Book #2 in the Bayshore series
Contemporary Small-Town Rom-Com
There’s one rule in my family.
Stay away from the Daly brothers.
We were raised to know them as users. Manipulators. But I only ever saw Connor as the enigmatic senior hottie who dropped into fifth period to teach us about the perils of drunk driving.
When my first big girl job out of college ends up with us working at the same company, it’s heart throb city all over again. Except he’s way ahead of the game. Successful, talented, put together. I’m just a frumpy twenty-something in a quarter life crisis who doesn’t know a glue stick from a makeup highlighter.
He would never want me, even though he’s all I ever wanted in secret. So when we cross paths one night at the bar and one drink leads to another, he slaps me with an offer I can’t refuse.
Accompany him back to Bayshore, flight included.
Only stipulation? Pose as his girlfriend.
Our families will flip, but I’m not strong enough to say no to those baby blues, especially if it means I’ll have a chance to go on vacation with my adolescent heart throb.
We’ve got two weeks to prove we’re head over heels for each other.
Which is just enough time to make me fall.
AVAILABLE ON AMAZON and in KINDLE UNLIMITED
Get a sneak peek of the first chapter below!
“Are you kidding me? I’m gonna need to see some ID.”
The warning bark of the bartender makes me grit my teeth. He’s acting like I’m a sixteen-year-old sneaking into the bar to inhale shots of RumChata.
But he’s got it all wrong. I’m a twenty-five-year-old who is legally seeking shots of RumChata, because I’ve earned it after my work week.
“Here, hang on.” I fumble with my purse, which also looks like something a sixteen-year-old might buy while posing as an adult. It was from a thrift store near my apartment, which specializes in forgotten goods from the eighties. The overly large pearl snap pops free and shoots across the bar like a fifty-cent firework.
I get carded a lot, so you’d think I’d be used to having to prove my baby face. But no. Today, I’m fucking over it.
My license won’t come out of the hardened plastic cover of my snap wallet, which also has an entire section available for checks. I don’t carry checks, so instead I shove interesting business cards in the flap. One flutters out—a funny sex shop I stumbled across recently, Spankin’ Trails. I look like a total mess, and I know it.
“Look.” I shove the whole wallet his way, and he peers at it like he’s never seen a license in his life.
“Fakes are getting pretty good these days,” he mumbles, then pushes it back my way. “You don’t look a day over twelve.”
I huff and roll my eyes. “Come on. I might look young, but I’m not prepubescent, for God’s sake. So come on. RumChata, buddy.”
He side-eyes me while he stomps off to prepare my drink, like he’s trying to figure out my game. This is no game. This is one hundred percent Kinsley: stumbling, gangly, baby-faced Kinsley.
I sigh and relax into the high-backed barstool. I came here for one express purpose—to forget the hell that is my job—but now, I can’t get past the hell that is my life outside of work.
I’ve been on the west coast for almost eight years. Since I left Bayshore at age eighteen to study at UCLA, I’ve been cultivating the Californian side of my Ohio-based DNA. And really, things started out great. College was wild and fun. I got a degree. I found an amazing job. But then…things went south. Like all the way down to Antarctica south.
My dream job turned into professional purgatory. My apartment rent skyrocketed, because #SanDiego. And then I realized that all my peers were maturing in some other universe. My contoured contemporaries look like gorgeous aliens compared to my plain, un-mascara’d Midwestern features. I don’t know how to catch up, and more importantly, I’m not sure if I want to. And more than that, the only man I ever dared to date turned out to be only a touch more stable than the type of men you might see on those true crime shows.
How can I be twenty-five and already as lost as an octogenarian with an iPhone? All the inspirational memes imploring me to Live Truthfully and Be Your Authentic Self just piss me off. How can I be truthful and authentic and make my rent?
I guess this is what they call the quarter-life crisis.
Voices murmur quietly around me in this lounge. It’s the closest bar to my workplace, and I’ve been here a few times before. Never with Burly the Bartender though. He must be new. This is the type of fancy place which has wood floors and mirrors along the walls. So everyone can see how rich and powerful they are while sipping the sweet nectars that distract us from our terrible jobs.
If this isn’t the definition of #adulting, I don’t know what is.
Burly finally comes back with my RumChata—thankyouverymuch—and I sip quietly, finally feeling some of the tension leaving my shoulders. Ahh, this is the life. Coaxing myself into forgetfulness about my stifling boss before I go home, alone, to my overpriced apartment and lack of social life.
One of the nearby tables, a cluster of businessmen, breaks up with a flurry of platitudes and good-natured shoulder clapping. They were here when I came in, and as they disperse, one of the biz bros catches my eye.
He’s broad-shouldered, and even his gray button-down can’t hide the fact that he’s built beneath his clothes. A dimpled grin steals my breath as he turns my way.
I know this face.
