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SMOOTH HOPERATOR: A FAKE-RELATIONSHIP ROMANCE
After tanking my career in politics, I’m looking for new direction. But my GPS must be broken because it keeps leading me to a kooky librarian’s front steps.
It’s not easy, but I’m doing my best to let go of my old ambitions and embrace the simple life of slinging beer at my family’s brewery. But some powerful players from my past are determined to cause problems for me and my family.
When a chatty local librarian with the wardrobe of a third grader and the optimism of Spongebob begins sticking her nose into my business, I want to tell her to get lost. As fate would have it, though, Sunny and her ill-tempered grandfather are my only remaining option to get free of my past for good.
It will take some convincing to get this goofy, goat-loving librarian on board with my risky plan. But if she’ll do things my way, I’ll return the favor by playing her fake boyfriend to make her true love finally take notice and fall head over heels.
But the deeper we get into this venture, the more I realize there’s nothing fake about Sunny at all. Including the way I’m beginning to feel about her.
My first indication that I’m not in the attic at home is the mattress spring digging into my back. The second is the warm hand on my junk that doesn’t belong to me. I may have just awoken this second, but my dick has beaten me to it by several minutes, at least.
When I blink my eyes open, sunlight filters through the closed curtains of the motel room, allowing enough illumination for me to make out the body of my bedmate—the very same one whose hand has wandered during the night. Sunny’s hair is splayed over my shoulder, and she’s using my chest as a pillow.
My dick jumps because that’s what dicks do when they’re being felt up. It clearly remembers last night as well as I do. But instead of causing Sunny to withdraw her hand, the movement only appears to encourage her. She burrows her face into my chest and throws a bare leg over my thigh. In other words, she’s trying to kill me.
I’d love nothing more than to roll her onto her back and explore all the skin and curves I didn’t get to last night, but after her confession and that panicked exit, I can’t touch her until we talk. And I doubt she’ll be happy if she wakes up like this.
I try carefully sliding to the side so I can stand, but as soon as I start moving, she grabs onto me like a spider monkey and pulls me closer, using my dick as leverage. I bite down on my cheek to keep from howling.
“No,” she says, her tone scolding.
Here we go again with the sleep talking.
This time, I gently pry her hand from my junk, one finger at a time until I’m gripping her hand just above it. So, of course, that’s the moment she awakens.
I witness as each synapse fires and she comes fully awake to find me holding her hand over my obviously aroused dick. Thank God I’m still dressed at least.
“What are you doing?” She jerks her hand out of my grip.
“Nothing, I swear.”
She lifts her head from my chest and retreats until she’s back on her side of the bed. “It didn’t look like nothing.”
This is ridiculous. I was trying to be sensitive to her emotions, but she can’t honestly think… I throw my hands up in exasperation. “Look, I just woke up, and you were holding my junk and using me as a pillow. That’s all I know.”
She eyes me skeptically. “What happened to the covers?”
We both inspect the bedding and while my side of the bed is as tucked and neat as it was when I first lay on it last night, hers is a mess of twisted sheets and blankets, both pillows buried somewhere within.
“I have no idea.”
She glances around for a few more seconds and then untangles herself. “Oh. I guess I must have moved around a little in my sleep.”
Unfortunately, I still have the issue of the tent in my pants, and now that Sunny is fully awake, she is not shy about looking, which does nothing to help the problem.
“Did I…?” She trails off, pointing at it now. Jesus.
“While it does usually make its presence known first thing in the morning, it’s never this… cheerful.”
She tries and fails to hide her self-satisfied grin. “Sorry about that.”
“No need to apologize. I think I’ll survive.” My tone is as dry as my mouth is.
Sunny exhales, her shoulders drooping, and I can read the exhaustion on her face.
“I think I’ve got something that might cheer you up.” I gesture to the nightstand. The second her eyes find the vending machine haul, the familiar sparkle is back.
“Oh my god, I love you!”
It’s unclear if she’s talking to me or the food, but I think I have my answer when she tears open a granola bar wrapper with her teeth and shoves the entire bar in her mouth. “Nth ush na mus snin im ema namud.”
I reach for a water bottle and twist it open. “Sorry?”
She raises her finger while she chews and swallows. “This is the best thing I’ve ever tasted!” She goes for a Powerade next. “You’re my hero.”
This time, I know she’s talking to me, and I can’t help the little burst of pleasure in my chest. “Well, it’s my fault we’re here in the first place.”
She scrunches her nose. “What? No, it’s not.” Her eyes skip around the tiny motel room and she shrugs as she takes a long drink of blue liquid. “Stuff happens. It could be a whole lot worse.”
She’s right. I could be here alone with my grumpy asshole self instead of having her here to save me from my drowning in my own pessimism.
