She’s holding out for a happy ever after.
I know where to find my happily ever after—between the pages of a romance novel. It’s why I sell books, why I blog about them, and why I’ll never get disappointed by love.So what if my brother’s best friend from high school is now a bestselling author? Or that he just blew back into town on a Harley, filling out a pair of jeans like he never did before? Or that he’s agreed to do a signing at my bookstore on such short notice? Because despite all his adoring female fans, I kind of hated his book.
The last time I saw Annie Denning, she was a senior in high school, three years older than me and way out of my league.
Now I’m her last-minute date to a wedding, and what started as a night of pure fun has turned into something more real than either of us anticipated.
Annie is my muse. When I’m with her, my writer’s block fades away, and the words finally flow.
The only problem? She wants the fairy tale—her very own happily ever after—and anyone who’s read my book knows the truth. I just don’t believe they exist.
“I think we have time for a couple more questions,” Wes said as he looked out onto a sea of smiling, beautiful faces. One of the perks of the job for sure.
A hand shot up from the center of the crowd, and Wes nodded toward the woman. She stood, blond waves tumbling over her shoulders and directing his eyes right to where her breasts swelled beneath her shape-hugging sweater.
His lips curved upward. She glanced down to where his gaze rested below her eyes and offered a coy smile of her own. Then she surveyed his form, starting from his head and traveling lazily to just below the belt. She raised her brows with what felt to him like approval. She glanced up, and he met her stare with unabashed boldness.
“You…have a question?” he asked.
“Yes,” she answered without hesitation. “Your hero, Ethan, is a very skilled lover in Down This Road. Tell me, do you write from experience or just base those scenes on extensive—research?"
He flashed her a roguish smile and leaned back against the signing table, running a hand through his light brown waves.
“I like to think of experience as research,” he said. “And I’m always looking to learn something new—for the sake of the next book, of course."
The woman narrowed her stare and pressed her lips into a knowing smile.
“The oral sex!” a petite brunette with a pixie cut blurted from her seat before he could ask for the last question, and gasps and murmurs echoed among the seated crowd. “The oral sex scenes were my favorite,” she said with a slight tremble in her voice. “He wasn’t just a skilled lover but an attentive one. I think that’s one of the reasons why all those women were forgiving of his inability to commit. Because—because--"
“The oral sex,” Wes said, finishing her thought, and she nodded vigorously.
His agent, Max, shot up from his stool at the bar. “And, that’s it for questions, ladies. Let’s give Mr. Hartley here a few minutes to grab a drink, and then he’ll be signing for those of you who purchased books."
Max ushered him toward the bar as he thanked the crowd for their patience.
“You really are an asshole,” Max said. “Seriously. You’ve fucking ruined sex for those of us with wives and partners who expect us to be able to do what Ethan can do. If you didn’t pack houses like this with readers willing to throw their money at you, I’d cut you loose right now."
Wes ordered his drink and laughed. “I could do a how-to manual next if you want. Maybe a YouTube video? Or how about this? If you’re doing it wrong, ask her how the hell you can do it right."
“Fuck you,” Max said. “It’s not that easy."
Wes raised a brow. “Have you ever asked your wife what she likes?"
Max laughed. “You mean other than her personal shopper at Bloomingdales?” He went silent for a moment, and then his eyes widened. “Jesus, you’re a genius, Hartley."
Wes took a slow sip of his drink. “True—but I don’t follow."
Max pulled his phone from his pocket and began hammering out a text. When he finished he looked at Wes again. “I just told her I’m meeting her at Bloomingdale’s after my breakfast meeting tomorrow. In a fitting room. Where I’m prepared to ask her what she’d like." Wes laughed and shook his head. “That’s one way to go about it. Feel free to bring the book if you want to reference a specific scene."
“Speaking of books…” Max said, but Wes cut him off.
“There’s a line at the signing table. I’ll catch you after?"
He didn’t wait for Max’s response. He was on too much of a high from the Q&A. Now wasn’t the time to get into book two—or the current lack thereof. He had a line of women waiting for him, and he wasn’t one to disappoint.
Wes scrawled his name across the title page along with his signature phrase, “Enjoy the journey.” He slid the book back to the woman, enjoying the flush that grew in her cheeks as her hand accidentally brushed his.
“Thanks for coming out tonight,” he said, lifting his rocks glass in a gesture of cheers before he threw back what was left of his scotch. The woman from the Q&A—the one so curious about his research—bit her lip and smiled, glancing behind her to the handful of other women still in line. When she looked back at him, she swiped a tongue over her painted bottom lip and tucked her blond waves behind her ear.
“Will you be staying for drinks after the signing?” she asked, her tone full of innocence, but her blue eyes brimming with heat.
Wes noted his empty glass and gave her one of his patented “Wes Hartley author” grins.
“It does look like I’m in need of a refill,” he said.
She pressed her hands to the table and leaned forward, whispering in his ear, “Then I guess I’ll see you at the bar."
“I guess you will."
No sooner had she ducked out of line than the next woman placed her book on the signing table. “Can I get a picture with you?” she asked.
“Oooh, I’ll take it for you!” the woman behind her said. “If you’ll take one of me and Wes with my phone when you’re done!"
And there she was—the woman without a question at all who just wanted to talk oral sex—rounding the table before he had time to think. And then she slid onto his goddamn lap. Wes glanced toward the bar where Max still sat, and the man raised both a brow and a glass. Wes shrugged. This was the part of the job he’d never get tired of.
