One of Amazon's Best Romances of October!
Space is the last thing an event planner and an astronaut need in this charming new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young.
When event planner Hallie Goodman receives party-inspiration material from the bride of her latest wedding project, the last thing she expects to find is a collection of digital videos from Darcy’s ex-boyfriend. Hallie knows it’s wrong to keep watching these personal videos, but this guy is cute, funny, and an astronaut on the International Space Station to boot. She’s only human. And it’s not long until she starts sending e-mails and video diaries to his discontinued NASA address. Since they’re bouncing back, there’s no way anyone will ever be able to see them...right?
Christopher Ortiz is readjusting to life on earth and being constantly in the shadow of his deceased older brother. When a friend from NASA’s IT department forwards him the e-mails and video messages Hallie has sent, he can’t help but notice how much her sense of humor and pink hair make his heart race.
Separated by screens, Hallie and Chris are falling in love with each other, one transmission at a time. But can they make their star-crossed romance work when they each learn the other’s baggage?
Release date: October 18, 2022
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Listen to a sample
A Cosmic Kind of Love
So what stupid thing happened to you today?”
I stumbled on one of the concrete steps that led up to my apartment as my boyfriend’s question echoed off the stairwell walls from the loudspeaker on my phone.
A flush of irritation made itself known in my cheeks even though George’s tone was teasing. “Nothing,” I replied defensively as I continued climbing, trying not to sound out of breath.
I struggled to hold my phone and my oversized purse with one hand while I opened the door with the other.
“Come on.” George chuckled. “Something had to have happened. It’s been almost a week since the last one, so that’s, like, a record.”
“The sandwich doesn’t count.” I huffed, dumping my bag onto my small dining table, which doubled as my office desk.
“Eating something that makes you nauseated to please a client counts.”
So, okay, maybe I ate several salmon-and-cucumber sandwiches at a client meeting even though the slippery, slimy texture of the salmon made me want to vomit. “Please don’t take me back there.” I gagged, but the sound softened into a sigh of pleasure as I kicked off my high heels and flattened the arches of my feet onto my cool hardwood floors.
“You’re telling me you’ve gone a full week without something ridiculous happening?”
Perhaps I was merely exhausted and low on a sense of humor, but sometimes it seemed like George only stuck around because he found me entertaining. And not in a good way.
Biting back hurt feelings, I wondered if my defensiveness was less about feeling tired and more about the fact that something stupid had happened to me today. “Fine.” I cringed. “About thirty minutes ago, I was on the subway and I saw this guy standing across from me who was super familiar, and he kept looking over at me.”
“Right . . .”
The mortifying moment was doubly awkward as I relived it. I squeezed my eyes closed against the memory, gritting my teeth. “Well, have you ever bumped into someone who you know but you can’t place them or remember their name?”
“Yeah, that’s the worst.”
“Exactly. I’m thinking, Oh God, I know this guy, it’s probably from college, but for the life of me I can’t remember his name. When he looks at me again, kind of squinting, I’m thinking, Jesus, he knows me and he thinks I’m so rude for not saying hello. . . . So I just cover my ass and blurt out, ‘Aren’t you going to say hello? It’s been forever; it’s great to see you again.’ ”
I buried my face in my hands, just moving my fingers from my mouth so George could hear my reply. “He looked at me like I was crazy and said, ‘I’m sorry, we’ve never met before. I have no idea who you are.’ Well, I couldn’t explain to him who I was because I couldn’t remember who he was, so we just stood there trying to avoid each other’s eyes for the next ten minutes, and just as I got off the subway . . . I remembered where I knew him from.”
My cheeks almost blistered my fingers with the heat of my embarrassment. “It was Joe Ashley, the news anchor, whom I have never met before but do watch regularly on TV.”
There was a moment of silence, and then the sounds of choked laughter came from my phone. George was laughing so hard a reluctant smile curled the corners of my mouth.
“Oh man, oh babe, I’m sorry.” George hee-hawed. “I don’t mean to . . . but that’s hilarious.”
“I aim to entertain,” I said dryly, switching on my coffee machine.
