Not the Stand In: A BBW New Adult Serial Romance (Not the Hot Chick series Book 2)

BOOK: Not the Stand In: A BBW New Adult Serial Romance (Not the Hot Chick series Book 2)
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Contents

 

Title Page

Not the Stand In

Connect with N. Raines

Kindle Titles by N. Raines

Dedication

Copyright page

Not the Stand In

(Book 2 in the Not the Hot Chick Series)

N. Raines

Not the Stand In

Layla Messner waited in line at Federico's Pizza in the heart of Buffalo, New York, planning to order the Thursday night special: two cheese slices and a large soft drink. She sighed and shifted as the guy in front of her took his sweet time staring at the takeout menu and quizzing the guy behind the counter about every item.

"Are the peppers on the sausage sub
hot
peppers? No? What kind of cheese is on the ham and cheese sub? Do you have Swiss cheese? Okay, give me a large ham and cheese. No, wait. Make that a roast beef. Does that come with Russian dressing?"

Oh, God.
Layla folded her arms and rolled her eyes. She was hungry and crabby, and this guy wasn't helping. But it wasn't he who'd put her in a bad mood. That was on her roommate Kelsey, who'd promised to meet her for supper. Kels had bailed at the last minute, texting Layla that she'd made plans with some guy she met last night.

Kelsey apparently hadn't gotten the memo that it was not the 1950s and women no longer ditched their friends to hang out with some random dude.

You know that's how she is,
Layla told herself
. Don't let it spoil your night
.

To distract herself from the PITA still pondering his selection, she turned to gaze out the shop's plate-glass window. A man opened the door, head down, reading his phone. When he looked up, Layla's breath caught in her throat. Their eyes met.

His mouth hitched up in that naughty grin she remembered so well. "Little Layla. Well, how've you been?"

Cameron. Cam. She hadn't seen or spoken to him since spring break back in March. And here it was already October. But she sure hadn't forgotten the night they spent together. Hell, how could she? It had been the most amazing sex of her life.

No surprise that she'd remember him. But the fact that he remembered
her
name truly knocked the wind from her sails.

He was hot, buff, and a bartender. Not to mention a smart and seriously nice guy. No question he had his choice of women. And no telling how many there'd been since she hooked up with him. Dozens, maybe.

Sad to say, she could not make the same claim. In fact, she'd been with no one since Cam. Not because she'd imagined their hookup could be more than a one-nighter. She just had too many other things on her plate—first classes and student teaching, and now, after graduation, her struggle to find full-time work. There was no time for romance or even a casual hookup. Real life was kicking her ass.

There she stood with her mouth hanging open like a goldfish. Cam waved his hand in front of her face. "Hello?"

"Oh." God, she must look like an idiot. Her face flamed. "Hi. Good. I'm good." She cleared her throat. "How are you?"

"I'm great. A little disappointed, though."

"Huh?" She blinked. "How come?"

"I thought for sure I'd see you again at the Shamrock after…you know…" He tilted his head as though awaiting an explanation.

No way could she admit she'd avoided the Shamrock—where he worked and where they first met—on purpose. "Oh, well, I—"

"Next, please," announced a voice behind her. Layla startled, then turned. The man taking orders waited for her, having at last rid himself of the guy playing twenty questions.

"Uh, yes." She stared at the menu board, which glazed to a blur. Cam's sudden appearance had rattled her. What had she been going to order?

Oh, right. "The special, please."

"For here or to go?" The man's deadpan tone belied his annoyed expression.

"Uh…" She felt Cam behind her, watching her, waiting patiently. Heat bloomed on the back of her neck. Why did he have to stand so close? She couldn't think. God, she was a wreck.

"For here," Cam said.

What? She swiveled her head to glance back at him.

He grinned. "You're here…I'm here…let's have dinner."

"For here," the counterman echoed, apparently not caring who gave the order as long as the line moved along.

