Sophie is dying—probably. An aneurysm at the base of her brain is just waiting to burst, and though she tries to keep her mind off the inevitable by painting away the pain, she simply can’t forget that her days are numbered.
He’s yearning for tomorrow…
Jamison is stuck. His past is a mess he’d rather not revisit, and his present is so dull he can hardly stand it. He takes refuge in his nightly walks where he looks up from the silent New York streets and stares into the window of a tragically beautiful girl painting her masterpiece.
They were made for each other…
A near collision in the dead of night brings them together, and fate means to keep it that way. But when Jamison turns out to be Sophie’s surgeon—the best in the city and her only chance at survival—will she be forced to choose between the love of her life and life itself?
They’re perfect together. But will the curse of the Garner-Willoughby family tear them apart?
**This is a full-length standalone romance with a HEA and no cliff hanger.**
My boots crunched in the snow as my lungs filled with freezing cold air. Oversized snowflakes brushed my face melting on contact as moonlight spilled through barren trees.
I came alive at night, roaming the streets of Tribeca. Packed city streets became mostly deserted come ten o’clock. That was when I took my nightly walks. Crisp night air washed the day off me, cleared my mind, and brought a sort of otherworldly peace I could never fully put into words.
My nightly walks were also when I got to see her—the painter girl. Her loft apartment was directly across from mine on the other side of the street. Some nights, when I couldn’t sleep, I’d stare out my window and watch her paint. Leaning against my living room window, I’d watch as her wild, brown hair spilled down her shoulders, and her body moved in tandem with each stroke of her brush. Sometimes the canvas was bigger than her, and the colors seemed to swallow her whole.
I tried to imagine what kind of music she was listening to or what was going through her mind as she painted. I’d never seen her up close before. I only knew she had long, dark hair filled with loose waves and thick bangs that hung in her eyes.
I’d walk past her building each night hoping to catch a glimpse of her face just once, but it was always just her hair.
In a borough with over a million people, I thought I’d never be lonely. It turned out I’d never been so lonely in my life. I spent my days amongst hundreds of people, ten- or twelve-hour days sometimes packed full of people who needed me and pulled me in every direction. There was never enough of me to go around.
My quiet apartment perfectly juxtaposed itself against the chaos that consumed my days. No one ever needed me after six o’clock anymore, not since I’d realized that people like me were better off alone than in the company of those with less-than-genuine intentions.
I slipped past the painter girl’s apartment and glanced up. Her window was dark that night. I sighed, trekking on and slipping my gloved hands into the pockets of my gray woolen coat.
The door to her building flew open just before I passed, and a girl bundled up in a puffy coat with a fur-lined hood ran out breezing past me. Her face was covered with a thick lavender scarf, and dark hair fell from her hood spilling down the front of her coat.
“Dammit!” she yelled a second later. “Ow. Ow.”
I spun around to see her lying on the ground, a gloved hand wrapped around her ankle.
“You okay?” I rushed to her side. “Sidewalks are slick tonight.”
She tugged her scarf down her face revealing full lips and a hint of deep dimples centered in her rosy cheeks. “I was trying to get to the art supply store before they close. I need more white paint.”
It was her. The painter girl.
A dried streak of blue paint graced her left cheek, and it took every ounce of my Type A personality not to try to wipe it off.
“I think I twisted my ankle,” she said, her sweet face flinching. She glanced at me, looking up through a splay of dark lashes, and immediately tried to toughen up. I studied her soft features in the moonlight. She was more beautiful than I’d ever imagined her to be. Her arms latched onto the park bench beside her attempting to hoist herself into a standing position. “Ouch…”
“Let me help you.” I lifted her up as if she were a rag doll and plunked her on the bench. “Can I look at it?”
Her body froze as our eyes met. Even in the dark of night, I could see her cheeks blush. She cleared her throat and nodded. I slipped her boot off and pulled her sock down enough to examine her ankle before I gently felt around.
“It’s just a light sprain,” I said. “Ice it for the next two to three days until the swelling goes down. Keep it elevated. Stay off it.”
I pulled the sock up and slipped her boot back on ensuring it was perfectly straight on her foot.
“You need help getting to your apartment?” I asked her.
She huffed, though her annoyance was more than likely directed toward her sprained ankle than anything else.
“Yeah. I live right there.” She pointed toward the door she’d burst from just minutes before. “Third floor.”
I slipped my arm under hers, and she gripped my shoulder as I raised her up. We hobbled, step by step, to the apartment building door.
“I don’t have an elevator,” she said apologetically as we made it inside the warm and cozy foyer.
“Not a problem.” I scooped my arm under her knees and lifted her petite body up the stairs one at a time until we’d arrived at the third floor. “Which apartment?”
