AFTER THE KISS: Sex, Love & Stiletto Series by Lauren Layne
A Loveswept Contemporary Romance
On sale August 26, 2013
In the first book of a delightful new series from Lauren Layne, the star columnist of Stiletto magazine will do anything for a story. Anything . . . except fall in love. Julie Greene loves flings. Loves steamy first dates, sizzling first kisses, and every now and then, that first sexy romp between the sheets. Comfy pants, sleepy Sundays, movie nights on the couch? Shudder. But when Julie gets assigned the hardest story of her career—a first-person account of that magical shift between dating and “I do”—she’ll need a man brave enough to give a total commitment-phobe a chance at more.
Normally, Mitchell Forbes would be exactly that man. A devastatingly hot workaholic who tends to stay in relationships for far too long, he should be the perfect subject for Julie’s “research.” But what Julie doesn’t know is that Mitchell is looking to cut loose for once in his life. And the leggy journalist notorious for avoiding love is exactly the type of no-strings fling he’s looking for. In other words, Mitchell is the polar opposite of what Julie needs right now. And, at the same time, he’s exactly what she wants.
Today’s we get a sneak peek at AFTER THE KISS, the first book in the Sex, Love and Stiletto series by Lauren Layne. Lauren graduated from Santa Clara University with B.S. in Political Science that she has yet to put to good use. After dabbling in an e-commerce career, she decided to quit talking about writing and actually do it.
A Seattle-native, Lauren’s also tried on the Bay Area, Orange County and Manhattan for size. She’s currently writing from the Pacific Northwest, but is always looking for the next place to call home. Texas? The South? New England? Suggestions welcome.
A taste of AFTER THE KISS…
A bored-looking bartender pushed glasses across the makeshift bar, and Mitchell resisted the urge to ask if he could get something stronger than watered-down whisky. As if reading Mitchell’s thought, the bartender dumped another scoopful of half-melted ice into the glasses.
Perfect. Just perfect.
Out of habit, Mitchell fished a five out of his wallet for a tip, then grabbed the two glasses. He handed one to his ever-jovial colleague, Colin.
Halfheartedly Mitchell clinked his glass against Colin’s. “Here’s to fucking fundraisers. And thanks, by the way. I owe you one for rescuing me.”
Colin Trainor took a sip of whisky and nodded in acknowledgment. “Just promise you’ll do the same for me someday. I’d rather listen to my aunt Yvonne discuss proper enema technique than get caught in a conversation with Allen Carsons. That man’s one Los Angeles bush away from becoming a stalkerish paparazzo. What did he want with you, anyway?”
Mitchell shrugged. “About what you’d expect. Details on my breakup with Evelyn.”
“Guess that’s what you get for dumping the daughter of our country’s most popular senator.”
“I didn’t dump Evelyn. We just went our separate ways.”
“Irreconcilable differences and all that?” Colin asked.
Extreme boredom, actually. “Something like that,” he replied noncommittally. Mitchell wasn’t often inclined to spill his guts. Not to lowbrow reporters, and not to gossip-prone colleagues. Not that Colin was a bad guy. They were even friends of a sort. But the occasional after-work beer didn’t exactly warrant personal confidences. At least not in Mitchell’s book.
Colin drained his whisky and frowned at the glass. “What was in this, whisky essence? And remind me again what we’re doing here. I don’t get art on the best of days, but this weird modern shit is over my head. I’ve taken dumps more attractive than some of these displays.”
Silently Mitchell agreed. He enjoyed museums. Even art museums. But MoMA in all of its sleek, modern splendor was his least favorite museum in the city. He’d take the quiet dignity of the Frick Collection on Fifty-Ninth Street over the flash of MoMA any day.
“At least this should fulfill our quota for the year,” Mitchell said.
Robert Newman, CEO of Newman and Chris, the firm where Colin and Mitchell were senior partners, insisted that the company have representation at all charitable functions for which Newman and Chris was a sponsor. Mitchell had chosen tonight as his contribution only because the Yankees had a travel day. And because he could get behind educational charity more than some of the fluffier causes Robert supported.
“At least there’s some decent tail here,” Colin said, his eyes on the backside of a woman who couldn’t possibly have graduated from college yet.
“Tail? What is this, a dockside brothel?”
“Spoken like a man who’s been in a relationship since his balls dropped.”
“Hyperbole doesn’t suit you.”
Colin signaled the bartender for two more drinks. “Seriously, man, when was the last time you dated a girl just for the fun of it?”
“Evelyn and I had fun.” Sort of.
Colin snorted. “Yeah, I’m sure sipping Dom on her father’s yacht with your sweater tied around your shoulders was a real hoot.”
