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The Pucking Wrong Guy: Chapter 1

Layla Blake

“You got the fucking job!” Kelsey screamed into the phone, making me wince as I pulled it away from my ear so I didn’t lose all my hearing. Waldo growled at the sound, lifting his head from the floor where he’d been napping in the sun streaming in from the window.

It took a second for what she’d said to sink in.

“I got it,” I whispered, my fingers trembling as I touched my mouth in disbelief. Waldo’s front paws landed on my leg, and he started whimpering, obviously sensing the tension suddenly coursing across my skin.

“L.A., baby!” She was screaming again, but this time, the noise didn’t even touch me.

Because the longshot, life-changing thing I’d been trying not to think about, trying not to hope for…was finally coming true.

Clark’s face flashed through my mind.

I hadn’t even told him about it, because I didn’t want to risk a fight about something that wasn’t going to happen.

But now here it was, and…

Speak of the devil. My phone buzzed, signaling an incoming call.


“I’ve got to take this,” I told her, cutting off whatever else my agent was about to say as I switched over.

“Hi!” I squeaked out in an overly excited voice.

“Hey, baby. Ready for tonight?” he asked warmly.

My stomach churned just thinking about the party I was supposed to attend with him later that evening.

All those eyes.

My gaze darted to the mirror on the wall, tracing the lines of my body in the reflection, noting all the imperfections. All the things they’d all see.

All the things they’d think about me.

I studied the neat line of scars on my hip and swallowed my anxiety down. “Yep. Seven, right?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I sent a dress for you. Can’t wait to see you in it.”

“Perfect,” I whispered softly, squeezing my eyes shut as if that could take away the hot shame licking at my insides as I thought about how I’d look in that dress.

“I’ve got to jump into a meeting. I love you,” he murmured, in a voice that should have given me butterflies.

“Goodbye,” I whispered as the phone clicked, staring out the window of the tiny studio apartment I could barely afford. Clark knew it, too. He’d been asking me to move in with him for three months, but I’d always had an excuse.

How long until he got tired of my excuses…and then I was all alone?

I’d be all alone in L.A. though….

Waldo barked, as if he was offended by my thoughts.

I knelt down and buried my face against his soft black and white fur. “I’m not alone, am I, boy?” I cooed, a smile peeking at my lips as he lathered kisses all over my face. I stayed like that for a moment, soaking in the warmth of him before I stood up and glanced around the room.

My cramped studio apartment was a chaotic disaster. The exact opposite of the life I’d been forced to live after I’d been adopted. From the moment you walked through the door, it felt like you were diving into a whirlwind of colors, patterns, and creative clutter that would probably make no sense to anyone but me. Every inch of the small space was crammed with objects that spoke to my…eclectic personality.

The futon against the far wall functioned as both seating and my bed. Its cushions were worn, but I thought they still looked inviting, an assortment of throw pillows creating a nest where I often lost myself in books or daydreams.

Against another wall, a vintage record player stood proudly, surrounded by stacks of vinyl records collected from thrift stores and flea markets.

An old wooden coffee table, adorned with paint splatters from impromptu art sessions, acted as the centerpiece of my living space.

The kitchen area was compact, containing nothing more than a tiny stove, barely large enough to fit a single pot and a rusted old sink and mini fridge. Pots and pans were stacked precariously on open shelves, alongside an assortment of mismatched mugs and plates.

In one corner, a distressed bookshelf groaned under the weight of my extensive book collection. It was my personal library, filled with dog-eared pages and highlighted passages that had impacted my soul in one way or another.

There wasn’t a closet in here, so my clothes hung from a clothing rack. Piles of shoes were tucked away in the corners, each pair scrounged up from my favorite thrift stores.

Clark hated this place.

He hated the color and how much stuff there was.

He couldn’t understand that all I’d had when I’d gotten to that orphanage was a teddy bear. He couldn’t understand the need I had to surround myself with things that were mine.

My adoptive parents didn’t understand either. They’d offered to pay for a penthouse, and been…disappointed when I’d refused, wanting to try and make it on my own.

No one understood.

“One step at a time, Blake,” I murmured to myself, pushing my dark thoughts away and striding toward the bathroom to grab the anxiety pills waiting for me before I started getting ready for tonight.

