Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sneak Peek of Boy Toy by Jenny Gardiner

Ack! Working on deadline so I'm going to post a tease of my next release, Boy Toy, from my Confessions of a Chick Magnet series, which I'm trying to wrap up for my editor before I leave for a conference this weekend!

I hope you like it!

Chapter One
Sullivan Forester stared into his underwear drawer for what seemed like the thousandth time over the past year, at the black velvet box nestled between the side of the drawer and a stack of boxers, topped by the pair with embroidered Saint Bernards on them. He shook his head, smacked his lips, then ran his fingers through his wavy caramel hair, which had gotten a little longer than he liked it of late. Finally he took a deep breath and blew it out, deciding once and for all to make it official: today was the day he was going to start getting his shit together, which included trimming this shaggy head of hair.
But first, he had more important business to attend to: the ring.
He pulled the box out of the drawer where it had lurked, taunting him for what seemed like ages now, and flipped open the lid to stare at the Tiffany & Co. two-carat brilliant-cut diamond engagement ring, flanked on either side by fat indigo-blue sapphires. The gems caught the early morning sunlight streaming through the window and winked at him. He took it as yet one more sign that it was time to find a new home for this thing that only felt like bad juju now that it had taken up unproductive space in his life for far too long.
At first, when Gretchen dumped him, three whoppingly inconsiderate weeks before their wedding, it felt like he would never get over it. Why would she do something like that to him? Worse still, how could he have been so clueless and not seen it coming? 
A year ago, her words lacerated his heart, where he felt an achy tug that didn’t seem to want to let go of him for months. 
“Look, Sully,” she’d said. “I just realized marriage isn’t for me.”
He remembered staring into her brown eyes, the ones that had once seemed so warm and loving, finally seeing them for the cold dark they really had been all along. Her shiny black hair had been pulled back into a high ponytail, her make-up fresh. She had on one of those bright pastel sundresses she always wore—what were they called? Lilly something or other. He knew dick about fashion, but he always noticed that she was about the only woman in town who dressed every day as if she was going to a cocktail party at a beach resort. He knew that style of dress only because in a way it was emblematic of what he’d left behind when he’d moved to Bristol, Montana a handful of years ago after selling his start-up for more money than he’d have ever imagined attached to his name—not to mention his bank account.
He’d spent a couple of years dabbling in the lavish me-me-me lifestyle of the very rich in New York: the obligatory summers in the Hamptons, the mandatory charity events every night of the week at somebody or other’s exclusive penthouse apartment the rest of the year. The insincere air-kiss greetings by women who wanted your donations but not a decent conversation, the severe handshakes by the Wall Street assholes who were dipping into the cash reserves of the country to line their own pockets all while sticking their dicks into women young enough to be their daughters, as their air-kissing wives went under the knife for yet more unnecessary plastic surgery to try desperately to compete. 
Sully was over that bullshit, which was why he’d come to Bristol. He wanted to start new where no one knew him, where he could be his authentic self and not play the superficial games to which he’d become accustomed.
His mistake, however, was bringing Gretchen Penobscott with him. He and Gretchen had been together even during the leaner years, so at least he could take comfort knowing it wasn’t as if she’d been after his wealth. And to her credit, for a while, she went along with his plan, upending the lifestyle she’d become quite accustomed to. She came with him to Montana, Lilly whatever-the-name-was dresses and all, but it seemed from the minute they’d moved here, things never seemed quite the same between them. 
He’d hoped it was just a matter of getting used to things—it was admittedly weird going from endless black pavement and skyscrapers to fields of wildflowers and mountains that touched the skies instead—and that once married she’d settle in more. But then he never got the chance to see if he was right, because on that brutal early summer day a year ago, she slid her ring off of her left ring finger, tucked it into the palm of his hand, closing his fingers around it, gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek, and walked away.
Well. He eventually learned that time does heal old wounds. And that while he once loved Gretchen, he realized she’d done him a solid by not going through with what she knew in her heart would be a mistake. He’d never really understand it, but hey, much better than finding that out after the wedding. Sure, it sucked, worse still having to take the financial hit for everything wedding-related he had to cancel last-minute, but the good news was it hadn’t even put a dent in his bank account, so it was an emotionally costly but not financially detrimental lesson. 
