Chapter Reveal: Making Up – A New Romantic Comedy Coming Soon from Helena Hunting

Cover of Making Up, a RomCom by Helena Hunting

Release Date: July 16th

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Series: Standalone in The Shacking Up Series

About Making Up …

A new standalone, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting.

Cosy Felton is great at her job—she knows just how to handle the awkwardness that comes with working at an adult toy store. So when the hottest guy she’s ever encountered walks into the shop looking completely overwhelmed, she’s more than happy to turn on the charm and help him purchase all of the items on his list.

Griffin Mills is using his business trip in Las Vegas as a chance to escape the broken pieces of his life in New York City. The last thing he wants is to be put in charge of buying gag gifts for his friend’s bachelor party. Despite being totally out of his element, and mortified by the whole experience, Griffin is pleasantly surprised when he finds himself attracted to the sales girl that helped him.

As skeptical as Cosy may be of Griffin’s motivations, there’s something about him that intrigues her. But sometimes what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas and when real life gets in the way, all bets are off. Filled with hilariously awkward situations and enough sexual chemistry to power Sin City, Making Up is the next standalone in the Shacking Up world.

Other Books in the Series:

Shacking Uphttp://helenahunting.com/books/shacking-up/

Getting Down (novella)http://helenahunting.com/books/getting-down/

Hooking Uphttp://helenahunting.com/hooking-up/

I Flipping Love You →  http://helenahunting.com/i-flipping-love-you/

Handle With Care (coming August 27th)  → http://helenahunting.com/books/handle-with-care/

Preorder Links

Add it to GoodReadshttp://bit.ly/MakingUpHH

Apple Bookshttp://bit.ly/MakingUpHHab

Nookhttp://bit.ly/MakingUpHHNook

Kobohttp://bit.ly/MakingUpHHKobo

Google Playhttp://bit.ly/MakingUpHHGPlay

Amazon:

US →  https://amzn.to/2GPe7VJ

CA → https://amzn.to/2J2D7ua

UK → https://amzn.to/2XN5DUo

AU → https://amzn.to/2vnybrF

US paperback https://amzn.to/2VRfmNf

Helena’s Website (chapter will also be posted there) → http://helenahunting.com/books/making-up/

Making Up, Chapter One

Sexy Suit

Cosy 

Working in an adult toy store is the opposite of glamorous. Sure, I get a fifty-percent discount, which is a real perk, but it doesn’t offset some of the weirdness I have to deal with. Such as Eugene, one of the locals who frequents the shop on a regular basis. He came in this morning and handled all the display toys. He’s mostly harmless, but the silicone fondling is pretty high on the creepy factor. Eventually I told him I had to close up for a few minutes so I could grab lunch. The deli across the street has the best daily specials.

While I wait for my chicken shawarma, I make a mental list of all the things I need to do this afternoon: check the magazines to make sure the pages aren’t stuck together, restock the flavored lube, and wipe down everything Eugene molested with toy cleaner. Once I’ve tackled those less-than-fun chores, I can work on my assignment for my hospitality class, provided I don’t have real customers.

I glance out the window, checking to make sure Eugene isn’t loitering around in front of the store, waiting to be let back in. Sometimes he’ll stop by more than once during my shift. He’s not there—thank God—but there’s a black sports car parked in the lot. It looks nice and possibly expensive, which might mean an actual customer who will spend money.

Loki, the cashier at the deli, hands me my drinks and shawarma.

“Thanks! Have a great day!”

“You too,” Loki says to my chest.

As I leave the store, I see a man in a suit reading the sign I taped to the door. I don’t want to miss a potential customer, so I take a deep breath and mentally shift gears, putting on my best sales-person mask. I have to pretend to be a completely different person when I deal with customers, so I can get through what would otherwise be a fairly embarrassing event. Discussing the ins and outs of sex toys with strangers is not something I particularly enjoy, but it’s a paycheck, so I’ve learned to roll with it.

My root beer foams and drips down the straw while my coffee sloshes onto my hand—the lids never fit right—and my chicken shawarma dangles perilously between my pinkie and ring finger as I cross the street.

The suit doesn’t look creepy like Eugene, but then, suits can be deceiving. Half the time they think they can proposition me like a sex worker. Or they pretend the weird stuff they’re buying is a gift and not for them. Pfft. I know better.

Suit turns and heads for his car, so I call out, “Hey! You in the suit, hold on!”

His shoulders hunch, as if he’s trying to be smaller, which is physically impossible. Based on the size of him, he probably played college football. Or he has Marvel comic hero blood relatives. Either way, he’s a big dude.

He stops walking, though, which is good. I could use some sales today. The commission boost is always a plus to the shitty minimum wage. Rent is due next week, and judging by his car, he has money to burn.

My heels are skyscrapers, and everything I’m wearing is either too short or too tight to facilitate running—the Sex Toy Warehouse uniform is supposed to be sexy, aka revealing—so I awkwardly jog the rest of the way while trying to get the key to the shop out of my pocket and not drop my shawarma. The manager gave me my own set since I frequently open the store.

“Sorry to keep you waiting; plastic dicks don’t quite cut it for lunch.” Inwardly I cringe, because seriously, why did I say that?

