Sneak Peeks

Can you ever really forget the one who got away? Start reading Confessions of a Canine Drama Queen by Stefanie London


Can you ever really forget the one who got away? Start reading Confessions of a Canine Drama Queen by Stefanie London

Can you ever really forget the one who got away?

August Merriweather has always been good with animals. In fact, she’s known as Manhattan’s Dog Whisperer. Men, on the other hand? Not so much. She’s been falling for the wrong guys ever since her regrettable crush on Keaton Sax, older brother of her best friend, Leah, and the biggest jerkface this side of the Hudson.

Now an emotionally closed off widower, Keaton has become one of the most formidable men on Wall Street, but August knows his secret. He’s not driven by sales targets and bonus checks — Keaton just wants to give his family the security they never had. So when Leah asks Keaton to wrangle her over-the-top, dramatic husky at a weekend talent competition, Keaton says yes…and begs August to help him win the event for Leah.

Between obstacle courses, Molly’s husky temper tantrums and a cabin with just one bed, August is having a blast. Away from the pressure to have a ‘perfect life’ with the ‘right guy,’ she finds herself relaxing and getting to see the softer side of the man she once loved. Is this just a temporary truce? Or could Keaton finally be the right guy at the right time?

Was it too much to ask for a decent, normal guy who wanted the same happy, successful three-point-two puppy life as you?

August Merriweather certainly didn’t think so. But, if her dating history was anything to go on, apparently it was too much to ask. Her last few dates had ranged from less appealing than a smelly tennis shoe to “engage fake emergency phone call” status. The guys ran the gamut from dull to infuriating, and every single time she went home alone wondering what the heck was wrong with her.

In her mind, the dating jungle was more like the dating fight pit.

Don’t be negative. You never know, this guy could be the one!

That had been her cautiously optimistic mantra as she’d walked into the restaurant where she was meeting her latest swipe right. And while August wasn’t the kind of woman who needed a man to be happy, she wanted a relationship. A partnership. A person with whom she could share in life’s joys and challenges. Someone who made her heart flutter.

Spoiler alert: Carter Edward Driscoll III did not make her heart flutter.

You should have known better than to accept a date from a guy with a number in his name.

“So that’s when I told her, babe, I simply cannot marry someone who wants to own a tiny home. Like, where would I put my shoe collection?” The man sitting across from August shuddered. He was classically handsome, but in a way that looked a little…sterile. Had he Botoxed his face? His eyebrows didn’t move that much.

August caught herself staring and brought her eyes down to the plate in front of her. She’d barely touched the croquettes they’d ordered to start, her appetite waning the second her date decided to talk about all the women he’d refused to marry.

All six of them.

Frankly, the fact that the guy had found even one woman interested in marrying him said more about his bank account than it did about his personality.

“I mean, can you believe it? A tiny home? Like, what am I? A minimalist?” he scoffed. “I should have known she’d be into that hippie shit the first time she used natural deodorant. That was a red flag.”

Oh boy. Was it too soon to pull the emergency phone call thing again? Or was this date bad karma for doing it last time?

“So anyway, that was potential wife number five scratched off the list. Number six…she was a doozy.”

August watched his eyebrows again, trying to see if they moved when he talked. Hmm. It was hard to tell. Carter droned on about the next poor, deluded woman who’d thought she could snag a diamond from him.

“I have to think about these things, you know.” This time he paused and took a breath, waiting as though he expected her to respond.

Shit. What had he just said? She’d totally zoned out.


“I can’t exactly curse my future children with those issues, now, can I?” He snorted and nothing above his nose moved. He’d definitely had something done. “I need to pick someone whose genes are at least as good as my own.”

August blinked. “Wait, you’re saying you’re going to choose a wife based on what genes she’s likely to pass on to your children?”

“Exactly.” Carter tossed his hands in the air. “Finally, someone gets it.”

“Are you looking for a wife or a mare?” Her lip curled in disgust.

“Mayor? I don’t really want someone who’s involved in politics.”

“Not mayor. Mare. Like a female breeding horse.” Ugh, why was she even bothering to argue with him? “And not all women want children, you know.”

He made a snorting sound. “Sure, they say that. But then biology happens…tick tock.”

She ground her back teeth together. August hated the idea of the biological clock. People made it sound like the second she turned thirty some kind of internal switch would flip and suddenly she’d be desperate to have a child.

So far, nothing.

It wasn’t as though she didn’t like kids. She looked forward to being the cool “aunt” to her friends’ Mini-Mes. But she didn’t have the urge to have one of her own. Who knew, maybe it would change in the future.