“Only you,” he snorted. “These things only happen to you.”
It certainly felt that way sometimes. I attempted to change the subject back to the reason I’d called him. “Are we still on for dinner tomorrow night?”
“Uh, yeah . . . but I was thinking you could come here and I could cook.”
A romantic dinner at his place? My earlier annoyance fled the building. How sweet. How unlike him. It was our three-month “anniversary” next week. Maybe he wanted to
commemorate it. I grinned, my mood lifting. “That sounds great. What time? Should I bring anything?”
“Uh, six thirty. And just yourself.”
Six thirty was early for dinner. Why so early? I frowned. “I don’t know if I’ll have finished work by then.”
George snorted again. “Babe, you’re not a heart surgeon. You plan parties, for Pete’s sake. I’m pretty sure if I can be here by six thirty, you can.”
I sucked in a breath as his words ignited my anger and the urge to tell him to go screw himself . . . but that infuriating piece of me that hated confrontation squeezed its fist around my throat.
“Hallie, you still there?”
“Yes,” I bit out. “I’ll try to be there at six thirty.”
“Then I guess I’ll see you at seven thirty,” he cracked. “Night, babe.”
My apartment grew silent as George hung up and I stared at my phone, taking a couple of deep breaths to cool my annoyance. Lately, my boyfriend had gotten more and more patronizing. I wanted to believe he had the best intentions and that he was only teasing. But if he didn’t have the best intentions and he was just kind of . . . well . . . an asshole . . . then I’d have to break up with him.
I made a coffee and pulled my laptop out of my purse, my stomach seesawing at the thought of breaking things off. I’d been dating since I was fifteen years old, and I’d only ever had to break up with two boyfriends in the past thirteen years. The rest had either broken up with me or ghosted me. Still, the thought of having to break things off with George made me anxious.
Maybe I didn’t have to break up with him, I thought, as I sat down at my desk and flipped open my laptop. Maybe I could just tell him I found some of his teasing derogatory and he should do better not to be such a freaking tool.
Suddenly my cell chimed behind me on the counter and then chimed again and again and again.
“What the . . .” I turned to grab the phone, some kind of sixth sense making me dread the sight of the notification banners from my social media apps. Tapping one—
“Oh my God.” Nothing could have prepared me for the video someone had tagged me in. The video someone had tagged my mother in for her prominent role.
I’d totally forgotten she was attending my aunt Julia’s bachelorette party tonight. In typical Aunt Julia fashion, she’d forced everyone out on a weeknight to avoid the weekend crowds. Aunt Julia was my mom’s best friend from high school and had been terminally single for most of my life. Then, three years ago, she met Hopper. He was a couple of years younger than her, divorced with three grown kids, and he and Aunt Julia fell madly in love after meeting in a supermarket, of all places. Now they were finally getting married, and I couldn’t be happier for her.
However, my mom, who’d been divorced from my dad for less than two years and had to watch him move on to a younger woman, was in a fragile place right now. So I could be mad at Aunt Julia for allowing my vulnerable, postdivorce mom to get recorded at the bachelorette party giving a male stripper a lap dance while sucking the banana he held in his hand.
My mother, ladies and gentleman.
Noticing all the shares on the video, I came out of the app and slammed my phone down on my desk. Part of me wanted to race out of my apartment, jump in a cab, find my mom, and drag her out of whatever strip club in Newark they were in.
Yet there were only so many times that I could rescue my mom and dad from themselves. This was their new reality postdivorce, and I needed to let go. Maybe if I didn’t have a pile of work to get through, I might run after my mom.
Who would undoubtedly find the online video mortifying once she sobered up.
Sighing, I grabbed my phone and called my aunt. To my shock, she answered. The pounding music from the club they were in slammed down the line.
“Hey, doll face!” Aunt Julia yelled. “I’ve changed my mind and you’re allowed to come! Do you want the address?”
Aunt Julia had decided she wanted a bachelorette party that allowed her to do whatever the hell she liked without feeling weird in front of me or any of her friends’ grown kids. I was relieved to be left out of the invitation.
