Overall rating – 4 silken sheets
“Remind me again how Text Man came to be?”
Staff Sergeant Travis Donovan is on the hunt for his little sister. Though he hasn’t spoken to her in years, his last deployment reminded him how short life is, and it’s time to reconnect. Only problem? The one piece of contact information he has, a cell phone number, belongs to someone else now. A woman named Ariel. A woman he can’t get his mind off. Ariel Winston doesn’t have time for a man. Her plate is full with work and grad school and family obligations, and she’s fine with that. But the innocent friendship she’s sparked with Trav, the anonymous texter, can’t hurt. Right? It’s not like she’ll ever meet the guy face to face. But when these two collide during a night of voyeuristic pleasure, they have decisions to make. Will they balk at what fate has dropped into their laps? Or be willing to look beyond the unique circumstances and enjoy their finite time together?
Two of my favourite tropes, military and friends-to-lovers, all rolled into one delectable package. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this one, it’s been published for a while, but I’m glad I did 🙂
Even though their initial communications were accidental, Trav and Ariel have become friends, albeit remote and faceless ones.
“We just talked. Through text, I mean. A few messages here, a few there. He was always very polite and nice. I feel bad that he’s having such a hard time tracking his sister down.”
Her best friend, Mary Ellen, worries that she’s investing too much time in the mystery texter.
“It’s not like I’m going to meet the guy in some dingy motel off the highway for a quickie, Mary Ellen. It’s just talking. I can stop whenever I want.”
“You sound like an unconvincing alcoholic in the middle of an intervention.” Mary Ellen laughed.
Just then four beeps sounded from the workbench. Ariel’s heart sped up and her palms started to sweat in response. Pavlov’s dog, she thought with mild irritation. But she couldn’t deny the source. The hope that the text might be from Travis.
Meanwhile, Travis also has warm and fuzzy feelings for the girl at the other end of his phone.
Pete went on, his voice thoughtful. “She could be a dog. Completely disgusting.”
“Shut up, Pete. She’s not ugly.” Travis muttered as they rolled to a stop for a red light.
“So you’ve seen a picture?”
No, he hadn’t. But the instinct to defend Ariel was oddly strong. It was crazy. But he just knew somehow she wasn’t ugly. And even if she was, she’d been one of the most helpful people he’d ever encountered. He wondered vaguely if she was as nice in person as she appeared through text. He’d never find out. “She just isn’t ugly, all right? Lay off.”
Ariel doesn’t have a lot of free time. Between working at her family’s business and studying for her degree, she spends most of her unoccupied hours with her text books, and her cellohone. However, Mary Ellen manages to persuade her to go out one night.
“Playing with fire,” Mary Ellen murmured when Ariel flipped the phone open to text back. “You’re going to deal with the faceless man all night? Or come out and have fun with a real one?”
While at their nearby sports bar they’re repeatedly hit upon by the local sleaze, until a stranger appears.
Before she could say a word, their unnamed hero stepped forward, lowering his voice so his words didn’t carry past the table.
“Listen up. They don’t want you, and they may not want me either. But the fact is you’re hassling them and I’ll do something about it if it comes to that. I’ve got ten years in the Corps behind me and a black belt as well. Do you really want to turn this into a cage match? Because I guarantee you, you’ll go home bloody and have to explain that to your wife.”
The handsome warrior is none other than Trav’s best friend, Pete Goodwin, trolling for girls while Trav mopes in a nearby hotel. They often hunt together and share their girls, but tonight, Trav doesn’t feel in the mood. He keeps thinking about Text Girl and wondering what she’s doing tonight that makes her too busy to reply to his message. When Pete returns with two girls, he’s not sure at first if he’s interested. That is, until he sees the second girl.
Her chestnut hair hung in loose waves past her shoulders, the ends curling where her breasts rounded out the front of the shirt. He wanted to reach out and flick a finger through the row, popping one after another through the holes until the shirt hung open, framing her body.
Thankfully, Ariel is equally fascinated with him. At this stage, I should point out two things. Ariel and Mary Ellen aren’t using their real names (a safety precaution with one night stands) and guess what, neither are Trav or Pete. They’re using their surnames. This could have been a grooooaaan moment, a clunky plot device inserted by the author… but… it works beautifully. I totally buy into the girls wanting anonymity with two guys they don’t expect to see again, and as for the guys, it works.
For some reason, the man that’d followed Mary Ellen and Goodwin – Donovan, they’d said his name was – made her nervous. Not in the Weren’t you on America’s Most Wanted? sort of way. But the tingling sensation that crawled up her spine was there, and it meant something.
