Kitty Valentine Dates a Cowboy
Spin the wheel. Date the guy. Write the story. Fall in love?
Six years ago, Kitty Valentine took the book world by storm when her sweet debut romance hit number one on the Best Sellers List, which was followed by a string of successful releases.
Her latest novel, however, totally bombs, causing her editor to suggest she write much sexier books.
To Kitty, writing smut is the literary equivalent of stripping.
But with no advance coming in and her royalties dipping to an all-time low, Kitty has no choice.
Armed with a hot-guy spinning prize wheel, made by her best friend, listing all the different types of men she will date and then write about, Kitty will be spinning—not stripping—her way back onto the best-sellers list.
And in the process, she just might write her own happily ever after.
This humorous chick lit series (imagine an awkward Carrie Bradshaw navigating the NYC dating scene) is now complete and ready for binge-reading!
Release date: December 7, 2020
Publisher: Swoonworthy Books
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Kitty Valentine Dates a Cowboy
“You need time off,” my editor scolds.
“Are you kidding me, Maggie? I just returned from the islands.”
“Kitty, I saw your posts, and I know it wasn’t all fun and games. You haven’t been the same since you got back. Do you realize you gave the heroine’s best friend three different names over the course of this book?”
“Sure. I totally did that on purpose.”
No, of course I didn’t notice the problem with the names. And that isn’t like me.
“I was just trying to keep you on your toes,” I tease.
Normally, Maggie finds my sense of humor charming. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
She is not so impressed this time around. “That’s it. I’m putting my foot down. Frankly, I know I’m to blame for this.”
“For driving you as hard as I’ve been. Granted, I don’t call the shots, but I do have enough pull that I could stick up for you. You’re not a machine. You are a person, and you’re clearly in the midst of serious burnout.”
My head snaps back so hard, it’s amazing I don’t give myself whiplash. “That’s not true. I can handle it.”
“Tell me the truth. When was the last time you showered?”
I am so proud of myself too. “This morning, thank you very much.” I even sound smug when I say it, like I did some amazing thing by washing myself.
“Here’s a better question. When you sent me this file with the three-named best friend, when was the last time you showered before then?”
“I would like to plead the Fifth,” I grumble.
“I thought so.”
“That’s always the case. Ask any writer. When you’re getting close to a deadline, you want everything to be perfect, and some things tend to fall by the wayside.” Like bathing. Or brushing teeth. Or drinking anything but coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
“Regardless, you’re slipping. This isn’t criticism, trust me. It’s concern. I’ve been with you since the beginning, and you aren’t normally sloppy. You need some time off.”
“Fine,” I huff.
“Kitty, I’m just looking out for you. You’ve had a grueling schedule since we started with the tropes. As much as I want to keep you moving, I also know when to give you time to recharge. Now that the best-man book is finished, I want you to relax and enjoy yourself. Refresh and reset. We can talk in a few weeks.”
“Okay, Maggie. I hear you loud and clear.”
“Good. Now, maybe go find a man for fun.”
“Right, like I could do that in two weeks.”
“Anything is possible when you’re young, Kitty.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Good-bye, Maggie.”
Needless to say, I do not go look for a man. For two weeks, I mostly do things that I have been neglecting around the apartment. Now, here I sit on the rooftop, trying to soak up every last bit of sunshine and relaxation I possibly can.
The opening and closing of the roof door brings me out of my trance.
“I’m sure if your grandmother were here, she’d warn you about getting too much sun.”
Matt stands over me, hands on his hips. I can’t see much of him, even with my sunglasses on, thanks to the sun being behind him. But I can practically hear the smirk in his voice. I’m used to hearing it by now.
“I use plenty of sunscreen, thank you. And you’re blocking the sun. Now, my tan is going to be uneven.”
“Oh, the horror!” He crosses his hands over his chest and gasps.
“I know you can’t see my eyes right now because of the glasses, but trust me, I’m rolling them.”
He chuckles, going to the spot under the ledge where he stores his chair. “I needed a little fresh air. It’s been a tough couple of days. The market’s been volatile.”
“So, that’s why I keep hearing you muttering and cursing to yourself over there.”
“You can hear that?”
“Every once in a while. You know, only when I’m trying to take a nap because I’m supposed to be recharging. It’s no big deal.”
“Recharging, or did you need naps after moving your furniture around at all hours of the night?”
