Sweet Darlings Inc., Book 1
A sweet and sexy standalone romantic comedy featuring a virgin and a hot lawyer!
I’m a twenty-two year-old virgin who’s had five one-night stands. How’s that possible? Easy. I’ve never gone all the way. I just chicken out and bail. Thank God, I’ve always selected men I’ll never run across again…
…until that sexy-as-sin Matt from last weekend moves in next door…
…then shows up as a new in-house counsel at Sweet Darlings Inc. where I work.
But it was dark in the hotel room. If I put on a boring office outfit and Clark Kent glasses, he won’t recognize me…
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I don’t know what happened to Murphy to get a law named after him, but after today I’m pretty sure I deserve one, too.
Jan’s Law. When you think things are going to be okay, shit goes down the toilet so fast you can’t escape the funnel of poop before you hit raw sewage.
But I’ve finally reached the three-level, four-bedroom house in Dulles, Virginia I’ve shared with two of my closest friends since we graduated college almost four months ago. I’m not dead, so I’m going to consider this a win—even though I still deserve a law named after me.
“I’m home!” I call out as I drag my small black carry-on in, wheels rumbling on the hardwood floor.
Nobody greets me. I scowl. It’s barely six on Sunday. I know at least one of my housemates is home because I saw Sammi’s car in the driveway.
“You know, when somebody says, ‘I’m home,’ you’re supposed to say, ‘welcome back!’” Somewhat peeved, I kick off my stilettos. I have no idea why I bothered with these abominations for my return trip home. It wasn’t like I was going to run into One-Night Stand Number Five on my way to JFK, and it isn’t like me to care what those guys think anyway. I always pick ones I’ll never run into again because I’ve never had a successful one-night stand, the kind that goes all the way to the finale. I always get anxious and opt for Bailey.
But I panicked, worrying that I might bump into Number Five again before my trip was over—I had this intuition, okay?—so I put on the hooker heels and a skin-tight dress in the brightest shade of sunflower yellow. For some bizarre reason, I didn’t want to face him in my comfy clothes. And I thanked every divinity in existence when I didn’t run into him as I checked in for my flight at JFK, because I’m totally okay with my intuition being wrong.
And how did the universe reward me for my humble gratitude?
It bumped me off my ten thirty flight. Maybe I should count my blessings that I wasn’t “reaccommodated” with a broken nose and a busted lip. Instead, I was placed between a manspreader and a heavy breather on a plane that idled for so long I could’ve done a mani-pedi and exfoliated every inch of my body while we were on the tarmac. During the flight the turbulence was so bad, the seat belt left bruises on my hips. Still…no scorpions dropped on my head, so I tried so very hard to consider the day a win. Because a girl’s gotta be positive, right?
But no. The universe wasn’t finished dumping on me.
My driver—can’t even remember which company I picked for my ride home since I was too out of it by the time I deplaned—spotted his girlfriend laughing in a convertible with her ex and decided to give chase instead of taking me to my destination.
But somehow I made it. Home, sweet home. I plop myself on the dark brown leather massage chair. It’s a gift from my grandmother. A nice, machine-induced relaxation session surrounded by the color of chocolate is exactly what I need to recover from the day’s ordeal.
Just as I’m about to hit the full-body massage button, my best friend and housemate Sammi yells, “Hey, come here! You gotta see this!”
“It can wait.” After my massage.
“No, it can’t!”
I growl and push myself off the heavenly chair. Do I really want to join her? What if she’s found a giant rat? Given my luck today, it’ll probably have wings and a belt full of ninja stars to cut our faces.
I spot Sammi in the kitchen and stop. At five-foot six, she’s slim from her daily morning runs. The only time she skips is when we have weather bad enough to ground planes or call FEMA. She wears unrelenting black from top to bottom because the object of her unrequited love once told her the color made her look chic, and today’s no exception. Black tank top, black denim shorts. If her hair weren’t naturally black, she’d dye it.
Sammi’s staring out the window over the sink, her dark brown eyes unblinking as though she’s mesmerized by what’s on the other side. I make a face. It’s six p.m., and that can only mean one thing. “When did you develop a fetish for a jiggly, naked hairy dude?”
“Like I said, you gotta see this,” she says, pushing a flyaway out of her line of sight.
“No, thank you. I’ve seen ThaMaNDo more than enough.”
