Just Say Yes: A Strictly Business Novel

Just Say Yes: A Strictly Business Novel

by Elizabeth Hayley

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451475534
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Series: A Strictly Business Novel Series , #2
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 807,060
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Hayley is the penname for "Elizabeth" and "Hayley," two friends who have been self-publishing romance novels since 2013. They are best known for the Strictly Business series, including The Best Medicine, and the Pieces series, among other novels.

Read an Excerpt

Praise

Also by Elizabeth Hayley

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Acknowledgments

Excerpt from The Wedding Agreement

About the Author

Chapter 1

Slow Simmer

Quinn popped a guacamole-covered chip into her mouth and looked up at the man seated across from her. “I love Mexican food, and I didn’t even realize this place was here.” There were plenty of Mexican restaurants in the area, but she didn’t know of any that felt as authentic as the one she currently found herself in. The intimate space was dimly lit, with small wooden tables and colorful murals decorating two of the walls. The short, plump woman who had seated them had introduced herself in a thick accent as the owner. Quinn also noticed that some of the entrees came with a complimentary shot of tequila—which was a nice touch, though she had chosen to order a dish without one because she didn’t think having any more alcohol would be the wisest decision. She’d been sitting there with Jeremy for only a little more than twenty minutes and had already drunk half her margarita—which the restaurant served in something that resembled a small mixing bowl with a glass stem. She was sure she’d feel buzzed after just one. And she didn’t want to make a poor first impression, or worse yet, have absolutely no recollection of the night. She knew the girls would want the details when they met for lunch the next day. “Do you come here a lot?” she asked.

Jeremy took a sip of his beer before answering. “No. I’ve never eaten here. Why?” He furrowed his brow a bit, looking as though her question threw him, though Quinn wasn’t sure why.

“You were quick to pick this restaurant, so I just figured you liked the place.”

“Actually, I review restaurants, and this was the next one on my list. I’ve heard good things about it, so I figured we’d give it a try.”

Quinn smiled, relieved that they’d found common ground so quickly. “Do you review for a local paper or a magazine? I’m actually a writer myself.” When Jeremy had approached Quinn at a coffee shop near her office, they hadn’t really shared many details about themselves. He was cute and seemed normal, so when he’d asked her out, she’d agreed.

His eyes lit up. “Oh, I don’t get paid to do it. It’s sort of a hobby.” He removed his phone from his pocket and typed in his code before clicking on a few things and angling it toward Quinn so she could see the screen. “I review them on Twitter.”

Quinn’s eyes widened. “EatandTweet?” Quinn asked, referring to his Twitter handle.

“Yeah, pretty cool, huh? I give each one a rating and a hundred-and-forty-character review. This last one got three forks. See?” he said, pointing to the silverware emojis. Clearly, Jeremy had mistaken Quinn’s shock for excitement. “I’m up to almost two hundred and seventy followers.”

That seems like way too many. “I see that.”

Jeremy laughed. “To pee or not to pee?” he said, quoting his last tweet with amusement as he opened up a picture he’d taken of the restaurant restroom. “Clever, right? That bathroom was disgusting.” Jeremy inched his chair closer to the table, clearly excited to share his hobby with someone. “The embarrassing part is that my mom was the one who came up with the idea. I critique her cooking every night—”

That’s not the only embarrassing part. “Wait—every night?” Does he still live at home?

“Well, other than the nights I have band practice.”

“Oh,” Quinn said, eager to discuss something else. “You’re in a band? What do you play?” Though she didn’t usually go for guys in bands, she couldn’t deny the appeal of a musician. Trying to make it in the music industry would help her overlook the fact that he probably slept on a futon in his parents’ basement.

Jeremy brushed a few errant strands of light brown hair away from his eyes. “Oh no. I’m not in a band. I’m the band director at a middle school in D.C. We have a pretty impressive woodwind section, given that I used to play the clarinet.”

And with that, all hope of salvaging the date was lost. Quinn couldn’t deny that he was good-looking. He had a strong jaw, broad shoulders, and lips that begged to be kissed. And for a moment she actually considered it if only for the sheer fact that it would prevent him from saying anything else that negated his handsome features.

Thankfully, Quinn had to hear about Jeremy’s latest band competition for only a minute or so before the waitress arrived with their food. “Chicken mole,” she said, placing the plate in front of Quinn. Then she gave the other to Jeremy. “And beef enchiladas. Can I get you anything else?”

Jeremy lifted up his Heineken and wiggled it back and forth to show it was nearly empty. “I’ll take another Hiney when you get a minute.”

Another Hiney?

Quinn saw the waitress trying to suppress a smirk. “Another beer coming right up. Anything for you, miss?”

