Chapter One: The Proposal

I am putting the finishing touches on The Arrangement, out July 1st. This is a standalone romance, but our hero, Jason, is the brother of Renn Brewer from The Proposal. The Proposal also happens to be the PERFECT summer romance, so I thought I’d share Chapter 1 with you today in case you haven’t read it.

It’s one of my favorites!

 

Breaking News: Rugby’s bad boy marries his best friend’s little sister

If Renn Brewer would’ve asked me to marry him, I would’ve said no.

Why?

One, his reputation precedes him. His name is in the headlines at least once a month. Two, he’s not just my brother’s best friend. They’re teammates. And three, I’m in my self-care era.

Unfortunately, a version of me equates self-care with bad choices.

The cocktail in my hand—similar to the one that got me into this situation—is the prettiest shade of pink. It’s almost the same color as the giant rock on my left hand. And instead of discussing an annulment, I’m considering a 90-day marriage of convenience to the man I accidentally married in Las Vegas.

Renn didn’t propose marriage. But he does deliver a proposal I might be unable to turn down.

USA Today and Amazon Charts Bestselling author Adriana Locke delivers a “spicy & sweet!” forbidden sports romance with a marriage of convenience that will make you swoon!

 

 

Chapter One

Blakely

 

“Could you die quietly?” Ella sighs, pulling her sunglasses down and squinting into the sunlight. “And maybe do it over there, please?”

Two quintessential frat boys, a label I’d bet my life on yet feels like a disservice to fraternities everywhere, cease their constant complaints about being hungover. Their whining is a show, a pathetic effort to gain attention, and one we’re over—especially Ella.

They fire a dirty look at my best friend. She cocks a brow, challenging them right back, and waits.

Lying on the chaise next to her, I smirk. How many seconds will it take for them to realize they’re outgunned by a five-foot-three pistol with bubble-gum pink toenails?

Eight … Nine … Ten …

They gather their things quietly, watching Ella like she might toss them into the pool if they don’t act quickly enough.

I wouldn’t be shocked if that happened, either.

Ella St. James doesn’t surprise me much anymore. She carried a tray of freshly baked snickerdoodle cookies when she rang my doorbell three years ago. She was adorable, wearing an apron with embroidered cherries and a white silk ribbon in her hair while welcoming me to the Nashville neighborhood. It starkly contrasted with the following weekend when she took me out so I could get acquainted with the city. That night ended with Ella jacking some guy’s jaw for trying to grope me on the dance floor and me picking her up from the police station in an Uber at three in the morning.

“Thank you,” she says, sliding the glasses up her nose and returning to her book.

Las Vegas is sweltering. Blue water sparkles just inches from our feet, and I swear it only amplifies the sun’s rays. We should probably get a massage or go shopping to beat the unbearable heat, but I didn’t fly for almost four hours to stay inside.

I could’ve celebrated my new job and birthday like that in Tennessee.

“How do you think I would look with red hair?” I ask, stretching my legs in front of me. “Not bright cherry red, but a more purple-y, crimson-y red.”

“No.”

I furrow my brows. “That wasn’t a yes or no question.”

“I was cutting to the chase.” Her fingertip trails along the bottom of the paperback. “That’s not the question you were really asking.”

It wasn’t? I settle against my chair. Yeah, it wasn’t.

It was a last-minute attempt at being young and reckless before I turn thirty tomorrow. 

This whole birthday crap has been a bit of a mind fuck.

I’ve lived the past ten years with little abandon. I’ve traveled, dated, and swam with sharks. Went on a ten-city tour with a rock band. Attended a movie premiere, got engaged (and unengaged), and ate pizza at the world’s oldest pizzeria in Naples. Check that off the bucket list. And with every year of fun, I assumed I had nothing to worry about—that I would have my shit together before I turned thirty and became a real adult.

That was an incorrect assumption.

By all accounts, I should be in a stable relationship and burdened with a mortgage and enough debt to bury my soul until Jesus returns. Appliances should excite me. I should have a baby. I should understand life insurance. Instead, I just broke up with another bad boy with commitment issues, re-upped the rental contract on my townhouse, and refilled my birth control.

But that all ends in six hours. I have to turn over a new leaf when the sun comes up. It’s time.

Ella’s book snaps closed. “This is not a tri-life crisis, Blakely. It’s just a birthday.”

“I know that.”

“But do you?”

Yes, I do,” I say, mocking her. “I’m not in crisis mode. I’m just transitioning into this new era of buying eye cream and freezing my eggs, and it’s a little … terrifying.”

She sighs. “You’ve been buying eye cream for years.”

“Yeah, as a hedge against the future. This is the future.”

Ella rolls onto her side, brushing her dark hair off her shoulder. “While I can’t relate because I have a solid two years before I’m thirty—”

“Was that necessary?”

She laughs. “You’re freaking out for no reason. Tomorrow is just another day.”

“I know. I really do. There’s just this pressure to get my ducks in a row and start making serious progress, or else I’ll be fifty with no husband or kids. And I want both.”

“All I ask is that you be a little more selective on the husband part because the last few guys you’ve dated …” She whistles. “Not good, Blakely.”

Yeah, I know.

