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First in a sexy series set in a TV newsroom—from a multi Emmy Award-winning TV producer.
At News 9 San Diego, the hottest stories happen off camera.
Betrayed and abandoned by his wife and left to raise their young daughter on his own, TV news photographer Jake "Mac" MacDonald has moved to San Diego for a fresh start. He’s sworn off women forever and devoted his life to his little girl. But when his brother-in-law drags him out to a night club, Mac can’t help but be drawn to the cute blonde who asks him to dance. Maybe he can make an exception...for just one night.
A hot fling is exactly what news reporter Elizabeth White had in mind when she brought Mac home. A quick cure to help her get over her ex-boyfriend. But things get awkward when her anonymous hookup turns out to be her newest colleague. Now they must put their attraction behind them and find a way to work together. But when someone starts sabotaging Beth’s career, she realizes Mac is the only one she can trust. And maybe their one night has the makings of an exclusive after all.
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Mari Madison is a former multiple Emmy Award-winning television producer and author of novels for adults and teens. She's worked at television news stations in Boston, San Diego, and Orlando and helped launch the nationally syndicated morning show Better in New York City. Under the name Mari Mancusi, she writes young adult books, including the Blood Coven Vampire novels, most recently Soul Bound and Bad Blood. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and young daughter and their dog Mesquite.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Elizabeth “Beth” White
“Don’t even think I don’t know what you’re doing under those covers.”
I guiltily peeked my head out from under my comforter. My roommate, Stephanie, stood in my bedroom doorway, looking at me disapprovingly, arms crossed over her chest. She must have just gotten off work because she was still wearing a red pencil skirt and silky white blouse, paired with sensible black pumps. Very reporter chic. Her midnight black hair, however, had been freed from its day job constraints and fell in cascades of curls down her back. As if to say “ready to party” which Stephanie assumedly was.
She always was.
I looked down at my ratty University of Illinois sweatshirt and threadbare black yoga pants and wondered what they, along with my bedhead hair, said about me. Besides “should have done laundry five days ago,” that is.
“I’m not doing anything,” I muttered, involuntarily glancing down at my phone as yet another Facebook alert chimed. The wedding posts had been popping up approximately every five seconds, it seemed like, for the last hour or so. So many that I half-felt like I was attending the event myself at this point, instead of being a thousand miles away.
The ceremony was amazing!
The cake is beautiful!
The bride is stunning!
And I was about to throw up.
“That’s it. I’m calling for an intervention.” Stephanie dashed across the room. In one swift motion she swooped in, grabbed my phone and pulled it out of reach. I cried in protest, but she only shook her head, holding the phone behind her back. “This is for your own good,” she scolded. “I can’t believe you’re even looking to begin with.”
I groaned. She was right. It was the stupidest thing I could possibly be doing. But still, I was only human. And it was my own family who was posting the photos. I couldn’t just block them all, right?
“Come on, Beth. You knew this day was coming. And you knew when it did it would suck balls. But now, it’s over, right? It’s done,” my roommate pointed out. “The two of them are man and wife and you’re finally, finally free. Now all that’s left to do is brush your hair, lose the sweatpants, and move on with your life.” Her eyes twinkled merrily. “I mean, really. Don’t let that bastard keep you from being the sexy, sexy slut you know you can be.”
I sighed. I knew she was trying her best to cheer me up, but she just didn’t understand. After all, her relationships had an average lifespan of three weeks—so of course she’d bounce back after a few pints of Ben and Jerry’s and a new pair of Louboutins. But Ryan was different. Ryan was supposed to be the One. He was supposed to move out to San Diego. He was supposed to propose to me. We were supposed to get married and have babies and a freaking house with a freaking white picket fence for God’s sake.
He was the One. The only one. The only one I’d dated since freshman year in high school. The only guy I’d ever loved. And I’d thought he’d loved me too. Sure, it’d been rough when I scored the reporter job in San Diego and he had had to stay behind in Illinois until his dad could hire a replacement at the lumber store. But he’d promised it was only temporary. That he’d be here before I knew it and we’d be together forever.
He promised. And he kept promising. Until a month ago when, out of the blue, he called and told me he was getting married.
Not to me. Not to some random girl he met at a bar either. That would have been ugly but somewhat understandable.
But no. He was getting married to my younger sister.
Got married, I reminded myself, my stomach twisting painfully as my phone binged another alert from behind Stephanie’s back. As of one hour thirty-three minutes ago they are officially man and wife.
I let out a small moan.
“Stop thinking about it!” Stephanie scolded, catching my face. “He doesn’t deserve even a microsecond of your thoughts. He’s an asshole. You’re a sexy, sexy bitch. You need to get out of bed and out of the house and show him you don’t give a fuck.” Her eyes locked on me. “Face it, Beth. You need to get laid.”