She sets down the bottle and goes for some of the fruit snacks, moaning and dropping her head back as she chews. The woman has zero idea where that takes a man’s mind, and I finally sit on the bed, if only to hide my body’s reaction to her antics.
Wrapping up her food orgasm, she asks, “So, what’s the sleeping arrangement?” I must look confused because she continues, “There’s no way either of us is sleeping on this floor, so how do we share this bed without… you know?”
“It is possible for a man to lie in a bed with a woman without his dick magically finding its way out of his pants.”
She blushes. “Duh. I just mean… you know.”
No, I really don’t. Is she afraid to sleep next to me? “Your virtue is safe. I’ll sleep on top of the covers—and I’ll somehow manage to keep my clothes from shedding themselves.”
Her gaze rakes down my body like I just invited her to evaluate said clothes, and my dick likes it way too much. This woman might kill me before I even get a chance to contemplate sleep. Sunny is such a contradiction. She’s the most curious person I’ve ever met, her mouth is a loudspeaker for every one of her thoughts, yet she blushes at even the mention of anything remotely sexual or intimate.
“My virtue? Ha!” She says it like a challenge, and my mind goes on a journey of its own making.
“How do I know my virtue is safe?” I tease, knowing better but saying it anyway.
Her laugh is nervous, and she busies her hands, tearing the snack wrapper to shreds. “Right. I’d guess you were born luring women into your lair.”
I lean back on the bed a bit, my weight on my hands now. “That’s not a very nice thing to say about a baby.”
“Pardon me, then. I guess you sprang to life in full man form, schmoozing your way around like a true politician.”
This time, I fail to play along. She wasn’t trying to wound me, but she hit a sore spot nonetheless. “You know, not all politicians are shady.”
“I know.” Her teasing tone is gone. “I’m sorry. I was just joking around.”
“It’s okay. I can’t blame you, especially given the circumstances surrounding our trip.” I did give her the impression that my old colleagues are a bunch of conniving dickheads.
“Way to spoil the mood, Underwood,” she mumbles.
I much prefer her throwing me sass, so I get over myself and wade back into dangerous territory. “And what mood was that?”
The blush returns. “I don’t know.” She’s rattled again, but she’s already shredded the snack wrapper, so she starts playing with the ends of her hair instead.
Leave it alone, Brooks. Go take a shower and go to sleep. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re flirting with me, Miss Underwood.”
Her responding laugh is strangled. “Yeah, right. I don’t even know how to flirt.”
Like hell she doesn’t. She might not know that’s what she’s doing, but she’s got all kinds of natural talent.
And I have no idea what possesses me—maybe it’s her comment on politicians that got me riled up, or the frustration of the evening, or her vanilla scent filling the car all day—but the words are out before I can stop them. “Then why am I so fucking turned on right now?”
Sunny mumbles something from the passenger seat, and I glance her way. “What’s that?”
“Your toast is ready,” she says a little more clearly this time.
It takes another couple of glances to realize she’s talking in her sleep, her sweatshirt bunched up between her shoulder and ear, and the upper strap of the seat belt falling over her nose and forehead. She can’t be more than five foot one at most, although she does her best to fudge it a little with her platform sneakers.
“Thanks. I’ll eat mine later.” I heard somewhere that you’re not supposed to wake a sleep talker or a sleepwalker; instead, you play along and steer them back to sleep. So I figure she can make me toast if she wants.
“But it’s breakfast in bed. Must eat now.” She’s sounding a little salty now.
I grin when I see her lips firm under the seat belt. Even in her sleep, she’s arguing with me.
“Okay, okay. Hand it over.”
She doesn’t move, of course, or hand me anything at all. “I put butter on it even though you don’t eat fat.”
“I eat fat,” I rebut like I’m having a real conversation with her. She’s never seen me eat Mama’s chicken and waffles.
“No. You’ve got pectorals and glutes and… abdominals.”
I chuckle to myself because this is turning into true confessions. It seems innocent little Sunny has been checking me out.
“Well, technically, everybody has them.”
This makes her frown. “Stop talking.”
I laugh out loud this time. “You’re the one who started it. I was only being polite.”
“Just sit there and look pretty.”
This time I laugh so hard I accidentally jerk the steering wheel and have to right us before I drive into the median. Sunny startles upright. “What happened?! Is it Duke?!”
I don’t bother answering specifically because a simple glance around will put her at ease. “Just driving,” I reassure her, biting back my smile.
USA Today bestselling author Sylvie Stewart loves bad jokes, dirty rom-coms, country music, and baby skunks—preferably all at the same time. Most of her steamy contemporary and romantic comedy novels take place across her favorite state of North Carolina, and her characters never run out of snarky banter or snacks. When her laptop closes, Sylvie is a sucker for hugs from her twin boys and a good laugh with her hot-nerd hubby. If you love smart Southern gals, hot blue-collar guys, and snort-laughing with characters who feel like your best friends, Sylvie’s your gal.