“I would imagine they’re not all that satisfying,” he replies in a deep voice that would probably sound good whispering naughty things in my ear.

I’m not sure if he meant that suggestively or not. Regardless, I walked right into that one.

I finally look up. Dear sweet Jesus on a cloud of marshmallows, this is my lucky day. The suit is gorgeous. Like the kind of hotness that sucks the breath right out of your lungs and sends all the blood in your body rushing between your legs. It’s a good thing clits don’t react like penises, otherwise mine would be hanging out of the bottom of my shorts with excitement. I’m thankful my physical reaction is limited to damp underwear and tingles.

His dark hair is straight and cut short, parted at the side and neatly styled. He’s a cross between a mobster, and a fifties movie star. Capone and Ward Cleaver rolled together and dipped in lust. His nose is straight, lips are full, and he’s got a chin that looks like it could cut glass. His features are strong, but he somehow manages to be boyish even though everything about him screams pure, undiluted masculinity.

His tongue drags across his pillowy bottom lip and his throat bobs. I lift my gaze and meet his eyes. They’re a strange color. Not brown, not green, but some kind of honey-lemon color, ringed in emerald. Like a cat maybe. His lashes are thick and dark, like a girl’s.

I still can’t seem to get my keys out of my pocket, and my ability to think is compromised by his excessive hotness, so I tuck my shawarma down the front of my shirt, between my boobs and thrust the drink tray at him. “Can you hold this?”

He blinks a bunch of times, gaze darting to where I’ve stored my shawarma and snapping back up to my face. “Sure.”

When he takes the tray, I notice his nails are nicer than mine. Not long, but short and neatly filed. Often the men who come in here have those chewed-off nail stumps. Or there’s dirt under them. Not this guy, though.

The ching ching ching of the cash register ringing up items is a sound track in my head as I finally manage to get the keys out of my pocket. I dangle them from a finger. “Found ’em.”

“Great.” He gives me one of those half smiles—it’s pretty, like the rest of his face—and looks around nervously. It’s obvious he doesn’t want to be seen here. Unfortunately, my hands are all sweaty, so I have some trouble getting the key into the lock, prolonging his discomfort.

The air-conditioning hits me as soon as I push the door open, sending a wave of goose bumps rushing over my skin. It’s hotter out than Satan’s ball sack in a pair of too-tight briefs, which is unusual this time of year in Vegas. The contrast between the temperature outside and the excessive air-conditioning is amplified. I have a cardigan behind the cash register, but I only wear it when there aren’t customers in the store.

I take the tray back and motion for him to go ahead. As I follow him inside I remove my lunch from its safe place between my boobs. I’m starving and would like to scarf down my delicious shawarma, but I’m aware it’s phallic-looking, so I’ll have to wait until the suit is gone to avoid inviting potential penis-eating commentary, or staring.

He stands just inside the door, wide eyes darting around. He runs his hand over his chest and down his black tie, then slips it in his pocket. I hope he’s not one of those guys who plays with himself while he browses. It’s happened before. Many times. Eugene is a frequent fondler.

“I’m Cosy.” I tap my nametag. “Let me know if you need help finding anything.”

His eyes swing my way and snag on the tag pinned to my shirt over my left breast, before quickly shifting to my face. Possibly because I’m wearing a purple bra with pink hearts under my white Sex Toy Warehouse tank, and the design is visible. I was in a rush this morning, and it was my only clean bra. Also, this look tends to help with sales. Degrading? Maybe. But I can’t pay rent with pride.

He blinks a few times and rubs the back of his neck. “Okay. Thanks . . . Cosy.”

He says my name the way most people do—slowly and with uncertainty. Like he’s unsure if it’s a porn store joke. It’s not. At least he doesn’t make a pervy comment.

Suit wanders through the store, still kneading the back of his neck. He’s so uncomfortable. It’s actually rather fascinating to watch his face turn red as he rushes past the magazine rack of naked people only to stop in front of the Wall of Peen. The embarrassment blushing used to be a problem when I first started here, but once I learned how to put on my “sales mask,” it got easier. People like to stick weird things in their holes.

Suit produces a piece of paper from his pocket. He scans it, shakes his head, and mutters something under his breath. My stomach growls. I ate a granola bar at nine and it’s after two. The longer this guy takes, the colder my shawarma will get. It’ll still taste good, but it’s best right off the panini press. On the other hand, the longer he stays, the more likely he is to impulse buy.

I decide to offer my assistance, even though he hasn’t asked for it. Also, he’s hot, and his awkwardness is both cute and amusing. I check my appearance in the tiny mirror I keep by the cash register—my lipstick is perfect and my mascara isn’t smeared under my eyes, which happens on occasion when one lives in a place hotter than hell. Mission Commission commence.

I strut over to where he’s standing; it’s something I’ve had to practice so I don’t roll an ankle. “Need some help?”

Suit jumps like he’s been tasered and shoves the paper back in his pocket. “I didn’t hear you come up behind me.”

“Sorry about that.” I give him my brightest smile. “You look a little lost, so I thought I’d offer my professional assistance. Can I help you find the right dildo for your particular needs?” It comes out without being pitchy, which is fantastic.

