From New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby comes a sexy, new standalone contemporary romance in her Fusion Series, THE BEAUTY OF US, releasing August 22, 2017! Check out the chapter below and get to know Trevor and Riley!
About THE BEAUTY OF US:
New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby delivers another sizzling novel in her delectable and sexy Fusion series.
Riley Gibson is over the moon at the prospect of having her restaurant, Seduction, on the Best Bites TV network. This could be the big break sheâs been waiting for. But the idea of having an in-house show on a regular basis is a whole other matter. Their lives would be turned upside down, and convincing Mia, her best friend and head chef of Seduction, that having cameras in her kitchen every day is a good idea is daunting. Still, Riley knows itâs an opportunity she canât afford to pass on. And when she meets Trevor Cooper, the showâs executive producer, sheâs stunned by their intense chemistry.
Trevorâs sole intention is to persuade Riley to allow Best Bites TV to do a show on her restaurant. But when he walks into Rileyâs office, he stops dead in his tracks. The professional, aloof woman on the phone is incredibly beautiful and funny. But can he convince her that heâs interested in Riley for himself? Or is he using the undeniable pull between them to persuade her to agree to his offer?
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I didnât sleep worth shit last night. I waited for a response to my e-mail from Riley for a while; Iâm not exactly sure why. I just donât like the thought of her being embarrassed.
Because she has no reason to be. She didnât know who I was, and it was closing time. She was venting to her friends.
Itâs really no big deal.
But I could see the mortification in her big blue eyes when she realized who I was, and that doesnât sit well with me.
When no response came, and for all I know she hasnât even read the e-mail yet, I sat down for a game on the PS4. I donât travel anywhere without it. Some people read to unwind. Some go to the gym, and there are times I do the same. But to truly relax, I enjoy gaming. I have since I was a kid.
So I settled in the apartment the network has rented for me this month and played online with my friends, talking about our days and shooting the enemy.
We played well past midnight, and I usually would have gone right to bed afterward, but my mind was still turning, making falling asleep impossible. The restaurant is better than I imagined through my research on their website and customer reviews. Itâs visually stunning, the food is fantastic, and theyâve hit the mark on the sexy factor.
But added to that, the five women who own the place are all beautiful, smart, and will make for great TV. Viewers will eat this show up, pun intended.
I lean over the sink and wash my face, not bothering to shave today, and as I dry off, I reach for my phone.
I have several new e-mails.
The most recent is from Riley Gibson.
Thank you for your kind email. I apologize again for the conversation last night. I would like to promise that we donât always talk like that at work, but that would be a lie. At least we keep it to closing time over a glass of wine.
I grin and sling the towel over my bare shoulders. Riley isnât what I had pictured in my head before I got here. I knew that she was pretty because their photos are on their website, but sheâs much prettier in person.
Working with her will be fun.
And a test to my libido. Because Riley is fucking sexy. Iâve never mixed business and sex before, and I donât plan to start now, but keeping my hands off her will be a test of wills.
And that too should be fun.
After my run this morning, I stopped by a bagel place to eat and read a newspaper, came back to the apartment for a shower, and I think Iâll go to Seduction for lunch. I hadnât planned to go back there until my meeting with Riley tomorrow, but I also havenât had lunch there yet.
I dress quickly in jeans and a red T-shirt and walk the six or so blocks to the restaurant.
Theyâve just opened, so theyâre not busy yet. The atmosphere is calm, the lighting a bit brighter than last night, making it a fun spot to meet with colleagues or friends for lunch.
Iâm seated on the far side of the restaurant, where it meets the bar, and I can see Riley and the other women sitting around a high table, talking.
Loud enough for me to hear.
