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Laney Hill is screwed. On the bed. On the treadmill. On the hood of a BMW. And on her boss’s desk. Then she’s screwed again when she steps into the free clinic and finds out she has gonorrhea. That dirty prick gave her gonorrhea! She’s totally going to break up with him…until he breaks up with her…because he’s married!
A spur of the moment date with her hot musician neighbor, Kade Masters, goes from smoking hot to red-hot disaster in two seconds flat. Then, a night out drinking with friends leads to a fateful–yet awkwardly-sloppy–kiss between her and her best friend George Bratton.
Laney is ready to go into hibernation-mode, when George receives an invitation to his ex-girlfriend’s destination wedding in London. Self-destructive George and gonorrhea survivor Laney make a deal to go as each other’s dates. It will make great material for Laney’s “Anti-Romance” blog and maybe it will help George finally get over his ex.
Pushing aside thoughts of Kade, and his “big engine that could”, Laney jumps at the chance to escape to the magical land of the royal family. But her magical vacation soon turns into a royal, steaming pile of lies.
The tip of his erection was pressed firmly against my opening, a rock-hard promise of the pleasure to come. This was the way he loved to tease me, right after making me come with his masterful tongue. He knew I needed him inside me. Needed to feel his girth stretching me. Needed to feel the closeness of his sweat-dampened skin pressed against mine.
But he wasn’t going to give in so easily.
First he would draw out the anticipation, until I was begging for him to fuck me. He would kiss and caress my body until I was forced to beg for it, until I reached the point of no return, where even the slightest touch would set off a chain reaction inside my body; a domino effect of nerve endings firing through every inch of my body, cascading uncontrollably toward my center, concluding in a mind-numbing, thigh-quaking, chest-rattling climax. Then, and only then, would he plunge into me with the force of an armada crashing upon the shores, ready to plunder the land for all its riches. I, the willingly pillaged maiden, could only cry out in unbridled ecstasy as he took everything I had. Every moan. Every scream. Every drop of passion coursing through me.
When he finished inside me, his dying erection still twitching in its final death throes, he draped his body over mine as I lay back across the hood of his BMW. Mouth slightly hung open, his breathing heavy on my damp skin as his lips pressed against my neck. Each breath he exhaled sent a gentle shiver coursing through me; goose bumps sprouted over my skin as he lightly stroked my outer thigh with the backs of his fingers.
“You’re so fucking gorgeous,” he murmured in my ear.
Though Rick had said these words a thousand times since we began dating three months ago, I still reminded myself not to believe them. I wasn’t gorgeous—not by his standards or anyone else’s. Maybe I could be described as “cute…if she lost a few pounds, got lip injections, and used a curling iron on those limp locks every once in a while.” No one—other than Rick—had ever called me, Laney Hill, gorgeous.
But what I lacked in the looks department, I more than made up for with a firm grip and a “fiery spirit,” as my former women’s studies professor used to call it; or, as my best friend liked to call it these days, my “unbridled cynicism.”
My best friend, George Bratton, was a serial monogamist and—God help him—a hopeless romantic. His shortest romantic relationship lasted more than a year. I’d never even lived with any of my boyfriends, probably because my longest relationship lasted ten months, and that one ended a few years ago when I decided to change careers. Since then, I’d plowed through more men than Al Capone’s tommy gun.
Of course, most of my romantic misadventures had been undertaken in the name of research for my blog, lovingly named Anti-Romance: The seedy parlor where romance goes to get a happy ending before it dies. At least, this is what I had convinced myself of. I only entered dead-end relationships for my job. It certainly wasn’t because I was screwed up in any way. Nope. Not me. I was just an artist willing to live my art. I entertained the world—well, my 257,000 subscribers—with my cocked-up love life. I was the canvas and my choice of medium was emotionally unavailable men.
“I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow after the rally?” I asked the question in a breathy murmur, trying to make my minuscule request sound even less demanding.
He blew out a deep breath as he stood straighter. “I can’t. I’ll be flying to D.C. to play preschool teacher to some women’s rights groups. I have to coordinate the announcement of their endorsements on social media. I’ll call you to set something up when I get back.”
I forced a smile as his green eyes locked on mine. “Of course. If you need any help,” I replied, tracing the tip of my tongue along his sharp jawline, savoring the salt of his efforts, “I’m great at kissing up to disillusioned constituents.”
He chuckled heartily as he pulled away and reached for his waistline to button his slacks. “As much as I appreciate the offer, I think the candidate would rather I tackle this alone.”
Three months into our smoldering farce of a courtship and Rick still felt the need to call Senator John Grossman—the Republican presidential candidate he worked for—“the candidate.” As if I were too stupid to know he was referring to Senator Grossman.
I may not have graduated from Harvard, but I was not stupid.
