Rule number one: don't fall for the wrong guy.
Gracie Greene has a shopping list for men. Career, financials, family...and a long list of rules to determine a guy's suitability. She's already disappointed her socialite mother once—now Gracie needs to find Mr. Perfect. Too bad she keeps getting distracted by her super-sexy, six-feet-of-tattooed-hotness friend, Des, who is so many shades of Mr. Wrong...
Bar owner Des Chapman has vowed never again to get involved with society girls. Yet he's irresistibly drawn to Gracie—those lush curves, those lips, and her ridiculous ability to date the wrong guys. As Gracie's discouragement grows, Des realizes it's time to show her what she really needs in a man—and it has nothing to do with a briefcase and generous bank account. He'll teach Gracie the Rules According To Des…even if it means breaking his rule in the process.
Each book in the Behind the Bar series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 The Rules According to Gracie
Book #2 Pretend it’s Love
Book #3 Betting the Bad Boy
About the Author
Growing up, Stefanie came from a family of women who loved to read. Her favourite activity was going shopping with her Nan during school holidays, where she would sit on the floor of the bookstore with her little sister and painstakingly select the books to spend her allowance on. Thankfully, Nan was a patient woman.
Thus, it was no surprise Stefanie was the sort of student who would read her English books before the semester started. After sneaking several literature subjects into her 'very practical' Business degree, she got a job in Corporate Communications. When writing emails and newsletters didn't fulfil her creative urges, she turned to fiction and was finally able to write the stories that kept her mind busy at night.
Now she lives with her very own hero and dreams of travelling the world. She frequently indulges in her passions for good coffee, French perfume, high heels and zombie movies. Recently she gave up her day job to write sexy, contemporary romance stories and she couldn't be happier.
Read an Excerpt
The Rules According to Gracie
By Stefanie London, Alycia Tornetta, First Edition January 2015
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Stefanie London
All rights reserved.
From his vantage point at the bar, Des Chapman could tell two things: One, they were going to run out of the seafood special and, two, the guy at Gracie Greene's table wasn't getting lucky tonight.
He chuckled as he looked over to the booth set intimately for two. He knew all of Gracie's tells; this date was not going well. Her hand repeatedly raked through her dark chocolate curls — she was frustrated. She kept chatting to the waiter — she was bored. And finally, she ordered a peach Bellini with a cherry on the side — her S.O.S.
Des poured the fizzing Prosecco over peach nectar and dropped a cherry into a dish, then placed both items on the bar where Gracie would be joining him shortly.
Despite the countless dates she paraded through First, his restaurant and bar, he'd been lusting after the woman for months on end. Not that she showed any kind of reciprocal interest. Though, if he was being honest with himself, it was for the best.
Gracie Greene was any and every kind of wrong for him.
She came from money ... old money. If that wasn't warning enough, she'd shed a little light on her family situation and it didn't look good: irritatingly perfect older sister who'd married into another old money family, controlling mother who was more concerned with keeping up appearances than the wellbeing of her children. The whole thing screamed back the hell away.
He could have been persuaded to look past those factors for a chance to be with Gracie if it weren't for the fact that he'd done it all before. His ex was exactly the same — same crazy family, same outdated views, same preference for status over love.
Society girls were not in his repertoire any more.
Des stalked over to her table. He couldn't wallow in frustration any longer. He had a business to run and customers to keep happy. Fantasies about Gracie and her unobtainable body would have to wait until he was home. Alone.
"I told you, Gracie" — he placed his palms on the table and leaned forward — "you can't be bringing men around here while we're still married."
She blinked at him, her rich brown eyes the picture of innocence. He caught a whiff of her sweet vanilla perfume as she tossed her hair over one shoulder. The scent intoxicated him.
The guy who sat across from Gracie almost choked on his steak. "You're married?"