“No,” I replied loudly, “I’m calling because that video of Mom is all over social media!”
“The lap dance! The banana!”
“Oh shit,” she cackled. “You’re kidding? Okay,” she yelled even louder, “Who put the video of Maggie online?”
Realizing she was talking to her friends, I stayed silent.
“Jenna, you creep!” Aunt Julia yelled good-naturedly. “Take it down!”
“It’s not funny, AJ!” I called her by the nickname I’d given her as a child.
“Oh, it’s kind of funny, honey, if you’re anyone but her daughter!”
“Just make sure she doesn’t do anything else lewd that ends up online. Have a good night!” I ended the call before she could reply.
It was clear they were all drunk. Aunt Julia was usually on my side when it came to calming Mom in any postdivorce antics—I’d never had to worry about my mother in any way until her marriage fell apart and she started acting unpredictably.
However, there was no reasoning with drunk bachelorettes.
“Shake it off,” I whispered to myself, willing my pulse to slow. “You cannot undo what has already been done, but you can focus on your work so you don’t lose your job.”
I was an event organizer. I worked for one of the best event-management companies in Manhattan: Lia Zhang Events, owned by my boss, Lia Zhang. After college, I’d planned to go backpacking across Asia, a lifelong dream of mine, but the reality was I needed money to pay for that. So I’d gotten a job as a manager at a large Manhattan hotel, and when the event planner quit three weeks before a big wedding, I’d stepped in to take over. I’d met Lia at the fourth wedding I planned for the hotel, and she was so impressed by my work she offered me a job. The pay was hard to resist because it would take me closer to my backpacking dream.
Four years later, I was still working for Lia, had been promoted to senior event manager, and almost everyone I knew had talked me out of my backpacking trip.
My latest project was planning Darcy Hawthorne’s engagement party. She was a true-blue New York socialite. If we got this right, Darcy would more than likely hire us to plan the wedding.
The issue was that Darcy, an environmental lawyer and elegance personified, was marrying her complete opposite. Her fiancé, Matthias, was a French artist and musician. He wanted a “modern, stripped back, yet artistic party with a rock band” while Darcy was all about traditional opulence. She was a flowers-and-string-quartet kind of woman. It was my job as their planner to find a compromise, so I’d asked Darcy and Matthias to email me images and music for inspiration.
I’d been busy at work finalizing plans for another client’s spring wedding, so I hadn’t had time to look over their emails. I had a lunch meeting with them tomorrow. Hence the late night.
Slamming back coffee, I opened my email and found the couples’ separate replies.
Matthias had sent me a helpful Pinterest board. It had to be the artist in him. Most guys I worked with either didn’t care about the minute details of the event or didn’t know how to communicate what it was they visualized. Clients who were creative, however, were always a godsend because they usually knew how to tell me what they wanted.
While Matthias’s board was straight to the point, I discovered Darcy had sent me a link to an online cloud account where she had several digital folders for me to look at. To my confusion, some folders were named with numbers that read like dates. I opened a folder from a year ago to see it contained a video.
Had she sent me YouTube videos for inspiration?
I double-clicked and the video started.
A somewhat familiar man’s face took up most of the screen, but behind him I could see a strange, organized jumble of pipes and wires on a white wall. I could hear a loud hum of machine noise in the background.
“Well, here I am, Darce.” The man grinned into the camera, a glamorous white-toothed smile that caught my attention as if he’d reached out of the screen to curl his hand around my wrist. “I’m on the International Space Station. I still can’t believe it.”
ONE YEAR AGO
Staring into the camera on my laptop, I tried to picture Darcy at the other end, and it was more difficult than I’d ever expected. Maybe I was still on sensory overload. I’d been on the International Space Station for six weeks, and my excitement still hadn’t worn off. I didn’t know if it could. All I had to do was look out the window, and I felt a sense of amazement and wonder, like a kid who believed in Santa Claus all over again. My big brother’s boyhood dream of being an astronaut had amazingly come true for me. If he was really watching over me from the surrounding stars, I hoped he knew that this was for him. I hoped he was proud.
