Prologue: The Meet-Cute
"Hey! Sera!" Mac waved her friend down as she squeezed her way up to the bar. Her blonde friend whipped her long hair around and smiled brightly at Mac when she saw her. "Hey, I think I'm gonna go home."
Mac rummaged through the contents of her purse in search of her wallet as her friend, Seraphina stared at her with an open mouth.
"You must be joking!" Sera said to her as she pushed the guy she had previously been flirting with away from her with a wave of her hand.
"Sera?" Mac said gesturing toward the guy.
"He'll be back," Sera said with a shrug and another wave of her hand in his direction. She looked at Mac sternly. "Why are you leaving? I mean, look at all the young, single men here. Mac… You can't keep waiting for him—"
"It's not about him, Sera, I'm just…" Mac rubbed a hand down her face, only caring slightly that it might mess up her make up. "Look, I'm just tired. I told you I would be a party pooper tonight."
"Mac." Sera stepped up to her and cupped Mac's face in her hands. "Just promise you won't call or text him when you get home."
"He's my best friend, Sera—"
Mac rolled her eyes. "Fine. I promise. Now, go. Have fun and tell me everything tomorrow."
Sera leaned in and kissed Mac on the cheek before turning around in search of the guy she'd been talking to earlier.
As Mac maneuvered her way out of the crowded club, she draped her long satchel across her body and pulled her curly, nearly black hair into a bun on the top of her head. It was hot inside the club, and when the cool night air finally brushed against her skin, she let out a sigh of relief. After she made it out of the club, she worked her way around the people outside and finally got to the edge of the sidewalk so she could hail a taxi. Normally she would just walk home in her fruitless attempt to save money, but long walks lead to thinking, and she didn't feel like thinking tonight.
It didn't take long for a cab to drive up to where she was—she watched as the white car pulled up almost as soon as she lifted her arm lazily in the air.
"No credit cards tonight," the driver said as soon as she opened the door. Mac did not respond as she got into the cab. "No credit cards tonight," he repeated in his thick accent.
"Cambridge," she responded. "I have cash."
Just as she lifted her leg into the car and reached out to close the door, somebody stopped it and shoved in next to her.
He was incredibly handsome. That was the first thing she noticed. His dark hair was tousled in a perfect way, his tanned skin had hair in all the right places, and his green eyes were so entrancing that she almost forgot that this man was a complete stranger.
"Excuse me," Mac said as she gave the man an incredulous look.
"Cambridge?" he said to both her and the driver. The driver nodded and began to drive away from the club, apparently unaware that the two people in the back seat of his car had never made each other's acquaintance.
"What are you doing?" Mac said with a tone of disbelief.
"Look, chill out," the man said as he looked out his window nervously. "I'm not a killer or anything and I'll pay for the ride. I just heard you saying you were going to Cambridge and I needed to get away from this chick—"
"I don't care," Mac interrupted, still not sure what was happening. "You don't just get into—"
"Hey, I saw you in there," the man said after he finally looked away from the window and looked at Mac.
"I saw you. You were with a blonde chick, right?"
Mac rolled her eyes and released an exasperated sigh. "Yes. What, do you want my hot friend's number, or what?"
The guy raised his eyebrows.
"Oh my god, I was being sarcastic. I would never." Mac folded her arms across her chest and stared straight ahead. She could not believe this was happening to her—tonight of all nights. This kind of stuff only happened in movies.
"Well, it was you I noticed. Not her," the man said with a smile as he extended his hand. Oh, just perfect, Mac thought to herself. He has an incredible smile, too. Brilliant. "I'm Dante," he said casually. Mac simply looked at his hand disgustedly for a moment before turning back to face the front. Dante chuckled and withdrew his hand. "Okay," he said with a shrug. They drove in silence for a about a minute before Dante spoke up again.
"You really aren't going to tell me your name?" he asked her. She could feel his eyes burning holes in the side of her face. Although Mac was incredibly annoyed with how he had invaded her cab ride which she had hoped to take in peace and quiet, she could almost hear her mother's voice in her head. "At least tell him your name. I taught you better than that." Mac sighed.
"It's Mac," she said, still facing forward. And although she was indeed annoyed, at least she wasn't left alone with her thoughts.
