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Love on the Ledge

Zoraida Cordova

  Love on the Ledge

  On the Verge: Book Two

  Zoraida Córdova


  Diversion Books

  A Division of Diversion Publishing Corp.

  443 Park Avenue South, Suite 1008

  New York, NY 10016

  Copyright © 2015 by Zoraida Córdova

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  For more information, email [email protected]

  First Diversion Books edition May 2015

  ISBN: 978-1-62681-580-3

  Also by Zoraida Córdova

  On the Verge Series

  Luck on the Line

  For Goody Horbs, Goody Higgins, and Goody Rosado—

  My daily inspirations, troublemakers, and soul sisters.

  To more adventures, lobster bibs, and alotta whiskey.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44


  More from Zoraida Cordova

  Chapter 1

  The first time I’ll wear white to a wedding, I won’t be the bride.

  I turn in the full-length mirror, admiring the way the soft white satin hugs my Hamptons-summer-kissed skin. When I tried the dress on back in April, it was snug on my hips. Then, I was in Boston working night shifts at a hospital that included a steady supply of pastries, cold pizza, and coffee. When I wasn’t working the graveyard shift, I was clinging to the arm of my perfect boyfriend with one hand and downing cocktails with the other. I’ll say one thing about this break-up—it’s the only one that’s ever caused me to lose weight instead of pile it on.

  That and wedding planning.

  Wedding planning is a stressful business, especially when the groom is your uncle, and your entire family gets to see your life plans spectacularly come apart at the seams.

  At least I can say my bridesmaid dress fits.

  Maybe it’s the dress, but I start to think about myself walking down the aisle as the bride. How next year it could have been me. How I would have chosen the same color palate. That’s a spiral I don’t want to go down again. So instead I focus on the little things like the wrinkles along the hem, the fingerprints on the mirror, the specks of dust that flutter around the room. I run my fingers through it. I wonder how dust, sneezy, dirty dust, can look so beautiful when a beam of light hits it. I guess anything can be beautiful at a certain angle, like perfect boys that turn out to not be so perfect.

  “Sky!” Leti bangs on the door. “Are you dressed yet?”

  The doorknob turns, a reminder that I can kiss privacy (and silence) goodbye. For a whole two months, I had the house to myself. Sure, it belongs to my uncles, but because they’re both such workaholics, it felt like I was by myself. One by one, the family’s started to arrive for the big day. Before today I’d get a daily call from my mother reminding me that I’m man-less and jobless and homeless. Only two by choice. Well, actually all by choice. It’s one thing to get nagged over the phone. It’s another to get nagged in person.

  My cousin Leti runs in wearing the same dress as me, only it’s too narrow around her knees so she does a weird wobble, like a mermaid trying to walk on land. Her brown eyes go wide when she sees me. She presses a hand on her giant breast and sighs.

  “Giiirl, you look like the bride. I’m feeling like a beached whale. I mean, it’s a lot better than my initial expectations after seeing his spring collection of neon circus chic, but really? Why is he doing this to me?”

  “Because our uncle is gay and has no idea what it’s like to wear a dress?”

  She laughs in that thunderous way of hers—a belly rumble boom. A tiny gold star on her left canine glints in the angel dust light coming through the window. She got the star in Sweden during her semester there last year. Apparently it’s a thing there. Teeth bling is not a thing in our family, and she got a load of grief from Las Viejas—the old ladies—our moms and aunts and grandmas, the Ecuadorian chorus to the tragi-comedy of our lives.

  I should have gone with her to Sweden when I had the chance, but I chose Boston over traveling. Now’s not the time for regrets, but regrets always have a way of finding their way into the present.

  “I don’t know about Tony,” she says, “but Uncle Pepe used to wear dresses all the time.”

  “Whatever,” I say. “Are we sure we can’t convince them on something in an empire waist?”

  A third white dress, more like second-skin than fabric, saunters into my room. My best friend, River, leans against the doorframe. Her wild honey curls tumble down her back. I can smell the ocean on her clothes. Her skin is even tanner than mine, only mine is genetic and hers is one step closer to skin cancer. The smatter of golden-brown freckles on her high cheekbones makes her blue eyes just that much sharper.

  “Remind me again why we’re wearing white?” River asks. She tiptoes in, the material stretching so tightly I’m afraid the seams are going to rip.

  “Because,” Leti says. Leti speaks with her hands. She swings them all over the place. Ever since we were little she’s been like that, a loud firecracker on the loose. “Pepe and Tony are going to wear all the color. Did you see the suits? Navy with turquoise and white accents. It’s pretty much adorbs.”

  “You know,” River says in her smoker’s voice, “it’s a testament to my love for Pepe and Tony that I’m here right now. I was at the beach, and I almost couldn’t tear myself away from those surfers.”