In fact, I graduated in the top two percent of my class with a degree in psychology and a minor in women’s studies. Our country, on the other hand, was circling the Idiocracy drain. As evidenced by the untethered enthusiasm for reality TV—and, in my case, reality blogs—it was only a matter of time before we Americans would go sliding down a sludge-filled drainpipe and end up sloshing around the intellectual sewer system. The way I saw it, if our ship was going down, I wanted to go down in a yacht, not a life raft.
I adjusted the crotch of my panties, all the while ignoring the burning itch that always followed rough sex with Rick. Though, it did seem to be getting worse lately. Must be a slight feminine “imbalance.” Nothing a little over-the-counter ointment wouldn’t fix.
I smoothed down the skirt of my dress as Rick pulled up the zipper on his trousers. He wore that sly grin that communicated one of the following: a) He could go for another round, or b) He was quite pleased that he had conquered me in yet another public forum. The first time we had sex in public was on my third day working undercover in Grossman’s Austin headquarters.
I thought seducing a Republican would make a great story for my blog followers. Rick thought having sex on his desk would be a great stress reliever. I knew we would make a great team.
Actually, Rick was the first guy I’d considered letting in on my secret. Since I started my Anti-Romance blog four years ago, I’d told zero men that our relationship would be used for entertainment. Online, I went by the pseudonym Amber F. Thus far, none of my male companions had linked me to Amber. But Rick and I had been working together and fucking each other for almost three months. Somehow, this felt different.
And, technically, I hadn’t written about Rick on the blog yet. I usually journaled about my relationships in a private app on my computer until we broke up. Then I’d go back and embellish my journal entries wherever necessary and upload each entry to the blog. My followers didn’t know if my dating life was happening in real time or past tense. Part of me did this because I was fastidious about never publishing a first draft, even if it was a first draft of a real-life event. Another part of me hoped that when I found the right guy, my followers would never know anything about him, because our relationship would never end so I’d never have the opportunity to blog about it.
Stranger things had happened.
He reached up and cupped my face, his thumb gently stroking my cheek. “I can’t wait until the primaries are over and I can take you away with me for a few days.” He brushed his lips over mine and the pulsing ache between my legs returned, which only accentuated the burning itch. “Where do you want me to fuck you next? Under a waterfall in Hawaii? In front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris?”
“Benghazi!” I blurted out and his face hardened as he pulled away. I delivered a playful shove to his solid chest. “I’m kidding. Paris sounds magnifique.”
The sound of a car door opening startled us both. I whipped my head around to find my young and surly-in-a-hot-way neighbor stepping out of his blue pickup truck, which was parked right next to Rick’s BMW.
He was sitting in his truck this whole time?
My face flushed with heat as my neighbor attempted to keep his head down while passing us, but he couldn’t hide his smirk. Oh. My. God. The poor guy was trapped in his car this whole time because he was too afraid to disturb our public fuck session.
“I’m sorry,” I murmured as he passed.
His head twitched in my direction, but he didn’t dare make eye contact. “No worries, ma’am,” he muttered as he continued toward our apartment complex.
It was about 60 degrees in January, but I could swear it was summer in Austin as a searing warmth crept up my cheeks.
“I’m mortified,” I whispered, fanning my face as I turned away from Rick and prepared to pull my limp, brown hair into a ponytail.
A little-known, dark fact about me: I kept a hair elastic around my wrist at all times to deal with “unsavory” thoughts about myself and my father. I know. It was a total cliché for someone in my profession, with my record for destroying relationships, to have daddy issues. But I didn’t pick my life. I certainly didn’t ask my father to walk out on my mother and me during my tenth birthday party…where he caught my mother cheating on him…for the fifth time. But that was my life, and snapping a rubber band on my wrist every once in a while helped snap me out of the crazy thoughts, like the possibility that if my father didn’t love me enough to stay, maybe no man would ever love me enough to stay.
I snapped the hair elastic once more before wrapping it around my loose ponytail.
Rick flinched at the sound of the elastic hitting my wrist. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. He got a good show.” He tucked a loose bit of hair behind my ear and kissed my forehead. “Go get some rest. We’ve got a long day of social-media spin scheduled tomorrow.”
I flashed him a tight smile as I realized I couldn’t come clean to him about my blog. He lived in a different world than I did. His world consisted of creating an alternate reality that deceived people into allowing their money to be siphoned into the pockets of billionaire overlords. I lived in a reality where our relationship was merely a good byline. His jokes were nothing to me but good snippets to use as bolded quotes for a blog post. Our chemistry, as red-hot as it felt, wasn’t real.
“Rick…” My voice trailed off as I considered spewing the truth to him in one retched string of word vomit.
He waited for a moment before the left side of his mouth pulled up in a knowing half smile. “Don’t worry, Laney. I know you’re not a Republican.”
I chuckled and let out a deep breath, releasing it along with my need to tell him the truth. “Of course you do. I guess I was just nervous the others in the office would find out.”
