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Mikki Harper lifted her mug of beer as she looked at her two best friends in New York City, Isabel Rodriguez and Debbie Mott, who were standing next to her at a crowded midtown bar. "An exact quote," she told Isabel with as much passion as if she had just pointed someone in the direction of the restroom. She had to keep her emotions in check, or she was going to fall apart. "Right after we finished eating our appetizers." Plastering a smile on her face that didn't match her mood, Mikki raised her glass high and said, "Cheers."
Mikki clinked her mug against Isabel's and Debbie's, then proceeded to down the entire contents in five seconds flat. That was a record for her. She didn't guzzle beer, and she didn't typically drink to excess. But tonight she was going to make an exception.
She was getting drunk.
It had been a long time since she'd gone to a bar with her girlfriends, drinking beer and shooting the breeze. One year, eleven months, and four days to be exact. Ever since she had started dating Alexander.
She'd been to restaurants with her friends, of course, and coffee shops. She'd gone with them on shopping trips. But Alex hadn't wanted her to go clubbing, warning her that men—including the bartenders—couldn't be trusted not to slip something into her drink and take advantage of her.
Mikki had figured him overprotective, or even a little insecure, but she had heeded his warning and had gone to bars and clubs only with him.
Tonight, however, she was saying screw it to Alex's advice. He was no longer in the picture. She didn't have to listen to him anymore.
Mikki audibly put the mug down onto the counter and pushed it toward the bartender, who looked friendly and harmless, not at all like a potential serial rapist. "Another," she told him.
"I can't believe he said that to you." Isabel's face had an expression of almost gleeful horror, the kind of look you get when you're sharing dirty gossip. "I mean, really."
Mikki couldn't believe it either. "It's ridiculous, right? We didn't have problems in the bedroom. In fact, I'd say we had a very active sex life. You know how I told you Alexander liked to have sex all the time. Sheesh, you'd think he was training to compete in the newest Olympic sport!"
Debbie snorted. Isabel, who had just taken a sip of her beer, began to laugh, then covered her mouth as beer spilled out. "Girl, you gotta warn a person when you're gonna start talking about Alexander and sex. Dang, I'm going to miss those stories about Alexander the Great."
"Though I guess he's more like Alexander-the-not-so-Great now," Debbie said.
Mikki was silent, remembering the amount of times she'd made love withAlexander. He'd had an insatiable sexual appetite—in the beginning. But in the last few months, his interest in sex had completely waned. He'd gone from one extreme to the other, something she had been embarrassed to share with her friends.
The bartender put another draft beer in front of her, and Mikki quickly lifted the mug to her lips for a sip. This one she would drink like a respectable woman—not like a woman trying to drown her sorrows in booze. She hadn't been out drinking in a while, but she knew that it was important to pace yourself.
"Here's the thing," Mikki began. "He pretty much stopped beingAlexander the Great a few months ago."
Debbie narrowed her hazel eyes. She was biracial, with a thick mane of curly brown hair that she always wore in a ponytail. "What does that mean?"
"What it means is ..." Mikki stopped, sighing. "Well, he sort of stopped wanting to have sex."
"Get out!" Isabel's eyes bulged at the news. She was Latino, from Nicaragua, and reacted in grand style to everything. "No wonder you haven't had any more stories about sex in public places. You know, one of the reasons I quit the law firm was because I couldn't handle going into the conference room without thinking about—"
"Enough!" Mikki said, raising a hand to silence her friend. She didn't want to remember how Alex had convinced her to get down and dirty on the law firm's conference room table after-hours. She had given in, and while the experience had been exciting, Mikki's back had hurt for days.
"You didn't really quit because of that," Mikki went on, more of a question.
"Naw, I'm just messing with you," Isabel said. "You know I had to leave because of Calvin. He thought my job description included sleeping with him."
Isabel had been the firm's receptionist, which was how she and Mikki had met. Isabel had already been friends with Debbie, whom she'd gone to college with, and once Isabel quit her job, she went to work at the high-end lingerie boutique where Debbie was a manager. As far as Mikki was concerned, that job was a much better fit for Isabel. At the boutique, she didn't have to tone down her sexuality and could dress like a vixen to her heart's content.
"You're not serious about Alexander," Debbie said. "He didn't suddenly lose his interest in sex...."
"I figured he was busy with work," Mikki explained. "Or that he'd finally tired himself out. But in the last three to four months, I'm definitely the one who's wanted it more than him."
"I think icicles are forming in hell," Debbie said, shuddering. "I never thought the day would come."
"Shit, I just got a chill," Isabel added.
"You want to know what really sucks?" Mikki asked. "I did everything to turn him on over the past four months, and most of the time he came up with excuses as to why he was too tired. Now he's breaking up with me because I'm boring in bed?"
