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Pretend You’re Mine
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This is the worst idea in the history of the world.
Leighton is my best friend. My subordinate.
From the author: Pretend You’re Mine is a full-length, standalone romance with a pretend girlfriend theme. Come see why readers say “no one writes broken bad boys like Crystal Kaswell.
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She cuts through my bullshit with six words. “You need to kiss me now.”
My body takes over. My eyelids flutter closed. My fingers dig into her soft hips.
I pull her closer. Let my lips brush hers.
It’s soft. Slow. Sweet.
Then it’s harder.
She tugs at my hair.
I pin her to the wall.
My head spins.
She wants me.
It makes no sense.
And it makes every lick of sense in the world.
She sighs as she pulls back. “Inside. Now.”
I shift my hips to release her.
Her ass brushes my crotch as she presses the door open and steps inside.
I follow. Lock the door behind us.
Her eyes find mine.
They beg for love, trust, satisfaction.
I still don’t know shit about the first two.
But I can make her come.
I need to make her come.
Four Weeks Ago
My keys clink against the plastic table.
It’s too quiet today.
Way too fucking quiet.
I tug at my t-shirt. Close my eyes. Let my thoughts drift back to the way this place used to be. The mass-produced paintings on the walls, the carefully arranged photos on the fridge, the decorative pillows on the leather couch.
I should have known shit was gonna end like this the second she brought home one of those pillows.
That was the type of thing we hated. The type of thing we mocked together.
No. I’m not doing this. Not tonight.
She’s gone. And I’m going to get over it.
I toss my bag on the couch—right where that ugly Home, Sweet Home pillow used to rest—then I shuffle through the mail.
Bill. Credit card offer. Rolling Stone.
Thick, square envelope. Handwritten address. Familiar stamped return address.
I peel the envelope open.
It’s there, in curvy silver letters.
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Penelope Winters and Francis Hobbs.
My stomach drops.
My throat tightens.
The air gets heavy. Hot. Suffocating.
This isn’t fucking happening.
There’s no way my ex-girlfriend is getting married in six short weeks.
There’s no way she’s walking down the aisle with the guy I caught her fucking in our bed.
There’s no way she’s inviting me to watch this train wreck.
For three days, I shove Penny’s wedding to the back of my mind.
I focus on my routine.
I perfect every link of ink. I run. I spar. I cook dinner, for myself or for Leighton. I drown myself in tattoo mock-ups, at my desk, alone, or on my best friend’s couch.
My illusion of normalcy shatters the second my phone sings with Maneater.
She’s calling me to—
I don’t know. Or care. I don’t want to hear her excuses. Or her apology.
I’m sorry, but I don’t love you anymore.
It echoes through my brain. She was right there. In our bed. Only the sheets were pink.
My eyelids flutter closed. I can see her, hugging the Egyptian cotton to her chest. Pushing her dark hair behind her ear. Staring at the ground to hide the shame in her honey eyes.
Or was it the lack of shame?
She never apologized for hurting me. For fucking him behind my back. For lacking the guts to leave.
Only for falling out of love with me.
The air gets hot again. It’s ridiculous—I’m naked, freshly showered and sopping wet, and the air conditioning is set to high. The room is freezing. Freezing enough my dick is shrinking.
And my dick—
It’s a been a year since I’ve fucked anyone. I get hard at the drop of a hat now. Especially around Leighton.
Which is fucking ridiculous.
She’s my best friend.
And I’m not fucking that up.
One nine-year relationship in flames is plenty for one lifetime.
I wrap a towel around my waist. Cinch it tight. Stare at my cell as the call goes to voicemail.
My phone sings again.
She’s still infecting the air. Robbing my life of every ounce of pleasure.
My last drop of calm evaporates. I need another shower. I need a thousand showers. I need to scrub away every memory of her.
No, I need more than that. I need to step out of my skin and find some new body. One that won’t react to Penelope Winters.
I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Whatever her bullshit reason for calling, I’m not letting her believe I’m a mess without her.
I answer the call. “Yeah?”
“Oh. Ryan. I thought I’d get voicemail.” Her voice is soft. Sweet.
The same voice she used to whisper I love you the first time.
Then to whisper I’m sorry, but I don’t love you anymore.
My stomach twists.
My chest gets heavy.
Her voice undoes me. Sends me right back to the moment where my heart shattered into a million tiny pieces too small for anyone to see.
A million tiny pieces that tear up my skin anytime I get close.
It bounces around my brain.
I’m sorry, but I don’t love you anymore.
I press my back against the wall, but it doesn’t do shit to steady my thoughts. “Is this important? I’ve got a lot to do.”
“It will only take a minute.”
It’s been nearly a year since I’ve heard her voice. I can still hear the Penny I fell in love with. But there’s something else too. Some person I don’t recognize.