands together like she was about to rally in her big family for supper. “I’m going out there.” She pointed as if “there” could have been somewhere other than the dance floor by the DJ booth. “Sure I can’t entice you to join me?”

She could entice him to do a lot of things, but dancing wasn’t one of them. Sure, they’d slow danced a few times here and there over the years. And two-stepped back home. But throw his arms up and act like a raver? Nah, he didn’t think so.

“I’ll be over there.” He pointed to the random Romanesque column off to the side of the dance area. “I don’t even know why that’s there. Not attached to the ceiling.” He shook his head. “Only in New York.”

“Aesthetic over function.” Ella patted his chest twice. “Loosen up. And if you change your mind, well, you know where to find me.” She turned to walk away, and he found himself circling her wrist, pulling her back to him.

Her eyes fell to where he held on to her. “You know I don’t tolerate assholes bothering you, no matter where we are.” And that was code for, if a man touched her on the dance floor, he’d join her for only one reason, and it wouldn’t be to dance.

Ella worked her gaze up his chest, over the pressed black button-down she’d insisted he wore with black slacks tonight, then her attention settled on the hard line of his mouth for a brief moment. “Well, you know I love to watch that ice hockey nonsense just for the brawls. Don’t tempt me.” She wet her lips, rolling her tongue along the bottom one in dramatic fashion to clearly fuck with him.

Not a great idea when he’d love nothing more than to do just that. And it can’t happen.

The strap on Ella’s shoulder started to slip, and he let go of her wrist and righted it in place.

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