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Contemporary Romance/Romantic Dramedy
Strike One-My mother named me Theodore after her favorite chipmunk.
Not cool, Mom.
I‘ve spent most of my life answering to Teddy, because I couldn’t make Theo work.
Except for here. College. The place where all bets are off, and I’ve managed to redeem myself.
There’s only one problem, my new roommate, Troy, is football royalty and looks like he stepped off the set of an Abercrombie shoot.
Doesn’t matter, I cook a mean breakfast for his panty parade, and we get along well.
And anyway, this year I got the girl. And she’s perfect.
That’s right. Theodore Houseman, former band geek, now marching band rock star has finally landed the girl of his dreams.
Everything is perfect.
That is, until Troy takes a good look at her.
I’m not going down without a fight. As a matter of fact, I’m not going down at all. As glorious as these days may be for my all-star roommate, Laney is my end game.
I may not know much about play strategy, but I’ve been the good guy my whole life. I’ve been listening and I know exactly what women want. Framed in a picture standing next to me, Troy may seem like Mr. Perfect, but he’s underestimating the guy on the right.
Spoiler alert: In this story, the underdog is going to win.
Pacing the aisles of the grocery store, I check the list Troy gave me and double back for a tomato with his crumpled twenty in my pocket. As usual, his demands exceed the chump change he gave me. I knew when he moved in, he was penniless. He has yet to pay his rent in full and his IOU’s are stacking up. I don’t mind doing the grocery shopping, because he does the yard work. I’m also the cook and adhere to his dietary restrictions. This doesn’t bother me either because I need to stay in shape myself for my own time on he field. Granted, I don’t deadlift the weight of my teammates.
I’m halfway back to produce when I hear a familiar voice utter some magic words.
“He’s a dick. I got tired of him. Total dick. Yeah, I know. Well, I had to figure it out for myself. Shut it right the hell on up with the, ‘I told you so’. Devin, you’re starting to sound like Momma.”
Stopping in my tracks, I redirect all my attention toward the woman pacing an aisle over.
It can’t be. Catching sight of her, my eyes trail down to the cowboy boots, just as she turns the corner and awareness prickles.
Frozen behind my shopping cart, I look down at my clothing choice. I’m wearing my PBS shirt, dark jeans, and Converse. I can’t remember if I gelled my hair before I left the house, which could be disastrous. Without a second thought, I follow as she spouts off on her phone.
“Yeah, okay. I’ll meet you there.”
I’m smiling at her back while she pushes her squeaky cart. She’s small but curvy, her dress flaring out a little at her hips. Toned calves peek out through a knee-length slit as she saunters down the aisle with purpose. Dark-brown hair flows past her shoulders swaying with her movement. Intrigued, I follow her into the next aisle as she gazes at the various pickle jars like they have some secret she’s straining to hear. She chooses kosher dill, my favorite, as I try to get a better look at her profile. Pink glossed lips protrude as she bites one of them and scans the rest of the shelves. It’s when I push forward for more inspection that she turns to look directly at me. All words fall away when I get my first real look at her.
“Need some pickles?”
“Sure,” I say with a grin, stepping forward and taking the jar out of her hand.
Her mouth parts as she watches me put them in my cart.
“Is your back broken, buddy? Or are you just desperate for pickles?”
“Wow, okay, enjoy.” She gives me wide eyes that scream ‘weirdo’ before she grabs a replacement jar and wheels away.
Shaking off my shock, I turn the corner to announce myself and slam into her waiting cart as she blocks the next aisle.
“Why are you following me? And choose your words carefully, or I will make a scene like you would never believe. You’re creeping me out right now, and I’m pretty sure I can take you.”
I chuckle and shake my head.
“Sorry, that was a dick move taking your pickles.”
She narrows hazel eyes at me. Adorable. “Yes, it was. Doesn’t answer my question. Why are you following me? I assure you whatever is in my cart, they have more of it here.” I
peruse her stash.
“How about some rum?”
“Ugh, look, I can see that you’re high…or something. But this is the grocery store.” She jerks her head. “Liquor store is down the street.”
“I’m not high.”
“You sure? ‘Cause that would explain a lot.”
“Fascinatin’. Look, no habla window licker. I’m sure the ‘special’ bus driver will come retrieve you shortly.”
I bark out a laugh. “Laney, it’s me, Houseman.”
She tilts her head before realization dawns, and a smile upturns her lips. “Houseman?”
Nodding, I return her smile as her eyes trail down, taking me in. I can’t decipher what she’s thinking.
“So, this is you?”
“Yep. This is me.”
“Well, you’re lucky I remembered. I was about to end you.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty funny you think you could take me.”
“Oh, I can,” she says confidently. “How did you know it was me?”
“I heard you on the phone.”
“Forever an eavesdropper, huh?”