  She licks her lips in a way that makes Leti bat her eyes and say, “Oh, how I’ve missed you, River. I can’t wait for everyone to get here.”

  I groan. “The whole family, plus Uncle Tony’s family we’ve never met, plus all their snooty fashion friends? I wonder which of the neighbors is going to call the cops first.”

  “It’s like My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” River says. “Only the groom is Italian, the other is Ecuadorian, and they’re both gay.”

  “My Big Fat Italian-Ecuadorian Gay Wedding,” Leti giggles. “It’s going to be so romantic. I wish we had dates.”

  I did have a date. I try not to let my face crumple up and cry. I’m done crying. I’m done feeling sorry for myself. Or, mostly. I’m done letting other people see me cry and feel sorry for me. But these aren’t other people. Leti’s my first cousin. River’s my biffle. They’re the
closest things I have to sisters, and I can’t lie to them.

  “I’m sorry, Sky,” Leti says. “I didn’t mean—”

  I nod. I hate that I’m this way. I hate that I can’t shake the sadness. It wears me like an ugly dress I can’t unzip myself out of.

  “I should be over it,” I say. “But it’s Bradley, you know? He was everything to me for such a long time.”

  We try to sit, but the dresses are so tight that sitting cuts off our air supply. So we stand in front of the wide, full-length mirror. More white particles flake down on us. Leti sneezes and gets into a fight with the dust. The dust wins.

  “What is that?” she asks. “It sounds like a stampede.”

  “The roofers have been tramping around for two days. There was a small hole when they cut down the tree for the wedding, and then they found rot. Just what we need.”

  “Hey,” Leti says, “if all of River’s numbers are dead ends, we can ask some of them to be our dates. At least they’ll be good with their tools.”

  “You’re impossible,” I say.

  “Aww, come on, Sky,” she says. “I just don’t want you to be sad.”

  “Listen,” River tells me, “if you want to feel sad then you should feel sad. Bradley was a piece of shit who deserves to have his dick cut off, ground up, and then fed to him. He cheated on you with an old lady!”

  Leti shakes her head. I don’t know who she’s more terrified of, River or me with my break-up face. “I stopped watching Stella’s cooking show as soon as you told me she slept with Bradley.”

  River leans against the wall, digging her pinky in her ear. A tiny trail of sand falls to the floor. “This whole time I thought you were worried about the daughter. What’s her name? Rainbow?”

  I laugh. “Lucky. And no, she’s cool. We’re sort of friends now.”

  “Ugh,” she says. “Always the objective one, you.”

  “I don’t want you to be sad anymore, Sky,” Leti says. “You’ve done so much for the wedding. This is your baby. You need to enjoy it.”

  “Nothing like planning a dream wedding for someone else after you’ve been dumped.”

  “Hey!” River says. “Shut the fuck up. Don’t you talk about yourself like that. You dumped him.”

  “Isn’t that the shit part? Even after everything. After he groveled and promised it was only one mistake, that he wanted another shot, that I should give him a chance to be better. After I told him I never wanted to see him again, I still feel like the one who got dumped?”

  “Fuck it,” River says. “No more moping. I hate that I can’t fix your broken heart. Or that I can’t murder Bradley with my bare hands this minute. Or that he’s probably out on some yacht having a grand old time while you’re sad. But I can stop you from wallowing in your own misery.”

  “How are you going to do that?” I ask.

  “Haven’t figured it out,” she says. “Isn’t it enough that I can kill him with my mind?”

  It’s funny how cursing and death threats against a man who wronged me can lift my spirits a little.

  “However,” River says, “you’ve been here for two months since you left Boston, and you haven’t even had rebound sex. I’ve been here for a week and I’ve already gathered a bunch of healthy prospects.”

  “For you or me?”

  “For all.” There’s that twinkle in her eyes. River’s always been the wild card, and she loves every minute of it.

  “The summer’s almost over. And I have the wedding. And I have to figure out what I’m supposed to do after that. I’m considering spending the fall and winter holed up here, though. Fresh Direct delivers, and that coffee place is only a ten minute walk for my chai addiction.”

  River shakes her head. “No.”

  “What do you mean, no?”

  “I can’t have this talk from you,” she says. “That’s quitter talk. Thomases don’t quit.”

  I bark a laugh. “I’m not a Thomas. I’m a Lopez. Lopezes quit all the time.”

  “Stop it, Sky,” River says. “I’m going to find you a man so fine you’ll want to dip him in chocolate and lick his toes.”

  “Can I get that too?” Leti asks.

  “First of all,” I say, “I don’t like chocolate. Second of all, I hate feet. Third, the kind of guy I need right now isn’t a rebound. I don’t need any guy. I need perspective. I just want to be alone. My head is a mess. Anything that needs my attention had better involve flower arrangements and catering.”

  “Honey,” River says, “I love you, but you need a rebound. A rebound covered in so much suntan oil that you’ll be able to fry him up like bacon.”