Yeah, a shovel so I can bury what’s left of my sex drive. Beginning to rethink her original vow to remain relatively sober, Quinn considered ordering another drink. The only thing as painful as having to experience this disaster was having to remember it. But ultimately she decided against a refill. Because there was one thing worse than remembering this date: agreeing to another one. And she didn’t trust an alcohol-hazed mind to make sure that didn’t happen. No, she just needed to finish dinner and then get out of there as quickly as possible. “No, thanks,” Quinn answered with a polite smile.

The two spent the next few minutes eating and engaging in forced conversation. Well, it was forced on Quinn’s end at least. Jeremy, on the other hand, seemed to be having a good time. He asked her about her chicken—whether it was too dry, whether the sauce was the right amount of sweet and spicy. She could almost see the wheels turning in his brain as he composed pieces of his review in his head while they spoke. He even offered to get her something else if she didn’t like her meal. Thankfully, her dinner was good, saving her the embarrassment of Jeremy sending it back. Though she had to admit the offer was sweet.

Jeremy asked her about her family, job, and hobbies. And Quinn politely did the same. That is, until they were interrupted by a deep, booming voice singing in Spanish. Quinn looked to her right to see the owner approaching them as she belted out “Feliz Cumpleaños” in an operatic solo. The rest of the diners focused their eyes on Quinn and Jeremy as the owner set a slice of cake in front of Quinn. She hated being the center of attention, especially when she wasn’t expecting it. She wanted to crawl under the table and hide. But instead she widened her eyes at Jeremy before turning to the owner. “I’m sorry. It’s not—”

“Of course it’s necessary,” Jeremy interrupted.

“I was going to say ‘my birthday.’” Quinn had lowered her voice, though she wasn’t sure why. There was no way the woman could hear their conversation over the sound of her own singing.

“I know. It was last week though, right? I looked it up on Facebook.”

Goddamn social media. Realizing that the serenade would end only when the song lyrics did, Quinn collapsed her face into her hands. She could feel the warmth coming from her cheeks. She was sure they were nearly as red as her hair.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Jeremy said sympathetically, “I’d heard that the owner is a phenomenal singer. Singing Spanish opera to the customers is kind of her . . . thing. I wanted a reason to hear her so I could include it in my tweet. You’re doing me a favor really.”

It didn’t make Quinn feel any better. And she couldn’t help but feel bad that she had no interest in Jeremy. Despite his gentle eyes and sweet nature, he just wasn’t for her. And Quinn couldn’t help but worry that no one else seemed to be for her either.

•   •   •

The rest of the girls were already seated around the table at Panera when Quinn arrived for lunch on Sunday. “We said one thirty, right?” Quinn asked, double-checking her watch. It was one twenty-eight. She wasn’t late, but the group already had their meals in front of them.

“Yeah, we got here a few minutes early,” Cass replied. “Guess we were all eager to hear the deets of your hot date.”

Quinn set down her French onion soup and salad and took a seat across from Lauren and Simone. “Not sure that date would qualify as ‘hot’—unless you’re counting the green salsa. Of course, if you follow Jeremy on Twitter, you probably already knew about the salsa.”

She anticipated the confused stares on the girls’ faces. “You heard me right. The guy tweets reviews of restaurants like he’s Zagat. It’s his ‘hobby,’” Quinn said, adding air quotes for emphasis.

The girls all tried to rein in their laughter.

“I think it’s creative,” Lauren chimed in.

Quinn glared at her. “Surprisingly, so do two hundred and sixty-eight other people.” She broke off a chunk of her bread and dipped it into her soup. “Hmm, I wonder how many forks he’d rate this fine meal.”

“Stop,” Simone said, dragging out the word as if she felt bad for Jeremy. “You said he was cute, right?”

Quinn swept her deep red hair around to rest on her left shoulder and sat back in her chair. “Yeah. Kind of like a three-legged dog. You can’t help but think it’s cute because you feel so sorry for it.”

Quinn felt an elbow dig into her arm, courtesy of Cass. “Don’t be mean. It doesn’t suit you.”

“He’s twenty-eight and still lives with his parents, Cass. And he spent most of dinner telling me about how the middle school band he directs came in second in their latest competition because he thinks one of the boys from another school stole the reeds to the clarinets so they couldn’t practice beforehand. We had nothing in common. I seriously contemplated telling a story that began This one time at band camp just so I had something to contribute to the conversation.” Quinn huffed. “I’m not trying to be mean to him. I’m just . . . I don’t know.”

“I meant don’t be mean to the three-legged dogs of the world. They have it rough,” Cassidy deadpanned. “This guy sounds like a complete tool. And that was a missed opportunity if you didn’t tell him you masturbated with a musical instrument. That movie’s classic.”

Quinn ignored Cass and released a heavy sigh. “Okay, enough about my nightmare of a dating life. What’s going on with you girls?”

Cass perked up. “I just might have a story to rival yours, Quinn. I was talking to Alex the other day, and he—”

“Since when do you talk to Alex?” Simone questioned.

“What do you mean? I talk to him all the time. We’re friends.”

“God, you want on his dick so bad,” Simone quipped as she plopped a chip in her mouth.

