Fri
Nov 17 2017 12:03pm

Christina Lauren Excerpt: Roomies

Christina Lauren

Marriages of convenience are so...inconvenient.

For months Holland Bakker has invented excuses to descend into the subway station near her apartment, drawn to the captivating music performed by her street musician crush. Lacking the nerve to actually talk to the gorgeous stranger, fate steps in one night in the form of a drunken attacker. Calvin Mcloughlin rescues her, but quickly disappears when the police start asking questions.

Using the only resource she has to pay the brilliant musician back, Holland gets Calvin an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until his reason for disappearing earlier becomes clear: he’s in the country illegally, his student visa having expired years ago.

Seeing that her uncle needs Calvin as much as Calvin needs him, a wild idea takes hold of her. Impulsively, she marries the Irishman, her infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves and Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway—in the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting—will Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

Get a sneak peek at Christina Lauren's Roomies (available December 5, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

So what now?

Ahead of us, Lulu and Mark are trading small talk— about jobs, New York, weather.

Calvin and I are in a weird bubble right behind them. The wind is sharp and cold, and we’re bundled up, heading down the last block to Gallaghers Steakhouse, unspeaking. He’s a nice person, I’m a nice person. As our two dates have demonstrated, we get along just fine . . . but I’m sure we’re both reeling with the awareness that we’re married.

Married. Calvin is my husband. I am his wife.

I glance down to the ring on his left hand and, in response, the metal on my finger seems to grow bitingly cold.
“You all right?” he asks.

Startling at the sound of his voice, I shift my attention to his face. His nose is pink, and adorable. Ugh. I’ve married him,and he has no idea I’ve been writing Holland/Hot Busker fic in my head for months. How is this a good idea?

I go for breezy: “Yeah, of course—it’s my wedding day.”

When he turns his face forward again, I can barely see it peeking out from the hood of his black down jacket. But I do catch the smile. “You’re quiet. I haven’t known you that long, but what I do know isn’t quiet.”

Well. He spotted that quickly.

“You’re right, I’m not.” I smile faintly back. My face is numb, it’s so cold outside. “I’m just thinking about all of this.”

“Regrets?”

“No, more of the ‘What now?’ kind of thinking. I need to tell Robert.”

“Maybe we could talk out here, away from prying ears.”

I look over at him again. We’re less than half a block away from Gallaghers now, and he’s got a point. Once we get in there, everyone will be able to hear us, and will for sure see the awkward navigation through the What now? if we leave it until the end of the meal.

I stop, bending as if adjusting the strap on my shoe. Calvin calls out to Lulu and Mark. “Yeah, keep going,” he says. “We’ll catch you inside.”

And then he crouches, meeting my eyes. “This is big, what you’ve done.”
“Yeah.” I’m caught in the intensity of his expression. “I can see why you’d be left a little speechless.” “Yeah.”
“Maybe I could go with you when you talk to your uncles?” “Okay.”

Use your words, Holland. Tell him it isn’t so much that you’re feeling regret as you’re feeling sheer panic at the prospect of sharing an apartment with a stranger who also happens to be the hottest man you’ve ever touched. What if you fart in your sleep?

“I want you to know,” he continues, “despite my misde- meanor candy theft, I’m not a creep. I would never hurt you. But if you would feel more comfortable staying separate places—” “We can’t.” Although it’s true, there is a vague tremor of nausea in my thoughts now. I’m ninety-nine percent sure Cal- vin isn’t a rapist or rampant drug abuser. But now taking him into my apartment seems somewhat impulsive—and not just because I might fart in my sleep.

“I want you to know how much I appreciate this,” he says, “and I won’t take anything for granted.”

I’m unaccustomed to being thanked so profusely, and stammer out a few sounds before nodding.
“Is the plan that I come home with you tonight?”

Heat spreads up my neck and over my cheeks. “I think so.” “You have a couch?”

I nod.

“Your bedroom door locks?”

I pull back, looking at him. “Do I need it to lock?”

He shakes his head quickly. “Of course not. I want you to feel safe.”

“You must think I’m a maniac.”

His grin charges something to life inside me. “Well, aren’t you? I think that’s why I like you, Holland Bakker McLough- lin. That and your freckles.”

We straighten in slow unison, and the whole time he grins down at me from several inches above. I finally manage to re- spond to this: “You think I’m taking your name?”

“I’m sure of it.”

My jaw drops through a grin. “I married a caveman?” “Just a personal preference. Want to make a wager on this?” “As in,” I say slowly, “I lose and take your name. You lose and I keep mine? What’s really in it for me?” “If I lose, I’ll take yours.”

What is even happening right now?

He slides his hand around my fingers. “So . . . uncles to- morrow?”

I blink up from our joined hands. “I’ll make sure they’re home.”

“Good. Now let’s get inside and make that wager. I’m freezing my bollocks off.”

I nearly trip on the sidewalk.

***

Copyright © 2017 by Christina Lauren.
***
Learn more about or order a copy of Roomies by Christina Lauren, available December 5, 2017:

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Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of longtime writing partners/besties/soulmates and brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, the New York Times, USA TODAY, and #1 international bestselling authors of the Beautiful and Wild Seasons series, Dating You / Hating You, Roomies, Sublime, The House, and Autoboyography.

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