“Forever having disturbingly private conversations in public, huh?”
She smiles. “Got me there.”
“Your accent is pretty unmistakable. Especially when you say the word dick.”
She lifts a brow. I lift one back.
“So, you all healed up?”
“Mostly.” I palm my chest, “there’s still emotional damage.”
She reaches in her cart and extends a bag of Twizzlers toward me. “Here, you need it more than I do.”
“I’m good. Wouldn’t want you to miss the only fruit in your cart.”
We grin at each other a beat longer before she sighs.
“So, you live around here?”
“No, I was running errands and decided to stop here instead of the store closer to home. Crazy coincidence, right?”
We spend a few minutes circling the aisles while I observe everything she tosses into her cart and it’s all junk. Doritos. Doritos. Doritos and one bag of sour cream and onion chips
“Having a party?”
“No reason,” I say, biting back a smile. “You might want to get another bag.”
“Don’t judge me. I’m post breakup.”
“If memory serves me correctly, you’re the one who did the heartbreaking.”
“It’s still a breakup,” she admonishes.
“I’m just trying to save you from clogged arteries.”
I lift my hands from my cart in surrender as she peruses its contents. “Leave it to you to be so disciplined.”
“Eh, I have food allergies, like, if I eat a peanut or most any nut, and there is no EpiPen around, I die. I rarely eat out. And I live in a house full of athletes with zero percent body
“Not cool,” she says with a sigh, “you know I’m trying to cut down on those.”
“Sorry, if it helps, they’re both acting like fuckboys at the moment.”
“It does help, thanks.”
We grin at each other.
“I’m glad we ran into each other again,” she says. “You know it’s only been a week, but I’ve made good on my oath.”
“Going to need to do better than a week to impress me.”
“You seem hard to impress.”
“Nah, just giving you shit,” I focus on the delicate curve of her slender neck, the full, dark lashes that dance over her cheeks as she scans more junk. She radiates playful energy that’s hard to ignore.
“Well, I’m giving up fuckboys for food. So, it shouldn’t be that hard to stick to.”
“I guess I should start a bad habit to keep up?”
She turns to me with two boxes of Famous Amos cookies and hands me one. “You’ll thank me later.”
“I could thank you now. That is, if I woke up this morning and thought, ‘today is a good day to die.’”
“Oh shit, these have nuts in them,” she says, scanning the ingredients. “I may just be too dangerous for you to know.”
“Nah, I can handle you.”
“Think so, huh? Challenge accepted. Shop with me.”
It’s the longest grocery store trip of my whole fucking life.
Snails have a faster pace than Laney with a shopping cart.
She literally weighs every decision she makes for ten minutes, and not only that, an aisle after a decision is made, if she finds something she wants more or a better ‘steal’, we have to double back to put it back exactly where we got it because she was taught better. I run my hands through my hair so many times, I feel like I’m balding by the time we make it to frozen foods. But it’s her smile and her laugh that keep me from bolting. It’s the energy I’m feeling that keeps me with her, though I’m fairly sure everything I have is hot and wilted.
When we finally roll out of the store, she turns to me.
“Well, what now?”
I shrug. “Beats me. You’re the one popping up everywhere I am.”
“Bound to happen.” She chews her lip in thought. “Maybe we’re supposed to be friends.”
“Give me your number,” she says, unlocking her phone before handing it to me. I type my number in, and she looks at it.
“As in Theodore?”
I grimace. “Unfortunately.”
“As in Teddy?”
“Absolutely not,” I say with such authority, I’m rewarded with a giggle that strikes me right in the throat.
“Fine, I’ll stick with Houseman. Where you off to?”
“Waiting on my special,” I hold up air quotes, “bus driver.”
“Sorry about that, my mouth can get away from me sometimes.”
“Smart ass, believe it or not, I’m shy at times around people I don’t know.”
“Not. I don’t believe it.”
She grins, shaking her phone in my direction, “I’ll hit you up, soon. We can hang out,” she smiles back at me as she rolls away, “and live our realest life.”
We exchange curious back glances as we walk away. I’m so not her type. I can tell, and if I’m completely honest, though beautiful, she doesn’t seem like mine either.
It doesn’t matter in the least. Some part of me wants to know her, and I can tell by the way she looks back at me before she disappears behind a row of cars, she feels the same
A Texas native, Kate Stewart lives in North Carolina with her husband, Nick, and her naughty beagle, Sadie. She pens messy, sexy, angst-filled contemporary romance as well as romantic comedy and erotic suspense because it’s what she loves as a reader. Kate is a lover of all things ’80s and ’90s, especially John Hughes films and rap. She dabbles a little in photography, can knit a simple stitch scarf for necessity, and on occasion, does very well at whiskey.
Contact Kate- Emailfirstname.lastname@example.org
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