5 April 2016

Book Blitz: The Matchmaker’s Playbook by Rachel Van Dyken | Plus Excerpt


The Matchmaker’s Playbook
Rachel Van Dyken

Wingmen Inc. #1

Published April 5th 2016

Purchase: Amazon
Wingman rule number one: don’t fall for a client.

After a career-ending accident, former NFL recruit Ian Hunter is back on campus—and he’s ready to get his new game on. As one of the masterminds behind Wingmen, Inc., a successful and secretive word-of-mouth dating service, he’s putting his extensive skills with women to work for the lovelorn. But when Blake Olson requests the services of Wingmen, Inc., Ian may have landed his most hopeless client yet.

From her frumpy athletic gear to her unfortunate choice of footwear, Blake is going to need a miracle if she wants to land her crush. At least with a professional matchmaker by her side she has a fighting chance. Ian knows that his advice and a makeover can turn Blake into another successful match. But as Blake begins the transformation from hot mess to smokin’ hot, Ian realizes he’s in danger of breaking his cardinal rule…

About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter
Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she's not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.

She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband, adorable son, and two snoring boxers! She loves to hear from readers!

Want to be kept up to date on new releases? Text MAFIA to 66866!

Excerpt


Chapter Six

The UW campus was buzzing with excitement. Students shuffled past one another as the wet morning mist hung in the air. Just another reason I loved Seattle—the weather was crisp, full of promises.

Shell gripped one of my hands as we stopped in front of one of the business buildings. I used my free hand to wave at Gabi as we passed by. Her eyes locked on mine. It was times like these that I was convinced I could read women’s thoughts just by staring at them—and I was the only lucky bastard who could do it.

See? Superhero. Her look said that.

Asshat, another one? Already? Didn’t you just get done helping out that chick last week with the sob story about how she really wanted world peace but nobody ever took her seriously because she has a nervous laugh?

Stella had been an easy one. She took four days. Dude didn’t even know what hit him. One minute they were just friends. The next, I saw his car parked outside her apartment all . . . night . . . long.

“Gross,” Gabi had said. “You were doing recon during their sexcapades?”

“I’d like to call it research,” I said.

“Didn’t she laugh at his dad’s funeral?”

“Right. It’s a nervous laugh, and it’s a real thing.” Another eye roll. “Lunch later?”

“Sure thing.”

“Have fun saving the world, one girl at a time.” “Don’t I always?”

Okay, so maybe she didn’t say “Have fun saving the world.” I may have exaggerated that part for my own benefit.

“I’m nervous,” Shell said, squeezing my hand. “What if he doesn’t notice me again? Or worse, what if this doesn’t work, and—?”

“You read our stats. When has it ever not worked?” I took a deep breath. “That’s why we give you our success rates along with the FAQ sheets, so you know without a doubt that what we do works. But you have to follow the rules, understand?”

Shell bobbed her head. Her new haircut did wonders for her face, and her bangs brought out a cute trendy side of her that Mr. Barista would totally dig, if he recognized her in the first place. I made sure to give her pointers on what to wear, but I always—and I do mean always—told the girls one thing: A girl should never change herself for a guy. Ever. And if she did? Then they weren’t meant to be. We helped improve what they already had, but we never changed them.

Though thanks to Lex, we usually knew if it was going to be a bad match before it happened, and we very strategically steered those girls toward more successful matches.

All in a day’s work.

Jealous Barista rounded the corner and was just about to look our way.

“There he is.” I stopped and pulled Shell against me. “Smile.” “I’m trying.”

“You look nervous.”

“I am nervous.” Her lower lip trembled slightly.

“Hey, hey.” I cupped her face. Flirting was always more realistic when they were nervous, because nerves could also appear to be tenderness, trust, love. “You’ll do just fine.”

She already was doing fine. Her body leaned into mine, her eyes wide with fear, but from this angle, my guess was Mr. Barista was ready to punch me in the jaw at her obvious adoration.

I kissed her cheek, gently rubbing mine against hers before whispering in her ear, “If he looks over here, avert your gaze like you’re guilty.”

“But—”

“Do it, Shell. I have a class too.” And unlike her building, Paccar Hall was a good twenty-minute walk across campus, meaning I had to haul ass.

She tilted her head.

“Now, grip my back with your fingertips like your hands are almost digging into my skin. Make it look desperate.”