I took a deep breath in the elevator, cold dread sliding down my skin as the floors beeped by. The fabric of my dress whispered against me, elegance that I never quite got used to. The gown Clark had sent was a work of art, a masterpiece of pale pink satin and lace that flowed around me like a dream.

Its beauty was a reminder of the life I’d been thrust into—one of glamor and perfection that I’d never lived up to. My adoptive mother had expected refinement, and the fashion world had only reinforced it.

Tonight, like so many other nights, it felt like I was wearing a costume, one that didn’t quite fit. I should be used to it; I’ve felt like that from the moment the Shepfields picked me up from that group home, changed my name, my identity, my world.

Perfection was the decree in that cold mansion they’d taken me to, woven into every corner like a delicate but unyielding thread. The only imperfection allowed was that Maura Shepfield couldn’t have children.

Hence the need for me.

From the moment I entered that world, her impossible standards enveloped me, shaping my existence into a mosaic of precise expectations that went against everything my mom and dad had taught me. I was stuck in an intricate web spun from her vision of what life should be.

Maura Shepfield was the definition of opulence, with a fevered taste for the finest things that life had to offer. She’d projected this onto me like a mirror image.

The clothes I wore were always meticulously chosen. Every occasion, no matter how casual, demanded an aura of perfection that felt like armor I had to constantly wear.

It wasn’t just about the clothes, though.

It was about the posture, the way I spoke, the way I held my fork during meals. She trained me to glide through life as if every step was choreographed, as if every word was scripted. My appearance and behavior were meant to be a canvas that reflected her, and any deviation from her expectations was met with sharp disappointment that cut deep into my skin.

In her world, even a speck of imperfection was a stain that tarnished the glossy veneer she worked so tirelessly to maintain. She believed that life was a performance, a grand stage where we were all actors in an elaborate play. And her role, it seemed, was that of the director, guiding every scene with precision and determination.

Her insistence on perfection had been a heavy weight on my shoulders since that first day they’d picked me up, a burden that left little room for me to breathe, to stumble…to exist. And amidst the glamor, the designer dresses, and the extravagant events, I often found myself wondering if there was a place for…me.

At the bottom of the stairs, I glanced toward the waiting car, a bitter ache settling in my chest that I refused to examine closely. Clark was standing outside the car waiting for me, a phone to his ear, his gaze dancing across me admiringly. I tried to return the grin…but I didn’t have it in me.

What did he see when he looked at me?

Because I was sure he didn’t see the real me.

He was his usual picture of beautiful sophistication. The only thing out of place was his black hair, which fell in calculated disarray over his forehead. He’d once told me he styled it that way because it made him look more personable. Turns out, he also thought everything was a performance. His vibrant green eyes stared at me with the same interest they’d had since that first night when we’d met. I couldn’t find fault with him about that.

I’d seen him with his friends though, times when I’d gone to the bathroom and hovered in the hallway like a creep as I watched him smile and shine with them.

It wasn’t the same smile and shine as when we were alone. He smiled at me like a burden…or maybe that was my imagination. I never could be too sure these days.

Or maybe that was just my crazy talking. Because as Mrs. Shepfield always said…only a fool wouldn’t want Clark.

Dressed in a perfectly tailored tuxedo, the suit seemed to mold to his form as if it were a second skin. There was a tension in his posture right then, a subtle restlessness there that told me whoever was on the call was not doing what he wanted.

And Clark always got what he wanted.

Even me.

He slid his palm down my back and waited for me to slide into the limo before following behind.

As the car glided along the city streets, I watched him discreetly, conflicting emotions churning within me. There was a time when his presence was a sanctuary for me, when I thought he was my hero, helping me escape the weight of the Shepfields’ demands. But now, in the confines of that car—

I opened my mouth several times to tell him about the life changing news I’d received that morning.

But I couldn’t quite get the words out.

The car pulled up outside the Metropolitan Museum then, breaking me out of my gloomy thoughts, and its grandeur loomed before us.

Clark ended his call and his attention shifted to me, his gaze meeting mine. ‘We’re here, sweetheart,’ he murmured as if I hadn’t noticed, reaching up to brush his fingers across my cheek. His tone was gentle, but it still served as a reminder that tonight held a weight beyond the glittering surface of the gala.

His business partners and all the who’s who of the city would be there. Another night of pretending to be something I wasn’t.

His eyes lingered over me and his gaze intensified, as if he were taking in every detail, every nuance of my appearance. I felt a rush of vulnerability under that scrutiny, my insecurities threatening to bubble to the surface.

