With: Rachel Van Dyken
Series: Liars, Inc., Book #1
Blaire has never quite gotten over Jessie Beckett, the ex–NFL star whose kisses were hot enough to ignite the entire Eastern Seaboard. When he chose work over her, Blaire was left brokenhearted. Why else would she have married a skeezy two-timer, just to divorce him less than a year later?
Now Blaire is getting even by becoming one half of Dirty Exes, a PI firm fully committed to humiliating cheating jerks. If only the new jerk she’s been hired to uncover wasn’t Jessie Beckett himself.
Exposing Jessie isn’t going to be easy, especially when she still daydreams about his sexy smile. Further complicating matters is Colin, Jessie’s best friend. He’s gorgeous, a little bit cunning, and willing to help Blaire get the inside scoop on Jessie—for a price.
Now caught between two men—one totally right and the other totally wrong—Blaire will need to decide just how much she’s willing to risk…and whom she’s willing to risk it for.
This was not how I pictured my life going.
Not even a little bit.
A rat scurried by.
I held my breath and closed my eyes.
The smell of sewer burned my nostrils and made me cringe when I thought about how much money I’d spent on my LuLuLemon yoga pants. Yeah, these stains weren’t coming out any time soon.
I was the adult version of Dora the Explorer crawling through the sewers of downtown LA like I was searching for fabled alligators.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a princess, so like I said, not how I pictured my life.
I tried to stop myself from gagging as something that looked like dirty toilet paper floated past. I grunted and kept stumbling through the dark tunnel.
I hadn’t been close to my parents.
Their deaths left this giant gaping hole in my heart where I knew something was supposed to fit, but nothing ever did. My brother poured himself into sports—and I poured myself into this idyllic little fantasy that I would be the mom I never had.
It seemed like a good idea. Marry well. Be the mom I’d been denied. The mom I’d always wanted. One who’d make casseroles on Mondays, pot roast on Sundays, have a white picket fence—that was the dream. Or maybe the dream was just to be loved.
The sound of cars above me had me panicking, one earthquake and I’d go splat beneath a semi hauling fish.
Because that was the type of luck I had.
I checked the text message again and used the flashlight on my phone to peer up at the ladder leading to the street.
Isla: Downtown. Eleven p.m. Shaggy’s Steakhouse. Alleyway
“Bingo,” I whispered and quickly plugged in my fiber-optic camera. God bless iPhones and all the little gadgets that come with them. As quietly as possible, I climbed the ladder and shoved the camera up through the gritty metal hole.
“Come to mama,” I whispered as my adrenaline spiked.
Isla said she’d lure him out of the restaurant with the promise of a quickie, and the cheating idiot—the one who really needed to learn how to shop in his own garage, if you get my meaning—was clearly all over it. What was it with men who thought that money made up for their overactive sweat glands and jowls the size of my ass?
“God, you’re a beautiful woman,” lying, cheating bastard crooned in a gravelly voice that reminded me of those antismoking commercials. My face twisted with disgust while I recorded. The angle was perfect, and the street lights may as well have been spotlights on his eager face.
“Awww.” My best friend and business partner shrugged a shoulder and forced a laugh. She tugged down the front of her dress, and the cheater took one look at her breasts and made a choking noise. Apparently he had an overactive salivary gland too. “You’re such a nice guy. How are you not married?”
“Just haven’t found the right woman, I suppose.” He toyed with the black material near her shoulder, flicking it with his swollen and heavily ringed pointer finger. I kept myself from throwing up.
“Is that so?” She leaned in. “How is that even possible?”
“No idea.” He leaned in.
Oh, honey, I appreciate the dedication but he probably tastes like an ashtray. Don’t do it, don’t do it. I briefly contemplated closing my eyes so I wouldn’t have to witness any forthcoming kiss. Only a best friend would notice the slight grimace Isla made before backing up and sliding a manila envelope out of her bag and shoving it into his chest.
“What’s this?” He chuckled at the envelope while she made a gagging noise and wiped her mouth. The guy hadn’t even kissed her, yet her body was in distress, poor thing.
“You got it?” She looked down at the sewer cover.
I moved the fiber-optic cable up and down in an affirmative motion.
She smirked at him. “You’ve just been served. You’re also on camera, so say hi to your wife and the rest of the Dirty Exes, our live Facebook group. And while you’re at it, you may as well say goodbye to half of everything you own according to the prenup you signed three years ago. But you know what? Half doesn’t seem nearly enough to put up with you.”
His phone buzzed.
“Better answer that, I’m pretty sure that’s your soon-to-be-ex-wife just making sure you’re aware that she saw the live video.” She smiled triumphantly. “Oh, and nice doing business with you.”
