Authors: Kylie Gilmore
Tags: #contemporary romance, women's fiction, romantic comedy, geek romance, humorous fiction
Author’s Note: I’ve included a short novella,
, which shows how Barry and Amber meet. Enjoy!
The Clover Park STUDS Series, Books .5 & 1
© 2015 Kylie Gilmore
Successful entrepreneur Barry Furnukle is ready to take things to the next level with the pink-haired neighbor he adores. But when his attempt to woo her with the world’s most “awesome” date (birding and fro-yo) lands him in the friend zone, he wonders if a guy like him ever had a chance.
On advice from his ladies’ man brother, Barry returns to his acting roots for a little confidence rehab. Suddenly he’s got more female attention than he knows what to do with. But will his newly found popularity make him happy? Or will he finally release his inner stud to win the woman he can’t forget?
Barry Furnukle tried never to judge from appearances, but he couldn’t help it in this case. He was fascinated with the blond woman with streaks of pink in her hair. She’d just left the apartment across the hall, passing him with her overly muscled, overly tattooed boyfriend without a glance. Was his new neighbor a druggie? Artiste? Punk rocker? The pink streaks told a story he wanted to hear from beginning to end. Not to mention her pink sweater full of lacy holes that gave him a peek at a snug, white tank top.
He set the box of stuff he was carrying on the floor, opened the door of his new apartment, grabbed the box, and turned to get one more enticing look at Pink Hair. Despite her boyfriend’s hand stuffed possessively into her back jeans pocket, she tossed him a look over her shoulder and winked. He nearly dropped the box he was carrying.
, he thought with a grin.
After a few more trips, he was moved in. He put together the king-size bed frame, tossed the box spring and mattress in place, and flopped down. Moving was exhausting, especially when you did it alone. He could’ve hired a moving company, but with so little stuff, he hadn’t seen the point. His new apartment was in Clover Park near the frozen yogurt shop he owned, The Dancing Cow, and only a ten-minute drive to his mom’s place in Eastman. It was a temporary situation until he found a house he loved.
He thought again of Pink Hair. She reminded him of an anime character with the long wavy hair, the big blue eyes, the heart-shaped face, the curvy figure. He hoped he’d get to see her again soon. Of course he would, she lived across the hall. His luck was finally going in the right direction. Not that he was counting, but he hadn’t had a girlfriend in fifteen months, two weeks, and three days.
That night, after a dinner of take-out Chinese while watching an old episode of
The Twilight Zone
, he went to bed, muscles aching from his big moving day. He was rudely woken from a deep sleep by loud laughter and voices right outside his apartment door. He squinted at his cell phone in the dark. Two a.m. Great. He hoped this wasn’t a regular thing with his new neighbors.
He peered through the peephole across the hall. It was Pink Hair and her boyfriend.
Should I introduce myself?
It’s two in the morning! They’re probably drunk and about to do it.
He shuffled back to bed to the sound of Pink Hair’s giggling. The silence that followed wasn’t nearly as welcoming now that he knew the cause—wild monkey sex. Surely that was the kind of sex Pink Hair had.
Don’t go there
Still, he couldn’t help thinking about the women that generally found him appealing, other computer geeks he met at his old software engineering job in California, who were into regular man-on-top-hurry-up-already sex. Like Sheila, his last girlfriend, who left him for a job at a new start-up tech company in Boston. He hadn’t even known she was looking for a job. He hadn’t been heartbroken, just surprised. Theirs had been more like a friends-with-benefits situation. Actually most of his relationships went that way. They’d start out as friends at the office, where they spent most of their waking hours working on networking and systems communications products, then onto a hookup on the weekend, back to work on Monday, no hard feelings.
His computer geek bedroom experience came down to simple arithmetic, really. The women, outnumbered ten to one at work, didn’t need to look very far for a date. And every single guy there wanted them. Barry did have the distinction of being chosen frequently over his fellow computer geeks, making him a bit of a rock star to some of the guys. He supposed it was his friendly, nonthreatening demeanor. Also, he was a gem.
His mother said so.
He hadn’t had much luck meeting women since moving home to Connecticut a year ago. He mostly only saw his mom and the families that came into his shop.
Something had to give. Self-serve was fine for frozen yogurt, not so great for orgasms.
~ ~ ~
The next day Barry left his apartment happily humming “Sunrise, Sunset” from
Fiddler on the Roof
as he looked forward to a morning at his favorite place in Connecticut, the state park along the Long Island Sound. On one side was the sound, the other side a saltwater marsh, which was one of the best places to go birding in the entire state. Birding was one of his many hobbies, along with app development, watching sci-fi movies from the ’60s, and enjoying musical theater.
He walked downstairs, ultra-high-definition binoculars clipped onto his belt loop, and was joined by the muscled, tattooed boyfriend of Pink Hair. Looked like the guy didn’t stick around long after the deed was done. Barry always made his lovers breakfast and tried for round two, never sure how long he’d have to wait for his next opportunity for sex.
“Good morning,” Barry said.
Tattoo Guy grunted, and they continued down the stairs, awkwardly in step, both long-legged, both tall. Barry was six foot. This guy was an inch shorter, but much wider due to a ridiculous amount of bulky muscle. Tattoo Guy headed for his monstrous chrome and leather motorcycle.
