Lex hates Gabi. Gabi hates Lex. But, hey, at least the hate is mutual, right? All Lex has to do is survive the next few weeks training Gabi in all the ways of Wingmen Inc. and then he can be done with her. But now that they have to work together, the sexual tension and fighting is off the charts. He isn’t sure if he wants to strangle her or throw her against the nearest sturdy table and have his way with her.
But Gabi has a secret, something she’s keeping from not just her best friend but her nemesis too. Lines are blurred as Lex becomes less the villain she’s always painted him to be…and starts turning into something more. Gabi has always hated the way she’s been just a little bit attracted to him—no computer-science major should have that nice of a body or look that good in glasses—but “Lex Luthor” is an evil womanizer. He’s dangerous. Gabi should stay far, far away.
Then again, she’s always wanted a little danger.
I hated him.
Hate, hate, hate. I chanted the words to myself that very next morning as I stomped toward his ridiculously expensive house, next to the ridiculously nice lake, with his ridiculously loud red Mercedes parked out front. Jackass.
I’d be doing society a favor if I set it on fire.
The thing was probably filled with so much bodily fluid and disease that if he got in a car accident he’d infect the entire freeway and start a citywide epidemic.
I compartmentalized Lex into two boxes.
The first box was Childhood Lex, the friend who used to hang out with Ian and me before he moved across town, never to be seen again. He used to ride with me to school, and when I was sick he gave me my own box of Kleenex—never mind that he stole it from his teacher’s desk. The point is, Childhood Lex was a keeper.
Box number two?
Asshole Lex, also known as the version I was walking toward. The Lex I met when I was eighteen, who momentarily stunned me speechless with his godlike beauty, had been a figment of my overactive, sad, hormone-riddled imagination.
On the outside? The perfect man.
With a brooding and sultry smile.
Biceps the size of my head.
Who gave me the distinct feeling that if I ran my hands over his buzzed hair I’d orgasm before he even touched me.
Whatever. I was over it. So over it.
A lot of people had stupid crushes when they were eighteen, right?
Now all I saw when I looked into his stormy blue eyes was syph or the clap, and that was being generous. The dude was a walking STD and seriously tried every nerve I had. He was an ass. Plain and simple, no sugar coating. He was the type of guy who’d tell a chick that she looked fat in a dress or who refused to share the communal breadbasket. See! He couldn’t even adhere to typical manners during mealtime! Just thinking about him had me tied up in knots.
Last year, when I went shopping and stupidly invited Ian along—which of course meant Lex had to come—I was told in no uncertain terms that if I would just stop drinking chocolate milk in the morning I’d be able to fit into a smaller size.
His dimples had deepened.
He’d even crossed his arms as if to say, Look, I did you a favor, pat me on the back.
Instead I had kicked him in the balls and tried to give him a black eye, clocking Ian in the face.
My point? Lex. Was. The. Devil.
I made a point of only hanging out with Lex when absolutely necessary, and even then I almost always had Ian as a buffer. But now that he was playing love nest with my ex-roomie, Blake? Well, I was on my own.
Lex opened the door after my third aggressive knock. Black sweatpants hung low on his hips, a vintage Mariners shirt fell open around his neck, and he was wearing black-framed glasses that made his eyes more appealing than should be legal.
“Sunshine,” he said, his smirk deepening as he crossed his burly arms over his chest.
“Dickhead.” I smiled sweetly. “New glasses? They look thicker than last time.”
“Better to see you with.” He leaned forward, his eyes narrowing into tiny slits. “There they are.” He reached for one of my boobs.
I slapped his hand away so hard my palm stung.
“Probably not the best way to treat your new male clients.” He shook his hand and turned towards the living room leaving the door wide open. Manners were completely lost on him.
Gritting my teeth, I slammed the door behind me and took off my shoes because I knew if I didn’t he’d give me hell.
He was a freak like that.
For as much ass as he got, it was shocking how much Lysol he used around the house. His clothes were never wrinkled; everything was pristine.
Even his breath.
He drank coffee like a Starbucks employee but never had coffee breath.
It was almost painful, staring him in the face, knowing that everything on the outside appeared perfect—but didn’t match the inside at all, not even close!
Beauty like Lex’s was dangerous and wickedly tempting, like something out of a paranormal romance novel. Sometimes, at night, when I dreamed of Lex getting hit by a car, I imagined him as a vampire roaming the streets in his favorite black sweats, shirtless, shimmering under the streetlights, just waiting for whores to line up so he could take a few bites.
A pencil flew by my head.
“Yo.” Lex’s eyebrows shot up. “We have a lot of work to do if we’re going to get you ready for the next two clients. Daydream about chicks on your own time.”
“I’m not a lesbian.”
