|It’s time to welcome Suzie and Grayson’s love story into the world! Are you ready for a former soldier and a klutzy girl to fall in love? Warning! It’s not a smooth ride, but where’s the fun in a smooth ride? Smooth rides are for driving in Istanbul traffic, not love stories. Any hoo – who’s ready for Suzie’s story? Click on the cover now or scroll down and read the first chapter.|
Stop trying to make everyone happy. You’re not beer.
“You Cheat, We Eat, Suzie speaking. How can we make your life better today?” I answer the phone with a cheery voice despite feeling nowhere near cheery.
“Um… my husband’s cheating on me,” whispers the voice on the telephone.
Lucky for her. Cheating husbands is our specialty. “We are here to help, Mrs. …”
“Tyler,” she fills in.
“Mrs. Tyler, can you tell me why you think your husband is cheating?”
After some hiccups by clients who were – to put it mildly – bat shit crazy, my partner Hailey insists I get details before scheduling an appointment with a prospective client for our PI business. In my defense, how could I have possibly known there are cat owners in this world who want to approve their cats’ lovers? Or people who think a dentist can put a listening device in their crown?
“You see…” she trails off.
This is where my past comes in handy. I know exactly how she’s feeling, because – in my unfortunate experience – men are the scum of the earth.
“Take a deep breath, Mrs. Tyler.” I hear her inhale. “And let it out slowly. There you go,” I coax. “Now, tell me what Mr. Tyler did.”
She clears her throat. “It’s like this. I was snooping through his things before Christmas because I don’t like surprises.” She’s preaching to the choir. Surprises suck.
“And I found this gorgeous necklace. It was a chunky gold chain with a heart pendant. The pendant even had a ruby in it.”
“Sounds nice,” I murmur when she goes quiet.
“Yes, it was lovely. I was very excited. My husband never buys me jewelry. I couldn’t wait until Christmas day. Imagine my surprise when I got some stupid CDs instead. He must have given the necklace to some other women!” she screeches, and I hold the telephone away from my ear. Ouch. “I bet it was his secretary. She’s this pretty young twenty-something while I’m the frumpy mother of his children.”
I wait until she runs out of steam to ask, “Mrs. Tyler, you do realize you’ve told me the plot to Love, Actually?”
“And? It could have happened to me, too!”
Could have? Oh great, another nut job. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Tyler, but I don’t believe we can be of any assistance to you.” I hang up the phone before she has a chance to start screeching again. There’s a limit to how much screeching my ears can take, and the limit has been met and exceeded.
The door opens and Hailey walks in with her dogs, Leroy and Lola, trotting behind her.
“Please tell me you walked Leroy first.” He’s a puppy and has a tendency to pee everywhere, although he prefers to pee on the corner of Phoebe’s desk. There is a slight chance I squirted some potty-training spray on her desk.
I couldn’t help myself. Phoebe is this super uptight rich girl. Watching her shriek when Leroy pees is the highlight of my week. Of course, Phoebe is no longer uptight. Nope. Since she nabbed herself a man, aka Ryker the smoking hot bounty hunter, she’s changed.
Hailey rolls her eyes. “Of course, I walked him.”
Hailey and Phoebe are the private investigators at the PI firm You Cheat, We Eat that Hailey and I started together. As you can probably tell from the name, we specialize in catching cheating husbands in the act. Although, since Phoebe joined us, we’ve added a bunch of insurance fraud cases to our docket, too.
I am not a PI. No, I’m the person who holds the whole business together. I do the accounting, invoicing, filing, all the boring administrative stuff. I wouldn’t mind going out on a case or two, but Hailey says I’m not inconspicuous. She’s just jealous my awesomeness cannot be disguised.
The door opens again and Phoebe strolls in. Lola whines and jumps toward her, but Hailey holds fast to her leash.
“No, Lola. It’s not nice to hump our friends,” Hailey admonishes her dog.
“I don’t know. Some friends are nice to hump.”
Hailey’s ears perk up at my comment and she settles herself at one of the chairs in front of my desk. I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts rubbing her hands in glee. Ugh. Hailey is my best friend from forever. She knows better than to push me on my dating life.
Dating life? What dating life? I don’t date. I have fun and move on. I have my reasons. And she was there to witness my reasons come to life.
But since Hailey got engaged to her high school crush, Aiden, she sees love and romance every fricking where. It’s annoying as all get out. She’s also happy and cheerful constantly. Blech. I shouldn’t begrudge my friend her happiness, but sometimes I am the teeniest bit jealous. Because I will never have a man who loves me and wants to marry me. Not a chance. I’ve learned my lesson. Men and relationships are not for me.