“Most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,” he finally said, when his inspection was complete.

But I didn’t feel the words like I should’ve.

His driver, Ryan, opened the door, and Clark’s mask slipped on, that gorgeous smile of his there for everyone to see. Backlit by the camera flashes of the paparazzi who stalked these events, he extended his hand to help me out. His touch was warm, his demeanor exuding confidence and charm as he guided me onto the steps of the museum.

We stepped into the horde of flashing lights and the chorus of society photographers calling our names. Clark moved me this way and that, making sure they got all our best angles. It was a dance we’d perfected, a game of smiles and posed elegance that masked the real emotions lurking beneath. I plastered on a smile, my gaze fixed on Clark like he was everything as he expertly navigated the spectacle.

The cameras captured our every move, the bright flashes turning the night into a whirlwind of frozen moments. With each click of the camera, I felt a wave of pressure, the weight of expectations crashing over me. And as Clark led me inside the museum, his arm tightly around me like he knew I wanted to bolt…I felt like I was going to be sick.

Inside, the museum had undergone a remarkable metamorphosis, shedding its usual air of quiet reverence for an opulent transformation.

Maura had outdone herself.

The entrance staircase bloomed with cascading flowers and flowing drapes of purple and cream, like a grand portal into a realm of extravagance. The atrium had become an ethereal ballroom, aglow with the radiance of crystal chandeliers that dripped from the ceiling like suspended stardust. The velvet curtain-lined corridors whispered with the melodies of live music, inviting guests to twirl and converse amidst the echoes of artistry. The museum’s scholarly skin was gone, in its place a living, breathing masterpiece of elegance.

We mingled with the crowd, or should I say, Clark mingled with the crowd. I stood there. Kind of like an accessory. Clark’s hand rested lightly on my back the entire time, his conversations a drudgery of smooth, fake words. He was a master of this world, and I…was not.

I grimaced when I heard a familiar, tinkling laugh.


I didn’t call them Mom and Dad behind closed doors. That was only in public.

Her laugh was somehow a mixture of refinement and superiority, and it always made me cringe inwardly. Taking a deep breath, I waited for her to approach, dread dripping down my spine like a bead of sweat.

And then there they were. Thomas and Maura Shepfield.

Maura’s appearance was as polished as ever, a vision of refined beauty that drew eyes to her like a siren song. Just looking at her, she could be anywhere between her twenties and forties, not a line marring her face. Her blonde hair was perfectly coiffed, every strand carefully placed. Her black gown the epitome of couture, clinging to her figure in all the right places.

I actually resembled her. I’d overheard them discussing it one night, how that was one of the reasons they’d picked me instead of a baby. Because anyone meeting them would assume I was really theirs.

Lucky me.

Thomas, standing beside her, was the embodiment of classic charm. His tailored tuxedo exuded an air of effortlessness, his silver streaked hair adding a touch of distinguished elegance. His eyes held a warmth that offered a stark contrast to Maura’s demeanor, a warmth that I knew, however, didn’t go skin deep.

As they approached Clark and me, Maura’s eyes scanned my body with a scrutinizing gaze that only made the dread clawing at my insides thicken. With a calculated smile, she said, ‘Blake…I see you didn’t use the makeup and hair team I suggested.’

Her words were laced with subtle venom. And the comment, which would sound pretty innocuous to anyone listening around us, hit me like a brick to the face, the pain a stark contrast to the façade of smiles and laughter around us.

“It’s good to see you too, Mother,” I replied coolly as Clark brushed his fingers down my back soothingly.

She and Thomas cooed over Clark and he spat back some equally idiotic pleasantries. I could normally force myself to listen to them for however long I needed to, but tonight the sound of their voices was like ants burrowing into my skin.

“I’ll be right back,” I murmured, pulling away from Clark’s hand with a strained smile, ignoring the shock and dismay all over Maura’s face over my rudeness.

I turned to head toward the bathroom. I just needed a minute, a minute to gather my thoughts and mend the cracks that threatened to widen within me. I could feel their gazes piercing into me, and that ever present feeling grew. The one that said I’d never be good enough.

For anybody.

The bathroom was somehow blissfully empty when I walked in, and I stood in front of the mirror, taking a few deep breaths, trying to get ahold of myself. Trying to keep all that emotion thrashing around inside me, firmly locked in my chest.

