Wall Street Journal bestselling author Nicole Snow returns with a screaming funny romance where two office enemies fake love until they’re all out of make-believe. You know that awkward moment when your lava-hot boss says “marry me?” Not for love. Not for real. Not without a mammoth payoff. Of course, this fortune comes with a ginormous snag — Ward Brandt. Call me bananas. I must be short of a full bushel rejecting Chicago’s finest billionaire. Who knew he was my boss when he crashed my worst date ever? Oh, but he found out. He swore I wasn’t fit for Brandt Ideas, chewed me up, and spat me back out. I vowed I’d prove him wrong — and sabotage a metric ton of his coffee. Then tragedy strikes, upending his limitless ego. Guess who needs an image makeover to shore up the family business. Big fat hell no. King Snarlypants has a peanut-sized heart and a chip on his shoulder bigger than a redwood…
Publisher: Ecco; Illustrated edition (April 20, 2021); Hardcover: 480 pages; ISBN-10: 0062802798; ISBN-13: 978-0062802798; ASIN: B09195Z11D
Author’s biography: Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Nicole Snow started writing romance to escape office politics. Today, she writes about powerful alpha males and irresistible bad boys, serving up some of the hottest romance on the shelves. Fan favorites include her Grizzlies, Deadly Pistols, and Prairie Devils MC series, as well as PRINCE WITH BENEFITS. Snow’s style ranges from suspenseful to sweet, and there’s always something swoon-worthy in the works.
ABOUT THE BOOK
You know that awkward moment when your lava-hot boss says “marry me?”
Not for love. Not for real. Not without a mammoth payoff.
Of course, this fortune comes with a ginormous snag—Ward Brandt.
Call me bananas.
I must be short of a full bushel rejecting Chicago’s finest billionaire.
Who knew he was my boss when he crashed my worst date ever?
Oh, but he found out.
He swore I wasn’t fit for Brandt Ideas, chewed me up, and spat me back out. I vowed I’d prove him wrong—and sabotage a metric ton of his coffee.
Then tragedy strikes, upending his limitless ego.
Guess who needs an image makeover to shore up the family business.
Big fat hell no.
King Snarlypants has a peanut-sized heart and a chip on his shoulder bigger than a redwood.
Find another sucker, Ward-hole.
Even if I agreed, my shields are up.
No magnetic kisses. Zero butterflies. Nix the blushing when everyone gushes over what a “perfect couple” we’d be.
Then again…it’s just ninety days and mama needs a windfall.
What’s one little white wedding lie with a bossy grump built like a god?
No recognized text!
I’m hoping my fake smile doesn’t break my face when my phone vibrates against the table.
I glance down to find a text from Brina. Pssst! How’s the big date going?
Ugh, it’s not.
It’s also entirely her fault I’m here with this loser. I should’ve known better than to take romance advice from a bestie who’s now giddily married to one of the hottest and richest men in Chicago.
Why does everyone have an awesome life but me?
I shove my phone under the table and quickly type back, Typ-ically Tinder-rific. You should have come celebrate with me tonight.
Stud or dud? she replies.
Holding in a sigh, I stare across the table for a second, trying my damnedest to give this guy one last chance. Michael—Micah? —Mike?—God, what’s his name?—has a firm jawline, a decent chest, and marathon runner legs, but his pros end there.
Nameless throws back another shot of whiskey and sets his glass on the counter with a deafening clink. He winks at me like I should be impressed that he needs to announce his presence to the whole flipping bar.
“Yo, can I get another?” he yells at the poor bartender.
I roll my eyes, wrinkling my nose as I tap at my screen, mourning this bomb of a date.
Shrugs He’s not unattractive…if you’re into self-centered pigs, I send.
Yikes, what is his name, anyway? He deserves that much, doesn’t he? A label for his footnote in my bad run of dating app disasters. Whatever.
Maybe I’ll just get creative and not address him by name for the rest of the night. I can enjoy pretending I’m in a Seinfeld episode while I try not to gag at his presence.
Slowly, I pick up the glass in front of me and sip my wine.
It’s almost gone.
The bartender sets another whiskey down beside him with a sympathetic smile for me. Nameless downs that too without hesitation.
I take the last sip of wine for courage before contemplating how much suckier this night can get.
