The Rules According to Gracie

TRAG

Rule number one: don’t fall for the wrong guy.

Gracie Greene has a shopping list for men. Career, financials, family…and a long list of rules to determine a guy’s suitability. She’s already disappointed her socialite mother once—now Gracie needs to find Mr. Perfect. Too bad she keeps getting distracted by her super-sexy, six-feet-of-tattooed-hotness friend, Des, who is so many shades of Mr. Wrong…

Bar owner Des Chapman has vowed never again to get involved with society girls. Yet he’s irresistibly drawn to Gracie—those lush curves, those lips, and her ridiculous ability to date the wrong guys. As Gracie’s discouragement grows, Des realizes it’s time to show her what she reallyneeds in a man—and it has nothing to do with a briefcase and generous bank account.

He’ll teach Gracie the Rules According To Des…even if it means breaking his rule in the process.




Reviews

"This was a quick read, and trust me once you get started there will be no stopping. The delicious sexy attraction blossoming between Des and Gracie, is that addictive!...I highly recommend this fabulous read, passionate, sexy, flirty and fun. This author certainly shines like a bright diamond in the romance world!" - Contemporary Romance Reviews

"The tension between Gracie and her bar-owning buddy Des is simply delicious – believable, understandable and fairly crackling with electricity." - My Written Romance

"This was a wonderfully sexy and sweet story that flowed quickly and easily throughout...A great fast paced and sexy read!" -- Wendy Gibson



Excerpt

Chapter One

From his vantage point at the bar, Des Chapman could tell two things: One, they were going to run out of the seafood special and, two, the guy at Gracie Greene’s table wasn’t getting lucky tonight.

He chuckled as he looked over to the booth set intimately for two. He knew all of Gracie’s tells; this date was not going well. Her hand repeatedly raked through her dark chocolate curls—she was frustrated. She kept chatting to the waiter— she was bored. And finally, she ordered a peach Bellini with a cherry on the side—her S.O.S.

Des poured the fizzing Prosecco over peach nectar and dropped a cherry into a dish, then placed both items on the bar where Gracie would be joining him shortly.

Despite the countless dates she paraded through First, his restaurant and bar, he’d been lusting after the woman for months on end. Not that she showed any kind of reciprocal interest. Though, if he was being honest with himself, it was for the best.

Gracie Greene was any and every kind of wrong for him.

She came from money…old money. If that wasn’t warning enough, she’d shed a little light on her family situation and it didn’t look good: irritatingly perfect older sister who’d married into another old money family, controlling mother who was more concerned with keeping up appearances than the wellbeing of her children. The whole thing screamed back the hell away.

He could have been persuaded to look past those factors for a chance to be with Gracie if it weren’t for the fact that he’d done it all before. His ex was exactly the same—same crazy family, same outdated views, same preference for status over love.

Society girls were not in his repertoire any more.

Des stalked over to her table. He couldn’t wallow in frustration any longer. He had a business to run and customers to keep happy. Fantasies about Gracie and her unobtainable body would have to wait until he was home. Alone.

“I told you, Gracie”—he placed his palms on the table and leaned forward—“you can’t be bringing men around here while we’re still married.”

She blinked at him, her rich brown eyes the picture of innocence. He caught a whiff of her sweet vanilla perfume as she tossed her hair over one shoulder. The scent intoxicated him.

The guy who sat across from Gracie almost choked on his steak. “You’re married?”
Des looked him up and down and scowled. The guy was way too overdressed for a date. For starters, he was still in his work clothes—a ridiculous three-piece suit—and he wore a pair of shoes so shiny Des could see his own face in them. Secondly, he had enough product in his hair to grout an entire kitchen.

He was all kinds of wrong for Gracie.

“Your profile didn’t say you were married!”

“I won’t be for much longer,” Gracie said, narrowing her eyes at Des.

To anyone else she would have appeared angry, but he noticed the tiny, barely perceptible twitch of her lips.
She jabbed a finger at Des. “As soon as this bozo signs the divorce papers, I’ll be single again.”

“Ha.” Des folded his arms. “Over my dead body.”

Mr. Shiny Shoes looked from Gracie to Des and back, his pale face losing what little color it had. He took a hearty gulp of his wine and fumbled with his iPhone and wallet.

“Look, Gracie, this has been great but I…uh,” he stuttered. “I have a thing…”

“Go.” She waved her hand, dismissing him.

He dropped a fifty onto the table and escaped, shaking his head as he went. Customers at the nearby tables were oblivious to the action and Gracie shot a grateful grin at Des.

“I do love the angry ex-husband gag,” she said, standing and linking her arm through his.

“Not bad for someone who’s never been married, eh?”

“Yes, and it’s much better than the overprotective older brother act.” They walked to the bar, her hip bumping his as they navigated the crowded space. She climbed onto a bar stool and reached for the Bellini. “No one would ever believe we’re related.”

“Why not?” Des stepped behind the bar and grabbed a towel to wipe down the countertop. This was his favorite part of the evening, the bit where he got Gracie all to himself.

“Look at you. You’re covered in tatts.”

“So?”

“I’m a sweet, innocent young lady—too clean cut to be related to you.”

“There’s not much innocent about you, Gracie.”