And today, he was going to take the first step toward making some other man who couldn’t afford it that much happier.
He called for his Husky pup Blizzard, threw on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and a plaid flannel shirt to fend against the morning chill, grabbed his laptop and went out on the deck off of his bedroom. The sun was shining and the fog had just begun to lift off the still snow-capped mountain peaks as he fixed a quick cappuccino at the coffee bar he’d set up on his deck. He sat down at the long farmhouse table and opened his laptop, then snapped a quick picture of the ring on his phone, clicked on Facebook, then entered this:
Looking for a good home for this briefly used treasure, valued at $85,000. Tell me why you want to share this with the woman you love. Please email me at Deadline is one week from today. Please share.
He uploaded the image, clicked “post” and sent it off into the ether, then did the same on Twitter and Instagram. He rubbed his hands together, took a sip of his cappuccino, and made a mental note to remember to stop in at Jackson’s Barber Shop for a haircut when he went to town later on in the day.
Sully had been working on a song he’d been writing, reveling in the beautiful weather. It had started out chilly but by lunchtime it had become a quintessential Montana summer day: songbirds in full throat, the hum of bees vibrating through the air, all against the backdrop of a bluebird sky. Wildflowers were blooming like crazy in the fields surrounding his custom-built farmhouse that overlooked the Rocky Mountains. The place was truly a slice of heaven.
Life could not be any better. Sure, Sully didn’t have a bride at his side as he’d originally expected, but it was all good. He’d gotten some regular gigs playing guitar at local bars, and that made him supremely happy making others happy with his music. He had a great dog that made him laugh with his antics. He got to spend time each morning doing what he wanted to do: reading, meditating, working out at the gym. He volunteered with an animal rescue clinic, thanks to his friend Tanner Eliasson, who was a local vet. He even spent an inordinate amount of time cooking elaborate meals for himself each night, which was admittedly a little lonely, and occasionally hosted dinners with a handful of folks who’d become true friends, not the superficial acquaintances he’d encountered regularly back on the East Coast. 
Not to dig a jab at the East Coast—there was nothing wrong with that lifestyle for someone else; it just wasn’t for him. He was happy on his horse, or feeding his chickens, or taking a hike on his hundred acres of property. And more than happy to not have to deal with rush hour traffic and Type-A human beings ever again.
His phone buzzed and he pulled up a text message, from his friend Tanner:
Dude. What the fuck? Have you looked at your Facebook in the past hour?
Sully squinted, not knowing what exactly he was talking about. Until he remembered. 
Oh, that. You saw it?
He waited for the buzz of his phone.
Saw it? Me and a few thousand other complete strangers.
Sully’s eyes opened wide. Huh? 
You’re joking, right?
Tanner didn’t comment, but instead sent a screen shot of his post. 
Sully expanded the image to see details up close. Holy shit. He grabbed his phone and pressed Tanner’s number.
“Jesus, Sully,” Tanner said. “Next time give me heads-up on these things. I’ve had every female I know within two hundred miles message me about this, and I didn’t even know about it. You’re givingaway that ring?”
“I just figured it was time. The thing was just taking up space, reminding me of what was. No need in going there anymore. I’m finally past Gretchen, over that whole break-up, and I just want to make something that left a bad taste in my mouth become something better. Lemons to lemonade.”
“That’s a hell of a glass of lemonade,” Tanner said. 
“Yeah well, I thought it could be a fun project. And it would feel good helping someone else out who maybe couldn’t afford to get engaged.”
“Your fun project might turn into a full-time job if my suspicions are right—you’re going to be slammed with people begging for that thing.”
Sully shrugged. “Great! The good news is I’ve got time to do what I want. And right now this feels right. Besides, I’m sure I’ll be able to see through the scammers looking for an expensive ring they could hock, and find someone who is truly in love and has a legit reason for wanting this thing. And to be honest, the sooner I get rid of this, it better. I want to move on without any reminders.”
“Yeah, well, you’d better open up that laptop and start reading your emails because I think you’ve just given yourself a full-time unpaid job for the next year.”
Sully laughed. “No worries. It’s all good.”
“Talk to me about ‘all good’ when you have a million women pounding your door down because they think you’re the swooniest guy on the planet.”
Huh. Sully hadn’t thought about that. Shit. He sure as hell wasn’t looking for women to glom on him for his money. Over the last year since Gretchen left, Sully had been in the habit of one-off flings with women tourists who streamed through Bristol like a hard-running river, looking for sporty outdoors activities by day and even more sporty activities in the sack by night.
