Alyssa Coleman is hard on her luck after losing her job as a programmer and getting dumped by her boyfriend Shawn. A chance encounter in a cafe where she’s drafting her cover letter to a big tech company leads her to meeting Galen Radcliffe, an attractive blonde artist who instantly falls for her sweet demeanor. Their date goes far better than expected and Alyssa’s week is topped off by a swanky new job…
Her first day at work, Alyssa is shocked to meet her boss who looks exactly like Galen in every way. Did her date lie to her? When Alyssa confronts her boss, she discovers his name is Dante Radcliffe. He’s the CEO of the tech company where she’s just been employed and he’s Galen’s identical twin brother.
At first, Alyssa is able to keep her romance with Galen out of the office, but as she pulls longer and longer hours with Dante, her feelings for both of them begin to get muddled.
When Galen announces a possible move to New York City and Dante proves himself to be more of a playboy than Alyssa realized, she wants to be through with them forever.
As Alyssa fights to do what’s right without anyone getting hurt, she’ll have to make more than a few difficult choices. Meeting the Radcliffe twins was far more of a game changer than she could have ever imagined…
The whirring of the blender in the café stirred Alyssa Coleman from her deep state of focus. As she heard the friendly blonde barista calling her name, she got her smoothie and re-seated herself at the isolated corner table. She stared at the top of her word processor: To Whom It May Concern
She erased the opening and tried again: Dear Sir or Madam…
Alyssa sighed and sipped on her “Meta Boost” smoothie. She hadn’t expected to be searching for a job again. She certainly hadn’t expected to have to write another cover letter. The process wasn’t just grueling; it felt pretty fruitless too. Despite her degree and her experience, Alyssa felt like just another nobody. Companies didn’t want to hire her and she couldn’t figure out why: was it racism? Sexism? Was she really just not good enough?
When Alyssa got her degree in computer science everyone in her family had shown up to her graduation proud that their baby girl had made it. Now, there were no more cowbells and tambourines to celebrate her every move. Her family questioned why she hadn’t been able to keep a job and then more importantly, why she hadn’t been able to keep a man.
Just when Alyssa thought life couldn’t get harder. She’d just lost her job working with a mid-sized tech firm as a programmer when her boyfriend Shawn had dumped her. She was quickly turning from the family’s prized sheep to the black sheep and she didn’t know what to do. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Life was supposed to work out if you did everything right. And Alyssa had done everything right. She’d been Shawn’s ride or die and he left her for a girl who had barely graduated high school whose “career” was posting half naked photos online.
Alyssa felt betrayed by everybody. Nobody had warned her that she could end up thirty years old with no boyfriend, no job and bills on bills on bills.
Alyssa kept her mind plastered on her cover letter as she thought about her meeting with Maeve later that day. Alyssa and Maeve Wilson were more different than any two people could be. Alyssa had deep, sable colored skin and Maeve was paper white. Alyssa had black hair that fell in tight ringlets around her shoulders while Maeve was a redhead with pin straight hair that reached her waist. Alyssa was a gritty computer scientist and programmer while Maeve was a spiritual healer who held all kinds of New Age beliefs.
Despite their differences, the two were close friends. Even if Alyssa was an out of practice Christian, she had to admit that there was something to Maeve’s beliefs. At least she always felt a sense of peace and calm around Maeve that she didn’t feel around anyone else. Maeve was highly empathetic and gave the best advice. Alyssa was so looking forward to this meeting. She was desperate to meet someone, anyone to take her mind off Shawn.
Alyssa clacked away at her keyboard, going through the motions of drafting yet another cover letter. Alyssa heard the sound of the milk steamer as the baristas behind her made yet another drink. As the barista’s heels clicked across the coffee shop floor, Alyssa looked up and watched the next events unfold in slow motion.
The barista missed the fact that Alyssa’s computer charger was stretched across the coffee shop floor and inserted into the nearest plug. By the time the barista realized the computer charger was there, her heel got caught in the cord and she fell to the ground in slow motion. The cup of steaming hot coffee she was carrying flew out of her hand and traveled through the air like an ocean wave landing on the customer who it was intended for.