He drank in the sight of rich curls as they tumbled over her shoulders. She wore a red dress, not showy but subtly designed to capture attention. Large gold earrings tinkled as she shook her head, giving her a gypsy-like appearance. Everything about her was smoothly curved and sculpted with lust in mind.

“You’d be surprised.” She gave a coy smile and dangled her cherry for a moment before popping it into her mouth and pulling off the stem with a gentle tug. The things that girl could do with a cherry stem…

Des swallowed, resisting the flood of heat that coursed through him whenever he watched Gracie eat. “I’m never surprised.”

The ambient light of the bar caught on her red, lacquered nails as she gesticulated. “We couldn’t be related. No one in my family would ever go a whole week without shaving.”

Des ran his hand along his jaw, stubble rough beneath his fingers. “Two days, Baby. You can thank my Mediterranean genes for that.”

“Hairy bastard.” She threw her head back and laughed, the sound much richer than one might expect from such a petite woman. Like most things about Gracie, it was deeply appealing.

“Tell me,” he said,“what was wrong with Mr. Shiny Shoes?”

***

What wasn’t wrong with Mr. Shiny Shoes? He’d seemed great from his dating profile. He’d ticked all the boxes—suitable career as a finance manager at a Big Four bank, an economics degree from the University of Melbourne, he came from old Brighton money, and there wasn’t a single thing on his Facebook page that hinted at any deviant personal habits.

Yet he was wrong…on all levels.

Gracie sighed, taking another sip of her Bellini. It was hard to concentrate with Des leaning in like that, the muscles in his arms bulging as he crossed them. She forced her eyes away from the intricate patterns that decorated his biceps, up and under the edge of his fitted black T-shirt. Unfortunately for her, staring and Des went hand in hand.

“He was…pompous.” She traced her fingertip around the opening of the champagne flute. “He was boring, too. All
he talked about was his car and how much money he earned. That’s two out of three strikes right there.”

“What’s the third strike?”

“Mentioning an ex, but we didn’t even get that far into the conversation.”
Des frowned. “Why do you always go for those stuffy corporate types?”

“I do not.”

She absolutely did, but she wasn’t giving Des the satisfaction of that little admission. In fact, a corporate job was high up on her list of dating criteria because she needed to treat all guys as though they had the potential to meet her family. Therefore, if there was no suit there was no date.

“Yes, you do. That guy you brought in last week had his briefcase under the table.”

“He came from work.” She crossed her arms, her eyes narrowing. “What’s wrong with that?”

“It’s a date, Gracie. If he can’t make time to go home and change before meeting you, how is he going to have time to treat you right later on?”

“I’m assuming ‘treat me right’ is a euphemism?”

Des grinned, his eyes nearly onyx in the dim light of the bar. “Forgive me for being old fashioned, but I think a man should make time for his woman.”

“His woman?”

“His lady?” Des scratched his head. “Is that more PC?”

Gracie laughed. “You’re a lost cause, Desmond.”

“Don’t call me that.” He flicked his towel at her and she squealed. “Only my mother calls me Desmond.”

He winked, wiping down a set of clean glasses, working methodically, though his eyes never left her. The bar had almost emptied out. It was a Wednesday night and soon it would be only the two of them. She shouldn’t like the idea of that as much as she did.

“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I mean, I’m not hideous am I?” Gracie frowned.

“You’re not and you know it.”

“Then what else can I do?” She threw her hands in the air. It was a lost cause and yet she kept searching and searching. She’d tried internet dating, speed dating, blind dating, matchmaking…the list went on. Still, finding a suitable guy who ticked all the boxes and was tough enough to put up with her batshit crazy family was proving to be a challenge.

“Why don’t you meet a guy the old fashioned way?”

“In a bar?” she teased. “If I sit here and wait for a guy to come to me then I’ll be waiting a long time.”

“Why’s that?”

“You’d scare them away.” She smiled at him, taking another sip of her drink. The fizzy liquid slid down her throat, the crisp taste lingering on her tongue.

“True.”

“Why aren’t there any good guys left?” Gracie sighed.

Des frowned, his dark brows knitting together above thick-lashed eyes. The man looked like a model no matter which expression he pulled, even his scruffy stubble walked the fine line of perfection.

Why couldn’t he be a lawyer or an accountant?

“Of course I don’t count you in that group,” she said. “You’re one of a kind.”

“Is that so?”

“Yep, not every day you meet a guy who’s willing to play the part of angry ex-husband to save a gal from a bad date.”

“I must be a frustrated actor.” There was a hint of a smile on his lips, though hunger resided in his dark eyes.

Her stomach flipped. Heat moved through her system like wildfire. That meant it was time to get out. Gracie had no desire whatsoever to see how far she could push herself without getting burned.

“Like I said, one of a kind.” She drained the last of her Bellini and slung her coat over one arm. “I’d better head off. It is a school night after all.”

“Sleep tight, Gracie.” He looked her up and down in a way that made Gracie certain sleep would elude her.
Fantasizing about a man like Des was unproductive and against the rules, not to mention it was a danger to her slumber. Gorgeous as he was, he wasn’t the guy she was looking for. So she would—as she always did—remind herself why he was wrong for her and put him far, far out of her mind.