Barry headed for his Honda Accord with the giant Dancing Cow magnets on both sides, a very effective advertisement for his shop. He’d also installed a loudspeaker on top of the car that mooed, though he only used that in town when he saw families walking down the street. Sort of like the cheerful tune of the ice-cream truck he remembered from when he was a kid. You always knew good treats followed that sound.
When he arrived at the beach, he did his usual run on the sand, followed by a more leisurely stroll through the nature trails where he went birding. He found it easier to be still and observant after wearing himself out with a run. He noted a variety of waterfowl—loons, grebes, and ducks—some of the last of the wintering species along the saltwater marsh. He traveled further inland where trees lined the paths and came across a real find for the first weekend in April—a nest of black-capped chickadees. He snapped a picture with his cell. He couldn’t wait to add that to his birding spreadsheet.
April in Connecticut meant one thing—mating season. He shifted uncomfortably. He only hoped this time he’d be in on it. With a female of the human variety, of course.
After a very successful morning of birding, he headed back to his apartment and ran into Pink Hair heading out with a basket of laundry.
“Here, let me help you with that,” he said.
She eyed him. He self-consciously pushed a hand through his unruly dirty blond hair and hoped he didn’t look too rumpled from his run on the beach. He hadn’t shaved either, but he suspected someone like Pink Hair wouldn’t care about a little stubble. She wore a pink My Little Pony T-shirt that revealed her midriff, where a diamond belly-button stud sparkled at him, and pink jogging pants. Bubble-gum pink toenails peeked out of pink flip-flops. So very pink. Like cotton candy with a splash of hot sauce. He found he really wanted a taste, even at the risk of getting pummeled by Tattoo Guy.
She flashed a quick smile that had his heart picking up speed. “Oh, I remember you. You just moved in, right?”
He grinned. “Yes, I’m Barry.” He gestured to his place. “I’m just across the hall. Can I take this for you?”
He held out his hands for the laundry basket. His glance fell to a pink lacy bra right on top of the pile, and he felt his ears burn. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to notice.
“Nah, I got it. Nice to meet you, Barry.” She padded toward the stairs heading to the basement laundry.
“Hey, Pink Hair, what’s your name?”
She barked out a laugh and turned. “It’s Pink Hair.”
“Do you like birds?” he blurted.
Her brows shot up. “Uh, sure.” Then she kept going, out of sight.
Do you like birds? Real smooth, guy. This is exactly why you’re still single.
His eye caught on something pink on the stairs. Pink Hair was gone, but she’d dropped something. He went to fetch it—a pink thong. What to do? Should he follow her to the laundry room and hand it to her? He quickly ran the possible outcomes through his mind.
Him: Hey, Pink Hair, I found your panties on the stairs.
Her: A) Thank you! I’m
B) Gross! I don’t even know you, and you followed me to the basement, holding my most private unmentionables? (Likely results, probability 85%.)
C) Throw them out, weirdo! ’Nuf said. (Worst-case scenario, 14%.)
He didn’t like those odds.
Barry stuffed the thong in his pocket and headed back to his apartment. With minimal handling (he wasn’t an animal), he tossed the thong in the hamper to be washed and returned at some later date when he hoped they’d look back on this incident like some funny, inside joke between them.
Barry walked into Garner’s Sports Bar & Grill on Thursday night, Ladies’ Night, as he always did—with fresh breath and great hope.
He always walked out with a slight buzz and a couple of wrong numbers in his pocket.
Tonight started out no different. He chatted up a couple of pretty ladies sitting on his right, unsure which one to give special attention to, but then it turned out it didn’t matter as they moved on to grab some dinner, bidding him goodbye.
He sipped his beer and soldiered on, giving himself a little pep talk. He was a catch if anyone took the time to get to know him. Sure he didn’t have movie-star good looks or huge muscles (no fat either), but he owned his own business, had plenty of money socked away in the bank thanks to a hugely successful app he’d sold to one of the big guys, and had a handful of investments. His app, Giggle Snap, was a social media phenomenon focused on sharing sounds—laughter, conversation, and sound effects. Some of the stuff people came up with to share was hilarious. His favorite was a growly, old man reading flowery poetry he wrote himself. With a one-minute limit on the sound, sometimes the old man had to speed up at the end, which was even funnier. (DewdropsfromyourlipsIdotastemysweet.) Other people were into the fart noises.
He’d made enough money from Giggle Snap to quit his old job. Opening The Dancing Cow had just been for fun. Besides all that great stuff, he always had fresh breath. He huffed into his hand to check. Yup, still had the good stuff. Maybe a little beery now. He popped a breath mint and prepared to regroup.
He did a casual scan of the bar and noticed Tattoo Guy approach a woman with long black hair and lay a big, wet one on her. Barry stiffened. He’d wanted Pink Hair all to himself, but not this way. Not with her getting cheated on. He narrowed his eyes. He should say something. Let Tattoo Guy know he was onto him.
He took a sip of beer for courage. Tattoo Guy did have a lot of muscles.
He’ll crush you
Maybe Tattoo Guy and Pink Hair weren’t exclusive. That would work out even better for Barry. He wouldn’t have to tell her that her boyfriend was cheating on her
she’d still go out with him. Minutes ticked by. He sipped and watched as Tattoo Guy proceeded to run his hand up and down the woman’s ass, occasionally stopping to lay another deep-throated kiss on her.