Preface

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"Do you know what the worst part was?" I blurted to the stranger sitting next to me on the subway

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"Do you know what the worst part was?" I blurted to the stranger sitting next to me on the subway.

They turned bewildered eyes in my direction, probably wondering why the hell I was talking to them—probably wondering if I was drunk. (Worth noting: I was not.)

But I didn't even care what they might think of me. I just needed to get this out.

"The worst part," I went on passionately. "Was watching him fall in love with someone else, while knowing I'm pregnant. That was truly the absolute worstest of worsts."

They blinked. "That does sound—"

"Well, that," I added quickly, not giving them the time to finish. "And knowing that there's nothing I can do about it."

"Nothing?" they repeated, sounding appropriately horrified.

"Nothing," I stressed, because it was true.

I couldn't even get mad at Eric—didn't have the luxury of throwing a fit, jilted-girlfriend style, just for the benefit of getting that little bit of revenge therapy.

Because, you see, Eric and I had a sort of... arrangement.

The thing is, we were both workaholics. Because, when you work in the world of modeling, you really have to hustle to earn that superstar status—otherwise, you're just another pretty face on a billboard—and Eric was the first person I'd met who really got that. He didn't make me feel bad for being career-oriented, because he was the exact same way.

Honestly, he was my cross-my-heart, hope-to-die, bullet-to-the-head bestest friend in the whole world.

With benefits.

But the agreement was that there wouldn't be any pressure for a future. We would focus on our careers and split the rent, and that's it. We'd always said that we were okay with the possibility of not being together someday. I just hadn't thought someday would come so soon, or that I would be pregnant when it did.

"So, what are you going to do?" the stranger asked me.

I sighed, slouching in my seat. "I'm going to go home," I told them.

"That sounds like a good idea," they said.

And that's when I thought to myself: Gee, this stranger is nice. So, I turned to smile at them—to get a good look at them. They had grocery bags in their lap, and wore what was obviously a wig of little brown curls on their head. And they were looking back at me. Really looking at me, from one human to another.

No, scratch that. From one soul to another.

And it felt so good to be appreciated as a real person for once.

But then they said, "Hey! Aren't you that super model?"

And the smile fell clean off my face. I wasn't usually recognized on the subway, and I was counting on a little anonymity in this one instance, but suddenly they were reaching for their phone, about to ask me to take a selfie or something, and I couldn't help it.

I panicked.

"Nope! Sorry!" I practically screamed, and I jumped to my feet just as we were pulling up to a stop.

I didn't even care that it wasn't my stop, I had to get away, and I ended up shoving a few people in my desperation. But then I was out on the platform. Safe. Panting a little, and even sweating a bit, but safe.

Harper Banks, I stopped and said to myself. You are a mess. A hot mess, of course. But a mess all the same.

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