Lauren Layne’s Sex, Love & Stiletto series simmers to a boil as two high-powered magazine writers find love amid a war of words.
As a leading columnist for Stiletto, Grace Brighton has built a career warning women about rotten, cheating liars. She just never suspected her fiancé would be one of them. After Grace takes a heart-mending hiatus, her first assignment is to go on a couple of dates with a counterpart from the men’s magazine Oxford and report her impressions. Grace 1.0 may have been instantly smitten with the gorgeous correspondent, but Grace 2.0 has sworn off relationships for six months, and she’s not falling for his outstanding bod and trophy-winning kisses . . . or is she?
Jake Malone wants to get back to the fly-by-night, who-knows-what’s-next guy he used to be, and he knows exactly how to do it. Oxford is adding a travel section, and Jake—with no wife and no kids and a willingness to live anywhere, eat anything, do everything—is perfect for the job . . . except that his playboy reputation makes his new editor nervous. To get the gig, he must agree to a fluffy joint article with Stiletto. But after just one date with snooty, sumptuous, sensational Grace Brighton, Jake starts taking this assignment a whole lot more seriously.
About the Author:
Lauren Layne graduated from Santa Clara University with a 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 most recently Manhattan. She’s currently back in the Pacific Northwest, missing the big-city life but also enjoying the cheap price of wine in the burbs. She lives with her husband and badly behaved Pomeranian.
Where to find Lauren:
On her website Lauren Layne
On Facebook at Lauren Layne
On Twitter @_LaurenLayne
On Tumblr at Lauren Layne
In hindsight, she should have taken the subway.
But today was the launch of the new and improved Grace. Or Grace 2.0, as she’d begun thinking of her improved self. And Grace 2.0’s shoe choice really wasn’t suited for the New York subway system. Between the grates and the stairs and the roaches, Grace Brighton’s four-inch Jimmy Choos would be lucky to even make it to the office. And that whole wear-comfy-shoes-now-and-change-later just wasn’t Grace 1.0 or 2.0’s MO.
Then of course, there was the hassle of rush hour to contend with, not to mention . . .
Oh, who was she kidding?
The Brightons of Scarsdale, New York, didn’t do subways.
In fact, Grace’s mother would probably faint if she knew her only daughter was about to slide her pencil-skirted butt into a cab instead of a sleek black town car.
But her mother wasn’t here.
And neither was her mother’s personal driver.
So. A cab it would be.
As Grace exited the elevator in the high-rise apartment building she’d moved into just a month before, she wondered if she looked different now that 2.0 was all riding her ass with the rah-rah girl-power routine.
For example, anyone might notice that her hair, which once had fallen to the middle of her back, now brushed just below her shoulders in new, swishy layers.
But could those same people tell that the hair appointment hadn’t been about cutting off six inches of hair so much as a futile attempt to cut out the crippling sense of inadequacy that had settled around her like one of those ugly transparent raincoats?
And maybe some fashion-forward soul might note that her skirt was from the just-released Tory Burch line, but did they know that she’d bought it because of the fun, checkered pattern? And did they know she’d picked the checkered pattern because she’d spent the past four years wearing solid colors because Greg told her they were more slimming?
Would anyone notice that her lipstick was a little brighter, her heels a bit higher, and her smile a little wider? All to disguise the fact she felt anything but bright, anything but high, her smile anything but genuine . . .
Grace 2.0 cleared her throat loudly. Right. Moping was sooo 1.0.
The new Grace was all kick-ass confidence.
Or something. Okay fine, so maybe she was still working on the kick-ass part.
Grace refused to let her smile slip when she saw the long line of people waiting for a cab out in front of her building. Grace 1.0 was taunting here with memories about a former life, in which the doorman would have already had a taxi waiting for her and Greg to share.
Grace 2.0 was reminding 1.0 that that routine had been before her tidy life had gone to hell.
Back in those days, Grace would have made it through the morning without crying or doodling I hate men in the margins of the New York Times. She’d already be well on her way to work, hip to hip with her boyfriend of nine years in the back of a taxi, maybe flipping through emails on her phone as the cab headed to Greg’s office on Wall Street before taking Grace uptown to her office.
More often than not, there’d even have been a text from Greg as she settled in for the day. I miss you. I love you.
If only all of Greg’s “love” had been reason enough for him to keep his dick in his pants.
Grace inhaled deeply through her nose and pushed the thought out of her mind. Do not go there. You’ve moved on, remember?
And she didn’t have time to reminisce about Greg and his wandering prick, because on this particular Monday morning there was no waiting cab, no homemade latte, no lovey-dovey text messages. There weren’t even any of the dozens of familiar tiny dogs that she used to know by name out for their morning constitutional. Instead there were different dogs whose names she didn’t know and whose owners she didn’t recognize, and one of them was doing his business in the middle of the sidewalk. The only thing her Jimmy Choo stilettos liked less than sidewalk grates was dog poo.
