Reckless With You
Book 2 in the Less Than Series
From the NYT Bestselling Author of Breathless With Her comes a fake relationship romance that’s all too real.
Professing her love to her best friend while wearing only her favorite panty set and coat probably wasn’t the best decision Amelia Carr has ever made. In fact, it’s perhaps the worst. But when her family becomes their overprotective selves while encroaching on her life, she makes a rash decision: her brother’s best friend will just have to be her beard. Too bad, he has no idea what he’s in for.
Tucker Reinhard loves women, and they tend to love him even more. Despite the love, he never would have expected Amelia to come up with the plan she poses to him. He’ll go along with it, but only because he doesn’t want to see her hurt—even if that means fighting his best friend.
In the midst of her scheme, Amelia realizes she doesn’t know Tucker as well as she thought. And neither of them are prepared for what happens when they let the façade go and see what truly lies beneath.
**There is a bonus epilogue exclusively in the audio and ebook editions!**
Reckless With You
I’m good at making mistakes. After all, I’ve had twenty-six years’ worth of learning how to make them in spectacular fashion. I’d like to say I’m good at making them with grace and dignity, but that just isn’t the case.
I make mistakes. I make them often.
And, sometimes, I realize those mistakes were made for a reason. So I can learn and grow from them.
In retrospect, I can look back on them and figure out exactly what I did wrong. I can figure out what I need to do now and how I can be a better person because of it.
I can become a better Amelia. A better Carr.
But as I’m making the mistake?
Sometimes, it feels like the world is crashing down around me, and I just want to fall into a hole, bury myself, and never come out.
Sometimes, those mistakes are difficult to figure out, to realize that I’m actually making them, so I make things worse by compounding them with even more mistakes.
But I’m human.
So human that I know we all make bad choices. We think we’re doing the right thing, and then suddenly realize that we’re not. We screw up to the point where everything is bad, and all we want to do is die. Hide away from the world and forget that those mistakes ever happened.
Sometimes—especially when I was younger—I didn’t want to look at those wrong choices I made. I wanted to forget them. Move past them.
Like that time I was in school, and the teacher split up the class into rows facing each other. Three rows on the left side of the room, and three on the right.
That meant I literally faced some of my classmates. On A days, the ones where I actually had that class, I couldn’t wear a skirt because that meant facing the rest of the class and…
Everybody could see up your skirt.
I had no idea why our Portuguese teacher decided to set up the room that way. Maybe because she wanted to be able to walk through the classroom as she focused on what we were doing, listening to us annunciating the words horribly.
But it wasn’t like I could change any of it. So, I just didn’t wear skirts. Because people who had that class before me had warned me. Like they warned me not to wear a dress on days where we had geography with Mr. Clampton. He liked to put the girls in skirts up front. He was never super creepy about it, never touched, or really even looked. But it wasn’t a coincidence that the girls always sat up front.
Mr. Clampton no longer worked at the school, thank God.
Because it wasn’t like you actually told your parents that things were creepy. You just relayed to the next generation how things were. And it wasn’t until you realized…oh my God, that’s actually horrible!…that you took things to the next level and got him out of the school.
But I digress. There was that one time in Portuguese class that I made a mistake. So bad that I was determined not to think about it again. I figured I’d bury it down deep in my subconscious and maybe deal with it later. When I was an adult. You know, after therapy. Because everybody on TV had therapy. So, I mean, I figured I would just deal with it then. I wasn’t going to deal with it when I was a fourteen-year-old girl.
Because there was this kid named Lee. Lee was about my height—so a little short for a boy—but I hadn’t minded. He was sweet, kind of funny, a little mean, but I didn’t mind. Because, sometimes, he paid attention to me. And I was one of those girls.
The ones I hated.
I wanted someone to notice me. So this skinny boy named Lee did this thing with his chair where he would make a circle with his body. He would lean against his legs under the chair and fold himself into a pretzel, then do circles around the desk itself.
He did it over and over, and when the teacher wasn’t looking, everyone would try it.
The slender girls would do it, and everyone would laugh. Some of the guys would do it.