"That kind of relationship always burns out," Isabel said, the sour expression on her face a sure sign she was speaking from experience.
"After nearly two years?" Mikki asked. "I thought ... I thought we had something real."
What she'd really thought when Alexander had suggested they go to their favorite restaurant for dinner was that he was going to propose. Considering that Christmas was right around the corner, as was her sister's wedding. She was certain he'd had love and commitment on his mind.
What an idiot she had been.
"All I can say," Isabel began, "is, good thing you didn't move in with him. It's no fun being kicked out on the street. Trust me, I know."
Stupidly, Mikki had believed that that would be the next step. Perhaps a formal engagement first, then she would move into his Manhattan condo.
"I can't believe he broke up with me now." Mikki frowned, the emotion of the breakup getting to her. "When he knew how much I was looking forward to going to my sister's wedding with him. Now I have to head to Miami like a loser ... with no date."
"Men." Debbie shook her head sadly. "You know he was sleeping with someone else, right?"
Mikki's heart slammed against her chest. "Pardon me?"
"You don't go from sex all the time to doing it once in a while ... not for a guy like Alex. How do you think he got that nickname Alexander the Great? If he stopped sleeping with you, he must be sleeping with someone else."
"Did you hear something?" Mikki asked, the very idea of Alex cheating on her making her feel ill. She'd had her suspicions but never had been able to confirm anything. Before she'd gotten lured into an office romance, she had heard that Alex liked to play the field. But he had assured her that he'd sown all the wild oats he'd wanted to, and indeed, their relationship of nearly two years had been a testament to the fact that the thirty-seven-year-old was ready to settle down.
In response to Mikki's question, Debbie shook her head. "I didn't hear anything in particular, no. But if a man isn't sleeping with you, he's sleeping with someone else. Plain and simple."
To hell with drinking this beer slowly. Mikki put it to her lips and guzzled it.
But as she put the empty glass onto the counter, ready to order another one, she knew that no matter how many beers she drank, she would not be able to escape the painful memory of Alexander's words.
Face it, Mikki—you're boring in bed.
"Cheer up," Debbie said. "I never liked Alex anyway." It didn't matter that Debbie hadn't liked him. Mikki had loved him. After a handful of failed relationships, she had finally found the man she believed she would marry—and he was a lawyer, no less.
"And look," Debbie went on, gesturing to the bar at large. "There are a lot of cute guys in here. That's the real reason Alex didn't want you partying with us—because he feared you'd find someone else who would treat you better."
"I so don't want to do this," Mikki said glumly. "I don't want to be a thirty-year-old single girl in New York again."
"You're back in the single girl's club, whether you want to be or not," Isabel said. She raised her beer mug. "Go with the flow, and you'll see it can be fun."
Easy for Isabel to say. With her olive complexion, thick head of hair that hung to her midback, naturally full lips, and expressive eyes, she was gorgeous—supermodel material. There was no shortage of guys wanting to date her. Men loved her hourglass figure—especially that well-packed booty. That booty had led to one of the New York Yankees approaching her in the lingerie shop, and a hot and heavy romance had ensued. For two months, he had wined and dined her and spoiled her with expensive jewelry—until Isabel broke it off after seeing his engagement announcement on page six of the New York Post.
"There are some hot guys right there," Debbie said, indicating the direction with a jerk of her head. "And the bonus—they don't look like lawyers."
Mikki nodded, but she didn't particularly feel like checking anyone out already. Alex had just broken up with her two days ago. Even if he was a jerk, her heart was crushed.
"You know, the best way to get over an old guy is to jump into bed with someone new," Debbie went on.
"Debbie, I swear, where do you get this stuff? Ann Landers for the young and brokenhearted?"
"You think I'm lying?" Debbie challenged. "Remember my friend Christina? Dating for five years, only to learn that her boyfriend wasn't proposing because he'd been sleeping with some other girl for half of their relationship?"
How could Mikki forget? Talk about the lowest of the low in terms of unscrupulous behavior. He'd strung Christina along and stalled every time she brought up marriage, when his real issue had been that he'd had some little tart on the side. And a stripper, to boot.
"Well, as much as Christina was in love with Joe, she was out with me one night, met some hot guy at a bar, and went home with him. Days later, she was totally over her ex. Totally."
Mikki had forgotten that part of the story. Now she leaned forward, intrigued. "Really?"
Debbie nodded. "Yep."
Mikki looked around the bar in earnest now, to see if anyone struck her fancy. Perhaps her problem was that she'd always been a little old-fashioned. Not boring, as Alexander had so rudely said, but simply a present-day woman with old-fashioned sensibilities.
Unlike a lot of the women she knew, Mikki wasn't the type to jump into bed with a man on the first date.
But maybe Debbie was right. Maybe the best way to get over Alexander was to have a fling with someone else.
