Two fake dates, one growing connection…
Inventing a fake boyfriend isn’t the smartest thing Bailey’s ever done. But what choice did she have after her relentless family kept hounding her with questions about her single status? When her good buddy at the resort where she works proposes they help each other out—Bailey comes with him to his high school reunion if he goes with her to her cousin’s wedding—Bailey’s dilemma is solved. The problem is she’s finding herself growing more attracted to her co-worker by the date. It doesn’t help that they keep having to share a hotel bed. After spending the past few years pining away for a guy she works with, she’s not going there again. But boy, is it tempting…
Cohen always thought Bailey was a fun, cute girl—the life of the party. His jaw drops when she walks out of the hotel room looking like a siren. It makes zero sense to date a co-worker. Besides that, he’s finally got the chance to start his own landscape design company with a colleague from school. But the opportunity is in Nashville, and Bailey’s here in Florida. He’s still too burned from his last relationship to let anyone in. But Bailey’s knocking hard at his heart. He’s just got to keep her from slipping in.
Welcome to Destiny Dunes, where the only thing hotter than the Florida sun is the romance between this resort’s employees. Each book in this steamy series focuses on your favorite romance tropes. Once you enter the gates of Destiny Dunes, you’ll never want to leave!
“You’ve got mail,” my roommate, Simone, says as she tosses a thick envelope into my lap.
My chest caves in on itself as I pick up the shiny silver envelope. “Not another one.”
“You’ve been to more weddings in the past few years than the average person will go to in a lifetime.”
“I don’t know if I can do this one,” I say, but it’s a lie. I have to do it. I know it in my heart, though I desperately don’t want to say it out loud.
“Just skip it,” she says.
“You don’t understand. If I skip it, there’ll be hell to pay with my family. This is my first cousin.”
Simone drops her chin. “You have twenty-seven first cousins.”
I sigh. “At Belinda’s wedding, I told everyone I was seeing someone and that he was caught up with work. I can’t use the same lie twice. They’ll know.”
“Then find a date. Take one of the guys.”
“Which guy? Because by my count, I’m out of guys to ask. Even if I had a guy to ask, he would just be a friend. These people think I’m dating somebody.”
She winces. “You could ask Logan.”
I sink deeper into the chair. “A little bit of me dies each time you say his name out loud.” She gives me that look that reminds me of exactly what an idiot I’ve been. “One stupid night that I will be paying for until eternity,” I say. The images of us stumbling to his bed in my misdirected attempt for comfort have etched themselves into my brain.
“Or just until one of you leaves the resort,” Simone says, patting me on the shoulder as she walks around the back of the chair and then collapses onto the couch.
“I seriously don’t know how much more humiliation I can handle.”
“It’s not that bad.”
“Let’s take stock. The man I’ve been in love with for years is happily engaged to the love of his life, who is not me. I slept with a close friend who happens to be the whore of the resort, and now, I must go stag to yet another wedding. Do you know how many bouquets I’ve collected this past year?”
Simone scrunches up her face. “I don’t think you’re gonna like me very much, but I’ve got something to tell you.”
“I’m not sure how it could be worse.” I wiggle my fingers at her. “Lay it on me.”
“I volunteered us to hold family dinner here tonight.”
I sit up. “What? Why?”
“Because we haven’t hosted in like two months. Everyone else has hosted twice since we did. It’s our turn.”
I know she’s right. If it were my actual family, I wouldn’t care. But family dinner here means dinner with all of our friends who live at this resort with us, most of them on our street—at least the ones who haven’t hooked up with one another and gone on to live happily ever after.
“When are they coming?” I ask.
“Six o’clock. I already placed the order with Mabel’s.”
I try to give her a smile. “Thank you,” I say. She knows it’s my favorite and she wanted to soften the blow with comfort food. “Did you get the fudge pie?”
“Two of them, baby doll.”
“I knew I liked you.”
She winks at me. “Now get your butt in the shower.”
I sniff my armpit. “Do I stink?”
“I don’t want to get close enough to find out.”
“Fair enough. At least tell me Tori and Jack aren’t coming.”
She winces. “Sorry. I think she’s making an effort to incorporate him into the group.”