“I’ve tried calling,” I said into the camera with a little smirk. “But we keep missing each other. Guess that’s what happens when your girlfriend is an amazing lawyer. I got your emails though.”
Tom, the commander of the Soyuz, and my crew had given me this look the last time I tried to get Darcy on the phone and couldn’t. Tom was the kind of man who could say a thousand things with just one look. Anton, a cosmonaut and our right-seater on the Soyuz had given me a similar look when he’d joined us for dinner the other night. But unlike Tom, who just let a person make up their own mind about things unless their way of thinking would lead to a disaster in space, Anton had said in his thick Russian accent, “You should send a video. Like a letter. People act strange when their loved ones are in a situation they do not understand. Show her what you do here.”
The truth was, I was so involved in the daily tasks set by NASA that I didn’t really allow Tom’s look to sink in until Anton advised me to send a video to Darce. But it was strange. In fact, surely it was a terrible sign she didn’t answer my first call from the ISS or any of my calls in the six weeks since. NASA had assigned an escort to my family to keep Darcy, my father, and my aunt informed of my continued safety. And our arrival on the station was televised, and I’d agreed to send videos and photographs to NASA that they could share on an Instagram account they’d set up for me. I wasn’t a social media kind of guy, but I’d do whatever the PR team thought might bring interest to our mission. They’d posted my arrival to my Instagram. Besides, I had talked to Darcy and my family during a press conference, so they both knew I’d arrived safe and sound.
It was definitely a little off that Darcy didn’t pick up when I called from goddamn space. Her emails arrived regularly, and she explained she was busy with a massive case against a large corporation for noncompliance with their environmental impact.
However . . . Christ, even my father had picked up when I’d called. Yet, it was possible Anton was correct. Perhaps Darcy was more afraid of me being in space than I’d considered. Though we were
encouraged to talk it through thoroughly with our loved ones while we trained for a mission and while I knew my aunt was excited but afraid for me, Darcy had seemed . . . fine.
Thrilled to tell people she was dating an astronaut.
She’d even come to Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a few days before launch, though her schedule meant she’d had to leave early.
Did she really have to leave early? Or was that just an excuse?
And shouldn’t I care more if it was?
I didn’t say any of this into the video. There was no time or space in my life to feel resentful and confused. For now my focus was on the day-to-day tasks and the greater task of staying alive in space. At any moment something could go wrong on the space station, and my focus needed to be on keeping me, my crew, and the other three astronauts on the station alive. Darcy and I would talk about our relationship in four months when I returned to Earth.
Returned to Earth.
I grinned at the thought and then remembered I was supposed to be making a video letter. “So that zero-gravity training . . . tip of the iceberg, Darce. It’s taken me six weeks to get a handle on moving through the station with some swagger.” I chuckled at that. “I’ve missed handrails, bumped into walls—thankfully not destroying anything because the walls are
packed with experiments and wires and pipes. Everything does something. The noise you hear . . . Loud, right?” Hence the reason I had to speak up to be heard. “That’s the fans and the pumps. Everything we need to survive. Keeps us warm and provides us with oxygen. Takes some getting used to. Don’t know if I ever will, to be honest, but it’s worth it for the view. I wish you could see what the world looks like from up here, Darce. The world you’re fighting to protect. I get that more than ever now. It’s so beautiful. I know you asked me in your emails to describe it. . . . For the first time in my life, I wish I was a writer so I could describe it to you the way Tom can. He writes it all down so that . . . you can almost feel what it’s really like to be here. I’ll give it a shot for you though.
“Nighttime is my favorite. It’s mesmerizing. All the lights . . . sometimes it looks like gold dusted across black marble. Other times the lights are fiercer, like fire burning across the surface of a black river. I think daytime would be your favorite though. Blues and greens and silvers and grays and purples and then suddenly rusts from the desert, smog over the cities, and the rivers of the Amazon can seem like liquid gold. It’s an ever-changing landscape. I’ve been in the Cupola only a few times—that’s the observatory module.” The Cupola was my favorite place on the station. Through its trapezoidal windows, it provided a 360-degree view of Earth.
