Title: Love Block
Series: Love Lock Duet #1
Series: Love Lock Duet #1
Author: S.M. West
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 22, 2019
Pippa just showed up uninvited with plans of staying the weekend.
I can hardly handle an hour with her, let alone two days.
Despite more than a year of dodging her, nothing has changed.
She’s the only woman I want.
Smart and sexy and bold.
My best friend’s little sister.
Denying my desire for her is torture.
And she doesn’t make it easy; she wants me too.
The thing is, making her mine means ruining my best friend.
Love Block is the first book in the Love Lock Duet.
“Holy shit, you’re really doing this adult thing, aren’t you?” Finn clinks his shot glass with mine and sticky amber liquid spills over the sides onto my fingers.
Sugary caramel flavors invade my senses as I bring the glass to my lips, and the Canadian whiskey slides smoothly down my throat, heat nipping at my gut.
“You know you’re old when you buy property and shit, right?” He licks his upper lip. “First a condo, and now a cottage. Damn, just talking about all that responsibility makes me queasy.”
Ken snickers at my side, and despite Finn’s intention, I accept his jab as praise. Praise for a dream come true. They can take all the pot shots they want, I have no regrets.
“You’ve got to grow up sometime. A cottage isn’t exactly a burden.” A wide, goofy grin steals my face.
Pretty soon their sorry asses will be begging to crash at my cottage from the Victoria Day long weekend in May—also referred to as May two-four, which marks the beginning of cottage season, blackflies, and summer—to Thanksgiving. Who’ll be laughing then?
Friday night with the guys comes with lots of ribbing, lots of laughing, and lots of cold ones. Tonight’s no different, except we’re celebrating more than the end of the work week. We’re celebrating my new cottage in Muskoka. Well, it’s not new, rather old actually. A fixer-upper that cost a fucking fortune. But it’s mine and totally worth it.
“Nah, not ready to grow up quite yet. My mom’s pestering me about when I’m gonna propose to Cass. That’s enough stress.” He shivers mockingly but ends up looking like he’s having a seizure.
Finn Raine is a liar. I’ve known him since we were in diapers—our mothers are best friends—and Cassandra Donnelly is his high school sweetheart. Nothing about marrying her causes him undue stress.
“And when are you gonna pop the question?” Ken, another buddy from our high school days, asks about what most would call the ultimate commitment—marriage.
“Not any time soon.”
Full of shit. He’s counting the days, literally, until Cass graduates with her Ph.D. to get down on his bended knee. He already has the ring.
Cupping my mouth with my hand, I fake-cough, “Bullshit,” and elbow him in the ribs.
“Shut it.” Finn shoves my arm. “What’s that you said? Another round on you?”
Tipping my head back, I laugh hard, my insides heating from our usual spirited banter, the top shelf liquor, or both.
“You’re in luck. I’m in a good mood. One more round on me, asshole.”
The guys whoop and whistle and bang their fists on the bar. That gets the attention of not only the bartender but half the room. Heads spin toward the ruckus, including a cute blonde a few seats down from us.
She licks her lips, her hunger growing the longer I hold her gaze. If I wanted, we’d be fucking in under thirty minutes.
Our beers arrive, and I take a long pull of the cold, frothy lager. Finn called it. At twenty-nine, I’m an adult, already wading through burgeoning responsibility as a criminal lawyer and the proud owner of not one but two properties. All I need now is a woman to share my life.
Like bitter February flurries in Toronto, my spine freezes, ripples of frost spreading through me. Where the hell did that thought come from?
There isn’t a woman in my life or any prospects on the horizon. Marriage is a long way off. Came close with Scarlett, my girlfriend of two years, but we split six months ago. The break was amicable and mutual.
Some days I miss her, some days I don’t, and some days I can’t make sense of what happened. Even still, if she were here right now wanting to get back together, I’m not sure that’s what I’d want.
Since then, I’ve had a couple one-night stands—more out of habit than desire. Enough to realize I’m done with meaningless hookups.
The blonde smiles again, and Finn notices, winking suggestively as if I need his approval or permission.
“I’m gonna piss, and then I’m out. Go make your move, bud.” He slaps my shoulder like a coach boosting his player before sending him onto the field.
He vacates his stool, and I ignore him, signalling the bartender to settle my bill.
“Ken, I’m gone too.” I take out my card as the bartender nears with the machine.
