Today I have an excerpt from Love the One You’re With, Lauren Layne’s latest Loveswept release. Check it out, then enter the giveaway!
Love the One You’re With: Sex, Love & Stiletto Series By Lauren Layne
Published by Loveswept
Find LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH on Goodreads
Lauren Layne’s Sex, Love & Stiletto series simmers to a boil as two high-powered magazine writers find love amid a war of words.
As a leading columnist for Stiletto, Grace Brighton has built a career warning women about rotten, cheating liars. She just never suspected her fiancé would be one of them. After Grace takes a heart-mending hiatus, her first assignment is to go on a couple of dates with a counterpart from the men’s magazine Oxford and report her impressions. Grace 1.0 may have been instantly smitten with the gorgeous correspondent, but Grace 2.0 has sworn off relationships for six months, and she’s not falling for his outstanding bod and trophy-winning kisses . . . or is she?
Jake Malone wants to get back to the fly-by-night, who-knows-what’s-next guy he used to be, and he knows exactly how to do it. Oxford is adding a travel section, and Jake—with no wife and no kids and a willingness to live anywhere, eat anything, do everything—is perfect for the job . . . except that his playboy reputation makes his new editor nervous. To get the gig, he must agree to a fluffy joint article with Stiletto. But after just one date with snooty, sumptuous, sensational Grace Brighton, Jake starts taking this assignment a whole lot more seriously.
About Lauren Layne
Lauren Layne graduated from Santa Clara University with a B.S. in political science that she has yet to put to good use. After dabbling in an e-commerce career, she decided to quit talking about writing and actually do it. A Seattle native, Lauren’s also tried on the Bay Area, Orange County, and most recently Manhattan. She’s currently back in the Pacific Northwest, missing the big-city life but also enjoying the cheap price of wine in the burbs. She lives with her husband and badly behaved Pomeranian.
LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH – EXCERPT
“Cheers to Greg,” Riley said, lifting her cocktail to be clinked.
Julie choked on her martini. “You’re not suggesting we toast to the guy who cheated on Grace?”
“Actually, I think Riley’s on to something,” Grace said thoughtfully. “Had Greg not been a philandering jerk, I would be at home right now, watching whatever he wanted to watch, eating whatever he wanted to eat, after which I’d be putting away his laundry. So yeah . . . Cheers to Greg.”
They clinked glasses, and she felt Julie study her carefully. “You’ve come a long way. Just a few weeks ago you were alternating between causing a Manhattan Kleenex shortage and developing a strange obsession with chocolate.”
Grace took a sip of her drink to avoid mentioning that she still had that new obsession with chocolate. She’d always liked chocolate. But after the breakup, it had become her ultimate comfort food. Hot chocolate, chocolate fudge, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips . . .
If only her hips liked chocolate half as well as her taste buds.
Don’t, 2.0 warned. That’s Greg and old Grace getting into your head. Grace 2.0 rocks her curves.
Riley nodded. “You do seem marvelously well adapted. Did you get some healing rebound tail in Florida?”
Grace rolled her eyes. “Yes, Riley. I got some healing rebound tail. That’s what restored my mental and emotional stability.”
Riley snapped her fingers and pointed at Grace. “There’s that dry sarcasm. I knew it. You are back.”
Grace considered. “Well, I’m not going to claim that there aren’t a few battle wounds. And I can’t say that I don’t still wake up in the middle of the night reaching for someone who’s not there, purely out of habit. But . . . I’m sort of done, you know? Sure, Greg screwed me over. But that’s also sort of what makes him not worth my time.”
Right? Tell me that’s right.
“So you’re ready to move on,” Julie said slowly.
Grace held up a manicured fingernail. She knew that tone. “No. No setups. I’ve told you both a thousand times. This is the me period of my life. No men. No dating. No sex. Not for six months.”
“And what, after six months you’ll be magically ready to enter a relationship?” Riley asked.
“God, no. But if I wait six months, at least I’ll know I’m not jumping into anything solely because I miss the companionship. I need to figure out how to be on my own.”
It was true. But it wasn’t the whole truth. Grace would never say it in front of Julie, who was over-the-moon happy with her new in-a-relationship status, but Grace couldn’t even begin to fathom being in a relationship. Not in six months, not in a year . . . maybe not ever.
“Okay, so if you’re all anti-men, then what is with your insistence on doing this story?” Riley asked. “There’s a reason we didn’t volunteer you, you know. How is it that the woman who claims to be done with dating wants to write a story about dating?”
“Oh, come on. You two know better than anyone that doing something for a story is not the same as doing it for real.”
“Actually, Julie doesn’t know that,” Riley said in a loud whisper.
Julie shrugged her perfectly toned shoulders. “Riley’s right. You may think you’re doing it for a story. But if it’s the right guy . . .”
“Mitchell was a fluke,” Grace said with a wave. “One in a million, and all that. Plus, Mitchell didn’t even know he was part of your story. Whatever turd from Oxford I get stuck with will have his eyes wide open.”
“At least he’ll be a gorgeous turd,” Riley said, waving their server over for another round.
“How do you know?”
Her friend smiled mysteriously. “I have my connections.”
Julie pointed at Riley. “Spill. Now. Grace is going to need all the intel she can get.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Grace said dryly. “Have you ever read an Oxford article? I’ve been doing my research, and I can see why a woman who picked up the magazine would write a scathing letter to the editor. Their male columnists seem to think all women have a secret desire to make sandwiches and give blow jobs.”
Riley fished an olive out of Julie’s glass, ignoring her friend’s glare. “Wait. We’re supposed to aspire to more than that?”