“Uh.” He glances at the selection in front of him and then back at me. “My buddy’s getting married, and we’re having a bachelor party. I drew the short straw and now I’m here, buying a bunch of”—he flails a hand toward the shelf—“stuff.”

“Right. Okay. It’s for a bachelor party.” The world’s most common excuse, ladies and gentlemen. “Let’s get you set up with a basket, so you’re not walking around with a handful of floppy peen.”

I spin on my heel and saunter over to the baskets, internally chastising myself for the floppy part. A lot of men who come here have erectile issues and calling them out on that is bad for sales. I focus on my catwalk skills and purposely bend at the waist when I reach for one of our hot-pink shopping baskets with the phrase sin bin written in pretty cursive letters on the side. My shorts are ridiculously short, as per the recommended uniform stipulation. It’s not in writing, but it’s implied. Flashing ass cheek is just as helpful as bra visibility, according to my sales record and wardrobe correspondence study. Don’t judge.

Like a provocatively dressed, hoodless Little Red Riding Hood, I strut back to the suit, ready to have some fun. I thread my arm through his, which seems to shock the hell out of him. He’s not wearing a wedding band, so I’m not above using the flirty angle for sales on this one. The fabric of his suit jacket is extra-soft. I bet it’s expensive. I also notice how firm and defined his bicep is under all those layers of fabric. I think the cold shawarma will be worth it.

I sweep a hand out, motioning to the Wall of Peen. “I noticed you were checking out the double-headed dildos, and as you can see, we have several options available.”

“Whatever one you think I should get is fine,” Suit mumbles.

His discomfort puts me more at ease. I can totally do this. I can sell him a double-header no problem. I release his arm and set the basket on the floor, bending at the waist again for maximum impact. “Well, there really is a big difference between models, so it’s best if you can give me an idea of what you’re going to need it for.”

His eyes go wide again, and he clears his throat. “I’m pretty sure most of the stuff I’m getting should be considered gag gifts, so I don’t think it matters what it’s used for.”

“Hmm. Okay. Well, I still think we should test the models out before you decide, in case your friend does have a plan to use it.” I hold up a finger. “Gimme a sec!”

“But—”

I do another one of my graceful spins—those stupid twerk-offs my sister and I have when we’ve been drinking seem to be paying off—and strut back to the cash register. I grab the toy cleaner and a couple of moist wipes and return to the suit whose face looks like it’s about to burst into flames.

In the few seconds it takes me to grab the toy cleaner, he’s already dropped one  of the peens into his basket.

“Mmm.” I give it a slightly disapproving look and reach for the display model on the shelf. We always have a few of our most popular sellers available, so we can help our purchasers compare models.

I spray down the hot-pink monstrosity and use one of the wipes to stroke up and down the length.

“What’re you doing?” Suit sounds like his balls are caught in a vise.

“Cleaning it for you. Eugene was in here earlier, and he likes to touch all the display items.”

“Who’s Eugene?”

“Just someone who shops here.”

“And you know him on a first-name basis?”

“He’s in here a lot.”

“I bet he is.”

I wipe off both heads a second time for good measure before I thrust it at him. “Can you hold this, please?”

Judging by his facial expression, holding it is the last thing he wants to do. I let it slide through my fingers anyway, and like a good suit, he catches it before it can hit the floor.

“Nice reflexes.” I wink and pick up the sister model, giving it the same treatment. I’m aware that my actions look very much like I’m giving a hand job , which is kind of the point.

Is it the most ethical way to get sales? Probably not, but uncomfortable guys who are also turned on tend to spend a lot more money.

“Okay! Comparison time!” I use the toy as a pointer and motion to the one the suit is holding. “That one is eighteen inches versus mine, which is fourteen, now go and give it a shake!”

He gives me a look, but does as I ask.

“Great! Now see how stiff that one is compared to this one?” I shake the one I’m holding and remind myself that this is going to help me get sales. At least it has in the past.

“I guess.”

“There’s no guessing. Here.” I grab the one he’s holding—he lets it go without a fight—and shake them both again. “See, mine has way more flexibility.”

“Is that a good or a bad thing?”

Based on the number of these we sell in a week, I’m guessing a lot of people think it’s a good thing. “With the right lubricant, it can be a pleasurable experience for your girlfriend.” I have no idea if this is true or not, but that’s what the lubricants advertise. Also, I’m fishing for information.

“I don’t have a girlfriend. And even if you’re right, if I did have a girlfriend, I’d prefer to insert my own . . . body parts rather than one of these.” He motions to my hands, which are both full. “Not that my relationship status is relevant since this is all for a bachelor party. Not me.”

I give him a conspiratorial wink. “Of course it’s not.”

“Seriously.” He roots around in his pocket and produces the list. “I really did draw the short straw, and now I’m here buying all the weird shit—”

I snatch the list out of his hand and spin out of reach when he tries to grab it back. It’s fairly extensive, so either he’s not lying about the short straw, or he is lying about the girlfriend. Neither would be a first.

“Okay, well, we’ve crossed one item off your list. I’ll have you stocked up for this party in no time.” I grab the basket and one of the packaged double-headers and sashay over to the Pocket Rockets, the next item on the list.