His music gigs offered the perfect opportunity to meet strangers in town for a short period of time, guaranteeing he could avoid anyone seeking commitment or anything more a few hours of escapist sex. He’d usually return with them to their hotel or Airbnb or rental up on the mountain, only to slip out hours later under cover of darkness, and be back in his own bed before sunrise. Sure it seemed impersonal, but that’s what he’d needed at the time—anonymous sex for the sake of sex, no strings attached, no commitment whatsoever.
But now, crap, did this mean women were going to seek him out? He hadn’t thought about that. He should’ve just donated the damned ring to charity, be done with it. Because the last thing he needed in his life was to have women honing in on him like a heat-seeking missile, wanting love and marriage and all those things he’d grown a bit cynical about. 
He opened his Facebook page and saw that his post had been seen by three thousand people and had comments by over four hundred people. Hell, another two thousand had shared it. Ho-ly shit. 
What had he gotten himself into?
Chapter Two
Isabelle Strong was tired of licking her wounds over her latest failed relationship. Granted the hot guy from HR, her last impetuous fling, was never truly going to be long-term material—first off, nothing good came from dating a guy from the office. Secondly, it turned out he wasn’t all that interesting. Once they got past the good sex—and she had to admit, it was good sex (the only reason it lasted as long as it did)—she found herself carrying most conversations while he spent an inordinate amount of time on the ESPN app of his phone. If he was going to be so deeply entrenched in his hand-held idiot device this early into a relationship, lord only knew how bad it would be after a few years together.
So she did what she knew she had to do, and lowered the boom, dumping HR-boy before things got any more involved. And now she really didn’t miss him so much as the idea of him. Rather, the idea of a guy she could just have fun with, go away for the weekend, enjoy staying in to cook dinner with and maybe binge-watch several episodes of a show on Netflix before retiring for the night to stimulating sex, then falling asleep curled up in each others arms. Was that so much to ask for?
Apparently so. Because she’d had a succession of equally lame relationships over the past few years—from the lifeguard in Santa Monica whose idea of a good time was watching shark documentaries, to the waiter at The Ivy who only cared which famous celebrity he’d waited on that week. She had to lose him because she couldn’t bear to hear one more time about how he’d yet again served lunch to one of the Kardashians. Then there was the weird guy who had the creepy toe fetish and insisted she wear sandals even when they went to Banff for the weekend to ski. In the winter. Uh, no.
She was stuck in traffic on the freeway and switched off her book tape and turned up the radio to try to find out what was causing the logjam this time on the highway. Instead she got the tail end of a news report about some guy who’d posted on Facebook about giving away a ridiculously expensive engagement ring to a deserving person, and that social networking sites had exploded over it. 
Huh. Intriguing. What sort of guy would have bought an eighty five thousand dollar engagement ring in the first place? And what self-respecting woman would ditch the kind of guy who did? Not that she was chasing after guys with money, but seriously, that woman must’ve been an idiot.
“The man, who lives in Bristol, Montana,” the reporter said. “Is taking pleas from hopeful suitors until the end of the week.”
Bristol, Montana? That was where her best friend Zoey Richards had moved to, after falling in love with a gorgeous veterinarian. She wondered if Zoey knew the guy. No time like the present to find out. She pulled out her phone to call her. Luckily Zoey answered on the first ring.
“What’s shakin’ bacon?” Zoey said in a half-whisper. “You are so not going to believe this but I’m sitting out back, sipping on my coffee, and all of a sudden I look off to my right, not a hundred and fifty feet from me, and see a moose. A moose! This place is amazing.”
Izzy sighed. “Ugh. Don’t be too jealous of me. I’m stuck in traffic on the Santa Monica freeway, bored out of my mind, and just heard something on the radio about some guy in your town who’s giving away a fancy engagement ring. What is up with that?” The traffic had slowed to a crawl so Izzy quickly pulled an elastic off her wrist and caught her hair in a ponytail, then put the phone back up to her ear. 
“Yeah, crazy, right?”
“You don’t know him, do you?”
“Of course I do. In a town this size you get to know pretty much everyone. Especially with Tanner’s line of work.”
“So what’s the deal?” Izzy saw a gap in the left lane and manipulated her car into it just as the driver laid on his horn and flipped her off. She reciprocated in kind. Damn, a girl could get repetitive stress disorder from flipping the finger while commuting in this town.
“He was engaged and she broke it off just before the wedding. It’s been a year now and he’s just ready to get rid of the ring—it felt like a bad luck thing to keep it. Not like he’d ever use it again anyhow.”
“Shit, I’d at least sell it. So he’s just giving it away? That seems crazy.”
“Believe me he doesn’t need the money.”
“Is he a nice guy?”
“He’s great. Very chill. Laid back. Never heard a cross word out of his mouth.”
