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Kelly Parker

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Serendipity is for Suckers
by Kelly Parker   

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Copyright:  2009


You never forget your first.
In “Serendipity is for Suckers,” journalist Bailey Jameson finds her world turned upside down after one night at romantic restaurant, Serendipity. Her boyfriend, Noah, proposes to her at the same moment she catches a glimpse of her first love, Lucas, for the first time in years. Flustered, she accidentally says yes to the proposal. Now Bailey finds herself drawn to her old flame. It was heartbreaking when he didn't choose her years before, but now he seems to have changed, not only his mind but his personality. Bailey is falling in love with him all over again and must decide whether she wants the safety and love Noah offers, or the dangerous passion and chemistry she feels with Lucas. Either way, someone is going to get hurt, and Bailey just hopes it isn’t her.

Chapter One

“I am so lucky.”
I finished blow-drying my hair and gave it a good tousle. I’d always found blow drying my hair quite therapeutic, and I did it every day without fail. OK, so I was slightly compulsive about my hair. But you would be too if it was your number one asset.
Hey, I wasn’t making this up. Everyone said so. Not to sound vain or anything, because I was definitely not, but I had to admit it was a pretty good head of hair.
I’d always kept it long, and I spent a good 20 minutes straightening it every day. It’s thick and healthy and golden shade of brown, with hints of caramel and reddish highlights, thanks to my quarterly visits to Jean, my hairstylist.
To tell you the truth, it’s become my secret weapon to getting guys. I can stand at the bar and run my fingers through it or shake it behind my shoulder, and without fail, someone will notice, and I’ll usually end up getting a free Cosmopolitan out of it or something.
I was voted Best Hair in high school, an award I considered putting on my first resume until my roommate and best friend Jules told me that no employer would care that my hair smelled like lavender and felt like pure silk, and she figured I should put that I had excellent leadership skills instead.
Yeah. So like I said – a bit obsessive. But I would never let my boyfriend Noah figure that out. Guys really have no clue how much effort it takes to be beautiful. Noah thinks I wake up and run a comb through my hair and walk out the door. Secretly, when we first started going out, in the morning I’d get up extra early and do a quick brushing and run a straightener through my hair and hop back into bed and pretend to wake up feeling glorious and lovely.
Of course, I don’t really bother with that so much these days. Things like bed hair in the morning don’t seem to matter so much when you’re in love.
Yes, that’s right. I was in love. When I said I was so lucky, I really wasn’t talking about my hair.
Tonight was my two-year anniversary with Noah McIntyre, a.k.a. the most perfect man on the planet. He’s taking me out to a romantic dinner at our favorite restaurant, Serendipity. I’d been waiting for this night for half my life, it seemed.
Two years. Two years with a man who is still as much in love me as he was in the beginning.
I met Noah when I was 23. I had just started working as an intern at The Midtown Gazette, a moderately sized daily newspaper for the Sacramento metro area. I was fresh from college, where incidentally I had majored in shopping and bar hopping, and I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do with my life. But, hey, I liked writing and the hours were right, so I decided to give it a try.
With my winning personality (and a couple good shakes of The Hair) I somehow landed the job, which really just turned out to be a lot of rewriting press releases about various boring community events.
Noah was the slightly older and slightly more senior public safety reporter. He had apparently just written this groundbreaking series on hazing at some local fire stations, and the news room was buzzing about all the notoriety he was getting for the paper. I worked in features and never really saw him much, as he was always out chasing ambulances or whatever.
But, I remember the exact day we met perfectly. I was hiding from my editor, Patty. She was looking for someone to do a story about the senior center, and I was kind of holding out for a review of the latest revival of “Rent” at the community theater.
I bunkered up in the supply room during lunch time and ended up finding a stash of Marie Claire in the corner. I sat on a cardboard box, slurping on my Diet Pepsi and reading about the nail polish colors suggested for a person with my skin tone, when he walked in.
Startled, I stood up fast and spilled my soda right down the front of his shirt.
“Oh my God!” I cried, running up to him and patting his chest down. “I’m so sorry, I know I shouldn’t be in here, but you scared me and…oh, shit! I really don’t want to spend the afternoon with old people! Those places just smell so …”
Noah just laughed calmly and stood there while I flailed around like an idiot, ripping out pages of my magazine to wipe his shirt with.
He looked at one of the pages, which said in bold pink letters, “CAN HE MAKE YOU ORGASM?” He held it up to me and with a twinkle in his eye asked, “Well, can he?”
I blushed briefly and took my first really good look at him. He was wearing an attractive pair of khakis and a stone grey sweater with a collared shirt poking out underneath. He looked like he came straight out of a Gap ad. His chestnut brown hair was styled to perfection in trendy spikes, with blonde tips. He had brilliant green eyes that I quickly realized were sizing me up as well. Basically, he was the most beautiful man I’d laid eyes on that wasn’t on television or in a magazine.
So, being completely unlike myself, I coyly responded, “I don’t know, can he?” with a suggestive wink.