He’s Connor Daly. That blond and toned hunk who works at the same company as me. One of the infamous Daly brothers from back home. The man who the sixteen-year-old drinking RumChata inside of me is suddenly squealing over.
Instead of leaving with the rest of his business squad, Connor heads for the bar. The smile drops from his chiseled jaw, and something raw pours out of him. He probably doesn’t notice me spying. I blend into anything eighties themed, as well as most lounge spaces. I can’t pry my gaze off him as he slides onto a barstool about five seats down from me. The bartender serves him immediately, no crap given about his age, and pretty soon, Connor has three shots lined up in front of him.
Now, I’m really curious. Connor has always been the golden boy, even back in our school days. I didn’t see him all the time, since he was a grade ahead of me, but it’s as true now as it was then. Back in the days when I fawned over him, it was because he delivered good-natured lectures about not drinking and driving. And now, I fawn over him because he’s one of the top developers at our company.
He tosses back a shot. And then another. After the third one is downed, I can’t resist the urge to know more. I pick up my hard-sided purse and shuffle his way.
He doesn’t seem to notice me. Which is whatever. Nobody really does anymore. Not since college. It’s the theme of my adulthood—no longer a girl, but somehow not a woman. I don’t know what the secret code is that all females received, but the package never showed up at my door, despite being promised two-day delivery.
I clear my throat as I settle into my spot and flag down the bartender. He shows up a moment later.
“Another RumChata, please.” I pause, glancing over at Connor. “And whatever he had there, two more of those.”
Connor snorts, and his unfocused gaze swings my way. He has the same electric blue eyes as the rest of his brothers, which is the sort of blue that will land most people a modeling deal in these parts. It’s almost painful to meet his gaze. His handsomeness is foreboding. Like he’s going to break my heart, and I don’t know it yet. Even though that’s impossible.
Connor would never be with someone like me.
How do I know this? Because he’s with my boss. And that evil witch is my opposite. So, thanks to math, we know scientifically, he is incapable of being with someone like me.
“Are you buying me another shot?” he asks, and the tang of rum reaches me. I shrug.
“Seems like you’re lamenting something. I am too. Why not lament together?”
My heart is racing. God, it’s hard work to sound casual. But maybe this is the start of my new journey as a real woman. Striking up conversations at the bar with my disgruntled colleague and former heartthrob. I’m pretty sure Connor and I haven’t exchanged more than thirty words in our lifetime, but that doesn’t matter. I’m here to push that count up to forty.
Connor heaves a long, drawn out sigh. “My grandma died.”
I wince. “Oh, shit. I’m really sorry to hear that.” I pinch the bridge of my nose, trying to search out her name in my memory banks. I don’t know much about the Dalys, other than the following: all of the brothers are stupidly hot; and all of the brothers are stupidly off-limits.
My parents got into it with Connor’s parents a billion years ago, and nobody has gotten over it. I grew up knowing the Dalys were a bad bunch without ever really knowing why. But that doesn’t matter to me. We’re in San Diego. My parents won’t see me unless I accidentally FaceTime, which I’ve actually done during a make-out session before. I’ll fraternize with the devil if I want to. Especially if he’s built like an Abercrombie model turned software nerd.
“She had dementia really bad,” Connor says, and he sounds choked, fighting emotion. I frown, scooting closer to him. I resist the urge to sling my arm over his shoulders.
“That’s the worst,” I offer. “Did you just find out?”
He shakes his head. “At work earlier, but I had this meeting right after.”
“Ah. So it’s still…fresh.”
Burly returns with our shots, and I push one immediately over to Connor. I lift mine in the air, gesturing it toward him as if to ask, Ready? He nods and picks it up.
Then his gaze swings up to meet mine. Electricity doesn’t just spark, it damn near fries my bones to dust. My forearms go hot, and I wonder if he felt that too. Or maybe this is my teenaged unrequited love acting up again.
We take the shots with a grimace. Once he slams the glass to the bar top, he clutches at the front of his hair.
“I have to go back to Bayshore.”
I nod, studying the dark blond hairs at his neckline. “I haven’t been there in ages,” I say.
What does the man look like under this business-casual attire? I’ve caught his shirt unbuttoned down to the third button on two occasions, but usually it’s unbuttoned two down. Not that I keep track of this in a spreadsheet. Anymore, I mean.
He blinks a few times, and then, he’s watching me again. Something churns behind those eyes, but I can’t meet his gaze long enough to figure it out.
He snorts, and then he reaches out, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. He brings me into him, like a side hug.
“My Bayshore buddy,” he croons. He squeezes my shoulder again, which sends heat tiptoeing between my legs. I want to pretend this is a romantic grab, but it’s not. He’s jostling me like he’s greeting a frat brother after years apart.
I laugh nervously, and he leans in, his eyes sparkling.
When he opens his mouth to speak, the blunt rum force reaches me before his words. “You should come with me.”
Keep reading about Kinsley and Connor’s fake romance on AMAZON (also available in Kindle Unlimited)