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Blurb:

 

CHASE

 

The first time I saw Aimee Gilpin walk into a bar, it was love at first sight. She looks nothing like the women I usually go for, and everything like the woman I’d want to come home to every night. Then my best friend showed up and I had to let him pursue her. It was the right thing to do as a friend and business partner, but the wrong thing to do for my heart.

 

The second time I see Aimee walk into a bar, she has finally convinced my friend that she isn’t interested, and I was planning on drinking myself into oblivion to avoid calling her. She probably thinks I hate her. I tried to.

 

Tomorrow I’ll deal with my best friend and the company we built with his money and my brains.

Tonight, she’s mine.

 

 

AIMEE

 

The first time I saw Chase McKay at a bar, I thought I’d met the man of my dreams—I just didn’t recall the man of my dreams looking like the lead singer of a grunge band. Then as soon his friend showed up, Chase bolted like I was his worst nightmare.

 

The second time I see him in a bar, I can tell by the look in his eyes that we both regret his choice that first night. He has no idea that I just started working for the company that their company is about to start working with.

 

I don’t want to make things any more complicated than they already are, but I do want him like nobody’s business.

 

Tomorrow we’ll deal with the fact that Chase, his best friend and I will be working together.

Tonight, he’s mine.

 

Teaser 2

 

Tonight You’re Mine sneak peek!

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My next steamy romantic comedy is currently available to pre-order on Amazon, and it will be live in Kindle Unlimited on May 1st! Find it HERE !

 

*BLURB*

 

CHASE

The first time I saw Aimee Gilpin walk into a bar, it was love at first sight. She looks nothing like the women I usually go for, and everything like the woman I’d want to come home to every night. Then my best friend showed up and I had to let him pursue her. It was the right thing to do as a friend and business partner, but the wrong thing to do for my heart.

The second time I see Aimee walk into a bar, she has finally convinced my friend that she isn’t interested, and I was planning on drinking myself into oblivion to avoid calling her. She probably thinks I hate her. I tried to.

Tomorrow I’ll deal with my best friend and the company we built with his money and my brains.

Tonight, she’s mine.

 

AIMEE

The first time I saw Chase McKay at a bar, I thought I’d met the man of my dreams—I just didn’t recall the man of my dreams looking like the lead singer of a grunge band. Then as soon his friend showed up, Chase bolted like I was his worst nightmare.

The second time I see him in a bar, I can tell by the look in his eyes that we both regret his choice that first night. He has no idea that I just started working for the company that their company is about to start working with.

I don’t want to make things any more complicated than they already are, but I do want him like nobody’s business.

Tomorrow we’ll deal with the fact that Chase, his best friend and I will be working together.

Tonight, he’s mine.

 

Teaser 3

If you would like to read the first TWO CHAPTERS of Tonight You’re Mine, keep scrolling down! I can’t wait for you to meet Chase and Aimee!!!

Text Copyright © 2019 Kayley Loring

 

THAT NIGHT

 

 

CHAPTER ONE – Chase

 

 

 

There’s something inherently optimistic about walking into a bar on a Friday night. It could be the beginning of a bad joke or the beginning of the rest of your life, but it’s always the start of something. No matter how many bad choices you’ve made in a bar in the past, the future always holds the possibility of better music, just the right number of drinks, and finding the one person who just might matter more to you than anyone else.

It’s the middle of spring and Brooklyn looks so fucking beautiful but I’ve been declining every invitation so I can stay late at the office to work. I’ve had zero fun and given zero fucks about anything other than keeping our startup in the black. Keaton practically begged me to meet him for a drink. He had dinner with his parents tonight and he always needs a drink after seeing his parents. He’s late for meeting me, as always, but I’m glad I’m here. It’s been a while.

Bitters is my favorite bar, mainly because they stock my favorite Irish whiskey. It’s pretty busy, even for nine on a Friday night. They’ve got strings of warm white lights hanging from the ceiling, and I don’t know what it is about them that makes me want to be in love, but I’ve suddenly got that yearning. A quick scan of the crowd presents a few promising options, but no one who grabs my attention.

“McKay! Where ya been, man?” Denny the bartender holds his hands up in the air and greets me like a long-lost friend. We are old friends, actually, I’ve known him since we were kids.

“The office, mostly.” We half-ass a bro-hug over the counter.

“Mr. Bigshot CEO over here.”

“Not as glamorous as it sounds, believe me. How’s your dad doin’?”

“He’s all better. It was just the flu, he got over it. The usual?”

“Give it to me.”

I take a seat at the bar. I had spent so many hours at this counter, dreaming up my business. With my whiskey, my notebook, and sometimes Keaton. Now that the company’s a reality, and the owner of this bar is a client, all I can think about when I sit here is that I should be back at the office. As soon as Denny slides that tumbler of Redbreast in front of me, though, I’m game. I reach for my wallet, but he insists it’s on the house. One of the perks of providing a service for local businesses—everything’s free.

That first sip is always the best, and I revel in it, eyes closed, before turning to face the door.

I’m still feeling the glorious burn down my throat and into my chest when that door opens, and the warmth in my chest spreads everywhere. Warmth and satisfaction and a gentle ache for more. But it’s not the whiskey that’s making me feel this way, it’s a face. It’s the face that I can’t look away from. Open and friendly and inquisitive and surrounded by the most luxurious dark hair that makes me want to reach all the way across the room to run my fingers through it. We’re both tall enough that I can see her over the shoulders of the people standing in between us. Her eyes stay locked on mine as soon as she sees me too. She isn’t smiling and she isn’t frowning, but she’s really looking at me.

She’s nothing like the women I usually go for, and everything like the woman I could see myself coming home to every night.

She starts walking right towards me, determined but a little hesitant, like she’s heading for a train that she needs to catch but she isn’t quite sure if it’s the right one. She’s no ingénue, but there’s something so pure and graceful about her expression and the way she moves. It’s captivating.

It isn’t until she stops in front of me that I realize the full extent of her … everything.

The pencil skirt, the knee-high boots, the tight sweater under the trench coat that doesn’t hide her curves. The subtle swirl of fragrance—like walking past a florist shop where someone’s burning incense and drinking a Hot Toddy.

Who is this woman?

I want her.

I want everything with this woman.

Her eyes are hypnotic. With the same combination of white and the warmest shade of blue, they remind me of my mom’s collection of Italian pottery. Like those ceramics that I grew up with, she is beautiful in the way that everyday things are beautiful. While she doesn’t look at all dainty or fragile, I find myself wanting to be extra careful with her. This is special. Somehow, already, this says “home” to me.

All she says is: “Hi there.” It’s the voice and directness of a woman who’s been to business school. I recognize it instantly.

“Hi.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Chase McKay.” I hold out my hand to her. “Who are you?”

“Aimee Gilpin. Nice to meet you.” I can hear her crystal clear over the Beastie Boys, which is impressive in a noisy bar. She’s just as smooth and soft and warm as she looks, and I don’t want to let go of her. We just stare at each other like we’re trying to figure out if we’ve seen each other before. I know I haven’t, because I would have remembered. “Hi,” she says again. She giggles as she pats my hand, releasing herself from my grasp.

“Can I buy you a drink, Aimee Gilpin?”

“Oh, sure! Thanks. I’ll have whatever you’re having.” So friendly. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s either from Canada or the Midwest.

“You like Irish whiskey?”

“I don’t know. Guess I’ll find out.”

I laugh. “I like your attitude.” I signal to Denny that I want another glass of what I’m having. He nods, but he’s busy chatting up some hipster chick.

“Is Irish whiskey your favorite drink?” She manages to ask it without sounding like she’s grilling me in the way that some women do on first dates.

“I drink Scotch at home and Irish when I’m out.”

“Interesting. Why is that?”

“You’ll see. Irish is friendlier.”

“And are you Irish or Scotch, Chase McKay?”

Oh Christ. She’s got a dimple. I’m dead.

“Half Irish, half Italian.”

“All trouble?” She cocks an eyebrow and smirks.

I get that a lot. I’ve got the shoulder-length hair, the tattoos and the beat-up old leather biker jacket, but that’s just the way I look. It’s not who I am. “Looks can be deceiving, Aimee.”

She studies my face and says earnestly: “I believe that.” She finally looks away from me to scan the room. “I like this place. I’ve never been here before.”

“Meeting someone?”

“Yeah, my roommate. She’s coming from a restaurant in the East Village. You come here often?” She asks that like she really wants to know, like she has no idea it’s a line people have used forever.

“I used to. Been working a little too hard lately.”

“Me too. That’s why my friend basically blackmailed me into coming out tonight.” She studies my face again, takes a breath, and suddenly this avalanche of words tumbles out. “I just moved out here from Michigan a few months ago,” she says. “For a job. Roxy’s been my best friend since college, in Ann Arbor. She moved out here right after she graduated, but I decided to build up my resume before coming to New York. I’m glad I did. Moving here is risky, you know, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, so I needed to know that I wouldn’t blow it. The last thing I wanted to do was show up in the Big Apple and get the crap kicked out of me and then have to go back home, all bitter and depressed for the rest of my life. I think it’s more important to be shrewd than ballsy. Although, the ballsy people have all the fun. Are you from around here?”

