Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Matchmaker’s Replacement by Rachel Van Dyken!
Four years later Senior year
“Right. There.” I could feel her breasts pressed up against my back as she pointed to the book that just happened to be at least two feet above her. “The one with the blue spine.”
Smirking, I read the title aloud: “A Thousand and One Ways to Please Your Man?”
“That’s the one.” Was it my imagination or did her voice get husky? Her hands snaked around my waist. “Oh sorry, I thought I saw another book that looked . . . exciting. My mistake.” She pulled her hands away from my crotch and the empty shelf near it.
With a snicker I pulled the book down, still not turning around. “You know, I’m a really good study partner.”
“I’ve heard,” she purred.
Of course she had. My reputation was legendary. By day I was a typical computer nerd, spending most my time in the labs teaching my own professors how to code. Hell, I even adopted dogs, handed out fliers on Greenpeace, and donated to homeless shelters.
But by night?
“So . . .” Soft, wet lips caressed my right bicep. “What do you say?” An irritating female voice broke through the lustful tension. “Of course, you know it’s a real sex addiction when you actually hang out in the Kama Sutra section just so you can pick up girls you won’t feel the
need to grade in bed—or, God forbid, give a manual to.”
“Gabs.” I turned around, teeth clenched, fists tight, ready for a fight or ready to cover my dick lest she try to kick it off again. “You gain weight?”
“Hmm, I don’t know. Did the free clinic help you get rid of those crabs?”
The girl—whose name escaped me, as most did—grabbed the book out of my hands and quickly scurried away while Gabs gave me a pointed look.
“For your information, she asked me for help.” I don’t know why the hell I was defending myself to the spawn of Satan. Maybe it was because she looked at me as if I was one bad decision away from going to prison.
Gabi’s soft pink lips pressed together in a judgmental line as her green eyes narrowed. “You’re late.”
“Actually”—I shoved past her—“I was early, saw a damsel in dis- tress, and made myself available. You know how it is. I can’t help that I attract estrogen on an hourly basis.”
“Yes.” Gabs pointed to the stool right next to the bookcase. “So very needy . . . and so very stupid. Was that the best excuse she could come up with? Why not just say, ‘Hey, I’m afraid of heights, mind grabbing that book for me?’”
I rolled my eyes. “Gabs, I know you’re short so everything from down there looks really, really scary, but that stool’s only a foot tall. If she’s scared of that, then it leads me to believe she’s afraid of all things that equally measure up.” I smirked and leaned down, lifting her hair so I could whisper in her ear. “Though who am I kidding? I love it when girls scream in bed.”
Gabi shoved against my chest. Hard. “Gross! Go give a disease to someone else.” She shuddered and then stomped off, calling over her shoulder, “Let’s just get this over with, alright?”
“Fine.” At the pace of a handicapped turtle, I followed after her, dreading every freaking step that took me to the table where she’d laid out her pink backpack and highlighters.
Everything had a place.
It was so Gabi that I had to fight not to smile or even laugh. That would make her think I at least liked her as a friend—which I didn’t.
She was completely off-limits, meaning the minute I’d walked away from her four years ago, she’d become nothing to me—i.e., androgy- nous, sexless, a really ugly dude, a brother, a goat.
And girls and guys as friends? Yeah, that worked, like, never. Ergo, the goat theory. If I think of her as an animal or some sort of sexless human, I won’t fall prey to her charms and decide to be her friend and then long for more, sleep with her, ruin everything, and end up truly hating her almost as much as myself.
I wanted no part of it.
Gabs sucked on a tip of her hair, which was a gross habit, then started pulling out sheets of paper. “Okay, so I went ahead and plugged in all of the new male applicants and cross-referenced them with the female clients already in the database. They’ve all been imported into the new program, but with your and Ian’s schedules I just don’t know how it’s going to work.”
“Cute. You say that in bed too?”
“Lex,” she growled, sliding the papers over to me. Numbers, num- bers, and more numbers. They were my addiction—my drug—and I loved them. The first thing I noticed was that she hadn’t messed up the data, which meant I had no excuse to fire her from Wingmen Inc. Ian had hired her so she could pay for school. He knew she needed the money, but she was too proud to take it as a gift from either of us—not that I’d ever offer.
So instead he gave her a job. At my company.
Okay fine, we both owned the company, but it still pissed me off. She’d completely ignored all the McDonald’s and Starbucks applications I’d left on her kitchen counter. I’d even called in a favor at Microsoft, where I’d interned over the summer, and she’d declined the offer!
Ian and I had one semester of school left.
One semester where I was cursed to put up with her shit, not only because she was Ian’s best friend but also because Ian and Blake had hooked up a few weeks earlier, and he’d been unable to keep up his schedule.
I groaned as the numbers all blurred together. Wingmen Inc. was exactly what it sounded like. A simple service Ian came up with after getting injured during his first season with the Seahawks. We, as wing- men, help girls—the good girls, not the ones who grope me in the freaking bookstore—find their happily ever afters.
We keep them from settling for complete idiots. And in doing so help them achieve self-confidence.
I know, I know, I really do deserve a Purple Heart. Maybe that’s why my nights are filled with so much . . . ass. My soul can only handle so much goodness before I explode with glitter and butterflies, and that shit isn’t cool.
It was Ian and Blake’s idea to start accepting male clients, and as much as I wanted to say no to the workload, they were right. My major alone was filled with so many dudes who’d never even gone on a date that I knew we’d be doing society a favor.
I’d quickly altered our computer software so that we’d have a data- base, or dating pool, of available men and women, and then I started scheduling the most desperate cases, something my program also fig- ured out for me.
