The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club, #1)

Gavin planted his hands on either side of her body and raised his torso. “What the hell was that, Thea?”

The coldness in his voice sent a chill through her. “What do you mean?”

He pulled out of her unceremoniously. What remained of her pleasure began to fade, and the desire on his face had been replaced by a mask she couldn’t read but didn’t need to. Dread soured her stomach. He knew. Oh, shit. He knew.

“D-did you—” He cut himself off. Blinked. Swallowed. “Did you have an orgasm?”

Thea tried to smile but couldn’t.

“Oh my God,” he breathed, stumbling back. “You’ve been faking it.” A statement. Not a question.

Thea swallowed. “What? No, I haven’t.”

His face transformed into a mask of such hurt and betrayal that she reached for him. He stumbled away from her. “Don’t lie to me, Thea. How long have you been faking it?”

“Gavin . . .”

“How fucking long?” He yelled in a voice so un-Gavin-like that she jumped. Thea grabbed her jersey from the floor and pulled it back on. The shimmery illusion of the past couple of hours was quickly fading, revealing it for the mirage that it was.

At her silence, Gavin planted his hands on his head. “Have you always faked it?”

There was no point in lying. And dammit, she was sick of lying, anyway. Sick of wearing a fake smile. Sick of pretending things were fine. Sick of fucking faking it. “Always?” she snapped. “No. Not always. Just since the girls were born.”

“That’s our entire marriage!”

“Yeah, it is. How the hell did it take you this long to notice?”

He stared at her and, without another word, stormed into the guest room. He never returned to their bed.

What else was it that Gran Gran used to say? If a man wants to leave you, wave goodbye and lock the doors. You’ve got better things to do than chase a lost cause.

Thea did have better things to do. Like finish her degree. Rebuild the career she abandoned for Gavin’s. Raise strong, confident daughters. And never, ever again be so stupid as to trust her heart to a man.





CHAPTER FIVE




By Monday morning, Gavin didn’t think he could get any more depressed. But then someone knocked on the door of his hotel room at eight in the morning and he realized how wrong he was.

Because standing on the other side of the door was Book-Boner Braden Mack.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Is that any way to talk to a friend who brings you coffee?”

“You’re not my friend. You’re a pain in my ass.” The coffee sounded good, though, so he stepped back and let Mack in. “And you didn’t answer my question.”

“I’m waiting for Del.”

“Why?”

“Because we have work to do.” Mack tugged a paper cup from the cardboard drink carrier he was carrying. “I got you a pumpkin spice latte. With cinnamon sprinkles. Seems like your speed.”

Gavin turned away with a grimace and an obscene gesture, but the need for caffeine overruled his pride. He flipped open the tab on the plastic top and took a sip. An explosion of flavor brought his feet to a halt and a moan from his mouth. Sweet holy coffee gods. This shit was delicious. It was a liquid pumpkin pie. Why the hell hadn’t he ever tried this before? No wonder women drank this shit.

Mack grinned. “Right? I love these things.”

The door vibrated with another insistent knock. It was Del, who barreled inside with an expression that said he wasn’t in the mood for bullshit. “You better have coffee for me,” he barked.

Mack pointed at the drink carrier. “Pumpkin spice latte, just as you ordered.”

Gavin’s mouth dropped open. “You drink these too?”

Del dropped unceremoniously into a chair by the window. “I love them, but I’m too embarrassed to order them for myself.”

Mack plopped down on the couch and kicked up his feet. “Don’t be ashamed for liking them. The backlash against the PSL is a perfect example of how toxic masculinity permeates even the most mundane things in life. If masses of women like something, our society automatically begins to mock them. Just like romance novels. If women like them, they must be a joke, right?”

Gavin blinked. “You sound like Malcolm.”

“I’m not just a pretty face, man.” Mack set down his coffee and stood. “Point me to your clothes.”

Gavin choked into his cup. “Why?”

“We have to pick out what you’re going to wear for the school musical tonight.”

“You’re here to pick out my clothes?”

“Among other things,” Del said.