She did. “Ouch.”

“Sorry,” she whimpered.

“Good.” I pulled back and kissed her forehead, my gaze meeting Mr. Barista’s as he swore and jerked his head away from the show.

“Did he notice?” Her voice rose in excitement.

“Oh, he noticed.” I grinned, then tapped her chin with my finger. “Now, during class he’ll most likely sit next to you. Let him, but try not to talk to him. If he engages, be polite, but not overly excited. He’ll think I told you not to talk to him, which will make him try harder. He’ll drive himself crazy, because you look sad and nervous, and he’ll think something’s wrong with our relationship and basically bother you the rest of the day until you tell him all the gory details. Give him your phone number, but don’t answer the first text. Answer the third. Always the third.”

I’d just blazed through rules one, two, three, and four. Rule one: Make them curious, slightly jealous.

Rule two: Don’t appear too interested. Always be polite.

Rule three: Give them a method of contact, but keep the ball in your court.

Rule four: Never answer the first text, call, e-mail, etc. For some reason, the brain picks up on the number three as being the final try before you look desperate.

“What if he doesn’t—?”

“He will.” I winked. “Now, off you go.”

“Third text, evasive, polite,” she mumbled to herself as she took purposeful steps toward the building.

“Kind of like watching little ducklings hatch and finally make it into the water,” a deep voice said beside me.

I grinned. “Lex, what brings you to my side of campus?”

“Have you checked your schedule?” His grin was way too big for nine in the morning.

“What did you do?”

“Not me.” He held up his hands. “I’m sure I’ll be hearing from you later.”

I was just about to open my schedule when I noticed the time. “Shit.” I ran like hell toward the Paccar building, hoping I wouldn’t be late again. Pretty sure my whole “my aunt was sick and needed someone to talk to” excuse wasn’t going to go over well for the third time, and this particular professor hated me because Lex had screwed his daughter. We may be best friends, but at least I looked before I laid, you know? Lex didn’t care who his appetite affected; if he wanted something, he took it. Odd, considering he put so much damn time and energy into Wingmen Inc. It was his baby, his love child. Then again, even though we were best friends, Lex was private. He shared things with his computer, and sometimes, if it was a good day, he shared personal shit with me, but it was rare.

There were two things Lex trusted in this world: technology and sex. Neither had ever let him down. Hell, thirty years from now Lex will be sitting on the front porch of his mansion sipping lemonade with his computer/automated robot, whispering sweet nothings into its ear.

I nearly collided with a bench as I continued my sprint. Shit. Shit. Shit.

With one minute remaining, I jerked open the door to the classroom and ran right into a short boy.

“Sorry, bro.” I leaned down to help him pick up his books. Pink nail polish? Well, to each his own, I guess.

“You,” a very female voice said.

A hood was covering the she-man’s head. I peered closer and really wished I hadn’t.

Blake.

And she was pissed. Then again, my girl parts would probably be pissed off too if I strapped on a tight sports bra, tank top, and long basketball shorts. And, damn, those flip-flops just wouldn’t quit.

“Why are you always . . . everywhere?” she spat, wearing a look of outright distaste.

Class still hadn’t started, but I was a very self-aware individual. Meaning I knew that every damn eye in that room was trained on me and probably wondering why the hell I wasn’t charming the chick in dude clothes.

Can’t charm the asexual, folks.

I handed Blake her books. She jerked them out of my fingertips and huffed out a breath, pulling the hood from her hair.

That I could work with.

Her hair was a pretty golden-brown, thick, glossy, the first thing you noticed about her—other than the flip-flops, mind you.

“Business major?” I pointed to her books.

“Gen ed. Why else would I be here if I didn’t have to take the class?”

“Stalking.” I winked. “Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been followed. Probably won’t be the last.”

“You clearly have too high an opinion of yourself.”

“Some may say not high enough.” I let out a low chuckle as a few girls in the front row started whispering loud enough for anyone with two ears to hear:

“So hot.”

“Three times! She said it was the best night of her life.”

Blake clenched her teeth and shot poison darts with her eyes. “Fans of yours?”

“The club has an opening.”

Blake shoved past me to make her way up the stairs to the last few empty seats. I followed her, mainly out of curiosity but also from the need to distance myself from the girls in front, who would have most likely tried to fondle me the entire class.

Last time that happened, I couldn’t even finish! And by “finish,” I mean finish my finance class.

