At exactly 8:45, Lily Dell pushed through the rotating doors of New York’s Jensen & Richardson Communications and smiled at the security guard. She was running late, but that was no reason to be unfriendly.
“How are you today, Hank?” she asked.
The older man tipped his cap to her. “Fine, Miss Dell. Thanks for asking.”
“Have a good day, okay?”
“As long as the sun is shining and I have air to breathe,” he said with a wink.
Lily had the same exchange with Hank every morning, but that was okay. Lily found routines comforting. On some level, she knew it was because of her childhood, but there was no point in digging into that muck. She’ d escaped it. That was enough for her.
“Wait!” Lily called as she ran for the elevator banks. Her office was on the fifty-eighth floor, and it could take forever for an elevator to show up at ground level during the morning rush. A bleached-blond woman with long pink fingernails stuck an arm between the elevator doors, holding them while Lily squeezed in.
“Thank you,” Lily whispered to the woman.
The elevator moved in fits and starts, stopping repeatedly until it reached the thirtieth floor, when Lily finally found herself alone. Quickly, she dug into her handbag for a lipstick. At the rate she was moving, there was no way she was going to have time for a pit stop in the ladies’ room to fix her makeup before meeting Mr. Hathaway.
Fumbling to open the lipstick without dropping her suit jacket, laptop case, or black leather purse, Lily lost her grip on the sleek tube and sent it tumbling down her crisp white shirt, leaving a trail of blushing peach as it went.
“Shit!” she cried.
“Oh, it’s not so bad as all that,” came a voice, and from the shadows of the seemingly empty elevator stepped a man. He was tall and lean, with jet-black hair and unreadable eyes the color of moss. His skin was pale and stood out against the dark pinstripe of his expensive suit. She noticed the edge of a faint scar to the side of his right eyebrow. He smiled at her, showing off just a hint of his perfect teeth.
She tried to smile back, but suddenly the elevator was much too small.
“We’ve met,” he said quietly, taking a step toward her. “Do you remember?”
What a question! She’d spent every waking moment since the reception last week trying to figure out who the beautiful man was but to no avail. It was the Keller Champagne marketing launch party, and although Lily hated to admit it, she’d had a few too many samples of the product. She’d been making her way toward the restrooms when this man, who now stood in the elevator with her, appeared.
Over a few yards of empty space, their eyes met, and time slowed and stretched as Lily suddenly became aware of every molecule in her body being pulled toward this stranger. They didn’t stop walking. They glided by one another, their eyes locked.
“Good evening,” the man said.
“Yes,” Lily croaked.
“You look lovely,” he said.
Before she could say thank you or ask his name or beg him to explain what had just happened, he gave her a mock salute and disappeared around the corner. It took almost a full minute for Lily to regain her bearings and chase after him. But by the time she reached the reception hall, he was nowhere to be seen.
“I do remember,” Lily said now. Her voice sounded strange, as if it were coming from outside of her.
Slowly, the man bent down to retrieve her lipstick from the floor of the elevator. His motions were deliberate and smooth; she could see his broad shoulders straining against the fabric of his suit.
“You dropped this,” he said, holding the tube out to Lily. His hands were big and graceful, not two qualities that normally went together in her limited experience. As she reached for the lipstick, their eyes met and the temperature in the elevator soared. A hot flush rose on Lily’s cheeks, far brighter than the lipstick that now stained the front of her shirt.
“Thank . . . thank you,” she stammered. When she took the lipstick, her fingers brushed the man’s cool skin and the cuff of his suit jacket. The signal from her fingertips raced immediately up her arm and down through her stomach, coming firmly to rest between her thighs. She shuddered despite the rising heat. A wave of unfamiliar lust washed over her, rendering her momentarily dizzy. Lily never reacted to men this way. She was measured, careful, logical. She’d learned her lesson about what happened when you weren’t. But her body did not seem to care.
“Oh,” Lily murmured, squeezing her thighs together. It felt good. The man took a step closer. He gave off a warm, citrusy scent that did not help her dizziness. His smile was gone. He eyed her as if she were prey, a great eagle about to dive on a helpless field mouse. Her legs threatened to buckle in high heels that no longer felt even remotely stable.
