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Ruby Scott is months behind on rent and can’t seem to land a steady job. She has one chance to turn things around with a big audition. But instead of getting her big break, she gets sick as a dog and completely bombs it in the most humiliating fashion. All thanks to a mysterious, gorgeous guy who kissed—and then coughed on—her at a party the night before.
Luckily, her best friend might have found the perfect opportunity; a job staying at the lavish penthouse apartment of hotel magnate Bancroft Mills while he’s out of town, taking care of his exotic pets. But when the newly-evicted Ruby arrives to meet her new employer, it turns out Bane is the same guy who got her sick.
Seeing his role in Ruby’s dilemma, Bane offers her a permanent job as his live-in pet sitter until she can get back on her feet. Filled with hilariously awkward encounters and enough sexual tension to heat a New York City block, Shacking Up, from NYT and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting, is sure to keep you laughing and swooning all night long.
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Chapter 1: Keep Your Tongue to Yourself
I set the half-full limoncello martini—it’s as close to honey and lemon water as I’m going to get right now—on the table, and nab the waiter as he passes. Taking one of the offered napkins, I daintily select a variety of appetizers, oohing over the mushroom blah blah blah canapés. The name of the appetizer doesn’t matter as much as how good it is. My taste buds are dancing with joy and so is my stomach. If this engagement party is an indicator of what the wedding will be like, I’m going to smuggle Tupperware in my purse.
My best friend, Amalie—who I refer to as Amie and have since we met in prep school—is marrying an insanely wealthy man, which makes sense since she also comes from an incredibly wealthy family. This union is still a couple of steps up the social ladder for her, so in her family’s eyes, she’s making a very smart partner choice.
As a product of the same kind of privileged background, I will say this financial partnership dance is one of the less desirable parts of being among the wealthy. Our parents all preach about marrying for love—but really, it’s marrying for love of the bank account and maintaining status. Amie’s fiancé has a bank account the size of a porn star’s dingle—according to her reports, his actual dingle is just average, which is a little sad. But you can’t have everything.
I ignore the waiter’s disapproving frown as I delicately shove an adorable shrimp tart in my mouth to make room for one more on my cocktail napkin. Plates would be far more effective, but I set mine down somewhere and someone’s already been by to clear it away. I’ll make do with the napkin.
My current employment status—or unemployment status, to be more accurate—means I’ve had to resort to a modified eating plan. One that consists of a lot of ramen noodles. I could ask my father for help, more than he already provides, but requesting additional funds will prove, to both of us, that I’m struggling to make it on my own. That is not an option. The minute I do that, he’ll have me moving back to Rhode Island so I can sit behind a desk and become another one of his corporate drones. That definitely ranks low on my list of awesome things to do with my life.
I wait until the waiter has moved on to the next group of people, make sure no one’s paying attention to me, then pretend I’m looking for something in my purse—which, in reality, I am. I stealthily open the plastic baggie, fold up the napkin with the shrimp tart, and slide it inside.
This is the third time I’ve done this tonight. I’ve racked up quite an array of snacks for the next couple of days. They’ll make nice sides for my Raman noodle dinners. And lunches.
Between appetizer thieving sessions, I’ve been busy scoping out the hotties since I’m without a date. I suppose I could’ve invited someone, but an engagement party is the kind of event that indicates interest in further dates. Currently there’s no one I’m that interested in. Besides, I have an audition tomorrow and I can’t be up late. This negates any potential for post-date make-out sessions, so it’s better that I came alone anyway.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity over my datelessness, I’m ranking the eligible bachelors on their hair and shoes. Hair says a lot about a man. I know who has plugs and who doesn’t. Plugs indicate self-consciousness and excessive vanity.
Shoes also tell me a lot about the type of man I’m interacting with. If the shoes are pointier than mine, the man is usually too high maintenance and by that I mean that his expectation of women is outside of anything that I’d ever be willing to comply with. Plugs and pointy shoes are the worst of the worst. Those men are the ones most likely to insist on boob jobs and liposuction—whatever it takes to make their wives look as close to Barbie as possible. I refuse to be someone’s silent arm candy.
“Ruby? Everything okay?” Amie puts her hand on my shoulder.
“What? Oh, yeah. Everything’s fine. I have to get going, unfortunately.” I should’ve left half an hour ago, but the food is incredible.
She side hugs me. “I’m glad you could come for a little while.”
“I honestly wish I could stay longer. I feel bad about having to leave so early.” And without even one phone number. Although, in fairness, I’ve been distracted with appetizer thieving.
She waves a dismissive hand. “I’m sure there will be plenty more parties before the wedding. I know you must be nervous about the audition, and excited.”
“I’m crossing everything that it goes well tomorrow. I’d even cross my vagina lips if they hung low enough.”