I let my head fall back. “I just wish I hadn’t made such a spectacle of myself. I know when everyone looks at me, all they’re going to think is poor, pathetic Bailey. How is it that everyone knew I was into Jack, anyway?”
“Because you wear your heart on your sleeve, sweetie. Time to roll up that sleeve and put on your big-girl panties.”
“Yup,” I say, lumbering up off the chair to go make myself presentable.
As we finish setting up the food, a knock sounds at our door. Simone cuts her eyes at me. “Do you want to get it or do you want me to?”
“Let me take the blow—rip the bandage off in one fell swoop.”
I open the door hoping for Brett and Kylie, who are the only people I don’t feel completely humiliated around these days, but of course, it’s Logan. He holds his arms out. “The famous Bailey Elrod,” he says in a singsong, “bring it in, girl.” He pulls me to him in a bear hug, patting me on the back with the strength of a linebacker. He pulls away. “Where have you been?” he asks with a look of genuine confusion on his face, like he didn’t have his dick inside me a few weeks ago.
“Oh, just around,” I say, covering my neck, which is sizzling like bacon.
He pulls me to the side. “You’re not weird about this, are you?” he asks, motioning between the two of us.
I tug at my hair. “Of course not.” I can feel my legs going numb, but I’m saved by Cohen coming through the doorway. I practically maul him. “Cohen!” I say, like it’s been years since I’ve seen him.
“Hey, Bay,” he says, giving me a hug. While Cohen definitely makes me feel more comfortable than Logan, it’s not like I can completely relax around him either. I’ve been so caught up in Jack for the past few years that I haven’t had interest in anyone else. But Cohen is the one guy who sort of makes my knees gooey. He’s got this thick, dark hair that I’d love to run my hands through and these deep blue eyes that give him a dreamy quality. Besides that, it’s this laid-back calm he has about him that does it to me. But God knows, I’m not about to get into that mess again. No more crushes on people I work with or live right by. From now on, it’s men who don’t work here or nobody.
I squeeze his biceps, taking him in. “It’s good to see you.”
He looks at the dining room table. “Mabel’s. We’ve got to step it up next time, Logan.”
“I like pizza,” Logan says with that earnest look that has a laugh behind it. Logan’s never taken anything seriously in his life. I think it’s his look. He’s got this shaggy hair that defies sincerity, and he looks like he’s smiling even when he’s not. You never know where you stand with him, which puts him in that hard-to-get category, making him even more attractive. Well, hard-to-get emotionally. He’s pretty easy to get if all you want is one night with him.
“At some point one of us has got to learn to cook if we’re going to keep doing these get-togethers,” Cohen says.
“It’s damn sure going to be you then,” Logan says. “I need a beer.” He heads off into the kitchen, leaving me with Cohen.
Cohen nudges me in the arm. “Everything okay with you?”
Here we go with the pity. I plaster on a smile. “I’m doing great.”
He proffers the bottle of wine he has in his hand. “We brought this for you guys. I know Simone likes this kind.”
“Good observation,” I say.
“She told me you both were doing a wine club thing. That’s pretty cool.”
I shrug. “Sometimes I’m ready to graduate from beer and shots, you know? I like living here and all, but I’m ready to learn some life skills.”
Brett and Kylie approach the door, and we welcome them in followed by Tori and Jack right behind them, twisting the knife in my gut. We all give greetings with hugs, even Jack and me despite the fact that we see each other every day at work. When he pulls away from me, he squeezes my arm with a smile, his brows furrowed like he’s saying, I’m sorry for loving someone else. Just shoot me now.
After we eat and everyone’s gathered around the television for Sunday Night Football, I notice Cohen’s missing. I find him sitting alone on the stairs of the front porch. “What are you doing out here?”
He glances over his shoulder at our unit. “It’s just a little crowded in there.”
He gives me a sly grin. “You’re not happy to see Logan?”
I close my eyes, remembering Cohen in the living room when I did my walk of shame out of Logan’s room at two in the morning. “I’m sorry you had to see that.”
“Not the first girl I’ve seen leave his room in the middle of the night.”
I sit next to him. “It’s always nice to be a cliché. What were you doing up so late anyway? It was like two in the morning.”