âSo, heâll be here tomorrow. Filming doesnât start for another week, unless the timetable has been moved up,â Riley says, studying her iPad and checking things off a list. âIt would be great if we could watch our language.â
âRight,â Mia says, rolling her eyes. âBecause thatâs gonna happen.â
âJust watch the F-bombs then,â Riley says with a grin. âAnd Iâll do my best not to vent to him about my horrible dating experiences. Not that Iâll be having any more of those.â
âI wish Iâd been here for that,â Addie says with a smile. âItâs hilarious.â
âNo, itâs not,â Riley says, but smiles and covers her lips with her fingers. âOkay, itâs a little funny. Iâll be working from home today.â
âWhy?â The blonde speaking, I presume Cami, asks.
âBecause I have a roofer coming today,â Riley says. âBut if you need me, just call. I can come back after he leaves.â
âGo.â Mia waves her off. âWeâve got this.â
The girls all stand, about to go their own ways to get their day started. Theyâre clearly good friends, which will come across well on film.
Riley walks out of the bar and glances up, spotting me.
âHi.â I offer her a smile and motion for her to join me. She sits, sets her iPad aside, and squares her shoulders.
I love a woman with grit.
âWhy are you here?â she asks.
âIâm having lunch,â I reply, and gesture to the salad sitting in front of me. âItâs delicious. Adding the brussels sprouts is smart.â
âIâll pass that along to Mia,â she says, and then laughs. âI guess you heard the part where I asked the girls to not swear.â
âI did,â I reply, and patiently butter a piece of warm bread. âDonât worry about that stuff. Theyâre adults.â
âWith potty mouths,â she says.
âAnd we can bleep stuff out, or ask them to rephrase. Youâve already got the gig, Riley. I wouldnât be here otherwise. This isnât an audition.â
âI know.â She sighs and reaches over to take a piece of my bread, surprising and delighting me. âI just want things to go smoothly.â
âPerhaps you should order lunch too.â
âI donât have time,â she says, and then her blue eyes widen as she realizes what she just did. âIâm so sorry. I eat when Iâm stressed out, and I didnâtââ
âNo.â I hold my hand up to stop her. âItâs fine. I like that youâre relaxed with me. I think you need to relax more often.â
âWhat are you, my life coach now?â
âIf you like. Did you cancel those dating sites like I suggested?â
She bites her lip and looks to the side, then nods. âI did.â
âGood.â I take a bite of salad and nod. âAre you sure you donât want some food?â
âI rarely have time to eat,â Riley says, and checks the time on her phone. âIn fact, I should go. I have to meet the roofer at my house.â
âWhatâs wrong with your roof?â
âItâs old,â she says with a shrug. âThatâs what happens when you buy an old house. Iâm fixing it up a little at a time.â
I nod, and find that I donât want her to go quite yet. I want to talk more, to learn more about her.
âWhy donât you come to my apartment tonight and Iâll cook you dinner?â
She pauses and stares at me for a moment. âWhy?â
I laugh and set my fork down. âBecause I asked you to. Weâre going to be working closely over the next few weeks, we might as well get to know each other a little better. Also, we can discuss my new duties as your life coach.â
âWell.â Her lips twitch as she thinks it over for a moment, a myriad of emotions moving across her beautiful face, and finally she says, âOkay. Do you mind texting me the address and the time?â
âNot at all,â I reply, and immediately pass her my phone. âPlug in your number and Iâll text you this afternoon.â
She complies, passes it back, and smiles. âOkay, see you later.â
And with that, sheâs off. Her ass swaying enticingly in her tight skirt, calves flexing from the height of her heels, and the food Iâm currently chewing immediately tastes like cardboard.
And I just voluntarily offered to spend time with her. Alone.
Iâm a fucking glutton for punishment.
âIâm starving,â Riley immediately says as I open the door. Sheâs in jeans and a well-loved University of Oregon sweatshirt, her hair is pulled up in a ponytail, and she looks like she could be a co-ed herself. âI forgot to eat today.â
âDoes that happen every day?â I ask as I gesture for her to come inside and close the door behind her.