“You heard that?” I ask sheepishly.
“Yeah, I heard that.”
Oops. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you. I just decided on a whim that it would be fun to shake things up. Rearrange my furniture. Like they do on those house shows. It’s amazing, all the design tips you can learn during a few weeks off. Maybe you need to take a little time off. I bet it would do wonders for you.”
“Oh, sure. It’s been doing wonders for you.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” I raise myself up on one elbow, pushing up my glasses and resting them in my hair.
He’s stretched out in his chair, like always, his bare feet practically in my face. I have to shove them away, and he snorts like the pesky big-brother figure he’s turned into. “Let’s start with the fact that you’ve rearranged your furniture at least twice in the past two weeks.”
“What’s so weird about that? I wanted a change. And that’s the sort of thing people do when they have time off. All the little things they’ve been wanting to do but they were too busy.”
“And how many times have you rearranged your books?”
“I do that all the time anyway!”
“And you finally opened up the jigsaw puzzle Hayley had gotten you for Christmas two years ago, which had been sitting in its box under the TV stand ever since. You told me so.”
“Hey, that was a really cool present, and I felt like it deserved to be used.”
Honestly, it’s the coolest thing in the entire world. Hayley gathered hardcover versions of all of my books, arranged them, took a picture, and then had it made into a jigsaw puzzle.
“But you only put the border together. It’s been sitting on the floor in the same place with the same amount of work put into it for two weeks.”
“What is even the point of inviting you into my apartment when all you’re going to do is criticize? And I’m sorry, but since when do you take notes on the things I do? You’re starting to freak me out a little bit. Are you looking into taking up stalking as a second job?”
He shoots me a withering look.
“Or maybe private investigation?” I suggest.
“This is what friends do, Kitty. They point out when they feel like their friend is going off the deep end a little. I went in your kitchen yesterday to grab forks and saw you’d alphabetized your spice collection. I could eat off your kitchen floor; it’s so squeaky clean.”
“You’re more than welcome to give it a try, if that’s what you’re into.” I settle back down, pushing my sunglasses firmly back into place.
“I’m just trying to say, you’re a workaholic.”
“Gee, I had no idea.”
“People like you and me, we can’t handle having nothing to do. And, yes, we tend to burn out very easily. You should start running with me in the mornings. I find it helps me focus and clears my head.”
“That’s why I practice yoga. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the rolled-up mat in the corner while you were so busy with investigating the jigsaw puzzle on the floor. And you’ll notice, I’ve been eating a lot more vegetables and salads lately to make up for going off the deep end when I was on a deadline.”
“Yeah, and look at all the good it’s doing you—your yoga practice and salads. You’re still wound up tighter than … I don’t know what.” He shrugs. “You’re the writer. You have all the words.”
I have more than a few words for him, come to think of it. “You know I don’t like receiving unsolicited advice.”
“Because you always take it as criticism. Sometimes, when people make observations, it’s because they’re genuinely concerned. News flash: people care about you.”
I know he means it. And deep down, in the rational part of my brain, it means a lot to hear it. A writer’s life is a lonely one. We tend to live in our own worlds, worlds we make up from scratch. We don’t go to the office every day; there’s nobody to monitor us.
If anything, Matt is the closest thing to a coworker I’ve ever had. I’ve been lucky enough to make a career of writing ever since college, so I never went through the whole nine-to-five schedule.
He’s the one person I see almost every day. Sure, I visit Grandmother and Peter at least once a week, and Hayley and I see each other whenever she has time.
But that’s it.
I have to take a deep breath and slowly let it out before responding. Crow has never been my favorite thing to eat, but it looks like I have a serving waiting for me. “Thank you,” I manage. “I’m not used to having a lot of people in my life who genuinely care.”
He’s quiet for a minute.
I finally look up at him. “Well? Did I kill you?”
“Just about. You must’ve gotten too much sun if you’re thanking me all of a sudden.”
“Maybe I have, but that’s not the point.” I sit up, looking at him straight on. “Thank you. I’m trying to be a better person. More thoughtful, less argumentative.”
“Oh. Don’t change too much.”
“Are you kidding?” I laugh. “I imagined you would jump up and click your heels.”
“Well, you can keep imagining that, because it will never happen.”
“You know what I mean.”
