Julie Greene loves flings. Loves steamy first dates, sizzling first kisses, and every now and then, that first sexy romp between the sheets. Comfy pants, sleepy Sundays, movie nights on the couch? Shudder. But when Julie gets assigned the hardest story of her career—a first-person account of that magical shift between dating and “I do”—she’ll need a man brave enough to give a total commitment-phobe a chance at more.
Normally, Mitchell Forbes would be exactly that man. A devastatingly hot workaholic who tends to stay in relationships for far too long, he should be the perfect subject for Julie’s “research.” But what Julie doesn’t know is that Mitchell is looking to cut loose for once in his life. And the leggy journalist notorious for avoiding love is exactly the type of no-strings fling he’s looking for. In other words, Mitchell is the polar opposite of what Julie needs right now. And, at the same time, he’s exactly what she wants.
Praise for After the Kiss
“Packed with loads of sizzle and Snickerlicious fun, Lauren Layne’s After the Kiss is a knock-your-stilettos-off, total page-turning treat that had me fan-girling up within the first chapter. I absolutely loved this read!”—USA Today bestselling author Mira Lyn Kelly
“Funny, intelligent, and touching, Lauren Layne’s After the Kiss is a delightful debut.”—Ruthie Knox, USA Today bestselling author of Flirting with Disaster
Lauren Layne’s New York Times bestselling Oxford Novel series can be read in any order:
I WISH YOU WERE MINE
SOMEONE LIKE YOU
I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE
I THINK I LOVE YOU
Don’t miss any of Lauren Layne’s hot reads:
The Love Unexpectedly series: BLURRED LINES | GOOD GIRL | LOVE STORY | WALK OF SHAME | AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS
The Sex, Love & Stiletto series: AFTER THE KISS | LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH | JUST ONE NIGHT | THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE
The Redemption series: ISN’T SHE LOVELY | BROKEN | CRUSHED
The I Do, I Don’t series: READY TO RUN | RUNAWAY GROOM
Includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Julie Greene had built a career out of falling in love. Staying in love? Not so much.
Julie’s boss apparently hadn’t gotten the memo.
“I’m confused,” Julie said slowly, leaning forward with a placating smile. “You want me to write what?”
Translation: You’re confused. I don’t write that shit.
Camille Bishop leaned back in her chair and studied Julie with puzzled eyes. “I’d have thought you’d be jumping at the chance to have such a simple assignment after last month.”
Julie pursed her lips together and considered. Last month’s assignment had been exhausting. Documenting the seven kinds of first kisses had required a lot of research.
But this? A two-page spread, to be called “How to Take Relationships to the Next Level”?
What was Camille thinking? This was Stiletto magazine, not Dr. Phil. Stiletto was sex and high heels, not companionship and freaking clogs.
The rocky post-honeymoon period just wasn’t Julie’s scene. Which is not to say she didn’t have plenty of other skills.
The first date? She had men begging for it.
The first kiss? An art form she’d long since mastered.
The first time you lost your panties in his sheets? Soooo not a problem.
This wasn’t to say that Julie had perfected only the major, most obvious dating milestones, however. She also knew how to finesse the subtler moments—those key moments where the breath caught and you thought, Yes, this. Julie could explain every single nuance, from the toe-curling euphoria when his hand brushed yours to the tingle when eyes held for just a beat too long. And then there was her personal favorite moment: the bone-deep satisfaction when you made him laugh for the first time—a real laugh.
Most women thought these moments just happened. Julie Greene knew better. These moments were created.
As for what happened after all that good stuff?
Julie couldn’t care less. She had no need for the first fight, no desire to meet the parents. No interest in finding dirty boxers in her hamper or making room in her bathroom for a man’s razor. That was all a one-way trip to Julie’s personal vision of hell: couples movie night.
Julie had found that the women of New York City erroneously used movie night as a yardstick of how close to the altar he was. After all, if he was satisfied to spend a Friday night at home instead of at a strip club, he must be whipped, right?
Wrong. So wrong.
Movie night was just another way of saying that you didn’t want to bother dressing up for him and that he didn’t care. Julie lived in fear of the moment when fancy dinners and cocktail parties would be a thing of the past, and the highlight of the weekend would be lounging in yoga pants and watching car chases or beautiful people making out on-screen.
The sexiest part of that scenario was the butter on the popcorn.
She shuddered. Julie Greene didn’t do movie night.
“Camille, look,” she tried again. “It’s not that I don’t respect your suggestions . . .”
“Oh?” Camille tilted her head, making her chemically straightened bob sway ever so slightly, and Julie froze. Over the years, Julie had come to think of Camille’s usually immobile hair as her “tell”—when it moved, someone’s life was about to get really messy.
