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One Sexy Mistake
A Chase Brothers Romantic Comedy Novella
By Sarah Balance, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Sarah Balance
All rights reserved.
Grady Donovan sucked at this hookup thing.
It was 11:00 p.m., he was bored and horny, and most of his previous ... assignations with women — whether a friend with benefits or an actual attempt at a relationship — had ended in way too much drama for his taste. After years of careful analysis, he'd come to the conclusion that he wasn't built for relationships. But a one-nighter? That he could do. With bells on. If she was into that.
The trick was finding a woman who was on the same page emotionally. Tinder had a reputation as a "hookup app." So Tinder it was.
Tinder PC, because he was not having a one-night stand with someone without viewing a photo bigger than a postage stamp.
After hours of agonizing over how to best describe himself on his bio, adding and deleting gems like please leave before breakfast and conversation not included, he'd finally nailed it: Frighteningly intelligent single male. Computer geek. No interest in romance but great in the sack. No relationships, please.
Accurate? Definitely. Odds of snagging interest? Nil, in his experience. But, he figured, don't ask and ye shall not receive. Needless to say, he hadn't expected a response.
Especially not the one that came through ten minutes later, prompting the mother of all double takes. Olivia's profile picture was too good to be true.
So was the rest of her. Especially her bio. Hacker girl with a broken heart looking for a boy toy to make it all better. One night, no strings. I get to leave first. Two-minute wonders need not apply.
The irony was strong. As long as she followed through and actually left without asking for his hand in marriage, she was everything he could possibly want in a woman. Scratch that. She was all he could want from a night.
A beautiful woman who wanted to leave first.
He watched the screen, expecting her to disappear. He was no hardship to look at, but he'd said no romance or relationship, which left him floored that anyone would respond.
Let alone an anyone who was on the same, admittedly unconventional, page. Unless it was a trick.
Suspicion probably shouldn't have been his first reaction to seeing the incredibly sexy photo pop up on the screen, but with a prank-happy extended family like his — all courtesy of his four brothers-in-law — being trolled was a distinct possibility.
Even via a random hookup app.
A muscle in his jaw jumped, and he realized he was doing this wrong. People were supposed to be all over these connections. Swipe right, get laid, problem solved.
Still there? she typed. Because if that two-minute thing is a deal-breaker, I need to know. At which point I may mock you. Mercilessly.
Grady stared at the newly arrived message, thinking the threat of mockery was the best excuse he'd ever have to bail.
But this was also probably his best chance to score.
Looking at Olivia's picture, he really didn't want to give up on the chance. He couldn't believe his luck. Rich, wavy brown hair tumbled past her shoulders. Eyes sparkled in the same hue. She glowed.
She was definitely too good to be true.
I can guarantee at least three minutes, he wrote, then sat back. There was no good reason a woman like her would need an app, unless it was because she was tired of being hit on for being gorgeous.
Which, frankly, he'd believe.
For the first time in pretty much ever, he wished for more personal communication.
A new message popped up. So what do you have against relationships?
He hesitated over a response. I don't care for the drama, he typed. Or the rituals. Or the expectations.
Ah, she replied. A girl gets three minutes one night and wants four the next.
Something like that. Actually, it was a lot like that. At one time, he hadn't hated the idea of a relationship. In fact, all he'd ever wanted was for someone to accept him for who he was, which sounded like a schmaltzy spiel of bullshit, but it was true. He enjoyed going out every now and then, and he'd hold a woman's purse at the mall if he had to. But having to outdo every other couple on Facebook or Instagram or whatever social media platform was the rage at the moment burned him out.
If being in his own goddamned relationship meant he had to compete with everyone else's, then he'd be just fine alone.
Except for one teeny caveat.
What about you? he asked. Not buying that you can't get a date.
I don't want a date. I want sex.
Well, okay then. You could get that from anyone, he responded. Why me?
You're a mile away. It's snowing.
You keep impossible standards, he typed back.
And you're hot, and straightforward. And you did promise great sex.
Anyone can promise that, he noted.
Actually, she replied, I'm pretty sure no self-professed computer geek has ever promised great sex.
He rolled his eyes. And here I was thinking the self-professed hacker would appreciate my skills.
I plan to, she said. For the entire three minutes.
Well, hell. This was the part where he should promise her a few hours, but if she looked anything like her picture, he'd be better off promising her a few rounds. And he could only pray the first one lasted three minutes.
He pulled up her profile again, still suspicious. There wasn't much there, so the repeated glances were futile.
You don't seem worried about hooking up with someone you've never met, he typed. Are you crazy or just adventurous?