I finally take a breath, even though she’s the one who really needs to. “Born and raised in Brooklyn. But I know exactly what you mean. And I think you did the right thing.”

Denny finally shows up to pour two fingers of whiskey in each of our tumblers, then disappears.

“Here’s hoping,” Aimee Gilpin says, as she raises her glass to me.

“Welcome to New York,” I say, and we clink glasses. I notice her hand is trembling and it’s clear to me that she’s more nervous than she’s letting on. Before I can tell her what to expect, she takes a big gulp.

One second after swallowing, she sticks her tongue all the way out and makes an adorable, hilarious face while stretching the fingers of her free hand out wide. Then she slams the glass down on the counter and covers her mouth.

“Guess you don’t like Irish whiskey,” I say.

“I am so horrified!” she says, her voice muffled.

“That bad?”

“No—well, I didn’t expect it to be so sweet. But I just …” She shakes her head and waves her hand in front of her face, like she’s trying to erase what just happened. “Last week I was watching this YouTube video about face yoga exercises. This woman was making all these crazy facial expressions that supposedly relax your face and get rid of wrinkles and release tension—but I was like—I would never in a million years do those exercises because if anyone ever saw me doing them, I would die of embarrassment. And I just made one of those faces. In a bar. In front of you. So that’s awesome.”

I lean in towards her and say: “Guess we’ll have to find another way for you to release tension.”

She laughs, nervously, and then stops to look at me. “You know what? It has a really nice aftertaste.” And then she realizes the subtext of my comment about releasing tension, and her cheeks turn the most amazing shade of deep pink. “Oh my,” she exhales.

‘Oh my.’ Who says that?

The song changes to a quiet ballad, a Jackson Browne song that my mom loves. The sudden shift from thumping bass to soulful piano changes the air around us and the molecules inside of everyone in here, and the awareness shifts from the lower torso up to the heart. I fucking love the playlists in this bar, and I fucking love the way this woman is looking at me like I’m some deep philosophical question that she doesn’t know the answer to but she’s willing to muddle through anyway.

“Try it again,” I say, nodding towards her glass. “Take a sip and close your eyes. It’s meant to be savored.”

Slowly lifting that tumbler to her beautiful lips, she takes a sip and closes those gorgeous eyes of hers—sky blue and black. I savor her like my whiskey, so jealous of the rim of the glass that gets to touch her lips. I watch her respond to every smooth and warm, surprising flavor as it caresses her tongue—the fruity honeyed sweetness, the sherry and licorice and ginger, the peppery spice that erupts in her throat as she swallows, the hint of toffee that lingers. When she opens her eyes again and looks at me, she lets out a sigh, and I know that she gets it now. The union and explosion of unexpected soulmate flavors that can change the way you experience the world. It’s like drinking music. Just a taste and you know how big and magical and soft this dangerous collision of contradictions can be.

But two seconds later, she shakes herself out of the reverie and I can see her trying to rein in her fear of that big magic. I get it. She doesn’t know if she can handle it. Then her expression changes again and I get the feeling she’s about to surprise both of us.

“So, I don’t usually do this, but … here’s my number.” She hands me a folded-up piece of notepaper that already has her name and number written on it. “My roommate dared me to give a guy that I like my number even if he doesn’t ask me for it. So just in case there’s a hurricane or a zombie apocalypse in the next hour or so, I’ll get this out of the way now.”

“Thank you. I would have asked you for your number anyway.”

“Well, that’s nice to know.”

I reach for a napkin on the bar and pull out the pen from my pocket.

“I don’t usually give beautiful women who don’t like whiskey my number, but in case of hurricane or zombie apocalypse … This is my cell phone, if you need assistance.” I hand her the napkin with my name and number on it.

“I appreciate it. I keep a pretty cool head during natural disasters, but I lie awake at night worrying about zombies.” She carefully folds up the napkin and places it in her purse.

“I can definitely help you get to sleep if necessary.”

I take off my leather jacket, expose the ink, so she knows it’s not just a long-hair situation she’d have to deal with.

Her eyes widen as they scan the parts of my arms that aren’t hidden by my T-shirt. I can tell she likes what she sees, but she gets a whiff of something that she does not like when I move my jacket to my lap.

“Do you smoke?”

“Not much anymore. I used to … up until an hour ago.”

“You really shouldn’t smoke.”

“I have been meaning to quit.”

“You really should.” Her spine straightens and she places her glass down on the bar again and actually raises her index finger in front of my face and wags it. “Smoking damages nearly every organ in your body, you know, not just your lungs. And not just your organs—your brain and your bones and your cardiovascular system! It’s shortening your lifespan by more than a decade. There’s poison in tobacco you know. It’s not just the nicotine, you’re inhaling carbon monoxide and tar! I just don’t know why anyone would do that to themselves—not to mention the people around them. And cancer—do you want to talk about cancer, Chase McKay?”

“I really don’t.”

I think I just quit smoking.

“Point taken. You got some sort of rule about not kissing smokers, Aimee?”

The lighting in here may be dim, but I can see her blushing even harder. She clears her throat. “I did … up until a minute ago.”

I think I just quit other women.

When I sit up straight on this barstool, Aimee and I are about the same height. She’s staring at my mouth and her lips are parted. I’m not aware of how much time has passed since she walked in here, but I’ve been wanting to kiss her for what feels like forever. Leaning towards her, I notice her chest expanding as she prepares herself for my kiss. Just when she starts to lean in towards me too, a hand slaps her on the shoulder.

“Aim! Honey! I am so fucking sorry I’m late! That fucking F train has it in for me, I swear.”

The woman whips her around for a hug while giving me the once-over.

I can’t tell if Aimee is frustrated or relieved by the interruption—maybe both. Maybe I’m feeling the same way too. Her friend sizes-up the situation. I can’t tell if she’s impressed or amused or both.

“Well, fuck me,” she mutters.

“Uh, Roxy, this is Chase. Chase—Roxy.”

“Hello there, Chase.”

Shaking Roxy’s hand, I utter a friendly “Hey, how are you?” but I turn my attention right back to Aimee. I can tell that Aimee’s probably used to men gawking at her friend, and I just won a few points for not being most men. But Aimee is not most women. Not to me. Not tonight.

“I was just encouraging Chase here to quit smoking.”

“Is that what you were doing? Can I just borrow Aimee for one second?” She pulls Aimee a couple of feet away and yells in her ear.

I, along with the whole bar, can hear Roxy tell her: “You need to take it down a notch, Professor McGonagall.”

“What?!”

“I saw the way you were lecturing him when I walked in. You might as well just flash him your granny panties.”

“What?! No, I’m being a sexy teacher.”

“No. You’re not.”

Yeah. She is, Roxy. She is.

Then I overhear Roxy utter the word “bet” before Aimee shushes her with a murderous look. Roxy walks off to join a group of people she knows, without another word. Aimee watches her walk away before removing her coat and draping it over the barstool next to me.

“Sorry about that,” she says.

I can see the outline of a black bra beneath her tight creamy white sweater and I’m pretty sure I’d forgive her for absolutely anything.

“Sorry about lecturing you.” She stares at her hands. “It’s none of my business, I just think you’re great and I want you to live, and not have to breathe through a hole in your throat.”

“You don’t have to apologize. And thanks.”

She looks over at me and pouts.

We both laugh.

“Can I get you another drink?”

“Yes! Dear God, yes!” The voice belongs to my best friend Keaton. I had completely forgotten that I was here waiting for him. Aimee is quite the distraction. She may be the distraction I’ve been waiting for my whole life.

“You would not believe the night I’ve had,” he continues, shaking his head. “You don’t know how lucky you are to have the parents you have, man.” He really does look beaten down. As beaten down as a guy can look in a bespoke suit and coat and shoes that cost more than my rent. And then he notices Aimee, and the outline of that black bra beneath her tight creamy white sweater. “And I cannot believe how much better my night just got. Hello there.” He holds his hand out. Instead of shaking Aimee’s hand, he places his other hand over it and just stares at her.

Fucking hell.

“This is Aimee. I was just asking if I can get her another drink.”

“Aimee,” he says. “I’m Keaton Bridges. Hi.” I know that tone of voice. Every time Keaton switches to that golden tone of voice, he has gone home with the woman on the receiving end of it. I’ve got that sinking feeling and my whole body clenches up. If I didn’t love him so much, I’d already have kicked his teeth in by now.

He doesn’t even realize he’s cockblocking me, because it just wouldn’t occur to him that he and I would want the same thing. It rarely happens. We both wanted to go to Wharton. We both wanted to start my business. One of us did both of those things by studying and working his ass off, and one of us had the money to do whatever the fuck he wanted.

I watch how Aimee responds to Keaton’s immediate full-court press. She’s so nice and polite. It’s hard to tell at first if she’s being friendly with the best friend, like I was with Roxy, or if she’s falling for this shit.

“Why don’t I get you a drink.” Keaton is really laying it on thick. “What have you got there?” He sees the tumbler behind her on the counter and grimaces. “Do not tell me he made you drink Irish whiskey? That stuff is nasty.”

