By Helena Hunting
Publication Date: November 27, 2018
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
They say every cloud has a silver lining, but does that include missing your big acting break because of a bad cold? Maybe, if being actually sick turns into being lovesick. From New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting, SHACKING UP (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, November 27, 2018, $7.99), is a hilarious, swoon-worthy novel about sex and the city—and everything in between.
Ruby’s BFF might have found her the perfect job opportunity: pet-sitting in the lavish penthouse apartment belonging to hotel magnate Bancroft Mills. But when the newly-evicted Ruby meets her jet-setting employer, she realizes he’s the same guy who got her sick. Seeing his role in Ruby’s dilemma, Bane offers her a permanent job as his live-in pet sitter until she can get back on her feet . . . and maybe back into his arms?
Seven years of being on the road, of constant travel, has made any kind of lasting relationship impossible. I’ve learned that long-distance relationships rarely ever work. When I agreed to come work with my father I assumed I’d finally be able to put down some roots. And with that, I might actually be able to find someone I could have a relationship with. It’s been a long time since I’ve had something stable, or significant. Except now he’s making me travel again and the distance thing just isn’t something I want to contend with.
“I don’t look anything like that slut.”
Brittany pulls me out of my internal musings. “Nope.” Arguing seems pointless. “Although I’m not sure I’d classify her as a slut.”
“Do you know her? Have you gone out with her before? Did you know she was going to be at the party? I can’t believe you’d do that to me in front of all those people!”
I slowly turn my head to look at her. This is an awful lot of drama for a first date. “No, I don’t know her. No, I haven’t gone out with her before. No, I didn’t know she’d be at the party, and what do you mean all those people? We were the only ones in that hallway.”
“She was kissing you back! I saw tongue! Hers! In your mouth.” She points an accusing finger at me. “And yours was in hers.”
This is true. Despite me being a complete stranger, my mystery girl did indeed kiss me back. That’s something to ponder later. “Look Brittany, I already told you, it was a mistake. And I get that she doesn’t look like you, but the hallway was poorly lit. I saw long hair and a dark dress and I reacted. I’ve been sick all week and on cold medication all day. I didn’t want to cancel our date, so I took more than I should’ve tonight. I know it’s not an excuse, but it’s the truth.” I avert my gaze and close my eyes trying not to picture the woman I ended up kissing tonight.
“You’re right, it isn’t an excuse at all. I thought we were having a nice time.” She’s pulling out the whiny voice now. “I hope kissing that skank was worth it.”
It’s a good thing my eyes are closed, otherwise she’d see me roll them.
The car comes to a stop and Ralph buzzes me through the intercom to let us know we’ve arrived. He won’t lower the privacy window or open a door until I buzz him back.
“This is you,” I say.
Brittany makes a pouty face. “Too bad we didn’t have more fun.”
I buzz Ralph to thank him. I may be annoyed by my date, but I still have manners. “I’ll walk you to your door.”
“You don’t need to do that.”
I open the door and step onto the sidewalk to wait for her. She rearranges her skirt and takes my offered hand. As she steps out, she flashes me. She’s not wearing panties, so I get a glimpse of what I’ll be missing out on tonight. I’m sure she’s done this on purpose. I assume it’s to taunt me. Considering my current state, I’m likely to pass out on her at any minute.
Over the years a lot of women have pulled this move on me. It worked the first few times, but it’s a little boring when there’s no chase. It’s always better when I have to work for it.
I walk her to her door and apologize for what happened, again, even though I’m not sure how sorry I really am anymore. Her theatrics are a little much to handle.
Apparently my courteous actions seem to have flipped yet another one of her switches. After she unlocks the door she turns to me, looking me over as she licks her lips. “You know”—she adjusts my tie, which was perfectly straight before she touched it—“if you really wanted to, you could show me how sorry you are.”
As drugged up as I am, I’m almost positive this is a proposition. “Oh? And how would I do that?”
“By coming up for a nightcap.” I turn my head and cough into the crook in my elbow. I can’t believe she’s still interested after the shitshow tonight has turned out to be.
“I should probably take a raincheck on that, considering I’m not feeling well. I wouldn’t want to make you sick, too.”
“There are other places you can kiss me besides my mouth.”
I have to resist the urge to sit her down and lecture her on self-respect. I can’t believe she’s propositioning me after I kissed someone else, accidentally or not.
“That’s usually where I start and it seems like a poor idea with how I’m feeling. Wouldn’t you agree?”
She sighs and runs her hands over my chest. “I guess. Are you free next week? I’m sure you’ll be feeling better by then.”
“I’m leaving on a business trip later this week, but can I call you when I get back?” I cringe internally and hope the emotion doesn’t make it to my face.
“Okay!” she says enthusiastically. I let her hug me and give her my cheek when she goes in for a kiss.
I wait until she goes inside before I head back to the waiting car, mystified by her continued interest in me.
As I settle in for the ride home, I think about the woman I did kiss. I definitely need to find out who she is so I can send her flowers and maybe a bottle of vitamin C capsules for my accidental manhandling.
Author Q & A:
Q: Bancroft’s exotic pets in Shacking Up are interesting, like the tarantula and ferret. Why those pets in particular?
A: I felt non-traditional pets would make the most sense in this story, especially Franny the ferret because they’re illegal to own in NYC. Ferrets are adorable (and a little stinky) and very much like dogs in the way they play and need your attention and your affection. They also fit into very tight spaces and are incredibly mischievous, making her so much fun to write. Tiny the tarantula is another unconventional pet, particularly since so many people are spider averse, which gave me great material to work with when Bane introduces Ruby to his pets.
Q: What was your favorite scene you wrote, and why?
A: My favourite scene in Shacking Up is when Bane picks Ruby up from work and they finally have the confrontation we’ve all been waiting for. It’s the build up to that moment, the back and forth, the banter, the tension: it all just comes crashing down around them. Bane succumbs to this very alpha behavior and Ruby, being Ruby, calls him right out on it, so we get to witness their verbal spar until they finally give in to each other.
Q: Do you find parts of yourself coming out in any of the characters?
A: I think it’s impossible not to write elements of myself into my characters because they’re a product of my mind. I identify with Ruby’s desire to make it on her own and not rely on anyone for help.
Q: When working on a manuscript, is it easy for you to keep separate ideas for other projects, or what strategies do you use to stay focused?
A: Most of the time I can keep story ideas separate from each other without too much difficulty. I generally write a single book at a time, however, if I get a story idea for a side character in the project I’m working on, I’ll open a new document and jot down some notes so I don’t lose the train of thought before I go back to the original project.
Q: Is there any story about how you came up with the names “Ruby” and “Bancroft?”
A: Bancroft’s name actually came from an incident in my previous profession. Some police officers were visiting (not for anything criminal, which I realize would make this story even more exciting) and this giant of an officer in full uniform including kevlar vest walks into the office. He was so tall he almost had to duck to make it through the doorway. He was incredibly imposing and he clearly picked the right profession based on his size alone. He proceeds to smile all friendly like and introduced himself as Bancroft, so thinking I was being witty, I introduced myself by my last name. He explained that Bancroft was his first name. Embarrassment aside, that name stuck with me and eventually I found the perfect character to use it with.
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