I stared at my reflection in the gilded mirror, my gaze filled with self-loathing. I was a model. The world called me beautiful.

And I hated everything about myself.

Blond waves framed my face, a cascade of hair that others might admire, but all I saw were imperfections—strands that never seemed to fall just right, a perpetual messiness that clashed with what everyone wanted from me. My dark blue eyes stared back, their hue an exotic anomaly that was almost violet, yet all I could think about were the dark circles that blemished the skin beneath them, a reminder of sleepless nights and anxious days.

And then there were my lips, oversized, drawing attention I didn’t want. I despised the way they looked when I smiled, as if they were shouting for attention, betraying my discomfort with the mask I wore. My reflection seemed to taunt me, every detail an assault on the confidence I struggled to hold onto.

When I stared at my body, I saw bulges and angles that seemed to amplify my flaws. The neckline that was supposed to exude allure only made me feel exposed, my bare skin a testament to my vulnerability.

I pinched at the fabric near my waist, the critical thoughts in my mind forming a symphony of self-doubt. Everything felt wrong—my hair, my eyes, my lips, my body—each aspect of my appearance a gateway for relentless scrutiny. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t silence the chorus of negativity that echoed within me.

The bathroom door swung open then, and Michelle, my best…frenemy sauntered in with an air of all the confidence that I lacked. Her dark brown hair cascaded in sleek waves around her shoulders, her doe-like brown eyes held a glint of mischief, and her lips were adorned with a bold shade of red lipstick.

Her figure-hugging black dress clung to her curves perfectly, a daring slit revealing just enough to leave an impression. She moved with a grace that was both captivating and enigmatic, an embodiment of self-assuredness that had always drawn people to her.

‘Blake,’ Michelle greeted, her voice carrying a blend of warmth and sarcasm that only she could manage.

I glanced up from the mirror, meeting her gaze with apprehension. ‘Hey, Michelle.’

She leaned against the counter, her eyes scanning me with a hint of amusement. ‘Oh, wow, Blake. You look…different.’

I sighed at her comment, because it was par for the course with her, trying to ignore how her words were a direct hit to my already fragile state. ‘That’s…nice to hear,’ I said sarcastically. You couldn’t show weakness with Michelle. She was like a shark constantly on the hunt for blood.

And I’d been her favorite target since our days at the orphanage. She’d been adopted by one of the Shepfields’ friends…and I’d been stuck with her for better or for worse.

Her red lips curled into a sly smile, her gaze never leaving my face. ‘Well, I’ve never seen you wear so much makeup before. It’s like you’re trying really hard tonight.’

Her words stung like a slap, sending me further down the spiraling path I’d already been on. I glanced away, unable to meet her gaze as the knot of humiliation tightened in my chest.

‘And that dress…’ Michelle continued, her tone light, ‘Did they send the wrong size?’

I clenched my fists, my nails digging into my palms as I struggled to contain my rising anger. ‘You look gorgeous as well, Michelle,’ I drawled, stepping away from the mirror and moving past her.

She shrugged casually, her gaze shifting to her perfectly manicured nails. ‘Don’t be like that. I’m just speaking what everyone’s thinking, Blake. You need that in a friend.’

Taking a deep breath, I finally met her eyes, a mix of hurt and frustration simmering beneath the surface that I did my best to hide. ‘Right.’

Michelle’s gaze was triumphant as she watched me.

She knew every button to press, every insecurity to pull at.

And she was great at doing both.

I turned away from her, but my reflection in the mirror seemed to support everything she’d just said.

Michelle moved on from me and started chatting about the event, her voice a distant echo in my ears.

She didn’t even notice when I walked away, doing my best to lock up the weakness, determined to hold my head high and face the gala once more.

Clark lifted an eyebrow when I reappeared in the crowd, silently asking me if I was okay. I nodded, letting him take my elbow and lead me to our table in the center of the room, a seating arrangement that couldn’t be more suffocating. The table was set with pristine white linens and glittering crystalware. Plates adorned with meticulously arranged delicacies were presented like works of art as soon as we sat. The soft glow of candlelight danced across the faces of the attendees, casting an enchanting spell over the proceedings. I’m sure the food would taste delicious.

If I allowed myself to actually enjoy it.

Which I would not.

I’d never hear the end of it from Maura.

