Lincoln Cunningham doesn’t do relationships. Mostly because he learned in college that he doesn’t do them well. Translation: book smart guys focused on learning the art and science of vineyard tending aren’t always girl smart, and the humiliation that comes from being the only one invested in the relationship, well, that’s enough for him.
Lincoln’s mother, however, isn’t so sure. Her oldest son found his match, and now her sights are set on Linc. Why she insists on setting him up at the Paint it Pal pottery shop is beyond anyone’s grasp.
Hannah Delacourt never dreamed of a life spent handing customers ceramic monkeys and pots of paint and explaining the inner workings of a kiln. But she also never intended to spend a year trying to figure out whether the vineyard she inherited should be sold or might actually produce wine.
When the same cute guy comes in to paint on date after miserable date, she figures out what’s going on pretty quickly. He slips her an SOS and she texts him to help him out of the latest painful date. When he texts later to thank her, they hatch the perfect scheme.
She’ll pretend to be his girlfriend while he helps her figure out if her grapes are worth keeping. Everyone wins, right? But what happens when you fall in love when you’re texting with your fake boyfriend? Worse yet, what do you do when he’s clueless?
From two USA Today bestselling authors, a RomCom so sweet you’ll want to hug your kindle and never look at texting the same way.
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ExcerptHANNAH: Not twenty minutes after opening for the day, the bell above the door jangled and in walked the cute guy I’d been daydreaming about this morning. Today he had a long, dark Henley on with jeans that had seen better days. Probably for the best, given the nature of painting crafts. But it was the way his brown eyes drooped at the corners that got to me. “Morning!” I trilled as he approached the counter. His lips quirked up, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Hey. Can I get a frog please?” It must have been the knock to the head by the shower curtain, but I just couldn’t let this guy paint another frog without poking my nose in his business. “Are you sure you don’t want to move up the food chain and try a bird? We have a pretty good parrot, if I do say so myself.” The guy leaned his hip on the counter and folded his arms across his chest. Up close, he was less lanky and more broad than I gave him credit for. His eyes held humor now and I gave myself a mental gold star for putting it there. “But then I’d have to use more than one color of paint,” he replied, the rumble of his voice making me think of the rare rainy morning when I could burrow under the covers and sleep in. I leaned my forearms on the counter, angling in and shamelessly inhaling his scent. He smelled like he rolled around in a pile of fall leaves before stepping foot inside my shop. “That’s generally the idea.” He full-out grinned and my heart stopped. “I prefer a monochromatic masterpiece.” I tossed a look over my shoulder at the shelf with his monochromatic frogs before looking back at him. “Is that what those are? Your masterpieces?” He clutched his chest and I straightened in alarm. “Your harsh criticism wounds me.” I didn’t get the chance to reply before the bell above the door rang. A piercing voice called out, “There you are!” Nails on a chalkboard would have been preferable to that squawk. The guy cringed, as if expecting a physical blow. His eyes widened comically at me before he smoothed out his face and turned around. “You must be Jessica,” he mumbled, his voice sounding far less deliciously rumbly and more grumpy grumbly. “I am, you handsome devil. Your mama said you’d be the rugged tall one and she wasn’t kidding, was she? What are you? Let me guess! Six-foot-five? No, no. That’s a bit much. Six-foot-four?” The woman kept talking, words just dribbling out her mouth like a fire hydrant wrenched open by kids on a city street corner. There was a hint of a southern twang, but I couldn’t tell if that was natural or an affected thing she did because she thought it was cute. Her hair matched her mouth: over the top and jaw-dropping. For a morning date, she dressed like she was going to prom, complete with the huge curls, inch-thick makeup, and a dress that put it all out there. Seeing her thread her arm through the cute guy’s and pull him to a table made my stomach churn. Not out of jealousy, of course, but just concern for his general well-being. That woman was going to eat him alive. LINCOLN I focused on painting. This frog was going to be the most carefully painted of them all. I glanced over at the girl up front, feeling desperate to escape, but she was busy moving things around on shelves below the counter. I could see her dark head popping up now and then. I fought back a wild urge to join her, to get out of the laser-vision stare of my current date. “So, uh, how do you know my mom again?” I asked the woman who’d dropped one hand across the table to trace lines across my frog-holding fingers with a long talon. “Oh, I just met her,” she said, the sharp blood-red dagger still on my hand. A little blossom of fear opened up inside me and I tried very hard not to think about that Glenn Close movie I’d seen as a kid, the one where the slighted woman ended up boiling a bunny. I didn’t have a bunny, though I’d been contemplating a kitten actually. Now I thought better of it. “Where was that?” I asked, desperate to stop my mother ever setting me up like this again. “At the grocery store,” she said, her voice taking on a dreamy quality, which was even harder to bear than the high-pitched squeak it had contained before. “She saw me crying over the artichokes, and she was just so sweet and asked me what was wrong, bless her heart.” I knew I shouldn’t, but the words just skittered out of my mouth. “And what was wrong?” Her nail dug painfully into the top of my hand as she answered. “Rex. My ex. He dumped me, and he wasn’t even kind about it. He said the most horrible things to me, Lincoln. Things I know you’d never say. He didn’t like my hair!” This last part was shrieked, and the sudden outburst made me pull my hand away from her violently, overturning the tiny tub of blue paint and spilling a tiny puddle on the table. “Um, I’d better go get some more paint.” I stood, the wild animalistic need to escape a predator pounding through me. I spun and practically sprinted to the counter, where the kind dark-haired girl who worked there practically shone like a beacon of safety. “How’s it going?” she asked brightly, but I could see in her face that she knew it was going in the most terrifying manner possible. I looked around the countertop frantically, spotting a pen and a little pile of scratch paper notes and grabbing for one. As I scrawled across the paper, I forced myself to try to act normal. “Yeah,” I said, writing at the same time. “Going super well. This frog, well, this one is really going to be a good one. But I need more blue paint.” I babbled on, my hand scribbling my cell phone number and the words: “Plz txt me with fake emergency. Will die if I don’t get away.”
About Delancey Stewart I’m USA Today Bestselling author Delancey Stewart. My contemporary romances run the gamut of settings and setups, but they always deliver humor, heart and heat. It’s a guarantee.
I write from my home in Denver, CO, where I manage a household full of boys and men. Okay, only one man. The hubs. But two boys. I mean, three if you count the hubs. (You see why I do words and not numbers. I was told there’d be no math in this bio. Someone lied.)
I grew up in California and have had more jobs than anyone on earth (personal trainer, pharmaceutical rep, copywriter, tech writer, marketing director, wine seller, elementary school teacher… I’m not kidding. The list. It goes on.) But the one I love the most is writing, in part because I get to meet people who love books and stories as much as I do! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to say hello, and don’t forget to join my newsletter!
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About Marika Ray Marika Ray is a USA Today bestselling author, writing steamy RomComs to brighten your day. All her books come with a money-back guarantee that you’ll laugh at least once with every book. Marika Ray spends her time behind a computer crafting stories, walking the beaches of southern California scoping out the lifeguards, and making healthy food for her kids and husband whether they like it or not. Prior to writing novels, Marika held various jobs in the finance industry, with private start-up companies, and then in health & fitness. Cats may have nine lives, but Marika believes everyone should have nine careers to keep things spicy.