I am so excited to introduce you to my next pair of steamy romantic comedy victims! Theo and Gemma are so cute together I keep trying to hug my computer. GREEN is a bit more of a slow-burn than my other books, as it is a friends-to-lovers story, and Theo and Gemma are a tiny bit younger than most of my protagonists.
I’ll let the blurb and rather long excerpt speak for themselves. GREEN is available for pre-order HERE. It will be live in Kindle Unlimited on September 6th!
Three years ago, I did what so many people say you should do if you want a happy life. I married my best friend.
You know what people don’t say? They don’t tell you that you probably shouldn’t secretly marry your best friend so he can get a green card if there’s even a chance you might fall in love with him. Because that clueless hot nerd will be too busy becoming a millionaire to even notice how uncomfortable you get when he walks around the house shirtless, complaining that he can’t get the same kinds of snacks that he grew up eating in Canada.
We needed to stay married for at least three years so he could become a naturalized American citizen. I have spent the last year trying to fall out of love with him, so I can make a graceful exit from this arrangement and move on to greener pastures.
I did not expect my best friend to ask me to stay married to him.
He didn’t expect me to say ‘no’ to him.
Three years ago, it was all too easy to convince the immigration officer that we were a real couple.
Now my beloved fake husband is going to have to work his ass off trying to convince me that he isn’t just pursuing me all of a sudden because he’s crazy jealous of my new coworker.
I’m going to try not to panic while he displays the sexy alpha side that he’s been hiding from me all this time.
When he tempts me with “a real honeymoon,” I am going to try very hard to relax and have fun, despite having much less experience with relaxing and having fun (in bed) than him.
And I have no doubt that we will both blow it, because three years ago we were just too young and naïve to realize that secretly marrying each other would complicate everything.
GREEN is a friends-to-lovers marriage of convenience sweet and sexy slow-burn romantic comedy.
Chapter One – Theo
When Gemma Kelly and I first met, I was naked and she was stoned. She was accidentally stoned, and I was purposefully naked but accidentally locked out of someone else’s apartment across the hall from hers. It was definitely the first, and hopefully the last time in my life that my nakedness has inspired instant feelings of non-lusty friendship in a human female.
The girl that I had just…been intimate with…had flipped out when I told her I had to go home to study, called me a selfish liar, and then got dressed and stormed out of her own apartment. I chased after her because I didn’t want her to go around thinking I was lying about wanting to go home to study and I definitely wasn’t selfish. I allowed myself one weekend a month to have a little fun and I had just given her three loud orgasms, so I thought I had earned me some late-night study time. The door locked behind me—my clothes, wallet and phone were inside—and she’d disappeared down the stairwell, me yelling after her while laughing because what the fuck. Next thing I know, I’m cupping my hands over my private parts, silently cursing myself for not just letting her think I was going to go out and hook up with someone else, when the door across the hall opened a crack and I got a glimpse of the most beautiful sleepy green eyes staring out at me.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hi,” she said, opening the door a bit more so that I could see more of her pretty round face. She had fair skin, no make-up, and she was all glowy. Her eyes got so wide-open all of a sudden, I thought maybe she recognized me.
“Do I know you?”
She tilted her head to one side, like a puppy. “I don’t think so.”
I have no idea how long we stared at each other like that. It felt like forever. I kept thinking I should say something, but I was also so strangely comfortable that it didn’t seem like I needed to. After the high-octane sexed-up craziness of my night with Nikki, it felt like everything was suddenly in slow-motion, like Christmas at my grandmother’s house. Although, to be clear, I had not stood around naked at my grandma’s house since I was a toddler.
Finally, I said: “I’m Theo.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Howdy.” She stuck her hand out and waved.
“I got locked out of Nikki’s apartment.”
“Yeah, that happens.”
“I mean, in general, in the world. I don’t know if it’s happened here before.”
Another silence. She just stared at my face, and I think she may have been humming to herself. It was almost like she was a nurse and I was a naked patient waiting to see the doctor. Except that’s not what it was at all.
Eventually, I coughed and said: “I’m naked.”
“I thought so,” she said, giggling. “My vision’s a little wonky right now. I thought maybe you were wearing a flesh-colored body suit.”
“Well. I’m not.”
“Okay. I think I’m stoned.”
“Okay. You don’t know for sure?” I shivered. It was chilly in that hallway.
“One of my roommates baked brownies and told me to have some, then left for the night. I had some. She hasn’t responded to my texts. I’ve never been stoned before. It’s not what I thought it would be. I can’t tell if it’s better or worse. Or maybe there is no good or bad. It’s just a state of being that I’ve never experienced before. Or wait…Maybe I’m always like this but I’ve never been aware of it until now. Whoa.”