But then again, maybe it wouldn’t.

She suspected it would be the latter and she wholeheartedly resented the idea that either A, she was in denial, or B, something was wrong with her.

“Let’s get a second opinion,” Carter said, and before August could protest, he’d flagged down a young waitress. “What do you think? Would she and I make attractive children?”

He pointed to August. The waitress looked like a deer in headlights, and August wanted to sink into the earth. The people at the tables around them were definitely watching. God, knowing her luck there was probably someone live tweeting it!

Or worse, filming it for TikTok.

“Stop it,” she hissed at Carter, but he waved her away as if she were a fly.

“Come on, you can be honest.” He laughed, as though he wasn’t making everyone around him cringe. “I mean, she’s a little solid, but she has a pretty face, right?”

August’s mouth popped open. The guy was lucky there was a table between them and that she wasn’t the type to throw a drink in someone’s face, because right now she was very tempted.

You do not need to put up with this.

August happened to like the fact that she was “solid.” She was strong! Her muscles helped her in her job grooming animals, and it was very physical work, especially with the bigger clients. And yes, she shopped in the plus-size section and her thighs rubbed together when she walked and she jiggled in places. So what? Was a little chub rub the end of the world? Hell, no.

And it certainly didn’t give anyone the right to make her feel lesser.

August pushed her chair back and stood up. “Congratulations, Carter. You are, without a doubt, the worst jerk I’ve ever swiped right on. Gold star for you.”

He looked at her pityingly. “Is this because I called you solid? I didn’t mean it as a bad thing. I happen to like—”

“I don’t care what you like, and I’m perfectly comfortable in my body. But you are arrogant beyond belief. I pity any woman who’s fooled long enough to marry you.” She grabbed her purse and fished out enough money to cover the food they’d ordered. Carter looked at her incredulously as the bills fluttered onto the table. “I hope you remain single for a long, long time. Like, forever.”

Slinging her purse over one shoulder, she stalked toward the front of the restaurant, aware several phones were raised in her direction. One woman yelled, “You go, girl,” at her as she walked past. What a disaster! But August had more self-esteem than to let someone treat her like that. Fury bubbled in her veins.

At the last minute, fueled by frustration, she turned around to face the people sitting at the artfully decorated tables and along the opulent bar.

“That’s Carter Edward Driscoll III, ladies. Make sure you swipe left!”

Turning on her heel, she walked past the head server, whose hand was clamped over her mouth, and out of the restaurant, the sound of applause and cheering fading as the door swung shut behind her.

It was official. Despite being a badass business owner, respected animal wrangler, and—she liked to think—decent human being, it was clear that August Merriweather could not tell the good guys from the dickwads.

Maybe she was going about this all wrong. Maybe looking for love on dating apps and in crowded bars was like trying to find quality in a discount store bargain bin. Hell, maybe looking for love full stop was putting her focus on a fantasy.

Perhaps what she needed was a more measured and practical approach: someone who had the same goals as her, where love might grow over time. A partnership, rather than a romance.

It was time to engage professional help.

Keaton Sax stared out of the expansive window of his office—a large space, though not yet the corner office he coveted—and admired the view. Facing east, Manhattan’s Financial District and Brooklyn sat glittering and pretty on the other side of the East River. It was nearing 10:00 p.m. and the sky was inky dark, yet the brightened windows of the towers around him showed plenty of worker bees busily tapping away at their computers or talking into their cell phones. Such was life on Wall Street.

Sleep was for the unmotivated.

A knock at his office door startled him and he swung his chair around to see who’d dared to interrupt his thinking time. Keaton’s boss, Thomas Fairchild, stood in the doorway, his lean marathon runner frame encased in a dark suit and his shirt without a single crease even though the man had almost certainly arrived in the office before 5:00 a.m.

“Thomas. What can I do for you?” Keaton asked, gesturing for the older man to come in.

Thomas had bright blue eyes and thick silver hair—which had led to someone at their old firm nicknaming him the “White Walker” a few years ago behind his back. His reputation for ruthlessness and rigid adherence to his plans certainly fit the Game of Thrones–inspired moniker.

Bankers came in two forms, Keaton had discovered. There was the gluttonous type, who thrived on the glitzy dinners and wore diamond-adorned Rolexes and whose attitude of “more, more, more” permeated all areas of their work and personal life. These were the guys who inevitably ended up divorced because they got caught with a drug habit or a gambling addiction or a mistress or four on the side.