“Eww,” I protested, boxing my ears with my hands. “Seriously, do you have to put it like that?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, her mouth quirking as she glanced over at the tower of well-worn historical romance novels stacked on my nightstand. “Let me rephrase. You, Miss Elizabeth White, must go forth and find a strikingly handsome fellow to thrust his throbbing love lance into your delicate—yet also throbbing—silken love cave.” She smirked. “Is that better?”
I grabbed a nearby pillow and flung it in her direction.
“So I’ll take that as a yes?” she returned, without missing a beat.
I glanced longingly my cell phone, which she’d set on the dresser. She gave me a scolding look.
“Look, you have tomorrow morning off, correct? Why don’t you come out with me tonight? We’ll grab dinner at that awesome new tapas place downtown and then hit Club Rain afterward. That place is crawling with hot men.”
“And even hotter STDs.”
She groaned. “Come on, Beth! You’re twenty-six years old. Who knows how many hot years you have left? Are you going to waste them all in bed? Alone in bed?” She shook her head. “Look. It’ll be fun. I promise. And if you don’t want to hook up, you don’t have to. But I’m telling you, the best cure for a doomed romance is a good old one-night bonk fest. No strings attached.”
I opened my mouth to argue. But at that moment my phone dinged again. From where I was sitting I could just make out Ryan and my sister having their first dance as man and wife. I couldn’t see the expressions on their faces, but my imagination did a pretty good job at filling in the fuzzy parts. The two of them looking into each other’s eyes. . . . Whispering naughty innuendos about their wedding night to come. . . .
So much hell.
I squared my shoulders, firming my resolve. Stephanie was right. By holing up in my bedroom like this, I was only punishing myself. Not him. It was clear he couldn’t care less where I was or what I was doing.
It was time for me to do the same.
“Okay,” I agreed. “I’ll do it. I’ll go to the bar and hook up with the first throbbing love lance I see. And maybe I’ll even take a selfie and sext it to the bastard mid dirty deed.”
“Whoo-hoo!” Stephanie cheered. “That’s my bitch!” He eyes flashed with excitement. “Ooh and I’ve got the perfect outfit for getting your slut on, too. You’re going to love it! Be right back.”
She turned and ran to her room, all victorious and gleeful. I shook my head, wondering what I’d just gotten myself into.
Just one night, I reminded myself. What could happen in just one night?
God, this had to be the worst club ever. The poor excuse for a DJ had the iTunes collection of a fourteen-year-old girl (no offense to fourteen-year-old girls) and the air conditioner couldn’t be belting out more than 5,000 BTUs. And if one more nasty meathead wiped his stank on me as he pushed past (without even saying excuse me, of course), I was seriously going to hurl. What had I been thinking, agreeing to come here in the first place? I could be home, binge watching Doctor Who. Or an engrossing series on the history of toilet paper for that matter. Even that would have been more enjoyable than this place.
But no. I was here, gross and sweaty and waiting for Stephanie to show her face again. After all, she was the one who had forced me to come to this hell on earth in the first place. Girls’ night out my ass. Three seconds after we’d arrived, she’d taken off, with the first ’roid head who’d smiled in her direction. So much for sister solidarity.
In any other circumstance I would have gone home, but I couldn’t ditch her, in the remote possibility she failed to find a stranger’s bed to crash in and needed a ride home. Yes, in addition to being talked into going out in the first place, I’d volunteered to be the DD.
Yes, I really was that lame.
Okay, to be honest, the night had started out kind of fun. We got to walk past the ridiculously long line and go through the VIP entrance while everyone still waiting outside seethed with jealousy. Also, I had actually gotten to utter the words I’m on the list like you always hear people do in the movies. Of course, technically I was on Stephanie’s list. As star TV newsgirl and practically professional partyer, Steph was probably VIP at every club in town.
Me, on the other hand? The girl who did the morning newscast that even the earliest commuters slept through? I was not on any lists.
I looked around with a sigh. When I had first come to San Diego, a year ago, places like this had seemed magical. The glitz, the glamour, the silicone. About as far away as you could get from my hometown in Illinois where the nightlife started and ended with Pete’s Pub and the local Denny’s. In fact, ever since graduating from college, journalism degree in hand, I’d been dying to pick up and move away and come to a place like this. Where opportunity lay around every corner. Where I could actually make something of myself.
Of course all I’d managed to make so far was really strong middle-of-the-night coffee.
Okay stop it, Beth. This pity party was not helping matters. I was at a hot club, I reminded myself. I needed to at least try to have a good time. After all, how else was I supposed to find that throbbing love lance I was supposedly looking for? That was the whole reason I’d agreed to come to this hellhole in the first place, right? To find a guy willing to help me get over the fact that my ex-boyfriend was now my brother-in-law? And the sooner I found him, the sooner I could leave.
