Originally published as part of the USA Today bestselling anthology Eye Candy, Getting Down is a hilarious and hot short story set in the Shacking Up world. Now contains a never before published bonus scene!
Ruby Scott's favorite holiday is here, all she needs is a moderately good excuse to throw a party. With the help of her best friend Amalie--and Amalie's fiance's budget--the two of them throw a Halloween-inspired fundraiser. But no event goes off without a couple hitches...
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|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
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About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.
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I try to sneak a peek at my reflection in the mirror during the brief pauses between strokes of eyeliner, but I'm sitting on the vanity so it's impossible to get a good look. "How much longer before I can see?"
Amalie Whitfield, my best friend for over a decade — we survived high school and then college in New York together — huffs an annoyed sigh and gives me the stink-eye. It's a hilarious expression on her makeup-caked face. She throws down the lip brush and pulls a tissue from the box. It's the third time she's had to do this. "Can you please stay still? I'm almost finished and I don't want to have to start over."
I grip the edge of the counter and press my lips together. "Staying still."
She dabs at the spot I messed up, and tilts her head to the side. "Pout for me."
I make pouty lips at her and follow it up with a wet kissy sound. Amie — which is what I like to call her since Amalie sounds a bit stuffy — rolls her eyes and goes back to painting my lips, while mirroring my expression. For the past ninety minutes she's been working on our makeup — like she used to do in college when we went out clubbing. She's amazing with makeup. It's a gift.
"We should've videoed this for your YouTube channel," I say through mostly still pursed lips. Back in college Amie started posting short tutorials as part of a research project for one of her marketing classes. What began as a way to bump up her grade turned into a hobby she actually managed to make money from. She even managed to raise something like seventy thousand for one series she did for cancer patients. My best friend is pretty incredible.
"I haven't done that in a long time. I doubt anyone watches those videos anymore. But maybe when I'm not quite so rusty I could do it again. It would be fun to put something up, just to see if anyone would still watch it."
Last time I checked, Amie had close to a million views on the video she uploaded six months ago. Right before she started dating her fiancé, Armstrong. She's a bit of a YouTube sensation, even if she pretends she isn't. Sometimes I miss this version of my best friend, the carefree fun one who puts on costumes in the middle of the day and does my makeup. She's so serious most of the time now.
I'm used to sitting while getting my makeup done, but this is a lot more intricate than what I wear for a performance. Today I brought home a pile of old costumes. I just happened to be around when my producer opened a trunk of donated costumes, none of which were helpful for performances on the stage, but all of which were perfect for Halloween. Halloween may be weeks away, but the second I walked in the door I started trying on costumes. And the moment Amie arrived, I made her do the same.
I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday of the year, even though technically it's not a real holiday since no one gets the day off. I also love horror movies. I love being scared more than ever now that I have a super-hot boyfriend to watch those movies with. It didn't take long for him to learn to share that love. Especially when it means I'm cuddled up in his lap, using his neck as a place to hide my face when the movies get too scary. As a side note, the movies are never really that scary, I just like the way he smells. And more than half the time we never make it to the credits, since I use the scary part as an excuse to get all up on him. That often leads to kissing, and nakedness inevitably follows.
But back to Halloween. Beyond scary movies and morphing the condo into a haunted house — which I've already done thanks to several shopping expeditions to local Halloween specialty stores and a few consignment shops, all before October first — I love dressing up. Like love, love, love it. But then, I'm an actress, so playing pretend is kind of my thing. Even the bathroom Amie and I are currently occupying has been decorated. I've turned it into a haunted bathroom, with bats hanging from the ceiling and fun accessories containing creepy-crawly things lining the vanity. I've actually scared the crap out of myself a couple of times when I've had to pee in the middle of the night.
My phone buzzes on the vanity. I glance down and see that it's Bancroft, my boyfriend. It's his vanity I'm currently sitting on. Well, ours is probably more accurate. We've been dating since the spring and I moved into his condo two weeks ago. Our beginning was a bit unconventional. Not too long ago I was jobless and nearly homeless.
