Title: Unlucky in Love
Author: AJ Renee
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: January 30, 2019
Lucky in Love.
That’s the name of the dating app I picked, hoping to find Mr. Better Than Average so I can hold off planning my future as a cat lady.
I’ve been distracted eyeballing a tall, dark, and handsome Latin hottie who works in the library with me. He is way out of my league, and a woman has needs if you know what I mean.
Finding a man shouldn’t be hard when all I have to do is swipe left or right. It’ll weed out the slimy men who have Bad Date written all over them.
Yeah, I’m learning quickly that I’m rather unlucky in love after all. The men I pick need warning labels, kissing lessons, and a good talking-to about manners.
Should I throw in the towel or will this series of bad dates be exactly what I need to win Mr. Right?
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2. Shake it off – Taylor Swift
3. Perfect Strangers – Jonas Blue
4. Show You – Shawn Mendes
5. You belong with Me – Taylor Swift
6. Treat You Better – Shawn Mendes
7. Photograph – Ed Sheeran
8. Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran
9. Say you won’t let go – James Arthur
10. All of Me – John Legend
11. A Thousand Years – Christina Perri
“How many fucking frogs do I have to kiss?” I snap and fall on the couch.
Val raises her glass of wine out of the way, and I steal it. I close my eyes as the large gulp I’ve taken runs down my throat.
I glare at her before taking another sip and handing it back. “Thanks.”
Leaning my head against the back of the couch, I sigh. I despise dating. I’m over it. Why can’t I find my Mr. Right, so we can start our lives together?
Val wraps her arm around my shoulder and pulls me to her. I lay my head on her and stare at the TV, not really paying attention to whatever she’s watching.
“What happened, honey?”
“Everything. Nothing,” I whisper, exhausted from another emotional roller coaster. “I’m just over it all. All these fuckers,” I say, raising my locked phone. “All they want is a quick hookup. Which, sure I could see the appeal if they didn’t show up in popped collars or hopped up on ’roids.”
I decided to start dating again two months ago. At first, I sat back and observed the wink emojis and messages that came through the app. Tonight, I relented to coffee with Tristan. We’d chatted daily for about a week, so I figured why not? I mean, he was cute and seemed nice.
“What was wrong with this one?” Val asks as she mutes the TV. “Did he not look like his picture?”
I sigh. “No, he matched the picture, dimples and all. He’s cute—not hard to look at him.”
“So what happened?”
“I arrived a few minutes early and found a table in the corner. I’ve been reading the book you suggested, so I wanted to finish it. I figured it would help me relax. Tristan got there about five minutes late. Not a biggie since I was reading. He spotted me and asked what I was drinking before buying me another one.” I lift my head and smile at Val. “It was really sweet.” Placing my head back on her shoulder, I continue. “We sat and chatted for about an hour. He told me a little about growing up in California, and I told him about growing up here in Vegas. You know, all the simple get-to-know-you things we hadn’t already talked about yet. He heard my stomach growl. It was so embarrassing, Val. Anyway, he suggested we go to the diner around the corner. I was having a nice time with him, so why not?”
“Everything sounds like it was going great for a first date,” Val said.
I nod. “It was. Tristan asked for a booth and slid in next to me. You know, like those old-timey movies? Having him so close made me nervous in a good kind of way. I liked what I was seeing from him, so feeling his body next to mine was great.”
“Until?” Val asks, sensing I’m beating around the bush.
“Until after our meal when his hand landed on my thigh.”
“Yup, it surprised me; you know, moving a little fast. But my creeper alarm wasn’t going off. When I didn’t say anything, he turned and kissed me. It was an overall good first kiss. Sweet, not pushy, no slobber. You name it.” I sigh. “He ends the kiss and wraps his arm around me, which was okay. We talked a little more and then he kisses me again.” I can’t say the words. Anger bubbles up, and I jump to my feet. “Ugh!”
“Izzy, what the hell happened?” Val asks, leaning forward, her forehead creasing with worry.
I meet her eyes. Val is my best friend, and I love her like she’s a blood relative. She has always been there when I needed her, and right now is one of those times.
“But then, well—then his other hand inched up toward my crotch and he said, ‘Let’s go to the bathroom and fuck.’”
Val sends me a blank stare and blinks. “Let’s go to the bathroom and fuck?”
“And you told him what?”
“Well, at first I was in shock. Nothing at all in the three hours with him led me to believe he was an asshole who was just trying to get in my pants.”
Val clucks her tongue. “Oh, young grasshopper… Every guy wants into a woman’s pants. The good ones and the bad ones.”
Pouring milk into my mug, I watch the black and white colors swirl together until they turn a pretty caramel. I didn’t sleep well, and the creamy mix is exactly what the doctor ordered. Hurrying, I flick the sugar packet and dump its contents. The door behind me opens as I toss the spoon into the sink and lift the mug to my lips. The satisfying liquid warms my insides, and I can’t help my sigh even if I tried.
“Rough night?” a velvety voice asks.
I take another sip of my glorious cup of joe before turning toward Mario. He started working in the Reference Department three months ago and has featured in a few of my dirty dreams. He’s gorgeous and about six feet three inches. Dark, tall, and handsome would describe him to a T.
I shrug and force my mind from the gutter. He brushes past me and grabs the spoon I just discarded. The first time I saw him do this, I yelped in protest, but it seemed he really was another gross college guy.
One with full kissable lips.
“You’re quiet this morning,” he says and leans against the counter next to me.