“The point is,” Grace continued, “If this is a competition to see whether women know men better than men know women, I can do that in my sleep.”
Sort of. She hoped.
Actually, she wasn’t sure.
Her friends looked even more skeptical.
“Okay, back to Riley’s secret intel,” Julie said. “Ri, you know who the guy columnist is?”
“Not for sure, but I at least know who it’s likely to be. When I went out for a coffee run this afternoon, I rode the elevator back up with Camille and Alex Cassidy—who happens to be super young and hot, by the way—and I heard them talking about the article. Alex wants to put Jake Malone on it.”
Julie whistled. “Whew, that is a gorgeous turd.”
“How am I the only one who doesn’t know this guy?” Grace asked, feeling uncomfortably out of the loop.
Riley patted her friend. “You’re loyal to a fault. You were blind to the rest of the male population the entire time you were with Greg.”
Grace knew Riley meant it as a compliment, but she couldn’t help feeling a bit like a dutiful Labrador retriever who’d spent her twenties following after her master. She had been loyal to Greg, of course. But she’d been able to appreciate a good-looking guy. Hadn’t she? She’d had her fair share of celebrity crushes. Such as . . .
Hell, none were coming to mind just now.
Grace 2.0 sighed in despair.
Note to self: check out more men.
Grace racked her brain for everything she knew about Jake Malone. The name did sound vaguely familiar. He was one of Oxford’s golden boys, if she was remembering correctly. She seemed to recall an elevator ride in the Ravenna building in which two rather smitten-sounding women had been lamenting his lack of attention toward them.
Come to think of it, hadn’t she read an article or two while waiting in the dentist’s office? It was the typical guy stuff: “How to Make Her Orgasm in Thirty Seconds or Less.”
Grace snorted. Please.
Then there was the more innocuous stuff . . . “The Guy’s Guide to Grooming.” “Claiming the Corner Office.”
He was a good writer if you liked the straightforward, no-bullshit style. But while his cocky, cavalier tone likely appealed to his male reading audience, it reeked of condescension and machismo. She wasn’t surprised that females who read his take on women would complain.
“I’ll bet he’s short,” Grace mused out loud. “I’m sensing total short-man syndrome there.”
Riley shook her head as took a sip of the drink the waitress had just put down. “Uh-uh. This one’s over six foot, easy. If his stuff reads as over-testosteroned, it’s because he’s over-testosteroned, and I mean that in the good way.”
Grace tapped her fingernails against the table and considered. “But that could still work in my favor, right? If he’s a total caveman, he can’t possibly have a good read on women.”
“I dunno, Grace,” Julie replied hesitantly. “I’ve seen him around at parties. We’ve even flirted a few times back in the day. He’s . . .”
“Conceited? Macho? Boorish? Give me something here.”
“I was going to say charming. Jake Malone is gorgeous, successful, and, well, nice. There’s not much to dislike.”
This was not good news.
She’d been counting on her Oxford counterpart being a slightly uncouth tits-and-ass-obsessed kind of guy. Instead, it sounded like she’d be dealing with Prince Charming.
But if he was as seemingly flawless as Julie described, that could work in her favor too. It would mean he’d be overconfident. Too sure in his assumptions about women to bother making an effort to actually read her. He’d be all easy jokes and smooth compliments.
All the shit that would have worked on her at one time. Hell, all the shit that had worked on her back when Greg was pulling her into his slimy web.
But Grace 2.0 knew better. Grace 2.0 didn’t trust compliments, didn’t trust smiles.
Didn’t trust men.
She gave a slow smile. She didn’t care if Jake Malone was usually the Dalai Lama of dating. There was no way he—or any guy—was getting her number. Literally or figuratively.
“Grace, you know you’re doing your piranha smile, right? That scary face you do when some guy’s about to be emasculated?”
“Don’t worry,” Grace said, taking a satisfied sip of her cocktail. “I’m not going to kick his balls, just his dignity. For Stiletto’s sake, of course.”
“Of course,” Julie muttered. “Because I’m sure Jake Malone isn’t going to pay the price for Greg Parsons’s wandering dick.”
“Hey!” Grace exclaimed, stung. “Is that what you think is happening here? That I’m only doing this article as a way of getting back at Greg?”
“No,” Julie said carefully. “But I do think you’re motivated by your pride. You want the world to know that just because you failed to see through one man doesn’t mean you’ll fail to see through all of them.”
“Is that so bad? Wouldn’t you do the same?”
“Probably,” Julie granted. “But—”
“I’ve found him!” Riley interrupted, triumphantly waggling her phone in their faces.
“Jake Malone. I thought you’d want to know who you’re dealing with.”
“Please. It’s not like we’re dealing with Cary Grant,” Grace said. But she leaned forward to look at the picture on Riley’s phone anyway. Couldn’t hurt to be a little prepared.
The cocktail that seconds ago had tasted perfectly balanced turned bitter on her tongue as she took in the perfect male features.
But it wasn’t the fact that he was perfect that bothered her. Although he was. Perfect, that is.
It was the fact that he was familiar that made her want to puke.
Grace had lied when she said she’d never seen Jake Malone. She had seen him. Just not in a professional capacity.
No, Grace’s interaction with Jake was more recent.
And more personal.
Jake Malone was none other than the guy from the taxicab that morning.
Her friends were right. She was in trouble, because this was a guy who could read women.
But far more alarming . . . Jake Malone had been able to read her.
That wouldn’t do. In order to win this thing, she needed to be predictable and mysterious. She needed to throw him off balance at every turn.
In other words, she needed to be everything Grace 1.0 had not been. Sexy. Enigmatic. Magnetic.
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