From award-winning author Erika Kelly comes the third standalone title in her smoking hot series about four elite athlete brothers raised in the Tetons by their eccentric, billionaire dad and uncle, The Bad Boyfriend Series! Don’t miss your chance to meet the swoony Gray Bowie in THE CARELESS BOYFRIEND! Grab your copy today!
Gray Bowie broke the bro code: he fell in love with his best friend’s girlfriend.
For years, he hid his feelings…until one terrible night, it all came to a head.
Since her life blew up in high school, Knox Holliday has spent her time honing her skills as a couture wedding dress designer. But, just weeks before her debut, a freak accident wipes out her collection. The culprit: her ex’s former best friend, Gray Bowie.
Gray does everything he can to get her career back on track. As they work together, they find forgiveness and start to stitch together something that looks a lot like love. But, at the very moment they realize they have a chance for something real, her ex comes back to town, bringing opportunities Gray can’t provide.
This time, Gray’s not going to step aside, so he can only hope Knox will hold onto his heart.
She’s his dream, but will he be hers?
Leaving their tea behind, they headed outside. Wrapping the comforter around himself, Gray sat down first, then drew her onto his lap. Knox took in the wide Wyoming sky, ablaze with glittering stars. “Do you remember that Etch-a-Sketch I had? You used to write me secret messages on it?”
“You made me shake it immediately after reading, so no one would see it.”
“So Robert wouldn’t see it.”
“You guys were so freaking competitive.”
“I wasn’t competitive with him.” He stroked the hair away from her temples. “I just wanted what he had. There’s a difference.”
She glanced up at him and saw the worry tightening his handsome features. If she’d known he felt this way back then, would she have broken up with Robert earlier? No. Not only would she never have believed it, they couldn’t have betrayed Robert’s trust like that.
He gave her a gentle bump. “The Etch-a-Sketch.”
“Right. Well, I took pictures of every message you ever made me.”
He shot her a look.
“I did. And I saved them. Every single one. They’re in a box under the bed. You had a way of saying just the right thing. Like, I don’t know if you remember—”
“I remember everything.”
Drinking in the sincerity in his eyes, she reached up and ran her fingers through his scruff. “This one day I was walking to my locker between fourth and fifth periods, and I could see it’d been pried open. I wasn’t going to be that stupid girl who opened it only to find a dead rat or poop smeared on the walls. So, I went to the office and told them about it, told them I wanted someone to come with me and to bring the janitor. The saddest thing was that they didn’t even hesitate. It wasn’t like, Oh, come on drama queen. No, Mrs. Andretti got her SWAT team together, and we marched over to my locker, all of us totally geared up for something terrible. And, lo and behold, they’d filled it with garbage from the cafeteria. And I mean, fresh bits of hamburger and pudding, fish sticks. It was disgusting.”
He lowered his head and let out a harsh breath.
“You drove me home that day. We had hot chocolate and hung out and, after you left, I went back to my bedroom and found your note. And, the thing is, you never said stuff like, Keep your chin up or…don’t listen to those idiots. You never addressed the bullies at all.” She reached for his hand, threading their fingers together. “You never gave them power.”
“What’d I write?”
“You drew a picture of a dress—a pretty lame one, if you ask me.” She gave him a teasing smile.
“It was the medium.”
“Ah, so if it had been paper, you’d have sketched a masterpiece?”
“You probably would have, Mr. Good-at-Literally-Everything. Anyhow, underneath the dress, you wrote my name. But you didn’t spell it out. K-N-O-X. You made it like my signature. And underneath you wrote in parentheses, This is going to be worth a fortune one day.”
He grinned. “I meant your autograph, not my sketch.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m a lot quicker than I look. But that’s the point. On a truly crappy day, you made me smile, because I knew you meant I’d be a famous designer one day.” She shifted so she could face him. “You didn’t tell me not to worry about those idiots. You made me focus on the future. On the talent I could rely on to get me out of here. You always made me feel like I had value.” She showed him her inked bracelet of tiny stars. “That’s where this came from.”
He brought her wrist to his mouth and kissed it. “You mean I reminded you of your value.”
“Yes. Exactly.” She clasped his hand tightly. “I never dreamed I could be with a guy like you.”
“Knox.” He let out an exasperated breath. “I don’t want to be some ideal.”
“No, I know. I don’t mean it like that. Well, I kind of do. Because, back then, you were an ideal. Every time I went to your house, I felt like I didn’t belong. Like your dad would pull you aside and go, What’s she doing here? You’re the best man I’ve ever known, and I didn’t think I could have the best guy. I thought—I guess subconsciously—that I could only have someone more like me.”
“Do you mean a guy who doesn’t let life knock him down? Who doesn’t let other people define him? A talented guy who makes shit happen? Because that’s what my dad saw—that’s what anyone who knows you sees.”
“It’s funny how different people show you different facets of yourself. I never saw myself the way you see me.”
“I will gladly hold your mirror.”
“Ugh, not after tonight’s ugly cry. God, I can’t even remember the last time I lost it like that.”
“Pretty sure you’ve been in crisis mode your whole life.”
“What does that mean?”
“You spent a lot of your childhood alone in that trailer, and I’ve been in there. Those sounds are creepy. Trucks roaring past, wind making it creak. Remember that night you called me because a pack of wolves was howling?”
She did. That had been terrifying.
“You never knew when the bullies would strike or whether your boyfriend was sober. There wasn’t much about your life you could control. You moved to New York City and Paris by yourself, spent a year making dresses alone in a house on Maui, knowing that your ability to support yourself rested on your shoulders. I’m going to guess you spent every day worried about whether you’d finish in time or not have anything good enough.”
“I did.” For a moment the truth shone so brightly it blinded her, so that all she could do was live inside the rightness of it. “My whole life, everything has seemed critical, every problem life or death. You’re right. I have been in crisis mode.”
“And I think—I hope—for the first time tonight, you get that you’re not alone anymore.” He drew her so tight against him nothing could get between them. “Maybe that allowed you to break down a little.”
“I didn’t scare you away?” She used a teasing tone, but she wouldn’t mind a truthful answer.
“I’m thinking you’re not grasping the situation. All I’ve ever wanted was for you to see me for who I am.”
“And who’s that?”
“The one who carries your heart.”
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And don’t miss the first two standalones titles in The Bad Boyfriends Series, THE WORLD’S WORST BOYFRIEND and THE HEARTLESS BOYFRIEND! Grab your copies today!