He encouraged the woman to wrap her arms around his neck, then tilted her down into an almost kiss.
She gasped. “This is just like that first time in Natasha’s apartment where Ethan tells her the relationship can’t move forward and then he lays her out on the butcher block table and--"
“The oral sex,” Wes said.
She swallowed hard, apparently unable to respond as she squirmed against his thighs.
“Say cheese!” the other woman said, and he flashed his grin toward the phone aimed in their direction.
No. He’d sure as hell never get tired of this.
Max was gone by the time the signing had ended, no doubt only there to make sure he sold a respectable amount. Judging by the fact that the bookseller had to return to the shop to grab more stock, he’d say he had. But the text his agent had sent still hung in the air.
Don’t fuck anyone who might fuck up your sales. Send me that new manuscript ASAP. And call me when you get to Chicago. I still think you’re crazy as hell for leaving New York, but who am I other than the guy who sends you those big, fat checks? Just remember what we have riding on book two.
Looked like Max didn’t need to continue their conversation face-to-face. All that had to be said was right there.
Wes looked up from his phone to find the blonde who’d offered to buy his next drink waiting on a stool with two rocks glasses in front of her, crystal clear liquid in each.
“I’m a vodka girl myself,” she said. “I hope that’s okay."
Wes smiled. “I’m not a picky man,” he said, lifting one of the glasses to his lips and taking a sip. Heat spread from his tongue to his throat and straight to his core.
“You a New Yorker?” he asked, and she gave him a coy smile.
“I’m from Philly, actually. Took the train up just for your event. Heading back home in the morning.” She drank. “Look, I don’t do things like this. Ever. But your book—it just… You’re Ethan, right? Meandering down this road and never really finding what you want? I mean, that’s the title. Down This Road."
“It’s a story,” he said, voice steady. “Make believe,” he teased. Because this was where he always drew the line, letting on how much autobiography actually seeped into fiction.
“Well…all those relationships?” she said. “All of them ending…and the hero resigning himself to being alone? Ugh.” She shuddered. “So. Many. Feels."
He laughed and held up his glass. “To feels, then,” he said.
They clinked their glasses together then drained the rest of their drinks.
“Excuse me, Mr. Hartley?"
The voice came from behind. He turned to see the brunette pixie who’d been in his lap only thirty minutes before.
He raised his brows.
“I was hoping I could buy you a drink?"
A blonde to his left, brunette to his right, and they wanted to buy more than just his books. Who was he to say no?
“I guess it’s a party now,” he said, and surprisingly both women smiled.
“Another round,” the blonde said to the bartender. “Plus one.” She glanced back at the other woman.
And then it was like a swarm—the bar flooded with the women who’d stayed past the end of the scheduled event. Drinks were poured, drank, and Wes was in his element, at his best when he was the star of the show.
When it was well past midnight, he finally broke from the small crowd that remained.
“I need to head out, ladies, but it has been a lovely evening."
There were audible awwws and visible pouts.
“You’re leaving? A-alone?"
The brunette pixie’s eyes were wide, and he chuckled softly at the memory of her blurting oral sex during his Q&A.
“Sorry to disappoint,” he said, though the disappointment was really his. “But I thank everyone for a spectacular night."
He gave the small party a nod and backed away, offering them one final, appreciative grin.
Because he wasn’t an idiot. He was grateful for all of the attention and knew it could end as quickly as it began. But for now the show was over, because Wes Hartley wasn’t headed back to his New York apartment. He was headed home.
PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE KINGSTON ALE HOUSE SERIES....
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (BOOK 1)
How far will one man go for the woman he's loved since high school?
Jamie Kingston has been Brynn Chandler's best friend since middle school. Only once was their friendship tested—when Brynn gave Jamie a single kiss. Since then, they've had an unspoken agreement never to cross that line again, and she’s ready to let go of the past and move on.
But Jamie has loved Brynn for as long as he can remember, and now that he's ready to tell her, she has her sights set on someone else. Knowing this is his last chance, he asks Brynn to go on a two-week road trip. But their time alone brings old hurts to the surface, and Brynn has to decide if the one that got away lies at the end of the journey or if he's been by her side all along.
SIX MONTH RULE (BOOK 2)
She created the game, but the rules are about to change.
The second I met Will Evans in his three-piece suit with that hot as hell British accent, I wanted him.
That is...until he insulted my shoes and stole my corner office.
Now I have to work side-by-side with the surly British arsehole who just set my career back six months.
It's fine. That accent won't get to me, no matter how sexy it sounds when he asks permission to do things professionals shouldn't do. On the couch. In the corner office I still wish was mine.
Maybe we can't keep our hands off each other, but I'm sure as hell not falling for a guy who lives an ocean away. Because in six months, he's leaving for good.
I don't do broken hearts, but you know what they say...
There's a first time for everything.
AJ Pine writes stories to break readers’ hearts, but don’t worry—she’ll mend them with a happily ever after. As an English teacher and a librarian, AJ has always surrounded herself with books. All her favorites have one big commonality–romance. Naturally, her books have the same. When she’s not writing, she’s of course reading. Then there’s online shopping (everything from groceries to shoes) and, of course, a tiny bit of TV where she nourishes her undying love of vampires and superheroes. And in the midst of all of this, you’ll also find her hanging with her family in the Chicago burbs.
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