SUTTON & BOONE
the "it" girls series, book 2
The spotlight can be a lonely place…
Sutton Fox is literally the face in front of the camera for Glossed & Glammed, the online company for all-things fashion. Founded with her two best friends, the girls never imagined their little tutorials would become an internet sensation. But now with over two million followers, fame and fortune is theirs. But it has a price. In the highly competitive world of fashion influencing, staying at the top means every moment of every day is spent working–and worrying. For Sutton, being in the center of their bright spotlight is something she can’t get enough of but knowing every star eventually burns out is constantly in the back of her mind. If she’s not trending, then she’s failing. So she comes up with a publicity plan.
When rugby star Boone Hammond rescues her from an overly aggressive creep at a charity event, Sutton knows she’s found the guy to put her plan into motion. The only thing G&G fans like as much as fashion is romance, so Sutton makes a proposal to Boone: She’ll pretend to be his girlfriend to fend off fangirls if he’ll be her high-profile arm candy for the next few months to increase her online presence. It’s a win-win for both of them. Once the allotted time is fulfilled, they both walk away. No harm, no foul. No emotions.
But Sutton can’t deny the intense attraction or her feelings. When she’s with Boone, she’s happier than she’s ever been, without all the insecurities that haunt her. But the agreement was, if either of them starts getting attached, they have to break off their fake relationship. How can she walk away from the one man who finally makes her feel real?
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“After you,” the handsome stranger says as he pushes open the door leading out onto the terrace, then steps aside to allow me to walk out ahead of him.
Smiling at him a little uncertainly, I slowly take a step onto the rooftop promenade.
The music playing out here is much more mellow than the pulsing beat downstairs, and long garlands of lights strung around the pergola twinkle brighter than the stars above us. I catch my breath. From way up here, I feel like I can see all of LA. It’s like being on top of the world. It leaves me feeling breathless and invigorated. I’m so glad that I came to the party tonight, if only for this sight.
My rescuer waves over one of the servers carrying a plate of drinks and puts in an order for the both of us before leading me to an empty couch situated in the far corner of the terrace.
“I thought we could sit here for a few minutes so you can collect yourself,” he explains as he sits down beside me. “Plus, we can also see if that ruffian decides to follow us up here.”
I’ve never heard anyone use the term ruffian before, and it makes me giggle. I’m not too worried about the jerk bothering us, but the couch is comfy and I’m very curious about who this mysterious man is, so I oblige him.
It’s a little chilly way up here and I find myself shivering just as the server arrives with our drinks—another Long Island iced tea for me and what looks like a Jack and Coke for him.
“Are you cold?” he asks.
He doesn’t even wait for me to answer before he starts shrugging out of his suit jacket. Concern makes his dark blond brows draw together as he holds it out to me.
Just who is this guy who’s willing to give me his jacket before he’s even given me his name?
No other guy I’ve ever met has ever been that chivalrous. I feel like most men in LA—Kali’s boyfriend, Grayson, excluded, of course—have never even heard of gallantry.
I consider myself fiercely independent—which is probably part of why I haven’t been in a relationship in a while—but it’s nice when a guy shows some common decency for once.
“I’m a little chilly,” I answer honestly.
He drapes the jacket around my shoulders and the lingering heat of his body and the scent of his cologne on the soft, expensive material warms me up even more than the cocktail I had a few sips of earlier.
The guy is not only sweet, but he’s also handsome as can be. Dark blond hair hangs into ocean blue eyes and his body is absolutely killer. He looks like a runner type, or at least someone super active. I blink hard in an attempt to stop my wandering imagination from conjuring an image of him running in a pair of gym shorts with the SoCal sun beaming down on his shirtless, chiseled bod.
Man, I really have been out of the dating pool too long if I can’t even have a conversation with a gorgeous guy before daydreaming about how he looks half-naked.
“I’m Boone Hammond,” the stranger who is a stranger-no-longer explains, sticking out his hand.
We shake, and when he releases me, my fingers keep tingling.
“Sutton Fox,” I say, reaching up to tuck my long, dark hair behind my ear. “Hey, thanks for being my knight in shining…suit down there. That guy was a major creep.”
Boone chuckles and eases back in his seat. He folds his muscled arms over his well-built chest. “I’d recognize a damsel in distress anywhere,” he quips before playfully winking. “But to be honest, I wasn’t worried about you. I was worried about him. If I waited for another second, I think you might’ve decked him.”
I flash a glossed grin, glad now that I had Kali get me all dolled up before I left for the party. I suppose you never know what cutie you’re going to run into, especially at an affair like this. I might not have any time for a relationship, but I can have at least one flirty conversation before I go.
“I’m pretty good at taking care of myself,” I admit with a laugh. “It’s nice when someone else steps in to help though. A bar fight probably wouldn’t have helped my brand at all.”
“Brand?” he echoes, gorgeous blue eyes curious. “Wait, let me guess. Are you one of those…what are they called?” He pauses and his face twists one way and then the other in deep thought. “In-flu-enzers?”
He pronounces the word like he’s speaking another language entirely and puts a weird, southern emphasis on the middle syllable.