“I don’t sleep very well.”
“There are over-the-counter remedies for that.”
He leans back on his hands, and I try not to notice the muscles working in his forearms. “I’ve tried that stuff. It doesn’t really help.”
“Do you know why you don’t sleep?” I ask.
“Just a lot on my mind lately, I guess.”
“Anything in particular?”
He narrows his gaze at the palm tree in our front yard. “Do you ever feel like you’ve been running a marathon, and then you inexplicably find yourself back at the starting line?”
“Definitely. That’s how I’ve felt these past several months.” I glance at the house and then back at Cohen, hoping he’ll know what I’m saying without me having to say it.
“Jack Massey, huh?” he asks.
“Were you two a thing? Did I miss that?”
“No, I was never with Jack, but it’s no secret that I thought something could happen there. I don’t know why I do this stuff.”
“Fall in love with unavailable guys. It’s my MO. It’s always been my MO, even in college. I fell in love with one of my professors.”
“Did you date him?”
“No, but I became his assistant and did all his bidding in hopes that one day he would see me. I read books I never wanted to read so I could discuss them with him. Once I graduated and nothing ever happened, I swore I’d never do it again. And then here I am at twenty-six coming off another couple of years of unrequited love.” The door opens and Jack and Tori come out. I wiggle in my seat, hoping to God he didn’t hear me. “Are you guys headed out?” I ask.
“Yeah. Hope you don’t mind,” Jack says. “Dinner was really good.”
“Mabel’s is the best,” I say way too enthusiastically. I clear my throat. “Did you guys get some pie?”
Tori holds up a plate with aluminum foil on it. “I did, but you know he didn’t,” she says with an eye roll.
Jack holds out his hand to Cohen. “It was good to see you, man. Text me and we’ll grab lunch sometime.”
“I’ll do it,” Cohen says, his ears going red.
Jack takes Tori’s hand as they walk down the sidewalk toward his car on the street, and Cohen looks at his feet.
“Am I detecting something here?” I ask.
He gives me a funny look. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says, but he’s a terrible liar.
“Is there something going on between you and Jack? Are you pissed at him or something?”
“No. Why would you think that?”
“Because your ears got all red when you shook his hand.”
He touches one of them. “No,” he says, glancing around.
“Hang on. It’s not Tori, is it?”
“No,” he says way too fast.
“It is Tori, isn’t it?”
He just licks his lips, shaking his head. “Stupid.”
“Are you into her?”
“No, not anymore. It just sucks to lose.”
“Were you and Tori a thing?” I say, feeling like I’ve been living under a rock.
“But you wanted it to be a thing.”
“Maybe. It’s not like it matters now.”
A group of our co-workers walk down the sidewalk toward their unit donning bikinis and beach bags, and we say hello, waiting for them to pass. When they do, I turn back to Cohen. “She was single for like a year. Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I thought I did.”
“At the retreat a couple of months ago. I told her I’d had a thing for her.”
“Wait, did you tell her you used to have a thing for her or that you currently had a thing for her?”
“I don’t know. I can’t remember how I worded it. It doesn’t matter though, because it didn’t change anything.”
“Cohen, the wording is everything. If you said, ‘I have a thing for you,’ that is one thing. But if you said, ‘I used to have a thing for you,’ that is a whole different conversation.”
“Wouldn’t it be obvious that I was into her if I said I used to have a thing for her?”
“It didn’t matter anyways, because she was always going to end up with Jack.”
I shuffle in my seat. “That’s the truth.”
“I guess we’re a couple of outcasts.”
“The unrequited lovers,” I say, holding up my wineglass. He picks his up from the other side of him and taps it to mine, but his is empty.
“Do you want some more wine?”
“No. I think I’ll just get started on my insomnia. Thanks for dinner though.”
I stand up. “Wanna go get a drink instead?”
“I guess we could. Should we ask the others?”
“Let’s not. Let’s just leave and go down to the Circle and cause everyone to wonder what happened to us, and it’ll become a big scandal. Maybe it’ll get back to Jack and Tori and they will absolutely not give a shit.”
This makes him smile. “All right. Let’s do it.”
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