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The first installment of My Two Husbands is finally here! I can't wait to hear what you think and how your vote will move the story along. I'm extra excited about this story because it's told in the present and the past so you get the whole story.

But before we get to Episode One, I wanted to tell you that I will be in Florida this week for the Space Coast Book Lovers Book Signing. If you're in the area, click here for more information and come see me! I'd love to meet you!

Without further delay, here is My Two Husbands, Episode One!

Episode One

NOW

The smell of buttermilk and blueberries fills the room as I flip the fried batter and sip from my coconut flavored coffee. My husband Kyle jogs down the stairs into the kitchen with his socks, thunking his heels on each step. He slides across the floor and plants a kiss on my cheek. “You make the best blueberry pancakes, you know that right?”

“Thanks, honey.” It’s so much easier accepting his compliment than it is to argue. My pancakes are mediocre at best, just like all the meals that I’ve prepared in this kitchen. But Kyle loves to tell me that I’m the best at everything I do.

“There’s plenty if you want to call Jake down,” I say.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Jake must be our son.

Errn! Wrong.

Kyle opens the back patio door. “Hey, Jake! Natalie made pancakes, you want some?”

Jake lives in the 500 square foot studio over our garage. He’s been there almost eight months. And . . . he’s my ex-husband. Before you go thinking we’ve got some kind of polygamy thing going on, which most people do when I tell them about my living arrangement, we don’t.

But a girl can dream . . .

I’m just kidding.

This situation is weird enough as it is. And I’m sure you’re already wondering why in the hell my husband would even let my ex-husband move in? It’s simple and complicated all at the same time—just like any relationship I suppose. Kyle and Jake have been best friends since high school—at least that’s how they define it. I think the more accurate definition would be frenemies.

Oh, you want to know how this ended up being the story of my life?

Don’t worry, I’ll get to it soon enough. But first, the most important meal of the day—pancakes with a side of sausage.

The back door opens and the humid heat of West Palm Beach seeps into my air-conditioned house. “Morning.” Jake slides the door shut behind him. “Aw, Lily, why are you all the way over there,” he says in a sweet voice to our five-year-old chocolate lab. I glance over. Lily stands just outside of the kitchen, slightly quivering with her tail tucked down. He pats her head. “Is it because Mommy’s cooking?”

I roll my eyes and flip the last hot cake. “I turned on the fan!” I have been known to set off the smoke alarm in the kitchen. But in my defense, that detector is sensitive as hell. Poor, Lily. She hates loud noises.

Jake walks over to the stove. “See, Mommy’s improving.” She never stayed out of the kitchen when Jake cooked.

“Dogs shouldn’t be in the kitchen anyway,” Kyle says with a hint of irritation in his voice as he takes a seat at the breakfast table. I know for a fact he doesn’t care what room Lily goes into. I also know that he hates that Lily is really Jakes dog and I’m her mommy.

Jake grabs the tongs and places a few links on each plate. The room doesn’t seem to be filled with the scent of breakfast anymore but instead with Jake’s classic cologne. I can’t even remember the last time he wore it but for a second it brings me back to the day we moved into our first house on Canopy Street.

“Thanks,” I say, shaking the memory away.

He clenches his jaw. “Sure.”

Jake and I carry the plates to the table. Kyle’s already sitting down, holding a knife and fork up. I set a plate in front of him and his ocean blue eyes light up.

Kyle glances at Jake. “Isn’t she the greatest?”

Jake barely looks up from his plate when he says, “Yes. She is.”

Kyle lets out a satisfied sigh before cutting into the second-rate pancake. “What’s the matter with you, Jakey-boy?” he says with a slight southern accent—one that only comes out when he’s in a playful, teasing mood.

“I’ve got a meeting for a new job in a couple hours.”

I whip my head in his direction. “You do? That’s good news. Why didn’t you tell us earlier?”

He shrugs. “Eh, I don’t wanna get my hopes up. It’s a pretty big job.” Jake’s been rebuilding his contractor business that went under about the same time our marriage did.

“Oh, man.” Kyle slaps the table. “I was going to ask you to play golf with me today. I’ve got an eleven o’clock tee time.”

“Another time.” Jake pops the last bite of his sausage link into his mouth.

“Where’s the job?” I ask.

“It’s in Delray Beach—the old Cavalier building.”

“Then why are you worried? You’ve done bigger jobs than that with your eyes closed.” I add before sipping on my coffee.

“Yeah, once upon a time, but we’ll see. If all goes well, I’ll be able to get my own place.”

“That’s great, man,” Kyle says and I repeat some version of his words halfheartedly.

