Angel Gomez has never lived by the book. A Bronx-born unwed mother by the time she was sixteen, Angel’s personal mission has always been to show the world that a Puerto Rican girl is not to be messed with—especially by a man. The only thing that matters to Angel now is earning enough tips at the club to complete her nursing degree while simultaneously learning as much as she can about her son’s life-threatening asthma, not to mention keeping food on the table. Love is nowhere on her agenda, despite what her heart might tell her.
Caleb “The Duke” Lewis, the Yankees star pitcher, is well-known for his romantic escapades that routinely make delicious fodder for gossip columns. But lately he’s been trying to keep a lower profile to maintain his crucial spot on the team. When he meets Angel, first while she’s in her nurse’s uniform and the next time behind the bar, she has no idea who The Duke is, fails to fall for his obvious charm, and ends up throwing a drink in his face! She is the perfect woman for him…to fool the tabloids into thinking he’s finally settling down. But what begins as a charade soon has The Duke and Angel hurtling into a full-blown romance that rocks each of their worlds and begs the question: Is this the real deal—or are some love stories just too good to be true?
Angel Gomez hissed under her breath.
Claro. Of course. If she was going to get a paper cut, it would be from the page illustrating the male reproductive system. The twenty-three-year-old sucked at the thin line of blood on the web of her hand, squinting hard at the flayed cojones in her anatomy textbook.
As a nursing student, Angel knew the male anatomy— from the bulb to the external urinary meatus—but her ability to reel off the Latin names of penis parts seemed to scare the living, breathing version away.
Not that I want a man, she reminded herself, her inner voice stern. Focus, girl.
Dark spirals of hair popped free from her ponytail as she bent closer to her textbook. Concentration was elusive. She closed the window next to her with a shriek of metal on metal, shutting out the gray February breeze and the number 4 train running on the elevated tracks down Jerome Avenue. She tilted her head, listened.
What is that? Breathing. It was gaspy, heavy breathing, coming from the depths of the worn corduroy couch behind her. Angel twisted in her chair.
“Jose,” she said, too loudly, knocking pages of lecture notes off her makeshift desk on the radiator.
“Mama, I’m fine,” the seven-year-old boy muttered. He turned up the live radio stream coming from the decrepit laptop and avoided her eyes.
“Go get your inhaler. Now.”
“Just a minute. The Duke is about to pitch.”
Faintly, she could hear Suzyn Waldman, longtime announcer for the Bronx Bolts, adding color to a local charity game. “He’s winding up and . . . another beauty, right over the plate . . . Ohh no, the batter’s hit a hard foul right into the dugout.” The announcer clucked, but then, “What’s this? The Duke seems to want off the mound.”
“No!” Jose yelled at the computer, as if it could hear his complaint.
“His ankle may still be giving him problems.”
“Jose! What’d I tell you?”
Jose’s face shone with perspiration as he stomped past her, wheezing down the hall to his room. That beautiful pouty face, she thought. His bronze complexion, a shade darker than hers, was the perfect blend of her and his father. Jose’s dad was long gone, however—the high school quarterback had disappeared when he found out his fifteen-year-old girlfriend was pregnant, but not before slapping her around, yelling, “That ain’t my kid.” Angel had shoved him into the hallway, slammed the door in his face. She didn’t want him. She didn’t need him.
Two years after Jose was born, her mother died. Angel was seventeen. She almost buckled from the pressure of the responsibility to care for another, tiny human. She had no safety net. His dark eyes, staring up at her with such adoration . . . She’d shoved steel into her spine, stood up straight, and vowed her boy would be safe, happy, and healthy on her watch.
And she was doing it.
In a few more weeks, she’d be done with nursing school and would take her final boards. She survived by putting her head down and pushing through, focused on getting them out of this decrepit apartment building filled with dust and screeching train brakes. She kept the rest of the world’s bullshit at arm’s length.
From The Perfect Date. Copyright © 2019 by Evelyn Lozada and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Griffin.
EVELYN LOZADA, is a high-profile American-Latina reality television personality, entrepreneur, author and philanthropist. She is best known for her role on VH1’s hit series Basketball Wives (2010-present), OWN’s hit series Livin’ Lozada (2015), author of the first installment of the book series: The Wives Association: Inner Circle (2012) and creator of Healthy Boricua (A Puerto Rican Lifestyle Guide to Healthy Living). Evelyn has become a national trendsetter, a “go to” fitness export, jewelry designer, fashion and beauty maven, social media royalty and a stimulating voice and proactive supporter of causes that effect women and girls through the Evelyn Lozada Foundation. Evelyn is a Bronx native, mother of two (Shaniece Hairston and Carl Leo Crawford) that currently resides in Los Angeles.
Holly Lörincz is a successful collaborative writer and owner of Lorincz Literary Services. She is an award-winning novelist (Smart Mouth, The Everything Girl) and co-author (best-selling Crown Heights, and How to Survive a Day in Prison) living in Oregon.