When we get to the flavored lube, he seems at a loss. There are twenty different flavors, so instead of choosing, he grabs one of each. My commission on this sale is going to be amazing.

“Have you worked here long?” he asks after I hook him up with a top-of-the-line personal pleasure device, cleaner, and special lube.

“A couple months,” I say.

He nods, as if my answer is riveting. “Is this your full-time job?”

He finally seems to be finding some chill, which is great, so I entertain the idle chitchat. “No, it’s a part-time gig.”

“What do you do when you’re not working here?”

Oh my God. Is this suit hitting on me? I mean, he’s hot, but he’s buying a lot of weird stuff, and while he might be telling the truth about the party, he also might be lying. Still, this is fun, so I play along. “I’m a toy tester on my off days.”

“I’m sorry, what?” he sputters.

I throw back my head and laugh. He really is adorable. “Kidding! Oh my God, your face. You need to relax, Suit, you’re too buttoned up.” I tug on his tie. “I mean, I get a sweet discount on everything in the store, but who wants to test this?” I tap the black rubber fist next to the butt plugs, since we’ve made it to the end of the list.

He says something under his breath that I don’t catch.

“Anyway, I’m taking some college courses, furthering myself and my career and so forth, so I don’t have to sell this stuff to people for the rest of my life.”

“You’re in college?” It sounds like he’s choking again.

“Mm-hmm. It’s taken me a little longer to finish since I like to travel. I’ll be working for at least four more decades, so I’m thinking I should enjoy my freedom while I have it, you know? So many people say they’re going to travel when they retire. They save up all this money, and then two months into retirement they have a heart attack and die. Or they’re too old and rickety to do any of the fun stuff.”

“That’s an interesting outlook.”

“Probably not super popular either, but you only live once, right?” I point to the plug that’s roughly the same size as my head. “That’s the biggest one.”

Suit makes a face. “Please tell me people don’t actually buy these.”

I shrug. “I usually sell one every few weeks or so.”

“As a gag gift?”

“I don’t ever ask.”

He shakes his head and motions to the one beside it, which is about half the size, but still enormous. “If nothing else, it’ll function as an interesting door stop.”

After we’ve checked everything off his list, we head back to the register. He sets his wallet on the counter and flips it open, withdrawing a credit card as I scan his many purchases and bag them.

“Your total is $657.69.”

He blows out a breath and passes over his card. “He sure as hell better use some of this stuff.”

I glance at the name on the card. Griffin. Kind of different, like my name, but not as weird.

The bell over the door tinkles as a new customer enters the store. It’s another suit, but this one looks cheap and slimy. Like a pawn shop sales man or something. Ugh. Here’s hoping this one is quick so I can finally eat my shawarma, which is probably cold and soggy by now, although that’s my fault for being so thorough with Griffin. And it totally paid off.

Griffin glances at the new customer and hunches his shoulders. As if that’s going to make him any less noticeable. The receipt seems to take forever to print. I hand it over, and his long, thick, well-manicured fingers graze mine.

Goose bumps flash over my skin. The thermostat is probably set too low because the vent above suddenly blasts me with cold air, and I shiver.

He tucks the receipt in his wallet and grabs the bags. “Maybe I’ll see you around.”

“Looks like you’re pretty stocked on the sex toys, but you know where to find me if you run out of lube.” I wink, and then internally chastise myself because I have no idea what this guy is really like, and now I’ve given him the equivalent of a green light to come back and visit. Not that I’m opposed to seeing his gorgeous face, but he could be one of the crazies. Then again, maybe he’s not.

He chuckles and taps on the glass top counter. “Have a good day, Cosy. Thanks for sharing your extensive knowledge with me.” He flashes me a grin, and holy hell, I think that alone might have given me a mini orgasm.

Okay, no it didn’t. But his smile is damn pretty.

I watch him leave before I turn my attention to the cheap suit. He’s hanging out in the video section. I don’t understand why people pay money for that stuff when it’s all over the internet for free, but whatever.

Cheap suit buys two granny flicks and makes his exit. I assume he has mommy issues or something.

After he leaves, I finally have a chance to eat my lunch. As predicted, it’s soggy, but still delicious. I make random doodles as I eat and find myself writing the suit’s name over and over, like I’m some smitten high school girl. I roll my eyes. That guy is one of a million suits who fly in for a business trip, mix it with a whole load of excess and pleasure, and then go back to their regular life and talk about that trip they took to Vegas.

Doesn’t mean I can’t fantasize about him, though.

Chapter Reveal: SO GOOD, Coming Soon from Nicola Rendell

 

 

Coming August 7th

 

 

 

Front Cover of So Good by Nicola Rendell

 

AP new - synopsis.jpg

On the roof of a house outside Truelove, Maine, master carpenter Max Doyle looks down through a skylight and sees the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on. She’s naked, she’s gorgeous, and everything about her is perfect, down to the ball-busting tattoo of a rose that wraps around her hip. But it isn’t just any woman making his knees buckle. It’s his best friend, Rosie Madden. And as he stands there, mesmerized and precariously close to toppling off the roof, he knows he’ll never, ever be able to look at her the same way again.

