Love on Lexington Avenue

Love on Lexington Avenue

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“Fans of The Devil Wears Prada will flip over Love on Lexington Avenue.” —Karen Hawkins, New York Times bestselling author

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes the second delightfully charming installment in the Central Park Pact series, following a young widow whose newfound cynicism about love is challenged by a sexy, rough-around-the-edges contractor.

There are no good men left in New York City. At least that’s Claire Hayes’s conviction after finding out her late husband was not the man she thought he was. Determined to rid her home of anything that reminds her of her cheating husband, Claire sets out to redesign her boring, beige Upper East Side brownstone and make it something all her own. But what starts out as a simple renovation becomes a lot more complicated when she meets her bad-tempered contractor Scott Turner.

Scott bluntly makes it known to Claire that he only took on her house for a change of pace from the corporate offices and swanky hotels he’s been building lately, and he doesn’t hesitate to add that he has no patience for a pampered, damaged princess with a penchant for pink. But when long workdays turn into even longer nights, their mutual wariness morphs into something more complicated—a grudging respect, and maybe even attraction...

One-Liners
  • A jaded widow. A cynical contractor. A love they never saw coming.
Accolades
  • A Goodreads Best Romance

"A glitzy romantic comedy for fans of Sex and the City, home renovation shows and anyone who wants to believe in the human capacity for reinvention." — Shelf Awareness

“Fans of The Devil Wears Prada will flip over Love on Lexington Avenue.” —Karen Hawkins, New York Times bestselling author

“Simply stunning. Layne’s new series is fresh and addictive, and I can’t wait for more!" — Jennifer Probst, New York Times bestselling author

"Lauren Layne is a master at sexy banter and funny dialogue. Add in some girl power and a man who knows his way around his power tools, and this one is a real winner."— BookPage

"Smart [and] funny . . . memorable characters with heart, heat, banter, conflict, and friendship." — Harlequin Junkie

"This strong sequel to Passion on Park Avenue will appeal to slice-of-life romance readers as well as fans of HGTV marathons.", Publishers Weekly

Excerpts

The wife.

The girlfriend.

The mistress.

A pact. To never, ever let one another fall for a womanizer like Brayden Hayes again.

Nobody told her that lurking beneath the veneer of a relationship, hiding under the label of “love,” was a whole steaming pile of crap.

Did that make her bitter? Ab.So.Lutely.

And she was just fine with bitter.

His eyes slammed into hers, and he was abruptly jolted out of his boredom. Not because her face was particularly interesting. All her features were right where they were supposed to be. Small nose, full mouth, angular jaw.

The eyes though. They were worth a second look.

“That work?”

She followed his point, then looked back at him, giving him a bland look. “You think I keep a broken coffeepot on my counter?”

"Oliver has impeccable manners. You, not so much.”

Scott shrugged. “What did you expect me to say, that the house has character? I don’t speak in niceties, Ms. Hayes, so if you’re looking for gentle euphemisms on what needs to be done, I’m not your guy.”

And he wanted to be her guy, as it related to this project. This home needed him.

“Sorry?”

Claire waved a hand over him. “The basic blue jeans. The flannel over T-shirt that I haven’t seen since Gilmore Girls was on the air. A jawline that’s . . .” she tilted her head and studied him. “Four days past a shave?”

He ran a palm over his stubble. Four days seemed about right. “Good eye.”

She shrugged. “You date kitchens; I date men’s grooming. Seven years of marriage will do that for you.”

“I already told you. Strawberry lemonade. You know, little touches of pink. Unexpected . . . delights.”

“Oh God,” he grumbled.

“A man who doesn’t like pink,” she said drolly. “How very original.”

“Pink doesn’t belong in houses.”

“Maybe not your house. I’m the one who will live here.”

Scott took another drink of the coffee. It was good. Very good. Too bad he was going to have to say no to the job. Pink. For God’s sake.

“Sounds good. Starting tomorrow okay?”

“What? No! I haven’t even figured out—”

“We’ll figure it out later,” he said, draining the coffee and setting his mug in the sink. “That’s half the fun.”

“That doesn’t sound fun at all.”

“You had a birthday.”

“Obviously.”

He leaned back against the counter and studied her. “How old are you?”

“No wonder you don’t have a girlfriend,” she mused without looking up.

His eyebrows lifted. “Who says I don’t?”

“Um, everything about you?” If he wasn’t going to be polite, why should she bother?

“It’s not like I asked your weight,” he said, clearly trying to provoke her.

At Claire’s startled shriek, Scott stepped into the small sitting room off the foyer, watching as Claire frantically tried to keep an upholstered yellow chair between herself and Bob. She gave him a panicked look. “What is that, a dinosaur?”

“Yes, Claire, it’s a dinosaur,” Scott said, grabbing Bob’s collar just as the dog lunged at the frightened woman. He knew the pup just wanted to say hi. Claire apparently did not.

“Where’s your step ladder?”

“A step ladder! Why didn’t I think of that?” she said in a singsong pretending to twirl her hair.

“Sarcasm noted. You don’t have a step ladder.”

“I do not.”

“What did your husband use to do things around the house?”

She snorted. “You obviously never met Brayden. Or anyone who lives on this street.”

Scott winced as she punctuated her point with a slam of the front door, and looked down at the dog who gave him a baleful look. “She’s right. It’s definitely not our business. She’s not our business.”

But damn. He was intrigued all the same.

“Seriously?” Said a male voice close to her ear. “He’s not a day over twenty-five.”