“Yeah, you’re definitely stoned.” That would explain why I felt so weird as soon as I saw her. Contact high. “How many brownies did you have? When did you eat them?”
“Umm…I didn’t look at the clock, but it felt like a long time ago. Also, not really. Okay, if I tell you how many I had, you have to promise not to judge me.”
“I’m standing naked in a hallway in the middle of the night in front of a stranger. I’m not going to judge you.”
“You have to promise.” She held her index finger up at me. She had chipped navy blue nail polish on her fingernails, the exact same shade as my jeans that were on the floor in the room that I could no longer access.
I sighed. Making promises to a strange girl in the middle of the night while naked had never been this weirdly non-sexual. “I promise.”
“Wait—do you go to USC?”
“Yeah. School of Engineering. Department of Computer Science. Do you?”
“Yes. I’m getting a BFA in scenic design. Engineering, huh? That sounds like a baloney education.”
“Sure, it’s just a BS in Computer Science and Business Administration with a minor in Technology Commercialization—not as practical as a Bachelor of Fine Arts, but we’re all just trying to make the world a better place.”
She tsked. “Rude.”
“Yeah, that was uncalled for, sorry.”
She scanned me up and down again—like some celebrity judge on a TV talent show—seemingly forgetting that we were talking about brownies. I’d like to think that there are a multitude of scenarios wherein I would have played this very differently if she had shown the slightest bit of interest, but I just wasn’t getting that vibe.
“You don’t look like a nerd.”
After another five seconds or five hours, she sighed, then said: “I had three brownies. Nope. I lied. I just lied to you. I ate four brownies. Just one after the other. They’re delicious.”
“Okay, well they must not have been laced with too much THC, or else you’d really be freaking out right now.” I started to explain how pot brownies are a very different delivery system for marijuana than when it’s inhaled, and I think she may have fallen asleep standing up for a second.
Suddenly, her eyes opened again and she said: “You want one?”
“Uh. Yeah. Yes, I do.” It was a Saturday night and I was twenty, single, and naked. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even want a brownie. I just wanted to be with her some more. I thought she was delicious.
“You can come in. My roommates aren’t home. You can put on my boyfriend’s clothes. He isn’t here either.”
And there it was.
She had a boyfriend.
Of course she did.
I made some mental adjustments and decided to see where this would lead anyway.
“You’re the same size,” she continued.
I cleared my throat and tried not to give her the same cocky grin that had gotten me into Nikki’s apartment and pants earlier. You sure about that?
She glanced down at my hands, which were still covering my private parts, but in no way hiding everything. It must have been true that her vision was wonky, otherwise surely her eyes would have bulged out of her head at that point. “I mean. In general. As far as I can tell…Wait there, I’ll go get the clothes for you.”
She went inside and closed the door.
I continued to stand there, hands on my junk, wondering if this was really the best use of my time when I had midterms to study for.
The door swung open wide, revealing this little pixie in all her glassy-eyed, curly-brown-haired glory. She was laughing so hard she was snorting and hiccupping, waving her hands at me, as if to say: “You’re naked!” She finally managed to pause long enough to speak. “You should come in. Then I’ll get the clothes.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said, remaining still.
She stood in the doorway, trying to focus on my mouth. “What’s that accent?”
“I don’t have an accent. You do.”
“Canadian! I could tell from the way you said ‘sounds.’ You said ‘sorry’ funny too. Say ‘about.’”
“I’m aboot to freeze my nuts off in this here hallway, eh?”
She laughed so hard she bowed forward, snorting again. Nodding, she finally pressed her back up against the open door to make room for me to pass. I tried really hard not to notice that her Snoopy T-shirt was suddenly stretched tight across her very round perky breasts, and she didn’t try hard at all to ignore my bare ass as I hustled through the doorway. She blatantly stared at it, in fact.
“Hmmm…” Still staring.
I slowly turned around to face her, wondering if her eyesight really was messed-up.
“Do you do squats?”
“Do you work out a lot?”
“I run. I’m a runner.”
“I bet you look good in pants.” She wasn’t being flirtatious in the least. She said it as though she were saying something very profound.
“I’d love to show you how good I look in pants. Soon.”
After three seconds, she burst into a fit of laughter again, and eventually I was wearing pants, but she had completely forgotten to check out how my butt looked in them because she was too busy eating potato chips and talking about ordering pizza.
I completely forgot about going home to study.
