by Lauren Layne
In a novel that’s perfect for fans of Abbi Glines and Jessica Sorensen, USA Todaybestselling author Lauren Layne delivers a sexy take on the timeless question: Can a guy and a girl really be “just friends”?
When Parker Blanton meets Ben Olsen during her freshman year of college, the connection is immediate—and platonic. Six years later, they’re still best friends, sharing an apartment in Portland’s trendy Northwest District as they happily settle into adult life. But when Parker’s boyfriend dumps her out of the blue, she starts to wonder about Ben’s no-strings-attached approach to dating. The trouble is, even with Ben as her wingman, Parker can’t seem to get the hang of casual sex—until she tries it with him.
The arrangement works perfectly . . . at first. The sex is mind-blowing, and their friendship remains as solid as ever, without any of the usual messy romantic entanglements. But when Parker’s ex decides he wants her back, Ben is shocked by a fierce stab of possessiveness. And when Ben starts seeing a girl from work, Parker finds herself plagued by unfamiliar jealousy. With their friendship on the rocks for the first time, Parker and Ben face an alarming truth: Maybe they can’t go back. And maybe, deep down, they never want to.
“Milk?” she asks again.
I take another bite of cereal, and it takes all of my self-control not to look pointedly at the bowl of cereal I’m eating. Of course we have freaking milk.
“In the fridge,” I say with a friendly smile. She smiles back and she’s got deep dimples in each cheek. Cute. I can see why Ben likes this one.
She walks past the table to the fridge, and I cringe when I see the fact that she has airhead monogrammed on the butt of her baby blue sweatpants. Really? Really?
Airhead has apparently forgotten that she wanted milk and instead pulls out one of the cans of Starbucks iced coffee that I keep stocked for Monday mornings when I need an extra pick-me-up, which is every Monday, because, well, Mondays are just the worst, aren’t they?
Airhead pops the tab and takes a sip without asking, which I guess is kind of annoying, but I’ve never really been one of those girls who likes to waste energy getting bitchy about stupid things, so I let it go.
“Hey, so I’m Parker,” I say.
“I’m Liz. Are you dating Ben’s roommate?”
Considering I know for a fact that Liz is the latest in a rather impressive streak of one-night stands, dating seems sort of a presumptuous word choice, because how does she know I’m not just a onetime sleepover guest like her?
This, too, I let pass without comment.
I mean, what else is the girl supposed to ask: Did you get drunk and sleep with a guy you barely know, like I just did?
Plus, I have a fun surprise for her.
“I am the roommate,” I say, keeping my smile friendly. I’m wearing my oldest pajamas and haven’t even pretended to have tried to take off last night’s mascara, which is now all over my face. I’m pretty sure I don’t look threatening.
But I’d be wrong.
Liz pauses halfway in, drinking my precious iced-coffee beverage, and her previously curious expression turns wary.
I mentally shrug. Ben tends to use my unisex name to full advantage by avoiding female pronouns when referring to his roommate while a booty call is in progress. He picked up this approach after several hookups that failed due to the fact that some girls still subscribe to the old girls-and-guys-can’t-be-just-friends axiom.
Ben ambles into the kitchen, his sweatpants matching the style of his girl toy’s, although his are dark UO green, and instead of a tacky phrase on the back, they just have the Oregon Duck, our old college mascot. We graduated a couple years ago, so the frat-boy attire’s a little sad, but I can’t judge him too harshly since my entire workout wardrobe consists of old college shirts.
He yawns and smiles. “Morning. Have you girls met? Liz, Parker, Parker, Liz.”
Ben’s either unaware of the fact that Liz is giving him a dark look or he no longer cares now that he’s gotten laid.
Here’s the other reason I don’t exactly get my rocks off thinking about Ben in a romantic light: He’s kind of a player. As a friend, I can love him for it, but on the romantic front? Never. Ever. Not even with every possible STD test.
“Hey, what happened to the must-wear-shirts-in-the-kitchen rule?” I ask, shoveling another bite of increasingly soggy Wheat Chex into my mouth.
“No such rule exists,” he says, with a wink for Liz-slash-Airhead. Her expression softens lightly, and I resist the urge to slap a little sense into the poor girl. I want to tell her that his winks are a dime a dozen, but what’s the point? She has airhead printed on her sweatpants for God’s sake.
“There is too a rule about shirts in the kitchen,” I insist. “House rule number fourteen. Speaking of which, where are my house rules?”
“Hard to say,” he says, opening the fridge and glancing at its meager offerings before pouring a cup of coffee instead. “But I may have used them to mop up OJ the other day. Or maybe as a coaster for my beer.” He snapped his fingers. “Oh wait, no, I remember. I just plain threw them out the old-fashioned way.”
I point to the doorway. “Shirt. Now.”
He glances at Liz. “She can’t concentrate when my abs are on display. We have to give her anti-swoon pills.”
Liz giggles even as she shoots me a searching look, as though she’s trying to determine whether I really will swoon over Ben’s admittedly impressive upper body. The guy’s like a machine. He misses workouts only on the worst of his hangover days.
“Do you wanna grab some breakfast?” Liz asks Ben.
Aww, poor Airhead. She doesn’t know the name of the game.
Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. In 2011, she and her husband moved from Seattle to New York City, where Lauren decided to pursue a full-time writing career. It took six months to get her first book deal (despite ardent assurances to her husband that it would only take three). Since then, Lauren's gone on to publish ten books, including the bestselling Stiletto series, with several more on the way in 2015.
Lauren currently lives in Chicago with her husband and spoiled Pomeranian. When not writing, you'll find her at happy hour, running at a doggedly slow pace, or trying to straighten her naturally curly hair.
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