Excerpt: Start Us Up - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

Three young women make a pact in high school—
to always be friends and to one day make it big in Manhattan.

She’s a high-tech boss who lost it all…

Ivy Jensen was the darling of the tech world, right up until her company fell apart completely after she trusted the wrong person. Her reputation in tatters, she finds herself back in the tiny apartment she grew up in, living with her mom. When a group of angel investors offer her a meeting, she knows she has to come up with the new big idea or her career is over.

He’s an up and coming coder…

Heath Marino has always been fascinated with writing code. He’s worked on a dozen games and apps and is considered one of the industry’s more eccentric talents. But now he’s back in New York to spend time with his grandmother. She was known as one of the city’s greatest matchmakers, and he wants to know why. Surely there’s some kind of code in his grandmother’s methods, and he’s going to find them.

When Ivy meets Heath it’s instant attraction, but she’s got a career to get back to and he just might be her on-ramp. It could be a perfect partnership or absolute heartbreak.

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Excerpt: Start Us Up
By Lexi Blake

Excerpt: Start Us Up

From New York Times bestselling author Lexi Blake, comes a new romance series — The Park Avenue Promise. The first installment, START US UP, is out today and you can read an excerpt below!

“Yes, I’m working on something kind of interesting,” Heath is saying to a woman who’s worth more than a billion. Teresa Fleishman. She’s from money that spans back to old Europe. Her family’s been in New York for generations.

I like how he handles her. He’s charming, but not in a skeevy way. He’s good at presenting an authentic front.

Or maybe he’s simply an authentic guy.

“It’s a matchmaking program,” he says.

And the light in Teresa’s eyes dies, but she nods politely. “Ah, yes. That’s interesting.”

She is so not interested.

“The AI behind it certainly is.” I need to find a way to save this. Teresa likes to talk, and if she hates an idea, it’s pretty much dead with this group, and that includes CeCe. “There are so many ways to use what Heath is building. I think it’s innovative far beyond its first-use intentions.”

“Well, it’s first-use intentions were to tell me what I wanted for dinner without me having to make the decision,” Heath allows.

Teresa’s hand reaches up to touch the Van Cleef necklace she’s wearing. “Well, see that I might be interested in.” She studies Heath for a moment, and I see the light of recognition in her eyes. “Marino? I know it’s a fairly common name, but the whole matchmaking thing makes me think of Lydia Marino. You don’t happen to be related, do you?”

I’m surprised Teresa knows the woman’s name. No matter what Heath says, I find it hard to believe that old-school matchmaking services are still a thing in modern New York.

Heath’s lips kick up and his shoulders square like he’s proud. “Yeah, she’s my grandmother.”

Teresa seems to think for a moment. “Is she behind this project? Is she working with you?”

“Of course. She always supports me,” Heath replies. “I like to say I’m her favorite grandchild, but the truth is I’m her only grandchild. I’ve got a very big family on my mother’s side, but my father’s side it’s down to me and my grandmother. We have to stick together.”

I don’t believe him. Something about the way he hesitated makes me wonder. It’s like he’s convincing himself. I know I’ve only known him for a few hours, but he’s an open book. I would say this man can’t lie to save his life. He’s not doing a good job of it now.

However, I’m interested in the fact that his grandmother’s name piqued Teresa’s interest.

“Why don’t you give me a call next week and we’ll talk.” She turns my way. “I take it you’re the lead on this.”

“We’re partners.” Of course I’m the lead, but I know how to stroke a man’s ego.

She hands me her card, though I don’t need it. She’s in my contacts, but this is proof that she’s interested.

“That was good, right?” Heath manages to ask the question in between bites of meatball that likely has a much fancier name and is probably made with some hella expensive Japanese beef. I hope there’s a Tupperware container of those in my future.

“That was good. And now we need to shut down on the talk because we’ve got some interest, but I don’t want the idea everywhere. Theresa won’t talk if she’s interested. CeCe won’t talk. I’m not sure about anyone else, so from here out all we talk about is your interesting approach to artificial intelligence. When we start presenting we can have investors sign NDAs.” I’m feeling a little more positive. If I can get enough out of CeCe tonight, then we can have a couple of weeks to make a real business plan worthy of serious cash.

If CeCe opens the cash flow, then we find a workspace and hire some people to help write the code we need, some staff to back us up.

If that happens, we’re a start-up. I’m a start-up.


I let that truth wash over me in the middle of this wildly decadent party. I let it bubble up and pop over and try to come to some sort of peace with it. I’m at the bottom again. I have to prove myself all over again.

This, of course, is the moment the lights dim slightly, and I hear the sound of piano music swelling. Benjamin is standing by the stairs as CeCe makes her entrance.

“Is she an investor or a rock star?” Heath asks, though he’s smart enough to whisper the question.

All heads have turned and all eyes are on the queen of the Manhattan investor world.

“Can’t she be both?” I whisper back.

CeCe Foust is a force of nature. Sometimes it’s hard to believe she came from Brownsville in Brooklyn. I’ve heard the tales of George Foust meeting her at a diner she worked at, falling immediately in love, and carrying her back to Manhattan.

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