Saturday Excerpt: Until You Loved Me by Brenda Novak
Are you ready to kick off Saturday with a fantastic read? Today we’re so excited for you to get a sneak peek at the latest from Brenda Novak.
About Until You Loved Me:
New York Times bestselling author Brenda Novak returns to Silver Springs
Sometimes starting over means finding everything you’ve been missing…
After catching her fiancé cheating—with another man—usually straitlaced, workaholic scientist Ellie Fisher liberates her wild side just long enough to indulge in a passionate one-night stand with a tall, dark stranger she meets at a trendy Miami bar. Embarrassed by her recklessness, she ducks out the following morning without learning the guy’s full name, something that shouldn’t have been a problem…until a pregnancy test turns positive.
Being a professional football player, Hudson King has always been cautious around women. But this one had been different—so disinterested in his celebrity, so convincingly into him. When Ellie tracks him down, claiming she’s carrying his baby, he’s stunned. And more than a little betrayed.
But after growing up as an orphan, he’ll do anything to stay involved in his child’s life, so he urges Ellie to move to Silver Springs, where they can co-parent. Hudson has a lot of love to give, certainly enough for his child, and when their initial spark reignites, perhaps for Ellie, too…
“You look miserable.”
Ellie Fisher forced a smile for her oldest friend.
“What? No, I’m not miserable at all!” She had to shout over the music pulsing through the air and reverberating off the walls and ceiling. She’d never understood why, in a place designed for singles to meet and become ac- quainted, the music had to be so loud. A hundred twenty decibels made it almost impossible to have a conversation and had to be damaging their hearing, but she didn’t say that. She knew how Amy, her friend since early child- hood, and Amy’s friend Leslie, whom she’d just met to- night, would react. Besides, after the emotional trauma she’d been through in the past week, she wouldn’t have felt much better anywhere else. “I’m having a great time!”
Amy pursed her lips. “Sure you are.”
After being inseparable in grade school, she and Amy had grown apart in middle school and taken very different paths. Amy had been the stereotypical cheerleader—pop- ular, outgoing and fun—and had opted for cosmetology school instead of college. She now worked at an expensive hair boutique in Brickell, a neighborhood in down- town Miami. Ellie had never received the same amount of attention, especially from boys, but until recently she hadn’t cared about that. She’d always preferred her studies to parties, had been her high school valedictorian and was accepted into Yale, where she’d done her undergraduate as well as postgraduate work. Since leaving school, she’d been determined to overcome the immunology challenges associated with finding a cure for diabetes—her favorite aunt had lost a leg to the dreaded disease—and now she worked at one of the foremost research facilities in the world, which just happened to be here in Miami, where she’d been born. But thanks to that early bond, she and Amy would always be friends. Ellie had never been more grateful for her than during the past week, since Amy was the one who’d been there when Ellie’s world fell apart.
“It’s true.” Ellie glanced from Amy to Leslie as if to say “Here we are, sitting at a tiny table in one of South Beach’s most popular nightclubs. What’s not to love?”
Amy rolled her eyes. “I know you too well to believe that. But I’m not letting you cut out early, so don’t start checking the time on your phone. I’ve invited a couple of friends to come and meet you, remember?”
Ellie remembered, but Amy hadn’t mentioned any names. Ellie got the impression it was because she didn’t know which friend would show up—that she’d simply gone through her male clients and other contacts and in- vited anyone who might be available. “I wasn’t checking the time,” Ellie said.
Amy scowled. “I saw you!”
“I was looking to see if my parents texted me! They should’ve arrived in Paris by now.” Ellie wished she’d gone with them, but by the time her life had imploded, they’d had their travel plans in place, and it’d been too late to get a plane ticket. They’d be teaching in France for the next year, though. Once she finished the clinical trials she was working on, she hoped to fly over and meet up with them. Now that she wouldn’t be going on her honeymoon, she had enough vacation days to stay for three weeks. Surely visiting Paris would provide a better distraction. Hanging out with Amy didn’t seem to be helping.
“Your parents will be fine,” Amy said. “You need to loosen up, have a few drinks and start dancing. Forget about everything, including that bastard Don and the man he cheated on you with.”
Ellie didn’t think she could get drunk enough to forget about Don. Three days ago, she’d caught him in bed with Leonardo Stubner, a member of the administration staff where they worked. She’d have to face them both—as she had on Wednesday, Thursday and today—when she returned to the Banting Diabetes Center on Monday. And that wasn’t the worst of it. Since her shocking discovery, he and Leo had come out of the closet and declared their love for each other, adding another level of humiliation to her suffering by making it all public. Half of their coworkers felt so sorry about the pressure they’d been under to hide their sexuality that they were praising them for having the courage to finally make “the big reveal.” The other half, those who were critical of their decep- tion, didn’t dare speak out for fear of being accused of being unsympathetic, homophobic or both. One way or the other, almost everyone she knew was talking about Ellie and her situation and forming an opinion.