Des looked him up and down and scowled. The guy was way too overdressed for a date. For starters, he was still in his work clothes — a ridiculous three-piece suit — and he wore a pair of shoes so shiny Des could see his own face in them. Secondly, he had enough product in his hair to grout an entire kitchen.
He was all kinds of wrong for Gracie.
"Your profile didn't say you were married!"
"I won't be for much longer," Gracie said, narrowing her eyes at Des.
To anyone else she would have appeared angry, but he noticed the tiny, barely perceptible twitch of her lips.
She jabbed a finger at Des. "As soon as this bozo signs the divorce papers, I'll be single again."
"Ha." Des folded his arms. "Over my dead body."
Mr. Shiny Shoes looked from Gracie to Des and back, his pale face losing what little color it had. He took a hearty gulp of his wine and fumbled with his iPhone and wallet.
"Look, Gracie, this has been great but I ... uh," he stuttered. "I have a thing ..."
"Go." She waved her hand, dismissing him.
He dropped a fifty onto the table and escaped, shaking his head as he went. Customers at the nearby tables were oblivious to the action and Gracie shot a grateful grin at Des.
"I do love the angry ex-husband gag," she said, standing and linking her arm through his.
"Not bad for someone who's never been married, eh?"
"Yes, and it's much better than the overprotective older brother act." They walked to the bar, her hip bumping his as they navigated the crowded space. She climbed onto a bar stool and reached for the Bellini. "No one would ever believe we're related."
"Why not?" Des stepped behind the bar and grabbed a towel to wipe down the countertop. This was his favorite part of the evening, the bit where he got Gracie all to himself.
"Look at you. You're covered in tatts."
"I'm a sweet, innocent young lady — too clean cut to be related to you."
"There's not much innocent about you, Gracie."
He drank in the sight of rich curls as they tumbled over her shoulders. She wore a red dress, not showy but subtly designed to capture attention. Large gold earrings tinkled as she shook her head, giving her a gypsy-like appearance. Everything about her was smoothly curved and sculpted with lust in mind.
"You'd be surprised." She gave a coy smile and dangled her cherry for a moment before popping it into her mouth and pulling off the stem with a gentle tug. The things that girl could do with a cherry stem ...
Des swallowed, resisting the flood of heat that coursed through him whenever he watched Gracie eat. "I'm never surprised."
The ambient light of the bar caught on her red, lacquered nails as she gesticulated. "We couldn't be related. No one in my family would ever go a whole week without shaving."
Des ran his hand along his jaw, stubble rough beneath his fingers. "Two days, Baby. You can thank my Mediterranean genes for that."
"Hairy bastard." She threw her head back and laughed, the sound much richer than one might expect from such a petite woman. Like most things about Gracie, it was deeply appealing.
"Tell me," he said, "what was wrong with Mr. Shiny Shoes?"
What wasn't wrong with Mr. Shiny Shoes?
He'd seemed great from his dating profile. He'd ticked all the boxes — suitable career as a finance manager at a Big Four bank, an economics degree from the University of Melbourne, he came from old Brighton money, and there wasn't a single thing on his Facebook page that hinted at any deviant personal habits.
Yet he was wrong ... on all levels.
Gracie sighed, taking another sip of her Bellini. It was hard to concentrate with Des leaning in like that, the muscles in his arms bulging as he crossed them. She forced her eyes away from the intricate patterns that decorated his biceps, up and under the edge of his fitted black T-shirt. Unfortunately for her, staring and Des went hand in hand.
"He was ... pompous." She traced her fingertip around the opening of the champagne flute. "He was boring, too. All he talked about was his car and how much money he earned. That's two out of three strikes right there."
"What's the third strike?"
"Mentioning an ex, but we didn't even get that far into the conversation."
Des frowned. "Why do you always go for those stuffy corporate types?"
"I do not."
She absolutely did, but she wasn't giving Des the satisfaction of that little admission. In fact, a corporate job was high up on her list of dating criteria because she needed to treat all guys as though they had the potential to meet her family. Therefore, if there was no suit there was no date.