If she waited in the cab line, she’d never make it to the weekly staff meeting on time.
But like any good New Yorker, Grace knew when to get crafty.
Grace weaved her way around the tight-butt, yoga-pants-wearing, stroller-pushing moms until she turned up one of the quiet side streets that would have less cab competition.
Sure enough, a taxi rounded the corner onto the street and was making its way toward her.
Finally. A little luck.
Grace raised a hand to hail it, only to watch in dismay as an arm in front of her moved in the exact same gesture at the exact same time. She hissed in annoyance, even though the man had obviously been there first and the cab was rightfully his.
She swore under her breath anyway. This was not the way she’d envisioned Grace 2.0 starting out. She was supposed to have gotten up early and done a little yoga, followed by a leisurely, healthy smoothie breakfast. Then she’d have a long shower followed by a perfect hair day, and would be in a cab and heading into the office all before the start of rush hour.
Instead, Grace had woken up an hour late to a malfunctioning coffeepot, absolutely no time for yoga, and so not a good-hair day.
Now some too-tall, perfect-haired stranger was about to take her cab.
As though he could feel her death glare on the back of his head, the man turned his face toward her just as the cab slowed to a stop in front of him.
Grace froze. He might be a cab stealer, but as far as thieves went, he was gorgeous. His black hair was just long enough to be interesting without being sloppy. He was tall—an inch or two over six feet, for sure—and he wore his height well, all broad shoulders and trim waist. Just the tiniest bit of stubble on the chin—more than a five o’clock shadow, less than scruff.
She would have been embarrassed by her gaping if he hadn’t been doing some looking of his own. His brown eyes skimmed over her, briefly enough to not be lecherous, but appreciatively enough to make her tingle.
When their eyes met, he grinned, his teeth perfectly white and perfectly even. This man knew what he had going on and was well accustomed to peddling his wares.
Watch out for that one, Grace 2.0 whispered. That smile will have you tucking your heart into your panties and handing the whole shebang over before he even buys you a drink.
Her attraction turned instantly to wariness. Okay, then. That was quite enough ogling.
Grace 1.0 was wailing that he could be a perfectly nice man that deserved a chance.
Well, Grace 1.0 could shove it. Grace 1.0 and her dreamy, happy-endings-really-do-happen dogma was the reason Grace
was twenty-nine and unexpectedly single instead of wedding-dress shopping.
Grace 1.0 was the reason that she actually missed Greg instead of consigning his memory to her mental compost pile.
Thinking about her wretched ex reminded Grace just how anti-man she was feeling these days, so instead of returning the stranger’s welcoming smile, Grace purposely moved her eyes beyond him to look for another cab.
“You want this one?” he called.
That got her attention. “What?”
Mr. Too-Good-Looking gestured toward the open cab door. “The cab. You want it?”
She narrowed her eyes as though to ask, What’s the catch?
His grin never faded as he nodded toward the cab. “Come on now. You have I’m-in-a-hurry written all over you.”
Of course she did.
She was in a hurry. Normally, being a little late to a Monday staff meeting wasn’t a big deal. As long as it didn’t happen regularly, her boss was pretty chill about such things. And Grace in particular was likely to get a free pass—she’d been out of the office for a month, and everyone would figure she was struggling to get back into the swing of things.
Everyone would be understanding. Oh, poor Grace, give her a break. She’s been through a lot.
Her stomach twisted at the thought. Hell, no.
A quick scan showed her that another cab had turned onto the street but had already been flagged by someone upstream. Crap.
“You’re sure you don’t mind?” she asked, not making eye contact with the stranger.
In response, he stepped aside and gallantly swept his arm toward the open door. All yours.
Apparently chivalry wasn’t entirely dead after all, and for that, Mr. Charming got a smile. A small one.
“Thank you,” she murmured as she hurried to the waiting cab. “I really appreciate it.”
“Consider it a thank-you,” he said in a low voice when they were face-to-face.
“A thank-you for what?” Damn it. She hadn’t meant that to come out all low and flirty.
“For looking the way you do.”
Grace blinked in surprise, torn between flattery and disgust. “Wow. Wow. That is some line.”
He grinned, and suddenly the perfect white teeth looked a little . . . predatory.
“Too much?” he asked, looking slightly sheepish.
Grace lifted a shoulder as she lowered herself into the cab. “A little obvious. Maybe go back to the drawing board on that one.”
She tilted her head up to give the guy one last thank-you only to realize that he was no longer standing beside the cab. He was getting into the cab.
“What are you—what the—hey!” she said as he gently tapped the backs of his fingers against her hip in a universal move-over gesture, before crowding her to the other side of the taxi.