“I know you feel your biological clock ticking or whatever it is, but you have been doing big things,” she says. “You’re the new artist manager assistant at Mason Music Label. Remember, you little badass? That’s impressive.”

I shrug happily at the reminder. That’s true—a dream come true, really. And even more of a reason to get my shit together. “But would I be even more impressive as a redhead?”

“The answer is still no.”

I groan. “Come on. I want to go out on something big. Something fun. Something wild that I’ll remember while I’m taking vitamins and going to bed before ten.”

Ella reaches for her water. “Fine. But let’s find something else. Red doesn’t suit your skin tone.”

“Like what? I’m not getting anything pierced, and I don’t think I’m ready to commit to a tattoo.”

“You’ve been wanting a tattoo since the day I met you. As a matter of fact, weren’t you looking at tattoos when I brought over those cookies?”

I laugh. “Yes. But it’s so permanent. What if I don’t want it next week?”

She rolls her eyes.

“What else is there?” I ask. “Let’s think.”

“Well, you could find a man with money and get a quickie wedding on the Strip.”

I laugh again, turning over onto my stomach. “At this point, that’s the only way I’ll get married—inebriated and to a stranger.” The guys I date aren’t marriage material. I’ll probably be alone forever at this rate. 

“Hey, people find love in all sorts of ways.”

“True, but the odds that I’ll find a marry-able man in the next few hours is incredibly low.” I fold my arms under my head. “In lieu of sexy strangers with an engagement ring in their pocket, what else do you suggest?”

She taps a finger to her lips. “We could go to a show tonight. A male striptease or something like that. It might be a way to get your juices flowing—”

Ew!”

While lacking permanence. Then just see where the night takes us. Be free-spirited.”

“You just want to go because it’s one more way to needle Brock.”

Her grin is full of mischief. “So? What’s your point?”

Ella and my brother have been a thing for almost two years. What kind of thing? I’m afraid to label it, although I’m fairly certain they’re exclusive without declaring exclusivity.

On the one hand, Ella is a lot to handle. She’s smart, opinionated, and doesn’t need a man—and she knows it. She also has a propensity to make decisions and weigh the risks after. That drives Brock nuts.

On the other hand, dating Brock would be a nightmare. Women throw themselves at him wherever he goes. Men stop him for autographs and to man-swoon over him. And during the season, he’s focused and mostly unavailable. That doesn’t always work for Ella.

I watch this back-and-forth and vow never to get into a relationship with a player—an athlete or otherwise. Again. I’ve done that before, and it didn’t end well.

“I’m taking it you two are still fighting,” I say.

“We aren’t fighting. There’s nothing to fight about.” She lifts her chin to the sky. “I’m right, and he’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”

“I agree. You’re right this time.”

Her eyes widen. “You’re damn right I’m right. I’m not putting up with him taking off to Miami with his friends and not even mentioning our anniversary.”

“How can you have an anniversary if you aren’t in an official relationship?” I snicker. “Isn’t that what you always tell me? That you aren’t in an official relationship with him?”

She waves a hand through the air, dismissing my question. “It’s a prelationship, but that doesn’t change anything in this circumstance.”

“A what?”

“A prelationship. The formative stage where boundaries and expectations are established so you can determine if the other person is willing to abide by them.” She pauses. “Brock isn’t.”

I roll my eyes and let it go. They’ll settle this before Brock returns from Miami and we’re home from Vegas. I’ve seen it too many times to count.

“Then fine,” I say, sitting up. “Let’s go to a show. But if my brother asks whose idea it was, I’m not taking the blame.”

“Tell him it was mine. I want him to know. A little competition never hurt anyone.”

“Competition for your non-boyfriend?” I ask, grinning.

“Precisely.”

I shake my head as a bead of sweat trickles down my face. I wipe it away with the back of my hand. “I’m ready to go in and grab a shower.”

“And I need to make reservations for dinner.” She sits up, slipping on her flip-flops. “You owe me, you know.”

“What do I owe you for?”

“For depriving me of my right as your best friend to throw you the most outrageous, amazing birthday party that Nashville has ever seen.” She stuffs her water bottle in her bag. “I’m known in certain circles as the girl who throws the best bashes. I can only wonder what everyone is thinking about this.”

I laugh at her ridiculousness, slipping my cover-up over my head. “You’ve thrown me a huge birthday party every year I’ve known you. You can miss this one. It won’t hurt.”

She frowns. “Maybe it won’t hurt you, but it pains me. I have a reputation to uphold.”

“You’ll survive.”

I drop my phone, towel, and water bottle into my bag. I skim the area around me to ensure I have everything.

“Ready?” she asks.

“Yeah.” A bubble of excitement fills me. Let the birthday festivities commence. “Let’s go find trouble.”

Ella shares my smile as we slide our bags on our sun-kissed shoulders. I spot my book under her chair and grab it. How did it get there?

As I stand, my gaze falls on Ella. Her wide eyes are twinkling. I’ve seen this look enough times to know things are about to get real.

“What?” I ask, frozen in place.

Her grin pulls wider. “I think trouble just found us.”

Oh no. 

 

Read The Proposal on Amazon, listen on Kindle Unlimited, or listen on Audible.

 

 

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