“I think I’m acquiring a taste for it, actually,” she says.

“Admirable, but I bet you’re more of a…Moscow Mule kind of girl.”

She twists her lips to the side and glances over at me apologetically. “I do love Moscow Mules.”

“Denny!” Keaton leans in against the bar, right between me and Aimee. “Two Moscow Mules and another whiskey for my friend here.” He stays in place between me and Aimee and says, “Damn, Aimee. You smell incredible. That’s Chanel, isn’t it?”

“It is. You’ve got a good nose!”

What follows is the kind of conversation that only Keaton can have with a woman. About his grandmother being friends with Coco Chanel. It might be true and it might be total horseshit, but he sells it like the best car salesman. I know this guy so well. I know when he’s making an effort with a woman and when he’s on auto-pilot, and he’s actually making an effort with Aimee. I can see, out of the corner of my eye, that Aimee is trying to maneuver herself so she can include me in the conversation, but it’s no use. Everything’s fading away and I’m retreating inside where I can have a tactical meeting with myself in my board room.

Thank God I went to business and law school. I’ve learned how to make rational, informed decisions. My heart’s telling me this is a woman worth fighting for, but my brain’s telling me that’s not my heart talking. It’s my dick. It’s the whiskey. It’s the strings of warm white lights. It’s the Jackson fucking Browne song.

It’s not that she isn’t worth fighting for. It’s that I have to pick my battles. And I am not going to pick a battle with my best friend and business partner. Not now, anyway.

I’ve known Keaton for nearly a decade. He let me live in his apartment in Philadelphia for four years when we were at Wharton and nearly kicked me out once when he was convinced that his girlfriend was in love with me. She wasn’t. He didn’t. We got through it. I founded a company with him less than two years ago—a company that he invested the seed money for, and I need him on my side when we’re voting at a board meeting soon. I’ve known Aimee for less than half an hour and had one drink with her. If she doesn’t want to kiss a guy who smokes, then she won’t be kissing a guy who smokes. Not tonight, anyway. Even though I never want to see another cigarette again in my life.

Just because I’ve never experienced love at first sight before, it doesn’t mean it’ll never happen again. I see how this is going to go and I need to leave sooner rather than later, so I don’t end up in a pissing contest.

I swallow the whiskey that Keaton ordered for me, stand up and put my jacket back on. I shake Aimee’s hand and say, “It was a pleasure meeting you. Enjoy your Moscow Mule.” The look on her pretty face could break my heart if I’d let it. But I won’t let it.

I pat Keaton on the back and tell him I’m heading back to the office. He barely protests. He doesn’t want to lose Aimee’s focus. I don’t blame him. I didn’t either. But I will.

The road to a successful business is littered with sacrifices, and Aimee may not be the first, but she is certainly my favorite thing that I’ll be letting go of to make this business work.

 

And so, I’ve heard some good music and had just the right number of drinks and met a woman who could have mattered to me more than anyone—in another life. I’ve made a choice, and it might be a bad choice, but it’s the right one.

I walk back out into the surprisingly cold night, but I’m not alone. You’re never alone at night in New York, and Brooklyn is still so fucking beautiful. I feel a chill, but it’s got nothing to do with the temperature. It’s knowing that if I turned around and looked back through that door that I just walked out of, I’d see Aimee watching me. If I stayed there looking back at her long enough, she’d follow me outside and leave Keaton behind. I know it deep in my lungs and all my organs and my brain and my bones and my cardiovascular system, just as well as I know that I’m going to keep walking away, even though I’ll be thinking about those deep blue eyes long after I close mine tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TONIGHT

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO – Aimee

 

 

**ONE MONTH LATER**

 

 

I’ve been wearing yoga pants all day, because I was hoping it would make me feel more Zen about everything, but it turns out it’s not that easy to feel Zen when you’re frantically stuffing your face with donuts. It’s just so disappointing that no matter how delicious and comforting they are, they all start to taste the same after your third or fourth or fifth. No matter how much icing or sprinkles or filling, they’re still so simple. A quick fix. They’ll never wake up your palate with breathtaking contradictory flavors and leave a smooth, complex, haunting aftertaste like certain other vices do.

This has been the longest two-day weekend ever and it’s nowhere near over yet.

Also, my roommate keeps handing me bottles of beer and taking them away when I’ve finished so I can’t keep track of how many I’ve had. Beer and donuts are a terrible combination, but also strangely appropriate for the occasion. I lick the melted chocolate icing from my thumb and call out: “Roxy! How many beers have I had?!”

“If you’re sober enough to ask without slurring, it’s not enough!” she calls out, from the bathroom. I can tell from her voice that she’s curling her eyelashes. She has Make-Up Face voice. She’s listening to Prince. That means she’s getting ready to go out, which means she’s getting ready to convince me to go out. I do appreciate that she stayed in with me on Friday and Saturday night, but

“I start a new job tomorrow!”

“Exactly! We’re celebrating. And you need to drink one beer for every month that you’ve been celibate.”

“I am not going to drink six bottles of beer on a Sunday night, Roxy.”

“Fine. Then one beer for every week you wasted being polite to that bonehead.”

“I’m not going to drink four beers either. I’m serious! How many have I had?”

“Three, sweetie. Only three.”

I exhale and then polish off my third bottle of beer.

“He’s not a bonehead,” I say meekly.

He really isn’t.

Keaton is good-looking and he looks amazing in a suit. Keaton is charming, in the way that eight-year-old boys are charming. A good guy. But not the guy for me.

When he showed up at the bar that first night that I met him and Chase, I had the exact opposite response to him as I did to his best friend. When I saw Chase, my body immediately went on high alert. I assumed he was the lead singer of some grunge band that I wasn’t cool enough to recognize, but I could totally see myself screaming up at him from a mosh pit, begging for his attention. When he saw me and held my gaze, I just kept walking toward him. I’ve never done that before in my life—walked up to some stranger in a bar and started talking? He made me feel like some heightened version of myself, like an awesome drug that I’d probably never try. I was turned on. Actually switched on, like a lightbulb that had been set to dim forever and then BAM! Here’s all that electricity we’ve been holding back from you! How do you like that?! It felt like the difference between walking around your hometown and walking around Manhattan for the first time. Suddenly you’re so aware and awake and anything could happen.

I liked it and I was afraid of it.

When Keaton showed up, he felt familiar and safe. It was like getting off a roller coaster. I still had the dizzying buzz from flirting with Chase, but I was stepping back onto solid ground again and needing to find my balance. But it’s not like I didn’t want to get back on that roller coaster! If I were put in a situation where I had to make a choice, I would have chosen Chase. But he took himself out of the equation.

It’s not that I wasn’t flattered by Keaton’s attention.

He’s like a purebred puppy who doesn’t understand the word “no.” He’s exasperating, but you can’t hate him because at the end of the day, he’s still a cute puppy. And I’m too old to date puppies.

Which is why I would have rather dated Chase. The day after meeting him, I sent a text to the number he’d given me.

 

It was great meeting you and Irish whiskey at Bitters last night! Haven’t seen any zombies yet, but you never know…

 

Cute, right?

No response.

Ever.

I mean. Maybe he gave me a wrong number. But I had a feeling it was a Bro Code thing. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it.

A few days later, I had a phone conversation with Keaton and I learned more about their relationship, so I could certainly see why Chase didn’t want to rock the boat.

I liked Keaton. I really did. I especially liked that he had such a cool best friend. But I also hated that he was friends with Chase. Because I really liked Chase.

But I’m a nice, polite Midwesterner, and Keaton is persistent. Every few days he’d call or text to invite me out to all these great restaurants. And all the flowers he sent to my office? Oh lord, so many beautiful flowers. And Wicked. He said he could get us greats seats at Wicked on Broadway. Roxy and I always used to sing “Defying Gravity” when we were drunk at karaoke bars in college. That was a tough one to say ‘no’ to, but I did.

And then I found out that I was being laid off. The job that I had moved out here for—at the prestigious business consulting firm—had to eliminate my position. So I had a lot more on my mind than dating.

The next few times he asked me out, I gave him the excuse of being stressed-out from job-hunting. On Thursday, I found him waiting for me outside my apartment when I came home from a job interview. He had a lunch reservation at a great restaurant by the river and wanted me to go with him right then. He was very charming and persuasive, but I just couldn’t go out with him if there was ever a chance that I could be with Chase. I didn’t tell him that, of course. What I finally told him, very clearly, was that I liked him but I didn’t think we were a good match and I really didn’t want to lead him on. He seemed to think I was joking at first. I’m guessing no one’s ever said those words to him before.

For a few seconds, I saw this storm of indignant anger in his eyes, and I understood why Chase didn’t want to take any chances. But as quickly as that look in his eyes appeared, it was replaced by polite words of thanks, a sincere handshake, and a genuine “Good luck with everything. Let’s keep in touch. I hope to see you again sometime.”

He was classy. I felt good about everything. I wondered if and when he’d mention to his best friend that I’d totally refused to date him. I wondered how long I should wait before “accidentally” running into Chase in the neighborhood after subtly and ever-so elegantly stalking him.