Cass at least had the forethought to act appalled. “I do not!” She looked around at the three unconvinced faces staring at her. “We are friends. He has enough family drama going on his life to warrant a Lifetime movie. I don’t have any room in my life for that mess beyond a phone call here and there.”

Quinn didn’t have to sneak a glance at the other girls to know they weren’t buying Cass’ story either. But none of them called her on it. That’s what good friends did: let you stew in your own denial for as long as you needed to fester there.

“Anyway,” Cass continued. “He went on a date with some chick last weekend. It was a fucking disaster.” She snickered as she took a sip of her lemonade.

“What happened?” Lauren asked. “I’m surprised Scott hasn’t told me about it.”

“Maybe they haven’t talked yet. Who knows? Boys are weird. I mean, if you can’t tell your embarrassing life stories to your best friends, who can you tell?”

Quinn propped her elbow on the table and dropped her chin onto her hand. “Are we going to hear a story sometime soon?”

“I’m getting there. God, you’re so touchy when you haven’t gotten laid recently.”

Quinn stuck her tongue out at Cass, which she ignored and continued on. “So Alex was superexcited about his date with this girl. Heather, I think her name was. He met her at the gym, and he said they totally hit it off. He asked her out and suggested they go to that nice new Italian restaurant that opened over on Broad Street. But she wasn’t having it. She suggested they go to Blue Wave, that new age hippie joint where wheat germ is the ingredient of choice.” Cass’ lips quirked. “Maybe we can ask Jeremy if he’s reviewed it yet.”

“Go to hell,” Quinn quipped.

Cass suppressed her smile. “He should’ve known the date was a bad idea then. But being the nice guy he is, he went. She even insisted she pick him up. In her electric car. She proceeded to talk the entire time about solving world hunger and tried to convince him to become a vegan. Poor Alex. He really knows how to pick ’em.”

Quinn couldn’t help but feel a pang in the center of her stomach. I seem to really know how to pick ’em too. “What do you mean?”

Cass swallowed a bite of sandwich before answering. “He always ends up with these nightmares.” Cass shook her head. “I dunno. I think all the drama with his ex is really doing a number on him, so he convinced himself that he has a certain type. But that type is boring as hell. He needs to stop taking the safe road and look for someone who will challenge him. Someone with a little edge to her. Sure, the guy’s strung tighter than piano wire and has got to loosen up, but he also needs someone who can keep up with his freaky intellect.”

Cass kept speaking, but Quinn wasn’t listening anymore. Alex’s story was hitting a little close to home. Is that what my problem is? Have I pigeonholed myself into a type I’m not even all that into? Quinn thought back over the guys she’d dated the past couple years. They’d all had that boy-next-door charm. The problem was, Quinn didn’t want a boy. She wanted a man. Someone who had a career that was going somewhere, who could afford his own apartment but still knew the importance of watching a ball game or grabbing a beer after work with her. She wanted someone she could grow with, rather than have to raise like a man-child. There were only two problems: Why the hell hadn’t she figured all of this out before, and where the hell did she find a guy like that?

Chapter 2

The Pitch

Quinn had been replaying her lunch with the girls the previous day. And it had caused her to come to a startling discovery: her life was boring.

But I’m not boring. Am I?

Granted, she was bored at that particular moment as she waited for her meeting to start. When she’d accepted the job at Estelle magazine in D.C., Quinn had thought she was taking a giant leap into the big time. But what she’d really stepped into was a hostile work environment where she was basically a glorified lackey. Every day for the past five months she’d ridden the elevator to the twenty-sixth floor of the thirty-four-story building in the business district with the hope that they’d actually let her write something worthwhile that day. And every day she rode back down with her hope cowering in a corner like an agoraphobic at a One Direction concert.

The unfulfilling job, her nonexistent love life, and yesterday’s conversation with her best friends made her realize that she was a naive idiot stuck in the rut of playing it safe and made her want to claw out of her own skin. Like a werewolf. Werewolves are dangerous. Well, except for the ones in Twilight. Quinn shook her head, chastising her inner child for proving her own point. She really was lame. What twenty-seven-year-old career woman read Twilight? A boring, safe, immature one, that’s who.

Quinn clutched her notebook to her chest as she bit her thumbnail when Rita Davenport, editor in chief of Estelle, stormed in. “So, what have you got for me?” she demanded. No “Hey, how ya doing?” No idle chitchat, no warm looks or pleasant body language. Rita was all firm lines and cantankerous words.

Everyone in the room snuck glances at one another. Quinn was surprised she was actually allowed in these meetings, which her coworkers had dubbed the Dance with the Devil because that’s exactly what they were. The writers did their best to make mundane stories seem interesting to Rita, hoping she wouldn’t flay them alive. Quinn rarely said a word since she was firmly cemented in no-man’s-land, also known as retractions and clarifications. She had inherited the distinct pleasure of addressing the feedback from readers, and the occasional lawyer threat, about what their magazine had screwed up in the previous month’s issue. She had also written a few small stories for their Web site, mostly local human-interest pieces that no one read but made the magazine seem like it gave a shit about people.

