"I bet I can untangle you."
At an airport baggage claim, Penny Darling looks up from her knotted mess of ear buds to find the sexiest hunk of man she's ever seen. He's got a military haircut, a scar through his eyebrow, and he's rocking a pastel pink dress shirt like only a real man can. But Penny is on a man-free diet so she leaves the airport without succumbing to his delicious double-entendres...or his dreamy dimples.
PI Russ Macklin can't take his eyes off Penny. As she sashays out of the airport with hips swaying and curls bouncing, he suspects they may share more than just sweltering chemistry. That suitcase she's rolling along behind her? It looks a lot like his.
Because it is.
When he tracks her down, he holds her bag hostage in exchange for a date. Their night begins with margaritas and ends in urgent care, and Russ proves that Cosmo's theory about a very particular type of orgasm was oh-so-wrong.
In Penny, Russ finds a small-town sweetheart with a very naughty side. For the first time ever, he’s thinking about picket fences. Penny finds in Russ a loving, caring man who understands the power of massaging showerheads.
But Russ is only in Port Flamingo for a week. They agree it'll be a fling and nothing more. Because really, they can't fall ass-over-teakettle in love just like that...
99k words. HEA. Dual POV. No cheating.
Featuring a big drooly dog named Guppy.
There’s all sorts of sexy Russ-rustle-rustling as he tries on his clothes. It takes all my willpower to stop myself from running over to his changing room and pressing my eye up to the slats like I’m looking through a peep hole. He slings his shirt over the top of the changing room door, then steps out of his shoes and socks. I can almost hear a drumroll in my head and then it happens: his suit pants fall to the ground.
Maybe today’s boxer briefs are light gray, like a sporty heather gray, because that would just be…
I grab a random black dress off the rack and dash into the second changing room. As I shut the door, I hear Maisie saying something like, “Boy, I sure could use some help with all these sunglasses, ahem-ahem.” But I ignore it. As the rustling next door continues, I unfasten the knot on my sundress and let it fall from my shoulders, so I’m standing in my bra and panties in front of the very unflattering full-length mirror. I’m hoping it’s unflattering. It damned well better be unflattering. But then I notice a very faint bruise on my hip, in exactly the pattern of his fingers as he gripped me last night. I slide my fingertips along it and turn to warm caramel inside.
“What kind of movie is it?” I ask him as I finagle my hands through the spaghetti straps above my head and tug the new dress down over my body. It’s a size too small and hugs me like shrink-wrap.
“Romantic comedy.” His zipper slides up. “Workplace romance.”
I shimmy into the dress and stare at my reflection. There are times in my life when I am acutely aware of that devil-angel-shoulder situation, and this is one of them. Looking at myself in the mirror, and I can almost see the two of them in position. The devil is a real vixen. Combat boots, and a raspy, sultry voice. No bullshit and a very respectable smoky eyeliner. She likes her music feminist and her tequila straight. On the other shoulder sits the angel. She’s a dead-ringer for my fourth-grade librarian. She smells like mothballs, her lipstick flakes off when she talks, and she’s big into smooth jazz. I hate her. Also, she’s pretty much always exactly right. Double-demerit.
The angel says, “Penelope Eloise Darling. Why can’t you find yourself a nice man with a steady job? That eHarmony questionnaire doesn’t take that long. Just think: you could find a nice Baptist minister in Tallahassee! At least you’d live in the same state!”
I suck in my stomach so hard that I feel dizzy, and try to pull up my zipper. Not even close. I cinch the fabric shut with one hand, suck in harder, and give it a yank. It bites into me, and I stretch the dress to the side as far as I can, testing the tensile strength of 1% spandex to its limit.
The devil takes out her hip flask and downs a pull of tequila while she considers her black nail polish. “Fuck that noise, Pen. You want him, take him. Boom. Done.”
The zipper finally cooperates. I don’t even look like myself, this thing is so tight. I spin slightly and look at my ass, over my shoulder.
Which is when the door squeaks open. I fully expect it to be Maisie, brandishing her Kindle and saying something like, “I knew I’d seen that jawline before,” but it isn’t. It’s him.
“Oh, fuck. Sorry, I thought this was my…” He trails off.
The desire ricochets between us like a pinball trapped at the bottom of an arcade machine. He’s in shorts that fit him like a glove, and a soft navy T-shirt, with a vintage Pac-Man logo, washed out and faded. And he’s found a hat, like a super-stylish baseball hat with mesh on the back. Plus, flip-flops.
I thought he was handsome before, but this, this… Casual, and carefree, and look at those shoulders. Peeking out from the sleeve of the T-shirt is the bottom edge of his tattoo on the curve of his massive bicep.
Here lies Penelope Darling, who died of a swoon.
He lets out a breathy, quiet whistle. “I’m buying that for you.”
The way he talks, that dominance, makes me feel like I’m some new but treasured thing. I’m not used to it, but one thing is for sure: I like it. Except even in my haze, it’s the angel that answers first. “No, no, no. I’ll never wear it.”
“I don’t care.”
Frivolous retail purchases especially for me? “We…should get to work.”
His eyes move up and down over me again so deliciously slowly that I feel a shiver up my spine. “I'll show you getting to work.” He takes a step toward me, and runs his hand up the side of my dress.
I grab ahold of the hanger rack behind me as my knees start to get a little wobbly. “I’ll take you to the boardwalk first. Rides. Ball-and-hammer. Funnel cakes.” He’s reducing me to bullet points. I can’t even string two nouns and a verb.
He pulls his hand away with a frustrated grunt. “Fine. But I’m buying it for you. No arguments. Got it?” he says finally, and then heads back to his changing room.
The devil turns to the angel, who’s got her lips in a tight, prudish line. But the devil? She gives zero fucks, and she raises her hip flask to me. “Here’s to romantic comedy.”
Toodles, Man Wagon.
Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.
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