Just two months ago Colin’s barbs would have rolled off Mitchell. He refused to be ashamed for conducting himself with dignity. He hadn’t indulged in drunken one-night stands in college, and he wasn’t about to start now, at age thirty-four.
But two months ago Mitchell had been secure in the knowledge that his future was figured out. He’d propose to Evelyn, have a respectable-length engagement, get married at the Plaza, and start a family within a year of exchanging vows.
He’d gotten as far as the jewelry store. He’d even carried the two-carat princess-cut engagement ring in his pocket for two weeks.
And then he’d ended it. On a whim. Perhaps the first whim of his adult life. Evelyn hadn’t seen it coming. And the hell of it was, neither had Mitchell.
One minute he was trying to decide whether to play it old-school and kneel or stay sitting and save himself the dry-cleaning bill for dirty slacks. The next minute he was sitting alone at the table, having just told Evelyn that she deserved something better than a husband who’d spend his life going through the motions instead of cherishing her.
Cherishing her. He winced as the thought went through his mind. Good God. Maybe he should just chuck the New York Stock Exchange and go write romance novels.
Mitchell heard his name and realized that Colin was still babbling at him.
“Tell me, honestly, man, have you ever had a fling?” Colin asked. “A one-night stand? Anything?”
Mitchell scowled and checked his watch. “What’s with the interrogation about my love life? Last time I checked, I wasn’t paying you for therapy.”
“Maybe you should. You need to get laid.”
“Well, I’ll let you know when I meet a suitable woman.”
Colin shook his head. “See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. You analyze every woman as a candidate for the position of Mrs. Forbes. Have you ever touched a woman without first checking her pedigree?”
“Yes. I actually prefer a more spontaneous approach to relationships,” Mitchell lied baldly. “The chemistry has to be there, absolutely.”
Not. Chemistry was for chumps. Chemistry was what led to waking up in someone else’s dirty sheets, hep C, and eventual absence of a prenup.
But the fact that a buffoon as dense and clueless as Colin could read him like a book was galling. Being predictable was fine. Being predictably boring was not.
However, Colin was proving to be more aware than Mitchell gave him credit for. “Dude, you don’t give a crap about chemistry. If you did, you wouldn’t have dated Evelyn for two and a half years. The moldy onion in my refrigerator has more personality than that broad.”
Mitchell took a drink. “Evelyn’s a lovely woman. She’d make an excellent wife.” For someone.
Colin pounced. “That. That is why you’re so grumpy all the time. You approach women the way you do a new suit.”
“That’s ridiculous.” I have plenty of suits. “And what exactly are you getting at? One-night stands are for frat boys and desperate losers.”
“Who said anything about a one-night stand? Not that one would kill you, but I’m talking about a fling. Hook up with a woman who’s fun. Go on a few dates, have hot sex, and then part ways before you drag her home to meet your mother.”
Mitchell tried to wrap his brain around Colin’s suggestion and failed. What was the point of doing all that if it wasn’t going anywhere? If he wanted to start a family before his hair went completely gray, he didn’t have time for flings.
But he didn’t like the way Colin was shaking his head in dismay. As though he thought Mitchell couldn’t do it.
“I’ve had plenty of flings,” Mitchell lied again.
“Yeah, I can tell by the way the word just rolls off your tongue and you look ready to vomit.”
Mitchell’s strained patience snapped. This was a waste of time. “I’m heading out,” he said, setting his drink on the bar with a clink. “Go find someone else to annoy.”
He was starting to walk away when Colin’s laughing voice called after him, “Five hundred bucks says you can’t do it.”
Mitchell slowed and turned back toward Colin. “Can’t do what?”
“Can’t start seeing a woman without getting halfway to the altar. Can’t use a woman for sex and companionship and then set her free before you start talking about babies and moving across the river to Jersey.”
“You want me to make a bet that I can use a woman? Do I look like I left my morals at the door?”
Colin snagged a mushroom crostini off a passing tray and munched thoughtfully.
“It’s like I thought. You can’t do it.”
“I can. I just don’t need your five hundred bucks.”
“Fine, let’s sweeten the pot. Half of next year’s season tickets.”
Of course, he already had season tickets to the Yankees. Not that he ever got to use them.
But his seats on the first-base line weren’t like the seats Colin had. At work Colin might be as useful as a third nipple, but his cousin was tied up somehow with Yankee business. As a result, Colin always had access to tickets for seats that you couldn’t buy your way into.
It was appallingly tempting to take the bet. Do not do this, Forbes. Do not sacrifice your dignity for the sake of a baseball team.
And yet Mitchell stood frozen. Because the truth was, he wanted more than the tickets. Mitchell needed to know that Colin was wrong. That he was capable of a spontaneous fling.
That he wasn’t turning into his father, stuck on a one-way street toward a McMansion in a gated community in the Connecticut suburbs just because it was expected.
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