Rosie can’t help but notice that Max is suddenly acting very strange—lots of long stares, totally tongue-tied, and not at all like the slightly cocky hunk she’s proud to call her best friend. She can’t figure it out, until later that night when Max rescues her from the world’s worst date, challenges her to a game of pool, and shows her just exactly what she’s got him thinking about. Repeatedly.

But life is complicated. Rosie’s cat, Julia Caesar, wants to eat Max’s dog Cupcake for an afternoon snack. A dream job threatens to pull them apart. And another glance through the skylight changes everything, one more time. Yet try as they might, they can’t go back to being just friends, because falling in love with the one you’ve always adored?

It feels so good.

Max

I wasn’t planning to see her naked—I swear to God, I wasn’t. The day was a scorcher, one of those godforsaken New England summer days that makes a guy wonder how he ever said fuck you to winter. I stood on the roof her house, three stories above the Maine woods, with a far-off view of the ocean. It was pretty, yeah, like the kind of shit real estate companies put on complimentary calendars. But in that heat, it was like standing on top of a goddamned toaster, turned all the way to burnt. I could feel that shit in my socks, straight through my work boots. At my feet was a stack of shake shingles, old school, to replace the ones that were missing. Her house had a few slow leaks, and one over her bathroom that made the ceiling look like a huge Rorschach test. She said it definitely looked like a rose in bloom, I said it definitely looked like Batman. But I told her hidden meanings wouldn’t make shit for difference when the ceiling collapsed into the tub, so there I was. Fucking miserable work, but I was glad to do it. Glad to do anything for her—anything she needed at all.
In the forest on every side around the cottage, the cicadas screeched. It sounded like a needle squeaking off a record player. I knelt down by the stack of shingles, using my utility knife to score a line through one to fit a nearby gap. I snapped it with my hands and tossed the scrap end off the edge of the roof. A trickle of sweat ran down my forehead, and I wiped my face with my forearm. One droplet got away, sparkling in the sun. It caught my eye, and I watched it fall, as it landed on the skylight window with a splat.

And that was when it happened. Boom.

There she was, right under me. She couldn’t have been more than six feet away, but she felt even closer. I had a direct line of sight down into her gorgeous, soft cleavage, bright and pure in the sunshine. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was the surprise of seeing her, but at first I didn’t really process that it was Rosie at all. My dude brain said, I want that woman.
Then my regular brain said, Don’t be an asshole, man. It’s Rosie. Have some respect.
Respect I definitely had, but of course I’d thought about seeing her naked before. She was so fucking beautiful that any man would have thought about it. Sometimes, like right then looking down into her dress, I couldn’t fucking help it. Sometimes we’d be out doing something ordinary, like eating dinner, or I’d be changing her oil, or she’d be teaching me to do shit I should have learned at some point in the last 34 years, like iron a dress shirt without screwing up the collar, and I’d catch myself watching her cleavage rise and fall as she breathed, or thinking how nice her legs were, and I’d think, Holy hell.

Now she was directly underneath the skylight. The angle of the sun cast my shadow down the roofline, away from the skylight, so I didn’t give myself away. Like that, I watched her. I gave in to my dude brain and just took her in. Her light brown hair glinted, and a beam of light caught the curve of her shoulder.

That was when the goddamned striptease started, beginning with the left strap of her sundress.

Her movements were graceful, sexy, sassy—the sway of her hips, the shake of her shoulders. I realized I might be in real fucking trouble, because I loved that sexy sass. It wasn’t normal Rosie-cute. It was naughty, like nothing I’d ever seen her do before. I liked it so much, I couldn’t look away. She shimmied out of her sundress, and it fell to the floor in a pool at her feet. No big deal, I tried to tell myself. I’d seen her in her bikini a thousand times. This was no different from that.

Except it was, because then she reached around to undo her bra. Before I could tell myself Don’t look, dude. It’s Rosie, don’t look, it was too fucking late. The straps slid down off her shoulders, and for one perfect second got caught on her nipples, swinging in the air before falling to the floor.

Holy…

I pressed my clenched fist to my mouth and groaned into my hand. All my blood was leaving my head. The roofline was getting wobbly.

It wasn’t like I didn’t know her curves; we’d spent whole summers on the beach—I knew her shape and her softness, I knew her lines and her freckles. Every curve of Rosie Madden was sacred in my book. Fucking douchebags on the beach giving her eyes had to answer to me and my eyes, right behind her. She did that to me—I was one punch away from defending her honor, always. But this? This was different. Seeing your best friend in a bikini at a clam bake is one thing. Protecting your best friend from assholes with wandering eyes is part of the guy-girl best friend creed. But seeing your best friend, absolutely naked in her bedroom, without knowing she can see you? That was a different deal.

…Shit.

Part of me knew I should keep my eyes off of her. She thought she was in private, I had no business spying. Anyway, I didn’t want to be that guy. I hated that guy. But the other part of me, fuck. The other part of me was nothing but want.

Then she bent at the hips, and time slowed down, like some kind of stop-motion Jackie Chan kung fu sequence. All the cicadas went silent, at least in my head they did. The wind stopped blowing through the trees. It was just her, and her perfection, in the sunshine underneath me. I felt like I was on one of those glass-bottomed boats, looking at a world I never knew existed.