âMost days,â she admits. âIs this one of those bad choices that youâre gonna coach me through?â
âYes,â I reply, and lead her into the kitchen. âYou have to eat.â
âI know, I just get focused on other things, and the next thing I know, the day is gone and Iâm starving.â She passes me two bottles of wine. âI didnât know what we were having, so I brought red and white.â
âThanks.â I grin and set them both on the counter. âI made salmon and asparagus with baby red potatoes. What goes best with that?â
Her eyes light up. âThe white. Holy shit, are you a chef yourself?â
âI went to culinary school,â I reply, and squeeze some lemon on the salmon before plating it. âBut I discovered I was better at a desk job.â
âThatâs unusual,â she says, her head tilted to the side as she listens. âMost people fight to get out of a desk job.â
âNot me. I have a ton of respect for Mia, because being a chef isnât easy, and pleasing people sucks.â
âTrue.â Riley nods. âShe doesnât get many plates sent back to her, but there are a few. Can I pour you a glass?â
âNo thanks,â I reply, and reach in the fridge for a bottle of water. âI donât drink alcohol.â
âOh.â She frowns. âIâm sorry. I can drink water too.â
âItâs fine,â I reply, and pat her shoulder. âI donât mind if you drink. I just donât.â
âBut last night, you were drinking Jack and Coke.â
âNope, just Coke.â
She sits at the table, still frowning. âIâm sorry.â
âThereâs nothing to be sorry for.â I set our plates down. âIâve been sober for ten years. Iâm not the kind of alcoholic who canât be around others having a drink. It was never that bad for me. Iâm just a better person if I donât drink.â
âGood for you for knowing that,â she says, holding her glass out to clink against my water. âThis looks delicious.â
âYou sound surprised.â
âI expected pizza or Chinese takeout,â she says. âHonestly, thatâs probably what you would have gotten from me. Iâm also surprised that youâre not staying in a hotel.â
âIâm here long enough that the network sprung for the apartment. They usually do when Iâm somewhere longer than a week or so.â
âYou must travel a lot for this job,â she says, eating her food like a starving child. I donât know if she even tastes it, sheâs eating so fast.
âI travel often,â I reply, and grin when she takes the last bite. âAre you going to lick the plate?â
âMaybe,â she says with a grin. âIâm not even embarrassed that I ate that so fast. It was delicious.â
âIâm glad you liked it. Thereâs more.â
âNo, Iâm good,â she says, and reaches in her bag, pulling out a pad of paper and a pen. âYou can eat while I interview you.â
âFor the position of life coach,â she says with a sassy grin. I want to kiss that grin right off her face, but instead I take a bite of potato and gesture for her to begin.
âOkay, first question: What qualifications do you have that make you a good fit for this position?â
âWell, I have a few years on you, so I would say wisdom with age.â
She tilts her head to the side, the way she does when sheâs turning something over in her head. âYou canât be that much older than me.â
âSeven years,â she says, rolling her eyes.
âA lot can happen in seven years,â I reply, and sip my water.
âOkay, Iâll give you that.â She checks something off on her paper.
âDid you really write down questions?â
âOf course. Iâm the queen of lists and the roofer was at my house forever.â She bites her lip as she looks at her list. âHow many women have you life-coached in the past?â
âWell, I didnât have an official job title, but I have two younger sisters, and an ex-wife, so I would say three.â
âBut the wife is an ex, so maybe that did go well?â Riley asks. âAnd are your sisters productive members of society?â
âAs opposed to being in jail?â I ask, laughing. âYouâre hilarious, Riley.â
âYou didnât answer the question.â
âMy sisters are great. The older one is married, a stay-at-home mom with two kids, and the younger one is a waitress.â
âBut the ex-wife thing didnât work out.â
âSheâs not a mess, we just both decided that she shouldnât be my wife anymore.â
I sit back in my chair and wipe my mouth on my napkin. âBecause she thought it was a good idea to have sex with other men.â
Her eyebrows climb on her forehead and she blinks twice. âThatâs a good reason.â
âI thought so.â
âOkay, next question.â She checks something on her paper and looks up at me with a smile. âHow do you intend to be compensated for your work?â
âIâm working pro bono,â I reply with a wink.