He offers an actual, genuine smile. “Kitty, if I had such a problem with your argumentative attitude and your complete stubbornness, would I even talk to you anymore? Granted, having lunch or dinner in your apartment gives me a break from mine, but I could go just about anywhere. I like you the way you are. Mostly.”
“You just had to slide that last word in there, didn’t you?”
“Of course I did.” He gives me a smug wink. “I mean, would you expect anything else?”
“Honestly, no. I know better by now.” I roll onto my stomach to get a little sun on my back.
“Want some help?” When I look up at Matt, he’s holding up his hands. “Sunscreen. It’s not summer yet, but the sun will still burn you up. Especially since you’re not, um, the outdoorsy type.”
“Okay, but don’t get handsy with me.” I give him the bottle and settle my chin on my folded arms.
He snickers. “Right. Do you remember how we officially met?”
“What about it?”
“You threw up all over my rug—”
“Which I will replace! I keep telling you!”
“And then you stripped down to nothing and passed out in my bed. Now, I ask you, if I didn’t get handsy with you that night, why would I do it now that I actually know you and know all the baggage you come with?”
“You are such a jerk!” I jump a little at the sensation of sunscreen hitting my back. “I don’t have baggage.”
“No, you’re right. But you definitely have issues.”
“Why do I even talk to you?”
“Because you find my sense of humor so endearing.”
“Oh, a sense of humor? That’s what you call it?”
I would keep going, but there’s a problem brewing. A problem caused by the hands now sliding over my back, my shoulders, the back of my neck.
Here’s the thing.
Matt’s seriously hot. Like, breathtakingly hot. Back in the day, before that whole unfortunate getting drunk and puking and stripping incident, I was too intimidated by his looks to even talk to him. For an entire year in fact.
That hotness hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s like he gets better-looking all the time. It’s so unfair that men age well. Not that he’s old. But time shouldn’t work its magic on him like it does.
“Would you relax?” He digs his thumbs into my shoulders while rubbing the lotion in. “God, you’re a mass of knots.”
Yeah, because I don’t know what to do with the weird, fluttery feeling he’s giving me.
I seriously need to get a grip on myself. This is Matt. My annoying neighbor from across the hall, who I wouldn’t love nearly as much if it wasn’t for his adorable dog. So what if he happens to be scorchingly hot? The funny thing is, I used to get so nervous around him that I never uttered a word to him.
I honestly haven’t thought much about his hotness in a long time. Now that I’ve gotten to know him better, his sarcasm and unceasing devotion to knocking me down a peg or two have superseded the effect his looks have on me.
But right now? With his rather large, rather strong hands rubbing sunscreen into my skin?
It’s all I can think about. And things are about to get worse if he doesn’t stop.
“Thanks. I think I’m okay.” I scramble up to my hands and knees and then stand on shaky legs. “Actually, I think I should head inside. I’ve been out here for way too long. I feel a little woozy.”
He rubs his hands together, like he’s getting rid of the rest of the lotion on his palms.
Is he grinning? Why is he grinning? Dear Lord, does he think he turned me on just now?
Would he be entirely wrong if he did think that?
“Drink a lot of water,” he advises. “Rest. Keep yourself cool. You do look awfully flushed and worked up.”
“Sure, sure. Will do.” I can’t even look at him. It would be like getting heated up over my brother or a cousin or something. It’s gross.
Matt’s the last person in the world I need to be crushing on. He is only good for sharing takeout with and occasionally venting to when things in my life go south.
Besides, as soon as I get back to work, it’ll mean getting back to dating my next trope. I haven’t figured out who I’ll be writing about yet, but something tells me a few rounds of hot and heavy action, just like I had with Kellen, will set me back on the right track.
Because the last thing I need in my life is a crush on Matt. He would never let me live it down. I would have to move or something, and the very thought of that makes my stomach turn. But I would still rather put up with packing and moving and settling in someplace else than with the possibility of dying from embarrassment every time our paths cross.
“So, how do you feel about starting work again?”
I can tell Hayley the truth. I don’t feel like I have to put on any fake confidence with her. “God, I can’t wait. I’ve been going nuts with nothing to do.”
“I thought you were working on the jigsaw puzzle!”
I glance over to where the puzzle waits. Matt wasn’t kidding around or exaggerating. I’ve only filled in the borders. “Of course, I love the puzzle. It’s not the puzzle’s fault I’ve had the attention span of a gnat lately. I blame the internet.”