So when he presented an opportunity to be his pet sitter while he was out of town on business, he also offered me the spare room in his luxury, penthouse condo. Of course I took it. Five weeks of pet sitting turned into five weeks of video chat flirting that turned into seriously hot sex when he got back, which turned into an actual relationship.
I reach for my phone, but Amie slaps my hand. "Don't move."
"I said don't move. That includes your lips."
"God you're bossy." It's so hard not to smile at her angry expression. Especially with the way she's dressed up. Amie's a gorgeous, ultra-fit, sandy-blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess. She has a sweet face, but under that pretty exterior is a whole lot of bite. Bite that I haven't seen much of since Armstrong came onto the scene.
She pinches my arm and I turn into a mannequin.
Less than a minute later I hear the door open and the sound of my name being called from down the hall. I'm not allowed to speak, so Amie answers for me, shouting, "We're in your bathroom."
The heavy tread of shoes — they're not Bancroft's, he always takes his off when he walks in the door — echoes down the hallway. Bancroft is not alone. He's with Amie's fiancé, who happens to be his cousin. I find him to be a pretentious asshole, but Amie seems to love him, so I keep those thoughts to myself most of the time. Unless I'm alone with Bancroft. Then we share our disdain for him openly.
Tonight they're staying for dinner. Later we can bitch about him and I can distract Bancroft from his scorn with a blowjob and he can return the favor.
"What're you ladies up t — Holy fuck." Bane's voice drops to gravel pitch.
Bancroft's massive, broad shoulders take up most of the doorway. Sweet lord he's gorgeous. Currently his luscious mouth is hanging open as he holds on to the jamb, as if his grip is the only thing keeping him where he is. His gaze bounces over Amie and lands on me, sweeping down and back up again.
"What's going on?" Armstrong asks from behind him. He can't see anything because Bancroft is impeding his view. Armstrong is shorter than Bane by a few inches. Although, to be fair, Bane is huge. I think he's at least six-three, and he weighs twice as much as I do. He's a wall of solid muscle and sexiness.
"That's a really good question," Bane mutters. His eyes drop to my red-toenailed bare feet, and move up, tongue dragging across his bottom lip as he takes me in.
Beyond the fact that I'm dressed the part of a villainous fairy with the makeup to match, I'm also sitting on the vanity with Amie standing between my legs. If I take off the makeup and the costume, it's a rather common position I find myself in with Bane. Except both of us are usually naked and he's often inside me. Or on his knees with his face between my legs. Based on the way he's looking at me right now, I might very well get to experience his adeptness in both departments later tonight. I look forward to ripping off his suit and treating him like a ride at an amusement park. Once Amie and Armstrong leave, of course.
One eyebrow quirks as he asks, "You two playing dress-up?"
I grin. I assume it must look incredibly evil considering the makeup I'm currently sporting but am not allowed to see yet. "We're practicing for Halloween."
His mouth tilts in a smirk. "Fuck yes you are."
Oh yeah. I'm getting so lucky later. I don't think I'm changing out of this costume, as difficult as it might be to sit in all night considering the massive wings attached to my back. I'll make it work. Bancroft is very well acquainted with my love of all things Halloween and horror.
"What's happening in there?" Armstrong elbows Bancroft in the ribs so he can poke his head in the door.
He edges inside the bathroom and his eyes go wide as they move over Amie. I suppose I can understand why. I've managed to get her into a pair of red satin booty shorts and a tight T-shirt. Her bra is very, very visible through the thin fabric. Her amazing legs are on display. Her hair is pulled up into two pigtails. If I wasn't 100 percent sure she wasn't even close to Bancroft's type, I might be inclined to make her cover up. But he's not into leggy blondes. He's into somewhat petite brunettes. He also likes the sass, which I have an abundance of.