Of course that was easier said than done. In fact, what had seemed like a semi-logical plan back in the comfort of my bedroom now seemed a completely ridiculous indecent proposal here at the packed club. I mean, seriously, how did one even go about getting a strange man to agree to take one home and plow one into forgetting one’s ex? I’d only slept with one guy in my entire life and we’d dated for a year before we had the sex discussion. How was I supposed to condense all that precoital courting into just one conversation? If only Stephanie were here. She had one-night stands down to a science.
Frustrated, I wandered up to the bar and sat down on a stool as I ordered a Diet Coke. The closest thing to liquid courage I could consume and still be able to make the drive safely back to Pacific Beach. As the bartender filled my glass I scanned the club, a sinking reality settling in my stomach. There was no way I could do this. No way I could just walk up to a guy and say—
“Can I squeeze in here?”
I jumped at the feel of a warm hand on my bare shoulder, a husky voice in my ear. Whirling around, I found myself face to face with—
Oh. My. God.
Okay, okay, so I know everyone’s always like, “hottest guy ever” when they see someone good-looking and obviously not every one of these “hottest guys ever” can actually be the hottest because, you know, like, there can be only one and all that. But seriously, if you looked up Beth’s perfect dream guy in the dictionary, guaranteed this dude would have a full two-page spread.
He was tall. Broad shoulders that narrowed to a tapered waist. Athletic looking, but with long, lean muscles that would have made my yoga teacher weep with joy. His hair was the color of wheat, cropped short, and his eyes were a brilliant blue—the color of the sky on a cloudless day. He wore slouchy jeans, hung low on his narrow hips and a tight black T-shirt stretched across his chest in a way that practically begged me to stick my hands underneath and run my fingers down his obviously perfect six pack.
Oh and his hand? Still resting on my shoulder. At this point radiating so much heat I was seriously wondering if it would leave me branded for life. I also wondered if I would mind all that much if it did.
“Sorry,” he said, quickly pulling his hand away. His mouth quirked at the corners, causing my pulse to race like it had just entered the Kentucky Derby. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Yeah, well, I didn’t mean to continue to gawk at you speechlessly as I imagined you fathering my children. We all have our problems.
He had a strong face, Roman nose, square jaw. High cheekbones cut of glass. And his lips—oh God. Full, firm. The kind of lips a girl could kiss for days and days and never get tired of.
Suddenly I found myself wondering about his love lance.
“No, I’m sorry,” I managed to stammer at last, scooting over my stool to give him room. “It’s all yours.”
And so am I.
He smiled, dipping his head in thanks before moving in, his thigh inadvertently brushing against mine as he sidled up to the bar, sending a fiery torch of heat straight to my belly . . . and other places. Holy crap. It didn’t help that I could smell him now—his clean, soapy scent—so masculine and so unlike the cloying body sprays the rest of the male population here must have bathed in before going out tonight.
I bit my lower lip, suddenly scanning the room for some random female type waiting for a drink from her man. Because this guy had to have come here with someone, right? Guys that looked like him—that smelled as good as him—should not be allowed out of the house without a properly possessive chaperone of the opposite sex.
But there was no one else. Just him. And me.
Oh sweet baby Jesus, hold me now in my time of need.
I watched, as if in a dream, as the bartender floated over and I knew I was running out of time. The bartender would take his drink order. Then he’d leave to make the drink. Which gave me about thirty seconds to one minute—depending on the complexity of the drink in question—to make my move before this guy wandered back into the techno soup and I remained a one-guy girl for the rest of my sad and pathetic—and probably cat-infested—life.
I forced myself to lean in slightly, hoping to catch the exchange between him and the bartender over the din of the club. Maybe that would give me an opening.
Bartender: “What kind of tequila?”
Mr. Potential Love Lance: “I don’t know, what d’ya got?”
Now you gotta understand, in any other bar in any other city, this would be a normal question, right? After all, outside SoCal and maybe Texas everyone just assumes tequila is simply another alcoholic beverage for frat boys to do shots of and puke up the next morning. Here, however, it was a freaking lifestyle, with restaurants holding tastings and, according to my Yelp research, this particular tequila bar even offering a free paid trip to Cabo if you were able to complete a punch card by sampling all their brands. (Thankfully not in one sitting or see: Puking up the next morning, above.)
In other words, they took their tequila seriously. And could smell a tourist a mile away.
Sure enough, the bartender huffed loudly, rolling his eyes in the way hipster bartenders have down to a science when dealing with someone “too mainstream.” As if to make absolutely certain the ...
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