Read Empty Net Online

Authors: Toni Aleo

Empty Net

Empty Net
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

2013 Loveswept eBook Edition

Copyright © 2012 by Toni Aleo

Excerpt from
Taking Shots
by Toni Aleo copyright © 2011 by Toni Aleo.

Excerpt from
Trying to Score
by Toni Aleo copyright © 2012 by Toni Aleo.

Excerpt from
Along Came Trouble
by Ruthie Knox copyright © 2013 Ruth Homrighaus.

All Rights Reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

L
OVESWEPT
and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Originally self-published by the author in 2012.

Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi

Cover photograph: © Claudio Marinesco

eISBN: 978-1-300-75920-1

www.ReadLoveSwept.com

v3.1_r2

Chapter 1

It figured that Audrey Parker would get dumped the day of her sister’s bachelorette party.

It was just her luck.

As Audrey stood outside of Wanna B’s bar with her cell phone to her ear, she couldn’t help but think how the day had started off so perfectly. She had spent the morning in bed with her boyfriend. Then she went for a day of pampering with her beautiful sister, Fallon, and all of Fallon’s friends. It was a wonderful afternoon and Audrey knew that tonight was going to be even better.

That was until the fireworks began.

Levi Moss was positively the most hardheaded, stubborn, gorgeous man Audrey had ever dated. He wasn’t much taller than her five-five frame, but that didn’t matter. He stood as if he were six feet tall, with large arms and an even larger neck. Levi wore his brown hair in a horrible buzz cut, which she didn’t care for, but his face more than made up for it. His eyes were bright green with flecks of gold. His face was sharply angled, with full lips, and she couldn’t help but smile when he did. She loved his smile, and since he only smiled at her every once in a while, it always took her breath away.

But even with his gorgeousness, he was a pain in her ass. She loved him. She did. But man, he bitched like a chick. If it wasn’t her cooking, it was her obsessive need to have everything clean. Just because he was a slob didn’t mean that she had to be. When he left stuff lying all over the place, it drove her crazy, but she loved him so much that she looked past it. She never complained and would clean up after him. Pathetic, she knew, but she loved him. Her
sister and her sister’s soon-to-be husband, Lucas, had told her countless times to leave Levi, but she couldn’t lose the only man who ever really wanted her.

Looking around the outside of the bar, Audrey begged her tears to stay at bay as Levi screamed at her through the phone.

“You are probably out whoring yourself all over Broadway! It’s disgusting, but don’t worry, I won’t be here when you get home!”

Audrey rolled her eyes. “For one, I am not whoring myself all over the place, and second, weren’t you just out for Lucas’s bachelor party last night?”

“We didn’t do anything! We played hockey and drank beers while Lucas talked on the phone with Fallon all night!”

“And that’s my fault?”

“You didn’t cook dinner for me before you left and now you are out at some club, probably picking up guys,” he snapped.

Audrey pinched the bridge of her nose. “I am not picking up anyone. I am trying to enjoy my sister’s last weekend as a single woman. Everyone does this, and it doesn’t mean I’m gonna cheat.”

“I don’t care. We’re through. I’m done with you.”

Audrey shook her head as she looked up at the sky. How was he dumping her when, according to Levi, they weren’t really together, as he’d told her so many times before? The tears threatened to fall because she knew the real reason he was breaking up with her. He was messing around with someone else. Someone who apparently was better than her.

“If you leave, you aren’t coming back, Levi, so make sure she is worth it,” she said as strongly as she could.

Levi’s laughter made Audrey want to puke. “She is worth it,” he said. “She is way better than you’ll ever be, you fat whore.”

Then the line went dead.

Audrey’s hand fell to her side, her phone held loosely in it. She could have done without his exiting line, but she knew she’d brought it on herself. She should never have brought up the other girl. She had known about her for months. So why was she letting it bother her now? Levi was a wanderer, she’d known that when she started things with him. She also knew that in a couple weeks he would call her, apologizing, and she would be right back with him.

It was a vicious cycle.

Audrey knew it was wrong, and knew that if Fallon found out, her sister would probably kill her, but it didn’t stop her from taking the crap Levi handed out. He might be an ass and say the most awful things, but there were good times between them. Like when he would hold her in his arms and run his lips down her temple. Or the way he loved watching chick flicks with her. Or when he would trace hearts along her palm, or when she would come home and he would rub her feet.

She loved him. It was sad, but true.

Audrey shook her head sadly. She didn’t understand why she hadn’t met her Prince Charming. The man who would sweep her off her feet. The man who would love only her for the rest of their lives. The man who would think she was all that he needed. Audrey shook her head again and wiped away the stray tears that escaped as thoughts of never being able to find a man who would love only her ran through her head. She couldn’t think like that right now. There was no sense thinking about things she couldn’t change. She would be a ball of tears in no time if she did.

