Hooking Up Page 1

Author: Helena Hunting

Series: Shacking Up #2

Genres: Romance

Prologue: No More Bad Boys


I scan the room, searching for familiar faces—anyone in my department at Moorehead Media who I know well enough to strike up menial conversation with. As I perform my visual sweep, I note a small cluster of men at three o’clock. The cluster effect isn’t unusual. This entire party is made up of human semicircles, half of them wearing fake smiles, feigning interest in conversations, the other half using it as a means to conduct business under the influence of alcohol.

My gaze snags and catches on one man in particular. He’s not engaged in his semicircle discussion. I know this, because he’s looking at me. Or at least he’s looking in my direction. He’s dressed like every other man in this room—dark suit and tie—but his face, dear lord, is stunning. High cheekbones that belong to a model, strong jaw, plush lips, perfect nose, eyes framed with thick lashes. His dark hair is cut short and styled in a way that reminds me of a 1950s mobster. Clean cut, refined, exactly the opposite of my usual type.

I keep my hands cupped around my empty glass rather than giving in to the urge to fidget.

After what feels like far too many seconds of prolonged eye contact, the same heat that caused my cheeks to flush moves through my body, making my scalp, among other places, tingle. I look over my shoulder, just to make sure it’s really me he’s staring at so intently. Behind me is a group of women in their fifties, so unless he’s into MILFs, I’m the focus of his attention.

A smile pulls the corners of his mouth up, flashing white teeth and popping a dimple. He absently addresses his group and then he’s moving in my direction. I don’t think I know him. I’d remember a face that gorgeous. As he closes in on me I note how arresting his eyes are. A shocking shade of blue, made more vibrant against the dark hair. His patterned tie matches his eyes. I’m sure it’s purposeful.

He stops when he’s just inside my personal space, the tiniest bit too close to be perfectly comfortable for strangers. His smile grows, his dimples deepening, eyes searching my face with an expression I can’t quite read.

“Hi.” His voice is a gentle caress that begins at the column of my throat and travels down my body, all the way to the sensitive place at the back of my knee.

“Hi.” I break the eye contact for a moment, unnerved by his intensity. I take in the rest of him in the seconds of visual disconnection. He’s a big man, broad with heavy shoulders and thick arms. I imagine there’s definition under that suit based on the tapered waist. His dress shoes are two-tone black and white brogues, as if he’s flipping off the pretension of this party with his choice of footwear.

He chuckles softly, bringing my attention back to his face. He shakes his head, tilting it to the side as his grin becomes sheepish. “I’m sorry. It’s just . . . you’re just . . . wow. I’m Lexington.” He extends a manicured hand.

“I’m Amalie.” The awkwardness seems to cut through the intensity. At least until I slip my fingers into his palm. The jolt of energy that floods my body forces me to suppress a shudder.

He envelopes my hand in both of his. “Amalie. That’s a beautiful name for a beautiful woman. I’d say the most captivating woman in the room, really. I wasn’t sure if someone had snuck something into my drink and I was hallucinating. I’m very pleased that isn’t the case.”

Is this guy for real? “I’m sorry, what?”

He bites his lip and drops his gaze, almost shyly, then glances around the ballroom before turning that smile back on me. I can’t decide if this whole shy thing is part of an act.

He makes a sweeping gesture, his gaze following his hand. “You’re a knockout. Where’s your date?” Subtle. He’s a master of flirting, that’s for sure.

“Um, I don’t have a date.”

“Fantastic. Hard to believe, but great news for me.” He lifts my hand and bends his head. The cuff of his shirt pulls up, exposing a sliver of colorful ink at his wrist. Maybe he’s not quite as clean cut as I first assumed. I wonder how far that ink goes. Alarm bells go off in my head as his soft, warm lips brush the back of my hand.

The electric snap of lust has me snatching my hand away. My mouth is suddenly desert dry. What the hell? I laugh, but it’s a needy sound. I don’t know what else to do, so I take a sip from my empty glass, the three ice cubes tinkling in the bottom.

“Let me get you a drink,” he offers.

“Uh . . .”

“I’m not asking you to marry me, yet.” He winks. “Just have a drink with me. We can talk. It’ll give me a valid reason to keep checking you out. It’ll be fun for both of us.”

Oh my God, this guy is full of lines. I laugh again and duck my head.

“Unless you’d rather cut out of the party early and catch the next flight to Vegas. Get to know each other on the way to our wedding instead? I’m pretty sure we could be back for work on Monday.”

I’m sure my smile matches his. He’s having way too much fun with this. “I’ll take the drink.”

“You sure? I can hook us up with a private jet. We could engage in all the wedding night festivities on the way, you know, just to make sure we’re compatible and we’re not making a mistake.”

“You’ve got this all mapped out, don’t you?”

“Not at all. Flying by the seat of my pants, really. I was just giving you options since you seemed on the fence about the drink.”

“I think a drink is a good place to start.”

“Cautious. I like that. What’s your poison?”

Men like you. “A vodka-soda would be lovely.”

“I’ll be right back. Don’t disappear on me.” He winks again and then moves through the crowd toward the bar.

I exhale a deep breath. I really shouldn’t be encouraging him. I’ve promised myself I’m going to take a break from dating after the last fiasco. One of my most recent mistakes in the man department told me he was in the import-export business. It wasn’t until we were on our way back from a weekend trip to Mexico that I discovered he wasn’t talking about legal imports.

Twelve hours detained in an interrogation room in a Mexican airport, followed by a long trip home with my irate father had me promising not to make any more of these bad decisions. But it’s been two months of celibacy and movie nights with my best friend, Ruby. A drink and a little flirting can’t hurt.

“Amalie Whitfield?”

I glance up to find a handsome, vaguely familiar man standing in front of me. He has sandy blond hair, warm blue eyes, and a straight, regal nose. “Hi. Hello.”

He leans in, a soft smile on his lips. “I’m here to save you.”

“I’m sorry?” Maybe there’s a full moon tonight.

“From my cousin, Lexington. I saw him talking to you a moment ago and I felt I should warn you. He’s got quite the reputation in this circle with women. I wouldn’t want you to get caught up with someone like him.”

“Oh, uh . . . thanks?” Of course I attract the bad ones.

“I’m just doing my due diligence, saving a beautiful woman from making a terrible mistake.”

I laugh, disconcerted. The last thing I need is to disappoint my parents again, or almost end up in prison.

“I’m Armstrong.” He extends a hand and I take it. He lifts it to his lips and presses a kiss to my knuckle. “Are you enjoying my party?”

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