Sonia is ready to take a chance…
Broken-hearted thanks to her twin sister’s meddling, Sonia has chosen peace and quiet over drama for years—but working from home for three months leaves her hungry for more. Jacquie and Pierce’s wedding at Flatiron Five Fitness might offer the perfect opportunity to step out of her comfort zone. When boy-next-door Nate Buchanan arrives looking hot and dangerous, Sonia can’t resist her impulse to invite him home. She’s sure that a hot one-nighter with no future expectations is just what she needs—but there’s something about Nate that keeps Sonia coming back for more. She’s falling hard when her twin sister turns up to make trouble again—will Nate fall for the wrong twin? Or has he already fallen for the twin who’s wrong for him?
Nate won’t miss his chance…
Thanks to a job offer from Pierce, ex-Marine and former weightlifting coach Nate has a chance to reinvent himself again. One last visit to F5F, the place where he rediscovered his mojo, to attend Pierce’s wedding is the perfect way to say farewell to Manhattan—but the day only gets better when gorgeous Sonia propositions him. Nate isn’t going to turn down the woman who has his undivided attention, no matter what her twin sister said to him in the past. He discovers an unexpected passion in Sonia, one that he can’t resist. With her doubts about commitment and despite the interference of her family, can Nate convince Sonia to take a chance on forever—with him?
Available October 26.
Pre-order available at some portals:
An excerpt from Just the Wrong Twin
Copyright 2021 Deborah A. Cooke
June 6, 2020 – New York City
It was the perfect day for a wedding.
Sonia was so excited that she might have been the bride.
She’d bought a new dress online and a big hat with a silk flower on the side for the occasion. She’d treated herself to some pretty lingerie when she’d been buying a gift card for Jax from her favorite lingerie shop as a gift. No one would see it, but Sonia didn’t care. She liked the feel of it. She’d splashed out for some gorgeous red Italian heels, even though she would never have indulged in them before. They weren’t practical. She might wear them only once. She was going to live in the moment anyway.
It felt so good to have an event to look forward to after three months of working remotely in her studio apartment. She liked working with Cassie on the marketing of F5F’s online classes and resources, and she liked her apartment well enough, but she missed human contact. She missed the noise and the bustle of the club, and to be honest, she missed the constant parade of toned bodies and tight butts. A month before, she might have sold her soul to stand at the bottom of F5F’s rock climbing wall, pre-pandemic, and just watched for half an hour, enjoying the view. If she never saw her favorite yoga pants again, it would be too soon.
She’d gotten that heart tattoo from Chynna, the one that was supposed to bring true love into the life of the bearer, the one that Jax thought was silly, but it hadn’t made any difference to her love life. To be fair, it hadn’t had a chance in lockdown. Neither had Cassie’s bridal bouquet, which she’d caught a few years before. Sonia had been giving serious consideration to Jax’s advice to made a difference herself.
She was ready to take a chance.
Sonia walked uptown, spirits high, and reached F5F early. She wasn’t the first to arrive, which told her that others felt the same way about finally having somewhere to go. The service was going to be held in the foyer, where the ceiling was open for half a dozen floors and there was plenty of space to spread out. The invitation had specified that they wear masks all the same.
It felt good to step back into the familiar club where she’d spent so much time, even though it was strange to have it so quiet. Sonia was used to it bustling with members coming and going, with videos and social media feeds on the big screens over reception, with the rock wall crowded with climbers.
The fact that no one knew when the club might open again just added to the uncertainty. The team had their weekly Wednesday meetings online now and the partners were upfront about sharing what they knew. So far, there was no chance of them opening soon. The uncertainty just fed her new desire to do something unexpected and impulsive, just to prove that she was still alive.
She was starting to understand her twin sister, Katia, a bit more. Katia had always been up for anything, unpredictable and a bit wild, while Sonia had been the conservative and reliable one. Right now, she wanted to kick up those new red heels and find some trouble.
Sex would be a great choice, in her opinion. A one-nighter with no chance to sleep would be just about perfect. She could seriously lose herself in passion and pleasure, and could even imagine having no regrets in the morning.
So long as she made a good choice.
But would there be anyone at the wedding who wasn’t already married or in a relationship?
Tyler, the partner who managed the finances of the club, raised a hand in greeting from the other side of the lobby. Ty wore a dark suit, white shirt and tie, as impeccably dressed as a GQ model, but oh-so-very-married. Sonia took a good look even so. He was holding his son Michael, and bent to talk to his wife, Shannyn, who laughed at whatever he said. Shannyn wore a black dress with an asymmetrical hem and a lot of silver jewelry. They really couldn’t have had more different styles, but it made Sonia smile to see them together. Shannyn looked ready to burst with their second baby, who was due any minute. Sonia had to wonder whether this one’s arrival might interrupt a wedding as Michael’s had: he’d made his debut into the world at Cassie’s wedding.
