Sex in the sticks, p.1
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       Sex in the Sticks, p.1
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         Part #1 of Love Hurts series by Sawyer Bennett
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Sex in the Sticks


  Sex in the Sticks is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  A Loveswept Ebook Original

  Copyright (c) 2017 by Sawyer Bennett Excerpt from Jilted by Sawyer Bennett copyright (c) 2017 by Sawyer Bennett All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  LOVESWEPT is a registered trademark and the LOVESWEPT colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

  This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Jilted by Sawyer Bennett. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

  Ebook ISBN 9780399593604

  Cover design: Derek Walls

  Cover photograph: @CURAphotography/Shutterstock randomhousebooks.com

  v4.1

  ep

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Prologue: Valentine

  Chapter 1: Valentine

  Chapter 2: Logan

  Chapter 3: Valentine

  Chapter 4: Logan

  Chapter 5: Valentine

  Chapter 6: Logan

  Chapter 7: Valentine

  Chapter 8: Logan

  Chapter 9: Valentine

  Chapter 10: Logan

  Chapter 11: Valentine

  Chapter 12: Logan

  Chapter 13: Valentine

  Chapter 14: Logan

  Chapter 15: Valentine

  Chapter 16: Logan

  Chapter 17: Valentine

  Chapter 18: Logan

  Chapter 19: Valentine

  Chapter 20: Logan

  Chapter 21: Valentine

  Chapter 22: Logan

  Chapter 23: Valentine

  Chapter 24: Logan

  Chapter 25: Valentine

  Chapter 26: Logan

  Chapter 27: Valentine

  Epilogue: Valentine

  By Sawyer Bennett

  About the Author

  Excerpt from Jilted

  Prologue

  Valentine

  "Sir, the 2007 Gaja Barbaresco you requested," the sommelier says as he presents it to Blain with a flourish. Blain doesn't even look up from his smartphone, where he's busily typing something, but he does say to me, "Go ahead and try it, Valentine."

  The sommelier turns regally to me, the neck of the bottle held delicately in one hand with the middle of the bottle resting on his forearm as he presents the label to me. I lean forward and pretend to study it with a keen eye before looking up and nodding my head.

  Almost as if he pulls the corkscrew out of thin air, the sommelier makes a production of removing the cork and pouring a tiny amount into my glass. The dark burgundy color looks nice...I suppose. I pick up my glass by the stem and give it a swirl.

  "You'll love it," Blain says, and my eyes go from the wine to him. He's peeking up from his smartphone and giving me what I know he thinks is a charming grin. I almost smile back, but then he says, "It cost $210."

  And my smile dies and his head drops so he can go back to whatever has his attention on his phone.

  I take a sip of the wine, and it tastes like wine to me. It's a common misconception that just because you're wealthy it doesn't mean you have a discernible palate when it comes to expensive food and drink. Regardless, I give another nod to the sommelier and he fills our glasses, my date still focused on his phone.

  "What's so important, Blain, that you've had your face stuck to that phone since we got here?" I ask him after the sommelier leaves. It's our third date and perhaps he's feeling comfortable enough to do this to me. I did, after all, let him cop a major feel as we kissed good night after our last date, so perhaps he thinks I'm a sure bet tonight.

  He doesn't answer me right away, but eventually looks up as he tucks his phone into his jacket breast pocket. "Sorry about that. I was having my financial adviser move some stuff for me. The Dow was a little wonky today."

  I give him a polite smile. I could give a shit about the stock market. My money is old and seems to multiply just fine on its own without me checking it every five minutes.

  "So," Blain says as he rests his elbows on the table and leans in a little. "You were telling me about a possible trip to Paris soon, right?"

  "That's right." I put my elbows on the table, lace my fingers together, and rest my chin on the back of my hands as I smile at him. "Maybe next month to do a little shopping."

  "No better shopping than on the Champs-Elysees," he says knowingly, but yeah...he really doesn't know. That's for gawking tourists and such. For God's sake, there's a Disney and Adidas store there. But he continues knowledgeably. "I bought several custom-made suits there on my last trip to Paris."

  Yeah, probably from Hugo Boss, which you can find in large quantities right here in Manhattan.

  "Actually, I prefer some of the boutique stores on Rue de Charonne," I say before taking a delicate sip of my wine, but he doesn't ask me about it or seem to care.

  Instead, his gaze goes to my glass as I set it down and then back to me. "It's a beautiful wine, right?"

  "Mmmmm, yes," I murmur.

  "It's the delicate hint of raspberry that gets me every time," he says knowledgeably. Despite the fact I'm filthy rich, my taste buds apparently can't be bought, so I just nod in agreement as he goes on about how it wasn't the most expensive wine on the list tonight, but it was going to go well with the beef tenderloin he'd planned on ordering for us. He assured me it was the finest beef in the city.

  Whatever.

  "So how's work going?" I ask Blain, hoping to spark interesting conversation.

  "Very well," he says with a hint of superiority in his voice that I suspect they might teach as a class in law school. "I just landed a client that will net high six figures in fees over the next five years."

  "That's wonderful," I praise him. "I know you can't tell me the client, but what type of business are they in?"