“I’m only teasing.” Hayley flashes one of her winning smiles, which is just as dazzling on my phone screen as it is in real life. “You need more than a jigsaw puzzle. You need a bigger life in general. But you knew that already.”
“My life is big in general! Can I achieve balance? I mean, I could try. But you have this way of making it sound like I’m the only person in the world who has ever failed to achieve work-life balance. And that just isn’t true.” I narrow my eyes at her. “Besides, don’t even pretend like you aren’t a workhorse.”
“I need to be if I ever want to make partner.” My best friend is a driven girl, and I have to give her credit for working hard toward her goals.
“But you know what I mean. You took calls, and I even saw you sneaking in work emails when we were away for your sister’s wedding.”
“Like I really wanted to do that! And it’s not like I was initiating. I was replying to emails from other people.”
“I know. I know. Look what it got you. A promotion to junior associate.”
“Exactly. You’re right though; we both work a lot. But you are practically a hermit. At least I’m around other people. Anyway, anyway”—she waves a hand around in front of the screen—“I didn’t call to argue with you.”
“Well, that’s good to hear.” I plop down on the couch, pulling my feet up under me. “So, what’s up?”
“You know what time it is.” Slowly, she raises the spinner, so I can see it.
“Are you sure you didn’t rig it this time?”
Last time we spun to see which romantic hero I would write about and therefore date, she’d changed every entry to Best Man, determined to hook me up with the best man at her sister’s wedding.
Kellen. He was hot and definitely knew what he was doing. That part of things went well. Extremely well actually. We were very compatible.
It was the whole drama after coming home that put an end to things. Namely the fact that he’d lied to me about his gambling addiction. These past few weeks, I’ve wondered if he’s the reason I was thrown off. It was difficult to end my book with a happy ending, knowing we hadn’t really gotten one.
I wish him well, and from what I understand, he’s working hard to turn things around.
And it’s time for me to move on. If only because I need to start writing another book soon.
And because, let’s face it, if Matt’s getting under my skin, I need to get laid.
“I didn’t rig it, I promise. Look.” She spins it once and then again. The first time, it lands on Biker—as in motorcycles—and the next time, Chef.
I snap my fingers and pout. “Darn it. I could go for a sexy scene on top of a prep table.”
“Who knows? Maybe we’ll land on it again.”
We do not land on it again.
What we do land on, however, makes my eyebrows just about shoot up off my head. “Oh, hello.”
Hayley giggles. “Cowboy! Giddyup, little lady!”
“Gee, what a terrible job I have.” I pretend to sigh and swoon.
“Listen, if you’re not up to the challenge, I would be happy to do this for you and tell you about it after our dates.”
“Oh, you’re such a sweet friend. Do I tell you that often enough?”
“It’s okay. I don’t do it for the recognition.”
Once I finish laughing, I shake my head. “Sorry. For this one, my research has to be firsthand. I’ll catch you up on how things go.”
“You know I’ll be waiting.”
“Now, the ever-looming question: where will I find this guy? It was one thing when I knew where to find a best man, you know?”
“You need help? I’ll find you a cowboy.”
“I love your confidence, but where the heck would you find a cowboy?”
“I have my ways.” When I roll my eyes, she sticks her tongue out at me. “We have all kinds of clients, remember?”
“Last time you hooked me up with one of your firm’s clients, it didn’t go so well.”
She grimaces at the memory. My brief fling with a rock star—a has-been, if I’m being honest—didn’t exactly end well. “We’ll do better this time. Let’s see … cowboys. That makes me think of ranchers and oil tycoons.”
“Tycoons. That sounds like the sort of client your firm would handle.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Maybe ask your grandmother if she knows anybody in the oil business too.”
I wrinkle my nose. “No, thank you. I’m not trying to date somebody who’s decrepit.”
“Decrepit, old men with money generally have young grandsons, who are prepared to inherit that money,” she points out with a sly wink.
“Why, Hayley”—I clutch my invisible pearls—“you sound downright mercenary.”
“Just saying. I’ll take a look at some of our client lists and find out if there’s anybody coming into town anytime soon. I’m sure we can find someone.”
“We don’t have to do anything, you know. I don’t want you to feel like you have to spend your valuable time working on this.”