She tossed her bra aside, and it landed on her neatly made bed. She shimmied out of her panties, shaking her ass as she did. I growled into my fist, and that’s when I went down into a crouch.

Because as she shimmied I saw it in a V above her ass. My kryptonite. A skimpy thong.
All these years, all these decades, I’d had her pegged for cute cotton panties—pastel polka dots, thin stripes, shit that was sweet and sensible. But I was so fucking wrong. Black. Strappy. Tiny. Not sensible at all. Now it was in a rolled-up ball at her ankles. Using her toes, she plucked her panties from the floor, and caught them on one finger.
Fucking A.

She was completely naked, not a thread on her. Every thought I’d ever had got sucked out of my brain, like dishwater down the sink drain. What was left was only one true thing, and it wasn’t about her ass, or her skin, or her breasts. It was the one thing I think I’d always known but never let myself feel. Until that moment.

She is the most beautiful woman in the world.

Part of the reason I thought that was, yeah, obviously, she was fucking stunning, every inch of her straight out of a dream. Not just my dream, either. Guys would slow down on Main Street to give her the elevator stare, and I’d quietly crack my knuckles and give them don’t-you-fucking-dare stares. But the other part, the part that wasn’t in my gut but that was in my heart, was that I fucking adored her. Adored her so hard it hurt.

She crouched down to pick up her dress, lifting the delicate straps with her small, sweet fingers. She pivoted, so I had a view of her other side of her body for the first time. There it was.

The tattoo.

I groaned again. I wasn’t prepared for this shit; three stories up, that body was dangerous. It was a rose tattoo, snaking around her hip, on the milk-white skin that was always under her bikini bottoms. The part of her I’d never seen. It was serious ink, real art, not some namby-pamby temporary tattoo or some amateur shit she might’ve gotten in an hour at a tattoo parlor on a dare on a cruise to Puerto Rico. It was complicated, detailed, and artful. Multiple visits to some tattoo artist, touching that creamy skin—goddamn.

It took every fucking ounce of strength I had, but I did manage to look away. I felt as disoriented as if I’d been sucker punched. Not cotton—lace. Not cute—hot. Not my friend—my fucking fantasy.

She was so important to me, such an integral part of my world, that I’d never let myself think of her as more than what she was. She was like running water, or electricity, or the sunshine itself. She was one of those things that was perfect exactly as it was, and one of those things only an idiot would want to change. I never looked at her and thought, I wish I could have more of her than I do already. That would be like thinking, I wish I could turn that cold glass of water into a swimming pool. Or, I wish electricity came through the air. Fuck that noise. Perfect things are perfect things, and Rosie Madden was a perfect goddamned thing, from the tips of her toes to the freckles on her nose. And that rose, holy fuck, that rose.
I was strong, but not that strong, and I let my eyes move down again. She’d disappeared from view, mostly, except for the edge of her ass. I watched her rifle through her closet, and a few dresses fluttered onto her bed. On her bedside table, I caught a glimpse of the picture she always kept there, of the two of us together. The memories flew back at me like a runaway train. The first time I’d ever seen her was the day my parents and I moved to Truelove, at the start of middle school. The first time I ever saw her, she was volunteering at the community gardens. She had a smudge of dirt on her cheek, and I thought she’d looked super badass. I’d helped her dig up carrots and had been too fucking tongue-tied to say a goddamned word.

That’s how I felt, all over again times a thousand.

I’d never made a move. She’d cried on my shoulder through a line of guys who were never good enough for her. Jocks and pricks and a brief and seriously unfortunate stint with a guy who was a drummer for a reggae band who I hated so much it made me grind my teeth. But I never said shit about it. She was perfect even when she made mistakes. Tips of her toes. Freckles on her nose.

Never mind that rose. Like Banksy took on a temple.

One more time, I glanced down. Now she was sitting on her bed, and I saw that dark V shadow between her thighs. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck. I watched her put on a pair of red panties. Equally skimpy, equally not-sensible, equally ball-busting. They were only tragic because they hid the parts of her I’d never seen before.

Christ. All. Mighty.

As the world started to spin, I realized fixing the shingles could wait. I’d been working on old houses long enough to know that if you found yourself on a dangerously sloping roof and felt like you might be less than 100% on the ball, you needed to reconsider your game plan. I needed to get my shit together—that body had me totally fucking derailed. So I made my way down the roof, basically bouldering down backward. I focused on my grip, and my steps, like a climber coming down from Everest without enough oxygen. When I got to the gutter, I worked my way around the corner, standing on the eave, and hooked my leg over my ladder, making sure to put one foot after another and keep a tight grip on every rung.
When I stepped off the ladder, I grabbed a bottle of water that she’d left for me and filled up my palm and then splashed my face. My sweat stung my eyes through the droplets of water, and I rubbed away the tears. I heard the hinges on the screen door creak. “All done?” she asked.

I opened my eyes. They stung like hell, but I didn’t give a fuck. There she was, in a dress I’d seen before. Striped and sweet. But now I knew the secret. There were red panties under there. Red. Cherry red. My eyes fell on that part of her hip that I knew was inked.
“Max?”