She doubted Shannyn would appreciate a replay of that, though.
Theo and Lyssa stood a dozen feet away from Ty and Shannon with their son Logan. Logan had grown taller since Sonia had seen him last and must have had a growth spurt. Theo wore a suit that could have come from the same tailor as Ty’s—Sonia suspected it had—and Lyssa wore a floaty dress and a big hat, perfect for a summer wedding. Theo had the most gorgeous British accent and Sonia could have listened to him read the phone book. Theo managed publicity for the club. He was such a nice guy, but totally taken.
Cassie, the partner who handled marketing and Sonia’s boss, came out of the lobby with the elevator for the suites above the club. In her trim little navy suit, her blond hair coiled up in an elegant twist, Cassie looked more like a glamorous model than a new mom. Her husband, Reid, followed, also wearing a dark suit and carrying their son, Marty. He greeted the other partners, as the couple found a place to stand.
The groom, Pierce, was waiting near the reception area, looking more agitated than he usually did, wearing a tux with a red tie. He had two friends standing up with him who Sonia didn’t know. Once again, she felt the absence of her old routine: if the club hadn’t been closed, she would have met them already. One was really tall and broad, about the same age as Pierce. He wasn’t interesting to Sonia, given their age gap. The other was Asian and younger, and seemed to be trying to make Pierce smile, without success. He was wearing a wedding ring. No luck there.
Jax’s sons introduced themselves with waves and smiles. Cole was the baby of the family and Sonia knew he was at med school in Chicago. She was glad he’d been able to travel to attend the wedding, but he was too young for her. He seemed more like a kid than a man, even though he was in his twenties. Brandon was the older son, a former bartender who was going back to college, Sonia knew. She wasn’t much for his bad boy tattooed look but it didn’t matter: his partner, Elizabeth, was pregnant with what would be Jax’s first grandchild.
“How are you feeling?” Sonia asked, indicating Elizabeth’s bump.
“Great.” She smiled up at Brandon, who was taller than her even though she was wearing very high heels. “Enjoying the chance to sleep before the twins arrive.”
“Twins?” Sonia echoed.
“Twins,” Brandon agreed with a proud nod and Sonia congratulated them.
She sighed and surveyed the lobby, still hoping.
Thom and Annika were standing closer to the rock wall. One of Annika’s ferrets had evidently joined the expedition and Sonia smiled at the sight of a little nose peeking out of Thom’s jacket collar. Thom was a big guy who managed the rock climbing wall, never saying more than was necessary. It was funny to see him standing so still as the little ferret zipped around under his jacket, poking out a nose from collar or cuff at intervals. Annika had the little adventurer on a leash, just to be sure, and it had to be wound around Thom under his suit jacket. Annika waved at Sonia and shouted hello as Thom nodded. Those two weren’t married but they might as well be. Someone like Thom didn’t let a woman’s pet ferret use him as a playground unless he was seriously smitten—and really, their love story had been behind the idea that people found true love at F5F.
Sonia had to admit that she might be out of luck. Katia would have said she was too picky, but she wasn’t going to seduce one of her bosses or anyone who was married.
Principles sometimes bit the wall.
Meesha came bustling out of the club offices in a hot pink suit with feathers around the shoulders and sky high heels. The self-proclaimed social media queen of the club waved to everyone, then brought up the video feeds for those attending remotely. She stood back and raised her hands as the first big screen illuminated.
“Kyle!” the guests cried in unison at his appearance. Kyle’s cocky grin was as bright as ever.
“It’s like Cheers,” he said. “Where everybody knows your name.”
“I should hope so,” Ty said. “Given that you’re a founding partner.”
“That sounds like such a serious credential.” Kyle rolled his eyes. “I’d prefer to be universally adored, or unforgettable.”
“Despite a crushing lack of confidence,” Cassie said.
“As reserved and subtle as ever,” Theo noted.
“Hey! I heard that!” Kyle protested. They all laughed, then Kyle held up his daughter before the screen. His wife, Lauren, looked on with amusement. “Wave to your public, Ariel.”
The toddler raised a plump hand and smiled. “Dada,” she said to the screen.
Kyle beamed. “I told you she was brilliant.” He dropped his voice to a stage whisper. “She gets that from me.” Lauren laughed and swatted him.