"Yes, you do. That guy you brought in last week had his briefcase under the table."
"He came from work." She crossed her arms, her eyes narrowing. "What's wrong with that?"
"It's a date, Gracie. If he can't make time to go home and change before meeting you, how is he going to have time to treat you right later on?"
"I'm assuming 'treat me right' is a euphemism?"
Des grinned, his eyes nearly onyx in the dim light of the bar. "Forgive me for being old fashioned, but I think a man should make time for his woman."
"His lady?" Des scratched his head. "Is that more PC?"
Gracie laughed. "You're a lost cause, Desmond."
"Don't call me that." He flicked his towel at her and she squealed. "Only my mother calls me Desmond."
He winked, wiping down a set of clean glasses, working methodically, though his eyes never left her. The bar had almost emptied out. It was a Wednesday night and soon it would be only the two of them. She shouldn't like the idea of that as much as she did.
"I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I mean, I'm not hideous am I?" Gracie frowned.
"You're not and you know it."
"Then what else can I do?" She threw her hands in the air. It was a lost cause and yet she kept searching and searching. She'd tried internet dating, speed dating, blind dating, matchmaking ... the list went on. Still, finding a suitable guy who ticked all the boxes and was tough enough to put up with her batshit crazy family was proving to be a challenge.
"Why don't you meet a guy the old fashioned way?"
"In a bar?" she teased. "If I sit here and wait for a guy to come to me then I'll be waiting a long time."
"You'd scare them away." She smiled at him, taking another sip of her drink. The fizzy liquid slid down her throat, the crisp taste lingering on her tongue.
"Why aren't there any good guys left?" Gracie sighed.
Des frowned, his dark brows knitting together above thick-lashed eyes. The man looked like a model no matter which expression he pulled, even his scruffy stubble walked the fine line of perfection.
Why couldn't he be a lawyer or an accountant?
"Of course I don't count you in that group," she said. "You're one of a kind."
"Is that so?"
"Yep, not every day you meet a guy who's willing to play the part of angry ex-husband to save a gal from a bad date."
"I must be a frustrated actor." There was a hint of a smile on his lips, though hunger resided in his dark eyes.
Her stomach flipped. Heat moved through her system like wildfire. That meant it was time to get out. Gracie had no desire whatsoever to see how far she could push herself without getting burned.
"Like I said, one of a kind." She drained the last of her Bellini and slung her coat over one arm. "I'd better head off. It is a school night after all."
"Sleep tight, Gracie." He looked her up and down in a way that made Gracie certain sleep would elude her.
Fantasizing about a man like Des was unproductive and against the rules, not to mention it was a danger to her slumber. Gorgeous as he was, he wasn't the guy she was looking for. So she would — as she always did — remind herself why he was wrong for her and put him far, far out of her mind.
* * *
The man sitting across from Gracie prattled away about himself as she pretended to study his résumé. He had the right qualifications for the job, excellent experience across several industries, including a stint in Hong Kong, but something was off about him and she couldn't put her finger on it.
"I was nominated for an excellence award by the CEO of my last company ..."
Gracie couldn't keep herself tuned in to what he was saying. He seemed to love the sound of his own voice so much she couldn't be bothered paying attention. Taking a subtle glance at her watch, she decided to put an end to the interview.
"Thank you for those insights. The employer is looking to progress to second round interviews in the next week or two," she said, forcing a smile. "I'll be passing on your details and we'll contact you if you're successful in moving to the next stage."
"I'll expect your call then," the candidate replied with a smug smile.
Think again, buddy.
She stood, shook his hand, and escorted him out to the reception area of the recruitment firm's thirtieth floor office. She kept the smile plastered on her face until the elevator doors slid shut between them.
"Any good?" The receptionist asked as she peered over the shiny silver desk emblazoned with the firm's logo.
Gracie gave her the thumbs down. "Not a good cultural fit for the client. Too full of himself."
