The Boyfriend List
Revised and reissued edition
Dreams do come true…
Jenna Albanese had it all planned it all out. When she was thirteen she made a list of the qualities she wanted in her perfect man, and years later she thought she’d found him. But after a deep betrayal left her with was a badly broken heart, Jenna tucked away the boyfriend list along with her belief in a happy ever after.
Nate Bayard has a life most people only dream of. He’s a handsome high-caliber polo player and partner in a multibillion dollar business. But as intelligent and confident as he is on the field and in the boardroom, he’s hopeless with women—until he meets the sweet and funny Jenna. She’s just about perfect, and Nate’s determined to make her his. There’s just one little problem. Jenna’s unwelcome past is about to make a comeback.
For Jenna, overcoming her mistrust in men—particularly rich ones—isn’t going to be easy. Then she comes across that old boyfriend list, and realizes that maybe it’s time for another look, and a few changes, to bring a brand new beat to her romantic heart.
The Boyfriend List
Two Years Ago
Lawyers really knew how to suck the fun out of life. Especially when they told you your dirtbag, cheating, liar of an ex-fiancé left you on the hook for a few million dollars while he was on a beach someplace in South America.
South America. Could it be anymore cliched?
Probably not, but there was nothing cliched about the hell she’d been through since he disappeared with all his clients’ money and left Jenna with a mess she didn’t know how to make right. It was bad enough he destroyed her business and reputation, cleaned out the bank accounts, and left her with a mountain of debt, he’d been so smart about his con, they couldn’t even charge him.. On top of all that, she just found out from a charming IRS agent that he had also been cheating on her. With more than one woman.
The living room in their co-op had a wall of windows that faced San Francisco Bay. It was a stunning view that she never wanted to see again. Too many memories.
Not that she ever would. The apartment, all the furniture, and some of the art had been sold to pay down part of the debt.
She tried to sell her three carat diamond ring, but when she took it to a jeweler, she found out it was a fake. Worthless. Just like the guy who gave it to her.
God, how had she been so gullible?
With a packed-to-the-brim SUV, Jenna headed east and didn’t look back. There were no well wishes from her neighbors, no stops along the wharf for a bite, no visit to her favorite coffee shop.
Nope. She’d left town before the sun came up with a cooler full of food and a thermos of coffee.
That was two days ago.
Jenna Albanese had learned to appreciate beauty through the lens of her camera, but over the past year, she’d started questioning even what had once seemed plain as day. She questioned what she saw in people and places. She questioned her own judgment.
So before she headed back home to the life she used to lead, to the people who were waiting patiently for her to return, Jenna needed to see that there was still untouched beauty on this earth.
What was that quote? “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Well, Jenna had way more than a thousand miles to travel and the steps she had to take seemed too large and too overwhelming to think about at that moment.
No, this morning there was only the sky and the trees and a future she’d been hiding from.
Making her way toward the glow, the ground crunched under her feet. There was stillness in the thin air. Quiet, except for the sounds made by a few birds and her footsteps. It wasn’t an isolating quiet, but one that made her ponder things bigger and greater than the harshness of life. There was peace and her heart craved that more than anything else. Looking around at the view through the lens of her camera, Jenna marveled at the world she saw. And she felt relief, because the beauty here was genuine. Unspoiled. It gave her something to hold on to. No matter how many times she made her way up the twisty mountain road; no matter how many times she stood and saw the Rocky Mountains bathed in new light; regardless of the cynicism she felt in her own heart, here the wonder of nature would never fade. Jenna knew, if nothing else, that God lived on Pikes Peak.
Taking pictures of what would be her last trip to that magnificent summit for a very long time, she took a deep breath and then sighed. How did she come to this place in her life? After being on her own, making her way in the San Francisco art world, having actually made a living with her photographs, Jenna was on her way home to Long Island. There, a job as a teacher awaited her, her old room in her parents’ house was ready and she was about to start a new chapter in her life.
It wasn’t something she looked forward to. So, sitting on the ground and pulling her knees to her chest, Jenna thought about how much time she could realistically kill before heading home. A few minutes? A day? A week or a month? Forever maybe?
If only she could stay away forever.
She held the old Canon camera and looked it over. She’d used newer, more sophisticated equipment - marvelous little pieces of technology that did all the thinking - but the old camera was her favorite. It allowed her to play with light and shadow, giving her compositions depth and interest. It was the camera her grandfather gave her when she first learned to take pictures, a hand-me-down that had given her more joy than anything she’d acquired in the past few years.
Wrapping her arms around her legs and resting her chin on her knees, Jenna closed her eyes and let the cool mountain breeze lick at her skin. She sat for a long while and watched the sun come up; it was going to be a beautiful day—sunny, clear and not too hot. Standing and stretching, Jenna thought about her travel plans. She was going to stop in Denver for a day and then drive home. Home. It was strange to think about Seaford as her home again. With its tidy little split-levels and public beaches; neatly manicured lawns and everything - and everyone - crammed together on uniformed, quarter-acre lots.
In San Francisco she’d lived in a gorgeous neighborhood that was an easy walk to her studio down by the water. She could hop in her Jeep and after a short drive be in the mountains or in the desert. The openness of the city and the people had drawn her to the area. She took great pleasure snubbing her suburban roots, and her new city made her feel superior in so many ways—independent, creative and more than a little special.
Yeah, I’m real special, she thought. Shaking her head, Jenna climbed in her car and started the long drive down the mountain. An hour and a half to Denver. She’d find a hotel, catch up with some friends for the day, then hit the road tomorrow morning. It sounded like a plan. And it made Jenna a little sick.