“Ready to head to the art museum yet?” I ask, plastering on another mannequin-like smile that hurts my cheeks.
“Ah, babe. Let me get one more shot first.”
It’s the third time he’s said it tonight, and my stomach flips over a little worse every time.
I stare at my empty glass. I could order another drink, sure, but I couldn’t keep up with Nameless to save my life. And I definitely don’t want him to have any reason to stay here longer.
“The bar wasn’t even part of the plan, you know,” I say.
“Yeah, well, you said you like spontaneous…right? Museums are just so boring.” He rolls his shoulders, batting his eyes like he’s ready to fall asleep. “I can’t handle that shit without a little fun first.”
Congratulations, Paige. Nothing like celebrating your shiny new rock star job in the arts by going out with a dude who needs to be hammered to enjoy an art museum.
I try to smile, but I’m not sure my lips are curling in the right direction.
“Umm—” I laugh. “Why didn’t you just tell me? We could have done something else.” And I could’ve swiped the other way, but he talked a good game.
I expected a cultured, witty professional to show up and sweep me off my feet from the texts we shared. Not this whiskey fish of a man.
He holds up a finger, grazing it over his lips like it should be sexy or something.
He’s ordering another shot the second our bartender is back in range.
She walks away, and his eyes stick to her ass. When she’s no longer in our line of sight, he turns back to face me. “I never dis-appoint, babe.”
But maybe he’s already forgotten my name too? It wouldn’t be the worst thing.
Pushing my glass away, I click my fingers off the high bartop and glare at him. I’m about to end this sideshow and head for the museum myself when he lays a floppy hand across mine.
“Okay, babe. Okay. I get the hint. Last one, I promise, then it’s Beethoven city.”
I don’t bother telling him Beethoven wasn’t an artist—at least not the visual kind.
The bartender comes and hands him the shot glass.
“Can you dose out the tab?” Nameless asks.
“The wine’s on a separate ticket,” I say quickly.
No point in letting him pay for my drink. There won’t be a second date.
“No biggie.” He shakes his head. “I’ve got it.”
“It’s cool.” I dig my debit card out of my purse.
He puts his hand over mine and pushes it away. “It’s a first date. I’ve got it. You’re hanging with a gentleman.”
I’m hanging with a drunk, but…saving a few bucks on a drink seems like the least I deserve for this torture.
So I drop the card back in my purse and mutter a “thanks.” This seems to be my fastest route to the art gallery, and maybe he won’t be such a dud there.
Art can work mirades.
Creative beauty brings out the best in everyone, even the folks with the cultural sensitivity of a coconut crab.
It’s the whole reason I studied art and promised it my life.
With the bill paid, he places his hand on the table and balances himself as he stands. He rocks back, but catches himself with a messy laugh.
I pop up and follow. “Are you okay, guy?”
He waves a hand. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Lit and loving it. Now let’s go see some finger painting.”
We walk to the art gallery with my tongue caught in my teeth. A trip I usually make in less than fifteen minutes from here takes more than half an hour.
He stumbles along with an awkward gait, falling behind me, and other times staggering on several steps ahead.
This is when I should acknowledge the big, ugly red flag flap-ping in the wind in front of me.
This is where I should arm myself with excuses and beat it, and about when I should pull my head out of the clouds where everything seems happy and bright and boundless.
Nothing can ruiu my new career at Brandt Ideas next week, though, a prestigious and well-paid gig I fought for tooth and nail. Not even this dope.
I’m being too generous, high on my future success.
Besides, what if he has some disability he’s embarrassed for anyone to know about? “We could get an Uber. It’s only like another five minutes,” I suggest.
He laughs. “Why would we Uber? The weather’s awesome tonight.”
“You don’t seem to be enjoying the walk. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Never better! Just one too many shots.”
Awesome. But how many did he have? Three? Four? Should he be this drunk?
“Fun fact, I got the party started early.” He laughs again, a little too dose to my face. “It’s probably not the whiskey. Gotta be the vodka I had before I left the house.”
Dearest of Lords.
So, he was buzzed before he insisted on stopping at the bar? I don’t want to be seen with this guy at my favorite place in the world. My feet are rapidly getting cold.
“We could do this another time.”
