This is a two-chapter sneak peek of 27 Ways to Find a Boyfriend. It’s still a work in progress, so please note that it might not be the exact text that ends up in the final published book.
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Wear High Heels—They Give You Confidence!
I’m a walking, talking cliché. You know the story—average girl, big heart, a bit lonely, always a bridesmaid but never a bride. It’s a tired old tale, am I right?
Well, that’s me. The tired tale.
The hot morning sunshine beats down on me as I stand in a pair of too-small, turquoise-dyed heels, wearing a tea-length satin dress in a shade of yellow that’s somewhere between sunflower and brand-new school bus. My best friend stands across from her high school sweetheart, a vision in Vera Wang, vowing to have and to hold and all of that. You know the rest—I have no doubt you’ve heard it too.
My stomach rumbles because all I’ve eaten today is a bite of an English muffin, three grapes, one strawberry, and some random cubes of cheese that claimed to be cheddar but tasted like Swiss. This is the fifth wedding I’ve been in this last year—that’s right, the fifth—so I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping a serene look on my face even while I wonder if there’s any nutritional value in the trendy succulent bouquet I’m holding.
I catch random people in the crowd subtly checking their phones. Like me, they’re questioning whether the ceremony will ever end. We’re heading into an hour now—the home stretch, or at least it better be. My best friend’s wedding has been quite the affair. For our nuptial enjoyment, we’ve had one soloist, a string quartet, a poem reading, the lighting of a unity candle, an interpretive dance, and a partridge in a pear tree.
All right, Jessa didn’t go that crazy—there was no interpretive dance. The flowering tree behind us is an ornamental pear though, and the bird sitting on the limb above my head just might be a partridge. I wouldn’t know, seeing as how I’m more of a botanist than an ornithologist. And by botanist, I mean I sometimes water the potted plants in front of my dad’s shop.
Oh, look at that. We’re almost to the end. The pastor is winding down, getting ready for the finale. He pauses for dramatic emphasis, and then…
“You may kiss your bride.”
And the crowd goes wild. Not only are Franklin and Jessa sharing their first kiss as husband and wife, but we’re free. Well, the people out there are free.
I still have to get through the reception in these heels.
The music crescendos right on cue, and Jessa and Franklin walk down the aisle, laughing as Mary the Photographer crouches in front of them, snapping photo after photo. Other people have their phones raised, taking videos of the blessed day.
Jessa’s younger sister (official maid of honor) links arms with Franklin’s brother (official best man), and they follow the bride and groom. Then I (unofficial maid of honor and best friend who stayed up until three in the morning planting mini wedding favor succulents into teeny tiny terracotta pots) meet Carter, Jessa’s brother (doer of absolutely nothing). He literally showed up five minutes before the wedding started, threw on his tux, flashed a smile that’s been breaking hearts since he was fourteen, and waltzed to his spot like he owned the place.
He’s obnoxious like that.
I mean, I want him. But he’s still obnoxious.
Everyone wants Carter, though, so it’s not exactly a thing. It’s more like a constant buzz in the back of my head. It’s definitely there—but it’s more a nuisance than anything.
“Looking good, Addison,” he says as he offers me his arm. “Yellow’s a good color on you.”
No one looks good in yellow, at least not this shade. Jessa calls it sunny. I call it rubber duck. And judging from the wicked tilt of Carter’s light brown brow, he knows how I feel about it.
“Fishing for compliments?” I ask, running my eyes over him as we make our exit, smiling at the exact moment Mary snaps our picture for Jessa’s album. “Is this the part where I’m supposed to tell you how good you look in a tux?”
Dang it, he does too. That buzz becomes just a tiny bit louder.
“Nah.” Carter’s cocky smirk grows, dancing into wicked territory. “I already know I look good.”
He nudges my side with his elbow, stepping just a bit closer. “You know you want me.”
“Oh baby, oh baby,” I deadpan.
He’s teased me since we were young. He’s twenty-seven to my twenty-four, and when we were kids, I thought he hung the stars. I’d like to say I fell for the captain of the lacrosse team or our student body president, but no. I wanted the guy in the parking lot who was ditching class and talking motors with a bunch of guys who barely skated to graduation.