After hearing what Amy had just said, Leslie leaned forward, finally showing a spark of interest in Ellie. “Your fiancé cheated on you with another man?”
Ellie squirmed under Leslie’s horrified regard. When Amy had said they were taking Ellie out to get her mind off a broken engagement, Leslie had barely reacted. But the circumstances of her failed relationship made Ellie that much more pathetic. When Ellie caught her fiancé with his “best friend,” whom he’d known since college—Don was the one who got Leo hired at the BDC—she’d also come face-to-face with the realization that all the “golf- ing” trips the two had taken since she and Don started dat- ing hadn’t been as innocent as she’d been led to believe. The one man who’d told her he wanted to spend for- ever with her hadn’t really been attracted to her in the first place. He’d been using her as a cover so he wouldn’t become estranged from his ultrareligious parents.
That hurt more than her lost dream of having a family. But the fact that she was ill at ease in a nightclub wasn’t Don’s fault. She’d never felt comfortable in large groups, didn’t consider herself particularly adept at the kind of social interaction they required. She’d been too devoted to getting her PhD in biomedical engineering— and following that with a postdoctoral fellowship at the BDC, where she’d met Don, a fellow scientist—to have
much time for clubbing, so she’d had little experience.
She shouldn’t have let Amy drag her here, she decided as she gazed around. But maybe one of Amy’s friends would show up and make her feel like less of a loser. Nothing else had worked since Don’s betrayal, so she forced herself to hold out hope. If she didn’t make some effort to recover and move on, even if it resulted in only a very short rebound relationship, she’d die an old maid, as her grandmother would’ve put it. That had never seemed more of a possibility than now. Her thirtieth birthday loomed ahead, but instead of planning her wedding, as she’d anticipated, she’d be doing all she could to continue her research while bumping into her ex-fiancé and his lover on a daily basis.
A man from across the room came toward them. With his sandy-colored hair swept up off his forehead, he was attractive in a frat-boy way—well built and preppy, which was a look she found attractive.
“Mind if I join you?” he asked.
Frat Boy immediately singled out Amy—not that Ellie could blame him. Dressed in a short, tight-fitting black dress, six-inch stilettos and smoky makeup with bright red lipstick, Amy oozed sex appeal. So did Leslie, for that matter. Due mainly to Amy’s insistence, even Ellie had had a complete makeover and was dressed in a similar fashion, except her dress was white and dipped low in the back instead of the front—the only concession Amy would allow Ellie’s natural modesty.
“You need to get laid. That’s what you need,” her friend had said when she’d balked at wearing the skimpy lingerie she had on under her dress or complained about the height of the heels Amy had pressed on her. If some- one did ask her to dance, she’d probably turn an ankle, which was hardly conducive to hooking up later. Then her first Brazilian would definitely not be worth the shocking pain.
Amy looked Frat Boy up and down before widening her smile. “Sure. It’ll save me the trouble of searching for you when I’m ready to leave.”
He obviously liked that response. Ellie had to admit it was evocative. She almost brought up the notes app on her phone so she could jot it down—except she was fairly certain that line wouldn’t come off so smoothly if she ever attempted to use it. Flirting sounded silly coming from her. She loved sarcasm, had always traded put- downs with her father, but she doubted that talent would impress other men.
With some effort because of the throng of people who filled the club, the man located a chair and dragged it over before introducing himself as Manny. He made small talk for a few minutes. Then he waved over his friend, a shorter, stockier version of himself, who’d been getting drinks at the bar.
Manny explained that they were both commercial real estate agents with a local firm and introduced his friend as Nick. Nick focused on Leslie, since Manny already had dibs on Amy, making Ellie the third wheel she’d expect to be in a situation like that. She tried to contribute to the conversation but found herself peeking at her phone when Amy wasn’t looking. Not only was she uncomfortable, she was bored. But if she tried to get a taxi, Amy would remind her of the “friends” who were coming to meet her.
As the two couples got up to dance, leaving Ellie alone at the table, she let out a long sigh and flagged down a waitress. “Bring me three shots of vodka,” she said.
Maybe if she forced herself to get buzzed, the rest of the night would pass in a merciful blur. The alcohol wasn’t good for her liver. As a scientist, she couldn’t help acknowledging that. But as far as she was concerned, it was vital for her poor aching heart.