Estelle magazine’s core demographic was women in the twenty to forty-five age bracket. And judging by the things that made it into the monthly publication, most women in that age range were vain, sex-crazed corporate climbers who would drain the blood from virgins and inject it with a syringe found in a crack den if they thought it would take a wrinkle off their foreheads. Quinn couldn’t relate, and usually she was proud of that fact. But after obsessing about her date and why she always ended up with dorky mama’s boys, she wasn’t so sure. Maybe she was going about life all wrong. Maybe one had to be a little ruthless, a tad careless, and somewhat spontaneous in order to be happy. Because if there was one thing Quinn was sure of, it was that she wasn’t happy.

“Really? Are you all suddenly mute? Let’s go. Give me something.”

Claire, a cute blond woman who had worked for the magazine for going on five years—a near record—cleared her throat. “I was thinking about doing a piece on the new female district attorney who’s doing really great things to clean up the streets of D.C.”

Rita looked at her like Claire had suggested an article on athlete’s foot. “Boring. Next.”

Tyler was next to speak up. He was as awesome as he was gay, and out of everyone in the room, he was Quinn’s favorite. “What about a how-to on the different ways to tie scarves?”

Rita turned down the corner of her upper lip in disgust. “This is for the September issue, Tyler. I doubt people are going to be into reading about scarves while they swelter in the oppressive D.C. heat. Can anyone make sense today?”

Lucy, a twentysomething with blue hair, was the next to speak. “How about a makeup comparison? We can ask a few of our interns to try out different products and rate them.”

“We do that every summer. It’s unoriginal and safe. I want the September issue to be . . . edgier. More dynamic. Think, people.”

The word “edgier” made Quinn retreat back into her brain. She could be edgy if she wanted to be. As Rita continued to verbally condemn people’s ideas with words like “childish,” “dull,” and “conventional,” Quinn couldn’t help but apply every one of them to her life. She suddenly felt suffocated by all the things she’d never experienced because they were wrong, or against the rules, or dangerous. There was a whole world outside the confines of the office they all sat in. Its vibrant walls and trendy furniture made them feel hip when they were really just geeky posers who were able to string words together better than the average person. Suddenly, Quinn had an overwhelming need to feel deserving of the fuchsia Barcelona chair she was in. She wanted to belong in an office that had bright orange and lime green walls. A prudent, respectable girl didn’t belong here. A badass did. “I have an idea.”

Everyone’s eyes swung to her, probably as shocked as she was to hear her voice.

“Well?” Rita said impatiently.

“I, um, was thinking that, um . . .” Quinn took a deep breath and organized her thoughts. Rita would never agree to the pitch Quinn was about to make if she couldn’t even get it out. “We should do a lifestyle column that focuses on doing things that people always wish they’d done but never actually had the guts to do.”

Rita was silent for a beat as she seemed to turn the idea over in her head. “Like what?”

“Like, uh, like . . .” Quinn hadn’t thought that far ahead. “Asking a stranger out on a date . . . breaking a law . . . things like that.”

Everyone in the room was silent as they watched Rita think the pitch over. “I like it. You have until the end of July. Since everyone here seems to work at a snail’s pace, it should give you plenty of time to discover yourself before we need to go to print.”

“Wait—you want me to write it?”

“It was your idea, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, but—” Quinn stopped herself. It had come out as just an idea of something that she’d like to read about: how someone else took her life in hand and really lived it. She hadn’t considered being that person herself. But the more she thought about it, the more she wanted to be. Even though it scared the hell out of her. “Never mind. I’ll get started right away.”

Rita gave her a curt nod before interrogating the rest of the group for viable articles.

Which gave Quinn plenty of time to burrow back into her head and wonder what the hell she’d just gotten herself into.

•   •   •

Tim shoved his hands in his pockets as he got out of his truck and walked toward the white house with blue shutters that his brother had told him to look for. He was happy to be invited to Lauren’s parents’ house to celebrate the fact that Lauren had gotten her master’s in psychology.

Withdrawing one of his hands as he approached the front door, he briefly wondered if he should just walk in, but decided against it before reaching out to ring the doorbell. Lauren’s mom had worked for Tim’s dad before he had died and Scott had taken over his medical practice. Therefore, he felt some level of formality was required.

A small slightly round woman answered the door, smiling broadly.

“Hi, Mrs. Hastings.”

“Tim, I’m so glad you made it. And call me Pam,” she added with a wave of her hand.

Tim nodded and entered the house when she pulled the door open wider. “Your home is beautiful.”

“You Jacobs boys are so polite. I’m not sure how either of you puts up with Lauren,” she replied with a laugh. “But thank you. Make yourself comfortable. The gang is all out on the back deck.”