Maybe it’s in my blood.
Maybe it’s the fact that Carter was in my father’s restoration shop every single day after school.
Maybe I just like guys with light brown hair, chocolate eyes, and broad shoulders, who are often covered in grease. It’s hard to say.
But no matter what it is, it doesn’t matter. Carter was off limits in high school, and he’s off limits now. Dad has one unbreakable rule: stay away from the “good for nothing” guys in his shop. “Players, all of them,” he says. “Addison, pumpkin’, find yourself a nice guy.”
And ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you, Carter is not nice. Nice to look at? You betcha. Nice to kiss? Most likely, though I wouldn’t know. But nice to date? Well, no one knows that because Carter doesn’t do serious.
We walk down the makeshift aisle of white folding chairs and around the corner of the barn/reception hall. This venue looks like a ranch, but it was specifically built for special events. The seemingly ancient barn is actually three whole years old, constructed of aged wood that was brought in for the project.
The minute we’re out of sight, Carter drops my arm and produces a phone—from where, I have no idea. Do tuxes have pockets?
I peer over his shoulder, although I know what he’s watching. We have a ‘50 Chevy pickup in the Barrett Jackson auction, and it’s due to be up any minute. “Well?”
He flips through a few pages. “Not yet.”
This is the first spring either of us has missed the Florida auction since Carter got back from Wyotech at nineteen years old with a bunch of shiny automotive certifications, and I know it’s killing him. It’s killing me too—do you have any idea how many hot, off-limits guys grace that auction? I’ll give you a hint. A lot.
And who wouldn’t want to go to Palm Beach?
“Addison!” Jessa appears out of nowhere like a wedding-gown-bedecked apparition. She pulls me into a tight hug, nearly bawling. “I’m married!”
“I know.” I laugh as I choke on her veil. “I was there.”
“Congrats, monkey,” Carter says to his sister when she finally lets me go, smoothly pocketing his phone so she won’t catch him with it.
Jessa narrows her eyes. “I saw that.”
Carter looks about as repentant as a lion after it eats a particularly tasty tour guide. “If you hadn’t planned your wedding in the middle of the auction, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Ignoring him, Jessa whips around. “Bustle me, Addison.”
We’ve practiced with the train a dozen times over the last two weeks, but it’s go time. I only have a few minutes before Jessa and Franklin need to greet their guests.
“Time me,” I instruct Carter as though we’re at the Daytona Five Hundred. Like a good lackey, he instantly obeys.
Seven ties and two buttons later, I step back, throwing my hands in the air. “Done.”
“One minute, three-point-five seconds,” Carter says.
Jessa swings around, her brunette curls bouncing around her shoulders, and holds up her hand for a high five. “Best time yet.”
She then spots one of her friends from college and takes off trotting, catching her new husband by the arm as she passes, pulling him with her.
Carter stares after them and shakes his head.
“I’m going to get something to eat before there’s nothing left but those nasty candy-covered almonds,” I say. “You coming?”
“I gotta find my date.” Carter looks around, his brow wrinkling as if he forgot about the poor girl.
“I’m surprised she let you out of her sight—don’t most of your dates cling to you like koalas?”
Let’s face it—Carter goes for those girly, vapid, breathy types.
“Ha ha,” he says absently, reaching over to ruffle my hair and chuckling when I duck out of the way. He then ambles toward the barn, where the guests are headed.
“Let me know when the truck is up,” I holler, opting to take the route around the side and in through the back entrance—closer to the food.
“Will do,” he calls back, and then he disappears into the crowd.
The reception goes by in a blur of dinner, speeches, dancing, and cake. It’s almost the end, and there’s just one more tradition to check off that list.
“It’s time for all the single ladies to make their way to the center of the floor,” the DJ calls through the sound system. Jessa’s already waving people over, her cheeks flushed from all the excitement. She’s a pretty bride—joyful, radiant. I smile, loving that this day has been everything she dreamed. I don’t, however, leave my hiding spot.