Her answer was immediate. Do you want to find out?
Did he? That was why he was online, though he certainly never expected he'd find anyone like her. She was too perfect — not just physically attractive but also in a field of work closely tied to his own, if there was any truth to the "hacker girl" statement in her bio. While he didn't need to have anything in common with Olivia, if they actually had a conversation — versus creepily not speaking at all — there was something to be said for shared interests.
He'd had plenty of dates with women who lectured him about how boring computers were, that he should get out and live a little. These were, of course, the same women who couldn't peel their eyes from their smartphones, but that point was seldom appreciated when he voiced it.
But it probably didn't matter. People didn't use hookup sites in search of sparkling conversation.
Especially not him. He caught himself looking over his shoulder, half expecting to catch one of his brothers-in-law doubled over in laughter on the fire escape.
Instead he got an eyeful of the neighbor's yellow-eyed, helter-skelter-faced, crooked-fanged mini-wildebeest the old woman called a cat. And yes, he jumped.
Then he swore.
That thing should be in a zoo. Or a freak show.
Behind the questionably feline facade, snow fell. Grady had no idea why that woman let the cat out in this kind of weather, but he wasn't inclined to let the thing freeze. Even if it was the ugliest, creepiest excuse for a cat he'd ever seen.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Harmon had a habit of smacking him with her purse when her precious Mortimer found his way into Grady's apartment, which made him wary of rescuing the cat, at least immediately.
He glanced back at his computer. The cursor blinked, and he realized there might very well be an actual woman on the other end, waiting.
If there was any chance she was legit, he was in.
He typed his next message and hit send before he could second guess the insanity of meeting a stranger for sex. Your place or mine?
* * *
Olivia's heart skipped a beat, then seemed to flail down a flight of stairs. Or ten. She so did not do hookups. She usually didn't have the nerve for something this random.
Worse, she was failing at it.
Her entire purpose was to cut loose and do something wild. Classic delayed response to a bad breakup, following the most vanilla sex life had by anyone ever. A response with merit.
So why the hell was she hitting up a computer geek?
Because he was stupid-hot, for one. But her ex wasn't bad to look at, and that hadn't gotten her anywhere but missionary. Nope, had to be more. She just wished she knew what, because beyond the somewhat geek-mussed hair and seriously intense gray eyes, she wasn't sure what made this guy stand out. Or what had made her go for it. But he did, and she had, and her fingertips hovered over the keyboard, daring a response.
Even her fingertips wanted sex.
She glanced back at her roommate, who was not-so-subtly glaring at a magazine. An upside-down magazine.
"I'm pretty sure this isn't that crazy," Olivia said. "I mean, there are entire apps dedicated to this kind of thing, so just think of me as jumping on the bandwagon." She hoped she sounded convincing. She needed to convince herself.
"I think you're rebounding a little hard," Emily said warily. "Lots of people break up without resorting to this."
"It's been a couple of months," Olivia told her, ignoring the part Emily had left unspoken. Olivia had taken it hard. Way too hard to start vetting potential relationships again. She'd lost her job, and her ex had blindsided her by dumping her the next day.
She was a software developer and had put together a killer program, which had been on its way to being some of her best work. But someone within her company had pushed it live without her go-ahead, at which point a test hacker had destroyed it. It hadn't been ready for that kind of scrutiny. She'd known that, and that's why she hadn't released it herself.
But someone had.
Consequently, her unfinished program had left gaping holes in online security for the entire company, which the freelance tester who went by the pseudonym Han Dono had so kindly discovered. Bam, no job.
She'd felt an unreasonable amount of rage toward Han Dono, whoever he or she was. Until, twenty-four hours later, she'd suddenly found herself single. Apparently her state of disgrace hadn't sat well with her career ladder-climbing ex, but she didn't care about his excuse. Just that he was gone.
And good riddance.
After two months of few decent leads on the job front and zero physical contact with the opposite sex, unless gropers on the subway counted, she was in desperate need of a pick-me-up. She only wanted one thing from this hookup, and it definitely wasn't to be reminded of being blindsided and dumped. With utter sobriety, she told her blatantly dubious roommate, "I'd like some sex, please."
Emily stared, expressionless. "Well, don't look at me."
"I wasn't." Olivia flipped the computer around and showed off Grady's picture. "Seriously, can you blame me?"
Emily studied the image a beat longer than necessary, a hint of wary appreciation evident. "That's probably not even him."