"What're you wearing?" Armstrong asks. He sounds very much like he's sucked on a helium balloon for shits and giggles.
Amie looks down at herself, as if she doesn't understand his concern. She does. Fully. We talked about how he wouldn't approve of this costume at all before they arrived. Which is the exact reason I suggested she continue to wear it.
I'm not actively trying to interfere in my best friend's relationship, but I'm not fully convinced he's the perfect fit for her, either. He's far too trust-fund-pickle-up-ass. I'm worried she's settling for the wrong reasons. The last boyfriend she had was a little too far on the wrong side of the law, so I'm concerned she's swung a bit too much in the other direction to compensate for the near prison record she incurred over it. My hope is that pushing his buttons will help improve what I'm beginning to suspect, based on recent conversations, might be a fairly lackluster sex life. Or, if I'm really lucky, it might make her see that he's not the best penis to spend the rest of her life riding.
"Doesn't she look amazing?" I ask with extra enthusiasm.
Armstrong ignores me. "You can't ever leave the house like that."
I glance from Armstrong to Amie and then to Bancroft. Seriously? Who says something like that? This isn't the dark ages.
"We were just playing around. Having some fun." Amie smoothes her hand self-consciously over her stomach. Her flat stomach. Amie could be a model and until she started dating this goon, she seemed relatively happy with the way she looks, but ever since the ring went on her finger, I've noticed she's far more cautious about what she eats, making flippant comments about staying in shape for the wedding.
"You need to cover up. You can't wear those shorts in front of Bane." Armstrong gestures behind him, at my boyfriend, who's giving me the eye. It's not the I-want-to-fuck-you eye anymore, now it's the can-I-murder-him eye.
I'd say yes, but then my best friend would be unhappy and dinner would be ruined.
"My bikini covers less than this," Amie retorts.
Three heads snap in her direction, mine included. This right here, this is the Amie I know. This is my best friend. The one who won't put up with other people's crap. The one who does what she wants, when she wants, regardless of what people think. Even her fiancé. Especially her fiancé. She might feel some regret later, but that's what I've always been here for — to help her manage that. To assist in making her feel less like she needs to atone for having fun. Armstrong is the biggest wet blanket ever. How he and Bane share DNA is a wonder.
When we were in high school I was the one people tended to look at when there was trouble brewing, but Amie was most often the instigator. I just followed along. She's sweetly beautiful, and it makes her look incredibly innocent, which she is not. She's always been a bit of a wild one. It's the reason I nicknamed her Anarchy Amie. To everyone else she's always been Amalie, prim and proper, sweet and sunny. I know all too well what she's really like — feisty, fun, and with a love for getting into trouble and a penchant for dating bad boys — at least she was, until she started dating Armstrong and settled right down. The stunts she used to pull in high school were epic, though. Once she spiked the football player's Gatorade with vodka to get back at the quarterback, who started rumors about her when she refused to go out with him.
"We should have some wine and order dinner!" I suggest brightly, hoping to cut some of the tension. I hold on to Amie's hips as I slip off the vanity. Armstrong looks scandalized as my boobs brush below hers. Bancroft looks like he wants to spank my ass. Among other things.
"But you're going to change first, right?" Armstrong asks.
"We need to take some pictures first. The lighting is better in the living room." I grab my phone and Amie's hand and flounce past the men, towing her behind me.
"I should really get changed," Amie mumbles in my ear once we're past them.
"You went to all this trouble to make us look awesome and you look hot as fuck. We need evidence." I haven't even had a chance to look at my own reflection. I pause in the hallway, where a decorative mirror, rimmed in spiders and fake skeleton bones, reflects my terrifying yet starkly pretty face back at me.
I'm not being intentionally egotistical. On a good day, with enough stage makeup, I'm decent to look at. Bancroft seems to think I'm gorgeous with zero makeup. I'm not going to fight him on that assessment since he's the one looking at me all the time, but I think some of it has to do with my incredible skill set in the bedroom and my ability to hoover his cock.