And then there was the fiercely ambitious win-at-all-costs high-achiever type, who didn’t have an off switch. They were lean and hungry, and in their eyes you were only as good as your last deal. Whereas the first group were whales, these guys were sharks. Faster and way more dangerous.

Thomas was, without a doubt, king of the sharks.

“What’s the update on the Waterline Press acquisition?” Thomas asked.

“The CEO refused our initial offer, which isn’t totally surprising since we tried to lowball him.” Keaton pushed up out of his chair and walked around to the other side of his desk.

“Next steps?”

“My research associate is digging through the financials to see if there’s anything we can leverage. I suspect they have some bad debt that we could offer to relieve if they play ball on the sale price.”

He anticipated the disappointment on his boss’s face before it came. And come it did, swift in the tightening of his lips and the deepening groove between his brows.

“I honestly thought you would have dropped the Robin Hood act by now, Keaton.” His boss made a tutting sound. “Relieving their debt? Why should we be responsible for their poor decisions?”

“We’re not,” Keaton replied. “But approaching them with a good faith deal will mean a smoother transition for the sale. We can negotiate a low offer while avoiding bad press.”

“Who cares about bad press?”

“But what about our client’s reputation?” He raised an eyebrow. “The last M&A was so aggressive, people petitioned for an investigation.”

“You mean some basement-dwelling trolls on Reddit posted about it. Please.” Thomas rolled his eyes. “Our job isn’t to worry what people think, Keaton. Besides, the way the internet is these days you only need to wait a day or two before people are outraged about something else. Hell, if you’re smart, you’ll find something for them to worry about and point them in that direction.”

Keaton sighed. To say that he and Thomas did not see eye to eye would be putting it lightly, and he knew this latest acquisition was going to be a challenge. His client, a fast-growing digital media group, was in the process of gobbling up several small companies who’d started making noise about fair use. For the big fish, it was easier to simply buy the company in question than deal with negotiations and potential court proceedings. Only, the big fish was perfectly fine using underhanded tactics to get what they wanted and Keaton was expected to toe the company line.

He’d been hoping to get out of this acquisition without blood on his hands, metaphorically speaking. But that was starting to seem more difficult than he’d first thought.

“Tell me your bleeding heart isn’t going to get in the way of this one,” Thomas said, looking at him pointedly. “Because there have been discussions about making you a named partner and I would hate for you to develop a reputation for being weak.”

Keaton leveled a stare at his boss. “We both know what my numbers are like. You’re better off with me working for you, even with the so-called bleeding heart, than working for a competitor.”

For a moment, Thomas didn’t move. It was hard to tell what the older man was thinking. This was a trait that had won him many negotiations over the years and had struck fear into the hearts of all the fresh-faced newbies that populated the bullpen back in Keaton’s first job at a big investment firm on Wall Street. They’d scattered like pigeons every time he’d entered the room.

But not Keaton. He didn’t scatter for anyone.

It was this reason—along with his talented nose for important details—that had seen the older man take him under his wing. Then when Thomas left that firm to strike out on his own, he’d written a check with more zeros than Keaton had ever thought possible. A life-changing sum.

And when Keaton’s life had fallen apart in a way he’d never seen coming, Thomas had been there for him. Over the years, he became like the father Keaton had never had. He couldn’t exactly say it was a “loving” father and son–type relationship, but Thomas had championed him in the industry, pushed him to be his best and had given him opportunities when many others were happy and willing to write him off.

Keaton owed Thomas a hell of a lot.

“Get it done,” Thomas said eventually. “You know I want to see your name on the front door of this place. But you need to convince Hill. He’s the holdout.”

He walked out and closed the door behind him. Keaton let out a breath and went back to his office chair, digging his fingers into the tight muscles in the back of his neck. Fairchild & Hill could become Fairchild, Hill & Sax.

The thought of it—seeing his name in those gleaming gold letters—set off something inside Keaton. If only all the people who’d doubted him could see him now. His old teachers who told him he wouldn’t amount to anything. The officers who dragged him off to juvie at seventeen and saw him as little more than a statistic. The other juniors at his first job who thought Keaton was a no-good criminal.

His name could be on the door to one of the most prestigious boutique consulting companies in all of New York City.

He could finally be at the top of the food chain. The crème de la crème of Wall Street. It was the goal he and his wife used to talk about while they lay in the ridiculously small IKEA bed that somehow still felt too large for their tiny bedroom. Named partners. They’d already planned how they would celebrate that milestone—with Dom Pérignon and a room at the St. Regis. She was convinced she would make it there first.

At the time, he’d believed her. Because Ellery could do anything she set her mind to. The sky was the limit.

Until it wasn’t.

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