“It’s a diversion. I mean, look what I would be doing otherwise.” She pans the phone’s camera, letting me see the piles of folders and stacks of paper spread out over her coffee table and the floor surrounding it.
The girl has a way of making me love my job more than I already did. “Is there anything I can do for you? Maybe order you up some dinner or a case of wine or something?”
“The case of wine sounds pretty good right about now,” she admits. “I’m going to try to take a little time off this weekend. Do you want to catch brunch?”
“Is that enthusiasm for me or for brunch?”
I wince, squinting my eyes until they’re almost shut. “Both?”
“Honestly, that’s better than I expected.”
“The oil business?” Grandmother looks beyond me, over at the wall behind where I’m sitting in her parlor. “Hmm. Do I know anyone …”
“What’s this about?” Peter joins us with a pot of tea.
No matter how many times Grandmother reminds him he doesn’t need to act like a paid servant anymore—she’s hired help to replace him now that they’re together as a couple—old habits die hard. He’s used to taking care of her, seeing to her needs. I guess when things have been a certain way for more than thirty years, it’ll take more than a few months to change it up.
“My new book hero has to be a cowboy,” I explain while he pours for the three of us.
He gives me a wink. “I didn’t know you rode.”
“I’m sure I could learn.”
“The only people I’ve ever known who made their living in oil are long dead,” Grandmother confesses with a shrug.
I can’t wait to tell Hayley I was right, no matter how immature it makes me. It probably shouldn’t have been my first thought, but a girl has to take her victories someplace, and Hayley is a super genius who’s almost never wrong about anything.
“I figured it was worth asking.” I pick out an egg salad sandwich with the crusts cut off. “Is this your egg salad recipe?” I ask Peter.
“Of course. I know better than to try to serve you someone else’s recipe.”
So, maybe Grandmother isn’t the only person he likes to do little things for.
“You know”—Grandmother places her cup and saucer on the table between us with a thoughtful expression—“I am chairing a charity ball, scheduled to take place this weekend. It’s for the Children’s Hospital. There are bound to be a few heavy hitters there.”
Why does Peter look so relieved?
“That’s a good idea. She could go with you.”
She turns to him with a frown. “My, it didn’t take long for you to arrive at that conclusion.”
Whoops. Something tells me there’s been trouble in paradise, and I walked right into it.
I take a second sandwich just for the sake of having something to do. Good thing they’re so yummy.
“Don’t be offended.” He pats her hand with a gentle smile. “But we’ve had this discussion. It would be better for you if someone other than myself attended the ball with you.”
Oh, of course. Yet another issue that won’t magically go away. The fact that Grandmother has already cut people out of her life for being anything less than thrilled when they found out she and Peter started a relationship. I can only hope I’m as kick-ass as she is someday.
And I very much wish I’d been there when she told off her number one frenemy, Whitney.
I clear my throat. “I’m always up for a ball.” This is a lie. I don’t love going to these fancy-schmancy events. Usually wondering in the back of my mind how long it’ll take before I do something awkward.
Not if do. When I do. It’s pretty much inevitable.
If it gets Peter off the hook though, I’ll gladly go. Not only has he taken care of her all these years, but he’s also made her so happy since they got together after her heart attack a few months ago. Life events like a heart attack tend to put things into perspective and show us what we otherwise were missing.
Plus, I do need to find a cowboy. Hayley made a good point. Wealthy, old men generally have wealthy grandsons, and it’s the grandsons I’m interested in.
Grandmother seems to shake herself a little before turning to me, like she forgot I was here. Too busy staring daggers at her boyfriend. “Well, dear, since it would appear I’m suddenly going solo, I would love to have you there. And even if we don’t land you an oil magnate, there are bound to be scads of wealthy, young men there.”
I glance at Peter. “Hey, it doesn’t matter if they’re wealthy. I don’t care about that.”
Like he needs to hear her going on about money right now. Sometimes, she just doesn’t think. I love her to pieces, but she’s not always sensitive to how her comments might be taken.
It strikes me—and not for the first time—that Peter has to be a brave man. It’s one thing for him to deal with her social circle being a bunch of snobs, but then he has to deal with her, and that can’t be a walk in the park.
At least he’s used to her ways. He wouldn’t love her if he wasn’t.
Why does that immediately bring Matt to mind?
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