"Mac?" he said with a creased brow as if he didn't believe her.
There was another long silence.
"So… what do you do, Mac," Dante asked her after several moments.
Mac rolled her eyes. She hated small talk. "I'm a student."
Mac scoffed. "Do I look like an uptight snob to you?"
"Shut up," she said, still not looking at him. After another pause and a sigh, she said, "I go to BU Law."
Dante laughed. "I thought you said you weren't an uptight snob."
"I'm not!" Mac finally looked at him with her mouth open. He grinned.
"I'm kidding." Dante threw his hands up in a show of surrender.
"Whatever," she said as she turned back again.
"So… Boston University School of Law," Dante said. "That's impressive." Mac didn't respond. "Why do you live all the way in Cambridge?"
There was another short silent pause before Dante spoke up again. "Oh, Dante, what do you do? Well, I'm glad you asked, Mac. I'm a med student at Harvard. I guess we both know who the real snob is."
Mac shot him a dirty look. "I didn't mean to insult you."
Dante shrugged. "It's cool. No harm done."
Once they crossed over the Charles River, Mac spoke up to the driver. "Sir, you can just let me out here."
The driver pulled off to the side of the road while Dante studied her. He had apparently realized that they were not in a residential area and she was opting to get out of this taxi and away from him. When the driver came to a stop, Mac opened her door, and she saw Dante pull out his wallet to pay. She groaned. It hadn't been an invitation for him to get out with her.
"No credit cards tonight," Mac heard the driver say as she was about to close the door to the cab.
"What?" Dante said.
"No credit cards tonight," the driver repeated.
Mac growled as she pulled out her wallet, threw a twenty into the front seat and slammed her door. Dante scrambled out of his side and ran up to fall into step with her on the sidewalk.
"Hey, I'm sorry," he said, touching her arm.
Mac glanced at the hand on her arm briefly, trying to ignore the swoop that went through her stomach when he touched her, before she yanked her arm away. "It's whatever," she said without looking at him. She could feel his eyes on her, but she was determined not to look at him. He was too handsome—too completely gorgeous—for his own good, and she didn't feel like dealing with gorgeous assholes tonight. She just wanted to go home, talk to her roommate, and play with their new puppy who was undoubtedly still awake and energized. Her heart warmed a little at the thought, and without realizing it, she smiled to herself.
"What are you thinking about?" Dante asked her with a smile on his own face.
Mac stopped smiling instantly and shrugged. Then she shook her head a little and turned to Dante. "Are you going to follow me home or what?"
Dante looked only slightly taken aback. "No… I just, I don't know. You don't want to talk to me at all?"
Mac looked at him. She was studying him like she was prone to do when she was trying to get a read on someone. She wanted to know if he was being sincere or if he was just being stupid. If she was being stupid, she really wasn't in the mood. And if he was being sincere… well, she still wasn't in the mood, but if was just trying to be a nice guy, she would give him a chance. She narrowed her eyes.
"Why do you want to talk to me?"
"I…" It was clear to Mac that he hadn't expected that question. "I don't know… You seem cool."
Mac regarded him for a few more moments before she turned around and resumed her walk. She didn't tell him to get lost, and apparently Dante took that as a sign to keep walking with her.
"I like your dress," Dante said after a few moments of silence.
Mac looked down and smoothed the material of her tan, cotton dress. "Thanks," she said. He chuckled.
"Why won't you look at me?" he asked. She knew he was looking at her. She shrugged. "Well, I'm not that bad to look at, I swear." Mac scoffed, and Dante held up his hands in a show of mock surrender. "Whoa, what's that supposed to mean?" Mac finally looked at him.
"What do you mean?" she asked with a laugh. "You said you're 'not that bad to look at…' It's just that it's pretty obvious that… I mean, you're obviously not at all hard to look at… which… I'm sure you know." As soon as she finished her sentence she regretted saying anything. She looked away quickly as she could feel a blush creeping up her face, and she silently thanked the universe that it was dark. She had just practically told this stranger that he was good-looking. How humiliating.
"You think I'm good-looking?" Dante asked. She wasn't looking at him but she could hear the humor in his voice. She was sure he was flashing his incredible smile at that moment.
