A Little Too Much by Lisa Desrochers
November 12, 2013
William Morrow Impulse
New Adult Contemporary Romance
In the follow-up to Lisa Desrochers’ explosive New Adult novel A Little too Far, Alessandro Moretti must face the life he escaped and the girl he loved and left behind. Twenty-two year old Hilary McIntyre would like nothing more than to forget her past. As a teenager abandoned to the system, she faced some pretty dark times. But now that’s all behind her. Hilary has her life on track, and there’s no way she’ll head back down that road again. Until Alessandro Moretti—the one person who can make her remember—shows up on her doorstep. He’s even more devastatingly gorgeous than before, and he’s much too close for comfort. Worse, he sees right through the walls she’s built over these last eight years, right into her heart and the secrets she’s guarding. As Hilary finds herself falling back into love with the man who, as a boy both saved and destroyed her, she must decide. Past or future? Truth or lies?
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LISA DESROCHERS is the USA Today bestselling author of the A Little Too Far series, courtesy of HarperCollins, and the young adult Personal Demons trilogy from Macmillan. She lives in Northern California with her husband, two very busy daughters, and Shini the tarantula. Find her online at www.lisadwrites.com, Twitter at @LisaDez, and on Facebook .
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“Just remember, you’re the one who said anywhere,” I tell Alessandro as we slide into seats at Argo Tea in Columbus Circle.
He gazes at me with cautious eyes from his seat across the table. “I’m intrigued to see what you’ve chosen.”
“I heard it was reopening and I haven’t been there and I’ve been wanting to go, so …” I shrug.
He nods. “Then it’s the perfect place.”
“How long are you staying?” The question comes to me totally out of the blue and I have to take a second to figure out exactly what I mean by it.
Alessandro’s eyes scrunch in confusion. “In New York?” he asks after a second.
Yep, I realize when he asks. That’s what I meant. “Yeah.”
“As long as it takes to sort things out.”
“Your ghosts,” I say.
He lowers his gaze to his coffee cup. “I shouldn’t have called you a ghost, but you have to understand, I’ve been haunted by my past for so long … by what I’ve done to innocent people …” His eyes lift to me again. “… including you.”
“So why would you want to come back here, then? Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay away?”
He breathes deeply and swirls his coffee. “I came to New York for a lot of reasons. I’ve spent some time at the World Trade Center memorial, finally grieving my father. His name is on the north-tower pool.” His distant gaze drifts back to mine. “But I also needed to sort fact from fiction in my head. I’ve walked this city—from our house, to the lot where Lorenzo’s gang squatted, to my old school, where I dealt to kids—hoping if I saw it through the eyes of an adult, it would put things in better perspective and I could lay some demons to rest.”
“And have you?”
His eyes find mine and there’s despair in their depths. “Some of them didn’t turn out to be as easy to put to rest as I’d hoped.”
Is that me? Or his family?
“You never really told me about your father. Just that he worked at the World Trade Center.”
He nods. “He was assistant chef at Windows on the World, at the top of the north tower.”
“So he was at work that morning?” I was only nine, but I remember. We lived in Alphabet City, so not super close to the World Trade Center, but close enough. I remember how everything shut down, like a ghost town, except for the military. There were some people in the streets during the day, but at night, it was quiet. Too quiet. It felt like a war zone, and in some ways it was, I guess. Mallory was sixteen then—a junior in high school. She wouldn’t let me leave the house for the first week. The truth is, I didn’t want to. I’d never been so scared. I spent the week sleeping in her double bed with her. Mom spent that week drunk on the couch, watching the news and mumbling that we should bomb the fuckers. Little by little, stores and schools started reopening and we ventured out again. And little by little, everyone got back to their lives. But I’ve never gone to the WTC site. Even still.
Alessandro takes a deep breath and blows it out. I can tell it’s still hard for him to talk about. “He always went in early to oversee the prep work. He walked with Lorenzo and me to the subway when we left for school that morning, and that was the last we ever saw of him.”
“Wow … I don’t even know what to say.”
“There’s really nothing to say.” He gives his head a small shake. “He was just gone. They never recovered his body.”
“That must have been pretty rough.”
He swirls his coffee again and I’m deciding that’s his new tell. “My father was the cement that held our family together. When he died, it devastated our mother. She spent weeks posting signs and scouring the city, thinking maybe he was injured or unconscious—that he had been taken to a hospital or …” He trails off, his jaw tight. “It took a long time for her to accept he was gone, and then she just curled up in bed and stopped living.”
So it was both of our mothers vanishing that landed us in the group home together, mine to jail and his into her own mind. “I’m really sorry, Alessandro.”
He looks up at me. “You know the rest. Lorenzo and I started getting into trouble and ended up in juvie, then in the group home.”
“Where you found more ghosts.”
He winces a little. “Please, Hilary, forget I said that. You were the only ray of sunshine in that whole nightmare.”
My stomach kicks. I’ve been called a lot of things, but I’m pretty sure a ray of sunshine isn’t one of them. I down the last of my tea in one shot. This is getting way too uncomfortable. “You ready?”
He finishes his coffee and stands, pulling out my chair.
We hop on the F train and transfer at Fourteenth Street to the L, and the whole time Alessandro keeps cutting me glances, like he thinks I might give something away. But he doesn’t ask where we’re going. I stand at the first Williamsburg stop and he follows me off the train. We come up out of the subway into bright winter sun and I spin a circle to get my bearings, then head down North Seventh. Alessandro keeps stride. His eyes flick around as if he’s trying to spot where we’re going, but he still doesn’t ask. It’s like he wants to be surprised.