“Your shirt,” he whispered. Lily was sure he could see her heart pounding through the thin fabric of her clothing. Did he feel this too?
“I think it’s ruined,” he said. He was so close now she could see the flawless surface of his skin. She could think of nothing but how badly she wanted him to touch her. Anywhere.
With agonizing slowness, he ran a finger down her cheek and into the hollow of her throat. There, he applied the slightest bit of pressure, making her gasp. Her body, as if detached from her brain, arched toward him.
Please, she thought. I can’t do this.
His finger continued to travel down over her collarbone, easily pushing aside her shirt and slipping between the lacy edge of her bra and her skin. She forced herself to hold his eyes, which showed only focus. Lifting the fabric of her bra, he made room for the rest of his hand to slide around the outside of her breast.
Scream, she told herself. Call for help. But the only sound she seemed capable of making was another desperate “oh.”
With a sudden forceful motion, the man pulled her shirt and her bra strap off her shoulder to reveal her full breast. It looked white and strange in the dim lights of the elevator, at odds with the rest of her skin. He cupped her gently in one hand, bent down and ran his tongue over her hard exposed nipple, taking it between his teeth and gently tugging. Bolts of electricity shot through Lily, and she wanted to howl, to beg for more. Instead, she bit her lip and grabbed the wall for support, sure she was about to faint. The very lonely place between her legs throbbed in anticipation. How long had it been? Forever.
“You taste so . . . sweet,” the man whispered.
How much time did they have? Was it enough? She could not believe she was having these thoughts! Who was this man making her body quiver like jelly? As if reading her mind, he brought his lips to her ear.
“Fast,” he said, sliding one of those big hands between her knees and moving it up along the freshly shaved, smooth skin of her inner thighs. Pants would have saved her here, whereas a skirt spelled certain doom. His hand reached her ordinary cotton panties, already soaked, and for a flash she wished she’d worn something more special, something with lace. As he pressed his fingers against her, she sucked in a breath of air.
Leaning in close so she was forced to look into his eyes, he ripped back her panties and ran his smooth fingers across . . .
Huh? Oh, Allison. Damn.
“What is it, honey?” I call. A trickle of sweat runs down my back. Is my office hot?
“Okay, Ali. I’m coming.”
It’s 11:15 on a Thursday night, and I know two things. The first is that Lily Dell was about to have sex in an elevator where time has no meaning, cotton rips like wet paper towels, and moaning is sexy rather than a sign of mental illness. The second is that my own chances of having sex tonight in an elevator, or anywhere for that matter, are exactly zero. And sadly, those are odds you can bet your life on.
Happily Ever After
Does she want him back between the pages—or in between her sheets?
At forty-six, Sadie Fuller’s life isn’t exactly romantic. She’s an everyday mom in many ways—a little overweight, over-committed and struggling to raise an eleven-year-old girl as a single parent. But Sadie has a secret—while the rest of suburbia sleeps, she makes a living writing erotica under the pseudonym K. T. Briggs. Though her own sex life is nothing worth noting, she’s fabulous at creating steamy fantasies with perfectly waxed, incredibly fit, scantily clad characters.
But everything changes when she encounters a strangely familiar man during a routine visit to Target. Is Sadie losing her mind, or has her latest hunky character wandered out of her manuscript and into reality? As Sadie tries to negotiate this bizarre new world, her eyes begin to open to romantic possibilities in places she never dreamed of looking . . . places where “happily ever after” might not be so far-fetched after all.
Read an Excerpt
Reading Group Guide
Sadie Fuller is a fairly typical forty-six-year-old divorced mom—a little overweight, unlucky in love, and stuck in the suburbs with no shortage of responsibilities. But Sadie is not like the other soccer moms on her block: while her daughter is at school, Sadie writes erotic fiction, creating steamy fantasies starring beautiful, scantily clad characters who have exactly nothing to do with her real life. Then, an unexpected plot twist causes a break with reality, and Sadie finds herself face-to-face with what appears to be her latest romantic hero in the baby products aisle at the local Target. She has no idea how he got there—or how to get him safely back into the pages of her book. But she’s deter- mined to give him a “happily ever after,” and perhaps create one for herself this time, too.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Happily Ever After opens with the definition of the term “midlife crisis.” How does th see more