As the courses were served, Maura took the stage for her keynote address.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests.’ Her voice carried through the air, laced with practiced grace. ‘Tonight, we gather under this roof not only to celebrate our friendship, but to channel our resources and collective power toward a cause that holds a place in all our hearts—supporting underprivileged children.’

‘Every child, regardless of their background, deserves a fair chance at a brighter future,’ she continued, her tone softening for dramatic effect. ‘Our commitment to their upliftment isn’t just an act of philanthropy; it’s a testament to the empathy that binds us together as a community.’

I watched from my seat, my gaze tracing the gestures and expressions that accompanied Maura’s words. She spoke with an air of sincerity, each phrase a carefully crafted thread woven into the tapestry of her performance. But inwardly, my eyes rolled with every platitude, every rehearsed sentiment that danced on the surface of her speech.

‘As we indulge in the splendor of this evening, let us not forget the faces of those who will benefit from our generosity,’ Maura continued, her voice taking on a note of heightened emotion. ‘The children who dream, who aspire, and who deserve a chance to break free from the chains of circumstance.’

My mind wandered, my thoughts a whirlwind of cynicism as I listened to the flowery language that disguised the hollow reality. It was all fake. Maura could care less about underprivileged children. I’d seen her fire household staff for getting pregnant. And I’d never forget her pouring her iced coffee on a small boy who’d asked for some money in Central Park.

Maura droned on, and when she was finished, applause erupted like a wave, the attendees drawn willingly into the illusion she wove.

As the applause echoed, Clark suddenly rose from his seat, a shimmering glass in hand. He tapped the glass, the clear sound slicing through the hum of conversation like a clarion call.

I frowned. It wasn’t like him to perform public toasts. He considered that beneath him.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he began, his voice carrying a confidence that held the room captive. ‘Tonight is more than just a celebration of a noble cause. It’s a celebration of something far more personal, something that has changed my life in ways I never anticipated.’

I sat there, frozen in shock, my breath caught in my chest as Clark’s voice wove anticipation around us. My gaze remained locked on him, my mind racing to comprehend what he was saying.

He turned towards me, all the warmth his eyes usually lacked…suddenly there. ‘Blake, from the moment we met, my life took a turn I could have never predicted. You showed me a world that mattered. A world I never would have discovered without you. You’ve been my foundation, my confidante, and my muse.’

My heart raced, the gravity of his words sending shockwaves through my being. The room seemed to blur, my focus narrowing to Clark’s figure standing before me.

‘And so,’ his voice trembled slightly, a rawness there that made my insides ache. ‘I can’t imagine a more perfect moment to ask you the most important question of my life.’

He sank to one knee, a box materializing in his hand as he held it out. My breath caught, my mind struggling to process what was unfolding before me. The world seemed to spin, the implications of his actions colliding with my inner turmoil.

“Will you marry me?”

I stared at him kneeling there, and for a moment, I was tempted to say yes.

It would be so much easier.

But then my thoughts drifted, unbidden, to the life he was asking me to accept. Maybe he would love me. Maybe he’d even do his best to make me happy. But this life would only lead to loneliness masked by grandeur. I would crumble under the weight of it.

I’d have a fake smile plastered on my lips.


And I’d never stop being lonely. I’d never stop yearning for something more.

My fingers clenched at the sight of the ring. I knew the cold metal of it would feel like an anchor dragging me into a sea of despair.

“I’m sorry.” The words escaped my lips in a whisper, my voice tinged with sorrow.

Because he really was such a good man. And I was the fool who couldn’t take what he was offering.

‘What?’ Clark’s expression shifted from confident anticipation…to shock.

I hadn’t known I would say no before this moment. I never would have guessed it, in fact. But I steadied myself, meeting his gaze with a mixture of resolve and pain. ‘I can’t marry you.’

The words hung in the air, a declaration that shattered the spell that had enveloped the room. Gasps and whispers erupted around us, the shock of my rejection echoing like a thunderclap.

Without another word, I pushed away from the table, my steps urgent as I fled the room. The clatter of my heels against the marble floor was a rhythm to my escape, a desperate sprint toward the freedom that awaited outside those lavish walls. The gala’s grandeur was reduced to a blur as I burst through the doors, the cool night air a welcome contrast to the suffocation that had gripped me.

With every step, the weight of my decision grew lighter, the whispers of the gala fading into the distance as I embraced the possibility of a different future, one where happiness…

Was a possibility.


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