With great effort, I removed the sewer lid then heaved myself up the rest of the way. The cover felt like it weighed twenty-five pounds, and I nearly smashed my fingers in the name of catching another cheater. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
“You smell.” Isla scrunched up her nose when she waltzed over to me. “But you’re dedicated, I like it.”
“It was the only way to get close enough,” I grumbled and made an effort to dust off my damp clothes even though I knew it was in vain. When she’d texted she’d be meeting the target, I’d been headed back to my apartment, so I was ill prepared for sewer sightseeing even though I knew it was a possibility, considering the location. Can one ever be completely prepared to do something like that? The answer is no. Just. No.
“You bitches!” The Cheater ran toward both of us—lips curled in disgust, his eyes beady, angry little lasers, hand raised—like he was seconds away from attacking us with his cell phone.
Instinctively, I reared back and let my fist fly. Knuckles connected with flesh, and he whimpered and went down like the loser he was.
“Blaire!” Isla groaned. “You can’t just punch our clients’ husbands.”
“I slipped,” I lied. “Besides, it was self-defense! He’s twice my size and he made a threat!”
Isla just shook her head at me.
“He charged us! With his phone! That’s not normal behavior, plus it looked like he intended to use it as a weapon.”
I may have anger issues.
“Who are you people?” Cheater was on the ground, covering his face with his hands. Oh hell, was he crying?
I stepped over his sad, pathetic body and grinned. “The Exes.”
Isla looped her arm through mine and then dropped our black-and-white calling card on the ground. It was our final punch to the gut. Not only did it serve to warn our targets that we were watching … always watching, future clients who randomly found our cards called us based on curiosity alone. We grew our social media presence by being selective and only taking high-profile clients. Business was booming.
“Have a good night.” I waved and shoved my phone back in my pocket.
Isla sucked in a breath. “So, pizza?”
“Fries,” I countered.
“Pizza.” She narrowed her eyes like she was thinking.
“Wine,” we said in unison.
“Oh, looky here.” She pulled a bottle out of her giant Mary Poppins purse and waved it in front of my face like it was totally legal to drink while walking down the street.
“You have glasses in there too?” I laughed, poking my head in her giant bag.
She was already pulling them out.
Always prepared, Isla was.
“And a screw top.” I pointed. “Best date of my life.”
“Isn’t it though?”
A couple passed us by. As I watched them kiss, I ignored the pang in my heart.
Just like I ignored the longing that came with it.
“You’re happy, right?” Isla asked. She was my other half. If the other half oozed sexuality and confidence. Most days I was lucky I even put on mascara and remembered to wash my hair. I was so focused on retribution, on not focusing on the past, that I was barely staying sane. I wanted to be that woman, the one who told the world where to stick it—I just didn’t know how to do it without acknowledging all the parts of myself that were still broken, still hurting. Because that meant I had to actually admit it happened, it was real, and I was alone.
An impasse, that’s where I was at.
“Of course!” I said loudly, realizing she was waiting for my response, and like an idiot I was peering into my wine cup like it was a Magic 8 Ball that would give me all life’s secrets if I just stared hard enough. Her eyebrow arched, and I could tell she wasn’t convinced. I took a deep breath, forced a soft smile, and said it again. “I’m really, really happy.”
I just had to repeat it.
And then add in two reallys.
She gave me a confident nod and wrapped her arm around me. “Good.”
And that was it.
Except it wasn’t.
Because a part of me was still thinking about that couple, about the look in her eyes when he kissed her, and about the way it felt to be kissed.
A really good kiss.
One that stunned you into silence. One that stole your breath and made you swear that if you died in that minute, it would be okay. A kiss that made you believe that maybe, just maybe, the world wasn’t all bad.
That maybe love existed.
It was that kind of kiss.
And I realized in that moment, with a jarring sense of insecurity, that I’d only ever been kissed like that once in my entire life.
And it wasn’t my ex-husband who had done it.
About the Author
Rachel Van Dyken is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and #1 New York Times bestselling author known for regency romances, contemporary romances, and her love of coffee and Swedish fish. Rachel’s also recently inked a deal for her Wingmen Inc. series—The Matchmaker’s Playbook and The Matchmaker’s Replacement—to be made into movies.
A fan of The Bachelor and the Seattle Seahawks (not necessarily in that order), Rachel lives in Idaho with her husband, a super cute toddler son who keeps her on her toes, and two boxers. Make sure you check out her site, www.RachelVanDykenauthor.com, and follow her on Twitter (@RachVD).
Social Media Links
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