  "Hair care products," he says as he reaches for the bread basket. "Very high end stuff. In fact, I'm going to switch to using it myself. I mean, if I spend four hundred dollars on a haircut, I should really be using the most expensive products, out there, right?"

  And he lost me.

  Of course, I'm not overly surprised he's gushing over hair-care products. I think Blain's hair is very important to him. It's dark and thick, short on the sides and slightly wavy on top. It shines beautifully, and I really noticed this because as we were waiting for our table in the bar tonight, Blain kept checking himself out in the mirror. He'd turn his head this way and that, sometimes smoothing his fingertips over nonexistent stray hairs.

  "...and of course, I have to have the elite gym membership at Lift. The body is a temple, right? I was just telling one of my colleagues the other day that you have to maintain your body as diligently as your stock portfolio."

  He drones on and on, every single word out of his mouth more self-involved than the last.

  I tune him out. His lips are moving but my mind is far away, wondering how I can possibly be attracting men like this?

  I'm a goddamned dating goddess in this city. Women turn to me to find out how it's done and they listen carefully when I give them advice on how to find the perfect guy.

  Yet in the past six months, my dating life has been absolutely wretched. It's like I'm going out with the same guy over and over but he's been cloned into different-looking hot packages. The package is so pretty on the outside that I figure at some point I've got to find the insides to match, right?

  Sadly,
I live in New York City, home to the biggest concentration of metrosexual men in the world. They love their designer clothes, their expensive wines, their luxury apartments, and bragging about it to anyone that will listen. Their job's the most important one in the world, and if you look semi-interested, they'll talk about it for hours, sometimes never even taking a breath. It's only taken me a little over a decade of dating for me to figure it out, but I have come to the glum conclusion that there just aren't any good men out there on the dating scene.

  At least not in the city.

  If this is true, it spells disaster for me, because I'm a dating and sex advice columnist. I use my own unique experiences--some failures, others major scores--to help give direction, advice, and occasionally hope to other women. Sometimes it's sage wisdom on how to recognize a guy who only wants a hookup versus something more meaningful. Sometimes it's an awesome sexual position I may have stumbled upon and want to share with my readers. But my dates have been so bad lately that I'm afraid my column is suffering, so I've got to do something to get my mojo back.

  My blog has been going strong for almost six years now, but for the first time in my writing career, I'm wondering if perhaps I'm tapped out. Or maybe it's just time to shake up Valentine's Couch and find something different to write about.

  A different kind of man, perhaps.

  Chapter 1

  Valentine

  "What about this?" I ask as I take the navy chalk-stripe waistcoat and hold it up for Jeremy to consider. He examines it shrewdly for a moment, then plucks it from my hand so he can look at the price tag. He doesn't even gulp, but then again, he doesn't need to. He's a French, and we Frenches are ridiculously wealthy.

  "Not bad," he says, and then proceeds to put it on over the gray shirt and tie he'd chosen. "You sure this will work for the rehearsal dinner?"

  I walk over to the cream silk couch where some nameless, faceless sales associate laid out champagne and petit fours for us to nibble on while Jeremy shopped. The clothing is ridiculously expensive at Bergdorf Goodman, but their service is impeccable.

  "It will totally work," I assure him.

  "I like it," he proclaims as he smooths the vest and tugs it a little past his lean hips. "So can we go now?"

  "No, we can't go now," I tell him. "You need shoes. The rehearsal dinner is as important as the wedding. Well, at least that's what my mom and your mom would say if they were standing here."

  Jeremy and I both shudder over the thought of enduring our mothers shopping with us for his wedding.

  Jeremy's wedding.

  Totally not looking forward to it. He's getting married to a woman I really don't like all that much and it's going to be a monstrous affair. All of Manhattan society will be there. It will be the same boring conversation while the women ogle each other's designer dresses with jealousy and the men brag about how much their portfolios have increased. My mother will glare at me the entire time, because it's a complete embarrassment that her daughter, Valentine French, writes a--gasp--sex and dating advice column, and the only way I'll possibly get through it is by getting drunk.

  "I'm thinking the brown boots we looked at on the way in," he says casually, then his eyes cut to me through the mirror's reflection to gauge my approval or lack thereof. Just like any good and well-bred New York metrosexual, Jeremy likes to shop and spend money, but he does have his limits.

  "Those Ferragamos would look great," I assure him with a smile, eyeing the little cakes spread out before me and knowing my hips will hate me if I eat one. "But those gray Tom Fords would be dynamite as well."

  "I thought Tom Ford was so last season," Jeremy says in an exaggerated gay voice as he starts to remove the waistcoat. Jeremy has no clue what's in season or not. He only knows that he likes to look fashionable and he relies on his fiancee and me to tell him what to wear.

  I try hard not to roll my eyes and instead take a large sip of champagne. I love Jeremy to death. He's not my only cousin, but he's my favorite family member of all of them, and truly the only one who admires me for marching to the beat of my own drum. We're only a year apart in age, went to the same college, and are really more like best friends than cousins.