And the rest, as they say, is history. He asked me to dinner for that night (joking around and embarrassing me greatly when telling the waiter I’d do best with just a glass of water, as he was wearing a very expensive shirt) and came up to my apartment for some Bailey’s (my favorite alcoholic drink, because it’s what my parents named me after) and coffee and what turned into a 3-hour long conversation about our lives and our futures and our embarrassing childhood and adolescent stories. I won with my tale of pooping on the slide at McDonald’s when I was four and having my mother rush me out before anyone saw. I always felt sorry for the poor schlub who had to clean that mess up.
When he left close to 3 a.m., I realized how much I really must like him. I didn’t even ask him to spend the night, which meant the night ended differently than it usually did.
No, I knew I must really dig him because I didn’t want to sleep with him. Yet. I mean, honestly, just looking at him made me want to jump his bones and lick places that haven’t seen the sun in years, but I restrained myself and thought that he was a keeper, and there was no need to rush things.
Of course, this philosophy lasted all of three dates. And he was just as hot in bed as out, and I could honestly answer the magazine’s question with a big resounding, “Hell yes, he can!”
I was deliriously happy, and I still am. I have to pinch myself every morning when I wake up and look at him sleeping next to me, breathing heavily in and out, looking like perfection in pajama pants.
I figured it’s only a matter of time before we move in together. He rented this absolutely amazing apartment overlooking a quaint little park in downtown Sacramento, with hardwood floors, a balcony and a hot tub in the bathroom.
At the same time, though, it will be difficult to leave Jules behind. We’ve been roommates since sophomore year of college. We both spent a ridiculously stifling year in the dorms -- her roommate was a goody two shoes Celine Dion fan, who would leave rosaries and crosses next to Jules’ bed every time she brought a man home. My roommate wasn’t awful, but she was quite boring and never did much besides read and study and chat with people on the Internet.
Jules and I couldn’t wait to get our own apartment. She’d been my best friend for nearly 15 years, ever since her family moved next door to mine in fifth grade.
The thing I liked about Jules is that we’re so different, but can appreciate the similarities between ourselves, as well. For example, she loves country music, and I basically detest it, but when she sneaks in a Shania Twain CD every now and then, I let her get away with it. She’s also a complete health freak, being vegetarian and running two miles every morning before I’ve even thought about rolling out of bed. Me, give me a big bag of Doritos and a remote control any day.
But then there are other things, like our ritual Thursday night toe-nail painting parties, and the Sunday night face masks we wear while watching TiVo recordings of our favorite soap opera from the week before. We’re incredibly comfortable around each other, and I trust her with my life. If we didn’t look so different, I swear people would mistake us for Siamese twins or something. But she is as tall as I am short, and I’m quite a bit curvier than her. She’s always been jealous of my boobs, and I’ve always longed for thighs like hers. And while I’ve got my long, straight dark hair, she has a head full of wild, curly red hair. Her face is speckled with freckles, and she burns easily in the sun. Her hazel eyes are full of warmth and knowledge, and her IQ is something like 800. No lie. She graduated magna cum laude in political science, and I barely managed a B average in journalism. She’s still working on her master’s degree, but I know that some day, she’d love to run for governor of California. For now, she works as a part time intern at the Capitol building.
But I loved her to death, and after living with her for six years, it would be a bit of a shock to leave. And I didn’t think Noah would be up for exfoliating facial extravaganzas like she was.
But I was getting ahead of myself. Noah hadn’t even brought up the idea yet, but I imagined tonight might be the perfect night for it.
Shit. The buzzer. Noah must be here.
“Can you get that, Jules? I’m not ready yet, stall him!”
Jules poked her head into my room and gave me a disapproving look. “What the heck have you been doing in here?” She stepped in and saw my tiny DKNY black dress hanging on the closet door. “Ooh,” she squealed, “is this what you’re wearing? Gorgeous! I would never have the chest to fill this out…”
“Jules, can you please go let him? Tell him to grab a glass of wine or something, and then come back in here and help me figure out a quick makeup scheme. I spent way too much time on my damn hair!”
“What else is new?” Jules said, grinning.
I heard her let Noah in and make some small talk. I stared at the black dress and decided that Noah was going to drop dead when he saw it. It was quite sexy, with a neckline that would leave a little to the imagination, but it showed enough that he’d be wanting to rip it off me before we got to the appetizers.
I was rummaging through my closet to find my strappy silver heels when Jules burst back in.
“He looks hot tonight!” she exclaimed.
“What? He does,” she said, poking around my vanity table, looking at blushes. “I think you should wear this shade of lipstick,” she said after a minute. “It’ll match his shirt.”
“Is that a good thing?” I asked dubiously. I didn’t want to look like we got dressed together or anything.
“Oh, sure. It’ll be hot,” Jules assured me.
As I applied my foundation, Jules sat down on the bed face down, with her head in her hands, biting her lip.
“Everything ok, Jules?”
She sighed. “I guess. I just, you know I love you, and you know I love Noah, but I sometimes wish I had more of a life. It’s been ages since I’ve been on a real date, not since dumb fuck Jerry.”