He bit on his bottom lip, sinking back in his chair as his eyes slowly roamed from my mismatched socks all the way up to my head. “Okay, whatever you say, Gabs.”
I will not commit homicide. I will not commit homicide. “You know,” I said as I tossed my purse onto the table, “it’s offensive that you assume all lesbians dress like crap.” So what? I was wearing a ratty white T-shirt and ripped jeans, and I was pretty sure I still had mascara on from the night before. It was my Lex repellant. He hated sloppiness.
“Offensive.” He nodded. “Also true . . .” He used the spare pencil from behind his ear to slide my purse over to the farthest side of the table. “It wouldn’t kill you to wear something other than jeans and T-shirts, Gabs.” He sighed. “Say it with me: dresssss—”
I grabbed the pencil from his hand, broke it into two pieces, and handed them back to him. “I wear dresses, just not for you. Dresses are your kryptonite, especially short black ones. I refuse to be a part of your ‘shower time.’”
He snorted. “You wish.”
“Yes. Every night when I go to sleep I pray for Lex to dream of me while he jerks off because yet another girl refused to follow his instructions in bed : ‘Damn it, use the manual!’” I said, using my best imitation of Lex’s voice. I’d only heard him shout instructions to a girl once, and it had scarred me for life. What the hell are you doing? Do I look like I’m satisfied? There’s a diagram! Ugh.
Lex rolled his eyes. “Very funny, and the manual is there for a reason. Do you even know how many chicks get confused when I call out sexual positions? It’s like, get there faster, you know?”
My feelings were torn between fascination and disgust. “So,” I changed the subject. “Let’s train, because I have about ten years worth of Organic Chem homework.”
Lex sighed and held out his hand.
“No.” I crossed my arms. “I don’t need help.”
Okay, I needed help, desperately needed help, and Lex wasn’t just passably smart but a certified genius, at least when he applied himself. I refused to ask him to go over my homework just because Organic Chem was, to me, like reading a foreign language.
He cleared his throat.
I didn’t move.
Finally, he stood, slowly walked over to the end of the table, and fished the chem book from my oversized purse. “What chapter?”
“If I’m teaching you Organic Chem, at least say Professor Lex.”
“Listen very closely, Lex.” I went over and jerked my book out of his hands. “I didn’t need your help last year when I almost failed biology, and I sure as hell don’t need your help now. Let’s just get this training done so I can go home and suffer in silence, alright?”
“Fine.” He dropped my book against the table and then, without warning, grabbed me by my shoulders and pushed me against the counter that bordered the kitchen. My butt hit the cupboard . “Up until now we’ve been helping people find their perfect match. Basically acting like a wingman so that the idiots of this world see the girl who’s been standing in front of them all along .”
Why was he standing so close? Did we have to be touching? I told my body not to respond to his proximity, but Lex was magnetic, even if every part of him was evil. My brain was having trouble functioning while his large palms were pressed into the tops of my shoulders.
“Okay.” I swallowed. “And now that you’re allowing guys to become clients of Wingmen Inc., I basically do the same thing. Give them confidence, help them capture the one girl who’s always seen them as the friend—or worse, who they’ve been invisible to.”
“What’s that like, I wonder?” Lex still didn’t release me. “Being invisible . . . Maybe next time a dude ignores you, take notes.”
And another insult.
“Lex.” I huffed out a breath. “Just get on with it.”
“Right.” His eyes momentarily locked on mine before he rubbed the bridge of his nose where his glasses were perched. It was not sexy. It wasn’t. Really. That. Sexy. “So whenever we take on a new client, we give them a list of questions, meet them in a public place, and then use the power of human emotions like jealousy and curiosity to get the other person interested. That’s where you come in. If another girl sees our client as desirable, he becomes desirable.”
“Sort of.” Lex leaned forward. “But you can’t suck.”
“At anything.” His lips hovered near my mouth. He was starting to freak me out. I wanted to run away, but I was pinned.
“Lex, if you kiss me I will bite your tongue off. I swear.”
“If I was actually kissing you”—Lex released one of my shoulders and placed a finger against my mouth—“you’d know it. This, my frumpy friend, is training.”
His lips descended.
They pressed against mine, then pulled back. “Yeah.” He shook his head. “Gabs, you’re going to need to open your mouth a bit more. Guys are stupid. They always assume that more tongue means better kissing, when the opposite is true, but you still need to have your lips parted, not locked down like Fort Knox.”
“What’s happening?” I tried to push away from him.
Lex rolled his eyes. “Gabs, believe me, this is all business. You can even keep your hand on my junk the whole time.”
“What!” I roared.
“So you know without a doubt that nothing about you turns me on.” He grinned menacingly. “Seriously, I don’t mind.”
“Hey!” He chuckled. “I was just trying to help.”