Yes, I want him out of the FROG, but I dunno, it’s kinda nice having him around. Sure the situation is awkward at times but Kyle and I have managed to have a very hot newlywed season even with my ex-husband living above the garage. Truth be told, getting acclimated has been easier than expected. My passion for Jake has dissipated, but our friendship remains intact. I’ll never be able to explain how in the hell Kyle and Jake’s friendship hasn’t floundered.

I glance down at my half-eaten pancake knowing it won’t taste as good if I heat it up later. But I’m not really in the mood for breakfast anymore. “Well, I have to head to the office. I’ve got a showing with the Delures in an hour.” I drop my fork and scoot my chair back on the cool ceramic floor.

“The French couple?” Jake asks. I nod. Surely, they’re the reason I don’t want to finish my breakfast.

“What French couple?” Kyle asks.

“Remember that couple I told you about? The husband resembles Danny DeVito while the wife is a Christy Brinkley type?”

Jake wrinkles his brow. “Haven’t you shown them like thirty properties so far?”

 “Thirty-one and a half.”

With a stuffed mouth, Kyle asks, “What’s the half?”

I roll my eyes. “We left one of the houses, sorry, mansions, as soon as they saw the foyer.”

“Was it too small?”

“No, it was too big.” I snatch a granny smith apple from the basket on the table, wishing I could throw it at Mr. Delure’s head. “They are the pickiest buyer’s I’ve ever worked with. They haven’t put down a single offer.”

 “I say fuck ‘em. Buy or buh-bye,” Jake flutters his fingers in a patronizing farewell.

“Believe me, I would love to fire them but they’ve got three mil to spend. Cash.”

“That’s a good commission. Don’t give up yet. They’ll make an offer soon,” Kyle’s optimistic sales attitude is in full swing. But I have to admit, all those zeros are pretty great. Plus, with this commission, I’ll finally be able to open up my own real estate company—Natalie Quinn’s Luxury Real Estate. It’s a dream I might have realized three years ago if I hadn’t poured all our money into Jake’s business. But now, his contractor company is no longer my liability.

I pat Jake on the shoulder. “Good luck, today?”

Before I walk off, Kyle grabs my hand and pulls me down on his lap. “Have a good day.”

I smile, looking into his eyes before tussling his dirty blonde hair. “You too, honey.” I kiss his cheek. That’s the only thing. I’ve never gotten used to showing too much affection while Jake is with us.

An hour and a half later, I’m at house number thirty-two with the Delures, and we’ve made it past the foyer. This million-dollar abode came on the market at midnight and so far, no one has made an offer. Yet. I’ve decided to adopt my husband’s optimistic attitude and cross my fingers until I cut off the circulation. Plus I’m wearing my best white suit and Louboutins with a fresh ink cartridge in my pen.

“This house is an absolute dream,” I say to my clients.

“And it’s priced under value,” The listing agent, Brad, chimes in. “This little piece of heaven will not stay on the market for long.”

Mr. Delure grimaces. “I’m confused. If this house is so great, then why are they not asking for more? Something must be wrong with this place. Probably has a mold problem.”

That’s his reason for everything—probably has a mold problem. If he hates mold so much then he shouldn’t be living in a subtropical climate. I glance at Brad who doesn’t have a care in the world. Worst-case scenario, he’ll have this place under contract by the end of the week.

“Oh, there’s nothing wrong with the house,” Brad starts. “The owners are in the middle of a nasty divorce. They’d like to sell the property sooner than later.” Been there.

I swallow my frustration and plaster a smile on my face. “Besides, if something comes up on the inspection, we can back out of the deal. There’s nothing to lose.” Except my sanity.

“Nothing to lose except for time,” Mr. Delure says. He doesn’t seem to have any problems wasting my time.

I turn to Mrs. Delure. “What do you think, Renee?”

“I think since the owners are in such a desperate situation, we can talk them down another two-fifty.” No way the owners will accept that. But if it means they want to make an offer, I’ll take it.  

Brad chuckles in a condescending salesman kinda way. I hate that. “I never said they were desperate. And the price is firm. I’ve got five other prospects coming this afternoon.” If that’s true, the Delure’s definitely won’t get the house if they don’t put in an offer now.

Renee shrugs. “I think we’ll keep looking.”

I clench my fist and my jaw so tightly my teeth might break. The words “Buy or buh-bye!” bubble up inside of me. I raise my brow at Brad, as if pleading with him to work with me. “This would be a cash deal.”

“That’s nice.” His poker face is as firm as said listing price. “Put in an offer and I’ll show it to my clients.”

