Natural History #3
by Erin Mallon
My name is Louise and I’m a serial-monogamist marine biologist.
Try saying that five times fast.
Fresh out of an awful relationship and tired of always doing the right thing, this girl is finally saying “screw it” and having herself a meaningless fling.
Here’s the thing about flings though: they only work if you keep feelings out of the equation.
Well, that won’t be a problem for a sensible scientist like me… that is, until a one night stand with a hot single dad rocks my world and blows my plans completely out of the water.
If I’ve learned anything from the ocean world, it’s that those with the hardest shells have the most to fear. And something tells me this guy is going to crack mine wide the hell open.
Fall in love today!
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Tonight I‘m not “smart girl” Louise who weighs every decision over and over until her brain is ready to burst. Tonight, I’m not “responsible girl” Louise who everyone counts on to do the right thing.
Tonight, I am Lou: the girl who does whatever—or whoever—she wants.
James breaks from the kiss and runs the backs of his fingers down my cold cheek. “You’re really not gonna tell me your name?” His whisper sends delicious chills across my skin.
“No, I am not,” I whisper back.
“Alright.” His deep voice vibrates as he rains kisses down the column of my throat. “I guess I’ll keep calling you Cold Brew then.”
“I don’t like that.”
“Oh no?” He tears his lips away.
“Resume what you were doing, please!” I’m giving him mixed signals. “What I meant was I like that.” I point at his mouth, then jut my neck out in his direction. “The uh, that thing you were doing just now to my neck? That was good. But I’d prefer it if you didn’t call me… Cold Brew.”
He dives into my neck again, and I think we’re back on track until he murmurs this madness between kisses, “That’s too bad. A hot thing like you slowly pouring over me and effortlessly spiking the temps in my refrigerator? A strong, concentrated woman like you who won’t be diluted with water for other people’s comfort? A delectable drink of a girl like you who isn’t afraid of a coarse grind when everyone else is pummeling themselves into soft, palatable powders to please the masses? Cold Brew is the perfect nickname for you.”
What the hell is he talking about?
So he’s weird.
After tonight, I’ll never see him again.
Looks like I need to take matters into my own hands.
I cup the bulge in his jeans and feel him respond.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
“You said you don’t mind the cold,” he breathes. “Are you into winter sports then? Skiing, snowshoeing, mountain climbing?”
“Not into winter sports, no.” I desperately work to undo his pants.
“So what are you into?” he rumbles as he helps me with the button.
“You mean sex-wise? The regular stuff. The regular stuff will do.”
He laughs. “Good to know. But I meant what are you into in life? Like hobbies and stuff.”
Alright. Now buddy boy here is starting to test my patience.
“Not really a hobby person. My hobby is my work, and my work is my hobby.”
Score! Jeans are officially down. He kicks them, and they land on top of an icy growler, almost like he choreographed it. You would think a woman getting him pants-less would be enough to curb this guy’s relentless inquisition, but no.
“What’s your work then?”
“Marine biology,” I huff. “Can we—?”
“Oh wow, the ocean and I are like this.” He crosses his index and middle finger in that universal sign of closeness. “I’m a swimmer! A diver too!”
“Cool, cool,” I say and try to get his focus back to the physical. The fact that we have both been in a body of water at some point in our lives does not bind us together in any meaningful way.
“I’ve been told I have the lung capacity of a whale.” He pats his chest. “Yeah, these guys certainly served me well when I free dived in Sri Lanka. Wait. Is it ‘dived’ or ‘dove’? ‘Dived’ always sounds wrong to my ear, but I think that’s actually correct. Doesn’t matter. Point is, I love extreme sports! And speaking of marine biology, get this, once a week I volunteer at—”
“Hey, James!” I shout.
He stops speaking.
I soften my voice to a husky tone. “It is James, right?” “James, yeah,” he confirms with a dazzling smile.
I reach into his pants and find him more than ready for me, so I start to stroke.
“You’re fucking gorgeous, James,” I whisper in his ear and shiver when his stubbled cheek brushes against mine. His olive skin smells like ivory soap and shaving cream.
He tightens his strong arms around my back and pulls me closer. I continue my ministrations below.
“Thank you,” he says. “You’re also—”
“And you seem like a nice guy.” I interrupt.
He smiles. “I appreciate that. You seem like a—”
“But I’m not looking for a nice guy.”
“No. I’m not looking for any guy.”
He looks down and laughs good-naturedly. “So why are we—?”
“I’m using you.”
His laughter stops.
He removes my hand.
His dark eyes land on mine.
Whoa. When he looks at me like that, I feel completely naked. In fairness, I am practically naked right now, but I mean more in the emotional sense, in the oh-my-God-he-can-see-deep-into-my-soul sense.
He stays completely still and silent, giving no clue as to what he’s thinking or what he’s going to do next.
“I’m not interested in anything beyond what we do here tonight, okay, James?” I continue. “Listen up because this is very important.”
His non-response seems to say, “Go on.”
“After tonight? If you ever run into me again, we pretend this never happened.”
I repeat myself. “We pretend this never happened.”
Geez. For a guy who couldn’t shut up a few minutes ago, he’s now fully committed to his silence.
“Got it?” I say with more force than necessary, but suddenly, I can’t get myself to look directly at him.
He closes the distance between us, climbs his fingers into my hair, and gives it a tug, gently forcing me to look up at him.
Tingles cascade down my spine.
He tilts his head slightly.
His lips are barely an inch from mine.
His warm breath caresses my skin.
“Then I guess we’ll need to make tonight count, won’t we?”
Now I’m the silent one.
All I can do is nod.
“Let’s do this, Cold Brew.”
That first meeting between James and Louise really got me – I understood where she was coming from but my heart went out to him and did so over & over again. He’s an honestly good guy and deserves someone who can appreciate him. And while Louise is obviously struggling with a few things, fate keeps throwing them together and it doesn’t take long for James to wiggle his way in making her think that maybe she can be that person.
While I would have liked to have seen more about Louise’s past relationships to truly understand her reluctance to get involved with James, the predicaments they find themselves in along the way more than made up for it. I was amused and engaged and always looking forward to “just one more chapter” so that’s a definite win for me.
This is my first book by Mallon but it won’t be my last. Sharkbait was funny and entertaining, with enjoyable characters and a satisfying HEA.
(Part of a series but can be read as a stand alone.)
Erin Mallon’s debut romantic comedy novel, Flirtasaurus, releases in July 2020. She is an award-winning narrator of over 450 books and an accomplished playwright and producer in New York City. She has written over 40 plays, which have been produced Off-Broadway and all over the country, including These Walls Can Talk, a raucous theatrical love letter to the romance audiobook community. She lives in a little yellow house on the outskirts of NYC with her husband and Three J’s.
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