  “I really don’t know if I’m hungry or horny,” Leti says. “Hmm. Maybe both.”

  “I get what you’re saying,” I say, zipping down the white bridesmaid dress so I can breathe. I pull it down, and the girls suck their teeth when I don’t have to wiggle it past the hips. “But the kind of guy I want right now is a dream. And you know what? I’m okay with dreaming. I thought I had that with Bradley for three whole years, and it was the biggest hurt of my life. I can’t do it again. Not without becoming bitter, like River.”


  Leti shrugs at her.

  River sighs. “Well, you’re not wrong.”

  “It might seem stupid and naïve. I just want a good guy. A truly, really, good guy.”

  River and Leti exchange glances as if I’m the most hopeless thing in the world. Maybe I am.

  “I hate to break it to you, nena,” Leti says, “but nice guys don’t just fall from the sky.”

  “That’s why I don’t pray for miracles.”

  I reach for my sundress to change into, but a loud noise makes me jump back. Sunlight filters through the ceiling, which is strange because there isn’t a skylight. River grabs Leti and falls back just as the ceiling gives way. There’s a scream, the snap and crunch of wood, the shattering of glass, and a sack falls through the hole in the roof. Dust and sheetrock fill the room with tiny clouds. I cough when I accidentally inhale it. That can’t be healthy.

  “Are you guys okay?” River asks.

  The sack moans a response.

  I jump back.

  It’s not a sack.

  It’s a guy.

  A very beautiful, shirtless, unconscious guy.

  Chapter 2

  I run to the guy on the pile of sheetrock and shingles.

  Behind me, the girls run to go get help. The other construction workers are already clambering inside, shouting after their colleague.

  I press my fingers on his pulse.

  “Let me get him,” a guy says, standing over me.

  “Don’t move him,” I say.

  “It’s all right, sweetie,” he says.

  “Which one of us is a nurse?” I stand. Even without my heels, I’m taller than he is. His sweaty face wrinkles and he takes a step back.

  A pained groan comes from the pile at our feet.

  “Don’t try to sit up,” I say. “You probably have a concussion.”

  Maybe even a worse head injury, because he’s just lying there staring at me. Against his skin, golden from days and days of working shirtless on top of roofs or lying out in the sun, his blue eyes are startling bursts of light.

  He blinks repeatedly. There’s blood where a nail has skewered his shoulder, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He just keeps staring.

  At the door, River and Leti are in a fit of giggles.

  My mom, aunt, and uncles run into the room. An older man with a beer belly follows at a leisurely pace. His shirt has the white letters “Robertson Roofing & Co.” printed across it.

  “Sky!” my mom shouts. Her brown eyes are manic and wide. In Spanish she yells, “Ponte decente!”


  When I look down, I realize I’m naked. Or mostly naked. I’ve got on a demi-bra and a thong. I can feel my skin turn hot and red. Shit. Shit. Shit.

  I point a finger at my Uncle Pepe. “It’s his fault. What else are we su
pposed to wear when the dress is practically see-through?”

  “Don’t blame the artist, honey,” Pepe says.

  Save face, I think. Even though my hands are trembling and I’m trying to avoid my friends snickering at my predicament, I grab my pajama shirt hanging from the doorknob (my sundress is covered in sheetrock) and put it on. It falls down to my knees. I try not to think that this shirt used to be Bradley’s. That I promised myself I’d throw it out.

  “Did anyone call an ambulance?” I ask evenly.

  The old man clears his throat, more angry than afraid for his employee. “Aw, not to worry, dear. He hits his head alda time. Never fell tru a roof before. This one’s a first.”

  “Am I the only one who thinks he needs medical attention?”

  All the onlookers take turns staring at each other. That’s the problem with people. No one wants to take action unless it’s approved by someone else. I see it all the time at the hospital. People would bring their injured friends in too late, and when we would ask why, they just “weren’t sure.” I’ve been surrounded by unsure people for too long.

  The injured guy in question now groans some more. “I’m okay,” he says.

  “Sit back,” I tell him.

  But he ignores me. “No, really. My dad’s right. I hit my head a lot.”

  Under his breath the father says something like, “Knocked the sense out of him long ago.”

  I can’t believe that’s his father. If I got a paper cut my mom would insist we go to the ER. Sure, she’s a borderline hypochondriac, and maybe her smothering might possibly be linked to my failed relationships, but at least I know she cares.

  When he stands, he’s the tallest person in the room. Not as tall as Bradley. Bradley was slimmer too. This guy, with his blond hair that reminds me of polished gold, is built like someone who’s spent his whole life working hard. His broad chest, covered in sheetrock, sweat, and a little bit of blood from the scrapes on his way down, wasn’t built at the gym, but by carrying loads of—well, whatever roofers carry, I guess.