I take out my tablet. “I’ve got a contract right here. What do you say we make a deal?”

Mr. and Mrs. Delure exchange uninterested looks.

Yep. They’re definitely here to screw with me.

***

I say nothing to my assistant, Marissa when I storm back into my office, tossing my bag on the couch. My desk phone rings but I ignore it. It rings again.

“Yes, Marissa.”

“Your husband’s here.” Marissa is a loyal assistant, been with me for three years. But there are some things she never seems to learn—the difference between heavy cream and non-dairy creamer, that the letter U comes before the letter V when filing, and the fact that Jake is now my ex-husband, not my husband.

I hate it but I have to ask, “Which one?”

 

THEN

 

The good news? I sold my first half-a-million-dollar house. The bad news? My friends aren’t free to celebrate. I have to admit. It’s pretty great to be twenty-two and have a job that allows me the freedom to sit at a bar at four o’clock in the afternoon on a Thursday and drink to my heart’s content. This wannabe Margaritaville isn’t my first choice but it has an oceanfront view and it’s within walking distance from the title office.

The bartender, who reminds me of what I imagine Brian Flanagan would look like twenty-five years later, makes his way over to my side of the bar. “Can I get you something?”

 “A glass of pinot grigio, please.” Yes, a chilled white wine is exactly what will go with this moment of victory. The bartender nods and turns to grab a glass. 

 “Are you here all by yourself?” A voice calls behind me. Yeah, thanks for reminding me, dude. I turn around, ready to tell him off when I see that he’s actually kinda . . . cute—sandy surfer hair, polished, tailored suit, and Polo Blue. I’m intrigued.

I smirk. “Please tell me you have a better pick up line than that.”

“Hey, give me some credit. I’m just trying to be casual.” He takes the stool next to me and I giggle.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Kyle. And you are?” he asks, extending his hand.

“Natalie.” I take it and look into his sky-blue eyes. I bet he’s a nice guy with only a hint of trouble. My white wine arrives. “I suppose you want to stay for a drink,” I say, sipping the chilled wine.

“If you don’t mind me intruding on your party of one.”

I go on plenty of dates. When I’m not working at least. And I have no interest in getting serious with anyone. But when he calls me a party of one, all I see is myself sitting at this same bar, with Mr. Cocktail, drinking to my last million dollar home sale, and no one to celebrate with.

So why not embrace the company. “Not at all.”

Kyle turns to the bartender. “I’ll have what she’s having.”

“Comin’ up.” The bartender pats the bar top.

“You think if you order my same drink that I’ll like you better?” I ask, knowing that white wine is not a typical guy drink, at least not for a guy in his early-twenties.

He lets out a little laugh. “Why would you say that?”

“I’m in sales. I know how to connect with people. Mimicking their body language, words, and other details are classic tricks.”

“Well, I’m not trying to trick you. Actually, it sounds like you’rethe trickster.”

Manipulation. Another trick. “Trick is a little strong. Maybe tactic is a better description.”

“I’m the one with the bad pick up line. You really think I have a better tactic to get a beautiful woman to talk to me?”

I blush. What woman doesn’t when she’s called beautiful? “Maybe that’s your trick.”

Kyle and I are caught in a deeply, flirtatious gaze. If things go well, I’d definitely sleep with him. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the one who changes my mind about marriage.  

“Hey!” A deep voice calls over my shoulder. I look up at a dark-haired man in a bright white t-shirt standing between Kyle and me. “You know her?” he asks, pointing to me with his thumb.

Kyle raises his clean brow. “We just met actually.”

“Oh.” The intruder looks at me. “I’m Jake. Nice to meet you.” Our hands meet in a friendly enough shake. His palm is a lot rougher than Kyle’s.

“Hi,” I say, but I really want to say, “I don’t care how big your biceps are, why are you here interrupting my conversation!”

“This is my best friend. We just came here to get a drink,” Kyle says. “But then, you know, I saw you and I just couldn’t help myself. I hope you don’t mind.” He looks at me—a gleam in his eye that says I’m not gonna let him get in the way of us, then turns to Jake.

Jake takes the open seat on my other side. “I don’t mind at all.” Well, I guess it’s the three of us now. “Whiskey sour.” Jake lifts his hand to get the bartender’s attention as Kyle’s matching glass of wine is delivered.  

I can feel Jake’s eyes burn into me with curiosity. “Hey, aren’t you the agent on the McDaniel’s build?”

I turn to him. “Yeah, how’d you know that?”

“I knew I recognized you from somewhere. I’m on the construction team,” he says. That would explain the dirt beneath his fingernails.

