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Enemies With Benefits (Loveless Brothers #1)
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I don’t love him. I don’t even like him.
Eli Loveless was my nemesis from the first day of kindergarten until we graduated high school. Everything I did, he had to do better – and vice versa. The day he left town was the best day of my life.
Ten years later, the day he came back was the worst.
Now he’s my co-worker.
Grown-up Eli Loveless is sexy as sin. He’s hotter than asphalt in the summer. The irritating kid I once knew is gone, and he’s been replaced by a man with green eyes, perfect abs, and a cocky smile.
It’s bad that I want him.
It’s worse that he wants me back.
There are looks. There are smirks. There are smiles that make my panties burst into flame.
And then there’s a shared kiss that leads to the hottest night of my life.
This is no office romance. This is a five-alarm fire.
What’s a girl to do when the man I can’t stand is the one I can’t stop lusting after?
Enter into a friends-with-benefits agreement, of course.
No dates. No relationship. Just blisteringly hot sex, because if there’s one person I could never fall for, it’s Eli.
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This is going off the rails.
I don’t want it to. I wish it wasn’t, because I started this date the way I start every date: with unbridled optimism. Before I actually go on a date, I’m always overflowing with excitement and the soul-deep knowledge that somewhere out there in the mountainous wilds of southwestern Virginia lives my Prince Charming, ready to show up and whisk me away.
Okay, that’s overstating things a little. I have zero interest in an actual prince, and being whisked sounds like it’s some kind of baking-gone-wrong incident, but I’d like to have a life partner. When done properly, it seems like having one is nice.
I’d like someone to make me look forward to going home at the end of the day. Someone to make me laugh on long car rides. Someone to snuggle during the long mountain nights, preferably someone warmer than me.
I just don’t want the wrong life partner.
“You’ve never been here before, huh?” Todd asks, looking at his menu and not at me.
“No, but I’ve heard good things,” I say, keeping it upbeat.
“Yeah, I figured you hadn’t,” he says, finally glancing at me over the menu. He’s smirky and smug. Smugky? “You should’ve seen the look on your face when I said where I was taking you, like I’d just told you it was Christmas morning.”
I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I keep reminding myself over and over not to judge a book by its cover. People are invariably deeper and more complex than they seem at first.
After all, he took me to Le Faisan Rouge, the fanciest and only French restaurant in Burnley County. He opened his truck door for me when he picked me up. He pulled my chair out for me when I sat down in the restaurant. He settled my napkin on my lap with a flourish, like a perfect gentleman.
But the smug smirking. The fact that he corrected my pronunciation of Le Faisan Rouge with a pronunciation that was completely incorrect. I’ve never been to France, but I did take a semester of French in college, and I know how to say rouge, thanks.
“Don’t get to go to many five-star restaurants, I assume?” he asks, smugly sipping his water.
“I’ve heard the steak is good,” I say, deciding I’m going to keep having the conversation I’d rather not be having. “Maybe I’ll get that.”
Todd just snorts, then leans across the table like he’s got a secret he wants to tell me.
“The steak’s the best thing on the menu but that doesn’t mean it’s very good,” he says, looking around. “I heard a rumor that the chef made friends with the restaurant reviewer when they were in town, if you know what I mean. One of the perks of being a female chef, I guess. Garçon!”
There’s so much going on with that statement that I just stare at him for a moment.
Did he really just shout at the waiter?
And insinuate that the chef slept with a reviewer?
“I hadn’t heard that,” I say, my voice getting brittle. I keep scanning the menu, reminding myself: book. Cover.
But of course, none of the menu items have prices. My heart curls into a little ball, because I have very firm beliefs regarding first dates: I pay my own way.
I don’t like being paid for. I don’t like feeling as if I owe someone something. I don’t like feeling like I shouldn’t order gold-plated lobster with a side of caviar if I feel like it.
Not that I ever do. I’ve got a budget.
“Well, you wouldn’t unless you’re really tuned into the local restaurant scene,” Todd says. “I’m personal friends with a few other chefs around town, and that’s the rumor going around. Garçon!”
Optimism: running on fumes.
“Any chance they’re all men whose restaurants got lower ratings?” I ask. At this point I’ll do almost anything make him stop shouting garçon like that. With his accent it sounds like gar-sawwn, and it grates on my ears every time he does it.
Todd ignores my question completely.
“GAR-SAWN!” he says, even more loudly than before. From the corner of my eye I can see the people at the next table over look at us. I don’t look back. I’m too afraid I’d recognize them, even though we’re in Grotonsville – one town over from Sprucevale, where I actually live – and then I’d have to acknowledge that I’m here with Todd.
That’s when it happens.
Todd snaps his fingers at our server.
I swear the sound echoes in my soul.
And now I’m forced to acknowledge that this date is in salvage mode. Todd is no longer a guy with some issues but maybe we’ll get to know each other over dinner; he is now someone I actively hope to never see again after tonight.
I know that everyone has flaws — I’m flaw central over here — but after a year of waitressing during college, with God as my witness, I’ll never fall for someone who snaps at the waitstaff like they’re dogs. Not that I was in danger of falling for him anyway.