“SHIT! OH SHIT!” The man yelled standing up and removing his steaming t-shirt in the middle of the coffee shop. The barista was on the ground looking up at him with the perfect cocktail of shame and humiliation in her eyes.
She stood up and tried to apologize with tears in her eyes, “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…”
“It’s fine,” The man growled.
At that point Alyssa had to step in.
“Hey, I’m so sorry,” She said to the barista.
Alyssa continued, “And you too sir. I should have warned you about my cord.”
“It’s okay,” The barista said.
“Yeah… I hope this one’s on the house,” The man growled again.
“Yes! Yes of course sir! Why don’t I go get you a warm cookie in the back,” The barista tittered.
“Any spare shirts back there?” He teased.
The barista looked confused but then scurried to the back of the coffee shop probably to escape more than anything.
Alyssa turned to the guy who was standing shirtless in the near empty coffee shop and offered him a personal apology.
“Hey, I’m so sorry… Are you hurt from the coffee?”
The guy smiled and replied, “Well it certainly hurts but I’ve been burned worse.”
“I’m kidding… but also, I’m Galen,” He said.
“Alyssa… Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you to. Mind if we talk for a while? I’ll share my free cookie with you,” He said.
Galen sat across from Alyssa shirtless, apparently not caring about the fact that he was in a public venue. The barista hustled from the back with a warm chocolate chip cookie and apologized profusely for not having extra shirts. Galen didn’t seem to notice. He’d already found something else to occupy his time.
He split the cookie in half and handed it to Alyssa. As his hand crossed over the table, Alyssa couldn’t help but notice how thick his hands were and how his bulging blue veins traveled all the way up his arm.
“So, what are you up to on this fine day,” Galen said.
“Writing a cover letter. I’m one of America’s many unemployed and I’m struggling to write something that doesn’t sound inauthentic.”
“Corporate America values inauthentic.”
“I’m not joking. But I guess I sound a little pretentious don’t I? Curse of being an artist.”
“An artist? In this economy?” Alyssa teased.
Galen smiled and his hazel eyes gleamed. Alyssa was glad that he could take a joke.
“So what kind of job are you looking for?” Galen asked.
Alyssa bit down on her lower lip. She was always nervous telling people about her profession. Many people were bold enough to accuse her of lying -- they just couldn’t believe that a black woman could be a programmer. Others would just give her doubtful looks as if they were trying their best to believe her but simply couldn’t. Alyssa figured she needed to stop caring what strangers thought of her so she answered honestly.
“Honestly? I’m a programmer. Looking for a job in tech, maybe consulting.”
“No way, just like my brother.”
“Well I wish you luck Alyssa. I know it’s a tough world.”
“Don’t I know it…”
There was a moment of silence and Alyssa found herself staring at Galen. He was more attractive than she’d even realized. In the frenzy of the hot coffee drama she had hardly noticed that the man she was speaking to was attractive enough to be a model.
He had gorgeous pale skin, dirty blonde short cropped hair and hazel eyes.
Galen noticed her staring at him.
“Think my shirt’s dry enough to wear?” He asked and then dressed. As he dressed Alyssa noticed his muscles flexing and subconsciously bit down on her lower lip even harder.
“So… Uh… What kind of art do you do?” She asked awkwardly, suddenly feeling shy and realizing that she’d been flirting with Galen for a while.
“Mixed media. I paint, draw, sculpt, anything that uses my hands,” Galen said.
“So you’re good with your hands?”
“Among other things.”
“Well your girlfriend’s a lucky girl,” Alyssa said, throwing out a blatant piece of bait.
“Well she would be a lucky girl if I had one,” Galen said.
“Speaking of girlfriends, would you like to go on a date tonight?”
“Yes,” Galen said, amused by her shock.
Alyssa nodded. “I’m supposed to meet up with my friend in a few so maybe after? Call me,” She said.
Alyssa reached into her purse and pulled out her minimalist business card, handing it to Galen. She stood up and packed up her belongings.
“I’d better go Galen. See you later?”