“Well, you guys are doing a great job. It’s really coming together,” I say.

He smiles, dimples appearing like magic. “Thanks.”

Kyle leans in. “So you’re a real estate agent.”

I give a proud nod. “Yes, I am. I closed on a property today actually.”

“Congratulations!” Kyle holds up his glass and Jake raises his fresh cocktail and we toast to the moment. It’s a pretty good day considering that I went from being alone to sandwiched between two very handsome men.

I glance down at his suit. “So what do you do, Kyle?”

“I’m a stockbroker with Victor Manning.”

I narrow my eyes at him. “A-ha, so you area sales guy.”

“I’d like to think that I’m best at servicing . . . my clients.”

“Don’t let this guy fool you, he could sell a sunburn to Floridians,” Jake chimes in. What a terrible wingman.

Kyle reaches across my back over to pat Jake’s shoulder. “Please. Stop. You’re too kind.”

“Just tellin’ the truth.” Jake sips from his short glass. One guy was fun but two guys having a who’s dick is bigger contest is too much for me.

I take one last drink of my chilly wine and set the glass down. “You know what, I think I’m going to head out.”

“Already? I just sat down,” Kyle says.

“Yeah, I have to finish a little work. It was nice meeting you though. Both of you.” I give Jake a half glance.

Kyle shrugs. “Can I see you again? Maybe dinner, Saturday night.”

“She’s a real estate agent. I’m sure the weekends are her busiest days of the week,” Jake sounds again with his unsolicited commentary. But it’s true.

“Yeah. Saturday night doesn’t work for me. How about Tuesday?”

Kyle doesn’t even look away to mentally scan his schedule. “Tuesday is perfect.”

I pull out my heavy-stock business card and hand it to him. “I’ll see you then.” I give him one last smile before walking away, swaying my hips in case he’s watching. I like Kyle. I just wish he’d ditch his cute friend.

***

On Tuesday, I stop by the new construction to get some updated photos of the property. The kitchen finally has new tile, though it’s coated in white dust. Drills and saws screech around me as I step further into the room. A man is tucked halfway inside the sink cabinet, pieces of PVC pipes scattered near his feet.

The guy lifts his head, his eyes fixed on my legs. “Hey, Quinn.”

I narrow my gaze as he slides out and take in his sweaty face. “Jake?”

“How you doin’? Hey, do me a favor and hand me that tub of putty over there.” I retrieve the sandy container and hand it to him. “Thanks,” he says. “You supervising today?”

I fold my arms, popping my hip. “No. Should I be?”

He smirks. “So you looking forward to your date tonight?”

I narrow my eyes. “I am, actually. Jealous?”

“I guess that depends on what happens after dinner.”

I stick out my tongue, making a gagging noise. “Let me guess. You don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Nope.” He crawls inside the cabinet as if he wants me to talk to his ass.

“I’m starting to understand why.”

“Hey, that hurts my feelings.”

I frown and bite my lip. Now, I’m the one who feels like an ass.

He crawls out and sits on his knees. Sweat drips down his chest inside his white v-neck. “I’m just kidding. But that’s sweet that you care.”

 Nope, he’s the ass. “So this is your thing? You like teasing people? You tease me. You tease your friend in front of me.”

 “I think you like it when I tease you.”

I want to tell him off but I’m too busy feeling this shiver run up my spine. The guy says all the wrong things, so why do I want him to do all the right things to me? I wet my lips.

“Look,” he starts, “I love Kyle. He’s my best friend. But I can tell, he’s not the guy for you.”

“Who said anything about looking for the guy?”

“Exactly. Kyle’s the committed type. And you’re . . .”

“What?”

“You’re not ready for that.”

Is it that obvious? “Don’t you think he’d be pretty pissed if he knew you were saying these things to me?”

“I’m only saying it because I don’t want my friend to get hurt. You’re exactly the type of girl, I mean woman, who would break his heart.”

If what he’s saying about Kyle is true, he’s probably right. I’m almost tempted to marry Kyle and have his baby just to prove this know-it-all wrong. “How did you know my last name was Quinn anyway?” Nice way to steer the conversation, Natalie.

“It’s on that big sign in the yard. The one with your picture on it.”

“Right.” I tap my foot.

“On the job, we call each other by our last names.”

“So what should I call you?” Besides annoying.

“Call me Bruno.” He winks and crawls back under the sink. I stare at him a little longer wanting to stomp off but feeling glued to the grout. “You can stop staring at my ass now, Quinn.”

I grit my teeth and walk off.

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Amanda Aksel

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