"Whatever," Mac said. Dante laughed again.
"Well, you're not too bad yourself," he said.
"Please," Mac said quickly.
"What?" Dante said.
"Nothing. I'm just… I'm not…"
"You're beautiful," Dante said, his voice slightly softer than it had been a moment ago. Mac could feel the heat rising in her cheeks. He's a charmer. That's it, she told herself. He doesn't really think that. How could he? But… a very quiet voice in the back of her head was saying. Sure he was a charmer, but she usually had a good read on people and he seemed sincere. He truly did. He was charming and funny and obviously smart. There was nothing wrong with him. She did not need this tonight. But she couldn't deny how good it felt to be told she was beautiful by a man who was certainly beautiful himself. It felt great, and he was…
"Care to share what's going on up there?" Dante tapped on the side of her head and Mac jumped slightly.
"Uh… nothing… You're nice," she blurted out. She rolled her eyes at herself. What a stupid thing to say.
Dante chuckled. She had to admit that she liked that sound. "So you're not mad at me anymore for stealing your cab?"
Mac looked at him and raised a single sculpted eyebrow. "No, I'm still pissed about that."
"Well, we can always catch another one," Dante said with a slight tilt of his head. "And we'll make sure it's one that takes credit cards." Mac laughed. "There's a smile," Dante said. "Finally." Mac rolled her eyes.
"Let's just catch a cab."
A few minutes later, Dante had hailed a taxi, and they were sitting in the back seat after both of them gave their addresses to the driver. At first, Dante hadn't given his as if he was going home with Mac and after a raised eyebrow and a stern look, he had laughed and given the driver his address as well. Now, he was sitting a little too close to Mac than she would have liked as they got closer to her apartment complex. She was as close to the car door as she could get, but he was so close. She could feel his body heat, and his knee kept brushing up against hers as he talked to her casually about med school and Boston and things she was too distracted to hear. Her stomach was fluttering uncomfortably and she felt strangely outside of her body.
"I mean, I did my undergraduate in New York and I grew up in New York but I just love Boston. It's got this great vibe, you know? But ever since I murdered that entire family in Waltham it's been a little weird." There was a pause and Dante chuckled again when Mac did not respond at all. It felt to Mac like all he had been doing was chuckling. It was making her mind fuzzy. "Are you even listening to me?" he asked her.
Mac looked over at him and turned away quickly when she realized how close his face was to hers.
"Sorry…" she said hoarsely. Mac then cleared her throat. "Sorry, I wasn't listening."
Dante laughed. "Obviously."
"Uh, just around this corner," Mac spoke up to the driver.
Mac sat back again and glanced at Dante out of the corner of her eye. He suddenly looked nervous.
"Look…" he started. "I, uh… I know we don't know each other at all, but… Do you want to go out with me sometime?"
"Oh…" Mac said slowly. He was so close. "I don't know…"
"Well, how about this?" he suddenly no longer appeared nervous, but was back to being charming again. "How about you give me your number and we can see?"
The cab turned the corner of her street and she saw her building in the distance.
"What harm could it do?" he asked with a smile.
"I just… We don't know each other at all!"
"I know, I know," Dante said quickly. The cab was slowing down. "Look, we'll just see what happens and if you absolutely hate me, you can delete me from your phone and act like I was never born."
Mac laughed weakly and the cab stopped outside her complex. She looked up at Dante as she was about to get out, and in that moment how absolutely stupid she would be not to give her number to this guy. He was gorgeous and funny and incredibly charming, he was going to be a doctor, and on top of it all, he thought she was beautiful. He was looking at her with such hope in his incredible green eyes. She would be a fool to say no… But she didn't know him. She didn't even know his last name. She didn't know. She didn't…
"Okay." Mac pulled the first thing she could out of her back to write with. It was a red permanent marker.
"Who cares, it's fine," Dante said quickly when she gave him a questioning look. Mac laughed and wrote down her number on his hand. She noticed that she was shaking a little, and she hoped desperately that he didn't notice. After she wrote her number down she thanked the driver and got out of the cab quickly. As she walked up to her complex, she heard a voice calling out behind her.
"It was nice to meet you, Mac."
She turned back and offered him a big smile before she turned and walked quickly inside.
And that was how it all began.