 

That was Thursday. That was before shit got weird.

 

“Lady, lady, lady …” my roommate says as she collapses onto the sofa next to me. She’s got her going-out face on, she’s got her I’m-getting-laid-tonight musk on, and I can’t help but laugh. Roxy looks like Betty from the Archie comics, if Betty were drawn by a horny twelve-year-old boy who’s into manga. Blonde ponytail, pert nose, comically enormous boobs that are packed tight into a 1950’s teen-girl outfit, and a sweet smile that does nothing to hide the foul-mouthed vixen’s devious thoughts. She takes the empty donut box from me and says, “You finally got another fucking job. It’s a good thing. We should be celebrating.”

That’s right. On Friday afternoon, I got a call from Elaine Hoffman. Elaine is the president of the boutique business consulting firm that I interviewed with on Thursday. I had been unemployed for nearly three weeks. I was deliriously happy when she offered me a position at her firm, because her company specializes in consulting for startups, and that was my focus in business school. The pay is great, the office is in Brooklyn, I loved her no-bullshit attitude and I just knew we’d be a great fit. And then she told me that the project she’s assigning me to, starting Monday, is for her important new clients: SnapLegal-NYC. Keaton and Chase’s company. They hired her company and they’re paying for an on-site project manager for a month. She hired me specifically because she needs a project manager to help them transition to a subscription-based model for their services, although she never mentioned this in our meeting. “You’re a Godsend,” she said. “You’re a perfect fit for this.”

That means I get to see Chase McKay on Monday! I thought to myself. I wonder if he wears suits at the office? I thought to myself, before imagining him slowly taking off his suit.

It wasn’t until after I’d hung up that I realized I’d also be seeing Keaton Bridges on Monday.

I immediately called Roxy at work, and told her about my situation. She laughed so hard she didn’t even make a sound, then she snorted, then she hung up on me. The fifteen random emojis she sent afterwards made no sense and didn’t make me feel any better.

I drank one cup of coffee spiked with just a tiny amount of Irish whiskey and a huge amount of cream, and I called Elaine back.

“I just had my HR woman send a courier over with your paperwork and a company cell phone,” she said when she answered. “Please don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind.”

“I haven’t changed my mind about working for you, Elaine, not at all. I just have a bit of a dilemma here, and I felt that I should tell you that I actually know the founders of SnapLegal, a little bit. I met them socially, and Keaton Bridges pursued me for a few weeks, but I finally made it clear to him that I wouldn’t go out with him. He was always a perfect gentleman and it was a friendly parting. No hard or deep feelings at all, and I promise you that I am fully capable of doing the job your company has been hired to do for them. I just … you know … full-disclosure.”

“And what about Chase McKay?”

“What about him?”

Oh shit. Did I accidentally verbalize my little Chase McKay in a suit fantasy without knowing it? Did I think those dirty thoughts so loud that my new boss could hear them?

“You said that you know the founders socially.” I could hear the strain in her voice. She was trying so hard not to yell at me. “Did Chase McKay also pursue you?”

“Oh God, no! No no nooooo.” I wish. “No, I just know him because he’s Keaton’s best friend. I mean, I actually met him half an hour before I met Keaton, but that was it.” And I overanalyzed his reasons for not wanting to pursue me endlessly.

I heard her exhale slowly. “Okay. So that’s your big dilemma? You dated Keaton Bridges a few times, and now you are not dating him, but it’s a friendly break-up?”

“Yes. I mean, no! It wasn’t even a break-up because we never dated. We’re just not dating. End of story.”

“Okay. Here’s a short story for you: I once had to work for the man who ran over my dog. I wanted to murder him, but I did my job because I am a professional who is capable of compartmentalizing. That is why I did not spit in his coffee once, as far as he knew.”

“I’m … so sorry about your dog.”

“Okay.” I could hear her tapping on her desk with her pen. “Listen. I have three kids and I am currently the main breadwinner in my family because my husband has decided that it’s finally time for him to write The Great American Novel, and I haven’t slept for more than four hours a night in months, so I don’t have time to filter my thoughts on this and then get back to you. I like you. I had a good feeling about you. You have the perfect resume for this position and fantastic references. And you are literally, on paper, the best person for this SnapLegal job. So, if you are honestly telling me that your personal dynamic with our clients will not affect your ability to do your best work and represent my company in a professional manner, then I seriously don’t give a shit about your private life, as long as you keep it private. So just sign and return the contract. Your company e-mail address will be set up by Monday morning, and I will meet you at the SnapLegal offices at ten on Monday morning for a quick meeting with the founders. But if they try to get out of my contract with them because of you, then obviously I will be firing you.”

She hung up before I could thank her for understanding. I also sort of wanted to ask her to marry me. If she was cool about the situation, now all I had to do was make sure that Keaton would be cool with it. And I was nearly positive that he probably would be. I just wished there was one person that I could talk to about how to approach this, someone who knows Keaton better than I do, someone with impossibly beautiful wavy hair and rich, dark bedroom eyes and a deep smooth voice that always sounds like he’s talking dirty on the phone—even when he’s grumbling to you about Moscow Mules and walking away from you.

“I need to talk to Chase,” I say, reaching for my phone. I’ve already called him twice and texted him three times today.

“Has he responded?”

I sigh. “No.”

“Send him a boob pic.”

I bark out a laugh. “That’s your answer to every man problem.”

“That’s the answer to every man problem. You can send him one of mine if you’d like.” She smiles big and bats her eyelashes at me.

She’s joking. She’s never actually taken or sent boob pics. It’s a joke. I’m pretty sure it’s a joke.

Roxy is an angel. She’s an angel disguised as the little blonde devil perched on my shoulder. The one who convinces me that a shot or three of tequila and going dancing are the answer to all of my problems. And they were! When we were in college.

Roxy works just as hard as she plays. She’s the manager of customer loyalty for an online retail company, and she makes a buttload of money, some of which she has been using to pay for most of our meals for the past few weeks. I am eternally grateful to her. Except for one thing.

“This is all your fault. If you hadn’t bet me that I couldn’t give a guy my number, I wouldn’t have gone out that night and maybe I would have met Chase another time, when Keaton wasn’t around.”

I had only been out on a few dates since moving to New York, because I seem to be really good at attracting guys that I’m not really attracted to. Roxy dared me to go home with a guy that I met in a bar. When I refused to acknowledge that one, she dared me to give my number to a guy that I actually liked and to give a fake number to any guy I didn’t like if he asked me for one. That was the one and only time I had ever actually taken her advice …Well, sort of … Minus the fake number part.

I can’t not stay in touch with people. I still send Christmas cards to my friends from kindergarten. I send thank you cards to former bosses when I’ve been laid off. Every stationary store in New York is still in business because of me.

But I couldn’t give Keaton a fake number, because I didn’t want him to tell Chase that I was a sneaky b-face.

She brushes the hair out of my eyes. “If you want Chase, go get him.”

“I can’t get Chase. I have to go to work with Chase and Keaton tomorrow.”

“Why don’t you just ask your new boss to assign you to a different project?”

“She specifically hired me because she needs someone on this one.”

“Then quit. You’ll get another job.”

“Wow. You are full of great ideas. Maybe I should also do heroin while I’m at it.”

“Hey, don’t knock it until you try it.”

“That’s not funny.”

“Sorry. Don’t do heroin. But you should definitely do Chase. I mean, the man quit smoking for you.”

“He did not quit smoking for me.”

“You said he quit smoking.”

“Keaton mentioned that he did, when we were on the phone.”

“Right after he met you and you criticized him for smoking.”

“I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who’s ever criticized him for smoking. He obviously hates me, or he wouldn’t have bolted from the bar like it was on fire.”

“Maybe he’s secretly burning for you.” She grins and waggles her perfect eyebrows. “Call him again.”

“I’ve already texted him three times to tell him that I really need to talk to him and called twice. He probably thinks I’m a stalker now.”

“Did you leave a voicemail?”

“Nobody leaves voicemails.”

“Do you know where he lives?”

“Not exactly.”

I just want to tell Chase that I have a new job at the consulting firm that they hired for implementation consultation and that I’ve been assigned to their project. I just want to make sure he’s okay with it and discuss how best to approach this with Keaton. I want to have this conversation with him, because I need this job and I’m a professional and he’s a professional and we’re all grown-ups. Also, I want to hear his voice and smell him just a little.

“I think I might know where Chase is…” I say, hesitantly.

“In your dirty dreams every night?”

“At that bar in Carroll Gardens.”

Roxy claps her hands so loud that it echoes around the room. “Yes! That is where you need to go. That is what you need to do. And I know exactly what you need to wear when you go there to do that.”

“But it’s seven o’clock. On a Sunday. I start a new job in the morning.”

“Yeah! Woohoo!”

“But I mean … we’re twenty-seven years old.”

“Girl. Do not make me slap you.”

 

 

***end of excerpt***

Available HERE

Tonight You’re Mine cover reveal!!!