“Great! I’m coming up to meet him.” Izzy took the first exit she could and pulled over to program her Waze app to redirect her out of the traffic pileup.
“O-kayyyy... That seems a bit extreme,” Zoey said. “But I’d be happy to see you regardless. You know you’re always welcome.”
“Perfect. I’m going home and packing a bag and driving up there. I’ll see you soon!”
Izzy always forgot what a long damned drive it was from L.A. to Bristol, a drive she’d done plenty of times since Zoey had transplanted herself there. It helped that it was right on the way to her place in Banff. But damn, she always felt like she’d been hit by a truck by the time she got there. It didn’t help that instead of overnighting somewhere, she’d just pull over and sleep every couple of hours. A quick peek in the mirror revealed that her usually lustrous long, wavy dark hair looked like a fluffed-up dandelion on steroids. Her mascara, applied yesterday before she knew she was road-tripping that very day, had raccooned beneath her eyes in a most attractive way to make her look like a maniacal Victorian-era slasher. Her unbrushed teeth felt as if they’d sprouted fur. She was sure she was a sight for only the sorest of eyes.
She wanted to grab a token hostess gift to bring to Zoey and Tanner and figured a bottle of wine would suffice. She parked her car on Main Street and got out, walking the block or so to the wine shop, marveling as she did at the spectacular three hundred and sixty degree mountain views set against a pristine blue sky. Even the air felt amazing here, compared to the funk she breathed in regularly in L.A. that she sometimes felt came in chunks. 
She was so busy staring at the scenery that she failed to pay attention to where she was walking, and before she knew it she’d stepped in a disgusting, fresh pile of doggy doo. Furious, she looked around to see who was responsible for it, and just ahead of her she saw a guy with a plaid shirt over a t-shirt and pair of shorts demanding that a nearby husky puppy with bright blue eyes to come to him. The dog instead kept running circles around the sidewalk, defying his orders. He might as well have been flipping the finger at his owner, not to mention at Izzy and her mucked-up boots.
“You!” she said to the man, her voice rising higher the angrier she got thinking about it. All that crapola smeared over her nice cowboy boots, and now she had to get disgusting poop off of them before she could even get to Zoey and Tanner’s.
The guy looked at her and pointed to himself, lifting a questioning brow.
“Yeah. You.” She furrowed her forehead, then pointed at his pup. “Look what your damned dog did to me.” She lifted her foot and showed him the smear on the sole of her boot that extended across the tip of the toe of the thing as well                                               .
The guy stopped walking and stared at her, eyes opened wide. 
“My dog?” he shook his head vigorously. “How do you know that my dog did that?”
Izzy spread her arms out wide. “Um, do you see any other dog around?”
He frowned. “Not at this very minute, but that could have been left there hours ago by someone else’s dog!”
“Not hardly,” she said. “It’s clearly freshly-laid. If that’s a term. Ugh. I cannot believe I’m parsing out terminology for dog poop.” She growled. “Look, dude. Curb your damned dog. You owe me a pair of boots. I just bought these things, too.” She wagged her finger at him, as if that was going to achieve anything.
The guy approached her, his eyebrows knit, his lips pursed. “Quit your bitching, lady. My dog didn’t do that. But if it’s going to make you happy, here.” He grabbed his wallet from his back pocket and pulled a handful of bills from within, reaching for her hand and stuffing them into her palm. “Now you can go out and buy yourself a new pair. Go crazy with it.”
With that he turned away, whistled for his dog and muttered loud enough for Izzy to hear, “Let’s go, Blizzard, and get away from the crazy lady before she hurts you.” Then she saw him shake his head as he added, “Fucking tourists.”
Izzy looked down at the money in her hand and realized he’d jammed six one hundred dollar bills there. Six hundred freaking dollars. In her hand. To replace her boots. That she’d gotten at TJ Maxx for about eighty bucks. Four years ago. Yeah, she knew she’d lied about them being new. But she’d wanted to make him feel particularly badly.
Well, that certainly was a best-case scenario for her boots, even if the guy was a bit of a jerk. She didn’t have time to replace the footwear right now but with the cash in her hand, she removed the yucky one and dumped it in the trash can, limping the rest of the way back to her car, where she put on another pair of shoes from her suitcase  till she got to Zoey’s. What an inauspicious beginning to her quest to meet the charming ring donor. The good news was at least he wouldn’t be a complete asshole like that guy was.

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You can check out the first book in the Royal Romeo series for free here:

Lastly, don't forget, book one of the It's Reigning Men series, Something in the Heir, is free here!

I hope you'll have a chance to check out my Royal Romeos series, which is a spin-off of my wildly popular It's Reigning Men series--please do check them out!

Happy reading!




1 comment:

dstoutholcomb said...

loved the excerpt!