She completely forgot to order pizza.
I had no idea where the girl across the hall had disappeared to and somehow didn’t care that my phone was locked in her apartment.
The boyfriend’s clothes did fit me. She said his name was Andrew, that he lived “back home” in Cleveland, that they’d known each other their whole lives, their parents were all friends, their dads worked together, and they’d been seeing each other “every couple of months” since she came out to L.A. She said it was perfect. I didn’t ask why, I was just glad that he’d left his pants here and that he wasn’t around.
I stayed with her until morning, helped her out when she got nauseous, talked her down when her mild pot-brownie-induced freakout hit, watched about eight episodes of Bob’s Burgers with her and woke up on the sofa with her asleep on top of me, her head on my chest. She was thoroughly unconscious.
I lay awake, perfectly still, for maybe fifteen minutes. Her arms were wrapped around me, her body pressed against mine. Her hair smelled like fresh citrus fruits and pretty flowers and sexy musk and I wanted so badly to run my fingers through it. I wanted to touch her and kiss her and take off her clothes and taste her and make her feel things that her absent boyfriend had surely never made her feel. But I didn’t. I kept my hands clasped behind my head.
I don’t know what it was, exactly, that made her trust me enough to let me into her apartment late at night—besides the fact that she was stoned, I was clearly not hiding any weapons on my person and we both knew Nikki. I don’t know what made me want to be her friend. I’d never really had a female friend before, not since I was a little kid. I also don’t know what it was that caused her to wriggle around slowly, and moan softly in her sleep—if she was dreaming or if she thought she was with her boyfriend. But I closed my eyes and clenched my fists and recited mathematical formulas in my head.
That did the trick.
When she awoke, she bolted up and declared that she just remembered that she had a spare key for the apartment across the hall because she watered Nikki’s plants when she was out of town. She didn’t seem to realize that she had been lying on top of me. She didn’t seem to remember it, either.
I tried to forget about it every single day for about a month.
I still thought about it from time to time for months after that.
For years, neither Gemma nor I had seen each other naked since the night we met.
Unless you count the times my stupid brain imagined what she looked like completely naked, without my permission. If you count those times, we’re talking, conservatively…at least once every single day. In my defense—my twenty year-old brain imagined every attractive woman naked, usually without my permission, and some of the not-so-attractive women too.
But that was never going to stop me from being the best friend she’d ever had.
A week after meeting, Gemma and I had seen each other every day after classes, I’d nicknamed her Grandma Kelly, she’d repeatedly told me that the only reason she was hanging out with a guy who’s prettier than she is was that I’m also a bigger dork than her (neither of which is true), and I asked her if she wanted to move in with me.
When I’d first moved to LA from Toronto, I used a chunk of my trust fund money for the down payment on a three-bedroom house in Echo Park. It was an investment. Risky, I suppose, but it had worked out very well. Property in the hipster neighborhood continued to climb in value, my renters covered my mortgage payments and then some, and I got a line of credit to finance development of my app. I also put money into a financial portfolio, which I tweaked now and then, and not to brag or anything—but I’m kind of awesome at making money.
The house is close to USC, but not in a sketchy neighborhood, and Gemma was tired of living with three other students in a two-bedroom apartment in Koreatown. I didn’t want to keep running into Nikki who lived across the hall from her. Also, I just wanted Gemma around all the time. Even though I was charging her half of what she had been paying at the apartment, she said she would only move in because I already had two other tenants.
Chloe and Ethan were married USC grad students. Chloe was getting her Masters in Product Development Engineering, then began working for an industrial design firm in Santa Monica. Ethan was getting his Masters in Sustainable Design at the School of Architecture, then got a job at a firm in Pasadena. They were my dream tenants. I’d started renting out the downstairs unit of the duplex to them a week after I’d moved in, but barely spoke to them aside from polite chit-chat. Once Gem moved in, we all started having dinner together out back almost every night. We’d been a happy family ever since.
I can’t say for sure why Andrew had no complaints when, after knowing me for two years, Gemma told him that she was going to marry me so that I could get a green card and she could live rent-free for three years. I suppose I’d been more focused on getting my startup funded to wonder if he just didn’t think of me as a threat to their relationship, or if he didn’t care enough about what Gemma was up to when she wasn’t with him. I asked her if I should have a talk with him, but she said it wouldn’t be necessary. I tried to stay out of her relationship with him as much as possible. The less I knew about it the better. Maybe that was how Andrew felt about her friendship with me.