“They made posters last year,” I said with a sigh, plopping into the seat right next to her.

Jaw slack, she pointed at the other seats on either side of us, seats that would at least put a few empty desks in between us.

“Desks. Chairs. It’s a classroom, so that’s to be expected. Anything else I can help you with?”

“Sit in any chair but that one.”

“This one right here?” I patted my seat right between my legs and grinned shamelessly while her cheeks burned bright red. “Something on your mind, buttercup?”

“Just . . .” She dropped her book loudly onto the desk and put her bag on the floor. “Don’t talk to me.”

“Okay.”

She blinked at me, the shape of her mouth forming a small O, giving me the best possible daydream of her on her knees in front of me. I sucked my lower lip, allowing my thoughts to trail into dangerous territory. Then again, she was blushing now, blushed often, and was probably too uptight to take direction on any sort of oral activities. Pity.

Smiling, I kicked back in my seat. I did my best studying in silence . . . I didn’t need to talk to her to get to know her. Most of the important things about people were learned by simply observing.

Besides, class was starting.

The professor droned on and on about business organization and different organizational roles within a corporation.

I tuned him out, because I had my own corporation. I knew how roles worked. It was like going back to first grade after graduating with honors. But I stayed glued to my seat and studied Blake out of the corner of my eye.

Her face wasn’t bad. She had a smattering of freckles around her nose and cheeks, like someone had just dropped a few for effect right on her face when she was born. She would be cute if her hair wasn’t constantly falling over her eyes, making it impossible for me to really see what shape her face was or what color her eyes were.

With a huff, she pulled back her hair into a low ponytail. I let out a small gasp.

Purely by accident.

“Are you going to make it?” she whispered harshly.

I leaned over, my hand grazing the back of her chair, fingertips dancing along her neck. “Are you?”

“I’m not . . . interested.”

“In men?”

“In you,” she said pointedly. “Now, stop whatever it is you’re thinking about and pay attention. I just transferred here from Boise State this semester, and I already feel like I’m behind.”

“Ohhh.” I snapped my fingers.

“What? What ‘ohhh’?”

The world suddenly made sense. “You’re from Idaho? Hit me with the town you were born in, because it sure as hell wasn’t Boise.”

She shifted in her seat, moving farther away from me as she gave me a quick sidelong glance. “Riggins.”

“Dear God, save me from small towns with only one grocery store.”

“Stop,” she hissed, “talking.”

“Okay.” I shot her a calculated half smile—just enough to make her wonder. “I got all I needed anyway.”

I could tell she wanted to ask me what the hell I was talking about, but she had impressive self-control. I’d give her that.

She was from a small town in Idaho. Transferred here . . . for what purpose? My guess was her dad. I was still banking on the single-parent thing. He got a job transfer. I racked my brain. Boeing? Possibly Microsoft? Maybe even Amazon. Hell, Seattle boasted so many different corporate headquarters, it was a toss-up.

I glanced back down at her flip-flops.

I was going to go with Microsoft. Computer-nerd dad with no fashion sense who used to work from home via satellite. Bingo!

I tried to pay attention to the lecture but kept getting distracted by the way she tapped her pen.

And the fact that she had on perfume and pink nail polish. What girl who dressed like she did wore pink nail polish and Prada perfume? Did she have that pink thong on under those basketball shorts? Now those I could definitely work with when the time came. They would look so good dangling from one ankle with her legs in the air. Parts of me twitched with interest just considering the possibilities of exploring all of her diverse . . . nuances.

A mystery.

I hadn’t had one of those in a long time.

Or a challenge. Hah, too bad she wasn’t a client. I could do a lot with those legs. Granted, they wouldn’t be wrapped around me, unfortunately, since I never got involved with clients. Not for lack of trying on their part.

The lecture ended an hour later.

We both stood. I let her walk by me and whispered, “Blue.” She froze but didn’t turn around. “What?”

“Your eyes.” I squeezed by her and whispered in her ear, “They’re a really pretty ice blue.”

“Like my soul.” Her eyes narrowed. “Now, will you please leave me alone?”

“Why would you want that?” I fell into step beside her as she lengthened her stride. “Besides, any friend of Gabi’s is a friend of mine.”

“That’s really unfortunate for me.”

“So you saw me naked,” I said loud enough for people walking by to hear. “Big deal.”

