A cocky Shameless Stranger… Yes please!
Our spotlight is cascading down on Hollis Wynn’s release – Shameless Stranger, in the Cocky Hero Club! Check out the new cover and excerpt below…
Walking up to The Velvet Tie, I say a silent prayer that I don’t act like an idiot tonight. Bri sees me first and waves me over to a group of girls.
“Hey,” I say, leaning into Bri and giving her a hug. Sutton steps over to me and hugs me as well. I’m still slightly nervous about being here, but I’m going to give it a chance.
“Hi,” I say to Carrigan with a wave. “Congrats on the wedding.” This is so awkward. Do I hug her? Shake her hand? Nah, I’ll just smile and let it go.
“Thanks. I’m glad you came out tonight. Bri said you weren’t sure, but the more the merrier.”
I nod in response and there’s a round of introductions, even though most everyone knows each other. I haven’t seen Amber in a while, and she looks great. No one would believe she just had a baby.
“This is Chrystie and Kate,” Carrigan says, gesturing to the girls next to her. “They’re coworkers turned friends.”
“Oh, there are the guys,” Sutton says. “Hey! Over here.” She waves her hands like a loon and they head our way.
A group of guys heads our way and I recognize a couple of them. Whit, Carrigan’s soon to be husband, leads them over. When he reaches the ladies, he walks up to Carrigan pulling her to him and planting a kiss on her forehead.
I swoon. There is something about a forehead kiss that makes my heart flutter and my mind dizzy with love.
“Hey, ladies. These are my friends Hollis LaCroix and Graham Morgan.” He points to the guys in the back of the group.
“You know Matt.” He stands behind Amber, who’s leaning her head back on his shoulder. I imagine she’d rather be sleeping right now, but she’s a great sport and wouldn’t miss this for anything.
“Ryan and Chris are in the bar making sure things are to Chris’ liking.” We all chuckle because the one thing everyone knows is if Chris is in attendance, everything will be in the perfect place.
“This is Ben Riggs, my best man. He’s in town for the week with his brother, who I’m sure has already found a beer and a beautiful woman to flirt with.”
I freeze when he introduces Ben and stare at him with my mouth wide open. “Oh. My. God,” I whisper shout, realizing I said it out loud.
“Benton Riggs?” I’m utterly shocked to see him standing in front of me.
Suddenly it feels as if there are a dozen pairs of eyes moving back and forth between us.
“Coffee shop girl,” is his only response. Our eyes meet and it doesn’t take more than a few seconds for me to lose myself in their deep blue depths.
“What are you doing in Chicago?” I can’t believe this. What are the odds that the guy I told off and then spilled coffee on in New York is standing in front of me?
“Wait,” Whit butts in, looking back and forth between us. “How do you guys know each other?”
“Oh, let me take this one,” I say. “A couple of months ago when I was in New York, I yelled at him at a restaurant for being an ass to one of his staff—I think those guys were there too.” I point to the guys standing around and then shrug my shoulders with uncertainty.
“Yep, that was us,” Graham says, letting out a deep laugh. “We still talk about that night.”
A chuckle escapes me because looking back, it is funny. “But that’s not it. The next day I spilled my coffee on him, and he took his shirt off while we were standing on a street corner and gave it to me.”
“Seriously, dude. You stripped on the street corner? That sounds like a Beau trick,” Hollis says.
He smirks at the guys. “I wasn’t walking around soaking wet. Besides, I had a jacket on.”
The girls laugh and keep looking at me. “What?” I spout. “Who’d have thought I’d be seeing him again.”
Then Ben cuts in, “It took me a while, but I know where I’ve seen you before. You’re a model, aren’t you?”
Shit. It’s not often that I’m recognized now that I’m out of the game, but the question still takes me by surprise when it’s asked. Add to it the fact that the question is usually followed up by a snarky comment about quitting while I was ahead. People really are assholes.
“Not anymore. Why?” I ask quietly. I hate it when people call me out. I’m not ashamed of my past, but it needs to stay in the past.
“I knew I recognized you in the bar, but it took me a while to figure it all out.” His tone is gentle, which helps me not to react.
“Yeah, I’ve been out of the business for a while. Now I spend my days writing.” Hopefully, he doesn’t ask anything else.
I’m saved from any more questions when Amber leans over and kisses Matt and announces it’s time to go.
“Have a good night, gentlemen. We’re going to celebrate Carrigan getting hitched,” Amber says. Everyone laughs at that because it’s not a term the rest of us would use.
The crowd disperses and we make our way into The Velvet Tie and the guys head across the way to Jim’s.
When we enter the bar, Amber goes straight to the bar. A minute later she is back and ushering us to a patio at the back. “Chris not only planned the bachelor party, but he also made sure we had all the champagne we wanted and snacks so we don’t get too drunk.”
The patio has pale pink and white balloons all over the place, with buckets of chilled champagne next to a bar of food. “Here’s to a champagne night,” I say. “Who wants a glass?”
A cackle of “me” rings out and I start pouring. “One drink, two drink, three drink . . . floor,” I say to myself as everyone grabs a glass and a plate and settles into the lounge area that is set up.
“Blake,” Carrigan draws out my name. “Tell us all about Ben. It’s obvious you two know each other. We could see the waves of attraction roll off both of you when you saw each other.”
A blush creeps over my face and I inadvertently bat my eyelashes, which makes the girls howl with laughter. Geez, we’ve barely started and they’re already giggling.
Most people have two lives – the one they actually live and the one they dream of. For me, it’s before and after. I was living my dream, and loving every minute of it. It only took an instant for everything to come crashing down. Now, instead of being the center of attention, I try to hide in plain sight. Instead of champagne and parties, I have my coffee and my journal. And that’s how I like it.
Until Benton Riggs enters the picture. I’m immediately drawn to him and his secrets- the main one being his Jekyll & Hyde personalities.
Mr. Push-and-Pull takes me on quiet romantic dates all over the city. Not only that, he owns half the places we go to. But just when I’m opening up to him, he pushes me away. It’s infuriating–and a little addicting.
I’m falling in love with an enigma… and sometimes the truth doesn’t set you free at all.