“Grabbing your penis is not the answer, Lex!”
“Weird, because it so often is.”
“I hate today.”
“Is it the rain?” He frowned.
“Stop that!” I shoved him. “Hurry up and grade my kissing skills so I can go home and study.”
“Kissing, hand holding, hugging, cuddling, laughing, winking—just a few things you need to master.” He was firing off so many horrible, body-numbing words.
“Just hurry up,” I grumbled in a defeated voice as I tried to block out the fact that he was a good-looking ass who offended me with every single breath he took.
“Ah . . .” Lex held up his hand. “One never hurries a kiss.”
“What about a passionate kiss?”
“A passionate kiss isn’t hurried, it’s frenzied. Damn, don’t you know anything?”
Heat swamped my cheeks.
“How many guys have you kissed, Gabs?”
“Plenty!” Five. I’d kissed five.
“You blush down your neck when you lie.” Lex cupped my chin and then brought his lips down against mine again. “Part.”
Sighing against his mouth, I relaxed my lips while his slid across.
He pulled back, wearing a frown of irritation. “A bit more, Gabs. Guys want access.”
I kept my eyes open.
So did he.
I didn’t want him assuming I was into it, which was probably his exact line of thinking. Only keeping my eyes open was an entirely raw experience, watching him watch me while I felt him.
“Cold?” That stupid smirk was back.
“Frigid.” I glared, putting myself down before he had a chance to.
“You read my mind.” He nodded seriously. “Now stop being a bitch, and let me teach you how to kiss.”
“I know how to kiss!” I don’t know what came over me—maybe it was the need to prove myself, or possibly it was just stress over the entire situation. Needing to stay in school and hating that he was the answer, I wrapped my arms around his neck and jumped, my hips colliding with his as I mauled his mouth with as much passion as I could conjure up, this time closing my eyes and putting everything I had into it.
With a growl, Lex pushed me back against the countertop. As my butt collided with the edge, his tongue plunged into my mouth and his hands dug into my hair, pulling it free from its ponytail while he changed positions his lips demanding a punishing kiss from a different angle as his he gave my hair a harder tug back.
I grasped at his T-shirt, pulling him closer and nearly falling backward into the sink.
And then, just when I was in danger of losing myself to the kiss that would probably be the best kiss of my life, I bit down on his bottom lip.
That move didn’t work out the way I’d planned, not at all. In my head it was smart. I’d piss him off, get him to pull back and leave me alone.
It did nothing of the sort.
Nothing of the sort at all.
With a hiss he pulled back, fire blazing in his eyes. For a split second that seemed to go on for an eternity, he hovered and I waited, both of us on the edge of something. He wet his lips, I mimicked the movement, and then, like a snake, he struck. His mouth fused to mine in a punishing kiss, one that bruised my mouth while imprinting its essence on my soul.
When Lex, along with his roommate Ian founded Wingmen, Inc., their purpose was to provide their female clientele with a customized plan of instruction and technique guaranteed to land any woman the man of her dreams. Word of Wingmen’s success has spread, and now Ian and Lex are faced will male clientele. With Ian out of the picture, (having hooked up with Gabi’s roommate, Blake), Lex needs to bring in not only another partner, but one that’s female. Enter Gabi.
Now Gabi, Ian and Lex go back as childhood friends. Ian has always been protective of Gabi — he thinks of her as his little sister, and in big brotherly fashion lays down the law to Lex very early on that Gabi is not become another notch on Lex’s bedpost. (See where this is going?)
Fast forward to present time and Lex has begun tutoring the virgin (yes! virgin) Gabi on all sorts of Wingmen technique — from kissing to wardrobe. Lusty Lex can barely contain his desire for Gabi and tosses sarcasm and smack to hide his feelings for her. Feisty Gabi is in the same boat — she’s always held back on her desire for Lex and dishes equally delicious snark right back at him. This leads to some of the most clever, witty exchanges this reader has encountered in written romantic comedy. The dialogue and interaction between these two is worth of any five star rom-com. (Don’t even get me started on the hilarity of the tampon vs condom war.)
Author Van Dyken is a master at not only the witty repartee, but knows how to deliver sizzle with a side of slow-burn. Both Lex and Gabi are solidly written. The secondary characters are equally well written, and move the story along without being filler. While the friends/enemies/lovers trope is a popular theme, Rachel Van Dyken takes it to another level in The Matchmaker’s Replacement. Van Dyken’s courtship between Lex and Gabi is a brilliantly choreographed dance of dialogue, and it’s both mesmerizing and satisfying. (I could not put this book down — a one-sitting read.) Straight through to its conclusion (and epilogue), Van Dyken never drops the ball regarding the level of writing or the pace of the story. Brava!
She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband, adorable son, and two snoring boxers! She loves to hear from readers!