“You only saw him that one time,” she says.
“Exactly.” Once was more than enough, especially when we’re talking about ThaMaNDo, a.k.a. That Man Next Door, as we dubbed him, since none of us was willing to strike up a conversation and ask him his name. Nope, no way.
He moved in ten days ago, having bought Mr. and Mrs. Jones’s house after they retired and left for a sunny beach in Mexico. Normally I have no problem with our neighbors as most of them are nice people. But not ThaMaNDo. He has a nasty habit of dancing naked in his living room, which faces our kitchen, with the curtains open. It happens between six and seven p.m. every day, like clockwork. To be honest, calling what he does dancing is generous since it’s more like a grand mal seizure, his whole flabby body jiggling and his stick and balls shaking like—
Well. Certain things are better left undescribed.
“It’s not ThaMaNDo,” Sammi says. “I saw him drive off this morning with a couple of suitcases, and he hasn’t been back since.”
She points. “Look!”
So I do, because I know she isn’t going to tell me anything otherwise. And I swear to God, if Sammi’s playing a joke on me and makes me see that fur-covered man in his birthday suit again, I’m going to kick her out. The house is mine—a legacy from my late mother—and the three of us are sharing it to cut costs. Even though I don’t have a mortgage, there’s insurance, taxes, upkeep and utilities. Besides, the house is way too big for a single gal. But I’ll risk the added expense if Sammi makes me see what no human should ever have to…
Girding my loins, I squint out the window, then stop as I take in a new guy. This one’s nothing like the previous ThaMaNDo. Facing away from the window, he’s topless…and I have to say, I wouldn’t complain if he showed a little more skin. His shoulders are broad and neatly muscled, and his torso tapers to a narrow waist and pelvis. His lats and traps are lean and well-defined, and a man who has a back like that always has an incredible body all over. A pair of threadbare jeans hugs his ass—and what a glorious ass it is.
“Damn,” I mutter.
“Told you.” Sammi smirks. “Why isn’t he naked?” she complains, gesturing in the direction of his house.
“Stop being a hypocrite,” I say in a mock stern voice.
“Me? A hypocrite? Since when?”
“Since you’ve been complaining about how unfair it is that so many games feature women who’re barely dressed.” And trust me, I had to hear about it for years since we roomed together in college, too.
Sammi waves me away. “That doesn’t count. Those were just games. This is real life. Besides, he has no clue I’m over here objectifying him. What he doesn’t know doesn’t hurt him.” She squints. “Wonder if his face is as yummy as his body.”
“Hope so,” I say. “Otherwise it’d be tragic.”
“ThaYuMNDo could be related to ThaMaNDo,” Sammi points out.
“Or not. ThaMaNDo’s short.” This divine man is not. Nope, he’s at least six one. Maybe taller. He moves a few boxes, his back and arms flexing.
“Legit point. He also doesn’t look like a werewolf in midshift.”
I snort out a laugh, then fan my face. “Maybe I should join a local gym.”
“Why? We get the company gym for free.”
“But I can’t ogle men there.”
“Please. You can ogle men anywhere as long as they’re single.”
“Not coworkers.” I shudder. “It makes me feel kind of guilty, like I’m violating HR policy.”
“You probably are,” Sammi agrees cheerfully, totally unsympathetic since she doesn’t use the gym.
“If the local one has men half as good as this guy, it’ll be worth the monthly fee.”
“Just join a gay porn club. Cheaper and better selection. No guarantee ThaMaNDo isn’t a gym member.”
I make a face. He’s the last man I want to see.
Just then our new and much improved neighbor turns around. My mouth dries, all the thoughts in my head leaking out through my ears. Or at least that’s how it feels. And my knees get jigglier than ThaMaNDo’s belly.
The yummy man has the most perfect face, one I ran my lips all over. Thick black hair brushes his high and wide forehead, and a slight slant of straight eyebrows makes him appear serious yet slightly wicked at the same time. The deep-set eyes underneath are the most piercing blue. The blade of his nose is thin and straight, cheekbones model-high and his mouth…
Oh my God! That mouth. It whispered wicked things, nibbled and licked and kissed me until I felt like my whole body was about to burst into flame even as the flesh between my legs grew embarrassingly wet.
Heat floods my face, and I drop to the floor before he can see me in my ridiculous yellow dress. It practically screams, “See how awesome I look!”