Up until now, it had never been Julie’s life.
In the six years that she’d been working for Camille as a full-time columnist, this was the first time Julie had received a direct order on a story topic. Even when Julie had been fresh out of college with nothing but a handful of internships under her belt, Camille had given her wide latitude on what to write about.
Julie knew that Camille trusted her judgment. So what was with the sudden power trip?
It didn’t make sense. Julie was one of Stiletto’s best columnists, and they both knew it. And Camille had always encouraged her writers to play to their strengths. Julie’s niche was the single readers with the dream of falling in love. After that, they were on their own.
Julie sat up straighter. Wait, no. That wasn’t entirely true. Readers did have someplace to go once they got past the fun part of dating.
“Why not have Grace do it?” Julie asked excitedly. “She’s your relationship guru.”
“And here I thought you and Grace were both my relationship gurus.”
“We are,” Julie agreed quickly. “It’s just that we each have our own expertise. Anything having to do with long-term relationships is Grace’s.”
Camille pursed her lips, painted today in a rather shocking coral. “And how would you describe yourself?”
Julie’s heel jittered beneath the desk in frustration. Camille knew full well what Julie’s expertise was. Everyone at the Stiletto office did. Heck, half the women in Manhattan knew Julie by name. Knew what she stood for. Stiletto was the magazine to work at. The Dating, Love, and Sex department was the department to work in. And Julie, Grace Brighton, and Riley McKenna were Dating, Love, and Sex, respectively.
Julie answered slowly. “I’m all about butterflies, first kiss, getting him to call. You know, dating.”
“Mm-hmm, and how is it that a woman goes from those giddy first few dates to the comfortable, committed stuff that Grace writes about?”
Julie’s mind went blank. There was really no good way to tell the editor in chief of the country’s largest women’s magazine that you’d never bothered to think about what happened after. And sure, maybe some people might think Julie a little insubstantial. But she was willing to bet those same people were perpetually dateless. Or entrenched in yoga pants and movie nights.
“Um, well . . . I guess it sort of evolves?” Julie replied finally.
“With the right person, it just happens. That’s the mystery of what makes true love so special.” Gawd, I almost made myself vomit.
Camille shook her head. “Not good enough. You’ve seen the letters from our readers. They want to know the specifics. These are women who’ve already had the third date. They’ve even been on the seventh. But then what? How do they move forward?”
Julie’s sleeveless Kate Spade turtleneck dress suddenly felt a little tight around her throat.
“If not Grace, Riley could write it,” Julie said, grasping at straws. “You know, I actually think she’s been looking for a way to broaden her focus and take a break from the sex stuff for a while. Can’t you just see it? ‘Outside the Bedroom’ or something like that.”
“Julie,” Camille said with a sigh, “Grace and Riley have their stories figured out for the next few issues. I’ve already okayed them.”
“If you want a schedule of my future story ideas, I’d be happy to—”
“My mind’s made up.”
Okay, so Camille wasn’t going to be persuaded with reason. Time to go for the editor’s soft spot: Stiletto itself.
“I’m not sure this is what’s best for the magazine,” Julie said demurely. “I just don’t have any experience with the . . . you know . . . long-term stuff.”
But Camille wasn’t biting. “So? You think every writer in this office has personal experience with everything they write about?”
I do, Julie thought. Or at least I did.
“Julie, look around. What does this look like to you?”
“Um, an office?” More accurately, a high-tech, state-of-the-art, killer corner office with a view of Central Park South.
“Exactly. It’s an office of a magazine company. This is journalism, not your pink fuzzy diary,” Camille snapped. “If you haven’t been there yourself, talk to women who are going through that stage. Do what you always do—dive into our readers’ heads and answer the hard stuff for them.”
Julie bit back a sigh, knowing the battle was lost. Temporarily. Camille was one of those scary women who had made her way to the top of the food chain by having steel ovaries and a penchant for making people cry. Julie had always figured that if they’d made a movie about Camille’s life she’d be played by either a stern Katharine Hepburn type or an intensely scary Robert De Niro on crack. She was about as soft as a hammerhead shark and half as friendly.
Still, Camille was right about one thing: this article could be done with a little bit of strategic networking. A major in journalism from the University of Southern California had taught Julie that media was more about whom you knew than what you knew. But Julie had developed her own type of journalism over the years, one that involved a distinctly personal voice. And she hated the idea that she couldn’t speak personally to a topic.
“So we’re good?” Camille asked, standing to indicate that the conversation was over.
Not even close. “Definitely,” Julie replied with a confident smile.