Layla didn't rescind the order. Her heart gave a little jump of excitement. Cam wanted to have dinner with her! Firmly she commanded herself to get a grip.
It's just a couple of slices, Layla. Not a date.

Just a matter of happenstance. Of opportunity.

"You're here…I'm here…"

Those were the same words he'd used the night they slept together, when his plan to hook up with her neighbor Jessi hadn't panned out. Layla just happened to be there, a second choice. Consolation prize.

To her, that night had been an adventure never to be forgotten. For Cam, it had just been another booty call. If Layla hadn't been there, he'd have made it with whoever was.

Recalling that, it became much easier to tamp down her excitement. In fact, she felt almost grim as they collected their orders. Cam gestured for her to precede him and followed her to a free table.

"By the way, how's your friend?" he asked once they were seated.

"My friend?"

He peeled the paper off his straw. "What's her name. Jessi."

Her stomach turned over. He would have to ask. "We were never really friends."

"Oh." He looked mildly surprised. "Guess I thought since you went out together…"

"It was only that one time. Anyway, she moved away after graduation. We don't keep in touch. Why?" She eyed him, suspicion—and as much as she hated to admit it, jealousy—gathering. Stupid reaction. After all, Jessi had been his first choice. If the girl hadn't gotten violently ill that night, he and Layla never would have hooked up.

You were just the stand-in, Layla. Don't forget that.

He shrugged, perfectly innocent. "Just making conversation."

"Hmm." She took a sip of her drink. "If you want the truth, she stopped speaking to me after that night. After you and I…got together."

"How come?"

"She found out about it, and it pissed her off that I got with you first."

"What the hell?" Cam's mouth twisted into a frown. "What was it, a contest?"

"No!" God, what did he think she was? "Nothing like that."

"How'd she find out, anyway? Did you tell her?"

"She figured it out. I went to her place after we, you know. I wanted to check on her, make sure she was all right. She was asleep on the sofa, so I covered her with a blanket and went back to my apartment. The next morning she came by, hungover and pissed off, basically, that the two of you hadn't hooked up. Wanted to know everything that happened after we dropped her off."

Cam's eyebrows flew to his hairline. "Everything?"

"I just told her you came to my place and we had a couple beers. But she wouldn't let up. Kept asking questions, getting all up in my business. 'What did you say? What did he say? What did he do then?' Giving me this real evil look like she suspected something. I kept trying to change the subject, but she wouldn't drop it." Even thinking about Jessi's intrusiveness, Layla felt herself heat up like a pot about to boil over. But that wasn't the worst. "Then she……"

She broke off and shook her head, compressing her lips.

Cam's expression melted into one of concern. "No, tell me. What did she do?"

She let go a gust of air. "She kind of flipped her hair back and smirked. Then she said 'What am I worried about? It's not like he'd fuck
you.
'" Mindful of the fact they were in public, she mouthed the F-word rather than speak it aloud.

Cam recoiled, nowhere near as circumspect. "What a bitch!" His voice resounded in the pizza parlor, earning him sharp looks from those sitting nearby.

He lifted his hands in a gesture of apology to the diners he'd offended before turning back to Layla. "She really…?"

"Yeah, she did, and then I said, 'Well, you'd be wrong about that.'" She stared down at the two slices cooling on her paper plate. "I should've kept my mouth shut, but she made me so—"

"I don't blame you," he said. "She was totally out of line. What a bitch." This time he murmured the epithet.

Layla couldn't deny how good it had felt, throwing that tidbit of news in Jessi's smug face. It felt even better, though, knowing Cam was on her side.

"Anyway, when she heard that, her face turned so red I thought she was going to explode. She stormed across the hall, slammed the door, and never spoke to me again. Anytime we happened to meet in the hallway, she'd just give me this look." Imitating
the look
, Layla narrowed her eyes and peeled her lips back from her teeth in a sneer.

Cam gave a mock shiver. "Ugh. Scary."