So excited to finally share this cover with the interwebs!!!  This beautiful man is quite different from my other cover models, but I have never been so in love with and inspired by a picture! Chase McKay might be the most romantic hero I’ve written yet, and I cannot wait for you to meet him and Aimee Gilpin (who is hilarious) in this steamy romantic comedy.

BookBrushImage

TonightYoureMine2-wrap-UPDATE

Tonight You’re Mine by Kayley Loring

Cover Design by Alyssa Garcia, Uplifting Designs

Cover Photo by Regina Wamba

 

Release Date:  May 1 2019 (Kindle Unlimited)

 

Add to your Goodreads TBR: Goodreads Tonight You’re Mine by Kayley Loring

 

BLURB:

 

CHASE

 

The first time I saw Aimee Gilpin walk into a bar, it was love at first sight.  She looks nothing like the women I usually go for, and everything like the woman I’d want to come home to every night.  Then my best friend showed up and I had to let him pursue her.  It was the right thing to do as a friend and business partner, but the wrong thing to do for my heart.

 

The second time I see Aimee walk into a bar, she has finally convinced my friend that she isn’t interested, and I was planning on drinking myself into oblivion to avoid calling her.  She probably thinks I hate her.  I tried to.

 

Tomorrow I’ll deal with my best friend and the company we built with his money and my brains.

Tonight, she’s mine.

 

 

AIMEE

 

The first time I saw Chase McKay at a bar, I thought I’d met the man of my dreams—I just didn’t recall the man of my dreams looking like the lead singer of a grunge band.  Then as soon his friend showed up, Chase bolted like I was his worst nightmare.

 

The second time I see him in a bar, I can tell by the look in his eyes that we both regret his choice that first night.  He has no idea that I just started working for the company that their company is about to start working with.

 

I don’t want to make things any more complicated than they already are, but I do want him like nobody’s business.

 

Tomorrow we’ll deal with the fact that Chase, his best friend and I will be working together.

Tonight, he’s mine.

 

Come Back to Bed – cover, blurb and excerpt!

COME BACK TO BED Kayley Loring kindle cover

 

Well, hello there.  It’s late Friday night and I have just uploaded my ninth steamy romantic comedy novel to Amazon.  No pre-order this time–it will go directly into Kindle Unlimited.  UPDATE:  Available now right HERE!

Here is the blurb for COME BACK TO BED, teasers and the first two chapters of this 75,000 word book.

BLURB:

 

Dear grouchy neighbor:  I’m considering your offer and need clarification before proceeding.  Despite being an artist, I think you know that as a busy New Yorker, I am also practical and straightforward.

That said, I need to make sure you know that this could never turn into anything serious.  I don’t care if you’re trying to get over your ex-girlfriend or hoping she’ll eventually want to get back together with you—just don’t project your messy feelings about her onto me.

Because, despite your resemblance to an underwear model, I won’t be falling for you.  Ever.

Yours, with clear boundaries,

Bernadette

p.s. I’d like to be very clear that regardless of whether or not we do this, nothing will change my feelings for your dog (and we both know she loves me too).

 

 

Dear nutty neighbor:  As a lawyer, I must clarify that I never made an offer.  It was a suggestion regarding the possibility of a non-permanent, no-strings-attached arrangement between two consenting adults whose beds are separated by a wall.

As a man who shares your disdain for messy feelings, I applaud your confidence in your ability to not fall for me.  Hold onto that.  I’d also like to make it clear that I don’t care if you want to get over your crush on your boss or if you still hope he’ll realize you’re the woman of his dreams.  That said, I definitely wasn’t thinking about my ex-girlfriend when I kissed you in the laundry room, and I’m quite sure you weren’t thinking about your boss.

As a dog daddy, I’m glad you’re so taken with my girl, but if you try to steal her, I will get all Liam Neeson up in your pretty face.

As a busy New Yorker, I think clear boundaries are hot, and I have one hour free to blow your mind tonight.  So turn off Netflix, put down that glass of wine, and let’s do this.

Yours for now,

Matt

 

instagram post won't you be my neighborthis is where FB ad

 

***Excerpt***

(copyright 2019 Kayley Loring)

 

CHAPTER ONE – Bernadette

 

 

FROM:  DOLLY KEMP <doloreskemp123@yahoo.com>

TO:  BERNADETTE FARMER <thisisbernadettefarmer@gmail.com>

 

Bernadette my dear—greetings from Prague!  I think you would love it and be so inspired here.  There is art everywhere, and I want to buy all of it.  Everything is gorgeous and delicious (especially the beer and sausages).  Marty and I are having a ball. 

Speaking of sausages and balls—I’m sure you have enjoyed not hearing us fooling around next door for the past three months.  LOL.  Numerous guests at five-star hotels all over Europe have not been so lucky.

I hope you are well, and I have a favor to ask of you.

My lawyer nephew needs a place to stay for a while and will be living in my apartment until he finds one of his own.

His name is Matt McGovern, Esq.

He is my younger sister’s son.

Matt spends most of his life at work or out on the town, so you probably won’t even know he’s there.

Can I trouble you to give him your spare key for my flat tonight?  I know you are a private person, so I didn’t give him your phone number.  I told him to buzz you at 4A around 7:30 pm.  If that is inconvenient for you, you can email him at:  iammattmcgovernsemail@gmail.com to plan a better time.

You have similar personal email addresses—isn’t that cute?!

Thank you for taking care of my plants.

I still don’t know when we will be returning, but you may continue to pay rent at the discounted rate until then.

xx DK

 

Well, crap.

It was fun having the floor to myself while it lasted.

And by “fun,” I mean blissfully uneventful and quiet.

Dolly Kemp is my landlady and neighbor.  She owns both condos on the fourth floor of the Upper West Side townhouse we live in, sublets the smaller one to me, and charges me less when she’s out of town because I water her plants while she’s gone.  She is a retired investment banker and an enthusiastic art collector, a senior citizen who has a far racier wardrobe and love life than I do.  Since I don’t know exactly how old she or her younger sister is, her nephew could be anywhere from mid-twenties to early fifties.

Here’s hoping he’s a shy fifty-something intellectual property lawyer who listens to classical music and does crossword puzzles to relax when he’s at home.  I don’t know if that person actually exists anywhere on earth in the twenty-first century, but that’s my idea of a good neighbor.  Polite, quiet, and almost never at home.

I myself am a twenty-seven-year-old homebody who deeply values what little time I get to spend in my apartment.  Being the well-paid executive personal assistant to a very successful (and moderately sexy—okay super sexy) recently-divorced artist means that I spend most of my days doing whatever he needs me to do for him, whenever and wherever he wants me to do it.  And no, none of those things ever involve sex.  Unfortunately.  Unless you count the time he asked me to pose partially nude for a painting, but I may as well have been a naked bowl of fruit as far as he was concerned.  A really demure, secretly horny bowl of fruit.

Being a homebody in Manhattan is like being a vegetarian in a meat market, but when your life revolves around another person in the way that mine does, in a city of eight and a half million other people, you really need that room of your own.  Even when you spend most of your time in that room thinking about your boss.  Even when you spend most of your time in any room thinking about your boss.

Today, world-renowned artist Sebastian Smith has tasked me with stretching canvases, ordering paints from Japan, brushes from China, responding to interview requests, and updating his website, all of which I have been able to do in his four-bedroom converted loft in Tribeca.  He himself has spent the day driving around the Hudson Valley for inspiration, and while I’d always prefer to see his face and hear his voice, it does make for an easier work day.  I should easily make it home before seven-thirty, so I shoot Dolly an email saying just that.

 

I get off at the 79th Street station instead of 86th, because the sun hasn’t gone down yet and it’s a gorgeous mid-March early evening after a full week of rain.  I always enjoy people-watching as I walk up Broadway, but it’s especially fun now that New Yorkers are starting to show some skin again.

I really love my Upper West Side neighborhood.  I am the only single under thirty-year-old in the art world that I know of who chooses to live up here.  It’s old-school—a little mellower than downtown—and with its relatively unpretentious residents and neighborhood feel, it’s the closest I can get to my home state of Vermont without leaving Manhattan.  And okay, yes, I also moved here because of You’ve Got Mail, and I hear “Dreams” by The Cranberries in my head whenever I walk around here.  Don’t judge me.  Call me crazy, but at this point in my life I’d rather be safe and living in Nora Ephron’s charming but not-at-all-cool late-Nineties fantasy world than do ecstasy at an after-party where the DJ is some model with a famous parent and a bottle of Heineken costs more than the Uber ride it took to get there.

I cut across to 85th to check out the floral offerings at my local green grocer, but my attention is diverted by the cutest damn Boston Terrier I’ve ever seen.  She has a pink collar, is staring right at me, and I swear it’s love at first sight for both of us.

I don’t want to brag or anything, but dogs love me.  Like, every dog I’ve ever met.  To dogs, I’m basically a five-foot seven jerky treat with a voice and hands.  I march straight over to that black and white beauty and drop to my knees.  She keeps licking her chops as she stands up on her hind legs, resting her paws on my thighs and hopping up and down.

