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Heart's Cove Hotties Book 2: Dirty Little Midlife Mess

Heart's Cove Hotties Book 2: Dirty Little Midlife Mess

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Laugh-out-loud funny, with cover-to-cover banter and red-hot heat. Dirty Little Midlife Mess is not your typical fake relationship romance. It’s better.

Simone owes handsome, broody Wesley Byron a favor, and he’s calling it in.

He needs a maid.

Yes, like the type that cleans a house. Black and white uniform not included (she asked).

Except on Simone’s first day, she finds herself wrapped up in Wes’s muscular arms as he introduces her to his family using the word “girlfriend” instead of “maid”.

Then he ducks his head and whispers two words against her ear: Play along.

For a woman who dealt with a difficult man for eleven years (and divorced him), those words are like throwing a lit match into a box of fireworks.

She’ll play along. She might even have fun with it.
And when the explosions start, everyone will enjoy the show...

Plucky heroine wants to start over. Brooding grump wants to be left alone. Small town rumor mill starts churning. Hilarity ensues. Heat escalates. Then escalates again. Then escalates again. Kaboom. Who said your forties had to be boring?

MAIN TROPES

  • 40+ year old characters
  • Small town
  • Fake Relationship
  • Only One Bed
  • Grumpy hero
  • Comedy
  • Steamy/Spicy

Chapter 1 Look Inside

MY TOE NUDGES the edge of the rug as I fold my hands on my lap, clasping them tight to stop myself from fidgeting. I shouldn’t be nervous; I’m repaying a favor for a favor. It’s business.

This house smells of wood smoke and cedar and a hint of the scent that is purely man, purely Wesley Byron. I breathe deep, wondering how it would feel to wake up in a bed of rumpled sheets and inhale this scent deep in my lungs, a heavy male arm draped around my waist, the heat of his big body at my back.

Wait.

No.

No, I’m not imagining that.

I’m imagining repaying this favor and getting out of here with my dignity intact, for once.

Ugh. This was a mistake. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t have agreed to this stupid bargain. If simply being in his house makes me feel like the world has turned sideways, how am I supposed to survive a whole week in his presence?

We made a deal, and I’ll stick to my end of it…but right about now, as I try to banish the thoughts of Wes’s strong, powerful body curled around mine, regret is my close companion. Someone is going to end up making a fool of themselves and—spoiler alert—it’s going to be me.

A few months ago, I arrived in Heart’s Cove for a two-week vacation with my best friend. Fiona had finalized her divorce a number of months prior, and I could tell she needed a distraction.

She got a distraction, all right. She also got a business, fell in love with a swoonworthy hunk of a man, acquired a teenage kid, and enjoyed the promise of a happy future. I couldn’t be happier for her. Fiona deserves every minute of joy the town of Heart’s Cove has brought her.

My role in it all?

Apart from masterminding the original vacation, I’m the one who made sure her—well, our—new business venture had a home. I convinced a burly beast of a man to lease us his parents’ old café space. Wesley Byron’s parents owned the old café in town, but it had been boarded up since their death last year and he wasn’t exactly keen on letting four forty-something women use it to live out our new dream.

A bargain was struck right outside this house.

I still remember the way Wesley’s eyes glimmered in the morning light. How the dappled sun shone through the trees, gilding his light-brown hair a complicated shade of bronze. I remember him rubbing his jaw, two-day stubble looking more delicious than it had any right to.

We made a deal.

I needed the lease to his parents’ old café space. He needed someone to work as a housekeeper while his uncle was in town. Seven days spent in Wes’s presence. Seven days in exchange for the lease. Seven days of cleaning to ensure my new business had a chance.

I thought it was a good deal.

I agreed.

I was a fool.

I was so wrapped up in the need to help Fiona, to save her from disaster by providing a space for the new café, that I didn’t think things through.

I’m paying for that now.

See, I can do the maid part. I can clean, and I’m fairly certain I can do it without embarrassing myself. But doing it for Wesley? Spending seven whole days in his presence and pretending I’m not affected by him? That poses a problem.

Wes turns from the kitchen counter, holding a glass of water in one hand and two beer bottles in the other. His biceps flex against the fabric of his shirt, a fact I noticed as soon as he opened the door, and again when he gestured to the couch, and once more when he ran his fingers through his hair and offered me a drink. One word: yum. The olive-green cotton clings to his shoulders and chest and falls loose around his waist.