He nodded and continued sitting in Alyssa’s spot as she walked out the door.
Drinks with Maeve always went one of two ways. They would either end fantastically with drunken singing and/or karaoke OR Maeve would spout some of her spiritual beliefs, Alyssa would get upset with her and they would spend the next three days fighting.
Alyssa had a feeling things would go the second route. They’d started off the night with mojitos and Alyssa had just returned from a “session” with a client. She was in the headspace that Alyssa was so often aggravated by. They’d been talking (read: Maeve had been lecturing) about the power of healing quartz when Alyssa decided to change the subject.
“So after this, I have a date Maeve… I met this attractive guy named Galen in the coffee shop after I wrapped up my cover letter today. Oh my goodness he was so cute,” Alyssa started.
Maeve’s face lit up, “Cute? Did he look like Shawn?”
Alyssa snorted. “No! He did not look like Shawn. This guy was white okay and he’s an artist.”
“Hm… Did you find out his sign?”
“Leo? Scorpio? Gemini?”
“Okay okay, tell me about him.”
“Well he was so hot and I don’t know… I’m kind of into that brooding artist type after Shawn. He seems laid back.”
“But you aren’t laid back at all,” Maeve said.
Alyssa glared at her.
“Exactly Maeve, it’s called balance.”
Maeve closed her eyes and sipped on her mojito a few times. Alyssa hated when Maeve went “into her special place” while they were out together. She sighed dramatically as she waited for Maeve to return to planet earth.
Maeve’s eyes snapped open and she reached across the table and held onto Alyssa’s arm.
“What is it Maeve,” Alyssa asked in a flat tone that barely masked her frustration.
“I’m getting a strong negative feeling. Chaos… Problems…”
“Okay so what? You’re getting a ‘feeling’ this guy isn’t right for me?” Alyssa snapped.
“No, I’m not saying that at all. Just be careful. You barely know him and you have… other things to focus on,” Maeve cautioned.
Alyssa sighed and answered, “Well thanks for the input.”
“Don’t take it personally Alyssa.”
Alyssa was still glaring.
“Alyssa, it’s just a warning,” Maeve pleaded.
“I’m sick of your warnings. Can’t I have anything good Maeve?! I’ve practically lost everything and I don’t need some soothsayer predicting gloom and doom.”
Maeve grinned, “Really Alyssa, soothsayer?”
They both looked at each other a burst into laughter. Alyssa was still a bit peeved but she realized that maybe she was overreacting. No matter what, Maeve always had her best interests at heart.
“Okay crazy, I’ll try to be careful,” Alyssa mumbled.
“Thanks,” Maeve added. She then launched into a spiel about her latest plans for spiritual healing and which crystals she was trying to order from Mexico. Alyssa might have been tired of listening to her but she was far away from their little table in the bar. She was anxiously anticipating her date with Galen and imagining how far things could go. Who knows, maybe this chance encounter would lead to something far greater than she ever imagined.
Hopefully there would be no need to be careful.
Alyssa wondered if she should have dressed up more for her date with Galen. It had been a long time since she’d gone out with a man she barely knew and the wounds from Shawn were still fresh. Alyssa hated to think of herself as one of those bitter women who didn’t trust anybody but Shawn had built up her walls more than he’d broken them down. Alyssa had just parted ways with Maeve and she had to admit that Maeve’s warning was haunting her. Sometimes that crazy girl was actually right about her predictions and Alyssa knew that she was taking a risk.
What did she even know about Galen? He was kind enough to share his free cookie, he was an artist and of course, he looked incredible with his shirt off. Was that really all it took to grab her interest? Alyssa walked down the street to the restaurant where they’d agreed to meet. A classic, American style restaurant revealed absolutely nothing about Galen’s tastes or interests.
Alyssa’s hair was pinned back in a neat bun and her outfit was tasteful rather than revealing. Even if it had been a while since she was in the dating game, she knew that the key to a first date was keeping things tasteful. Alyssa walked into the restaurant and scanned the room for Galen. He saw her before she saw him and gestured for her to come over to his table. Wow. Alyssa was stunned. Galen had been appealing enough in the coffee shop but now he was sexy. He wasn’t wearing anything particularly fancy -- dark wash denim jeans and a plain fitted v-neck -- but something about the way he wore the outfit was driving Alyssa wild.