There was talk between the partners at how much the children had grown as Meesha connected Damon on the second screen. That partner had remained home in Queens with his wife and their daughter. Damon handled the design for the club and did a lot of coaching in the weight room. Sonia knew that Haley, a nurse, had been working a lot of hours at the hospital and wasn’t surprised that she looked a bit tired. Haley was particularly careful to manage her contacts outside of work. Once they were connected, there was another baby to admire as Damon held up their daughter Natalie.
The final connection was to Pierce’s friend, Midori, also in California, who was attending remotely along with her husband. Pierce stepped closer to that screen to speak to them and Sonia thought they were talking about the orange orchard. Everyone was chatting on all sides, but there were no single guys except for Pierce’s friend.
The little heart of Sonia’s tattoo hummed, as if she was missing something—or someone.
Then guy in a navy suit wearing sunglasses stepped through the door and Sonia could only stare.
“Looking good!” Ty shouted as if he knew the guy.
“Nothing better than a sharp-dressed man,” Cassie said with approval.
“Couldn’t have done it without your advice, Ty.” The guy laughed and took off his sunglasses, waving a greeting with his other hand. His silver prosthesis glinted in the light and Sonia looked again. Nate Buchanan was the only guy she knew with a prosthesis and he called that one The Hook.
Was this Nate? If so, what had happened to him? He wasn’t just wearing a great suit and striding across the lobby with confidence. He looked dangerous and about a million times more sexy than she remembered.
Did he have an evil twin, too?
“Nate!” Pierce said with pleasure and crossed the lobby to meet him. “I’m glad you could make it.” They started to shake hands, but then bumped elbows instead. “Mack is expecting you for Friday, if that’s still okay.”
“Absolutely. I’m ready to go. Thanks for the opportunity.”
“I know you’ll be a perfect fit with the team. You met Jimmy and Simon on the call, right?” Pierce gestured to his two companions who stepped forward to talk to Nate.
Nate Buchanan. Nate had always been attractive, but everything about him had been casual and easygoing. Friendly. Now he had glamor and a bit of edge, and it wasn’t just the suit. The prosthesis on his hand, the one he called the Hook, just added to that aura. His hair was still short and he was still clean-shaven, but he had a closer resemblance to that shot of him climbing the rock wall that had been a billboard for the club.
Cocky. Like he owned the world.
Previously, Sonia had thought Nate was the kind of guy who would fall head-over-heels, the kind of guy whose heart would be broken after a one-nighter. Even though he was a former Marine, she’d believed his heart was soft and vulnerable. He was the hometown hero who’d served his country and lost a hand. The guy who didn’t swear, who took care of his mom, who could be relied upon to do the right thing. He was nice.
But now Nate looked like trouble. He looked like the kind of guy who broke hearts, forgot names and never called back—after one hot and unforgettable night that was totally worth the price of admission. He could be the kind of guy who left women pining for him in every city he visited, the one who would haunt women’s dreams, a guy to make everything feel fresh and new. He had to know how to dance, how to kiss, and definitely how to make love all night long.
Sonia was still looking when Nate turned and noticed her. She didn’t avert her gaze, even though she’d been caught, and her heart thumped when he smiled at her. He had the same twinkle in his eyes she remembered but there was a challenge in it, like he was daring her to take a chance.
She was ready.
“Hey Sonia,” he murmured, his words a low thrum that made everything hum along with her tattoo. He moved closer, his gaze sweeping over her like a touch. “How are you?”
Fine. Sonia was just fine.
And she was going to be even better soon.
* * *
Nate thought he’d used up his good luck when he found a parking spot right outside the door of the club, but clearly not.
Sonia had come to the wedding.
And she was as gorgeous as ever.
He couldn’t look straight at her, not at first, because he had to control his reaction. Instead he talked to Pierce, met Simon and Jimmy in person for the first time, made a little small talk and got ready to look.
He’d already noticed that her blond hair was loose today, and it swung past her shoulders in a curtain of shining gold. It was longer than he remembered but looked sleek. She’d tucked it behind her left ear, which only revealed the perfection of her neck and an earlobe he’d always wanted to nuzzle. Her floral dress swirled around her knees, sheer and feminine, and she wore red heels that showed her long slender legs to advantage. She was as toned as ever, and had a slight tan that was perfect against her black linen jacket. She held a straw hat with a big silk flower on the side, swinging it from her fingertips, and had a small purse on her shoulder.
Even in a club filled with beautiful women, Sonia had always grabbed Nate’s attention. There was an elegance about her that made him feel protective toward her, as well as attracted to her.
The sight of Sonia was the one thing he’d missed from F5F—and once he went to Boston, he’d probably never see her again.