"I know. At least I only had to put up with it till the end of the semester. Then, like I said, she moved away."

"Good thing." Cam nodded at her plate. "Food's getting cold. Let's eat."

They spent the next few minutes chowing down in comfortable silence. Still, Layla wondered. Why had he questioned her about Jessi? Was it really just small talk? Or was there another reason?

It had been childish, maybe, to throw her fling with Cam in the girl's face, but Layla couldn't forget the burn of humiliation at Jessi's arrogant assumption.
"It's not like he'd fuck you."

Yeah he did, honey, and it rocked my world. You'll never know what you missed.

But maybe Jessi
did
know. She had been so pissed that Layla wouldn't have put it past her to try her luck with Cam, even knowing Layla got there first. Jessi would want to prove herself better than Layla. In Jessi's eyes, maybe it
had
been a contest. And no way would she let the chubby girl win.

Layla sipped her diet cola and eyed Cam as he innocently munched his pepperoni slice. Jessi had a rep for banging bartenders, or so Cam had once said. Had he hooked up with Jessi and ended up as one more notch on her bedpost?

His gaze caught hers. "What's up? I got sauce on my face?"

She had zoned out. "Excuse me?"

"You're checking me out. Something wrong?"

Yes. Did you sleep with Jessi?
That was what she wanted to say, but instead she gave a small, embarrassed laugh. "No." She shook her drink cup, now mostly ice. "I'm going to get a refill. You want another soda?"

He gave her a teasing smile. "You mean another pop?"

"Ha-ha." She wasn't going to get into that age-old argument with a native Buffalonian. "Whatever."

"No thanks, I'm good."

When she returned with her refill, she found a girl standing at their table, chatting with Cam. Smiling from ear to ear, the tall brunette barely flicked a glance at Layla as she reclaimed her seat.

"How long has it been?" The brunette caressed Cam's shoulder with turquoise-tipped nails.

"Oh, uh, not that long. How've you been?" Cam's cheeks flushed as he shifted in his seat.

"All right." The girl poked out her lower lip in a pout. "I stopped by the Shamrock the other night, but you weren't there. Tuesday night?"

"Oh, yeah. I was at class." He cleared his throat. "Sorry I missed you."

The brunette was all smiles again. "Oh, that's all right. I'll come by again."

Layla stared at the table's salt and pepper shakers as though they fascinated her. It wasn't the first time she'd been treated as though she were invisible.

Cam gave Layla another look, this time one of apology. "That's great. Listen, you'll have to excuse me now, I'm here with my friend…"

Layla smiled at him, warmth and gratitude flooding her.

"Oh!" The girl blinked in surprise, as if this were the first time she'd noticed Layla sitting there. "Of course, Cammy." She traced her talons around his collar and ruffled the back of his hair. "I'll be seeing you." Her smile dazzled, and the look she threw Layla was nothing less than a challenge:
Top that, bitch.

Layla didn't know whether to laugh or roll her eyes in disdain.

Cam sat stiffly until the brunette left. Then he relaxed and let go a sigh. "Sorry about that."

Layla told herself that the burning in her middle was not jealousy, but a reaction to the red pepper flakes she'd sprinkled on her pizza. "That's okay. She a friend of yours,
Cammy
?"

His irritated frown warned her not to tease him. "Kind of."

His answer told Layla everything she needed to know. The brunette was someone he'd gotten with in the past.

So what, girlfriend? So are you.

She couldn't help but see the humor in the situation and snickered.

He looked baffled. "What's so funny?"

She shook her head in sympathy. "Poor you. Running into
two
of your former hookups in one night."

For a moment, it seemed he didn't know how to respond. Then he huffed a laugh. "I know, right?"

"Welp, that's what you get for being so irresistible to women."

BOOK: Not the Stand In: A BBW New Adult Serial Romance (Not the Hot Chick series Book 2)
8.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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