Did I mention, the sex scenes are hot? Their first coupling takes place on a giant hotel bed, with Pete and Mary Ellen similarly occupied a few feet away. Two hot guys, Two sexy girls. A bit of exhibitionism and some seriously hot moves. * fans myself *
Could she handle another orgasm? It was like asking a chocoholic if they wanted another slice of devil’s food cake. “Yeah, another sounds good,” she muttered. But if she had to move her rubber-filled limbs to make it happen, “another” would have to wait.
Both the girls and the guys are used to swapping partners, but this time it’s different.
“No switching.” Donovan had been close to sleep, lulled by the feel of Mackenzie’s soft skin beneath his hand, her breathing next to his ear, her warmth. But one mention of giving her over to Pete snapped him out of his pleasure-induced coma. No fucking way was he watching his friend’s hands all over her. As if to reassure himself she was still in his arms, he ran a hand up her ribs, cupping her breast possessively.
The one night stand had the same effect on both Trav and Ariel, but since they’d not swapped phone numbers (if they had, the story would have ended much more quickly!) he doesn’t expect to see her again. Catching sight of the girls in a crowded coffee shop is an unexpected delight.
Trav grabbed his arm. “Hold up. Just…hold up. Let’s wait a bit.” He needed a second to breathe or he’d sprint over there and scare the shit out of her.
Pete shrugged. “Whatever.” He leaned back in his chair and opened the paper. “Let me know when I’m allowed to eat and-or talk to women again,” he said, his eyes laughing.
This meant something. It had to. No phone numbers were exchanged, no plans were made. But they’d said maybe they’d run into each other, and there she was.
Travis is stunned when Mackenzie answers to the name of Ariel.
Trav froze. His breath caught in his chest. The world continued moving but it was like he was watching from an aquarium. His vision blurred, the noise was muted, unable to reach him over the blood pounding in his ears.
No. There was no way. His text-girl couldn’t be here. But how many Ariels could there be in the world?
How’s it going today?
He hit send, then held his breath and waited.
Mackenzie – Ariel? – took a sip of her drink and picked up her book. He breathed in a sigh. Apparently not. More coincidence. Was his life full of them?
Then the object of his suspicion put down her book on the coffee table, picked up her bag from the floor, riffled through it and pulled out her phone. She slid it open and after a moment of staring at the screen, a slow smile crept across her face. Her thumbs flew across the keypad and then she shut the cell and put it on top of her book.
No fucking way was –
His phone vibrated on the table.
At this stage, the book was only 55% through and I wondered what else could happen?
Trav didn’t have a clue how to fix it. He was worried about the girls thinking they were creepy stalkers for just being at the same place two days in a row. But this? How could he explain that not only did they bump into each other by accident, but he was also the person she’d been texting for weeks now? And that he knew, but not before they slept together.
Clusterfuck, all around. He could barely believe the situation himself, and he knew all the facts. He wouldn’t blame her one bit for not believing him.
There’s an added complication. Trav and Pete are due back on base in a weeks time, ready for deployment somewhere in the world, far from here.
“We’re leaving in a week. Can’t you just not say anything? What would it change, other than probably being accused of being a stalking perv and losing the chance for more sex before you leave?”
I liked Pete’s humour, his easy-come-easy-go take on life, and I loved the buddy factor in this story. Not many writers capture the guy-best-friends trope in a realistic way, but KJ Reed nailed it to perfection. Their personalities were clear and separate, their close friendship visible, and their dialogue very male.
I loved the splashes of humour rippled through the story. One had me sniggering in the coffee shop when Trav makes the connection between Mackenzie and Ariel being the same girl. Pete is musing about why the name ‘Ariel’ is familiar, and he’s completely oblivious to Trav’s state of shock.
“The Little Mermaid,” Pete said, looking smug.
Trav stared at him for a good twenty seconds. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“The name.” He jerked his thumb towards the couch. “Ariel. I told you it sounded familiar. She’s the hot redheaded mermaid. Disney.”
Trav let his body fold until his forehead landed with a thump on the table. “You’ve got to be shitting me,” he muttered into the wood.
“No, really. Her name was Ariel.”
This was a fun and sexy quick read, and for me, a great introduction to KJ Reed’s work. I’m pleased to see she’s written another in this series, where Pete gets a chance at love and I will definitely be reading it 🙂
Overall rating – 4 silken sheets
Sexy rating – 5 lips
Plot – great
Characters – great
Warnings – mild exhibitionist behaviour and 2 seriously sexy guys 🙂
Genre: Contemporary erotic romance
Published: December 2010 $4.31 (Amazon)
Publisher website: Elloras Cave