Jerry was Jules’ ex-boyfriend. He’d seemed perfectly nice and sweet until Jules found out he ran a porn movie company from his apartment. She always managed to find complete and total dolts.
“Jules, you totally have a life!” I said, now applying black eyeliner with the precision of a pro. “Just last week you went to that fantastic party at the governor’s mansion, didn’t you?”
“I was working it, Bailey. I was running around the whole time making sure there were enough oyster appetizers.” She shook her head and her red curls tumbled across her face. “Listen to me, going on about my pathetic love life when you’ve got the date of a lifetime to prepare for. Do you think he’s going to ask you to move in with him?”
I shrugged. “I’ve barely thought about it,” I lied. “You’ll be the first to know, though.”
“I better be. Need time to find your replacement, you know,” Jules said.
I scoffed. “Please. As if you could ever find anyone to replace moi,” I said dramatically.
“You’re right. Bailey Anne Jameson, you are simply irreplaceable,” Jules declared.
I smiled at her appreciatively and finished myself off with a spritz of my favorite perfume. I twirled in front of the full-length mirror and raised my hands with a “how do I look?” expression.
“Bellisima! As always. Now, you better scoot before Noah drinks that whole bottle of wine and is too drunk to even make it to dinner.”
I absolutely adore Jules. Even when feeling so down in the dumps about her own love life, she is still so positive and supportive of my relationship with Noah. It must kill her to watch her best friend so desperately in love when all she seems to attract are psychopaths and weirdos. But she’s fantastic, which is why I’m sure she won’t be alone for long. And we’ll both get married and live next door to each other and have babies within days of each other, and we’ll retire together and do yoga and take pottery classes together until the day we die. The same day, of course. We’ve had this worked out since sixth grade history class.
“Wait!” I exclaimed as I examined the final product “Maybe I have too much jewelry on. He’s always said he thinks less is more.” I began to take off my diamond drop earrings.
Jules stared at me. “Bailey, are you on glue? Noah loves jewelry. He bought you that set for your last anniversary, didn’t he?”
I stopped with my hand around the clasp of the white gold heart necklace. “You’re right,” I responded, shaking my head. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Jules stood with one hand defiantly on her hip and her eyebrows raised. “I know what you were thinking. You were thinking about that prick, Lucas. He didn’t like too much jewelry if I remember correctly. Something about it taking away from your ‘awesome breasts.’ Am I right?”
I felt my cheeks burn with embarrassment. She was right, of course. I guess I had been thinking about Lucas. But why the hell would I be thinking about him? It had been three years since I’d seen the guy, and months since I’d even given him a passing thought.
“Bailey! Answer me. What on earth would make you think of that asshole on tonight, of all nights?” Jules asked, wearing the look of disgust she reserved only for when she spoke about Lucas.
“Jules, give me a break. It was an honest mistake. It didn’t mean anything,” I answered, shakily putting my earrings back in.
“It better not. Things are going too great for you right now for you to let that guy back into your head. I don’t think I have to remind you how much he screwed you up when we were back in school, do I?” Jules said, her normally warm eyes shooting icy glances at me.
“I remember,” I snapped. I didn’t need Jules to remind me. I could still perfectly recall every moment I’d ever spent with Lucas, and even more so, I could remember every time he made me cry and every time he broke my heart. I definitely didn’t need to be reminded of it tonight.
So why had I randomly mixed up one of his characteristics with Noah’s? It was a notion I didn’t have too much time to think about.
“Bailey, come on! We’ve got reservations, and trust me, you’re wearing the perfect shoes. No need to change them 100 times,” a male voice bellowed from outside my bedroom door.
I laughed and tried to push aside all thoughts of Lucas as I opened the door. All it took was one look at my man, and Lucas could have been on Jupiter for all I knew.
Noah looked absolutely delicious in his charcoal gray pants and wine-colored button-up shirt. He left the top two buttons open, and I could see just a hint of his tan chest with a bit of golden brown hairs peeking out. He wasn’t the most muscular guy, didn’t have six-pack abs or anything, but I still thought he had the sexiest body I’d ever seen.
I pulled him by the belt buckle closer to me and gave him a dainty kiss on the lips. He sighed with contentment and ran his hand across my bare shoulder.
“You look beautiful, kid.”
I loved when he called me kid. I know, I know, it sounds like, totally condescending or patronizing. I should be offended, right? But to me, it’s just adorable. He’s probably the only person who could get away with calling me that, though. Anyone else and I would slap them.
“You look pretty great yourself,” I replied, letting go of him so I could grab my purse.
Jules was now sitting on my bed, pouting. She looked like she was not ready to drop the Lucas discussion. But I sure as hell was.
“Bye Jules,” I said, giving her a hug. “Have a good night and don’t wait up,” I said, flashing a sexy smile toward Noah.
“You crazy kids have fun,” Jules called out to our backs as we made our way into the living room.
I cast one final look at myself in the hallway mirror. My blue eyes were sparkling with anticipation, my hair was cooperating and hung down the back of my neck with just enough body, and I felt ready for what the night held.
It was sure to be one that would change my life forever.

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