"Wow. This is amazing. Are you sure you don't want to switch to a career in stage makeup?" I get up close to my reflection, then take a step or two back. She's done an unreal job. I hover in the gray area between eerie and beautiful.
Armstrong and Bancroft follow us down the hall to the living room where the bulk of my Halloween decorating has taken place. I've made a tape outline of a dead body in the center of the living room floor. A life-sized zombie girl stands disconcertingly in the corner, cobwebs span the windows and over the shelving, where fake potions and containers full of gum eyeballs and candy worms and gummy brains are strategically placed. Bane and Amie are used to it by now, but based on Armstrong's wide-eyed, distasteful expression, he's not a huge fan. Whatever.
I make us pose in front of the windows, and then against a wall with two skeletons who look like they have their arms around us. I make a point of draping myself over Amie every chance I get, mostly because it makes Armstrong look like he's going to have an aneurysm. I can tell Bancroft knows what I'm doing, because he offers to take pictures for us and then suggests poses that are far from PG.
By the time we're done with our impromptu photo shoot, Armstrong is already done with his first scotch and onto his second, fidgeting anxiously with his tie.
I cross over to the wine fridge and search for a nice bottle of red. There are actually two fridges, one for white so it's cold and one for red so it's room temperature, or whatever is ideal. Bancroft knows this better than me. Amie prefers red over white. I don't really care either way. Actually, I prefer prosecco over anything else, but it's not her favorite, and based on Armstrong's pinched, sour face, she needs the booze more than I do. "You know what we should do?"
"Change into real clothes?" Armstrong mutters into his scotch.
"We should throw a Halloween party. Wouldn't that be fun?" I look first to Amie and then to Bancroft, ignoring the party pooper in the corner.
Bane's not paying much attention to anything apart from my ass. The skirt I'm wearing is gauzy, and my black shorts are very visible through the transparent fabric.
"That's a great idea! Where should we host it?" Amie's enthusiasm matches mine.
"I was thinking here. There's lots of space."
That snaps Bancroft out of his ass-induced trance. "What about Francesca?"
"We'll keep her in your room. It'll be fine." Francesca is Bancroft's fugitive ferret. They're illegal in the state of New York, which makes my boyfriend a very sexy, animal-loving criminal.
"I don't know —" He's tapping on the counter, wearing his furrowed brow. Serious Bancroft makes me want to get naked. All versions of Bane make me want to get naked, but when he's all scowly and furrowed brow it makes my lady parts want attention. I need to rein in my inner hornball, since we haven't even ordered dinner yet.
"Actually, a Halloween Ball would be a fantastic idea. Don't you agree, Bancroft?" Armstrong swirls his scotch in his glass.
"Uh? I guess?" Bancroft looks as stupefied by Armstrong's sudden interest in the conversation as the rest of us.
Armstrong agreeing to any kind of party, with any level of enthusiasm, is grounds for confusion. Planning parties is not his thing. The entire wedding has fallen on Amie's shoulders. Well, it did in the beginning. Until their mothers stepped in with their many opinions as to what would be best. Mostly it's Armstrong's mother with all the opinions.
Amie's family comes from new money and Armstrong's comes from old, which means there's a bit of snobbery over her status. Just because her family hasn't been rolling in piles of cash for the past three centuries doesn't mean she can't have a say in her own wedding preparations.
Excerpted from "Getting Down"
Copyright © 2018 Helena Hunting.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Party Time,
Chapter 2: Hanging,
Chapter 3: Naughty Girl,
Chapter 4: Orgasmless,
Chapter 5: Dinner with the Mills Family,
Chapter 6: Boyfriend Auction,
Chapter 7: Costumes Are Crazy,
Chapter 8: Costume Design Flaws,
Chapter 9: Auction,
Chapter 10: Panty Eater,
Chapter 11: Dear Lord,
Chapter 12: Costume Malfunction,
About the Author,
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