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Man Card (Man Hands #2)
Author: Sarina Bowen


1 Maniacal Laugh

 

 

Ash


Before getting out of my car, I slip into incognito mode—I tug my blonde hair into a sleek ponytail, pull on my black leather gloves, and lower my shades.

There. Now I’m ready for action.

I’m dressed in skintight black jeans, a black cashmere turtleneck with a sweet cowl neckline and black ankle boots. It’s the perfect cat burglar outfit, while also totally appropriate for cocktails later with my besties, Brynn and Sadie.

Do I have an outfit for everything, or what? It’s my superpower.

Closing the car door with a quiet click, I turn to survey the mansion. It’s gorgeous—a show home on Reed’s Lake. I’m not here to actually steal anything from the homeowner. I’m just here to claim what’s rightfully mine—a big, fat commission for selling this house.

If I get that commission, I’m one step closer to winning the year-end bonus at work. Furthermore, I’ll have outdone my competitor Braht. The world’s most irritating man.

Victory is going to be so sweet.

Ignoring the wrought-iron gates, I sneak through a hole in the boxwood hedge. It’s broad daylight, so anyone could see me. But if I stay close to the hedge and hunch over a bit, maybe I’ll be invisible.

It’s not rational, I know that, but I’m not feeling super rational these days.

The problem is Braht. He brings out all my craziest behavior. I’ve had to put up with him far too often this month as we try to coordinate the sale of this home. It’s all the more reason why I deserve the commission on this house, and he deserves to rub my feet.

I pause because something happens to me when I think of Braht rubbing my feet. What is that peculiar feeling?

Goddammit! It’s a throb! The image of his long, manicured fingers on my instep just makes my loins throb.

Motherfucker.

All the more reason to focus.

I have made it past the perfectly trimmed bushes, and I’m now standing at the giant entrance to the home. It’s a beautiful property that Tom Spanner, my bestie’s boyfriend, owns. He’s selling it so he and Brynn can live in a smaller house on a bigger lake, where they’ll be disgustingly happy together.

That’s all well and good, but I can’t fathom why they had to force Braht and me to work together on this sale. It means I actually have to answer his calls. Just thinking about it steams me up. It’s been a few days since my last yoga class, too.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

I reach out with my black gloved hands and commence Operation Suck It, Braht.

The goal: lock him out of the house right before his scheduled showing. I’m changing all the codes on the lockboxes. And then I’ll stick around to watch him squirm. He deserves to squirm a little, if only because he’s the kind of guy who wears khaki shorts and a pink button-down in October.

But, hey. It’s not like I’ve been checking him out whenever we’re here at the house together. It’s not like I keep noticing his surprisingly muscular legs, or the perpetually tan V of skin on his tight chest…

Fuck. Distraction is dangerous for cat burglars!

So I redirect my focus to the lockboxes, punching in the numbers, performing a little technical voodoo. And...voila! New codes.

Now I feel a new kind of tingle as I picture his face the moment he realizes he’s been had. He’ll fumble then, disappointing his buyers when he can’t get into the house. They’d have to have to use pogo sticks to peek into the upstairs windows.

And no one buys a house they can’t inspect. Not even rich people.

Feeling vindicated, I run back to my car. My heart thuds with excitement, and another emotion, too. I feel...nefarious. And it’s great! Okay, technically it’s bad. But being bad can be exquisite.

In my reckless youth, I let my inner bad girl out more often. It didn’t work out so well, so these days I keep myself on a much tighter leash. But today I can feel her rattling her chain.

I slip into my car and check my vantage point. I’m parked under a beautiful willow tree, where I’ll wait until poor little Brahtie shows up, and I win. The end.

 

Okay, I’ve been sitting here for three minutes. Three minutes is the entire time I can be evil before I just get bored. Why is he late? Uggghh.

And because I need to be stealthy and watchful, I can’t even listen to music or distract myself by checking my phone. So I’m forced to just sit here and analyze my entire life.

And, let’s face it, my past is like a dark alley I try to stay clear of.

My teen years provided plenty of cringeworthy moments, but those errors were mostly unimportant, like wearing a white T-shirt while canoeing with the football team. I forgive myself for little things like this.

But my grownup regrets are harder to excuse. The first one is a man named Dwight Engersoll. I can’t think too hard about it because it makes me anxious. But suffice it to say Dwight is now safely far away from me. Locked far away. Literally. In the Michigan State Penitentiary.

My second regret? It’s much less traumatic, but I was equally stupid and vulnerable. It involved a pantry, nudity, being coated with flour, and the most mind-blowing orgasm I’ve ever experienced. An orgasm so intense that not only did my toes curl, but they actually cramped.

It was sort of a good cramp, but still. A cramp. I probably shouldn’t regret that sexual experience, because who can actually regret an orgasm that makes you glow? But let me tell you, it was regrettable anyway. First, because the sound of said orgasm was caught and broadcast to ten thousand subscribers on Brynn’s new cooking show, and secondly because I was doing it...with Braht.

Braht!

Just the sound of his name makes my toes curl. Wait. Not in the good post-orgasm way, but in the bad I-hate-him-so-much-I-could-spit way. It’s hard to explain why, since he’s rich, witty and scrumptiously attractive. But if you met him, you’d understand. He’s tall and lanky with floppy golden hair that falls into his face. He wears a shit-eating grin most of the time, along with clothing that’s always, always in pastel colors.

He’s like the reincarnation of James Spader in the eighties, complete with his collar up. He manscapes, gets manicures, and I’m pretty sure he mansplains with the best of them, but when we’re in the same room, the hairs on my arms rise. Also, my nipples harden.

And I am not hitting that again. No ma’am. Nope. Never again. There will be no nipple hardening here. Nipple hardening leads to my brain shutting down, which is often followed by PLC. Poor Life Choices.

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