I managed somehow to snap out of it. “Sorry. Getting there. Spotted something weird with the skylight.”

Rosie cocked her head. “Were you up there? Above my room?”

Awesome, dude. Smooth. “Just noticed it out of the corner of my eye.”

“I don’t like you being on the roof.” She pursed her lips. “Too steep. Promise you’ll get some ropes up there or something? Promise?” She reached out and put her hand to my arm, her fingers with their short pink nails pressing into my tanned skin. I had a quick but totally unavoidable image of her gripping my forearm in a very different situation. I want that. So fucking…

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

When I didn’t answer—I knew that if I opened my mouth the first words out would be You. Me. Right Now.—she looked up at the roof and squinted into the sun. She peered suspiciously up at me and shifted her nose, kind of like a bunny. Adorable. She wasn’t very tall, so whenever she looked at me she had to lift her chin, which used to be cute. But now looked…like everything I’d ever wanted. “Have you had too much sun?”

I was vaguely aware that she’d said some words, but I wasn’t hearing them because I realized that I couldn’t see her bra straps, so that had to mean she was she was wearing a strapless…

Knock. That. Shit. Off. “I’m good.”

“Mmm.” She nodded and furrowed her delicate eyebrows, which had never looked so pretty as they did at that moment. I didn’t even know eyebrows could be pretty. They’re eyebrows, for fuck’s sake. But suddenly I felt like for the last ten years, I’d been looking at her through a standard definition television, with a shitty cable connection. Now someone had handed me an HDMI cable, and she was in 1080 dots per inch. Christ.

“Lemme make you a sandwich. You’re acting strange.”

Rather than answer her, I dumped the remaining half a bottle of water over my head, like Andre Agassi used to do between break points at the French Open.

“Ham? Or turkey? I’ve got both. Or chicken salad!” She clapped her hands together, compressing her cleavage. “Do you want a pickle?”

She means an actual pickle, you fuckwit. “Surprise me,” I told her, and dragged my eyes off the curve of her cleavage. I grabbed the bottom of my T-shirt and pressed it to my eyes. I had to get out of there. I needed a cold shower, or a call from my tax guy, or an unexpectedly urgent trip to the DMV—anything to stop myself seeing her stark naked every goddamned time I looked at her. Anything to get my mind off that ink.

As I wiped my face, she cleared her throat, and I dropped my shirt. “What?”

She pressed her lips together and rocked back on her sandals. “Nothing!”

I followed her eyes and glanced down at my fly, but the stallion was still in the barn. “Come on,” I said, finding myself smiling right along with her. “What are you looking at?”

“Just…” She swallowed hard. “Looking good there, champ.” She glanced at my stomach, where I’d shown her my bare abs. She made a fist and gave me a mock punch, soft and sweet. “That P90X is working great for you.”

Here we go again with the fitness videos. For everything else she was—beautiful, smart, funny—she was also a fucking ball-buster sometimes. She’d worked up this whole narrative that I spent my nights with Tony Horton on my houseboat, getting cut and doing reps while I drank protein shakes with a straw straight from the blender. It was her only explanation for why I didn’t have a girlfriend. P90X it had to be, she’d said. Or maybe, she’d whispered like a co-conspirator, “Jazzercise.” Now, though, I had a better idea than ever about why I was so picky: not a single woman held a candle to her. I’d been fucking blind to it, but now the mist had burned right off. “I’ve never even seen the opening sequence. Never have. Never will.”

“They’re streaming now!”

“Christ.”

Rosie snorted and made a long wheeeeee. “Sure. Surrrrrrre,” she said, stifling her giggle. “One ham-and-turkey, coming right up.” She spun on her sandals and disappeared into the house. Hips swinging. Red panties invisible, but not to me.

Not anymore.

 

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Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.
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Lion Eyes, A Sports Romance, Coming Soon from Casey Peeler: Chapter Reveal

Chapter Reveal Banner for Lion Eyes, by Casey Peeler

 

 

Coming February 6th

 

 

 

TYKE
It’s all I ever loved,
All I ever wanted.
Football is it for me.
The lights, the turf, the feel of the ball in my hands,
There’s nothing that means more to me.

But then, I meet Rilla James.
It’s a game changer right from the start.
Now, all I want is her,
Everything about her.

RILLA
It’s a love-hate relationship.
I love the excitement, the thrill of the game,
But despise everything it stands for.
The day the game took away someone in my life,
Everything changed,
For the better.
And I couldn’t be happier.

But then, I meet Tyke she Jamison.
It’s a blitz right from the start.
Now, I’m questioning it all.
Maybe I could get used to life under the lights,
With him.

