Tomboy (a Hartigans romantic comedy)

By: Avery Flynn

To all the readers who’ve seen themselves in the Hartigans series: You’re pretty damn fabulous just the way you are.

Chapter One

“A million dollars. Under the table. Tax free. Just please, for the love of God, do me this one favor.”

Phone pressed against her ear, Fallon Hartigan walked out into the cool, crisp fall night after a shift in the St. Vincent’s Hospital Emergency Room that had lasted approximately sixty years. The voice on the other end belonged to one of her best friends, Lucy Kavanagh, who—odds were—would be her sister-in-law sooner rather than later if her brother Frankie had his way. Fallon loved them both, but her feet ached, her back hurt, and her patience—not something she was really known for—was a whisper in the wind.

“We both know you don’t have a million dollars,” she said, rooting around in the front pocket of her backpack for her car keys.

“But he does,” Lucy said.

The “he” in question was Zach Blackburn, Ice Knights defenseman and all-around scourge of the greater Harbor City metropolitan area. As any Ice Knights fan knew—and Fallon was a die-hard—the team had overpaid to bring him here, and thanks to his shitty playing and piss-poor attitude, he was now known as the most-hated man in Harbor City.

Fallon might live in working-class Waterbury, but the feeling on her side of the harbor was the same.

Blackburn was a selfish player. He had a huge chip on his shoulder. He punched out fans. He ignored his coach. He didn’t talk to the other players on the team once they left the rink—and sometimes not while they were in it. He also happened to be Lucy’s biggest client, which was not a surprise because she was the best PR crisis management bad-boy whisperer in town. That meant when Blackburn fucked up, Lucy magically managed to make it all better.

Except not this time.

Why? Because this time the big man-baby had the flu and no one to wipe the sweat from his overpaid brow. This time he needed a nurse.

“And he is going to pay me a million dollars to take his temperature for the weekend because he has a regular case of the flu?” Fallon asked as she pulled out her keys and hit the unlock button.

“Well…” Lucy said. “He hasn’t agreed to that yet, but give me time.”

So, yeah, Fallon wasn’t about to become a millionaire overnight. That was a good thing. It wasn’t like her student loans or credit cards needed to be paid off or anything.

She yanked open the driver’s side door of her gently dented Nissan sedan and tossed her backpack onto the passenger seat before getting behind the wheel. “I just spent an entire shift dealing with a pack of egomaniacal jerks with the letters ‘MD’ after their names. Why would I want to spend an exceedingly rare, and therefore, amazingly precious, actually-not-scheduled-to-work weekend feeding chicken noodle soup to the most-hated man in Harbor City? A nickname, by the way, that he has more than earned.”

“Because you wouldn’t be helping him recover from the flu for him,” Lucy said. “You’d be doing it for me.”

That was so not fair.

Fallon let her head drop to the steering wheel, her forehead hitting the middle with just the right amount of force to make her horn beep. She jolted back, looking around to see who in the hospital’s employee lot had seen that bit of idiocy. Her gaze landed on two paramedics standing outside their ambulance. Of course, one of them had to be Hank Moran. The lanky paramedic who kept Axe body spray in business blew her a kiss. Fallon managed to keep her gag reflex in check, but just barely.

“Are you really using the bestie card on this?” she asked.

“I am,” Lucy said. “Frankie and I are already halfway to Missouri to visit my dad. Even if we turn around now, I won’t be able to be there until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.”

That couldn’t happen. The real reason for the trip—unbeknownst to Lucy—was that Frankie was going to propose on some floating dock in a lake Lucy’s family owned. Fallon didn’t understand the importance of doing it there, but she’d helped her brother pick out the ring anyway. The last thing she wanted was to fuck up that moment for Frankie and Lucy.

Still, there was one more possible out.

“Doesn’t this guy have groupies or an agent or someone who can spoon-feed him, since he probably just has the man-flu that most people would suffer through in silence?” she asked.

“If he did, I wouldn’t be calling you. Please, you’re the only one I can ask. Gina is down in Jamaica visiting her brothers, and Tess’s introverted nervousness would make her implode. I wouldn’t do this to you if there were any other way.”