So she did what she did best.

Audrey stood tall in her Christian Louboutin black studded pumps and slid her hands down the tight black sparkly pencil skirt she had paired with a low-cut gray blouse. She couldn’t go inside looking as if Levi had just crushed her heart, not tonight. Tonight was Fallon’s night, and she generally had no difficulty hiding her distress.

She was the queen of hiding emotions. She had lots of practice.

She knew she looked hot tonight, and if Levi Moss didn’t want her, well, damn it, someone freaking did. She made her way back inside to the VIP area Lucas had rented for Fallon’s party. Audrey couldn’t help but be a little dreamy at the thought of her future brother-in-law. He was the perfect man and everything her sister could ever want. She only hoped that she would find a man even half as good as Lucas. He treated Fallon like a queen, was the best father imaginable to her son, Aiden, and he loved her like a sister.

Yup. He was Prince Charming.

She had cheered for Fallon and Lucas since the day her sister told her about him, and would never forget meeting Lucas Brooks outside her family’s wine company. He looked like a lovesick fool, and she couldn’t help wanting to help him. Man, so much had changed since then. A small smile crossed Audrey’s face as she thought that within a week, Fallon and Lucas would be married. They had been through so much, and thank the sweet baby Jesus, Fallon finally got her head out of her ass and saw what was right in front of her.

The perfect man.

Sigh
.

When Audrey’s eyes drifted over to where Elli Adler and Harper Titov sat, her envy grew. Elli and Harper were the epitome of happy women. Both were married to amazingly
gorgeous, sweet hockey players … 
sigh
 … and both had perfect little children … another sigh. It wasn’t fair, they were like a club. An “I’m married to a sexy hockey player; have amazing children; and life couldn’t be better; and oh! I look good while doing it all!” club.

It was sickening, really.

When she glanced over at Piper and Reese Allen, Harper’s twin sisters, she felt a little more in control. They looked as miserable as she felt, and that alone made her feel a tad bit better. She had heard about the twin sisters but hadn’t met them until recently. Reese was a gorgeous brunette with hair all the way down to her bottom. She had moss green eyes, full lips, and the sickest style imaginable. She actually looked more like her older sister, Harper, than her twin. Reese had just moved back from New York to open a dance studio in Nashville, and from what Audrey heard, she was good at getting what she wanted.

It was nice to meet Reese, but Audrey didn’t click with her the way she had with her twin sister. Piper was a hoot. When Audrey went to Tiffany’s to buy Fallon’s bridal gift, Piper was her sales clerk, and Audrey knew from that moment on that she would be her friend. Unlike Reese’s dark features, Piper’s were fair. Her hair was light brown and her eyes were an intense blue. She had the same full lips and cute button nose as her sister, but hers were in a very petite package. Piper was shorter than Audrey, and that was saying something. But all in all she was a doll, and Audrey just adored her.

Piper glanced up and smiled as Audrey made her way to the spot beside Fallon. When she sat down, her sister looked at her, grinning as she held out a shot glass. “You’re behind!” she said. “Drink!”

Audrey obliged, not only because Fallon asked her to, but because she needed to forget her conversation with Levi. As the five women threw back shots, Elli sat on the side, watching.

Audrey felt bad as she smiled over at her. It had to be hard for Elli to watch a bunch of women drink when she couldn’t. But being the sweet person she was, Elli didn’t seem to mind.

“Please get your tubes tied after this one!” Audrey said as the alcohol burned down her throat. What the hell had Fallon given her?

Elli nodded. “Already planned. I’m done. No matter what Shea says.”

Harper hiccupped before giggling. “Whatever. He’ll knock her up a week before the procedure! He’s on a mission!”

The women laughed as Fallon shook her head. “So is Lucas,” she noted before taking another shot, then shook her head. “I’m pretty sure if he had his way, I’d be pregnant now, and thank God that didn’t happen! I wouldn’t be able to fit in my dress!”

The girls all nodded while Audrey shook her head. “It wouldn’t matter anyway, since you won’t pick a damn dress!” she retorted, and everyone laughed. “Thank God she’s narrowed it down to two. But still! The wedding is a week away!”

Fallon shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know what I want. I’m about to walk down that damn aisle in a raincoat! Lucas would love that!”

That had all the women laughing drunkenly, as Audrey watched Fallon blush. A smile tugged at Audrey’s lips, and even with all the jealousy eating away at her, she loved that her sister was so in love. It was good to see Fallon happy. Audrey had spent years watching her living day to day just to get by. Now she lived for a man who loved her more than he needed his next breath, and for a son who thought she hung the moon and the stars.

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