I haven’t been eating my own, more than entertained watching her. “So you said no boyfriend, right? You’re not even casually dating anyone?”
She stops with her spoon halfway to her mouth. “What?”
Shit. That’s not a random question I can just throw out there without having a reason for asking it. I flounder for a second, trying to come up with something that makes sense. “Or friends you plan to entertain while you’re here?”
“Oh, uh . . . just Amie I guess. And of course the two hundred people I invited to the kegger tomorrow.” She wags her eyebrows.
I tap my spoon on the edge of my dessert and give her a rueful smile in return. “Right. Can’t forget that.”
She regards me speculatively. “Would you prefer it if I don’t have guests?”
If they’re male, yes, I definitely prefer she doesn’t have them here, but I’m not about to say that aloud. That makes me sounds like a territorial asshole, which I have no right to be. “No, no. It’s fine, but I’d prefer you don’t give out the entry code.”
“Of course not. I won’t leave any strays unattended.” Her grin is impish. “Is there anyone who has the code who might pop by, other than the cleaning lady?”
“Just my brothers and immediate family, but they don’t have a reason to stop by if I’m not here.”
She taps the arm of her chair and regards me for a few seconds. “So . . . that woman you were with at the engagement party, I’m guessing she’s not your girlfriend or anything? I don’t need to worry about her freaking out because another woman is living in your condo?”
“You mean Brittany? Uh, no. She’s definitely not my girlfriend.”
“Good to know.”
“With all the travel a girlfriend hasn’t been all that practical.”
She cocks her head. “What do you mean?”
“When I played professional rugby I was on the road a lot. And now it seems like I’ll be on the road more than I anticipated. At least for a while. It makes it difficult to get involved.”
“Ah. I understand. Theater is challenging like that, too. The hours are odd since performances are typically in the evenings and on the weekends. Unless you’re dating another actor it’s not very practical.” She dips her spoon in her dessert again. “So that Brittany chick was just meant to be a hookup then?”
I’m sure Brittany would’ve been good with the hookup part, but I don’t mention that to Ruby. “I went out with her as a favor.”
She grimaces. “Wow, that’s some favor.”
“She’s not that bad.” I’m not sure why I’m defending Brittany, other than it seems to irritate Ruby.
“She called me a slut!”
“Well, you were kissing me, so . . .” I have to bite back the smile at her incredulity.
She points her spoon at me, her annoyance clear. “You kissed me.”
I shift an arm behind my head. “You didn’t put up much of a fight.”
Her mouth drops open and snaps shut just as quickly. It’s same reaction I got out of her the other day when I brought the same thing up at the restaurant.
Her eyes narrow into slits. I bet she’s a real firecracker when she’s angry. I sort of want to push her buttons just to see what happens when she goes off. I bet angry fucking with her would be incredible. I wonder if she’s a hair puller, or a biter, or a scratcher. Wow. That got dirty fast.
She narrows her eyes. “We are not talking about this.”
“About you kissing me back? I wasn’t going to bring it up, but now that we’re on the subject—”
“Consider it un-brought-up.” Her cheeks flush.
I can’t help myself. I keep pushing. “No way. You as much as admitted that you kissed me back, right there. You opened the door. I’m walking through it. Why would you kiss a complete stranger?”
“I said I wasn’t talking about this.” The pink in her cheeks rises to the tips of her ears.
This is way too much fun. She’s got one hell of an angry glare going on. “I’m leaving you in my house for more than a month, alone. I need to be certain you have sound judgment.”
“I’ll have you know my judgment is usually very sound. However, when an incredibly attractive man surprises me with his tongue in my mouth, the most logical response is to kiss back.”
“You think I’m incredibly attractive?”
She rolls her eyes. “Of course that’s the part you choose to focus on. You see yourself in the mirror every day. You can’t tell me you don’t know you’re nice to look at. I’m just stating a fact.”
My ego inflates a little at this. I know I’m not unattractive, but my nose has been broken a couple of times, and there’s a bump I can’t ever get rid of without plastic surgery. I’ve had knee surgery and I’m not great under anesthetic, so I’d prefer to avoid that scenario. I also have a few small facial scars from playing rugby all those years, which, in the environment I grew up in, takes me down a few points on the desirability scale. Not that I give a fuck. It’s my mother who seems to be worried about it, as she does about every line and gray hair. It’s a blessing I don’t have any sisters.
“I see. So you’re telling me if any incredibly attractive man did what I did, you’d respond the exact same way.”
“Now you’re generalizing. It’s circumstantial.”
“What do you mean, by circumstantial?”
“Well, I guess I assumed you had to be a guest at the engagement party.”
“So that made it okay to kiss a stranger? Because we were attending the same event?”
She pauses with her spoon at her lips. “That’s not what I said.”
“It sounds like that’s what you’re implying.” That spoons slips into her mouth and she licks it clean before she responds. The entire time I’m thinking increasingly dirty thoughts about that tongue of hers.
She flounders a little. “It’s not like I was at some seedy bar with seedy douches. It was an engagement party.”
“So that makes me better somehow?”
“Are you always this antagonistic?” She throws up her hands. “You kissed me. You smelled good and you’re good with your tongue so I went with it. Stop judging me.”
“I’m not judging, I’m just asking. So on top of being incredibly attractive and smelling good I’m also an excellent kisser.”
“I never said excellent, you added your own adjective. And if you keep talking about how attractive you are you’ll go from a ten to a nine pretty fast.”
“Oh? So I’m a ten?”
“You were an eleven before you started pushing this angle. That last question puts you at an eight-point-five.”
“I guess I should change the subject before I’m in the negative.”
“You just earned back half a point.”
“Maybe I should stop while I’m ahead
Ruby Scott is months behind on rent and can’t seem to land a steady job. She has one chance to turn things around with a big audition. But instead of getting her big break, she gets sick as a dog and completely bombs it in the most humiliating fashion. All thanks to a mysterious, gorgeous guy who kissed—and then coughed on—her at a party the night before.
Luckily, her best friend might have found the perfect opportunity; a job staying at the lavish penthouse apartment of hotel magnate Bancroft Mills while he’s out of town, taking care of his exotic pets. But when the newly-evicted Ruby arrives to meet her new employer, it turns out Bane is the same guy who got her sick.
Seeing his role in Ruby’s dilemma, Bane offers her a permanent job as his live-in pet sitter until she can get back on her feet. Filled with hilariously awkward encounters and enough sexual tension to heat a New York City block, Shacking Up, from NYT and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting, is sure to keep you laughing and swooning all night long.
Shacking Up is LIVE May 30th
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