Sammi glances down. “What’s wrong?”
I cover my face. “Oh shit. Damn it. I’m so fucked.”
“How? What are you talking about?”
“That man!” I flick my wrist behind me. “He’s Number Five.”
“Damn, girl! You sure know how to pick ’em!” Sammi whistles, then waggles her eyebrows, squatting next to me. “So…a virgin no more?”
I purse my mouth. There’s only one right answer here, and sadly I can’t lie about it.
An embarrassed silence reigns in the kitchen. I finally look at my best friend.
Sammi stares at me as though I’ve sold my sanity to the lowest bidder on eBay. At long last she says, “You Baileyed on him?”
“Kinda…” Bailey is an app she and I created together in case we needed to get the hell out in the middle of a bad date. Or in my case, a one-night stand. It calls you at a predesignated time, and when you answer, it tells you in a chirpy female voice there’s an emergency you have to attend to ASAP, thereby providing you with a graceful exit, no hard feelings. It’s not available for download anywhere. We rooted our phones to install it.
Sammi’s jaw drops. “Why?”
“Because!” I wail, then stop. I don’t know why I did it. I shouldn’t have. If I’m going to lose my V-Card, he’s a great guy to do it with. But…
“Did he, like…smell?”
“Bad breath? Rotting teeth?”
“No. No.” He has beautiful white teeth and the cutest dimple when he smiles. Just thinking about his facial architecture makes a sigh well up in my chest.
“Then what was the problem?”
“I don’t know!” And that’s the truth. I just couldn’t do the deed.
“I can’t believe you.” Sammi shakes her head. “You’re the only girl I know who’s managed to keep her hymen intact after five one-night stands.”
“Do they still count if I aborted in the middle?” I ask in a small voice.
“Of course they count.” She crosses her arms. “So what are you going to do?”
“Stay down here until he goes home.”
Sammi shakes her head, then throws her arms up. “What if that is his home?”
“Can’t be. What about ThaMaNDo?” I never thought I would want that primate back, but I do. Desperately.
“Maybe he died.” Sammi taps her pointed chin. “It’s plausible that somebody brained him after getting tired of all that nude dancing. I’m sure it’s legal.”
“I’m pretty sure it isn’t.”
She keeps going. “Maybe ThaMaNDo and ThaYuMNDo are housemates, and there’ll be another chance for you two to hook up, assuming you don’t Bailey on him again. I legit cannot believe you did that with such a prime specimen.”
I cover my ears. I can’t listen to her speculate anymore. This is my life.
“Do you at least know his name?” Sammi asks, tapping on my shoulder. “Not that I mind calling him ThaYuMNDo.”
“Matt.” Strong. Masculine. Just like the man himself.
Someone knocks at the door, and I jump up and run for it. Maybe it’s a Jehovah’s Witness. Or volunteers from my least favorite politician’s campaign. I don’t care. Anyone would be preferable to my best friend’s inquisition into Botched One-Night Stand Number Five. The previous grillings weren’t so bad, but then she never had a chance to see the men I bailed out on. And none of them were as scrumptious as Matt.
I’m about to open the door, but stop when Sammi glances out the kitchen window—which can also show you who’s dropping by if you crane your neck extra hard—and calls, “Hottie alert! Stick your tits out!” in that exceptionally gleeful voice that makes my blood curdle.
I don’t need to open it to know it isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness.
Jan’s Law is still in effect.
Just in case Matt is a mutant alien with the power to see through doors, I cover my face and run back to the kitchen, while moaning deep in my throat like a wounded animal desperate to be put down, although the sound I make seems more similar to a rabid dog’s. Ducking behind the marble-top counter, I clasp my hands together and pray I wake up now.
This has got to be a nightmare I’m having on my flight back home. Economy class comes with seats just big enough for an armless, legless prepubescent human. It makes sense that it also comes with dreams as dreadful as the seats. Is it too late to pay for an upgrade? I bet the first-class passengers don’t doze off and dream about all the hotties they bailed on.
“Pussy,” Sammi mutters under her breath, nudging my foot with hers. “Come on. He heard you run. You weren’t exactly quiet.”
I shake my head.
“Just face him,” she says.
“God, you’re a basket case.” She sighs and heads for the door. “You fucking owe me.”
