It was half past eleven when Josie Taylor unlocked the door to her Greenwich Village apartment. She lugged her briefcase into the dimly lit foyer and leaned against the door until she heard it latch. Turning back to the door, she fastened the myriad of bolts and latches and chain locks that were standard equipment on the main entrance to an apartment in this part of New York City.
Her heels made a tapping sound on the marble-tiled floor as she went into the living room.
Light from the television lit the room, making shadows jump across Cooper’s sleeping face as he lay stretched out on the couch. The sound had been muted, and she watched her husband for a moment in the stillness.
He’d given up waiting for her. She could tell that by the nearly empty pizza box on the coffee table next to the theatre tickets for the show that had started—she glanced at her watch with a sigh of frustration—more than three and a half hours ago.
Cooper had long since changed out of his expensive suit. He’d pulled his long hair free from the rather severe looking ponytail that he wore when he was dressed up. It fanned out in a golden-brown jumble of curls and waves around his face. The way he was dressed, in his ragged sweat shorts and sleeveless T-shirt, he looked so much like the wild-looking man she had first met nearly six years ago.
Who would’ve thought she’d end up married to this exotic-looking man-child that she’d first noticed riding his skateboard in Washington Square Park? He’d been wearing purple jams covered with bright green peace signs and a pair of orange Converse high-top sneakers. The spring day had been warm, his T-shirt was off, and his long, honey-colored hair was loose around his broad, bronzed shoulders. Sunlight had glinted off the hard, tanned muscles of his chest.
It was hard not to watch his antics as she sat eating her lunch. He soon realized he had caught her attention, and flashed her his quicksilver grin and winked one of his brilliant blue eyes.
He rolled closer to flirt with her, and she was surprised at his imposing height. He had moved on his skateboard with the agility and speed of a smaller, more compact man. But up close, he towered over her. He was older than she had thought at first, too, closer to thirty than twenty, anyway. She was made nervous by his sheer size, and he backed off as if he sensed her discomfort, introducing himself only as Cooper.
Cooper was there in the park at lunchtime the next day, and the next, and almost every single day after that as spring slowly turned into summer.
Each time Josie saw him, Cooper would move a little closer, until finally he sat next to her on the bench, talking while she ate. It was as if he were a wild animal, and slowly but surely she was taming him. Later on, Josie had to wonder who had tamed whom.
Although they looked like polar opposites, with Josie always dressed in her straitlaced executive skirts and jackets, she and Cooper had an awful lot in common. They both liked movies and plays. They both read murder mysteries. They both liked vacations at the seashore and rainy Sunday mornings. They both liked living in the city, with its excitement and pulsing life.
And it was clear, right from the start, that they both liked each other.
Josie found herself looking forward to lunchtime. It was definitely the high point of her day, and she started coming into the office earlier and earlier in the mornings so she could escape for longer and longer lunches.
And Cooper was always there, waiting for her. Sometimes he would bring chalk down to the park and, sitting on his skateboard, he would draw. He could draw like no one she’d ever met before, but the pictures would always be washed away with the next rain. They seemed more precious since they didn’t last.
Cooper didn’t talk much about his job, saying only that he worked near the park, and that his boss didn’t care how he dressed. She didn’t want to pry, thinking that he worked in a mail room or did menial tasks, thinking he might be ashamed since he never brought the subject up himself.
He was bright, funny, and always upbeat. Even on Josie’s worst days, he could make her laugh.
When she started daydreaming about him, it wasn’t marriage that was on her mind.
The first time he asked her out, it was to watch him play basketball in a league tournament. His teammates were nearly all Latin-Americans, and to her surprise Cooper was bilingual, firing out a steady stream of Spanish throughout the entire game.
He had lived in Puerto Rico and the surrounding Virgin Islands for ten years, he later told her. His parents were ethnomusicologists and had focused their research on the music of the Caribbean. He had grown up thinking that life was a party as he had traveled with his parents from one island festival to another.
And life was a party, Josie realized, as long as Cooper was around.
He taught her to mambo and dance the merengue and the cha-cha. The hot summer nights were filled with block parties in parts of the city she’d never dared to venture into before meeting Cooper.
And her dreams were filled with Cooper’s sparkling blue eyes and memories of the tantalizingly sweet good night kisses that he gave her each night after he saw her safely home.
On the night they first made love, he asked her to marry him. And lying in his arms, nearly blown away by both the physical and emotional storms he had the power to create within her, she told him yes.
The next day, he took her to his apartment to show her where he lived. On the way over, Josie realized that she didn’t even know the rest of Coo- per’s name. Was Cooper his given name or his surname? But his name was the least of her surprises.
Cooper lived in the penthouse of an expensive apartment building in Greenwich Village, and he worked out of an office in his home. He was an architect, and not just any architect. He was the C. McBride she had recently read about in the New York Times. The fees he had pulled in for his last job had been more than she’d earned in three years.
At first she’d been angry, accusing him of purposely keeping his true identity from her. But it didn’t take him long to convince her that he would have told her what he did for a living if she had only asked. He told her that the things she knew about him were more important than knowing how he earned money. She knew that he loved to dance, for instance, and that he had a fondness for Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, that he still sometimes slipped back into Spanish when he was upset even though it wasn’t really his native language, and that he loved summer the best of all the seasons. She knew that he hated anchovies on his pizza, that he tried not to eat red meat even though he sometimes dreamed about hamburgers, that he always watched Star Trek, that “Doonesbury” was still his favorite comic strip, and that he’d rather play basketball than do just about anything else.
And she knew that out of all the things he loved, he loved her most of all.
With Josie’s brother, Brad, and his wife and Cooper’s parents as their only witnesses, they had been married in a small ceremony exactly five years ago.
Five years ago, tonight.
Josie sat down on the edge of the couch, and brushed Cooper’s tangled hair back from his face. Leaning forward, she pressed her lips to his.
He opened his eyes, eyes that still had the power to shock her with their blueness, and smiled.
“Hi,” he said, his voice husky from sleep.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“It’s all right,” he said, and she knew just from looking into his eyes that it was. “It wasn’t your fault that all the trains from Philly were shut down. You couldn’t’ve made it out even if you left before noon. I’m just glad you weren’t on the train that derailed.”
“It was a freight train,” Josie smiled. “One of the cars that went off the tracks was carrying tomatoes.”
“I heard another had a load of chickens,” Cooper grinned back. “I guess it’s time to get out the hibachi in Jersey.”
Excerpted from Embraced by Love by Suzanne Brockmann. Copyright © 2004 by Suzanne Brockmann. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.