If that didn’t merit a good long look, Nate didn’t know what did.
He turned her way to find her staring at him, her eyes wide and very very blue. His gut clenched that she could be so pretty and even be looking at him. He said hi, thinking she’d turn away, but she stepped closer.
“It’s good to see you,” she said. “I wasn’t sure you’d come downtown for this.”
“And miss Pierce’s wedding? Not a chance!”
“How are you?”
“How do I look?”
“Great.” Her gaze slid over him as if she couldn’t keep herself from checking him out. That worked for Nate in a big way. “You look…”
He held up a finger to silence her. “Say sweet and this conversation is over,” he warned.
Her eyes widened in surprise. “Hot,” she said, speaking with conviction.
Nate pretended to be more surprised than he was. “Hot?”
“Very hot.” Sonia nodded with conviction. “Wow hot,” she added, warming to her theme. “Spontaneous combustion hot.” She fanned herself to demonstrate and Nate laughed.
“I’m glad to hear it,” he said and took a step closer, to hell with social distancing. He could smell her perfume, a light floral scent that suited her perfectly. “Ty made some suggestions, so I did have help.”
She looked again, her eyes alight. “I totally approve.”
“Thanks.” He sobered, then slowly surveyed her. “You look good, too,” he said softly “Nice dress.”
“I like the skirt,” she confessed and spun, the move making it flare around her knees. He glimpsed her knees and thighs and clenched his fist to keep from reaching out to touch her.
“The shoes are great, too,” he said, hearing the tension in his own voice. “The red suits you.”
“Do you think?” She pointed a toe and looked down, inviting him to look again. Nate did. “I’ve never bought red shoes before but I like them.” She glanced up suddenly, her eyes sparkling. “They feel daring.”
“Daring? Is that a Sonia trait or a Katia one?”
She laughed and took a step closer. “Maybe it should be both.” Electricity was crackling in the air between them, an energy that had always hummed quietly in the past but seemed to have been multiplied a thousand times—or cut loose—during the past couple of months.
Her voice dropped low, a little huskier and Nate liked the sound of it. “I was sorry that you quit the club.”
“I couldn’t see the point of staying. There was no work and it doesn’t make sense to belong to a club you can’t attend.”
“Cassie said you didn’t want to make videos.”
Nate shook his head with resolve. “Nope.”
“Are you working?” she asked.
“I was back at Uncle Jed’s hunting goods store.” Nate said this with a philosophical shrug. “Just like the last two years didn’t happen. But—“ he held up a finger. “Pierce offered me a job. I’m moving to Boston this weekend.”
“So you won’t be back at the club, even when we do reopen,” she said, and Nate would have bet everything that she was disappointed. Then she frowned. “I thought you lived with your mom.”
“I did. No more.” He paused, seeing his chance. “I guess that made me sweet.”
Meesha raced across the lobby with her phone and Nate was vaguely aware of a dark car parking outside the doors to the club. The bride was arriving but he was watching Sonia for her reaction.
He guessed that she was smiling because her eyes started to sparkle even more. “Sweet is good, you know,” she murmured as if sharing a secret. “In fact, sweet and hot together is pretty much an irresistible combination.”
“But you’ve been resisting just fine.” He leaned toward her and their gazes held, the air crackling between them with awareness. “It’s been two years and Katia doesn’t count.”
She took a breath and flushed a little. “You said we could go for a coffee anytime,” she said, her words breathless. “How about today, after the wedding?”
“Where do you get a coffee when the restaurants are all closed?”
“My place, of course,” Sonia said, her gaze filled with intent. “I think you know where it is.”
Nate glanced across the lobby as Jacquie entered with her daughters and the princess Farah. She was wearing a red suit and carried a huge bouquet of flowers. He could feel the snap of Pierce’s attention at ten paces. “What if I don’t want coffee?” he whispered so that only Sonia could hear him.
“Maybe that’s a relief, since I don’t either.”
Nate took a step the last step between them and let his voice drop. He had to ask, to stop the joke now if it was one. Her eyes widened and he knew he looked deadly serious. “Are you messing with me, Sonia?”
“Are you Katia?”
She eyed him, a challenge in her eyes and her tone. “Can’t you tell?”
She wanted him to be able to tell the difference, which was fair enough. “I think I can, but the Sonia I know would never be this direct.”
“Maybe there’s a lot about me you don’t know.”
“Or maybe I’m with the wrong twin again.”
“Oh no,” Sonia said with resolve that made his heart pound. “This time, you’ve got it exactly right, Nate Buchanan, and I’m going to make sure you don’t regret it.”
Nate could certainly live with that.
* * *