“Thank you,” I whisper. I do owe her. Big. At least a kidney.
“Hello, there,” Sammi says, opening the door. “I’m Sammi, and you are…?”
“Matt,” he says, his voice deep with the hint of rasp I found so irresistible in that bar in Manhattan. It still seems to scrape my nerve endings, sending warm tingles all over. “I just moved in over there.”
I don’t have to see him to know he is gesturing at the house. Shit. ThaMaNDo is definitely gone…or at least has a housemate.
“Great.” Sammi beams. “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
“And…if you don’t mind, would it be okay if I borrowed some sugar?” he asks sweetly.
I wince. That’s so cliché it hurts. Maybe he knew he would run into me. I mean… Why else would he come to this house rather than the other homes right around his?
“Sure you can…if you’ll answer a few questions.”
“Just to be clear, I already have a man I’ve set my sights on. They’re really for my chickenshit friend.”
I scootch over a bit and use my compact mirror to spy on them, making sure it doesn’t flash. Matt’s smiling, showing that adorable dimple.
I bite my lower lip to contain a small whimper. My body remembers what he did right after he flashed that wicked smile and dimple on Friday. Unfulfilled need thrums in my blood, and it’s all I can do to squat still.
“Are you in a committed relationship at the moment?” Sammi asks. “Wife, fiancée or girlfriend?”
My hand flies to my flaming cheek. I take it back. I do not owe her a kidney. What I owe her is a firm kick in the ass.
Matt blinks, then says, “Ah…no.”
“What’s your IQ?”
A corner of his mouth curls upward, and he answers in that “I’m humoring you” tone, when he should be calling cops on my crazy best friend so she can be locked up. “At least three digits, although I wouldn’t know for sure since I’ve never been tested.”
“We’ll go with one hundred twenty plus. You sound intelligent enough.”
Sammi looks at the kitchen over a shoulder and grins that grin, and I know she’s going to ask something super-embarrassing before this inquiry is over. She doesn’t care what Matt thinks, and she is enjoying my discomfort entirely too much. I shake my head frantically, but not frantically enough since she ignores the palpable nope radiating through the counter in invisible waves.
She leans closer and lowers her voice. “Do you have any diseases?”
He cocks an eyebrow. “Diseases?”
“Yeah. You know. Like AIDS. Herpes. Genital warts. Syphilis. Cancer. The usual.”
He coughs. Or maybe he’s choking. It’s hard to tell because blood is roaring in my head with murderous intent. Finally he says, “I’m clean. You want a doctor’s note?”
“That won’t be necessary, although you can drop off a copy if you like,” she purrs.
“What about me?”
“Are you clean?”
“Oh, I’m not the one you should be worrying about.” She chortles.
I’m going to kill her. If this isn’t the most perfect justification for strangling your best friend, I don’t know what is.
“Can I have that sugar?” he asks pointedly.
“Huh. So you really do need sugar?”
“I wouldn’t have been answering your…interesting questions otherwise.”
She nods. “Fair enough. Wait one second.”
She comes to the kitchen with a black mug and gives me an “I did all the work for you” look, while filling his mug with some white sugar from the pantry.
I slash a finger across my neck, slowly, and she merely laughs.
She hands him the sugar, and he says, “Thanks,” while giving her a curious look as he leaves.
I count to five after the door closes to make sure he’s out of hearing range. Then I jump to my feet and face my best friend. “What the hell, girl!”
“What?” Sammi says.
“I can’t believe you asked him those questions!”
“I was trying to help you out. He’s too fine a specimen to bail out on. Now that he’s proven to be intelligent, healthy and available—and without children—you can try one more time. You can even date him if he’s good in the sack…and I bet he is.”
Sammi wraps one arm around her belly, then rests the other elbow on it and props her chin in a hand. “Why not?”
“Because. The whole point of losing my virginity isn’t to have a relationship.”
“Then what is it about?”
“A milestone—something you do and then move on.”
“Not any crazier than your insane questions! Wife? Fiancée? Girlfriend? Children? Diseases? Oh my God!”
Sammi spreads her arms. “You’re welcome! If you’re peeved about not asking for a doctor’s note, just let me know and I’ll ask next time I see him.”
I tilt my head back, staring at the ceiling. “I hate you.”
“I expect you to make me your maid of honor. I totally have a feeling about you two.”