Olivia shrugged, not feeling the nonchalance. Because this was just a tad crazy, and she was so overdue a moment of insanity. "If it's not, I don't go in his apartment."
"And if he drags you in before you have a chance to compare him to his photo?" Emily shook her head, worry etching her face. "At least check him out when he gives you his address. I don't want to have to call your parents and tell them you've been hacked to death and eaten by some maniac."
Olivia sighed. She'd love to be eaten by some maniac, but in the alive, sexy way. Of the has-this-address-been-involved-in-any-recent homicides news search, she said, "That I can do. You might want to turn that magazine right side up."
Emily frowned and tossed it on the counter instead. "Why would you pick a computer guy? You were dumped by one. Your program was exposed by one, male or female. And you lost your job because of one. I think you need to reconsider the company you keep."
When the company looked like Grady? Olivia thought not. "This guy's day job is a technicality because I'm planning to hit it and quit it. He's hot. And even if he's lousy in bed, I still get sex. And if it's crappy sex, it'll be that much easier to retreat back into my drought. This is an all-win situation."
Emily rolled her eyes. "Because those exist."
Olivia laughed, then turned her attention back to the computer before she lost her nerve. Give me your address, she wrote. I'm in, too.CHAPTER 2
Grady stared at his apartment door, still trying to wrap his head around the fact that he had just given a woman from a hookup app his address, and according to her last message, she was on her way over.
Restless, he shoved his laptop from his knees to the coffee table in front of him and wondered for the umpteenth time how he'd gotten himself into this.
A few minutes ago, he'd used his hacking skills to check her out. The name and address were a match. Her profile picture even resembled her driver's license photo, and those were notoriously bad, but she was still gorgeous.
She was definitely legit.
And only a mile away.
But there were about a thousand ways this could go wrong. He liked that they had something in common — she a "hacker girl," gainfully employed by a large software firm for which he'd done some work, and he a software breaker. But that said, their proximity, which was close even in a city like New York, made the odds of them running into one another at a coffee shop or grocery store high, which could be really bad if they didn't part on good terms.
When he buzzed her in, his second thoughts had second thoughts. By the time he realized he should go to the lobby to get her, there was a knock at his door, and immediately, he felt like a jerk. Then he mentally kicked himself for even considering any gestures — the lack of interest in those was a big part of why Olivia was there to begin with — and opened the door.
Tall and leggy, she stood unflinching while water dripped from the lengths of her long, wavy hair not hidden by an oversized white beanie. "Grady?"
He nodded, but inside, he was shaken. She didn't look like her profile picture. She looked better, which shouldn't be possible. Her eyes were the most unique shade of brown he'd ever seen. They had an amazing depth, like translucent cups of coffee, and the light brown eye shadow smudged on her lids made them seem even brighter and wider than they probably were.
Especially since she seemed irked.
"You could have warned me the elevator was broken," she said as she tugged off a thick pair of gloves.
"Hello and welcome," he said dryly. "I'm sorry. It's always broken to the point I more or less forgot the building had one. I didn't realize a working elevator was a prerequisite. I suggest you update your profile."
To his surprise, her expression softened. "You're right. I'm sorry. These boots are new" — she held out her leg for his inspection, displaying a pair of leather high-heeled ankle boots with the kind of built-in folds he was pretty sure his sister had once referred to as slouchy — "and not exactly made for cardio. And to be honest, I'm nervous."
"Does it make me a schmuck to admit I am, too?" He almost felt like one; he was in decent shape, but he wasn't exactly a chest-beating lump of testosterone. Had she been expecting a chest-beating lump of testosterone?
Skepticism played in her expression. "You're nervous?"
"Yep." He probably should have uttered more than a single syllable, but the very real likelihood of seeing this woman naked seemed to be poking him in the ribs. Repeatedly.
He may have actually flinched.
"I can leave," she said, eying him like any sane woman probably should.
"I'm still in," he said, a tad too quickly.
Her eyes twinkled, and a slightly wicked smile bloomed on her face. "Not quite yet."
He coughed, choking on thin air for an agonizing moment before he managed to respond to her double entendre. "Nope, not yet." Hell, he'd need to turn his man card in if he didn't jump on this while he had the chance. "But definitely still interested."
The full-fledged grin she gave him at that could have melted every flake of snow from his fire escape, but it didn't linger. At least not on him. Instead, she checked out his apartment. It was clean, but that was the most he could say for it. It was a studio, and the heat barely worked, which made the howling wind outside seem even colder. "Great weather for getting naked," she said.
Excerpted from One Sexy Mistake by Sarah Balance, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2016 Sarah Balance. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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