Hopeless Romantic (When in Rome #2) - Marina Adair

Chapter 1

According to town legend, Beckett Hayes didn’t believe in romance. It couldn’t possibly be that she was actually a hopeless romantic who’d spent practically a decade living in—and trying unsuccessfully to leave—Rome. Looking for romance in Rome was as cliché as wishing on shooting stars or chasing rainbows, both of which had about as much chance of success as swiping right in the pursuit of everlasting love.

Nope, Beckett had never put much stock in Cupid. Now, a laundry fairy? That was a mythological creature she could get behind.

She was never much interested in dreaming about “The One” or “The Dress” worthy of a resounding yes. There were far better ways to spend her sleeping hours—sadly, sleep being at the top of her list. So what if people believed she was too practical for love? That was far less pathetic than the reality.

Beckett didn’t have time for love. That was the ugly and embarrassing truth. Life seemed to consume her every waking hour. Anything more complicated than no-strings dating and the occasional petite morte provided by someone who didn’t require a battery wasn’t in the cards right now. Which made Bruce the perfect Man of the Moment.

Like her, Bruce was insanely busy, liked to spend his downtime bicycling up the coast, and, as an added bonus, didn’t disappoint in bed. He wasn’t a big hitter by any means, but he got the job done. Unfortunately, he was also a bit boring.

And late, she thought, glancing around the bar. Okay, that was a lie. She pretended to search for her date while taking in a long drink of Levi Rhodes and all his testosterone-dripping glory as he carried a keg of beer single-handedly from one end of his bar to the other—earning the attention of every female patron in the joint.

It was one of the few times Beckett reacted in accord with the ladies’ night crowd. But a glimpse of Levi was worth lowering her standards. Not that she’d let him know that. It would just make his day.

And if there was one thing Beckett hated more than being cliché, it was making Levi’s day.

Levi applied the same fierce dedication to running his family’s bar and marina as he did cementing his status as Rome’s Most Unattainable Romeo. Not that there was a large pool of sexy and single men under sixty-five in Rome. Because the Rome in question was not known for its Sistine Chapel or romantic fountains. No, Levi was a born-and-bred Roman from Rome, Rhode Island, a small beach community that was home to the world’s largest clam dig.

It was hard to get romantic about clams.

Levi was another story. Which was why Beckett made sure to stay on the hate side of their love/hate relationship. When she walked into the Crow’s Nest, a former fish market that had been expertly repurposed into a sleek, high-energy bar and grill, she was always combat-ready, prepared for what was sure to be the cockfight of the century.

So it didn’t surprise her when her entrance was met with curious, and a few flabbergasted, looks. Or when Levi took time out of his very busy schedule to lock those stormy blue eyes on hers and mouth, “You’re trouble.”

It was nearly five, so he was fielding requests from all sides as the after-work crowd rushed to get their happy hour orders in under the wire. But there he stood, casually filling up mugs in a pair of boat shoes, blue cargo pants slung low on his hips, and a white long-sleeve Henley that was stretched to the limit over his broad shoulders and six-pack.

Guys like Levi didn’t rush—for anyone. They were too busy playing Peter Pan to be bothered with the concept of time. Even the way he took orders, chatting up the patrons while tossing around good-natured laughs and flirty winks as if he were one handshake from announcing his candidacy for Rhode Island’s next governor.

“Trouble?” Beckett mouthed back, making a big to-do about looking over her shoulder, then clutching a hand to her chest. “Me?”

He pressed his lips together, looking handsome in a pissed-off way that made her heart feel like breaking out in song.

Beckett smiled her best smile and walked over to the bar, unsnapping her bike helmet and sitting on a stool.

“It’s that kind of hospitality that keeps me coming back,” she said to Levi, although his eyes were trained on her co-worker of sorts, Gregory, who took the stool next to hers. She’d met Gregory at Fur-Ever Friends, a nonprofit