The receptionist nodded sagely. "Some people don't know the difference between confidence and cockiness."
"It's a fine line."
The receptionist leaned forward at her desk, her eyes sparkling. "How's the man hunting going?"
Gracie shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Don't even ask."
"C'mon, Gracie," she wheedled. "I've been with my fiancé since we were sixteen, throw me a bone. I need to live vicariously."
"I don't understand why it's so tough to find a good guy," Gracie said, sighing. She tapped her lacquered nails against the surface of the reception desk, noticing that one nail had a tiny chip on the edge. Damn, that was going to bug her all day, until she could get home to repaint it. "I mean, I match people to jobs for a living. I'm good at reading profiles and figuring out where people belong. But I can't seem to get it right personally."
"Are they all just after sex?"
"It's not even that. They're mostly way too into themselves, like going on a date is an excuse to tell me their life story."
"Narcissists." The receptionist shook her head and glanced down at her screen. "Your next appointment isn't for an hour. Might be a good idea to take a lunch break. You've got a busy afternoon."
"Good call." Gracie smiled and returned to her office.
She loved her job as a recruiter. She got to spend all day talking to people and checking their details against the lists the clients provided her. There were lots of rules, guidelines, and checkboxes for her to use in assessing people, and that suited her fine.
Her office overlooked the city, the large floor-to-ceiling windows housing one of the best views in all of Melbourne. Federation Square and Flinders Street Station stretched out on one side, the water of Port Phillip Bay a line of jewel-like blue in the distance. She'd imagined throwing Des down on this very desk and riding him with that glittering view in the background.
Flushing, Gracie grabbed her lunch from the mini-fridge next to her desk and shook the illicit thoughts from her mind. It was unnatural how often she had to stop herself from thinking about him. His angled face would pop up at the most inconvenient moments: when she was in a team meeting, when she was bored while waiting for her train, when she was desperately trying to get some sleep.
As if conjured by her imagination, an email pinged on her laptop. Des's full name always made her smile: Desmond Pietro Chapman. His Italian heritage was hidden in his middle name, though one look at him showed how dominant the Italian genes were.
Subject: Bellini Girl
Gracie, when are you coming in next? We've got a new supplier for our Prosecco and sparkling wines. I don't drink that girlie stuff so I need someone to tell me if it tastes any good — you're my go-to girl. I need to put those tastebuds of yours to work.
P.s. I'm still laughing over the shiny shoe guy from the other night. Thanks for keeping me entertained.
Gracie smiled, took a bite of her sandwich, and sent off a reply.
Subject: Re: Bellini Girl
Happy to put my tastebuds to work. They're all yours next Tuesday. Have a date, though hopefully no shiny shoes this time! Glad you find my escapades entertaining, hopefully I get to poke fun at your date in the future. Do you even date? You never talk about girls ... or guys?
Chuckling, she clicked send and continued with her lunch. Des would be doing the same thing that she was — sitting at his desk, eating while he typed.
They had a ritual, emails at two o'clock for about half an hour, Monday through Wednesday. Those were the days that Des got to work early, and Gracie booked her appointments and took her lunch break specifically to be at the computer at the same time he was.
Subject: Smart A**
Very funny, Gracie. You know I only have eyes for the fairer sex, but I don't put myself on display when I'm wooing a girl. I do my best work in private.
Gracie licked her lips; the thought of Des doing any kind of private wooing sent a trickle of heat down to her belly. She'd never had the chance to see him put moves on anyone, since the only time she saw him was when he was working.
They had formed a solid friendship over the months she'd sat at his bar, relaying her dating failures as he'd listened and occasionally offered advice. It was mostly useless advice, but advice none the less, and she appreciated it. Still, she'd never seen him outside work and never spoken to him over the phone. Only her visits to First and their mid-week email dates kept them connected.
Excerpted from The Rules According to Gracie by Stefanie London, Alycia Tornetta, First Edition January 2015. Copyright © 2015 Stefanie London. 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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