I clench my thighs, cursing the hormones running riot in my blood. It’s got to be hormones. What else could explain the effect this man has on me?

He hands me a beer and the glass of water. I take the drinks, careful not to touch his fingers when I grip both items. Who knows what horrors physical touch would inflict on my poor body? I might not survive it.

And I’m supposed to work in this man’s house? For a whole week?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I’m going to embarrass myself. I mean, look at him! That body belongs in a magazine, or at least a sexy calendar.

“I was starting to think you’d back out of our deal.” Wesley folds his tall, powerful body as he sits across from me. Stretching his legs across the rug, he surveys me. His green eyes look nearly black in this light, sharp and curious as they sweep over my body. My nipples tighten under his gaze, and I praise the genius who invented padded bras.

We’re in his house. More of a cabin, really. His grandfather built it out of local cedar logs that he chopped and shaped himself, little more than a large room with a loft space for a bed. I can see the edge of the mattress on the floor above us. The whole place is tidy, utilitarian, lumberjack-chic.

Twisting a strand of orange-red hair around my finger, I tuck it behind my ear and force myself to lean back. A casual expression paints itself on my face, but judging by the arch in Wesley’s eyebrow, I’m not exactly being very convincing. I shrug. “I’m a woman of my word.”

“I hope you know what you’ve signed up for.” His voice is a rumbly growl.

“Cleaning up after the best and brightest of the Byron clan for a week? How hard could it be?”

“If by ‘best and brightest’ you mean ‘vile and conniving,’ then yeah. My uncle is…difficult.”

I want to laugh. Difficult? Please. I was married to a man with a difficult family for eleven years. I did my best to be the perfect wife, the perfect daughter-in-law, the perfect little homemaker for my big, strong, clever husband. Then we grew apart, and he tossed me out like garbage. His family didn’t blink an eye.

Yeah, I can do difficult. Given the opportunity, I might even have fun with it.

“My uncle will most likely ignore you. He doesn’t usually notice the staff.” Wes’s lips curl into a slight snarl. “Still, he might want to test you. You need to be ready for that.” Wesley’s eyes dart to my lips. Heat lances my core, and it takes all my effort to keep my body loose. He looks away from my mouth as his brows tilt downward in annoyance. At me? Or his uncle? Or himself? I’m not sure.

“Test me?” I scoff, shaking my head. “He can try.” I have more than enough experience dealing with in-laws suffering from a superiority complex. This won’t be much different. I’ll still be running around cleaning up after people who think they’re better than me. Being invisible to them will be a bonus.

Wesley’s face twists into an expression somewhere between a smile and a grimace.

I shrug. “They won’t even notice me, Wes. I’ll be a quiet little mouse scurrying around with a duster in her hand.” I pick a piece of lint off my shirt. “Did you invite me over here to ply me with alcohol and tell me Uncle Dearest is going to rip me apart? Give me some credit, Wes. I’m not a little girl anymore.”

No, I’m forty-four years old. Divorced, independent, and more than a little attracted to the man sitting across from me. It’s purely physical, though. The man is built like a Greek god with a face that would fit right in on a Hollywood red carpet. Wide, green eyes that do this sexy flashing thing whenever I say something he doesn’t like, which is often. Body corded with lean muscle, stacked broad shoulders that taper down to a trim waist. His thighs always strain against the fabric of whatever pants he happens to be wearing, which are usually faded jeans.

Yeah, it’s physical. I’m a woman in my sexual prime with no outlet for all this brimming energy. He’s all slabs of muscle and buckets of testosterone. Being attracted to him is inevitable.

Too bad every time Wesley opens his mouth, he acts like he wants to jam a fork in my eye. Not exactly a Heart’s Cove friendly local, if you catch my drift. He seems to have one mood whenever I’m around: annoyed. It doesn’t exactly promise rumpled sheets and lazy mornings.

Wes sucks in a long breath and tries to stamp out the frustration from his eyes. “I know you’re not a little girl, Simone.”

My heart skips, even though he’s just repeating my words. See, when he says it, it sounds like pure sex. He speaks the words, then growls my name, drops his eyes to my lips then lower, and I just sit here like a mute idiot. His eyes do that flashing thing again, and I resist the urge to touch my bottle of beer to my heated forehead.

