Title: The Rules of Dating
Authors: Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 19, 2022
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Shit. Billie and I looked at each other. A devilish smirk spread across her face…and then she turned and bolted.
I looked around. The coast seemed clear, so I ran as fast as I could while pushing a heaping cart full of crap. For the last hour and a half, Billie had been picking things out and holding them up to show me. If I agreed, she chucked them over her shoulder for me to catch with the cart. I’d been zigging and zagging, trying to scoop up all the merchandise she threw as I followed her around—both of us laughing like school kids the entire time. That is, until I missed that last toss and a glass bowl shattered on the floor.
IKEA was a giant maze, and both of us kept running, turning left and then right, until we finally arrived in the warehouse portion of the store, which was right before the checkout line. Billie leaned over with her hands on her knees, huffing and puffing.
“I think we’re in the clear,” she said.
“Pretty sure I would’ve rather paid for the twelve-dollar bowl than make a run for it. This cart is so full, it almost tipped like ten times.”
She laughed. “Did we get everything we need?”
“I’m not sure. But we definitely bought a lot of shit we don’t need. Like I think we could have done without the motorized ice cream cone spinners. The tenant can lick their own ice cream.”
Billie grinned. “Those are for me and Saylor. They light up, too!”
I snorted. “Come on, let’s check out before I’m completely broke.”
While we loaded everything onto the conveyor belt, I lifted my chin toward the in-store restaurant located just after the cashier stations. “You still up for meatballs?”
“Uh…hello? It’s the only reason I came.”
I clutched my hand over my heart. “Oww, that hurts. And here I thought you came for the company.”
After we were all checked out, I wheeled the cart over to a table for two in the corner of the restaurant. “Why don’t you stay here with the stuff, and I’ll go get us some meatballs.”
“Okay. But can you get me a drink, too, please? I’m so thirsty.”
When I came back, I set two big plates of meatballs on the table.
“Did you forget the drinks?” Billie asked.
I grinned and lifted a finger. “Actually, I didn’t. I brought them.” My gym bag from earlier had been lying on the bottom shelf underneath the cart since we walked in. Taking it out, I unzipped and started to unpack. “Wine, madame?” I held a bottle of merlot over one arm, showing the label like a maître d’.
Billie cracked up. “You brought wine with you? I thought it was strange when you took your duffle bag into the store. But I figured maybe your wallet was in it and stuff.”
I shrugged. “What choice did I have? You won’t go out with me, so I have to make the best out of our undate at IKEA.” I unloaded two plastic wine glasses, white cloth napkins, and a candleholder with a red candle.
Billie picked up the candle and examined it before raising a brow. “A winter village scene?”
I shrugged. “They’re Christmas candles. I only had an hour to get out of the house with a four-year-old. Don’t judge.”
The looks we got from the people around us as we ate meatballs by candlelight were pretty comical. I was also pretty sure it was against the rules to have an open flame in IKEA, let alone an open bottle of wine, but evidently the people behind the counter hadn’t read the employee rule book to be certain. Either way, the smile on Billie’s face made it all worthwhile. After we were done eating, I blew out the candle and started to pack up.
“You know…” Billie shook her head. “I think you just snuck a date into our undate.”
I shoved the cork back into the top of the wine bottle and zippered it into my duffle. “I did not.”
She squinted at me. “I’m pretty sure you did. What’s the difference between what we just did and a date? We shared a candlelight meal with wine and cloth napkins.”
I leaned down and whispered in her ear. “The difference is, you don’t get to come at the end.”
When I pulled back, Billie’s jaw was hanging open. I freaking loved that she looked so affected. She swallowed. “Is that the way all your dates end?”
I shook my head back and forth slowly. “No, but it’s damn straight the way ours would.”
Copyright © 2022 Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland
It all started when I hosted a little party for a bunch of new friends.
Though “friends” might not be the right word since the invitees were all the women I’d found out my boyfriend was talking to behind my back. When the guest of honor walked in—aka my now ex—things took a turn…
Unfortunately, a stranger witnessed the whole blowout. I was in a mood that night and ended up giving this gorgeous guy an attitude, too. As if my night could get any worse, before he stormed off, he informed me he was actually my landlord.
Colby Lennon, along with three of his friends, owned the building where my tattoo shop was located. He and I were total opposites. He wore a tie, oozed confidence that came with years of women falling at his feet, and wasn’t afraid to say what he wanted, which lately—was me.
I hated that I found myself attracted to him. Especially since I was supposed to be on a self-imposed dating hiatus. Yet the two of us couldn’t seem to stay away from each other. We started hanging out, as friends. I even went as far as making rules for what he’d dubbed our “undates.”
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