“Ooooh you’re so cute!  Look at that face!  Look at that sweet sweet little face!  Ohhhh, what’s your name, happy girl?  You’re a pretty girl, aren’t you?  What’s your name?…What’s her name?”

I stand up as my eyes follow the leash up to the big strong hand that’s holding it, and the man in the suit and coat who is attached to the hand.  He is so ludicrously gorgeous, I just burst out laughing.  This must happen often when people look at him, because his facial expression betrays absolutely no sense of surprise.  In fact, he is completely stone-faced.  Like a handsome statue.  A handsome statue in a modern-cut suit and slim tie and trench coat that is probably worth more than everything I own, who is talking on the phone through his earbuds, who has no intention of answering my very important question about his dog’s name.  He just stares at me while continuing to engage in his phone conversation about contracts and clauses or something.

Whatever!

Seriously though—what is he thinking?  Who just stands around outside a grocery store looking that handsome, unless…I look around for a camera crew.  Am I interrupting a photo shoot or a movie set?  Nope.  Unless it’s a hidden camera reality show about people reacting to cute dogs and annoyingly attractive strangers.

He is expressionless as he continues to watch me while talking on the phone.  I kind of want to slap his face because it’s so obnoxiously good-looking.  Inside, though, my vulva is dimming the lights and queuing up “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye.  Calm down, vulva!  It’s just some guy on the sidewalk, you’ll never see him or his sweet dog again.

I bend down to rub the dog’s head again, whisper “I love you” to her, then continue on my way back home.

 

I have about fifteen minutes before Matt McGovern, Esquire is supposed to show up, so I check my mailbox.  I never expect to actually receive anything besides marketing crap, but there’s a squishy mailer stuffed in there, and I stare at it for a few seconds before casting my mind back to five nights ago when I had ordered a sexy dress in a pinot-induced online shopping frenzy.  I sometimes have to attend gallery openings and parties with Sebastian (for work, not as a date), and I keep buying sexy dresses online while under the influence, with every intention of wearing them.  Then I return them and show up to events in a black cardigan, really expensive jeans, hoop earrings and red lipstick, because that’s the level of sophistication that I’m comfortable with.

I run up the stairs to the fourth floor, taking two at a time…Okay, I do that for one floor and then walk up the rest of the way.  I don’t want to be all sweaty when I’m trying on this dress.  Also, I may be having a heart attack.

As soon as I’m inside my apartment I tear off my coat, top and bra, rip open the package and pull out the folded burgundy red dress.  I remember thinking that it would go well with my dark auburn hair, but I don’t remember the plunging V neck or the stupid zipper in the back.  Sighing, I remove my socks, shoes and jeans, already knowing that I’ll be returning this sleeveless number on my way to work tomorrow.

 

I have no idea how much time has passed since finally getting this dress on and staring at myself in the mirror.  It took about a month to zip it up in back because it’s so tight and then I decided I should at least see what it looked like with the right shoes, and then it seemed necessary to find the right lipstick before taking it off and packing it up again and now my intercom is buzzing and I can just tell from the way the guy presses the buzzer quickly, two times, that he’s impatient.  So, I don’t have time to change out of this dress.  I grab my keys and tell the buzzy intercom guy that I’ll be right down to let him in.

I remove my heels while taking the stairs and then slip them back on before reaching the front door.  Through the glass and decorative iron grate, I can see that the man is tall and probably not fifty-something.  When I open the door, I stare up at someone who is as surprised and confused to see me standing here as I am to see him.

It’s laugh-out-loud handsome stone-faced suit guy.  He is just as handsome and stone-faced as he was the first time I saw him.  I still feel the need to laugh when he gives me a quick, expressionless once-over.

You’re Bernadette Farmer?”

“Yes.  And you’re…”  I feel like I should ask for some sort of identification, but he’s so freakishly handsome and serious, I don’t know why he’d bother standing here staring at me if he weren’t Dolly’s nephew.  Unless, of course, he’s a serial killer who’s about to murder me.  If so, this would be a great outfit to die in.

“Matt McGovern.  Dolly Kemp is my aunt.”

He just stands there studying me, for what feels like a year.  An actual year, starting with winter as his coal dark eyes search my face, his jaw frozen in place; a late spring thaw as his liquid gaze trickles down the front of me; sudden blazing hot summer as it returns back up over my curves; and see how the leaves now turn from red to gold to brown and then die off instantly when he meets my stare again.  Unblinking.  Like a cowboy in one of those old westerns my dad and I used to make fun of, but I secretly fantasized about banging Gary Cooper in the back of a saloon.

When I was a child, I was trained to see a person or object as a collection of lines shadows, shapes and contours, but when I look at this guy it’s like I’m blinded by my physical response to the overall effect of his…everything.

He’s an assault to my retinas.

Or maybe he’s just an asshole.

Either way, I want to slap him.

Also, I may have just had a very quick tiny orgasm.

Like an orgasm zap.  Is that a thing?

Feeling the need to take control of this situation, I thrust my hand out to shake his, but he’s got a huge duffel bag hanging from one shoulder, a cross-body satchel, an overstuffed garment bag and guitar case in one hand, leash in the other.

“Hi,” he says.  He makes no effort to shake my hand, which is fine.  That’s when I finally look down and see the beautiful Boston Terrier, who is shifting around on her paws, wagging her whole body, licking her lips and snuffling and slobbering a little bit.  She is so much happier to see me than Matt McGovern is.  I don’t recall Dolly mentioning there would be a dog staying in her apartment, but the building is pet-friendly, and I have no complaints.

“And we meet again!  Hello, sweet thing!” I sing to the dog, as I start to bend forward, then think better of it as I realize I’m already showing about seventy percent more cleavage than I’m generally comfortable with.  “Uh.  Come on in.  I have the keys for you.”  I step aside, holding the door open for them.

His eyes stay locked on my exposed cleavage for about one full second, before they return to my face, which is probably very pink and feels like it’s contorted and having a mild spasm on one side.

“You’re Dolly’s neighbor?”

“And tenant, yes.”

He nods his head once, adjusts the handles of the duffel bag on his shoulder, then leads his dog across the threshold.  “I thought you’d be a lot older.  Like, seventy.”

“I get that a lot.  Sorry to disappoint you.”

He stops, once inside, to survey the foyer.  My new canine friend assesses the smells.

“Are you just visiting New York, or new in town?”

“Neither.”  He doesn’t offer any more information.

“Okay.  So this is the foyer.  Those are the mailboxes!”  I wave my hands like the candelabra in Beauty and the Beast and I’m about to belt out “Be Our Guest.”

“I won’t be here long enough to get mail.”

“Alrighty then.  Marco the super lives in unit 1A over there.”

He just eyes the stairs.

“No elevator, right?”

“Yeah, it’s a pre-war walk-up.  Built in 1920.”

“We’re on the fourth floor?”

“Yeah, you’ll be in apartment 4B, it’s three flights of stairs.  You get used to it.”

“After you,” he says.

“Do you want me to take…” I hold my hand out, offering to take the leash.

“I got it.”

I watch his lips, waiting for them to form the word “thanks,” but those lips are glued shut.  They honestly do look like they’re made for kissing, but I sort of just want to tell him to kiss my ass, throw Dolly’s key on the floor and run back to my apartment so I can get out of this damn dress.

I mean—New Yorkers have always had a bad reputation for being rude and impatient, but I rarely come across anyone here who’s actually this cold and impolite.  I’m not exactly Little Miss Sunshine, but I do pride myself on being a nice person who gives people the benefit of the doubt.  He’s probably just stressed about moving.  So, I will give this handsome asshole nephew of my landlady another chance.

“May I ask your dog’s name?”  Again.

“It’s Daisy.”

“Awww, Daisy!”  I coo.  “Such a sweet pretty name for such a sweet pretty girl!  How old is she?”

“Five.”

“Five!  Perfect!  Awww, that’s the perfect age! Awwww!”

Daisy looks up at me, spins around, hops and makes a weird little cartoon alien gopher sound that matches the pitch of my “aww.”

I’m in love.

Matt McGovern clears his throat while focusing on the second-floor landing like getting up there is the most important thing in the world right now, and wouldn’t it be just great if we could make that happen immediately?  He doesn’t jerk his head and whistle sharply to indicate that I should get going, but he may as well.

“Right.  Well.  I’m sure you’re eager to get to your new apartment.”

“It’s just temporary.”

“Yeah.  So you said.”  He waits for me to take the lead up the steps.  I don’t know if he’s being a gentleman or if he plans to stare at my ass, or both, but I have never been so self-conscious about how I move while walking up stairs.  It feels like my hips are swaying too much.  I don’t want him to think I’m trying to move seductively, but I sort of have to sway my hips to lift my knees in this tight dress.  Oh God—what if he thinks I changed into this dress for him?

“Um.  I was just trying on this dress that I ordered online when you buzzed me.  I kind of forgot you were coming when I saw the package, so I put it on.  I don’t usually dress like this at home.  I mean, I just got home from working all day, I don’t usually dress like this for work either.  Or ever, really.”  I’m babbling.  What is it about exceptionally handsome silent assholes that makes people babble?  I am usually so comfortable with silence.  “I don’t usually get much time to shop, so when there’s a sale online I go a little nuts.  I think I’ll have to return this, it’s not really me.”