“In... flu... enzer?” I repeat, jaw dropping.
I laugh until I can’t breathe. It’s probably not the sexiest look in the whole world, but Boone merely looks pleased to have brought me so much amusement. His chest is puffing a bit with pride despite the hilarious tears building in the corners of my eyes.
“Tell me you did not just say that,” I finally manage to pant. “It sounds like you’re talking about a deadly disease. I’m a beauty influencer. My two best friends and I have a popular YouTube channel where we post a lot about lifestyle, makeup, fashion tips, etcetera. Believe me, there’s definitely no infection involved.”
Boone chuckles, eyes gleaming. He has an attractive laugh, one that suddenly gives me an old-fashioned hankering for sweet tea and buttery biscuits. When he crosses one ankle over his knee, his foot jiggles slightly and the overhanging lights glint against the leather of his black shoe.
“I guess I’m pretty out of the loop when it comes to social media things. My coaches have always been pretty strict about what we should post online, so I just don’t.”
“Oh. So you’re, like, a sports dude?” I ask, intrigued.
“Athlete,” he corrects with an amused grin. “But yes. I play for the Coyotes, the professional rugby team here in LA. I actually just moved here last year.”
I narrow my eyes playfully on the handsome athlete. “Rugby? That’s kinda like real football, right?”
“Says the in-flu-enzer,” he teases right back, grin widening.
We burst into laughter again as we sip our drinks, appraising each other curiously at the same time.
“Are you a California girl, born and raised?” he finally asks.
When I nod, he gives a thoughtful hmm and gazes down into his drink before swirling the glass gently. Ice clinks against the backdrop of soft music and the muted conversation of other people on the terrace.
“Where are you from, Boone?”
He smiles again, but this time it’s a small, almost bittersweet smile. “Texas. They say everything is bigger in Texas, but here in California, everything is way more overwhelming. It’s all hustle and bustle and rush and fuss. It makes a country boy’s head spin. I’m definitely not in Texas anymore.”
I set down my drink on the small table in front of us, then slip off my heels and curl up on the couch with my feet beneath me. Nestled in Boone’s jacket, it almost feels like I’ve known him forever, even though he’d only just whisked me away moments ago. With him, I don’t feel this pressure to be a picture-perfect girl. I can simply chat with him, person to person. He has my curiosity piquing.
“I can definitely imagine a move like that being overwhelming,” I say. “I grew up not far from here, so I’ve never had to truly relocate. Did you come out here all by yourself?”
He drags a hand through his dark blond hair and an uncomfortable expression flashes across his face. Just when I'm regretting saying anything, he shakes his head but the movement is so small I almost blink and miss it.
“I actually moved here with a girl—Lucy. We’d been together since high school, but in our tiny town, that wasn’t unusual. She ended up cheating on me a little while after we got here.”
“I'm so sorry,” I whisper, wincing.
Boone shrugs strong shoulders. “I’m over it now. I mean, I’m way too busy with the Coyotes’ intense training schedule to date anyway, so maybe it was for the best. Plus, we hadn’t exactly been happy before the move.” He pauses and strokes his chin before laughing quietly. “Honestly, the hardest thing about being single lately is the team’s fangirls. They’re relentless! I can hardly walk down the sidewalk without one of the Coyotes’ groupies tackling me. It was never like that in Texas.”
I paw playfully at his shoulder. “That’s because you’re special here! That southern charm of yours is going to attract girls for miles.” I sigh. “I get what you’re saying, though. The only men whose interest I seem to catch are sleazeballs like the one downstairs. If I had time for romance, it would definitely not be with someone like that.”
“Why does being single have to be so complicated?” Boone muses before sipping his drink again.
“Tell me about it,” I say with a snort. “Don’t people get that not everyone is actively looking for a relationship? Fans are always asking when I’m going to find a boyfriend, but running the G&G channel is more than a full-time job. It’s practically my existence.”
Boone grins. He rests his head against the back of the couch as the music swells and changes.
“Sometimes, I think about hiring someone to come with me to these parties,” he chuckles. “I know that sounds insane, but it’d keep the girls from flocking all over me. I can’t even enjoy myself at these parties most of the time because so many women keep trying to get my attention.” He lifts his head again and turns toward me with a faint frown. “I have to be honest, Sutton, that was part of the reason I scooped you up tonight. I would’ve helped anyone who was being tormented by that gross guy, but I was hoping you would hang out with me for a bit so I had a chance at having a good time tonight. I mean, look, we haven’t had a single person come bug us since we sat down.”
Frankly, Boone’s right. I hadn’t even considered that until now. Nothing else dramatic had happened since we buddied up. It’s a miracle.
Suddenly, I shoot upward on the couch and twist toward him.
“Boone,” I whisper, barely able to talk through my earnest excitement, “I think you might be a genius.”
“Think?” he teases, but his brow slowly creases with confusion. “But seriously, what are you talking about?”
I grin at him, rubbing my palms together like the mastermind that I am. I’ve got just the plan to make both of our lives a thousand times easier.
All Boone has to do is say yes.
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