Wide-eyed, she slapped a hand over my mouth and backed me up against the wall. I grinned against her palm.

She leaned in. “I wasn’t impressed,” she whispered amidst a cloud of minty-fresh breath.

I pushed her hand away and laughed. “You’re a shit liar. Then again, that may have been your first time seeing a naked man, and therefore, you’re waiting to compare me to the sad, unfortunate soul-sucking individual you’re going to end up with. I bet he’ll have glasses.”

She frowned. “What’s wrong with glasses?”

“And a bald spot.” I nodded thoughtfully, then pointed to her temple. “Right here.”

Rolling her eyes, she stepped back and escaped. For the record, I let her.

She was out the door maybe five feet before she turned around one last time.

They always did. They always would. I waved.

She flipped me off.

She might as well have kissed me.



Chapter Seven

Sunlight broke through the clouds, a rarity in January, when it was usually rainy and gray. The calming sound of the fountain was broken the minute my Superman ringtone went off. Duty called.

“It worked!” Shell screamed into the phone. I barely managed to save my eardrum by pulling the phone away while she continued to shriek.

“Of course it did,” I said with a bored tone. If I didn’t know what I was doing, I’d suck at my job. A few girls walked by my bench and waved. The wind picked up, causing some of the water from the fountain to sprinkle across the girl closest to me. Her revealing white shirt was most definitely getting wet. And I didn’t miss the fact that she leaned into the water, turned to make sure I was looking, then stuck her finger in her mouth and sucked. Hard.

What a shame that she had to ruin her shirt in order to gain my attention. I almost pitied her, and then, she turned toward me.

Or not. Not a shame. God bless America. She blew me a kiss.

I winked in response.

Her friends giggled at our exchange.

At this point I expected either the solitary giggle or the hateful stare. I usually only received the second if I’d already been with the girl and forgotten her name, or the fact that we’d slept together in the first place. That’s why I had Lex! And my damn calendar. So I didn’t forget important information.

“Shell, remember what I said about phone calls.” She needed to calm the hell down. Unless his penis was made of gold and he could single-handedly take down every Avenger, the screaming wasn’t necessary. Not one bit. Again, the man liked tea. Enough said. “I need you to listen very carefully.”

She sighed into the phone. “I know, I know. I was just excited. It won’t happen again, Ian. You’re the best!”

I know. “He’s going to try to get you alone. Say no.” “But—”

“Rule number five: Tell him you’re busy. From here on out, you are always busy, until I tell you that you aren’t. Got it?”

“But, Ian, it’s working. I mean, he asked me out twice today.” “Twice is nothing, and we aren’t through the rules yet.” I reached for my old-school planner and wrote down the number two next to day two. He was moving through the stages fast for a tea-drinking hippie. Guys usually hit the first stage of jealousy and hang out there for a while, rarely making a move or stomping on another man’s territory until day three or four. “The minute he’s done asking, he’ll move on to telling. That’s when you have him. Not when he asks you out, but when he demands your time and waits outside your dorm until he gets it.”

“Wow,” Shell breathed. “That’s . . . romantic.”

“I know guys.” I checked my watch. “Gotta run. New client.” “Thanks, Ian. Bye. And—”

I hung up.

I didn’t have time to form relationships with my clients, especially not the ones who’d cry once I told them to cut off all communication at the end of our contract. Better that I keep all conversations short and to the point rather than let our little transaction turn into a romantic entanglement that could potentially destroy my business.

With a relaxed sigh, I leaned back against the bench. My dark D&G sunglasses hid my eyes so I could study people as they passed. It was usually easy picking out new clients. They almost always approached the bench I was sitting on looking like they were going to puke. Several had turned around and started walking the other way while others had marched right up to me and burst into tears.

Frowning, I glanced at the calendar app on my phone. Lex had written in “noon.” It was five after. I could be eating Thai with Gabi instead of sitting in the chilly wet weather waiting for some chick to grow a pair and approach me.

Granted, they never knew it was me behind the business until they saw who was sitting on the bench. That was part of the beauty of the cards.

Lex and I decided to keep things simple. If the girls never knew our identities until after we took them on as a client, then we didn’t have to worry about the aftermath if we rejected them.

And we rejected plenty of applications, but that was all before the meeting ever took place.