“God, this is embarrassing,” she muttered, her hand flying to her reddened cheeks. “3B.”
I carried her to 3B and carefully helped her stand, my arm around her hips for support as she fished through her purse for her keys. A blast of warmth hit our faces the second her apartment door opened. In the corner, a space heater roared in the direction of a makeshift studio. Exposed brick walls, a drafting table, huge canvases, and a cart filled with paints, brushes, and palettes took center stage. A large canvas, still wet and half-completed, rested against a paint-covered easel.
“Where do you want me to put you?” I asked, watching as her eyes danced longingly toward her art studio. I glanced around at her place. It was a fraction of the size of my loft. It was wide open with no walls save for the bathroom. A vintage, industrial kitchen stood across from a makeshift living room, and a large bed covered with a million pillows rested against an empty wall. Her studio took pride of place next to the large floor-to-ceiling windows I’d watched her through so many times.
“I don’t know,” she sighed. She wanted to paint. It pained her not to. I could see it all over her pretty face.
“Here,” I said, directing her toward her sofa. “Sit here.”
Her careful gaze never left me as I walked to her studio and lifted her easel and canvas bringing them over to her along with a palette and brushes. I ran to her kitchen and stuffed a hand towel with ice cubes from her freezer, filled a glass with water, and grabbed some ibuprofen.
“You don’t have to do all this, you know,” she said with an amused half-smile.
“I wasn’t going to leave you out there,” I said, handing her the water and gel caps.
“I mean all this,” she said, her eyes dancing around the makeshift studio I’d set up for her. “It was very nice of you. Thank you.”
I shrugged and offered a reserved smile.
“I’m Sophie, by the way,” she said. “I’ve seen you around. You go walking at night.”
My heart leaped. She’d noticed me, too.
“Jamison,” I said. We stood, my eyes locked on her big, brown gaze for far too long as an awkward silence filled the space between us. I couldn’t get enough of her pretty face. There was something wildly innocent and free-spirited about her. Maybe it was the way her hair hung in her face or the way she didn’t notice the paint streak on her cheek. Maybe it was the way her apartment was decorated in a mish-mash of colors and styles as if she’d found random things at a flea market and decided to claim them. There was no rhyme or reason for any of it as far as I could tell.
“What time does your art store close?”
Her arched brows raised under her thick bangs. “You don’t have to do that.”
I glanced down at my watch. “How far away is it? You said you needed white, right? What do you paint with?”
“Oils,” she said. “But you don’t have to do that.”
“What’s it called?” I asked. “If I bring you white, will you promise to stay off your feet and let your sprain heal?”
Her lips twisted, amused again. “Beacon Art Supplies. They were staying open late for me tonight. It’s up the block on the left.”
I bolted out of her apartment, practically running down the two flights of stairs and out past the spot where she’d slipped and fallen ten minutes prior. Five minutes later, I’d arrived.
“Hello?” I called, poking my head inside. The ‘open’ sign was unlit, but the door was unlocked, and the lights were still on.
“Yes?” a woman’s voice called from the back.
“I’m here to pick up some paint for, uh, Sophie,” I said, realizing I didn’t yet know her last name.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Be right there.”
A blonde woman about Sophie’s age with a braided ponytail hanging over her left shoulder strutted to the front. She was wearing a paint-covered smock and holding a giant bottle of white paint in her hand.
“She slipped on the way here,” I said. “I told her I’d grab it for her.”
The woman’s nametag identified her as Mia. She rolled her eyes and laughed. “I told her I’d stay open late. Must’ve been in a big hurry.”
“Sidewalks are slick,” I said, pulling out my wallet. “Be careful out there tonight.”
Mia waved her hand. “It’s free.”
“She works for me.”
“Oh,” I said, slipping my wallet back into my left back pocket. “All right, then.”
I hurried back to Sophie’s knocking before letting myself in. She was still right where I left her, lying across the couch with her leg propped up on a pillow, half asleep.
“Here’s your paint,” I whispered, sitting it next to the easel on her coffee table. I clicked off the lamp that lit the space above her sofa and showed myself out, pausing to look at her one more time before locking the door from the inside and shutting it tight.
So that’s her.
Blaire Broderick is a modern-day Carrie Bradshaw—if Carrie Bradshaw had three small children, two dogs, a sitcom-dad of a husband, and lived in the suburbs far, far away from the romantic city streets of Manhattan. A daydream believer, Blaire is never without an idea in her heart or a song in her head. When she’s not busy tending to her little ones, she can be found working on her next book. And when she’s not working, you just might find her curling up with a good book or a really trashy reality show.