“Thank you,” Tim said as he started for the back of the house. It wasn’t difficult to locate his brother; Tim heard his voice before he even reached the deck doors.

“Lo, if you don’t stop spraying that damn bug repellent all over the place, I’m going to have to take it away from you.”

Lauren huffed out a laugh. “I’d like to see you try.”

Tim stepped out onto the deck in time to see Scott make a move toward Lauren, who quickly lifted the bottle as though she were going to spray him in the face with it.

“I’m not playing with you, Scott. This is my party, and I’ll spray Off! if I want to.”

“You’re causing a haze to settle over the deck,” Scott complained.

“That means it’s working.”

“Are you still getting bitten?” Scott challenged.

“Yes.”

“Then it’s not working. Give it to me.” Scott rushed her, but Lauren threw the bottle into the backyard before he wrapped his hands around her stomach. “Do you want to explain what the point of that was?”

Lauren laughed and turned in to Scott’s chest. “I panicked.”

“Can you two stop canoodling? I’m trying to keep dinner down,” Cass jibed.

Scott kissed Lauren on the cheek before he looked up and his eyes caught Tim’s. “Hey, bro.” He disengaged from Lauren and made his way toward Tim, pulling him into a one-armed hug.

Lauren hugged Tim after Scott moved away. “Thanks for coming. Even though it’s completely ridiculous to have a party for getting out of grad school.”

“It’s not ridiculous,” Scott said, appalled. “You worked hard. You should get a party just like everyone else.”

Who is everyone else? No one else I graduated with is having some big shindig in their parents’ backyard. You and my mother are insane for insisting we have this.”

Scott raised a hand. “First of all, ‘big shindig’ and ‘parents’ backyard’ are mutually exclusive terms. If you’d let me rent out Clay’s like I’d wanted to, then—”

“Then it would be pretentious and obnoxious in addition to being unnecessary,” Lauren interjected.

Scott glared at her for a second. “Is dealing with you always going to be this exhausting?”

Lauren smiled brightly, looking pleased with herself. “Yup.”

Scott pulled her into an embrace. “Just making sure.” He chuckled right before kissing her chastely.

“Yuck. Get a room,” Simone complained through a smile.

Tim shook his head at their antics. “How was your graduation?”

“Long-winded and dull,” she replied with a smile. “Have you eaten yet? There’s a ton of food in the kitchen.”

“I’m good for now.”

“Okay. Well, make yourself at home.” Lauren drifted back toward her friends.

“How’s the restaurant been?” Scott asked.

“Going well. Business is starting to pick up.”

“That’s great. So being an executive chef is everything Wolfgang Puck made it out to be?”

Tim smiled at his brother in response before his eyes began to skim the crowd congregated on the deck. He tried to act disinterested, as though he were casually taking in the people before him.

But that wasn’t the truth. And as he stretched his six-foot-two frame to get a better look around, he caught a glimpse of the familiar head of red hair that made his heart rate jack up every time he saw it. Quinn was sitting alone in the backyard by the pool.

“Who are you looking for?” Scott questioned, making Tim shrink back slightly.

“No one,” Tim lied. “I’m going to grab a water. You want anything?”

Scott looked at him curiously for a second before shaking his head.

“Be right back.” Though Tim hoped he wouldn’t be. He walked over to the coolers that were lined up against the railing and dug around for a water before he descended the three steps that led to the yard and began walking toward Quinn.

Tim had seen her a dozen or so times since Scott had begun dating Lauren, and he’d looked forward to it every time. Not that he’d ever let anyone know that. Tim was almost eight years older than Quinn, and he had a history that was seven shades of fucked up. There was no way a girl like her needed to waste her time with a guy like him. But that didn’t stop him from dreaming.

He couldn’t help but feel a twinge of concern. Quinn’s best friends were all enjoying the party, yet she was sitting alone in the backyard. He took in her posture as he approached, immediately knowing that something was off with her.

“Hey, stranger,” he said as he plopped down in the chair beside her.

“Hey,” Quinn said quietly.

He noticed the way her eyes drifted over him, taking him in from head to toe. It made him feel like fucking Superman. “So what’s up? Why are you sitting over here?”

Quinn took a long drink from the beer bottle she was holding. “That’s an interesting question.” The words were slow leaving her mouth.

Is she drunk? “That’s why I asked it,” Tim said with a grin.

“Cheeky.”

Yup, she’s wasted.

Quinn was sitting cross-legged in the chair, and she turned her entire body toward Tim when she spoke again. “Did you know that I’m safe and traditional and predictable and a whole lot of other boring things?”

Tim took a sip of his water. “I did not.”

“Well, I’m glad that I was here to enlighten you,” she said as she drained the rest of the beer.

“How many of those have you had?”

“I lost count at seven.”

“Wow. Looking to dash that whole boring thing by getting your stomach pumped?”