“Lex?” Gabi snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Are you even listening?”
“No.” I pushed her hand away. “I was reading. And as much as I hate to utter these words . . .”
“I’m right?” She beamed, biting down on her lower lip.
With a grunt, I mumbled, “You’re right. Which also means we either need to hire someone else or you’re going to have to step up your game.”
“My game?” Her dark eyebrows drew together as she twirled her long dark-brown hair in her fingers. “Um, that wasn’t part of the deal.”
“The deal’s changed.” I stood, crumpled up the paper, and tossed it in the trash. “If I take on more clients, I’m going to fail my classes.” Okay, that was a lie, but I didn’t want to book my days with clients back to back only to be too tired for extracurricular activities. “So that means you’re going to have to take some of the dudes.”
“No!” Gabi jumped to her feet. “You know I can’t do that!”
“I do?” I looked over her head as a blonde chick with huge tits glanced my way and winked.
“Oh no you don’t.” Gabi jumped onto her chair and grabbed my face with both of her hands. “Look at me.”
“I am looking at you,” I said in a deliberately bored tone while try- ing to look through her so I could see Big Tits.
“Lex!” Gabi smacked me on the side of the face. “Focus, stop think- ing with your downstairs, let the blood go up.”
I burst out laughing. “I think you’re confused on what that would actually mean . . . Up is—”
She covered my mouth with her hand, and I noticed that pink highlighter lined her index finger, which smelled like strawberries. Of course it did.
Her green eyes widened. “I can’t meet with the male clients and coach them and—”
I rolled my eyes and removed her hand. “Gabi, I’ll train you this week. How hard can it be? They’re nerds looking for other nerds so they can have baby nerds, who will produce more nerds who will probably one day create enough robots to bring about the apoca- lypse.” I left out that training included testing her seduction skills as well as a few other things I was pretty sure that, given the chance, she would rather die than actually follow through with. One way or another, I was going to get her to quit. At least I dangled hope in front of her so then in the end, when she backed out, it would be all on her, completely her decision. See? I was a total gentleman when I wanted to be.
I started walking away, but Gabi jumped onto my back like a mon- key, her feet digging into my sides. “Stop!”
I leaned my head back, smacking her in the jaw. “Ouch!”
“No you’re not!”
“How the hell do you know?” We were starting to gain an audience. “Get off of me!”
“Not until you promise I don’t have to whore myself out!” she hissed.
An employee looked in our direction. Great.
I lowered my voice while simultaneously trying to loosen her legs from my waist. “You aren’t whoring, you’re helping. Big difference, Gabi, believe me.”
I turned my head just as she leaned down, and her lips brushed against my ear.
I froze. She froze.
Time stood still.
I took two deep breaths. “This is the job, Gabi. If you can’t do it, I’ll find someone who can and will.” And there it was, the perfect plan. I could fire her for refusing to do her job, and we’d both go our separate ways. Being next to her strawberry-scented skin was already driving me to the edge of my sanity, and I’d always prided myself on being hard to break.
“Nope.” She pinched my neck. “Ian owns half the company. He’ll simply—”
“Will that always be your excuse, then? Your fallback plan? You’re always going to have Ian to bail you out when things get hard?”
Her breath hitched.
“That’s what I thought. Look, I’m tired, and I need sex, so if you aren’t offering then please get the hell off my back and go home.”
She slid down my body. I could feel her perky breasts waving good- bye while my teeth clenched with irritation.
I turned around and grinned wickedly. “You start tomorrow.”
Gabi’s cheeks turned red. I was betting on her backing out. She should, after all; she was innocent, hardly dated—hell, my grandmother had more sexual experience than Gabi.
A turtle had more experience.
We shared a best friend, and when drunk, our mutual friend explained why he was so protective of our dear, lovely Gabi. Virgin. She was a freaking virgin.
Which basically meant she was going to crash and burn, and I was going to document every damn thing and then tell Ian she had to find somewhere else to work.
Perfect plan? Hell yes.
“That is, unless”—I winked—“you want to start tonight.” I licked my lips and tilted my head. “My record is forty-eight seconds . . . Bet you’d only take twenty.”
A book flew by my head. Guess that was my answer.
“You know . . .” I rocked on my heels. “There’s always McDonald’s.
Let me call in a favor, Gabs. You don’t belong with Wingmen Inc.”
Her nostrils flared. “I need this job, Lex. It’s the only job that pays me enough to be able to—”
My eyebrows shot up. “Able to what, Gabs? Buy more shoes? It’s not like you haven’t already paid for your tuition.”
“Bastard!” she screeched, tossing another book in my direction. I ducked. “Did you hack my school account again?”
“Me?” I shrugged innocently. “Honestly, Gabs, I’m surprised a five-year-old hasn’t hacked your account already. You do realize using ‘password’ as your password is basically like putting a welcome mat in front of your login, right?”
“I hate you.”
“Feeling’s mutual, Sunshine.” I smirked. “Now, go complain to Ian like you always do, and I’ll go stand outside while women fall at my feet, like I always do.”
She stormed off.
And a piece of me left with her, not that she knew, not that she’d ever know, because every single time we argued, it was like part of my soul cracked.
Hah, maybe that was why I was hating her more and more. Gabrielle Sava was making me soulless.
Hell, by the end of the semester I was going to be either a demon or a vampire.
The blonde with the big tits winked at me again and waved. I smiled and stared at her plump, shapely body. For tonight? I’d bite.
“Vampire it is,” I whispered as I made my way over to her.