"Bartender," she said, gesturing to the man. "Another beer, please."
"You driving?" he asked.
"In New York City?" Mikki guffawed. "Not a chance."
As the bartender poured her another draft beer, Mikki looked around. For the first time that evening, she noticed that there were quite a few attractive men here tonight. As her gaze continued to wander, one in particular caught her eye.
He was staring directly at her. Or was he? Mikki glanced over her shoulder, almost certain he was checking out Isabel. But when she faced the man once more, he shook his head and smiled. Then he raised his mug in a toast.
Yes, he was definitely looking at her.
"See?" Debbie said. "You've got a hot one interested already."
"He's probably checking out Isabel," Mikki said, but she didn't believe her own words.
"Oh no, honey." Isabel shook her head. "He's looking at you."
Mikki turned again, and her stomach fluttered when the man in question stood from his table and started toward her.
"And talk about a hottie," Isabel added. "Mmmmmmm-mmm."
And he was. At about six foot two, he had golden brown skin, a bald head, and full lips framed by a neatly trimmed goatee. Unlike the men in this bar who were dressed in suits at the end of the workday, this guy was wearing a pair of denim jeans and a black dress shirt that was open at the collar.
As he made his way through the crowd, unquestionably heading in Mikki's direction, Debbie whispered, "If you don't do him, I will."
The man wove his way through the throng of people, holding Mikki's eyes as he did. Normally, she would look away. But tonight, she did something out of character.
She stared right back.
The sexy stranger smiled widely as he reached her, revealing a perfect set of white teeth. "Hello."
"Hi, there," Mikki replied, a shuddery breath oozing out of her. She did a quick sweep of his body. Even though his shirt wasn't form-fitting, his strong arms and pecs were still evident beneath it.
On the hot meter, this guy was a ten out of ten.
Why was he interested in her? With her hair pulled back in a ponytail, her white shirt buttoned almost to the top, and her gray pleated skirt hanging below her knees, she could be the poster child for Plain Jane.
But as soon as the thought came to her, Mikki silently chastised herself for it.
No, she told herself. You're not going to do that. You're not going to act as though you're not an attractive, desirable woman. Just because Alex dumped you doesn't mean you don't have it going on. You don't have to be all dolled up for a guy to notice your beauty.
"What can I get you to drink?" the man asked.
Mikki glanced at the bar. Her draft beer was there. "I've got a beer, but thank you." She sipped it. "I haven't seen you here before." A lame line, perhaps, but it was true.
"No, you wouldn't have."
Mikki extended her hand. "I'm Mikki."
"Hi, Mikki." The man took her hand in his, holding it a beat too long as he shook it. "I'm Barry."
"Please tell me you're not a lawyer, Barry," she said, but she doubted it. A model, perhaps. But a lawyer? She'd never seen a lawyer quite as fine as him before.
"Actually, I'm in advertising," Barry said.
"I'll bet you are," Mikki replied, her tongue feeling loose.
"What does that mean?"
He had the cutest smile, and she loved the way his eyes lit up as he looked at her. "It means," she said in a husky voice, "that I'm sure you've graced the pages of many magazines. A guy as cute as you ..."
His chuckle was endearing and floated over her like a warm breeze. "Not a model. Definitely not."
Mikki drank more of her beer, feeling like a new woman. She was flirting. Two days after she had been dumped by the supposed love of her life. And it felt good.
"So, how come I haven't seen you here before?" Mikki asked.
"Probably because I'm from Chicago."
"Aah, that would explain it."
"I'm in town on business."
Even better. If Mikki took Debbie's advice and went to bed with him, she wouldn't have to worry about a possible relationship. He could be a true palate cleanser.
But she'd need a bit more liquid courage if she was going to leave the bar with him. She lifted her mug of beer and polished off half of its contents.
"You really like your beer," Barry said.
Mikki laughed. To her own ears, she sounded drunk. But she didn't care. She was having fun. "I guess I do. But I was thinking of having a shooter. Irish cream. Want to do one with me?"
Excerpted from All I Want Is You by Kayla Perrin Deborah Fletcher Mello Copyright © 2011 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted October 29, 2011
Both of these stories were pretty good. I'm not terribly turned on by novellas simply because they are too short.
Holiday Seduction was the typical "nerd from school turned bombshell" story. Entertaining and pretty funny.
Her Holiday Gifts was HOT! Strangers with instant attraction, STEAMY sex and a good plot. But the end was a huge let down. No real resolution of "the problem", an "I love you" from the main characters and BAM. "The End"
Worth a read, but please don't have high expectations for a great ending.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 14, 2012
I really liked the first story it was your cliche love story, it was very cute. I did not think i was going to like the second story because the description on the back doesnt really offer much. I actually really liked this story though. how the story ended kinda left me saying "what?", this book over all was a good read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2014
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