He stops blundering along and blinks at me like I’ve just stabbed Mm in the chest.
“Aw, no. Don’t tell me you’re tired? We’re gonna celebrate your big promotion.”
Whoa, he almost got it right.
It was almost sweet.
I almost smile.
“Why?” I snap. Then it’s my turn to sputter a laugh. “You told me you have to be buzzed to enjoy it. You don’t have to force any-thing on my account…”
“You kidding? As long as you’re here, I’m having a grand time? he whispers with a goofy smile.
There’s a protest lodged in my throat again, but at this point we’re coming up to the long temple-like steps of the museum. He locks his hand around mine and starts up the stairs, dragging me along.
Okay. I guess we are celebrating.
It’s a busy evening. There’s a line fiowing almost to the door.
“We’ll go through the members’ line. It’s a lot faster,” I say.
“Whoa, babe. You have a membership to the art museum?” He snickers.
I don’t answer. I take a step toward the “members’ only” line and since his hand is still locked around mine, he comes along.
There’s a tall man in a dark business suit in front of us. From behind, his body is all straight lines and edges. Sculpted muscle tamed by designer fabric. Broad shoulders civilized by wool, but so defined under it they tell the world he’s capable of very uncivil things.
Judging by the crisp way he wears his suit like a second skin, he has class and good looks.
His hair is dark brown like a crafted mocha—not the weak powder stufff, the kind of bitter chocolate ultra-nice cafés melt in coffee.
Something strong and slightly brutal you’d want to drink on a crisp evening like this when your nerves are buzzing and you’re dying to enjoy the finer things in life.
Damn. I should’ve just celebrated alone and tried to awkwardly bump into the handsome stranger.
But I made my choices, and strange men aren’t riding to the rescue on wings of glory.
We wander through some blown glass sculptures and I put a few badly needed strides between myself and King Idiot.
Which I quickly regret when Nameless stumbles backward and almost tips over a huge glass vase that must be seven feet tall on its podium. My hands fly up to my mouth as a gasp slips out.
Oh my God!
Thank everything it’s bolted down.
Yep, I’m going to be banned from my favorite place ever, and it’s all this jackass’ fault.
My heart pounds. I move between him and the sculpture, centering my weight. He stumbles into me instead of precious glass when he goes all tipsy a second time. I throw my arms out and manage not to fall, struggling to support his bulk.
I don’t know how. It’s a small miracle—and not the kind I was hoping for tonight.
His obnoxious laugh booms, echoing through the room.
People turn to look at us, including a certain gorgeous stranger with eyes itching to dismember the source of the disruption.
And who can blame him when my dolt of a date must be ruining his night?
We’ve ended up in the same exhibit as him a few times, but this is the first good look I’ve had at his face, and…
You guessed it. Even more intimidatingly beautiful than his backside.
His eyes are green-blue glass inquisitors made to deliver whip-lash, glowing like stars under his walnut-colored hair.
They glint in the light like knives with a fierceness that could rival a tiger scenting blood.
But his expression is what gets me. It’s hilariously stern, the meanest scowl in the history of scowl-dom.
He’s surly, intense, and thoroughly pissed off.
Well, hello to you, too, Grumpyface.
Oof. Why is that so funny? I cover my mouth, swallowing a red-faced giggle.
A lot of things are funny tonight that shouldn’t be, and l’m not sare why.
But I guess it’s either laugh it up or sink into a crater of shame.
Nameless doesn’t notice the guy who’d like to impale him staring him down and continues on with boyish barking laughter.
“Can you believe it? I almost knocked that damn thing over.” He laughs again, doubling over.
At least he’s a happy drunk.
“Good thing you caught me, babe. Go team!” His voice is so loud it bounces off the walls.
I’m desperate to pull away.
His Grump-faced Highness graces us with another blistering glance, shaking his head like we just committed a violent felony, and turns away. But a handful of other people who wandered in are still staring.
Yeah, crap. past time to get away from this moose.
“I’m not ba—my name is Paige,” I clip, steeling my voice. I figure it’s the politest way to get him to quit calling me babe. “Maybe we should go. It’s getting late.”
“Huh?” He pulls out his phone, his brow dipping in confusion. “It’s barely after eight.”
Right, but stupid drunk guys and fragile glass artwork don’t mix.