He pulled out the chair and gestured for Alyssa to sit. She was trying to play it cool but soon Alyssa realized that she was beaming like an idiot. They looked at the menu in silence and then decided on what to eat.
When they put their orders in, Alyssa got down to business. She was intrigued by Galen's entire persona. He had chosen a nice enough restaurant so even if he was an artist he obviously wasn't struggling.
“So Galen, what exactly does an artist do to stay afloat. I mean, is there really money in art these days?”
Galen chuckled. He appreciated how quickly Alyssa got to the point.
“Well, I wouldn't say art keeps me afloat but a man has to find ways of doing what he loves.”
“Agreed. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones whose passions in life happened to be profitable.”
“And what passion would that be exactly,” Galen asked smirking.
Alyssa shrugged. “Programming, computers, technology, it's all so amazing.”
“And that's your passion?”
“I love that humanity as a whole has come so far. We have advanced… We have created more than even our grandparents could have imagined and I've always wanted to work in a field that creates.”
Galen tried to hide his scoff.
He interjected, “But don't you think this focus on advancement has numbed our minds to the true beauty of the world Alyssa? What about art or literature.”
“Art or literature can't save lives the way science can,” Alyssa scoffed.
Galen became brooding but his response was interrupted by the arrival of their meal. Alyssa wondered if she had become too defensive too quickly. She knew that. Ring a woman in the scientific field made her hardened to debate. Alyssa wondered if she’d lost some of her softness in the process of pursuing her dream career.
They began eating in marked silence.
“Art and literature have saved more people than science Alyssa, just in ways you technophiles can’t seem to grasp,” Galen growled.
Alyssa knew that she could either keep up this debate or be the bigger person. It was time for her to show what she’d learned from her previous failed relationships…
“Hey, I don’t mean to argue. I’m sorry. I know that it must feel terrible to have people talk badly about your career,” Alyssa said. She flashed Galen a smile, hoping that would be enough to smooth things over.
“It’s fine,” Galen replied.
Galen kept eating and then after a while he said, “You know… I just don’t get how people don’t follow their passions. I know art… the whole art world can be hard but it’s just lazy if you ask me.”
Alyssa could feel her blood pressure rising again. She liked Galen for a lot of reasons but she was quickly finding out that there was one area where they would always disagree.
“Well maybe not everyone’s in a position to do so,” Alyssa replied, shrugging her shoulders and trying not to appear too invested in the entire thing.
Galen scoffed, “You really believe that? I don’t know Alyssa. I see so many unhappy people and my theory is that they choose to be unhappy.”
Alyssa wasn’t sure that she could hold back, “Come on Galen… It’s just not that simple.”
“I think it is,” He said, ignorant to the fact that this line of conversation was upsetting his date.
“Well I think that not everyone’s born with a silver spoon in their mouth,” Alyssa blurted out, immediately regretting what she’d said. So much for not coming off as catty and judgmental.
Galen dropped his fork and raised his eyebrows.
“I resent that,” He said calmly.
“No, you’ve got to speak your mind I guess,” Galen said sarcastically.
“Listen, I’m sorry okay? Maybe it’s good we find out where we disagree so early in the game,” Alyssa pleaded.
“You’re right. Maybe you would have found out how stubborn I was when it was far too late.”
The tension between them dissipated and the subject of conversation shifted quickly away from an arts vs. technology debate that would have surely ended the night prematurely. Alyssa decided to take interest in Galen’s passion and she asked him what he wish non-artists knew about art…
As he started speaking to her about his passion, his eyes filled with a light that Alyssa hadn’t noticed before. He was energized by his love of art and Alyssa couldn’t help but wonder how that energy translated elsewhere. Was it possible that Galen was just as fiery and intense about his lovers as he was about his art? Shawn hadn’t had a lick of creativity in him, maybe Galen was just what Alyssa needed.