Irritated, I swiped my thumb across my phone to call Lex and tell him to drop the client, when someone stumbled into the spot next to me.

Curious, I glanced up.

“Blake?” I almost laughed out loud. No way in hell.

Face pale, she glanced away and mumbled, “You really are everywhere.”

“Like God, only less powerful.”

“Surprised you can say his name without getting struck by lightning.”

“Well, don’t sit too close, just in case.”

With an exaggerated eye roll, she scooted to the farthest part of the bench, crossed her arms, and tapped her foot.

“Waiting for someone?” Oh, this was too good.

Blake pretended not to hear me. Her hair was still pulled back into a tight bun, her baggy Nike shirt had paint on it, and her pink Nike shorts would be cute if they were actually the right size. Had she been overweight once and then just never went shopping for new clothes?

“Look.” Blake uncrossed her arms and turned toward me. “I’ll pay you to leave right now.”

“In what?”

“Huh?” She started chewing on her thumbnail. That nervous habit would have to go. I should probably start compiling a list.

I leaned closer. “What will you pay me in?” “Rupees.” She glared. “Cash, you idiot.”

“No can do.” I scooted over so that our thighs were touching and pretended to be staring at my phone. Curiosity always won. I just had to wait it out.

“Fine, how do I get rid of you?”

Bingo! “Easy.” I was still staring at the locked screen on my phone that had a Superman emblem with a W in the middle. “You pay me in whatever currency I designate.”

“You have your own money or something?”

“Or something.” I pulled off my sunglasses and shoved them in the front pocket of my leather jacket. “Either you pay me with ten minutes of your time, or you pay me with a kiss. Since it appears you’d rather eat shit than spend another second with me, I’d go for the kiss. It’ll be over quicker and will most likely increase your popularity. You may even get lucky and find your picture on my Twitter feed.”

“No.” She burst out laughing. “Not happening.”

“Fine.” I put my sunglasses back on.

“Look.” Her voice became desperate. “I’m kind of meeting someone, and it’s important, and I don’t want you here. In fact, I was specifically told that if I didn’t come by myself, the contract would be . . .” She glanced down at her hands. “Just . . . go. Now.”

“One kiss,” I whispered under my breath. “Am I that ugly? That you can’t even kiss me?”

Gritting her teeth, she muttered a curse, then grabbed my face and planted one of the quickest kisses of my lifetime—on my cheek.

On. My. Cheek.

“What was that?” I touched the spot where she kissed. “Seriously? What the hell?”

“A kiss!” She threw her hands into the air. “Now go!”

With a laugh, I swiped the screen on my phone and opened up the file with her information. I always waited until after the first meeting to learn the client’s name and read their file, since I felt it would be unfair of me to judge someone based on reputation alone. Lex knew the names, but I never did until they sat on the bench.

It was part of my process.

She was from Idaho, which I already knew, but she didn’t move with a parent. Good ol’ dad was still back in Riggins. Points for the single-parent guess, though. Nope, she’d moved a few states over . . . for a guy. “Interesting.”

“What?” She chewed harder on her thumb. “Never mind. I’m leaving. This was a stupid idea.”

I let her walk three steps before speaking. “You think David would approve of that attitude? Says here he values optimism above all things.” I paused for half a beat as though considering. “Shit, what’s he studying? Spiritualism?”

Blake froze. Then she turned slowly, her face white as a sheet. “How do you know that?”

“I hacked your e-mails.”

Ouch. Didn’t realize it was possible for her to pale more.

“Wow, you look a little green.” I stood, then grabbed her arm and started walking with her. “And I was kidding.” Once we were under the nearest tree, I pushed her against it and pulled off my sunglasses again, this time allowing my eyes to fully inspect her face. Strong chin, blue eyes, the freckles again, pouty lips. “Very pretty.”

“What is this?”

“Wingmen Inc.,” I said in a cocky tone. “But since we’re already on a first-name basis . . .”

“No.” Blake shook her head. “There has to be some mistake.” “Sorry.” I pulled back enough so she could have some breathing room. “No mistake. Lex and I are the masterminds behind the fastest-growing relationship service in the Pacific Northwest.”

Blake exhaled slowly. “But . . . you’re a . . .”

“Whore?”

She nodded.

“I enjoy women.” I shrugged. “And I help women, all types of women, find their perfect match. Is that so wrong?”

