With: Natasha Moore
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I love friends-to-lovers stories, don’t you? So many questions. What happens if they cross that line? Will it be worth the risk? Will they lose that friendship they’ve treasured for years? Add in a pretend relationship and how do they react when they discover their friends and relatives think they’ve been enjoying benefits all along? Stir in a small town rumor mill and you have the recipe for The Standby Guy, the second book in The Men of Lakeside series.
Single mom and photographer Katie Dixon is more than ready to embrace her “me time” after her only son has gone to college. She’s even ready for a fling or two, she just needs to find her confidence again. Best friend Carter Colburn is the perfect guy to help her—until he takes their temporary arrangement a little too seriously and Katie is terrified by the prospect of losing herself all over again.
“I need my mojo back. Did I ever have any to begin with? I was still in school when I started dating Tim. I didn’t even know what the word meant back then.” She huffed. “I want to be sexy and confident. I want to be able to flirt and not feel stupid. You do it all the time. You must or you wouldn’t be the guy women love to run to.”
Did he encourage her or try to discourage her? But immediately, he was ashamed of those thoughts. Just because he hated the idea of her going up to a stranger in a bar and flirting with him didn’t mean she didn’t have every right.
“Don’t ever feel like you need to pretend. All you have to do is be yourself.”
Katie rolled her eyes. “Everyone says that. If I don’t try to be more than I am right now, I might as well stay home for the rest of my life. I’ll always feel like something was missing.”
“What I meant is you’re a smart, funny, thoughtful woman. Say what’s on your mind. If you have to lie to talk to a guy, then he’s not the guy you want. You have to be able to be truthful. And he has to be someone you can trust with your heart. With your life.”
Somehow she’d taken a step closer to him, and their bodies were almost touching each other. Her soft scent mingled with the flowers to turn into an aroma that made his head spin.
“But I’m not looking for anyone to be serious with. I’m not going to trust anyone with my heart.”
That was because Tim still had it. “Well, then what are you looking for? A casual hookup? A one-night stand? That doesn’t sound like the Katie I know.”
“I’m not a child. I’m a forty-year-old woman, and I know what I want. I’m just out of practice.” Instead of her cheeks pinking with embarrassment, her eyes flashed. “I suppose you’ve never flirted with women at a bar. Never had a one-night stand. Ha. Why should it be any different for me? I don’t hold with any double standards, and I didn’t think my friend Carter did either.”
“This was a bad idea. A terrible idea. You’re too close to me. You can’t be objective. I’ll ask Anita to help me. She’s had flings all over the world. She’d be a much better person to help me. Forget I said anything. Then you won’t have to worry about me.”
Like he wouldn’t worry about her even more if he didn’t have any idea what she was thinking. What she was doing. Where she was going. What Noah’s wife-to-be might be teaching her. Who Katie was planning to hook up with.
Katie? His Kat? Hooking up?
“If you need someone to practice with, it’s going to be me,” he snapped. Her gasp sounded breathless, like it might during sex. His body started to react, hardening as it hadn’t in a while now. His gaze dropped to her mouth, and she ran her tongue over her lips. “Anita might be reluctant to do this…”
He leaned in, and Katie met him halfway. At first, he lightly brushed his mouth over hers, tentatively tasting her, testing her. So sweet. She didn’t pull away but leaned forward, rose on her toes, and wrapped her arms around his neck.
If she wanted to practice, they’d practice.
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