Mack marched to the single closet across from the bathroom and yanked open the doors. “Dude, this is sad,” he said, shoving several hangers aside. “This is all you own?”

“No, shithead. Most of my clothes are still at the house.”

“Well, I can’t work with this. We might have to go shopping.”

“I am not going shopping with you.”

“Toxic masculinity,” Mack tsked.

Del let out a sigh like a beleaguered bus driver who still had three hours to go on a field trip. “I could be home making love with my wife right now.”

Mack and Gavin both whipped around with a yell.

Del shrugged. “She was willing. She tried luring me back into bed—”

Mack covered his ears. “Not in front of the children!”

“Then behave!” Del barked. He pointed at Mack. “Stop insulting his clothes and find something. And you.” He pointed at Gavin. “Let’s hear it.”

Gavin glanced around, as if Del had been talking to someone else. “Hear what?”

“What you’ve learned so far.”

“Learned?”

“From the book,” Del said, crossing his arms. “You have started reading, right?”

Gavin winced.

Del grew several inches. Or so it seemed. “Are you taking this seriously at all?”

“Yes—”

“Because we took a chance inviting you into this club.”

“You just gave me the damn thing on Saturday!”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Del said. “Is there a more pressing issue in your life right now that requires your attention? Because I thought saving your marriage was your top priority.” He dragged a hand over his head and stared into space for a minute. Then he looked back at Gavin. “How much have you read?”

“The first chapter.”

“Christ,” Del muttered.

“Look, Del. I gotta be honest. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be getting out of this book.”

“That’s because you’re not trying. Go get it.”

Gavin trudged to the bedside table, feeling like a kid who’d just been sent to the principal’s office for not doing his homework. He pulled His Pissed-off Countess or whatever it was called from the drawer. Del took it from him and held it aloft like a preacher about to drop some gospel.

“We chose this book for you for a reason.”

“Because it’s about a man who fucks up his marriage. Got it.”

“Not just that.” Del opened the book and flipped a couple of pages until he found what he was looking for. He cleared his throat. “‘My love,’” Del read. “‘We are going to start over.’”

“So?” Gavin said.

“That’s exactly what you and Thea are going to do.”

“I don’t get it.”

“You’re going to court your wife again.” Del tossed the book onto the bed. “And we don’t have a lot of time, so stand up.”

“Why?”

“Because we need to work on your flirting.”

Gavin choked on his coffee a second time. “No, we don’t.”

“You screwed things up by going over there Saturday, so you really gotta work it tonight. Get her to soften up a little so you can press your case. Come here.”

Gavin backed up. “No way. Thea hates flirting.”

“What?” Mack snorted over his shoulder. “That’s bullshit. How’d you get her to go out with you the first time?”

“By not flirting.” Which was true. She even told him so once. She noticed him in the coffee shop where she worked precisely because he never trotted out stupid lines on her or tried to be overly familiar. He wondered if she would’ve found it so endearing if she’d known he was just terrified that she’d laugh at him, but hey, it worked.

Del let out another sigh. “Gavin, all women like to be flirted with. They just like different kinds of flirting. Some like dirty talk. Some like chivalrous overtures. Others like quiet, sweet gestures.”

“How the hell am I supposed to know what Thea likes?”

Mack turned away from the closet with an incredulous expression. “How long have you two been married?”

Del interrupted. “This is part of the learning-her-language thing.”

“I’m not going to learn it by tonight!” Christ, this was humiliating.

Del nodded some kind of unspoken message to Mack, who whined, “Why me?” before dragging his feet out of the room. He instantly returned, transformed. He leaned in the doorway, crossed his arms over his chest, and cocked a half smile. Then he winked.

Gavin looked over his shoulder and back again. “What the fuck.”

“You look amazing. I can’t believe I get to be seen next to you.”

“Um . . .”

“You should warn a guy before you walk out in a dress like that.” Then he did a long, slow up and down with his eyes. And then it was over. He shrugged and peeled away from the door. “Flirting is about confidence, man. That’s all it is.”

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