reality over fantasy in this friends-to-lovers romance.
Jacqueline: As an adult woman—and the vice president of a marketing firm—I shouldn’t be waiting by my office window to ogle the mystery man who jogs by every morning at 11:45. Sure, he’s a
gorgeous, perfect specimen of the human race, but I can’t bring myself to hit
on a total stranger. However, my best friend–slash–colleague Vince Carson
thinks I should do more than talk to the guy. In fact, he’s borderline
obsessive about “getting me laid.” (His words.) But the more time we spend
together, the more it’s clear: The one I’m falling for is Vince.
Vince: Jackie Butler’s got it bad for some pompous, over-pumped A-hole who struts his stuff
past her window. That doesn’t bother me. I know she deserves nice things. What does bother
me is that she friend-zoned me big-time last year, so I can’t ask her out
myself. But what if I set her up with Mr. Steroids? Then, when he breaks her
heart, I can swoop in and save her like the nice guy I am. Everything’s going
according to plan . . . until we share a ridiculously epic kiss. And suddenly
anything is possible.
Admittedly, giving Jackie advice on how to get a guy to sleep with her is not my best plan.
“Okay, Butler,” I say, fully focused on Jackie now. “Let’s hear it.”
She stops scribbling on the napkin in front of her, and I bite back a smile. Since I’ve given her a few tips, she has been frantically taking notes. She’s a planner. I’ve always been more go-with-the-flow.
She reads over her notes, squinting in concentration, her lips moving as she reads. Then those golden brown eyes hit mine and she gives me a resolute nod. “I’m ready.”
Her tongue swipes pink lips, making them glisten and making me regret again the route I’ve chosen to take with her. Part of me concedes I could call it off and tell her what I really want, but I know her. She’s barely convinced she can ask a dude out, so her best guy friend throwing a date on the table would be an automatic no.
“Let’s see it,” I say, kind of excited to see what she’s come up with.
She takes the empty seat next to me and leans heavily on an elbow, fist under her chin. “Hi. I’m Jackie.”
I blink several times in quick succession at the transformation from my scatterbrained best friend to a gorgeous woman giving me bedroom eyes. She’s pretending. I’d do well to remember that.
“Vince,” I introduce.
She straightens in her chair and frowns. “Shouldn’t you pretend to be J.T.?”
“I’m not that good of an actor, Butler.” And I’m not pretending to be that jerk.
“Fine.” She rolls her eyes, then slides into seduction mode so swiftly I find myself impressed. She’s better at this than she’s let on. “Do you have a last name, Vince?”
“You know my last name, Butler.”
“Call me Jackie.” She gives me a slow bat of her lashes.
My smile is real, and when I lean closer, I don’t even do it on purpose. “Well, Jackie. Last names are irrelevant, don’t you think?”
Her chest lifts as she takes a breath, and I’m not shy about checking out her cleavage, exposed down the V of her shirt. Normally I wouldn’t look so obviously, but this is a game. Our game.
“That’s very assuming of you, Mr. No Last Name.” She quirks her lips in that way she has, and my smile broadens. “But let’s say”—she moves her half-full wineglass onto the cocktail napkin she wrote on—“for argument’s sake, you’re right, that last names are irrelevant.” She runs the tip of her finger along the rim of her glass like she’s doing it absentmindedly.
She’s doing it on purpose. I can tell.
Damn. She’s good.
“We should have a real date before making plans, don’t you think?” she asks, her eyes on mine.
“Yes.” Hell, yes. “Dinner, at the very least.”
“And then if dinner works out . . .” She lets that statement hang and my heart beats triple time as I wait for what comes next. “We can talk about dessert.”
“We can talk about dessert now.” I’m transfixed on her and the idea of exploring our new dynamic.
“Ohmygod.” Her eyes go wide. “Would he say that?”
I give myself a mental shake when I realize I was caught up in the conversation. It was one I wanted to be real, and she was thinking about Running Man.
“Probably,” I say, the spell broken. “Guys are assholes. Like I said.”
I lean back in my chair, find a TV, and stare blankly.
“But if that’s the case, I’ll have to have sex with him sooner than I planned.”
“No, you don’t, Jackie.” I hear the anger in my own voice. Because . . . “You don’t have to have sex with anyone. You could go to drinks, dinner, and dessert with this guy—you could end the night with tonsil hockey on your front porch or his, and you can still say no.”
She purses her lips. I hate the idea of her kissing that jackass. No matter what kind of person he is—even if he’s a volunteer firefighter who raises orphaned squirrels so they can perform at the local senior center—I hate him.
“Tell me you know that,” I say.
“I know I don’t have to. That’s not what I meant. I don’t want to chicken out. I want to get the first one over with. Like you did.”
I tip my head back and groan aloud. I can’t help it. I’m the example for her return to the dating world? Much as I don’t want to admit it, fair is fair. I salved my wounds with girls like Polly, so why can’t Jackie do it with J.T.? Jackie’s my friend and I care about her. I can’t make a double standard now.
“Besides, he’s really hot,” she says, her face going glowy.
rescue dog. She holds a degree in graphic design currently gathering dust in an
impressive frame. When she’s not writing super-sexy heroes, she can be found
cooking, drawing, drinking coffee (okay, wine), and eating potato chips. She
firmly believes God gifts us with talents for a purpose, and with His help, you
can create the life you want.