From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new, sexy standalone novel.
Growing up, the three of us were friends.
He was the nerd.
I was the playboy.
She was the beauty.
Deep down, I only ever wanted her. I kept it inside because Rory and I made a pact that our friend, Amber, was off-limits.
I went off to college, and he got the girl.
Amber never knew how I felt.
They were together for years"before he broke her heart.
Through it all and across the miles, she and I casually stayed in touch.
When my job sent me to Boston for a three-month contract position, Amber let me stay in her spare room.
Still reeling from her breakup, she"d sworn off men.
One night, I opened her computer to find the shock of my life. She"d hesitantly contacted a male escort company. Afraid to date and get her heart broken again, she was looking for sex with no strings.
Every emotion imaginable ran through me: protectiveness, jealousy"curiosity.
Amber had chosen Gentleman Number Nine and sent him a message.
She opened up to him, confessing, among other things, her physical attraction to her friend"me. But she considered me off-limits"and she thought I was a manwhore. (Ironic, considering the circumstances.)
Eventually, she set up a date to meet Gentleman Nine at a hotel.
When she showed up several nights later to meet him, she was stunned to see me standing there"with an offer I hoped she wouldn"t refuse.Books by Author:Penelop Ward Books
* * *
The ring of my phone startled me as I was mindlessly scrolling through photos online. The name on the caller ID made my pulse race.
My heart began to beat faster.
Why would he be calling me"
Before I had time to ponder that question, I picked up, trying my best to sound chipper despite the fact that just moments earlier I was in tears while stalking my ex, Rory"s, Facebook page.
I ran my hand through my hair as if it mattered what I looked like. "Channing!"
A deep, sexy chuckle vibrated against my ear, but somehow I felt it between my thighs. "How did you know it was me""
My nipples stiffened at the sound of his voice. I didn"t want to react this way, but for as long as I"d known him, I reluctantly and secretly crushed on Channing. For one reason or another, he was always off-limits.
When I first met him, he"d been my best friend"s big brother. Off-limits.
Then, our relationship evolved into a friendship I valued. Off-limits.
Crossing the line with Channing wasn"t a possibility, especially after I fell in love with his best friend, Rory, which made Channing once again…off-limits.
But the fact that I"d always considered Channing off-limits didn"t mean I could ignore how attractive he was. The man was beautiful, and there was no denying that.
"Your name showed on the display. That"s how I knew it was you," I said.
"Really"" He laughed. "Shit. This is my cell. I didn"t know my name came up when I called people. I don"t know if I like that."
"Well, it"s because I have you programmed in. You must"ve called me from this number before"the last time we spoke. I think that was like six months ago."
"Oh, gotcha. Jeez. It"s been a while, huh""
"Yeah, it has. This is a surprise. What"s up" How are you doing""
Still hot as hell"
I couldn"t help where my mind went with him.
Even though we"d talked on the phone occasionally, it had been a couple of years since we"d actually seen each other in person. From what I could tell on social media, he"d gotten even better looking with age. Channing was probably the most attractive human I"d ever personally known. Not only that, he had a larger-than-life personality and effortless charm. Women were always drawn to him, and that was precisely the problem for any chick who ended up dating him. Channing Lord loved women, and they loved him. That was the bottom line.
"I"m really well, actually," he said.
"Good to hear. I"m sorry that I haven"t been in touch. It"s been a rough couple of months."
A few seconds went by before he responded, "I heard about you and Rory. That was pretty shocking news. Are you okay""
The subject of Rory always turned me into a defensive, moody bitch. "Why do you ask" Did someone tell you I wasn"t okay""
"No. I haven"t spoken to Rory or anything. Jordan told me." Jordan was one of my friends from back home who"d had a fling with Channing way back when.
"How nice of her to fill you in."
"You guys had been together forever. It doesn"t take a genius to figure out that this must be rough for you."
"Well, I"m taking it one day at a time."
I didn"t want Channing to know how badly the breakup had devastated me.
"That"s all we can ever do, right" One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. That"s a good attitude."
"So, to what do I owe this phone call, Lord""
"Well, I sort of have a question for you"not sure if I"m overstepping my bounds in asking but""
What was he getting at"
My heartbeat sped up a bit. "Okay""
"I just got a temporary contract position with a biomedical company in Boston. SeraMed. You ever hear of them""
"Oh, yeah. In Cambridge."
"Exactly. The one in Cambridge. It"s only for a few months, starts in early October. Jordan said you might have an extra room that you rent out to people" I figured it wouldn"t hurt to ask if it"s available. I"d need it starting on October first."
He wanted to stay here" With me" I didn"t know how I felt about that. But I didn"t want to lie to him.
"Yeah, actually. I do have a room. I rent it out typically through Airbnb, but I"m only booked through the end of August. After that, it"s available." What the hell. "It"s yours if you want it." I closed my eyes and cringed. I really should have thought it through a bit more before offering Channing a room. The last thing I needed at this point in my life was to have to listen to him doing God knows what with God knows whom across the hall.
He sounded surprised. "Are you serious""
"You"ve rescued my ass. I owe you big time. I"ll pay whatever you normally get"even more. I don"t care. You just saved me the hassle of trying to find a place in the city. I was dreading it."