I sit at a back table, partially hidden by a petite potted tree. I stretch my legs out, counting down the minutes until I can take off these awful heels.
“Aren’t you supposed to be up there?” Carter says from behind me, taking a seat to my right.
“I’m going to sit this one out.” I toe off one heel and then the next. “These shoes are killing me.”
“And miss your chance to catch the bouquet?”
I shoot him a look. In response, he grins, crossing his arms as he slouches in the chair, making himself comfortable.
“Where’s your date?” I ask as I watch a dozen young women and Jessa’s eighty-four-year-old aunt line up for the toss.
“She ran into her ex. They ended up chatting for a bit, and then they took off.”
I turn to him, shocked. Carter got ditched at his sister’s wedding? That’s got to sting. Oddly, he looks rather unfazed.
When he feels me staring at him, he looks over and frowns. “What?”
“You don’t care?”
“A normal person would.”
He studies me for a moment. “You don’t have a date, and you seem all right.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not by choice.”
Any minute now Jessa’s going to realize I’m missing. If I don’t get up there, she’ll coax me in front of everyone, creating an embarrassing scene. I should go now just to avoid it. But there is that teeny, tiny chance she’ll forget.
As I watch her prepare, my eyes slide over the full tables. There are so many couples here. People I’ve known all my life are married now, as are many of Jessa’s cousins. Now that I’m nearing my mid-twenties, it feels like I’m quickly becoming the minority. People I went to high school with are in serious relationships, many promising forever and then having babies, and I don’t even have a boyfriend.
I see them all moving forward, everyone on an escalator, heading up the automatic staircase of life, and I’m on the other side, running to catch up but always sinking down.
Wow, weddings make me philosophical.
I can tell the moment Jessa realizes I’m missing. She stops suddenly and stands straighter—not unlike a prairie dog peeking from its hole. She glances first to the right and then the left.
“Addison?” she calls, turning to find me. Then to her sister, she asks, “Where’s Addison?”
“Best get it over with,” Carter advises, staring at his phone.
“Is the Chevy up?”
Dang it, I’m going to miss it.
I paste on a smile—I can do this—and slide my feet back into the miserable shoes, wincing as I stand.
I’m barely out of my seat when Carter catches my arm and grins up at me. “You want out of it?”
“Well, yeah.” I roll my eyes. “But—”
“Sorry, Jessa,” Carter calls out, making sure everyone in the barn hears him. He then clasps me around the middle and pulls me onto his lap. “Addison is busy.”
Then he tips me back and kisses me square on the lips.
Cinnamon gum—that’s what Carter smells like.
By the time I process that, the quiet of the ranch is being polluted by a cacophony of cat calls, wolf whistles, and good, old-fashioned applause. I blink at our audience, half in a daze.
My brain is so addled, I register details one at a time.
First, I’m still on Carter’s lap, and hello, I like it here.
Second, his hands are still around my waist, and yep, I like that too.
Third, Jessa is currently scowling at her brother, looking like she’s going to whack him over the head with her ultra-trendy succulent bouquet. “Let go of my best friend, Carter,” she commands.
“Sorry,” he whispers before he lets me go, an unrepentant smirk on his face. “I tried.”
I stumble to my feet, pulling away from Carter, and make my way to the troupe of rather disgruntled-looking single women. In fact, the only ones who don’t look jealous of my little impromptu liplock with the legendary Carter Dalton are related to him.
Jessa flashes me an apologetic look—a my-brother-is-an-idiot-but-what-can-I-do? look—and then turns around, preparing for the toss. I stand here, trying to act nonchalant about the whole thing even though my knees are still wobbling. (What’s that, wedding spectators? It’s no big thing. Hot guys kiss me all the time.)
I don’t think I pull it off, though, because the bouquet flies out of nowhere and smacks me right in the face.
Be Adventurous! Men Like Women Who Try New Things.