Phoebe takes the chair next to Hailey. Great. Another in love woman who sees hearts and butterflies wherever she looks. Her big, bad bounty hunter proposed to her on Christmas morning. Although I was the one who pushed her to get together with Ryker, I still can’t believe she gave him a second chance, let alone said yes to his proposal.
“Speaking of humping friends, are there any particular friends you’re humping now, Suzie?” Hailey wiggles her eyebrows.
She’s referring to my friend Grayson who, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, she thinks I’m interested in. But I am not talking to her about my relationship with Grayson, which is one-hundred percent platonic if you must know. I look around for a distraction. I notice Leroy slinking off toward Phoebe’s office. Perfect!
“Leroy,” I shout and jump up to rush after him. “No peeing!”
I trip over the strap of my bag laying on the floor – of course, I do! – and end up flat on my back. Hailey and Phoebe bend over the desk to check out the train wreck that is Suzie and walking.
“Are you okay?” Phoebe asks.
Yes, I’m okay. I’m a bit of a klutz. I trip on my own two feet more times in one day than I can count. But if I say I’m fine, there’s a chance the girls resume their interrogation of my non-existent love life. Not on my watch, they aren’t.
“Ow.” I scrunch my nose and rub the back of my head. “My head hurts.”
Hailey rolls her eyes. “You didn’t even hit the back of your head.” She stands and walks toward her office. “If you didn’t want to talk about Grayson, all you had to do was tell us.”
Because she would have listened to me and backed off? Does she think I’m stupid?
“You sure you’re okay?” Phoebe asks.
“I’m fine.” I wave her away when she holds out a hand to help me stand.
The last thing I need is perfect looking Phoebe helping klutziest girl in the world, Suzie stand up. I know I’m not being fair. It’s not Phoebe’s fault she’s gorgeous. And she is gorgeous. She’s tall – five-foot-nine to my measly five-foot-two – and has curves in all the right places. She’s blonde with green eyes and plush lips in a heart-shaped face. It’s no wonder her husband went nuts trying to get her back and force her to have his babies.
I, on the other hand, am your typical redhead complete with pasty white skin that goes from ghost white to crisp as bacon with no stops in between. My body is curvy, but unlike sexy Phoebe, my curves tend toward pudgy. My face may be considered cute by some, but beautiful? Nah. My eyes can’t make up their mind what color they are – the ring around the pupil is blue, but the outer ring is brown – and my lips are way too big for my face. Good thing I’m not looking for a man.
“Where’s Ryker?” I ask when I’m on my feet.
“He’s chasing a skip.”
“He took off the day after Christmas?”
I’m surprised the man let her out of his sight the day after proposing. If you look up alpha male in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Ryker. Of course, when you see the picture of the six-foot-six bearded man with dark green eyes that can see right through you, you’ll also understand why Phoebe threw caution into the wind and took a chance on the man. Ryker is h-a-w-t – Hawt!
At Phoebe’s nod, I ask, “Will he be home in time for New Year’s Eve?”
New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite days of the year. Hailey’s dad owns a bar, McGraw’s Pub, and he throws the best parties. Of course, the free drinks don’t hurt. And then there are the pranks. Hailey’s dad has a bunch of former Army buddies he plays poker with who practically live in the pub. They are beyond hilarious when they start playing pranks. I rub my hands together. I can’t wait to see what they get up to this year.
“He promised to be home in two days, in plenty of time for the party. I should have gone with him. I don’t have any cases right now anyway.”
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a dead zone in the PI business. Or at least in our PI business, it is. Most couples are all lovely-dovey during the holidays. But those holiday feelings fade fast. January is our busiest month of the year.
“Why didn’t you go with him?”
Her nose scrunches up. “He thinks it’s dangerous. As if I can’t handle myself.”
I bite my tongue to stop my laugh from exploding out of me. Phoebe was a total coward when she first started at, We Cheat, You Eat. Handle herself? Ask her about the time she ended up in someone’s pool some time. Although she’s getting stronger, she literally escaped a kidnapping all by her lonesome, she’s still got a ways to go.
“Phoebe!” Hailey shouts. “Can you come in here? I need some help.”
“She probably needs me to reach the top shelf for her,” Phoebe mutters before sauntering off.
Hailey isn’t exactly short at five-foot-eight, but Phoebe never lets the chance pass to needle her about her one-inch height deficiency.
In case you’re wondering, Hailey is gorgeous too. I’m literally surrounded by gorgeous women. Although Hailey doesn’t realize how beautiful she is. She complains about being too thin constantly. Whatever. I’d take her skinny self with her long, brown wavy hair and dark brown eyes over my chubby ass any day of the week.
I wait until Phoebe shuts the door behind her to roll my chair to the door to eavesdrop. I seriously don’t understand why they bother shutting the door. They know I’m going to eavesdrop anyway. When will they learn?