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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Feature:: Cinderella Screwed Me Over by Cindi Madsen

Finding the one has never been so fun frustrating.

Darby Quinn has a bone to pick with Cinderella. Burned one too many times by ex-boyfriends, Darby has lost all belief in the happily-ever-after that the fairy-tale princess promised her. She's sworn off love, Prince Charmings, and happy endings and she's happy about it. Really. Or at least she was…until she met Jake, her gorgeous neighbor and the manager of her favorite restaurant. But Darby has rules about dating, ones she's culled from her years spent with so-called “princes,” and starting something with Jake would break all of them.

Charming, fun, and unwilling to give up on her, Jake doesn’t fit any of the profiles Darby has created from her case studies of ex-princes-gone-bad. Finally presented with her own Prince Charming, can Darby take a chance on a happily-ever-after?

Full of wit and sarcastic humor, Cinderella Screwed Me Over proves that sometimes the perfect love, like a perfect pair of shoes, is just within your grasp.

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I stepped off the treadmill, thinking about all I had to do that day. And came face-to-face with Jake.

“I thought that was you,” he said.

I tugged the earphones out of my ears and blinked, hardly able to believe my eyes. He was wearing long mesh shorts and a T-shirt that stretched tight across his well-defined chest.

Last night after my date, when I’d had trouble falling asleep, I’d thought of all the things I should say to him the next time we ran into each other. But they’d abandoned me somewhere around the time I’d checked out his pecs.

“W-what are you doing here?” Smooth, Darby. Real smooth.

“Same thing as you,” he said. “Going for a run.”

I really wished I wasn’t so sweaty. My face was probably all red, too. “But… You don’t live here? In this building?”

One corner of Jake’s mouth twisted up. “It would be kind of strange for me to go running here if I didn’t live here.”

Heat filled my cheeks and I took another swig from my water bottle. Time for the apology. Then maybe I could stop feeling so guilty and get this guy off my mind. “Look, I’m sorry about the misunderstanding at the restaurant. I just thought you were one of those guys who tells everyone he owns the restaurant or runs the company or whatever to seem impressive. I thought that since I knew everyone, you were lying to try to impress me.”

There. I’d apologized. Now I could move past this guy and get back to my normal life.

“I was trying to impress you, but not with my job.” He tucked his thumbs into the pockets of his shorts and shrugged. “I guess I need to work on my skills, because obviously my natural rugged charm wasn’t enough.” He flashed me a smile to punctuate his statement and I tried—and failed—not to let it melt me the tiniest bit.

“Oh, you were plenty charming. Just not enough to make up for being a liar. Which for all I know, you’re not, so again, sorry.”

“Do you always assume the worst in people?”

I crossed my arms. “Yes. That way I’m never disappointed. It saves a lot of time and trouble.”

His eyebrows shot up and his smile faded. It only lasted a moment, then the smile returned. “I guess there’s only one thing to do about that. Let’s go to dinner, and I’ll prove to you I’m not a liar.”

Is he seriously asking me out right now, while I’m all sweaty and makeup free? My gaze accidentally drifted to his toned chest and arms. My pulse quickened and the temperature in the room climbed even higher. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted.

I swallowed, forcing from my mind thoughts of how good he’d look shirtless, and reminding myself of the rules that had kept me heartbreak-free for a year. Guys like Nick, they were safe. The guy standing in front of me was the total opposite. “Sorry, but you’ve got two strikes against you already. You work at my favorite restaurant, and you live in my building. That’s just asking for trouble.”

Jake took a step closer. “Or maybe it’ll be convenient.”

“A girl does like to be called convenient.” My voice shook a little, thanks to his proximity. He was tall, too—in my sneakers, I barely came to his shoulder, which meant he’d still have a few inches on me in my highest heels. Forcing as much indifference into my expression as I could manage, I glanced at my watch. “I’ve got to go get some work done.”

Jake reached out and put his hand on my hip, just like he’d done the other night. My skin heated under his touch and my breath caught in my throat. Part of me was screaming, Just go for it, and the other part was yelling, Mayday, mayday, we’re going down!

“Just so you know,” he said, leaning close enough his chest bumped my arm, “I’m an expert on baseball, and two strikes isn’t enough to get out. You need three.”

I stared up into those startling blue eyes of his, and worked at keeping my voice steady. “I’m sure the third will come up soon.”

The wattage on his smile kicked up a couple extra notches. “I’ll see you around, Darby.”

Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music, dancing, and wishes summer lasted all year long. She lives in Colorado (where summer is most definitely NOT all year long) with her husband and three children. She is the author of YA novels All the Broken Pieces and Demons of the Sun, adult contemporary romances Falling for Her FiancĂ© and Act Like You love Me, and the women's fiction novel Cinderella Screwed Me Over.

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