I shift in my seat. “Look, Wesley. I can handle your family. You told me you needed help while you host your little family reunion thing—”

“‘Little family reunion thing?’”

“—and I needed you to give us a lease for the new café. It’s a simple exchange. I’ll do my best not to embarrass you—no promises, though—and you do your best to pretend you don’t hate my guts. Or don’t, I don’t care. I’m just the maid, remember?”

“Simone, this isn’t just a family reunion. My uncle and his new girlfriend will be coming to town looking at this land and house and counting down the days before it gets transferred to his name.” He lets out a long sigh, staring at a spot on the carpet. He closes his eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath. “Before they died, my parents created a trust containing the property and most of their wealth. They put…conditions…on my inheritance. Conditions I can’t meet. Once I fail to meet the conditions, this property gets transferred to my uncle’s name. It’s just a matter of time before my uncle gets this place, and we both know it. This ‘little family reunion thing’ is basically his victory lap. He’s going to be gloating the whole time.”

I frown. “What conditions? You can’t access your inheritance?”

He ignores my questions. “My uncle will be an ass. You need to be ready.”

“Ready?” My eyes narrow. “If I remember correctly, when you first proposed this little exchange, you said, ‘You’ll just have to clean, smile, and keep your mouth shut.’ Now, after I got over the absolute horror of a man saying that to me and reminded myself that I needed that café lease, I agreed. Clean and smile with my mouth shut. Those are the terms. If I need to be ready for anything else, we need to renegotiate.”

“I’m starting to think this was a bad idea,” Wesley growls.

That growl does something to my insides. I feel it everywhere.

“Do I get a sexy maid outfit?” I blurt, then immediately insert my foot in my mouth. Why would I say that? Why?

Wesley gives me a flat stare. He’s about my age—mid forties—but he could easily pass for ten years younger. His hair has no grey in it that I can tell, but a few lines around his eyes and mouth betray a life lived, including two big frown lines between his brows that seem to appear anytime I’m around. Thick brown hair gleams in the low light of his house when he runs his fingers through it, obviously trying to gather all the scraps of his patience before he responds.

I bet those silky strands would feel good between my fingers, too. If I tugged his hair, would he snarl?

Focus, Simone. Focus.

“Look, Wesley, I get it. It’ll be fine. A deal’s a deal. You signed the lease for the café over to us, and I’m pretending to be your loyal servant for the week. Easy.”

He snorts, eyes on mine, and his lips tilt up ever so slightly. His elusive dimple ghosts over his cheek and another thrill spirals through my stomach.

I give him what I hope is an encouraging grin. “Everything will work out fine.”

A tight slash of a smile is the only response I get, and I can tell Wes isn’t convinced. We make plans to meet up in a week, then I gather myself together and head for the door.

I step out into the woods, inhaling the crisp scent of moss, pine needles, and cedar. Wesley’s property is on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, thick forest surrounding his little log cabin. Even though we’re walking distance from the neighbors, who happen to be Fiona and her new man-friend Grant, there’s nothing but trees and grass and ocean around us. It’s peaceful, quiet, solitary, and exactly what I’d imagine a grump like Wesley would like.

“Hey, Simone?”

I turn. Wes has one hand on the door frame and the other on the handle. His shirt rides up ever so slightly, revealing a strip of bronzed flesh and a peek at his underwear. I snap my eyes back up to his face, but a glimmer in his eyes makes me think he saw me ogling.

He tilts his head. “If I bought a sexy maid outfit, would you wear it?”

My cheeks heat. “In your dreams, Wes.”

His grin widens, both dimples making an appearance. Wow. He’s stupidly handsome, and this little arrangement feels like an increasingly bad idea. He’s also mocking me, which stings more than I’d like to admit.

It’s silly, really. I’m not insecure. I shouldn’t care if Wesley Byron finds me attractive or not. We’re two adults fulfilling a bargain that was agreed on a bit too hastily by both parties. Once it’s done, we’ll move on with our lives.

I know I will. The last thing I need right now is an arrogant man with an overbearing family. Eleven years of that was more than enough for me, thank you very much.

Wesley holds my gaze, something unreadable crossing his eyes. “I’ll be in touch.”

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