“To enter it, you dive into it and then pull yourself up, like diving into a cave. There are cameras in there so we can take photographs. NASA assigned me to take some a couple of days ago, and they posted them to my Instagram so you can check them out. Good thing I got a handle on zero gravity. Some of those cameras are expensive.” I joked; everything on the ISS was expensive. The station weighed in at a million pounds and was the most expensive object ever built.
“Tom said, on his last mission, they captured a space aurora. I’ve seen the photos, but I’d kill to see that in real life.” The green lights over the planet looked like something out of a science fiction movie.
“You asked a lot about zero gravity. Well, it’s like learning to fly, except everything is effortless, you know. It took me a while to get a handle on it because I kept putting too much force into everything. You don’t need to. Darce, you’d love it. When we’re not spending hours every day on experiments, trying to figure out how to make a spaceship that can venture farther into space while keeping humans healthy and alive, we’re having fun.”
It was the truth. My father would look down on that. Nothing in life worth doing is fun. He’d said that a lot to me when I was growing up. When I was nineteen, I’d finally quipped back, You’ve never had great sex, then. My father didn’t care if I was in college. He’d smacked me across the head so hard my ear throbbed for hours afterward.
“Sometimes I’m pulling myself through the ship and I’ll look into a station and there’s one of the Europeans just tumbling and pirouetting on their downtime.” I grinned because it was not uncommon to find me doing the same thing. In fact, four days ago, I’d videoed myself doing just that and sent it to NASA; they added a Bowie track to it and posted the video. It was a hit with social media users. Apparently I’d gone viral two days ago and had accumulated thousands of new followers within hours.
“Here’s something cool for you.” I reached out for a water pouch I’d strapped to the wall. I’d tucked my feet under a handrail, my back against the wall for support. “I’m in node two,” I thought to tell Darcy. “The sleep station. My pod is just down in the floor over there.” I pointed off camera at the pod that held my sleeping bag. The bag was tied to the wall, and we just zipped ourselves up in there. “Sleeping in zero gravity is what I imagine sleeping on a cloud is like. It looks weird, like we’re wrapped up in a cocoon, but it’s the best sleep of my life. Still, enough of making you jealous of my incredible sleeping habitation . . . As requested, water in space.”
I chuckled as I carefully opened the pouch and squeezed a little water out. It formed into a bubble that danced in the air in front of me with a wiggle. Placing the closed pouch back on the wall, I gently tapped the water bubble toward the camera and then tapped it back and forth between my fingers.
“Cool, huh?” Then I reached forward and sucked it into my mouth. “I just drank my own piss, Darce. Yes, yes, I did.” I laughed, imagining the disgusted look on her beautiful face. “Don’t worry, it’s purified. Our purification system turns our sweat and urine into water. Clever, right?” I wouldn’t tell her I rarely allowed myself to think about the pee part or I might dehydrate.
“Anyway, I could bore you for hours about the work I’m doing up here, but I have to get to node three. That’s where we do our mandatory workouts. It’s part of our daily routine to strap ourselves into the stationary bike or the treadmill. There’s also the ARED, which is a special machine they built so we can do the equivalent of weightlifting and squats. . . . It’s my time to work out, and NASA wants me to film it for social media. But I just . . . I wanted you to know I’m okay. I’m better than okay. I might even get to do my first space walk soon. So yeah . . .” I trailed off awkwardly, wondering how to end the video. The disconnection from
Darcy suddenly felt more about emotion than the 240 miles between the ISS and Earth’s surface.
“I hope you’re well.” I winced inwardly at how formal I sounded. “That your parents are well and that the case is going great. Let me know how it’s going. Send a video back if you have time. But if you do, send it to KateD—all one word—at NASA dot gov. She’ll pass it on in a format that’s easier to download. I miss your gorgeous face. Talk soon, Darce.”
I reached out to stop recording. I emailed the video to Kate, who would pass it on to Darcy for me. While we could email and talk on the phone to everyone outside of NASA via a satellite relay with Mission Control in Houston, our connection was slower than on Earth, so it was just easier to send bigger data files directly to NASA to pass on or upload to our socials.
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