“But—”

“We have a lot of work to do.” I tilted my head. “Do you know what Victoria’s Secret is?”

“You’re an ass.”

“Duh, I’m a guy. But, I’m also your new love coach. I don’t charge two hundred bucks a day to be your friend.” I nodded, and my body buzzed with excitement over the challenge—she’d be one, that was for sure. “I’ll do it. That is, if you’re still interested in this David.”

She looked hesitant. Her body language was closed-off completely, so I knew she’d be a tough one to crack. Especially since I could tell she wasn’t my biggest fan. Then again, she didn’t need to be. Maybe I needed to remind her of that.

“Look.” I licked my lips and held out my hand. She took it, thankfully. “We have a ninety-nine percent success rate. Follow the rules, follow my advice and guidance, and you’ll be popping out little Davids in no time.”

“Kids?” she choked.

“Or whatever it is you want. I’ll get it for you. The only time our process doesn’t work is if you refuse to play by my rules.” I arched my eyebrows at the sound of her teeth clenching. “Or when the match isn’t your ideal match. But if you’re here, that means it’s already been settled, and if you listen to me, you’ll have your guy. But if for some reason this David isn’t a soul-saving Mother Teresa saint who shits rainbows, or if you change your mind about him, then we’ll find you someone else who’s a better match. It’s the perfect program. Believe me—Lex designed it, and he’s a genius.”

This was always the part I hated. The thinking part, when I waited for the client to say yes or no. Women overanalyzed everything, and again, I didn’t have time for it. Patience made me shaky.

“Anonymity is key. In public, people speculate that we’re dating or maybe even together. In private, I coach you, help you find whatever dormant sexuality you’ve kept hiding under all that hair and those flip-flops. And after a few days, or”—I winced at her clothing—“maybe in your case a few weeks”—she glared—“we part ways with a handshake, or a high five, if that’s your preference, and you skip off into the sunset with your one and only true love.”

“Can I think about it?”

“Sure.” I nodded. “You have two minutes. Also, did you miss the part where I said sunset? True love?”

“Two minutes?” She started breathing heavy.

“My time is precious. Next to kissing, it’s another one of my currencies, the most valuable thing I have. Don’t waste it.”

“It was an impulse! A girl on my team gave me your card after I was complaining about being invisible to David, and—”

“Megan,” I said, snapping my fingers. “Nice girl. Helped her pick out her wedding colors before the poor bastard even knew she liked him.”

Blake’s mouth dropped open. “You mean you were the one that said to go with orange blossom and white?”

“They complement each other so well. Besides, he’s a football player and legally color-blind in both eyes. Guy can’t see worth shit, and she needed help.”

“So not only do you know everyone at this school, but you know every athlete too?”

“I possess a lot of school spirit. Wanna hear the fight song?” Blake stared down at the ground.

“Thirty seconds.” Her head jerked up. “Twenty.”

Panic was starting to set in as her eyes darted back and forth between me and a route of escape.

“Ten.”

“Fine,” she yelled. “Fine.” With a jerk she pulled her hair from her ponytail holder, then retwisted it. “What?”

I frowned. “Is all that real?”

“What?”

“Your hair.”

“Yes.”

Without asking permission, I tugged her hair out of the rubber band and ran it through my fingers, savoring the silky feel. “It’s perfect. Men are suckers for long hair. I think it goes back to the early days when cavemen would grab women by the hair and tug them back to their sad little hay beds and make sweet love to them.”

“That’s”—Blake shook her head—“probably one of the most offensive things I’ve ever heard.”

I shrugged. “Get used to it. As of right now, you’ll hear a lot of shit. That’s because I don’t believe in candy-coating anything. Honesty is key, and, baby, I’ve gotta be real honest here.” I let out a loud sigh. “If you want to turn the head of the captain of the basketball team, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Her shoulders slumped.

“But I’m the best.” I wrapped my arm around her waist and tugged her against me. “We start tonight.”

“Tonight?”

“I’ll e-mail you the questionnaire for the second stage, and the schedule once I talk to Lex.” I stepped away from her. “Oh, and if David seeks you out at all during this process, talk to me first. If he texts you today, ignore him. If he calls you, tell him you’re busy with your new study partner.”

“Is that you?”

“I’m not just your study partner, Blake. From here on out? I’m your everything.”

“Great,” she grumbled.

“Oh, it is.” I winked. “Believe me.”

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