“You should keep it,” he mumbles.

“What?”  I don’t turn around.  My hand stays on the rail and my eyes stay glued to my feet, so I don’t fall over.

“Keep it.  It’s a nice dress.  You look good.”  He somehow manages to say those words in such a way as to make it sound like he is in no way giving me a compliment.

“Oh.”  I don’t say “thank you,” because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to be thanked, and I’m also quite certain that we already hate each other.  This makes me laugh, for some reason.  Again.  It’s hilarious how much this person seems to offend me.  I have never felt this kind of hostility towards someone I’ve just met before.  Now I just want to keep talking as much as possible because it obviously annoys him.

“So you’re a lawyer?”

“Uh huh.”

“Dolly didn’t tell me much about you, other than your name and your esquireship.  Is that what it’s called?  An esquireship?”

“Nope.”

Two more delightful flights of stairs to go!

“Anyway, there are eight units in the building, two on each floor.  There’s a laundry room in the basement.  It’s a pretty quiet building, everyone’s nice but keeps to themselves.  Old people, working people, blah blah blah, you won’t be here long enough to get to know them anyway.  Mrs. Benson on the third floor has a poodle but that’s the only other dog in the building.  I occasionally hear him barking, but not much.”  I lower my voice before continuing:  “Mrs. Benson is so sweet, but she has these dinner parties that are a total disaster, you know, she tries to have the kind of Upper West Side intellectual dinner parties you see in movies, but her friends and family just get drunk and argue with each other.  So, if she corners you and invites you—well, you’ve been warned.”

“Thanks.”

“What else?  I watered Dolly’s plants on the weekend, so if you could water them on Sunday that would be great.  The water pressure in the showers here are pretty good, but never quite as hot as I’d like.”

One more floor!

“Dolly said you’ll probably be out and about most of the time.”

“She did?”

Gasp!  A response!

“She said you’re usually either at work or out on the town.”

“Usually, but I don’t have a dog-walker in this neighborhood yet, so I’ll have to come home more.”

“Oh right.  Where are you moving from?”

“SoHo.”

“Oh yeah?  I’m in SoHo a lot.  My boss is in Tribeca, so I’m downtown most of the time.  Do you work downtown?”

“Yes.”

“Really—that’s so interesting—tell me more!”

He doesn’t tell me more.  I didn’t expect him to.  I finally glance back at him, and see something that I don’t expect at all—he’s smiling.  He looks totally amused.

I am so startled by the complete transformation of his face, that I lose my balance.  I swipe at the air, blurt out about five swear words and feel myself falling backwards in slow-motion.  And then I’m leaning back into Matt McGovern’s strong sturdy body.  He has taken a step up and calmly wrapped his arm around my waist, one leg firmly set to the side of mine to keep me in place.  He’s still holding onto Daisy’s leash and seems to be in no danger of losing his balance himself.

“I got you,” he says, in a deep quiet voice that actually does make me feel safe.

Until I look up and see him staring down at me with those eyes that aren’t black as coal so much as they’re dark chocolate, but I’m the one who’s melting.

I grab onto the handrail and pull myself upright and steady.  “Thanks,” I say.  “I just lost my balance.”

“I know.”

“I mean, I’m usually pretty good at walking up stairs.”

“I hear you get used to it.”

“It’s just this stupid dress is so tight.  I’m definitely sending it back.”

“Shame.”

“Aaaand fourth floor—ladies’ lingerie!”  Oh God.  I’ve gone from being the kooky lady who falls backwards to the old guy who makes dumb jokes in elevators.  I must be having an allergic reaction to his pheromones.  That’s a thing, right?

I point to my front door and then his.  “Mine.  Yours.  I’ll get the lock for you.”  I remove Dolly’s spare key from my keychain and unlock the door to 4B, leaving the key in the door.  “Don’t forget to grab that when your hands are free.  The spare key for the exterior door is in that tray on the console table.”

“Thanks.  Appreciate it.”

“Sure thing.”  I start making my way over to 4A and the bottle of pinot noir that I will be polishing off momentarily.

“Do you usually talk this much?”

I turn back to him and the annoying smirk on his annoying gorgeous face.  “No.  Not at all.”

“Good.”

“Do you usually talk more than this?”

He places the duffel bag, garment bag and guitar case on the floor and shrugs.  “A bit.”

“Are you usually this big of a dick?”

“Nah, it’s kind of a new thing for me.”

“Well, I think you’ve found your calling.”

He picks Daisy up, pulls the key out of the lock and goes inside the apartment.

“Okay, enjoy your stay!  It was wonderful to meet you—Daisy!”

The door shuts and I’m alone in the hallway, shaking my head and reaching my hand behind me, because I can somehow still feel his chest pressed up against my back.

 

The most interesting thing about the past ten minutes—I didn’t think about my boss once.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO – Matt

 

 

Well, that was unexpected.

Wish I could say it’s a welcome surprise.  Not like it’s that much of a surprise that Aunt Dolly didn’t mention her neighbor’s an attractive young woman.  If she had, I probably would have found myself an Airbnb.  Dolly never liked Vanessa.  I always wondered why she kept talking about “Bernadette next door” and how I should meet her.  Why do I need to meet a seventy year-old artist nerd, I’d think.

I leave my stuff on the floor in the front hallway, hang my coat in the closet and loosen my tie.  I can’t wait to get out of this suit.  I only wore it because I had a lunch meeting with other lawyers today.  The rich tech and math geeks that I work with usually get uncomfortable when I wear a suit to the office, the general counsel that I report to hates it when I dress better than him, and I’ve gotten so used to my downtown style I think I just act different when I dress like a typical corporate lawyer.  Like a big dick, apparently.

Daisy’s hard at work, sniffing around.

“What do you think, girl?  This is where we’ll be staying for a few weeks, maybe.”

I’ve only been to visit my aunt here once, and I don’t recall getting the full tour.  It’s a good-sized space—bigger than our place.  I mean—bigger than the place I’ve been living in with Vanessa for the past three years and paying a hundred percent of the rent for, like a fucking idiot.  I follow Daisy down the hall to the living room.  Her nosey judge-y nature aside, Aunt Dolly has always had exceptional taste in almost everything.

The art and furniture in this room is stunning without being intimidating.  Sort of like Vanessa.  Which is why I never understood how Dolly could be so against my relationship with her.  Even now.

Fuck.

I pull my phone out of my back pocket to check my messages.  Still nothing from Vanessa.  At least I went a good fifteen minutes without checking my texts or her social media accounts.  Guess all it took for me to turn into an obsessed teenage girl was getting dumped by the woman of my dreams.  No big deal.

It’s only been four days since I’ve seen her.

Four days since I hired guys to move the few large objects that I consider to be mine into a small storage unit.

Two months of her not acting like herself.

Two months since she let me touch her in bed.

One month of her insisting that “it just isn’t working for us anymore.”

One month of me asking if there’s someone else and her saying: “There isn’t an ‘us’ anymore.  I just need space.  I just need to find myself again.”

She just needs time and space to find herself again and I’ll give it to her.

She’ll call.

I haven’t failed.

It’s not over yet.

“Right, Daisy?”

Daisy ignores me.  She’s too busy investigating smells in my aunt’s bedroom.

“Let’s stay out of this room,” I tell her, as I peek inside.  It’s basically a big tasteful boudoir, pretty much what I’d expect of my mom’s long-divorced, sexed-up older sister.  “Come on, Daisy.  Out.  Let’s find our room.”

Our room is the guest room, on the opposite side of the hallway.  It’s a pretty small room, painted bright white and just wide enough for a queen size bed and a bedside table.  But it’s the painting on the wall above the bed that makes the room magnificent.  A heavy square canvas about four feet wide all around.  Abstract, muted blues, white and gold blending into each other, just a hint of seascape.  It kind of looks like marble, but there’s a warmth to it.  It seems alive and changeable.  I have no idea why I like it so much, I just do.

I check the signature in the lower right corner.  B. Farmer.  Bernadette Farmer?

What do you know.

The less-than-seventy-year-old artist nerd has got talent.

A bod and talent and some kind of fragrance that I’ve never encountered before and more than one screw loose, so far as I can tell.

I can’t help but wonder what she’s doing on the other side of the wall right now.  Taking off that dress?  Scheming to steal my dog?  Both, probably.

Daisy circles my legs and barks her approval of our new digs.

“Yeah.  It’ll do for now.”  I pick her up and let her drench my face with saliva.  Honestly don’t know what I would have done the past few days without her.  “I’m gonna have to find you a dog daycare, huh girl?”

As soon as I let my parents know that we’d moved out of our apartment, I got an email from Aunt Dolly insisting that I stay at her place.  That’s how it goes in my family—I tell my parents there’s an issue, they say they’re sorry to hear it and ask if there’s anything they can do.  I say ‘no’ and then we stop talking about it, my mom emails her sister and then Dolly offers up her opinions and solutions for everything.  It’s efficient and effective.