I’m pretty sure he’ll be surprised.
We turn right and finally come to Metropolitan Avenue, and on the side of a yellow awning on a storefront half a block up on the right, I see it. Museum.
It’s a red brick building with glass display windows on either side of a white door. City Reliquary is in white script across the front of the awning. I stop in front of the building and Alessandro looks at me curiously, like he’s still waiting to see where we’re going.
But we’re here.
I tip my head at the storefront window next to us and he follows my gaze. He turns and looks over the vintage lunch-box display there.
A smile breaks across his face—the first one I’ve seen actually reach his eyes—as he realizes what this is. “This is brilliant.”
He reaches for the door handle and opens it, giving me an “after you” wave of his hand. I’ll never admit it out loud, but I kind of like all this chivalry. No one else has ever helped me on with my coat, or held doors, or pulled out chairs for me before.
We step under a two-foot-long model of the Staten Island Ferry over the door into a gift shop at the front of the museum. I smile as I walk past a shelf of whoopee cushions, marbles, and jacks. I love this vintage stuff.
Alessandro stops me at a mound of rubber cockroaches, picking one up and wiggling it in my face, and it’s as though eight years have slipped away. He’s grinning ear to ear, and in that boyish gesture, I see the boy I knew so long ago.
“Get that thing out of my face,” I say, swatting it away.
He laughs and drops it back in the mound, moving to the rack of old-fashioned hard candy. “This place is a gold mine.”
I step up to the counter. “Two for the museum,” I tell the older woman standing there.
“You can just place your donation here,” she says, laying a hand on a wooden box with a sign that says, “suggested donation $5.” I slip a ten into the box and she hands me a folded brochure. “It’s all pretty self explanatory, but this will tell you all you need to know,” she says.
I take it from her and spread it open. “Thanks.”
I grab Alessandro by the arm on the way to the turnstile that leads to the museum, and he bends his elbow to keep me from letting go. I don’t try. Something’s shifted between us. It’s like him telling me everything over coffee has freed something inside him. The dark curtain isn’t gone, but it’s thinner. I can almost start to see through it.
We step into the museum and to the left is an entire newsstand, just like it would look on the street.
“This is so cool,” I say swinging us that direction to get a closer look. I peek at the brochure. “This stand was in Chinatown for thirty years. Those are hand-drawn advertisements on the wooden walls,” I tell Alessandro, pointing at them. “And the guy who owned this stand called that the ‘guest of honor chair,’” I say, indicating the chair in the middle, “because that’s where people would sit while he sketched them.”
Alessandro leans in to get a closer look at the drawings, and I wonder if he misses drawing himself.
After a few minutes of gawking, we move up the wall to the World’s Fair exhibit. There are knickknacks from both the 1939 and the 1964 World’s Fairs. I pull out a drawer in the display under a Jim Beam bottle from the 1964 fair and find a few tickets under glass. “This is so cool,” I say, and realized I said that at the last booth. I look up to find an amused glint in Alessandro’s eyes. “Well, it is!”
“That it is,” he agrees, pulling open the next drawer and revealing an old license plate.
I glance at my brochure. “That’s off an old World’s Fair fire truck.”
We move slowly past a wall of Brooklyn Dodgers paraphernalia to a vintage barbershop.
“This is so cool,” Alessandro says, only barely containing the chuckle in his voice.
I rip my hand off his arm and smack him with it. “Shut up.”
We continue to move around the room, examining every exhibit, finally spilling back into the gift shop.
“This is a mandatory purchase,” he says, plucking up a cockroach from the stack.
I pick one up and look at it. “This could be useful if I want to close the bar down early.”
We move to the woman at the counter, and Alessandro reaches for my cockroach as he steps up to the register.
I yank it back. “You are not buying this bug for me. This is my day. My turn to pay.” I shove him aside. “Two cockroaches,” I say to the woman.
She smiles as she keys them into the old-fashioned register. “They’re actually Croton bugs.”
“What’s a Croton bug?” I ask, handing her a crumpled bill from the bottom of my bag.
She looks up at me and grins. “A cockroach.”
She makes my change, and as she’s handing it back, I feel something tickle my neck. I lift my hand, then scream and slap at it when I feel a giant bug.
Alessandro laughs out loud as his cockroach flies off me onto the floor.
“You bastard,” I growl, shoving him.
He picks his cockroach up and grins at me. “If I knew that’s all it took to get a rise out of you, I’d have stuck one in your tea a long time ago.”
“If I find that fucking thing in my tea,” I grumble, pushing him toward the door, “I swear to God, I will cram it up your nose.”
He smiles and drops his bug in my hair.
I claw it out as we stumble through the door onto the sidewalk. “You’re worse than my nephews. You’re not getting it back if all you’re going to do is torment me with it.”
He shrugs a shoulder. “You paid for it. It’s yours anyway.”
I spin on him, pocketing his cockroach. “So I’m never allowed to buy you anything? Isn’t that sort of sexist?”
“Au contraire. I let you buy my ticket to this fine establishment,” he says with a semi-smirk, waving his hand at the museum.
“It wasn’t a ticket. I made a donation in your name. And you’re going to let me buy you dinner too,” I say, turning my back on him and starting toward the pizza place in the next storefront over.
“Let me cook for you,” he says from behind me.
I turn and find him right where I left him, near the door of the museum.
“I do. Let me show you.”
This, I’ve got to see. I catch myself wondering if his cooking is like Brett’s: mac and cheese out of a box, or spaghetti with sauce from a jar. He said his dad was a chef, but he was young then. I doubt that’s where he learned.
“Fine,” I say, marching back past him and the museum, toward the subway.