“If that’s what it takes,” she murmured as she lifted the bottle back to her lips. Upon realizing that it was empty, she muttered a “figures,” and set it clumsily on the ground under her chair.

“Who told you you were all of those things anyway?” Tim asked.

Her only response was a slight shrug as she looked out over the pool.

“Okay, I’ll just ask all of them, then.” Tim stood up and turned toward the deck, where her friends were still congregated. “Hey, everybody, I was just—” He was cut off by Quinn leaping onto his back.

“Shh. Don’t be embarrassing.”

Tim tried to ignore how good it felt to have Quinn pressed up against him. Her long, thin frame molded against him, her full breasts pushing onto the corded muscles in his back. He quickly gave his dick a silent warning to behave as he reached up and unhooked Quinn’s hands from his shoulders. He kept hold of one hand as he turned around to face her. “Then tell me. Who said you were boring?”

“I just am.”

“Bullshit.”

Quinn’s eyes widened slightly. “You said a bad word,” she teased.

“I did. And I’m going to say a lot more of them if you don’t tell me who was calling you names.”

“Aww, you going to defend my honor?”

Tim didn’t return her smile. “Absolutely.”

Quinn tilted her head slightly, and he would’ve given anything to know what she was thinking. She blew out a breath, pulled away from him, and sank back into her chair, resting her arms on her thighs. “Do you ever wish you were someone different?”

Tim wasn’t sure how to answer that question. He was sure she knew about his past—at least the highlights. He’d drunk enough water at bars while he was out with them to make it pretty obvious. Not to mention the fact that Lauren knew all about Tim’s problems with addiction. The girls didn’t seem like the type of friends who kept secrets from one another. “I’ve been someone different,” he finally answered as he sat back down beside her.

Quinn looked over at him. “Oh. Yeah. Sorry. That was a stupid question.”

“No, it wasn’t. Now tell me why you asked it.” Tim couldn’t believe Quinn would want to be different. As far as he was concerned, she was perfect.

She sighed. “I don’t know. I just . . . Sometimes I feel like this isn’t how my life is supposed to shake out. That there’s so much more out there waiting for me if I’d just grow a pair and go look for it.”

Tim couldn’t help but smile at Quinn’s choice of words. She wasn’t a saint by any means, but she didn’t typically speak so candidly either. “What’s stopping you?”

She looked confused.

“From looking for it,” he clarified. “If you think life has more to offer, then why aren’t you doing something about it?”

“I already told you. Because I’m safe, and traditional, and—”

“Don’t give me that shit again,” Tim interrupted. “Give me the truth.”

“That is the truth. I’m cocooned so deeply into my own comfort zone, I can barely breathe, let alone get out.”

“Just take it one step at a time.”

“I kind of already did that, actually,” she explained. Tim gave her a look that told her to keep going, so she did. “I pitched an idea for an article. A kind of exposé into the life of a sheltered woman looking to spread her wings, if you will.”

“That sounds great.”

“Yeah, except now I have to actually go through with it. I was only pitching the idea, but now my editor wants me to write the article. And I have no idea how I’m going to do that. I don’t even know the kinds of things I should write about.” Quinn sighed deeply. “How am I supposed to know what type of person I want to be? I can’t even pick the right type of guy to date.”

Tim felt his jaw tighten at the mention of Quinn and guys, but he ignored it because there wasn’t anything that could be done about it. “What type do you date?”

“In a nutshell, mama’s boys,” she said with a hollow laugh. “It’s fine. I just couldn’t understand why I always date these guys who still live at home and think playing video games is a stimulating activity. Then I started reflecting on it and realized that it’s because I play it safe and look for guys who will be the least likely to hurt me. I don’t take risks, and I don’t like leaving things to chance. It’s just how I’m wired.”

He wanted to tell her that was a good thing. There was a reason she was attracted to guys who were essentially the opposite of him: they were better. They hadn’t spent years on the streets doing whatever it took to get their next fix. They didn’t hurt the people who loved them. They didn’t fuck up everything they had to chase a high that was never as good as promised. “There’s nothing wrong with that, Quinn. Trust me. I’ve taken enough risks in my lifetime to satisfy the quota for a football team. And it hasn’t made me a better person, or more fulfilled, or happier. It made me stupid and thoughtless.”

“You don’t think you’re those things now? Happy and fulfilled?”

“I am them now, for the most part. But that’s because I’ve stopped being a reckless jackass.”

“Don’t you think those experiences enabled you to be them though? That by making mistakes and seeing how bad things could get, you actually found out how you did want to live?”

She had him there. Tim was one hundred percent formed by the lessons he’d learned. He was a better person at thirty-five because he’d been such a bad person from ages fifteen to twenty-seven. Tim had hit rock bottom about four times, and each time that rock bottom had gotten deeper. It made him appreciate being firmly aboveground. “I’m kind of an extreme case though. I don’t recommend my type of living to find out who you are.”