He reached up and brushed his thumb over my bottom lip. “Your secret is safe with me.” He kissed my cheek and rounded the car toward the driver’s side door. “Good night, babe.”
I sighed as I walked toward the opening between the two dark-orange stucco apartment buildings at the Villas on 8th. I got this two-bedroom apartment in downtown Austin right after graduating from UT—the University of Texas at Austin—back when my best friend George and I shared everything: our apartment, our deepest secrets. We’d even shared a bed for a few weeks when our friend Tanna vomited on George’s bed, forcing him to save up for three weeks to buy a new mattress. But George moved out about three years ago when he started getting serious with Erika, otherwise known as She-who-must-not-be-named.
I walked past the barbecue pits in the courtyard at the Villas on 8th, smiling as I imagined Erika’s perpetually twitchy left eye, when suddenly, my left butt cheek twitched. I reached back to discreetly adjust my panties, but this did not alleviate the itch between my legs, the itch that was definitely centered in my crotch, not my ass.
Fuck. This stupid yeast infection was driving me bananas. It was like having a steel-wool pad stuck between my thighs. The burning and itching were worse than Senator Grossman’s economic policy.
I glanced around the courtyard as I made my way to the back corner of the complex. I didn’t see anyone watching me at this time of night, but I couldn’t be sure. I had to wait until I was in the privacy of my apartment, then I’d have at it. The tiny yeast-lings would be begging for mercy when I was done scratching and slathering them with ointment.
I reached the door for apartment 106 and sighed when I remembered my outside lightbulb had burned out a month ago. Digging through my purse, the lack of illumination made it impossible to find my keys.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I whispered, crossing my legs in a vain attempt to stifle the itch as I searched through the jumble of makeup and receipts.
I glanced over my shoulder in the direction of the courtyard, to make certain I was alone. Then I turned back to the door and, in a moment of flaming desperation, lifted the skirt of my blue dress and shoved my hand between my legs. The instant of relief as my fingers raked over my burning, itchy flesh felt like my entire body had been dipped in a warm, healing bath filled with water pumped from a well in Heaven. Goose bumps sprouted over my skin as a soft moan issued from deep in my throat.
My left hand lay flat against the stucco as my right hand scraped back and forth over the cotton crotch of my panties. The sweet, hot friction of my nails over the fabric, combined with total cessation of the itching, made my eyes roll back in their sockets. It was utter bliss. I knew I had to stop, but I also knew if I stopped the burning and itching would return with a vengeance.
The sound of footsteps behind me made me freeze. Whipping my head around, I was not surprised to find the same surly neighbor heading back toward the parking lot, only now he was holding a guitar case in his hand. Our eyes locked and my stomach bottomed out as he started to chuckle.
“It’s not what it looks like!” I shouted as I frantically searched the darkness of my purse for my house key. “I was just scratching an itch!” I added, my voice shrill with humiliation.
He nodded as he continued through the courtyard, calling to me over his shoulder, “You might want to get that checked out. It might be contagious.”
My fingers found the cool, jagged steel and I swiftly snatched the key out of my purse. Jamming it into the lock, I twisted it clumsily and tumbled into the cold blackness of my apartment. Slamming the door behind me, I raced toward the bathroom to retrieve the tube of ointment I’d bought the previous night.
Surly Neighbor’s voice rang in my head. “It might be contagious.”
I shook my head in disbelief as I plopped down onto the toilet.
My faux relationship with Rick couldn’t end with a sexually transmitted disease. STIs were not sexy or romantic. They were the complete opposite of romance.
My ginger cat, Hero, sauntered into the bathroom through the door I’d left partially open just as I received a notification of a new text message. As I read the text, Hero nuzzled his fuzzy face against my shin, using my twelve-hour stubble to comb his plush fur.
Momma Hill: How’s your Republican fling going? Do I need to book a wedding venue or purchase a case of whiskey?
I sighed as I read the text from my mother. Other than George, she was the only person who didn’t judge my line of work.
Laney: I think we may be cited for indecent exposure soon.
Momma Hill: Delaney Vanessa! Stop having sex in public!
Laney: Relax, Mom. We were only caught by a neighbor. A very hot neighbor.
Momma Hill: *sigh* Does your hot neighbor at least care about poor people? Maybe just a little bit?
Laney: Bye, Mom.
I set the phone down on the bathroom counter, then I flushed the toilet and leaned back after applying my anti-itch cream. “Ha. Little does Mr. Surly Neighbor know that he just gave me the perfect ending to a perfect blog series about dating a politician,” I said to Hero as he hopped onto the ledge of the bathtub to get closer to me. “We’ll see who’s laughing when I rake in thousands of followers—and dollars—with this story.”
Hero turned away from me to look at something on the wall, not at all impressed with my knack for exploiting my love life in exchange for piddling amounts of money and fame.