They finished up their meal and Galen took the check before Alyssa could even offer to pay her half of the bill. She was secretly relieved that he payed because until she got another job, she was trying to live more frugally.
“So… Want to do something else?”
“Maybe we could get a coffee, take a quick walk?” Galen suggested.
It sounded pleasant enough. As they left the restaurant arm in arm, Alyssa started to feel more connected to Galen. He asked her questions about her previous job, her love of programming and how she got started in such a field. Those weren’t unusual questions; there had never been very many black female programmers in Alyssa’s world and most people wondered how she’d even broken past those glass ceilings. Alyssa had always attributed her success to three things: hard work, dedication and faith. Those had carried her a long way.
Galen might have been in a different field entirely, but he still knew the value of hard work and dedication.
They both ordered black coffees as strong as their personalities and took a quick walk around town. Alyssa was starting to feel that this date with Galen might turn into something more; she definitely wouldn’t have been opposed to a second date.
“So Galen… if you don’t mind me asking, what exactly are you looking for. I don’t want to be pushy it’s just that I’m fresh out of a relationship that had a pretty awful ending. I’m not looking to make any more mistakes.”
Galen squeezed her hand.
“Don’t worry, we can take things slow. I like you Alyssa. There’s something about you that’s so different but at the same time, so peaceful to be around. I’m hoping that we can do this again.”
“So am I.”
Galen continued, “To tell you the truth, my heart’s been broken in the past. I know this tortured artist thing might seem cliched but I have to tell you, I’ve been through some terrible things.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Alyssa said.
“It’s alright. I’m not looking for pity Alyssa. I just want to let you know that if I seem guarded, that’s why.”
“Ready to head home?” Galen asked.
Alyssa nodded. The night had gone well but it was about time to wrap it up. If things went on any later into the night, who knows what kind of expectations Galen could come up with. He didn’t seem like he was that kind of guy but they never really did, did they?
As they walked to her place, Galen pulled her close. Their conversation pace was slowing down, matching the winding of the evening. Alyssa felt the spring breeze picking up around her and she walked even closer to Galen matching his stride. As she clutched his large bicep, she wondered if all artists spent that much time at the gym. Galen was obviously strong with thick natural musculature that accentuated his lean physique.
When they arrived at Alyssa’s apartment, she let Galen walk her to the door, using her body language to make it clear that she wasn’t going to let him upstairs on the first date.
“So, we’ll do this again?” Galen asked.
Alyssa stood next to him, looking into his eyes and noticing that Galen was a towering 6’4” for the first time. She nodded, keeping her eyes locked with his and hoping desperately that he got the hint about what she wanted.
“Yes, I’d love that,” Alyssa added, letting the words spill out of her mouth slow and precise.
Galen leaned forward and held onto the small of Alyssa’s back pulling her close. He pressed his soft rosebud lips to hers for the first time. As he kissed her, Alyssa felt the electricity of fresh romance and arousal shoot through her body. She reached up and held onto Galen’s face, kissing him back hard letting him know that she felt exactly as he did.
Alyssa didn’t want to pull away from what had been the most electrifying kiss of her life to date. Finally, a need for oxygen caused Alyssa to come up for air. She pulled back and opened her eyes, looking right into Galen’s eyes and seeing the desire that she expected. She understood because she wanted it too. Just not now, not yet.
“May I have another?” Galen whispered.
Alyssa nodded and tip toed up to his lips again. The second kiss wasn’t dulled by the initial one and Alyssa easily slipped into arousal again. She pulled away and whispered, “I’ve got to go…”
Galen nodded and then watched her leave. Alyssa’s heart was pounding as she closed the door behind her. The date hadn’t been perfect but perfect wouldn’t have been real. Alyssa couldn’t wait to tell Maeve that her prediction had been wrong. There had been no big drama, no disaster waiting to happen. It had been decidedly normal. Alyssa was happy for that. She needed some normal in her life. All she needed for everything to be in her order was a new job.
For the first time in a while, Alyssa felt like things were looking up.
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