in Ball Peen Hammer by Lauren Rowe!
Meet Keane in this STANDALONE romantic comedy in
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When I reach the two of them in the middle of their aisle, I shuffle past the dude and stand next to Maddy, shoulder to shoulder, and then, on a sudden impulse, put my arm around her shoulders and squeeze her tight, making her wobble in place at the unexpected jolt to her balance. “Hey, sis,” I say, squeezing her like a rag doll. “You totally fell down on your candy-acquiring duties.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” She subtly wiggles out of my grasp. “Brian and I got into this hilarious argument about the best candy bar of all- time, and—”
“And I’m totally right,” Brian says, cutting her off, and they both chuckle at some inside joke.
“No, I’m totally right,” Maddy corrects.
Brian smiles at her. “I’ll actually be down in L.A. in a month. How ’bout I call you then?”
“Nice to meet you, man,” Brian says, looking at me. He nods but doesn’t put out his hand.
I nod back.
Brian strolls away, buys a Snickers bar and a can of Red Bull, and leaves with a little wave to Maddy.
The minute he’s out the door, Maddy takes a giant step away from me, her face etched with annoyance. “What was that?” she asks.
“That weird thing you just did?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Maddy puts on an exaggerated scowl, like she’s Hulk Hogan eying an opponent. “’Hey, Brian,’” she says in a low voice, clearly intending to imitate me but sounding more like Arnold Schwarzenegger imitating Maddy imitating me. “’I’m Maddy Milliken’s bodyguard and I’m going to beat you the hell up now,’” she adds.
“What are you talking about?” I say, chuckling.
Maddy pauses, assessing me, and finally shrugs. “Nothing. I guess I imagined it.”
“Your weird... I dunno... vibe.”
“Oh, well, yeah. I was worried about you.”
“Worried about me? I was standing in a minimart, buying candy. Pretty low-risk activity, I’d say.”
“Uh, you absolutely were not standing in a minimart, buying candy—you totally fell down on that job, dude. You were standing in a minimart, getting picked up by a douche. And second of all—”
Shit. What the fuck am I doing? I’ve got to stop this shit right now. “Don’t get riled up, baby doll,” I say in my most soothing voice. “All I’m saying is you took so damned long in here, I started thinking maybe the store was getting robbed or you’d fallen into the toilet or something.”
Maddy twists her mouth. “Brian didn’t seem the least bit douchey to me.”
I shrug. “What gave you the impression he’s a douche?”
“Just a figure of speech. So are you gonna do the job I hired you to do or not?” I motion to the candy rack. “‘Cause based on your performance thus far, you’re totally fired.”
“And I wasn’t getting ‘picked up,’” Maddy says, her tone full of indignation. “Brian’s brother goes to UCLA. Can’t I talk to a helpful, nice guy without it being some sort of a sleazy pick-up?”
“Sure you can. However, in this instance, you were talking to a helpful, nice guy who was picking you up so he can bone the living fuck outta ya.”
“Keane.” Maddy’s cheeks burst with color. “Don’t say that. Oh my god. You’re insane. Brian was just being helpful, that’s all.”
“Yeah, so he can bone the living fuck outta ya.”
“Stop saying that. Please. It’s offensive and absolutely not true. This topic of conversation is officially over.”
Okay, so it turned out Keane was objectively gorgeous, and, fine, pretty funny, too. But did he have to be so damned in love with himself? I mean, jeez, the cocky way he flashed those dimples was just so orchestrated. And, honestly, what kind of guy uses the phrase “baby doll” with a straight face? Oh, that’s right: the kind of guy who’s a male stripper.
Yup, the cocky jerk turned out to be Seattle’s answer to Magic Mike, a stripper known as “Ball Peen Hammer”--which meant Keane Morgan was emphatically not the kind of guy I’d ever fall for.
Not. At. All.
No freakin’ way.
Well, until Keane convinced me to fall for him, that is.
Which I did.