“Sure. I’ll see you later this week.” Ken swigs the last of his drink and scans the crowd, on the hunt. The guy thinks with his dick.
As I head out, I find Finn leaning against the wall by the entrance, with a shit-eating grin swallowing his features. The idiot was waiting for me, hoping I’d score. His eyebrows climb to his hairline at my solo exit.
“Where’s the chick?” Both shoulders rise, his hands out, palms up.
I brush past him, out the door, and into the balmy May night. He follows, bewildered. “But she wanted in your pants.”
“I’ve got to get up early tomorrow.” I’m bored with this conversation.
“What? Since when does that have anything to do with a quick fuck?”
“Not interested.” I yawn.
“The fuck?” He grabs my shoulder, twisting me to face him. “Who the fuck are you, and what did you do with Drew?”
I chuckle. This guy can be a diva. He’s been with Cass for eleven years and lives the bachelor life through Ken and me. He’s beyond dramatic if we pass up a hookup.
“I’m done with the one-night stands.” This isn’t news. We’ve had this chat.
I keep walking, but he’s rooted to the sidewalk, puzzled. My building is a block away, and I can’t get there fast enough. The insanity of my workload is finally hitting me. I’ve worked my ass off the past few weeks, knowing I’d be away for the next two.
Sleep would be an awesome way to spend the weekend, making up for the long hours I’ve been putting in, but sleep has to wait. There’s too much to do.
“You’re crazy, asshole. Get back there,” Finn orders like this is life or death. Idiot. “The blonde was hot.”
“Don’t bust my balls.” Not interested. Blondes aren’t my type.
Only one blonde kicks my heart rate into overdrive, twists my insides, and brings me to my knees.
Finn’s younger sister.
Sexy spitfire and off limits.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Why did I even go there? She’s not only Finn’s sister, she’s my younger sister Paige’s best friend. She’s family.
Not to mention Finn has made it abundantly clear that if I so much as think about making a move on Pippa, he’ll chop off my nuts and feed them to me.
Ouch. My hand involuntarily slides into my pocket and adjusts my junk. All good.
“You’re fucking dumb,” Finn pants, winded from the few feet of jogging.
“Have you looked in a mirror lately?” I quip, opening the door to my building. “You crashing here, or what?”
“Nah. I’m the smart one. Cass is waiting for me. I’m getting laid tonight. Later, loser.” He pulls out his phone for an Uber.
“Whatever,” I chuckle, holding my thumb and pointer finger in the shape of an L.
“I’ll come up next weekend with Cass, and maybe my parents, Pip, or the rest of the brood will come.” He barely glances up from his phone.
Finn has three siblings: Pippa, Claire, and Tom. While I’ve known all of them their entire lives and we’re like family, only one of them is a problem. And if she shows up next weekend, I’m done for.
I sizzle with thoughts of Pippa. I’m a stick of dynamite, and she’s the flame. Ignite, blaze, combust.
That’s why I’ve stayed away.
It’s been well over a year since I’ve seen her. My avoidance was intentional. If I was going to keep my relationships with Scarlett, Finn, and my family, I had to end all contact. But now, with just a mention, I want to see her. Not a good idea.
“That’s cool, but don’t bother.” My voice is steady and uninterested, contradicting the small explosion going on in my chest. “Alec and Paige are coming, and Ken’s going to take a day or two. I’m good, thanks.”
“All right.” He’s engrossed in his phone.
The need to sleep has vanished, replaced by a wired edginess I know too well.
Finn had to say her name, and now I wonder what she’s been up to. I could ask Paige since they live together, but like my absence, my ignorance is deliberate.
The less I know, the better. I don’t need the temptation. She’s the girl I can’t have.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? She’s just a girl, and seeing her now might be different. She’s most probably over me and dating. Dammit. Why’d I have to think about Pippa with another guy? Now I want to punch something.
The gym. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll unwind with exercise and exhaust myself.
Sleep does eventually come, but it’s restless with dreams of a sexy blonde bombshell with the bluest eyes, the longest legs, and the sweetest smile.
Releasing September 5, 2019
S.M. West writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, erotica and whatever her heart desires. She spends most of her time juggling a day job, being a mom, wife, and writing. She’s a self-professed junkie of many things, including a voracious fan of music, a born wanderer, a wine aficionado and chocolate connoisseur.