“It could have been worse,” I tell Addison, handing her a bag of frozen peas for her eye. We’re in the parking lot of a small grocery store in my fully restored ’79 K20 Chevy Silverado, and she’s sitting on the tailgate in that ridiculous, fluffy dress—looking a little too much like a classic pinup girl for my sanity.
“How?” she mumbles, pressing the frozen vegetables to her face. Either Jessa can toss a mean bouquet or succulents are wicked, because a light bruise is already showing up along her cheek.
“It could have been a cactus bouquet.”
Okay, kissing her was a sleazy thing to do—I acknowledge that. But Addison was sitting there, looking awfully cute in that dress that should be atrocious but happens to show off a figure I have no business noticing, and I was still irked that Linsey up and bailed on me. Plus, Addison came right out and admitted she was feeling bad about not having a date, and I wanted to cheer her up.
Why she didn’t have a date is beyond me. Everything about Addison is sweet, from her heart-shaped face and big green eyes to her strawberry blonde hair. Is she hot, per se? Not really. That’s not her style—but cute works for her. If it weren’t for the fact that her dad/my boss would castrate me if I dared ask her out, I would probably make a move myself.
You did make a move.
A real move, I argue. What happened back at the wedding wasn’t anything—Addison knows that. It was over before it began, and our lips only touched for a fraction of a second. If I were going to kiss her, really kiss her, it wouldn’t be in front of an audience. That was just for fun.
You liked it.
I was playing.
You like her.
Not a big deal.
You should kiss her again now that you’ve got her alone.
Apparently, I need professional help.
I lean against the tailgate, staring into the parking lot. “Hey, about the—”
“If you say kiss, I will beat you to death with this bag of peas.”
I grin, unable to help myself even though I know I’m only going to dig the hole deeper. “Kiss.”
She turns to me, glaring with one good eye.
“Aw, come on,” I say, nudging her shoulder. “I was just messing around. Are you gonna forgive me?”
“Maybe,” she grumps, but I can tell I’ve already won her over. “Or maybe I’ll tell my dad, and he’ll fire your sorry self.”
Hank would, too. He’s crazy protective of his not-a-baby-anymore baby girl, probably a product of raising her by himself. Half the guys in the shop are in love with her, but if we even think about getting close, we’re gone. And, yeah, any one of us could find another job working in your average body or mechanic shop, but Kentford’s is the dream.
People come from all around the country for a Kentford restoration. Hank’s been featured on all the automotive channels, in all the magazines. He’s a legend.
I got in when I was sixteen because of my connection to Jessa and worked as a wash boy until I graduated high school, drooling over the cars that wheeled their way through the shop every week. Now I specialize in fabrications, am working shoulder to shoulder with one of the best in the business, and there’s no way I’m going to shoot myself in the foot by chasing after the boss’s daughter. I’m not always the brightest crayon, but I’m not a moron.
Well, not a complete moron.
I give her a sideways look. “Are you going to tell him?”
Addison wouldn’t run to Hank about something trivial like this—that’s not her style.
She rolls her eyes…eye. “Yeah, that sounds like a fun conversation.”
Though I wasn’t particularly worried, I relax a little when I get the confirmation.
Addison sighs and lowers the bag of peas, turning her cheek toward me. “How bad is it?”
The bruise is already spreading, and the whole area is slightly swollen. “You look like a sexy prizefighter,” I say. “Very hot.”
She shoves me away like I’m an idiot, but she can’t quite hide her smile.
Freaking imports suck to work on, and somehow, I got stuck with one this morning. Larson’s got a Thunderbird on the lift, so I’m under the car the old-fashioned way, using jack stands. I’m covered in grease and about to throw the creeper across the shop because the left front wheel keeps dragging.
I mutter words that would make my grandma roll in her grave, and all I can think about is the greasy cheeseburger I’m going to grab for lunch if I can ever get this filthy, piece-of-trash timing belt replaced.
It’s as I’m here, with the belt half installed, that I hear my sister’s voice echo through the shop.
“Addison?” she calls, her shoes clicking on the concrete floor.
Jessa has been gone a week, honeymooning in some fussy bed and breakfast in Louisiana. She and Franklin got back yesterday evening according to the text I received from her this morning.