Quinn offered him a slight smile. “I’m not saying I want to hang out in dark alleys and befriend gangbangers. I just want to push the envelope a little. I don’t want to look back on my twenties and be bogged down by all of the things I didn’t do.”

Tim sat quietly for a minute. “Okay, you want to unleash your inner rebel, then we’ll do it.”

“We?”

“Oh yeah. There’s no way I’m missing out on this.”

Chapter 3

Recipe

Sunday morning Quinn woke up more hungover than she’d ever been. Sure, she’d been known to have her fair share of drinks when she and the girls would go to a bar or a club at night, but she didn’t make a habit of drinking during the day. There was something about drinking when it was still light out that made her head hurt. Maybe it was the fact that she’d sat outside in the heat for most of the party. Or that she hadn’t had much to eat and had hydrated herself with nothing other than beer. But she had a sneaking suspicion that much of the reason she didn’t feel well was because her head had been so clouded with its own thoughts lately. Typically, Quinn was up early, opting to make the most of her time. But as the morning sun streamed in through the windows, she covered her head with the blanket in an attempt to block out any light and willed herself to go back to sleep.

She could hear the quiet that had become a staple of her home since her roommate, Kristen, had gotten engaged and for all intents and purposes moved in with her fiancé. But her phone dinging for the second time to alert her that she’d received a text made it clear to Quinn that she’d be getting up. Probably the girls making sure I’m alive. And she knew they wouldn’t stop until they at least got some sort of a reply.

She rose slowly, as if the subtle movement might literally make her head explode, and headed for the hall bathroom to get some Advil and water. When she returned to her room, she moved toward her dresser, where she usually kept her phone charging overnight. But it wasn’t there. In her drunken state, she must have forgotten to plug it in and instead left it in the clutch she’d brought to the party. Her phone dinged once more as she grabbed the purple Vera Bradley off her bed. She was sure the last ding was from one of them too. But when she slid her phone out and clicked the HOME button, there were two texts from a “Mr. Sexy.”

Hope it’s not too early and I didn’t wake you. But I thought you might be in dire need of a caffeinated beverage this morning.

Then there was the second text that had come through a few minutes later. Meet me at Espresso Yourself?

Who is this? Quinn replied.

She stared at her phone for a few moments until she saw the dots indicating that the other person was composing a reply before it came through. Lol. Who do you think Mr. Sexy is?