I figured it would be nice for Daisy to be near two big parks for a change, but I’m not going to be able to come home at lunch to walk her like I could sometimes do when we lived downtown.  If we don’t move back in with Vanessa, this could be a good opportunity to find a ground floor unit with some backyard space.

But it’s too soon to think about that just yet.

I go back out to the hallway to bring my stuff to the guest room.  I could text Vanessa to ask if there was anything else of mine that I missed, but I’m determined to get her to make the first move.  After three nights in a hotel with my dog, the least she could do is text to ask where we’ve been staying.

I can hear Bernadette’s front door shut and realize a few seconds later that I’ve been holding my breath.  She doesn’t knock on my door.  Fortunately.  Don’t know why she would.  Other than to baby-talk at my dog again.

Suddenly, a yappy dog starts barking downstairs, and Daisy joins in on the fun.  Must be Mrs. Benson’s poodle.  Daisy’s scampering back and forth along the front door, her flat nose to the ground.  Poodle must be barking at the door directly downstairs.

“Hey!  Shush.”  I raise my finger to her and give her my best alpha voice.  “Daisy, quiet.”  I pick her up and take her to the guest room, shut the door.  She quiets down immediately, and I am one proud dog daddy.  The poodle downstairs, though, keeps barking.

When I’m back in the front hallway to pick up my bags, I hear a faint knock.  It’s so faint and hesitant that I can’t quite tell if it’s on my door or Bernadette’s.  Three louder knocks confirm that someone’s outside my door, and I have to wipe the grin off my face before opening it.

“Hi,” says Bernadette Farmer.  She’s still wearing that dress, her arms hiding behind her back, one foot crossed behind the other, looking up at me sheepishly.  She wrinkles her nose.  “Sorry about the poodle.”

“Should have known you had something to do with that.”

“I just knocked on Mrs. Benson’s door to see if she could help me with something, but she’s not at home.”

“Fascinating.  Thanks for the update.”  Lavender and something.  That’s what she smells like.  Lavender and vanilla and something else…Trouble.  That’s definitely what I’m sensing.  “Good night, then,” I say, as I slowly swing the door shut.

She sticks her leg inside and the rest of her quickly follows.  She is quick on her toes, despite her inability to climb three flights of stairs without falling backwards.  Not that I minded.

“I didn’t want to bother you,” she says, “but I need help…”  She sighs and twists her lips to the side.

“Are you going to make me guess what you need help with?”

“I need help unzipping this dress in the back.”

Now that she’s standing closer, I can also smell wine on her breath.  Not something I noticed when she gave me the key.  Guess I drove her to drink between then and now.  I could use one myself.  Hell, I needed one as soon as she ran towards me on the sidewalk and dropped to her knees.  Okay, so she was running to my dog—but it will take a while for me to forget that image.

“If I’m going to return it, I don’t want to risk tearing it, and I can’t quite reach the doodad for some reason.  This thing is so tight, I’m afraid the sides will rip if I…”

“Turn around,” I say.  I honestly didn’t mean for it to sound like a sexual command, but for some reason it came out that way.

She blinks her big hazel eyes, bites her lower lip, then slowly turns her back to me.  In one swift motion, she sweeps her long hair out of the way, over one shoulder, then stands straight as a rod, her arms tight at her sides.

This dress.

The front is quite enchanting, or maybe it’s her cleavage that had me in danger of being under a spell.

But the back of the dress, even though it covers a lot more of her, is even more enticing.

It’s a long zipper, from the base of the back of her neck all the way down to her waist.  There are still a few hairs in the way, so I brush them aside, unable to avoid touching the bare skin of her long neck.  I notice her shiver.  She wraps her arms around herself, as if she shivered because she was cold.  I’d better get this over with quick.

I unzip her, not all the way to her waist.  She can do the rest herself, I imagine.  I can’t help but notice that there’s no bra under there.  Which is interesting.

Her crossed arms slide up the front of her body, adeptly keeping her private parts in place and out of sight.  She glances over her shoulder without turning around.  “Thank you.  Sorry to bother you.”

“No problem.”

She uses her foot to open the door.  “Daisy settling in okay?”

“So far so good.”

I want to talk to her about her painting, but it doesn’t feel like this is the right moment, after I’ve basically just undressed her.

“Great.  Well…”

“Hey, uh…”

“Yeah?”  She shifts her body around so that she’s half-facing me, checking to make sure she isn’t showing any side-boob, then decides to face me full-on.

“I was just going to ask if there’s a good place that delivers around here.”

“Well yeah, there are tons of good places!  Actually, your aunt has a great list up in the kitchen by her phone, we pretty much order from the same restaurants.  She has a landline.  You don’t have to answer it, it goes straight to voicemail.  Oh, and I forgot to tell you the thermostat is set pretty low, so you should turn it up at night.  It makes a little noise when it starts up, that’s normal.”

“Right.  I am familiar with heating system noises.  But thanks.”

“Okay then.”  She furrows her brow at me, and I’m not sure why it feels so necessary to be such a dick to her, it just does.  “Good night, Daisy!” she calls out, looking around for her.

Daisy barks a happy “yarf” greeting from inside the guest room.  She rarely barks, so it’s weird that she’d respond to a new person like that.

“You know where to find me if you want to hang out with a nice human!” the new person yells out again.

“I’m nice to my dog,” I growl.

“Lucky her,” she snaps, as she spins back towards the door.

“Good night, Miss Farmer.”

“Good night, your esquireship.”

And then she’s gone.

 

I get Daisy’s feeding station all set up in the kitchen and then check out Dolly’s impressively detailed food delivery list.  I use an app, of course, so I don’t have to actually speak to a human being on the phone, but I’m too hungry to do all the research necessary to make an informed decision.  According to the list, the fastest delivery after 7:30 pm is from a bar & grill, so I find them on my app and order a burger and fries and guacamole and chips, because it has been that kind of week.

It’s been years since I’ve hung out or eaten on the Upper West Side.  The last time my parents came to visit, we all met up with Dolly, who insisted on eating at a bistro just south of Columbia university.  It was actually really good, but I would never make the trip out there if I didn’t have to.  And I guess Vanessa and I went to a fundraiser at the Museum of Natural History a couple of years ago…

Vanessa.

Fuck.

My phone buzzes with a message and what do you know?  It’s from Vanessa.  Three little words.  How are you?

Good question.

I’m kind of numb.

I’m in a weird place, emotionally, but I’d never admit that to another human being.

I’m not clear if this is really a break-up or just a break, and I’m afraid to even talk to attractive women who aren’t you yet, because I don’t need any of that Ross and Rachel “We were on a break!” drama.

I miss you, but I’m afraid I might just be missing some glorified fantasy of you.

I miss us, but I can’t remember the last time it felt like we were the Us that I loved.

I don’t want to hate you, but I’m not thrilled by the way you’ve handled this situation so far.

I’m wondering how it’s possible that you haven’t even asked about Daisy, even though you’ve always been kind of jealous of her and I used to think it was cute but now I’m afraid it’s because you might actually be a bit of a bitch.

If you really did break up with me because of another guy I wish you’d just fucking tell me.  It would kill me, but at least I’d know.

But what I type is:  Fine.  You?

Hit send.

Maybe if I’d already changed out of my suit I would have been able to respond with a few more words, in the way that I know she’d appreciate, but fuck it.  After four days of radio silence, a lot of guys wouldn’t respond at all.  The animated dots tell me that she’s typing a fairly long response.  I stare at the phone and wonder if, given her response, Daisy and I should go back to SoHo tonight.  I guess I’ll wait until the food’s been delivered.  Gotta take care of me first, right Oprah?

Then the animated dots disappear.  No response comes.  I look down at Daisy, who is sitting by her water bowl staring up at me, like: “Oh, buddy.  Just let her go already.  I’m the only girl you need.  You’ll see.”

And not a minute later, I find out from Facebook that my relationship status has changed.

Apparently, I’m officially single again.

 

 

 

 

 

Nerd News

I have just been alerted that the audiobook of SEXY NERD has been released on Audible!  What?!  Dreamscape Media produced and published this baby and I’m so flippin’ excited about it.  I’ve only heard the beginning so far because I’m in the last 24 hours of working on my new release, but Mackenzie Cartwright’s reading of Olivia is perfect and hilarious!  Both narrators are fantastic actors, I’m so honored that they and Dreamscape got involved with this, and I seriously can’t wait to devote myself to experiencing the whole thing.

If your ears are ready to nerd out to some funny sexy sweet romance narration, give it a listen HERE.  If you’ve never tried an audible membership before, you can listen to it with your free trial!  Or–if you subscribe to Scribd (it’s Netflix for ebooks and audiobooks!) SEXY NERD is included with your membership!

Here’s a picture of Johnny listening to it (so your eyeballs don’t get jealous of your ear holes).  You’re welcome.  Look how much he’s enjoying it.

This is the perfect playlist for my run

P.S.  Also, WHAT is Sexy Nerd doing in the Top 100 Contemporary Romance New Releases with all those big fancy authored books?!

top 100 new releases