“She’s in the office with Lydia,” Stan tells her.
“Hi to you too,” I holler from underneath the car.
The clickety-click of her shoes gets louder as she makes her way to me, and then she kicks my leg. “Whatcha working on?”
“Timing belt.” And I almost have it.
“You’re back!” Addison exclaims from the vicinity of the office.
The usual girl-squeals and gossip follow, and I roll my eyes.
I finally get the belt installed, and I roll out from under the car, muttering to myself when the creeper catches halfway. My stomach lets out an impatient rumble, and I walk to my workbench and grab a rag, about to announce I’m leaving for lunch. As I clean up, I half listen to my sister’s conversation with Addison.
“You’re not going to believe what I found in this crazy cute little antique store in New Orleans,” Jessa says.
Isaac wanders to my station and leans against the workbench. Under his breath, he jokes, “What poor schmuck gets stuck antiquing on his honeymoon?”
I shoot my friend a look, reminding him he’s talking about my sister.
“Look.” Jessa then pulls a magazine from the odd stack of papers she’s holding in her arms and shoves it at Addison.
Addison frowns. “What is it?”
Jessa all but rips it back, flips through half the pages, and then pushes it into Addy’s hands once more.
“It’s a dating guide,” Addison says slowly. “From the fifties?”
“Yes.” Jessa nearly bounces with excitement. “Some of the suggestions are just awful, but a lot are really fun. It gave me an idea.”
Addison glances up, looking understandably wary. “How so?”
“Do you remember three Thursdays ago, right after lunch but before we went to have our nails done, you mentioned you wished you had a boyfriend?”
“Well, I do. And do you remember how you were saying it would be great if you were dating someone so we could go on double dates?”
“Actually,” Addison says, trying to hide a smile as she pushes a long strand of hair that escaped her ponytail behind her ear. “I think that was you.”
“Either way.” Jessa waves a hand. “I’ve got the solution. I scoured the internet, looking at all the dating guides from the last twenty years. Then I combined them with that article, and I’ve got a foolproof plan to get you a guy.”
And then my crazy sister whips out a piece of yellow legal-pad paper and dangles it in front of Addison.
“27 Ways to Find a Boyfriend,” Addison reads, her eyes widening. “Please tell me you didn’t spend your honeymoon making this.”
Jessa smirks. “Franklin had to recoup.”
I groan, pretending to gag, but the guys around us laugh. They’ve abandoned their projects and are hovering like a bunch of hens.
“I don’t know, Jessa,” Addison begins just as I say, “That’s the lamest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Addison turns to me, and a frown dances across her face. The bruise from the succulent attack has either faded, or she’s good with makeup, because both of her cheeks are a pretty pinkish color.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily lame,” she argues, though it’s obvious she’s only trying to spare Jessa’s feelings.
“You don’t need some stupid list to find a boyfriend, Addison.” I turn away, tossing the rag in a bin, done with the conversation.
“Well, if you haven’t noticed, Carter, guys aren’t exactly knocking down my door.”
The garage falls quiet. We all know why Addison doesn’t get asked out. Every guy in town is terrified of her father, us most of all. Gage has been drooling over her since he started three years ago. So has Isaac. Tad’s only twenty-one, but he’s got a thing for her too.
And me…well, I don’t feel that way, though I can acknowledge the allure. But Addison is like an honorary little sister—sort of. I mean, it’s not creepy to think of getting close to her—and that kiss from the other day was all right. And I might have pictured getting her into the back of my truck a time or ten, kissing her for real, staring at the night sky together and doing all that sappy couple crap, but so what?
That’s just because I’m a single guy, and she’s in that back office day after day, getting in my head. It doesn’t mean anything.
When I don’t answer, Addison says to Jessa, “You know what? Why not?”
I grunt, thinking there are too many females in the shop right now.
“Yeah?” Jessa asks, excited. She always has liked a project; I just don’t like the idea that Addison is going to be one of them.
“Yeah,” Addison answers, and though my back is turned, I swear she’s looking right at me. “How do we start?”
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