âBecause Iâm going to be here anyway, and why not.â I shrug and finish the food on my plate. âWhat else do you want to know?â
âIs my coming to a virtual strangerâs apartment by myself one of the bad decisions you should have coached me on?â
I smile and set my plate aside so I can lean on the table. âDid the girls tell you that coming here by yourself was a bad idea?â
âI only talked to Cami and she thought I should come. Plus, I have a concealed carry, so I feel pretty confident that Iâm safe.â
I raise a brow and cross my arms over my chest. âYou carry a gun with you?â
âHell to the yes,â she replies, and offers me a sweet smile. âIâve been meeting strange men on the Internet. You bet your ass Iâve been armed.â
âGood idea,â I reply with a nod. âThere are a lot of crazies out there.â
âYes. But I think that if youâre gonna meet a crazy, it could be anywhere. Online, in a bar, at the gas station. Theyâre everywhere.â
âThatâs true too,â I reply, and nod. âWell, Iâm glad youâre being cautious.â
âIâm nobodyâs victim,â she says, as casually as if sheâs telling me her shoe size.
Thatâs fucking sexy.
âDo you have any other questions?â
âNot really,â she says, and shrugs. âI didnât really write anything down. But it was fun to interrogate you a bit.â
âNow I have questions,â I reply, and smile when she cocks her head and purses her lips. âDo you really think you need a life coach?â
âNo, I have my shit together,â she says with a grin.
âWhy were you really on all of those sites?â
She shrugs. âBecause itâs not easy meeting people. And sometimes a girl wants to go out on a date.â
âYou donât need me,â I reply, and smile. âBut Iâll be around for a while, just in case.â
âJust in case I slip and fall back into the online dating?â
âThat, or if you just want to have dinner, or chat. And I think we should watch a marathon of Star Wars. Your lack of knowledge is cause for concern.â
âItâs kind of a guy thing,â she says.
âI know many women who like Star Wars.â
âWell, I would watch one or two.â
âYou need to see them all to understand whatâs happening.â
âThatâs a lot of hours of my life that Iâll never get back,â she says with a frown. âArenât there CliffsNotes somewhere? A speedy way to get caught up?â
âNo,â I reply, and fist my hands in my lap so I donât reach out and tuck her hair behind her ear.
Or yank her against me so I can kiss the fuck out of her.
âAre you okay?â she asks.
âAre you always this observant?â
âIâm an overthinker,â she says. âSo yeah, Iâm an observer.â
âIâve been labeled an overthinker too,â I say with a grin.
âWould you say itâs an accurate assessment?â
âOh yeah,â I say with a nod, and stand to clear our plates away. She stands to help. âIâve got this.â
âNo way, you cooked, so Iâll help clean.â
She walks ahead of me, her empty glass in one hand and her plate in the other. âDo you use the dishwasher, or do you wash by hand?â
âThere are people who still wash by hand?â
âIâve heard of them, but Iâve never seen them in the wild,â she says, and smiles up at me when I join her. âSo I guess that means we use the dishwasher?â
âYes.â She rinses and I load, and a few short minutes later, weâre done.
âWell, I suppose I should go,â she says, and checks the time on her phone. âOh, Cami texted. I guess I should reply so she doesnât think you killed me after the entrÃ©e.â
She smirks and types on her phone, then turns it off and looks up at me.
âThanks for dinner.â
âIâll see you tomorrow morning.â
Unfortunately, it wonât be in my bed.
âOkay.â She gathers her bag, notepad and pen, and walks to the door. âSleep well tonight.â
I grin and congratulate myself for not dragging my fingertips down her cheek.
âYou sleep well tonight, Riley.â
She leaves and I close the door, letting out a slow breath. Jesus, sheâs sexy and funny and smart as fuck.
And Iâm not going to touch her while Iâm here.
How the fuck am I going to do that?
About Kristen Proby:
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Kristen Proby is the author of the bestselling With Me In Seattle and Love Under the Big Sky series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong, humorous characters with a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type; fiercely protective and a bit bossy, and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves.
Kristen lives in Montana, where she enjoys coffee, chocolate and sunshine. And naps.
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