He may very well be the perfect ex...
Isaac McKnight has had enough loss in his life to know never to take anything for granted. So when the perfectly-imperfect-woman-for-him puts an end to their relationship out of the blue, it's Isaac that makes sure they remain friends. Now a year later, whether it's at his gym or her brewpub, or the dog park they visit every weekend--though neither of them own a dog--he and Xoey are steadily getting sucked deeper into buddy-zone galaxy, with its dangerous proximity to watch-me-settle-down-with-someone-else abyss. It's a reality he's resigned himself to. That is...until one drunken confession changes everything.
But she's looking for the perfect oh...
For Xoey Montenegro, history has taught her that sometimes, it's Prince Charming who vanishes without a trace. And fairytale love? Highly overrated. Heck, give her a real and perfect 'oh' over that fantasy any day. So as far as rock-solid tequila-fueled plans for her love life go, coming up with a match-finding formula based on the qualities of the men responsible for her three most epic ohs seems brilliant. Except for the fact that one-third of her genius little man-quation is all about her friend Isaac. Actually, more than a third if Xoey were being honest with herself--which she's not. Because full honesty would require thinking not just about how perfect Isaac really is, but also about how perfect the fourth epic oh she's kept buried deep in her past once was.
An easy enough thing to keep ignoring...until her past isn't past tense anymore.
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“Hey, that’s a damn cute puppy. I’m adding him to my list,” Isaac declared, planting a quick peck on her cheek in greeting, along with an icy cold cup in her hand.
Xoey wasn’t sure which was making her shiver.
“You have over two dozen dogs on that list of yours. Unless your future wife is Mrs. Doolittle, buddy, you’re going to have to start making some cuts to your future white picket fence pet,” she replied in an impressively steady tone.
It had taken awhile after their break-up, but with time, Isaac’s lips on her skin no longer made her punch-drunk with lust.
Not outwardly, at least.
Sipping his piping hot black coffee, he nodded over at the fancy iced mocha drink he’d brought for her—or as he liked to call it, the milk and sugar with a splash of caffeine—and gave her a smug smile as he reached for the bag of doughnuts she’d brought for their breakfast.
The man knew her frighteningly well.
It had begun as a game a while back. He’d guess what she was selecting for their little weekly breakfast picnic, and bring the drinks he knew would pair with it. In the last few months, he’d only been wrong once. And that was only because she’d purposely ordered the exact opposite of what she’d intended just to mess with him.
Of course, they’d ended up having to go out for a second breakfast that morning, but it had been worth it. She really had been craving biscuits and gravy that morning. It was freaky how he always managed to just know.
Isaac munched on a doughnut thoughtfully and watched the puppy in question flopping along next to the departing couple. “Nope, that one’s too cute. He’s staying on the list.” With a half shrug, he concluded, “I guess that means I’ll have to marry Mrs. Doolittle.”
Xoey was just plain shocked at the sharp bolt of pain she felt tearing through her chest over the joke.
“Hey, you okay, sweetie?”
Isaac squeezed her knee, a worried gaze running over her face. And then lower.
To where her hand was pressed hard against her heart.
“Heartburn,” she fibbed, rubbing her chest the way she saw folks on antacid commercials do it.
Instantly, her bag of bacon doughnuts were yanked off her lap. “I knew these things were bad for you. You’re calling your doctor in the morning to get a check-up. Sometimes, heartburn is a symptom of something dangerous.” Reaching into her pocket, he pulled out her phone and entered her password to unlock it.
She peered over and saw him googling something. “What are you doing?”
“Checking to see if these cups of liquid sugar and caffeine over ice you drink can cause heart problems.” He read through the results for a minute and shook his head. “Apparently not, but better to switch to tea or just plain water to be safe.”
Intense hazel eyes proceeded to x-ray every inch of her body, while gentle, utterly masculine hands that every inch of her body still remembered stroked her back.
She released a jagged breath.
Which of course, he interpreted as her final descent toward the big, bright light at the end of the tunnel.
He gripped her hand. “Do you want me to take you to urgent care or the E.R.?”
“I’m fine, Isaac. Calm down.”
He did not look convinced.
Which was probably why his fingers were now sliding over to her wrist to check her pulse.
Good lord, the man was just too lovable sometimes.
“I lied, I don’t have heartburn,” she admitted, to stop what was clearly going to be a call to 911 in a bit.
A puzzled frown crossed his features, along with marked relief. “What’s going on, Xo?”
“I just…I was holding my heart because I was jealous. Of Mrs. Doolittle.” She snatched back her precious bacon doughnuts. And to make this less of a declaration of the heart, she quickly threw in, “If you go off and have a few dozen puppies with Mrs. Doolittle, who’s going to come to the dog park with me every morning? I’m too old and set in my ways to break in a new weird friend who’ll get me the way you do.”
Until warm, calloused fingers reached over and broke a piece of doughnut off of the one she’d been eating.
After a few quiet moments of chewing, Isaac slung his arm on the back of the bench behind her. “Can you imagine the industrial-sized pooper scooper I’d have to buy to pick up after a few dozen dogs?” He shook his head. “I think Mrs. Doolittle and I would be doomed within the first week,” he lamented gravely. “Looks like you’ll be stuck with me for a bit longer, babe.”
Improbable promise coming from a catch like Isaac or not, Xoey held on to it tight like a security blanket.
NEW YORK TIMES & USA TODAY bestselling author Violet Duke is a former professor of English Education who is ecstatic to now be on the other side of the page writing wickedly fun contemporary romance novels. Her NYT and USA Today bestselling books have been Top 10 bestsellers across the major eretailers both in the US and internationally. When she's not writing or feeding her book-a-day reading addiction, Violet enjoys tackling reno projects with her power tools, trying pretty much anything without reading the directions first, and cooking 'special edition' dishes that laugh in the face of recipes. A born and raised island girl, she spends her days getting into creatively fun trouble in Hawai'i alongside her two cute kids (daughter Violet & son Duke) and similarly adorable husband.
Find the latest on her books and fan giveaways at www.facebook.com/VioletDukeBooks