Andrew’s a good guy. Canada’s a phenomenal country. This wasn’t about me not loving Canada, or Gemma not loving Andrew. I love Canada. But America is where you go for the big tech investors. Canada’s a great place for A.I., robotics and machine-learning, even e-commerce startups—that’s where the big venture capital bucks go up there. But I’m not in that space. I’m a fitness nerd. I develop fitness technology. I needed to be here to access the investors in Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach (the burgeoning Los Angeles tech community), and the footwear and sports apparel brands that are headquartered in Portland. I’m ambitious. I’m not going to apologize for that. But if I’m being honest, the real thing that I dreaded leaving behind wasn’t the potential for career and financial success—it was Gemma. She had quickly become the most important person in my life, and I didn’t want that to change.
It was March, and it was the day before I ran that year’s LA Marathon. Gemma had cooked an insanely delicious pasta dinner for my carb-load. It was beautiful out, my parents had come down to cheer me on, and we all ate at the table on the patio with Ethan and Chloe. My parents brought up job possibilities for when I return to Toronto. Being here on a student visa, I’d have to go back once I graduated, unless I landed some amazing job that I was more qualified for than any American applicant. A work visa would have been my only option—not that I didn’t think it was a possibility—I mean, I am awesome and I already had a bunch of unofficial offers from some big tech companies. But I was already obsessively developing my app for runners as a side hustle and didn’t want to be a cog in the wheel.
So that dinner was bittersweet for me, and Gemma picked up on it. After my parents had returned to their hotel and Chloe and Ethan had gone to bed, Gemma and I were loading up the dishwasher and she said: “Theo. I could marry you.”
Just like that. Could not have been any less sexy or romantic, but it rocked my world nonetheless.
“I could marry you before we graduate. You could get a green card. We’d have to stay married for just over three years. We’ve already been living together, so it won’t look fishy. We just have to take lots of pictures at the ceremony and convince an immigration officer that we did it for love. Nothing else would change.” She looked down at the pan she was scrubbing. “I don’t want you to leave.” She wasn’t even pouting, just stating a fact.
“You’d do that? What about Andrew?”
“What about him? It’s not like he and I will be getting married in the next three years. He’ll be so busy with law school. I’ll still go home every month or two to see him, he won’t care.”
“But you’ll tell him?”
“Yeah of course. We should also tell our parents and Chloe and Ethan. Well, I guess Andrew’s parents should know, otherwise they’d be mad that my parents kept it a secret from them. But everyone else can just think we’re best friends who live together. Which we are. Right?”
“Right. Will your parents be okay with it? I mean, Andrew’s like family to them, isn’t he?”
She shrugged. “They like you. They love that you asked me to live with you in your fancy house for such low rent.”
“I won’t let you pay rent or any of the household bills while we’re married. That way you’ll be able to start paying down your student loan.”
“Really? Wait ‘til I tell my parents that. They’ll shit themselves.”
So sexy and romantic, this girl. “Aww that’s so sweet.”
She laughed at herself. “My parents trust you, because I trust you. Besides…” she paused, and I waited for her to finish the sentence. I secretly hoped that what she was going to say was: “we all know I probably won’t end up marrying Andrew anyway.”
But she didn’t. She said: “Everyone knows I’ll never cheat on Andrew. I mean, we’d never cheat on each other. No one will care. They’re in Cleveland. Nobody really cares what goes on outside The Cleve.”
“If you say so,” I said. “How long have you been thinking about this?”
“Couple of days…I lied. I just lied. It’s been a couple of weeks. I did a little research.”
“You’d really do that for me?”
“I’d do anything to keep you here.”
I could have kissed her right then. Not in an I Want To Fuck You way, but in a You Are The Best Friend I’ve Ever Had kind of way. She was so matter-of-fact about it. It really did sound simple. “Also we’ll have to have joint bank accounts and stuff like that to make it look more real.”
“Wow. It’s almost as if you’ve thought about this before too”
“I haven’t. Honest. But I did know a guy in Toronto who paid a girl to marry him so he could get a green card. Actually, she had a boyfriend too, but she needed the money…” I threw her a side-glance.
“I don’t want you to pay me.”
“I would if you asked me to.”
“I’m not going to.”
“I’ll get you a nice ring, though.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Course I do. To make it look more real.”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, if you insist. Then you should probably get me two nice rings. Engagement and wedding rings. If you really want it to look like the real deal.”
“I do,” I said.
I really did.
I had a feeling neither of us would ever really know how much.
I had no idea if this friendly love of ours would ever become a love story.
I just knew that the story of my life, from that moment on, would always somehow be about us.
GREEN is available HERE