  We see each other for dinner at least once a week and both enjoy indulging in a shared love of clothes shopping, so we do that often as well. His fiancee, Aubrey, is completely jealous of our relationship and constantly tries to derail it by coming up with all sorts of functions he has to attend with her to strip away my time with him. These are all high-society functions that she knows I'd rather be dead than attend, and thus her nefarious plan works too. I suppose this is the reason I don't like her all that much.

  The only reason I'm going to their wedding and suffering the presence of my family and their wealthy brethren is because I love Jeremy and I wouldn't miss out on his happy day for anything. And even if Aubrey isn't my cup of tea, she makes him happy, so I will have to grin and bear it.

  I drain my champagne glass, pull the bottle from the ice bucket, and refill it as dribbles of water dot the marble table in front of me. Jeremy cocks at eyebrow. "What's wrong with you?"

  "What do you mean?" I set the bottle back into the bucket and take a healthy sip from my brimming glass of bubbly.

  "You never drink more than one glass when we go shopping," he points out as he picks up his own glass and sits on the opposite side of the couch, kicking his feet up on the table. "You think it impairs your fashion sense."

  "Well it does," I grumble before taking another sip. I wave my glass at him. "But we're shopping for you today."

  "You're totally going to buy that purse you were eyeballing a little bit ago when we walked in," he says with a laugh.

  And he's right about that. The Proenza Schouler shoulder bag would go perfect with the Carolina Herrera dress I was going to wear to the wedding, which is white by the way, and chosen just so I could annoy Aubrey and my family.

  "But seriously, what's up your butt?" he asks with a grin as he flops an arm over the back of the couch. He's very handsome, and the way his bangs flop over his forehead makes him look young and carefree. I suppose he's just happy he's marrying Aubrey, but for the life of me I cannot fathom why. Marriage is just so...so...confining, I guess.

  With a sigh, I set down my champagne glass, because I'm actually getting a small headache and that's really why I don't drink more than one. I look longingly at the petit fours and then turn to Jeremy. "I'm bored."

  "Bored," he repeats with confusion in his voice. "Of shopping?"

  I lean over and punch him on the shoulder. "Bite your tongue. I'll never get tired of shopping. But I'm tired of my life lately."

  "What in particular?" he asks as he scoots a little closer to me. This is why we are the best of friends...because he listens to me.

  "Men," I say, voicing the one thing that has been plaguing me lately.

  "Want to try a woman?" he asks seriously, and then adds almost dreamily, "because we've got this new broker in the office and she's gay, but she is smoking hot. And has these lips that I know would just--"

  "No, I don't want a woman," I snap at him so he'll focus.

  "But you don't want a man?" he asks hesitantly.

  "Not the men here," I say as I wave my hand in a circle above my head.

  "In Bergdorf Goodman's?" he asks.

  "Stop being purposely obtuse," I say with an affectionate grin. "I'm tired of the men I've been dating. Here. In New York City."

  "What's wrong with them?"

  I huff out a breath of frustration. "They're all the same. Predicable, even."

  "Let me guess," he says as he points a finger briefly at me. "They're focused on the rat race, trying to rise to the top. Career is more important than love and you're feeling slighted. In fact, you begin to wonder if you'll ever find true love. You long for a husband and babies and--"

  "Honest to God, Jeremy," I say with irritation as I cut him off. "Don't you read my blog anymore?"

  He snickers. "You know I do an
d that I'm just getting your panties in a twist."

  "Then you know it's not that," I say pointedly. "You know I'm not about love and settling down."

  "Then spell it out for me," he encourages.

  My gaze roams up to the chandelier hanging above us and I think for a moment as I study the sparkling crystals. I want to compose my thoughts, which have been running rampant lately.

  I look back to Jeremy, who is patiently waiting for me to enlighten him. I'm pretty sure he'll get me. I know damn well he won't judge me, because he hasn't yet, and my behavior has been pretty dicey over the years. He's the only one who has supported me and has encouraged the family to let me shine rather than berate me for not falling into line. It goes without saying that the French family is as embarrassed and astounded today that Valentine French writes a sex column as they were the day they read my first post.

  "Did you read my last piece?" I ask him.

  " 'Will the Metrosexual Kill the Orgasm?' " he says with a nod, repeating the title. "It was good. Very witty and tongue in cheek."

  "It wasn't meant to be tongue in cheek," I say flatly, and his eyebrows rise sky high. "I meant every word."

  "I don't understand," he says as he cocks his head at me. "You essentially talked about how metrosexuals are the perfect men to date. We're bright, successful, fashionable, and take damn good care of ourselves. Every woman loves a man with well-trimmed pubes. That's exactly what you said, and you reminded womankind why the greatest dating in the world is right here in New York. In the end your conclusion was that metrosexuals have kept the female orgasm alive and flourishing."

  I shake my head. "No, I was being sarcastic."

  "No, you weren't," he says firmly. "It was cheeky but genuine, and all of your fans thought so. You had a ton of praise over that article. I mean, you're the queen of dating the metrosexual, after all."

  "I was being sarcastic," I insist, but then lower my gaze almost in shame. Picking at the edge of the hem of my skirt, I add softly, "At least my inside voice was being sarcastic. I'm sick and tired of them."

 
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