Claire jumped in surprise, though she refused to feel guilty as she pulled out of sight and glared at Scott.

“Really,” she said, pulling him farther down the hallway so as not to be overhead. “And I’m sure every woman you’ve hooked up with has been in your age range, right? Thirty-two and above?”

His eyes narrowed slightly, then he shrugged. “Point taken. Still, you’re practically drooling.”

“I was just looking,” she said, refusing to be embarrassed. “He’s very . . .”

“Young?”

“Hot,” she corrected. “He is hot.”

“You are . . .” She studied him, looking for the right words. “Not like other people.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Well, don’t,” she mused, looking back at the wine. “I’m not entirely sure I like you.”

He didn’t need Claire’s money.

What he needed was a chance to catch his breath. To remember what it felt like to enjoy life instead of just going through the motions. He wasn’t exactly sure how or why an unremarkable brownstone off of Lexington Avenue was the answer, but somehow . . . it was.

Scott told Claire none of this.

“Well?” she said, just a tiny bit smugly when he didn’t turn. She was oddly eager to see his face when he realized she knew her way around a contour kit and had a rather impressive push-up bra in her arsenal.

He glanced over, then did a double take. And not the good kind. “What is that?”

Claire felt her face fall. “What do you mean?”

“Are you going to a funeral?”

“It’s a little black dress,” she argued. “It’s classic and works for every occasion. Everyone knows that.”

“Not this occasion. What else you got?”

“You mean do I have a gold lamé hooker dress in my closet?”

“Do I look like the type of man who would know what gold lamé is?”

He glanced over at her once more, a very unflattering frown was plastered on his face as he gave her a once-over. “The shoes are fine. I guess.”

“The shoes are Manolo Blahniks,” she protested. “They’re more than fine.”

He draped the denim over her shoulder, then moved on to her shirts, pushing through them with rough impatience. “Do you have any tops that don’t belong at a PTA meeting?”

“Sorry, we can’t all look like we’re grunge-cool, straight out of the nineties, with a dash of farmer.”

"He give you any looks, or is he too busy replaying his lacrosse glory days in his head?”

“We’ve made eye contact once,” she admitted, unable to keep the giddiness out of her voice. Who knew that being on the prowl was actually kind of . . . fun.

“Whoa, eye contact? Slow down there, tiger, keep your clothes on.”

Claire’s heart caught in her throat. She was exceptionally aware of Scott’s closeness, the warmth of his breath against the side of her face. He lingered for a second too long, but when he stepped back, the moment—if it even was one—was broken.

“Sure, pour me one of those,” Scott said, leaning back on the couch. “Don’t put a garnish on it though. Keep it manly.”

“Not even bacon? A brunch place up the street puts bacon in their Bloodies.”

Scott glanced back toward the kitchen. “You got any bacon?”

Oliver held up a plate piled high with an obscene amount of bacon for two people.

Scott gave an affirmative nod. Yes, on the bacon.

“So, this is fun,” she said, waving a hand in his general direction. “Are you pissed at me specifically, or just life in general?”

Scott looked up at her, sensing she needed to talk and finding it both strange and pleasant that he seemed to have found himself in the role of confidante for the first time in his life.

“He was perfect,” she said, and Scott’s fist clenched the handle of the wrench. He changed his mind. Nothing pleasant about being the confidante.

Claire’s eyes stopped scanning the room and swung back to the man Naomi and Audrey were speaking with. Her mouth dropped open. The man in the tux was Scott.

Or at least a version of him. His brown eyes met hers, and the sardonic gaze was familiar, but that’s where the familiarity ended.

“You’re wearing a tux,” she interrupted.

“You expected me to be here in overalls?”

“I didn’t expect you to be here at all."

He extended his hand, palm up, his eyes locking onto hers in challenge. “Dance with me.”

Claire knew the dance was a mistake the moment Scott rested his hand on the small of her back, nudging her closer as his right hand closed around hers.

Scott’s palm pressed more firmly against her back. “I knew.”

Claire frowned. “What?”

He cleared his throat slightly, but his voice was still husky when he answered her question. “I knew you’d be here.”

Scott’s brown eyes burned into hers, and Claire wondered if she had the courage to step forward, to press her lips to his in front of a hundred people. Wondered if he’d kiss her back, wondered—

“You danced with me, and you—it felt like maybe—I felt—”

His gaze sharpened. “What did you feel?”

Scott reached out slowly and, acting on an unfamiliar tender emotion he didn’t recognize, pulled her toward him gently to press a kiss to her forehead. It was a gesture he’d never made toward anyone, ever, but it was the best he could do to tell her that he was there if she needed him—in whatever way.

Scott tossed the sponge in the sink and turned toward her. Wet hands tunneled through her hair as his lips collided with hers.

He was a little surprised when she met his gaze head-on, even more so when she walked right to him and dropped down, kneeling beside his chair. For a moment Scott’s entire world tilted with something that felt a lot like joy at being part of a couple.

“No. This is my life, you know that. I follow the job, not the woman.”

“Lives change. You and Claire know that better than anyone.”

Claire’s heart flickered in surprise at the tender touch, and she searched his face, looking for explanation, but the guarded look in his eyes was at direct odds with the sweetness of his action.

His grin widened, amused at being called out. “If you hate it, then you have none of the taste I thought you have, and I’ll wish I’d given you laminate cabinets and linoleum counters. Beige.”

She mock gasped. “You wouldn’t to do that to me.”

“Never.” His kiss caught her off guard; it was a little firmer than usual, a touch desperate. As though he were nervous.