After the episode with Tristan last night, I can’t help but stare a second longer. “No, just a date.” The words spill from my mouth. “I mean, I was up late.”
Mario’s mug freezes halfway to his lips, and an eyebrow raises as he stares at me.
“Fuck!” I slap a hand over my mouth in horror. My heart races, and I know my cheeks are bright pink. “I gotta go.” I squealed and run out of the break room.
Great job, Izzy! Now he thinks you were up all night fucking.
Calling myself a string of insults, I take the elevator down to the copy office. See, we both work in our college library in different departments. I keep the copy machines and printers stocked with paper and toner, and Mario does whatever the students in Reference do.
We both tend to be in the break room grabbing coffee in the mornings at the same time. If I’m lucky, I get a glimpse of him when I do my rounds. Our conversations aren’t long, usually revolving around our mutual love of coffee. His doesn’t include milk, but his love of coffee runs as deep as mine.
I walk around the corner and sigh with relief when I find the door closed. My boss, Jerry, isn’t in yet, and I know he’ll tease me if he spots the blush still on my cheeks. Jerry is old enough to be my dad and is the best boss I’ve had, not that there have been many.
Kicking the doorstop under the wooden door, I prop it open. I set my mug on the long counter and take a quick peek at the staplers and empty the pencil sharpener set out for students to pop in and use. My body goes into autopilot, and Mario’s lips come to mind. I wonder if they are they as soft as they look?
I reluctantly remind myself he’s out of my league. It’s not that I don’t think I’m pretty. I am, but I’m not the girl all the boys come sniffing around. They’ll look in my direction, but few take the next step. Of those who do, none are as handsome as Mario.
“This one can’t be as bad as the last one,” I tell Val, who’s looking at me with disbelief.
“Izzy, you were black and blue for two weeks,” she says as her eyes bug out.
“Well, there was that.”
“And you nearly choked.”
I nearly did. A shudder runs through me at the memory. “Look, I am going to be late, Mom.”
“Don’t you ‘mom’ me, young lady!” she snaps, and we burst into a fit of giggles.
I know Val is only looking after me during this online dating chapter of my life. I’m hoping to find my prince in this vat of slobber. My last date may have been sweet as can be and hot as hell, but it didn’t go as I’d hoped.
Oh, well. You live and learn.
With a quick wave behind me, I hurry and get into my car to meet Brad. I’ve been chatting with him online and via text for nearly three days. Val waves from the curb, but as I drive away, I see she’s already looking at her phone. Tracking me, to be precise. Her father is a retired cop, and she’s as protective as a bear. And I love her for it.
Twenty minutes later, I arrive at the small, Italian, family-owned restaurant. It didn’t matter how many times I told Val I wasn’t nervous. My nerves are still shot. Meeting someone new is hard.
I’ve dated guys I met the normal way and the now “new” norm of online dating. It’s a toss-up whether I’ll have a love life again. Going through the dating scene isn’t always fun. I remember liking it once… long ago.
My ex and I were together for a couple years, so when we split, I wanted my freedom. I was fine with it just being me and my vibrator. Now? Now I’m ready to give this shit a shot again. The problem is after Johnny and Tristan, I’m not feeling very confident.
Inside the restaurant, I look at the tables and see the moment he notices me. Brad is wearing a lime-green bow tie, and a small part of me cringes. Luckily, his style is something I can overlook.
We’ve kept things under control these last few weeks, but I don’t know how much more I can take. Mario’s kisses and innocent touches arouse me beyond belief. Touching his thigh makes me want to explore, to see if I’m not the only one affected.
He’s been a gentleman in terms of sex. We’ve behaved like horny teenagers, but I’m about to lose my mind. I want more. Need more. What if this is all for naught, and he ends up having some weird thing like Zeke or Johnny? I know I shouldn’t compare them. Honestly, the others don’t measure up to Mario. I’m only afraid something will happen that will be a deal breaker for me. Before the other two, I didn’t realize how quickly it could happen.
“Princess,” Mario warns.
Looking down, I see my hand has inched toward the large bulge in his pants. My face inflames, and I retract my hand quickly. “Sorry,” I whisper.
He parks and turns toward me. Mario cups my cheek, and his warm palm lightly presses until I meet his eyes. They are dark with desire, nearly black pits. My nipples pucker, and my core tenses at the passion staring back.
“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” he whispers. “I can barely keep my hands off you as it is, and I don’t want to rush things. I’ve enjoyed our time together, and I don’t want to ruin it by pushing too hard, too fast.”
I nod, unable to form words. At least one of us is thinking clearly.
“Ready to have some fun?”
My mind returns to the gutter. Hell yeah I want to have some fun.
Mario groans. “Damn it, princess. I’m not going to be able to walk if you keep looking at me like that.”
I force myself to say something. “Sorry.”
He chuckles. “No, I don’t think you are.” He kisses me, and I whimper when he cuts it short. Passion clouds my vision, obscuring all rational thought. I really don’t care about his surprise right now. I want him to drive us somewhere private, so we can put ourselves out of our misery.
AJ Renee is the author behind the St. Fleur series, Beauty Unmasked, Winter’s Surprise, Surviving Paris, Finding Love at the Falls…, and Kylie: Crossing Lines. She’s a military wife and mother to three young girls. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with her Master of Science in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology while working at the library.
She loves to write steamy romance with suspense and a happily ever after. When she isn’t writing or interacting with her readers, you can find her spending time with her family or reading. AJ enjoys traveling, researching family history, and all things New Orleans.
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