Sleepless in Manhattan

By: Sarah Morgan

CHAPTER ONE


When you’re climbing the ladder, always assume someone is looking up your skirt.

—Paige


“PROMOTION. I THINK it might be my favorite word. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this.” Swept along by the tide of commuters, Paige Walker followed her two friends Eva and Frankie up the steps from the subway and emerged to blue skies and sunshine. Far above her the skyscrapers of Manhattan reached up to fluffy clouds, a forest of steel and glass winking in the bright morning sunlight, each competing to be taller than the next. The Empire State Building. The Rockefeller Center. Higher, bigger, better. Look at me.

Paige looked, and smiled. Today was the day. Even the weather was celebrating.

New York had to be the most exciting city in the world. She loved the vibrancy, the promise, the pace.

She’d landed a job at Star Events straight out of college and had been unable to believe her luck, especially when her two best friends got jobs there, too. Working for a big company headquartered in Manhattan was her dream. The sheer energy of the city seeped through her skin and into her veins, like a shot of adrenaline. Here, she could be whoever she wanted to be. She could live her life without being asked how she was feeling twenty-five times a day. In the breathless bustle that was New York City, people were too busy thinking about themselves to have time to think about other people. Interaction skimmed the surface and never went deep. She blended into the crowd and that suited her just fine.

Paige didn’t want to stand out. She didn’t want to be different, precious or special. She didn’t want to be anyone’s poster girl for brave.

She wanted to be anonymous. Normal, whatever that was. And here in New York, finally it had happened.

Urban chaos offered its own type of privacy. Everything moved faster.

Everything, that was, except her friend Eva, who was not a morning person.

“Promotion isn’t my favorite word. Love is probably my favorite word.” Eva yawned sleepily. “Or maybe sex, which is the next best thing. I think. I can’t honestly remember because I haven’t had it in so long. I’m worried I’ve forgotten all the moves. If I ever get naked with a guy again, I might have to buy a ‘how to’ book. Why is no one in Manhattan interested in a relationship? I don’t want a hookup. I want to mate for life. Ducks can do it—why can’t we?” She stopped to adjust her shoe and soft waves of blond hair bounced forward along with her breasts, as generously curved as the plumpest cupcake. The man walking toward her stopped abruptly, mouth open, and four other men slammed into him.

Attempting to avert a human pileup, Paige grabbed Eva’s arm and pulled her to one side. “You’re a walking hazard.”

“Is it my fault my laces untie themselves?”

“Your laces aren’t the problem. The problem is that you just announced to the whole of Manhattan that you haven’t had sex in ages.”

“The problem,” Frankie said, closing in to form a blockade, “is that a dozen investment bankers are now getting in line to manage your assets. And I’m not talking about your finances. Stand up, Sleeping Beauty. I’ll tie your shoe.”

“I don’t have any finances to manage, but at least that means I don’t lie awake at night worrying about yield and interest rates. That’s a bonus, although not quite the bonus those bankers are probably used to.” Eva stood up and rubbed her eyes. Before ten in the morning, she had trouble focusing. “You don’t have to tie my shoe. I am not six years old.”

“You weren’t this lethal when you were six years old. It’s safer if I do it. I don’t have cleavage that should come with a health warning or a brain incapable of filtering what comes out of my mouth. And move to the side. This is New York City. It’s virtually a criminal offense to block the flow of commuters.” There was a hint of irritation in Frankie’s voice, enough to make Eva frown as she stuck her foot out.

“You can’t be prosecuted for being in someone’s way. What’s wrong with you this morning?”

“Nothing.”

Paige exchanged glances with Eva. They both knew “nothing” meant “something,” and both knew better than to push for answers. Frankie spoke when she was ready, which was usually only after she’d bottled it up for a while. “Blocking the flow of commuters could be deemed provocation.” Paige said. “And she was this lethal. You’ve forgotten her eighth birthday party when Freddie Major threatened to beat up Paul Matthews if she didn’t agree to marry him.”