 

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Prologue
3 years earlier
Tyke

“Hey, dipshit. You ready?” I question Baker.
“Give me five,” he says as he pulls Holly in and attacks her face. I don’t know why she puts up with him.
Glancing over at Janie, she smiles. “Wanna go make use of our time?” she says with a smirk. Hell yeah I do.
“Come on,” I say as I toss my beer can in the fire and take the last one from the case. I pull her away from the bonfire, nod to Baker, and walk toward my truck.  
By the time we reach the truck, Janie has her hands all over me and I know exactly where this is leading. Climbing in the cab of my truck, she straddles my lap and leans in. She peels off her top and my hands begin to wander. I can feel her smile with each kiss, and I know I’m a goner with this one. There’s something about her that’s got me tore up.  
Just as things start to get where I want them, I hear Baker outside the truck. I holler at him to give us five minutes and she giggles into my shoulder as Baker heads away from the truck.
****
As Baker opens the truck door, he’s grinning like crazy.
“Don’t even,” Janie says.
“Hey, I’m glad I could get a little action while I waited,” he says with a snicker.
“Ewwww gross!” Janie says, and swats his arm.
“Dude, you’re riding on the back for that shit,” I say as I start the engine and crack open the last beer.
Janie looks in my direction. “No worries. I’m good,” I say and kiss her lips again. She slides close to me, and I think about letting Baker inside the cab. It’s cold as shit outside, but I think it will be funny to watch him shiver the entire way.
Chugging the beer, I toss it out the window before I hit the main road. Janie lays her head on my shoulder as I wrap my arm around her. As she cuddles into me, I get comfortable, and that’s when I hear it … The sound of a horn.
Pulling the truck over to the right side of the road, I overcorrect and Janie flies to the other side of the cab and I hear Baker yell but I can’t stop. I feel the truck dip into a ditch and that’s when it begins to roll over and over and over.
The truck comes to a stop, and that’s when the whistle sounds. I look and see the one single light coming straight at us. Train. I try to grab Janie but she’s trapped inside.
“Go, TD. Go. Save yourself and Baker.”
I can’t leave her. I need Janie in my life. As the train is barreling down the track, I take a quick glance over my shoulder and Baker isn’t in the truck bed. Fuck. I look back into Janie’s eyes. They begin to drift away. No. No. No. Stay with me. “Stay with me Janie. Please don’t leave me,” I plead as her eyelids flitter for the last time.
“Noooooo!” I scream. I kiss her and pull her with everything in my being. The metal gives and I yank her harder. “God, help me please! I’m begging you!” I can’t leave her in the truck. With one final tug, I pull her from the pinned metal just in time. The train crashes into the truck and pushes it to the other side of the tracks. Holding her lifeless body, I look for Baker, and that’s when I spy his lifeless body in the brush. I run to him with Janie in my arms, fall to my knees, and cry myself sober.
As the sirens approach in the background, I feel numb. I just killed my best friend and my girlfriend.

Chapter 1 August 2016
Tyke
“Tyke, you ready?” Mom asks as she places her hand on my knee, pulling me from my thoughts as I blankly stare out the passenger side window at my future. “Look, it can’t be that bad.”
I abruptly turn my head toward her. “You’re joking, right?” I question, already knowing she’s serious.
“Look, a bad choice might have made this an only option, but you’ve got to make the best of it.” I shake my head and get out of the car, slamming the door with little effort. I can’t believe I’m in this little hellhole of a town. I’m destined for great things because I am Tyke Jamison, the top recruited quarterback in the nation. I was born and bred to play football. All I know is pigskin, plays, conditioning and the thrill of throwing touchdown passes to win the game, but one stupid night changed it all. I went from hometown hero to a criminal in a matter of minutes. There’s no escaping what’s happened and it will haunt me forever.
“I get it, Mom. This is my one shot to start over, but let’s face it, no one wants their star player to have a rap sheet?”
She pauses as she lifts the trunk and stares at me. “Tyke Douglas Jamison, you stop right there. I will not listen to this load of crap any more. You are here for a reason. You are a bright young man that has a second chance at a future, and you will accept what is in front of you. No child of mine will throw away their life. If football is what you want, go and get it, but stop this,” she says as she points her finger in my chest. “You are in control of your actions. Now let’s go.”
I pause for a moment before grabbing an armful of my things. “Yes ma’am,” I say as we make our way toward the dorm. Following a step behind my mom, I smile. She’s one badass lady. She’s had to be to put up with me all of these years.
“Come on, slowpoke,” she says as she glances over her shoulder, and I shake my head and pick up my pace to meet hers. Yes, I’m cocky and have an attitude, but she’s the one person that keeps that checked. Mom is the one that stood by me through it all, not Dad. He’s too busy worrying about how this is going to affect him. How he can live vicariously through me when I’m not playing anymore. I’m the screw up who got a DUI, and killed my best friend and girlfriend. The day I was sentenced, my dad gave me all kinds of hell and pretty much told me to fuck off. That wasn’t part of his perfect plan, and neither was my time in juvenile hall and community service. That’s why he isn’t here today, but she is. No matter what, my mom has stood by my side. So, if she thinks this is my only hope to achieve my dream, I’m willing to give it a shot.
Casey Peeler grew up in North Carolina and still lives there with her husband and daughter.

Growing up Casey wasn’t an avid reader or writer, but after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston during her senior year of high school, and multiple Nicholas Sparks’ novels, she found a hidden love and appreciation for reading.  That love ignited the passion for writing several years later, and her writing style combines real life scenarios with morals and values teenagers need in their daily lives.

When Casey isn’t writing, you can find her near a body of water listening to country music with a cold beverage and a great book.

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