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Just Say Yes: A Strictly Business Novel 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
KOrionFray More than 1 year ago
I’ve never considered myself much of a romance novel reader. In my head, they have a tendency to be formulaic, tedious, and unbelievable. Couple meets, falls for each other, sex happens way too fast, someone does something stupid, they hate each other, and by the end all is back to happy sex again. While other members of my family have enjoyed them in the past, I wasn’t sold for a while. Recently however, I got a chance to beta read a romance for a friend of mine–and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. So when a chance came to beta read JUST SAY YES, I decided to take a jump on it. Bad boys, journalists…this was something I could sink my teeth into. And was I right. Quinn Sawyer is a fairly sweet/innocent/naïve magazine journalist who doesn’t understand why she always seems to attract the calm, boring guys. Face to face with sexy reformed (depending on who you ask) criminal Tim Jacobs, and she feels just as safe and boring as all the guys she tends to date. So what better way to work her way out of her shell than make a list of rebellions to accomplish, and ask Tim to help her finish the list? Flawless plan. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right? There’s a piece of me that can relate to Quinn: feeling safe and boring, but liking guys a shade on the dangerous side. (Granted, Tim’s about as “dangerous” as I’d like my men, but that’s aside.) And Tim’s backstory is just dark enough and just deep enough to make him a fascinating and well-rounded character. Honestly, this is a perfect balance of character personality, logic for the pace of the action, and humor to make the entire piece cohesive. I won’t lie: there is an element of the romance-novel-formula in this. It is a romance novel, and it follows what you’d expect of one. However there are still a few surprises: moments where I expected one thing and got another, times when what I was sure would happen didn’t happen at all, moments of character reveal that knocked me off balance. It didn’t drag, it didn’t seem repetitive of redundant, everything had a reason and a logic. All winning points for me in a book. What “bothers” me about romance novels is that more often than not, by the time the book ends, the story for those two characters is finished–and thus I don’t get anymore. I’d love to read more about Quinn and Tim, figuring out themselves and their place in the world, maneuvering through their respective baggage, working with each other. They’re really fun characters and in a way, I kind of miss them. But that’s the sign of a good book, and it’s likely better to leave the reader wanting more, than dragging them on and on and making them want to light the second half of the book on fire. The pair behind this pseudonym know their stuff, and it shows. I’d absolutely pick up another of their books, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else they can cook up. Rating: ***** (Highest Recommendation) (Really a 4.5, but half stars don't seem to be a thing.)
kimberlyfaye More than 1 year ago
I was so excited to discover Elizabeth Hayley earlier this year when I picked up The Best Medicine on a whim. Their writing was refreshing and I absolutely fell head over heels for their characters and engaging story. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the second book in this standalone series and as soon as I started reading I knew I would enjoy it just as much as the first. Just Say Yes was a fun, sweet and super sexy book that I devoured in one sitting. I regret nothing. Quinn's story was something out of a rom com movie and, since those are one of my biggest guilty pleasures, I was all over this one from the very start. What happens when the "good girl" agrees to write a magazine article about pushing herself to do things outside of her comfort zone AND enlists the help of her "bad boy" friend to help? Pure freaking gold – that's what. I loved Quinn's "bucket list" and it was fun to watch her conquer each of them. There were some light-hearted and funny moments, but there were also quite a few sexy and swoony ones. Both of these characters were wonderful. I loved watching Quinn embrace life and start living it for herself instead of continuing to do the things her family wanted her to do. It's hard to shake the good girl rep and I loved how Quinn pushed the envelope and ultimately found herself. Tim was super hot and swoony and complicated. (My favorite kind of hero.) Of course, friends first romances are some of my favorites, so it's no wonder I embraced this one the way I did. These characters had tons of chemistry and the sexy times were smokin' hot. There was also a solid dose of feels as these two grew together and I loved every minute of it. I'm already dying to get my hands on the third book, The Wedding Agreement. I adore Cass and can't wait to see who she's paired with. Is it May yet? I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Bekina32 More than 1 year ago
It's no secret I love Elizabeth Hayley and their writing. They remind me of Alice Clayton and her Wallbanger series. This book was awesome! Quinn is a girl who plays by the rules, always walks the line and dates the kind of guy she's supposed to but it never lasts. After one more disastrous date she takes a good look at her world and wonders if maybe she's been playing it safe for too long. Her boss at work is looking for a unique story idea and Quinn decides maybe it's time to step out of her comfort zone. So, she pitches an idea where she makes a list of things she would normally never do and her boss loves it. In order to accomplish this list she will need the help of a bad boy... enter Tim Jacobs. Tim is a tattooed hottie with a dark past he's worked hard to overcome. He agrees to help Quinn accomplish her tasks and begins to fall for her. But with all the mistakes he's made in life he doesn't feel like he's worthy of her. During the execution of the list Quinn decides to throw caution to the wind and make her move with Tim. What happens next is a series of hilarious happenings, some steamy moments and two people discovering how great life can be when you choose to let go a little. Can they make a relationship work? Can Quinn complete her list and find the joy on life she's been searching for? Can Tim get past his own issues to realize the goodness standing right in front of him? You'll have to read to find out! Grab this book as soon as you can and be ready to laugh, cry and fall in love with Tim and Quinn. I did!
Ebbie80 More than 1 year ago
Just Say Yes leaves off where the Best Medicine ended…Lauren graduates and that pivotal moment leads us into the story of Quinn Sawyer and Tim Jacobs. Yes, Lauren's best friend and Dr. Scott’s brother. Tim has a dark past which involves addiction. His past helps to shade his present to a point where he doesn’t allow himself to get too close to anyone outside of his circle. Quinn has a life which has been shaped by her parents over protectiveness and their control issues. In Just Say Yes, you will read a story about two adults finding out who they are within, while fighting the urges that two attractive people can tend to feel towards each other. Both Quinn and Tim learn to stand up for themselves and what they want by learning to Just Say Yes. Elizabeth AND Hayley have done it once again. This book is a book for fighters, those who want to fight for love. Those who want to say yes and those who need to find out who they really are. Quinn and Tim’s story does NOT disappoint and will leave you wanting more from the dynamic duo’s that are Quinn and Tim; and Elizabeth and Hayley. ***NetGalley ARC received in exchange for an honest review.***
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We first met this pair in Elizabeth Hayley's novel, The Best Medicine. Quinn is one of Lauren's best friends and Tim is Dr. Scott's brother. I couldn't wait for this story! Quinn is the good girl always playing it safe, trying never to disappoint her parents, and always dating the same boring type of guy. She works for a magazine in D.C. where she pitches an idea for an article about a girl stepping out of her comfort zone and what happens as a result. Quinn ends up being assigned this article which she is stressed about. Tim is a hot, tattooed chef at an up-and-coming D.C. restaurant with a troubled past that he's worked hard for the past 8 years trying to overcome. He still has doubts about himself and struggles to accept that he is the man that he wants to be. Tim has never been in a relationship and doesn't feel worthy of being in one, so he offers to help Quinn as her friend. He helps Quinn to start checking off items on her list of experiences that are out of her comfort zone. This is where their journey of discovering who they really are separately and together really begins. Just Say Yes will have you experiencing a full spectrum of emotions from laughing hysterically to wanting to smack someone to blushing at the hot sex to having your heart break and everything in between. This book had me hooked from the first horrible date Quinn goes on with the tweet and eat guy until her happily ever after! Just Say Yes to reading this book! You won't regret it!