Though some of the more muscular guys just scoffed and said, “Hell, no.”
I wanted to be one of the cool people. So, I tried.
Notice, I said tried.
I tried and got stuck.
Imagine it. My legs are spread, and I’m face-down under the desk, my body stuck between my legs in a folded-up position.
And everyone saw.
Thankfully, I got myself out quickly and just waved it off, my cheeks flaming red as I said, “Yeah, oops.” It wasn’t until later that I realized it was because I had boobs. And even though I was short and still tiny, boobs got in the way of everything.
I might love them now, but I did not love them when I was in school.
See, that was a mistake. One that I buried and only thought of every once in a while. Usually, it was when I was anxious about something else. Or when I was about to go to bed, knowing that I needed to wake up early the next morning. That’s when I thought about all of my wrong choices.
Because I hadn’t gone to therapy. Instead, I thought about every wrong choice and mistake right when I needed to go to sleep.
Or when I knew that I could possibly make another one.
Like tonight. Tonight, might be a mistake. But I hoped it wouldn’t be. I had been waiting for months for this. Years.
Because I knew there was someone I was destined to be with.
While I understood why I didn’t truly believe in fate and everlasting happiness and love— you really couldn’t in the house I grew up in—I did think that some things were meant to be. Was that fate?
Or was that just a long line of decisions that didn’t turn into mistakes?
That was what I needed to worry about.
Because tonight, I was going to make something happen. I wasn’t going to wait any longer.
It was all about a boy.
Yes, a boy. One who had been sitting next to Lee in that class, who tried his best to go under the table once and made it happen. One who hadn’t laughed when I got stuck.
Instead, he had dropped his book from his desk on purpose, forcing everyone to look at him, including the teacher.
Everybody soon forgot about the fact that I’d gotten stuck. At least, that’s what I told myself.
Because I didn’t really want to think about anyone talking about me behind my back. I didn’t like it now, and I sure as heck hadn’t liked it when I was a teen.
But that boy had been my best friend. He still was.
I actually didn’t know when Tobey and I had become best friends. I just remember waking up one day and knowing that he was my best friend.
And the love of my life.
I don’t really remember when I fell in love with him either.
He’s weirdly always been there, forever a part of me.
And I love him with every ounce of my being.
So, yes, maybe it’s cheesy, perhaps it’s that fate thing that I told myself I couldn’t and shouldn’t believe in.
But I loved Tobey.
Tobey McMillan, who, oddly enough, looked a little like Tobey Maguire. At least when the actor was going through that hot stage instead of the awkward one.
Tobey with an E. The Tobey who had always been there for me.
I honestly didn’t remember when everything with us started. He’d just shown up one day in like middle school or something. Or was it elementary school?
We shared a lunch in the cafeteria, mostly because I wanted half of his ham and cheese, and he wanted half of my tuna fish.
Why my mother would even think to give me tuna fish, I didn’t know. But Tobey had loved it, and we had shared.
After that, we shared lunches until college. I always got one thing, he got another, and we split them.
I never wanted for anything. Never had to wonder what the other side was like because Tobey was there, and I knew he would always share with me.
If I needed help at work, he was there. If I needed help with my math or science homework when we were younger, he was there. I’d helped him with his English and history. And we just learned together.
We were never the type of friends that did things for each other in terms of me doing his homework for him.
Mostly because we wanted to be able to do it ourselves, but it was still nice to know that we always had someone to rely on.
And considering that I had three big brothers who I could also rely on, I knew I was pretty lucky.
No, my parents hadn’t been the best, what with all the drinking, cheating, fighting, and yelling.
But it hadn’t mattered. Not really.
Because I had my brothers—all three of them in their big, bearded ways. And I had Tobey.
He was sweet, caring, and sometimes a little aloof. Occasionally, he got distracted by things and forgot important details, but he always came through in the end.
I loved him.
We were always the will they, won’t they couple.
I had dated others in high school and college, of course. And he had dated, as well.
It’d always given me a little clutch of jealousy when he did, but in the end, I realized that it didn’t really matter. We could go through life and find our own paths, but in the end, I knew we would end up together.
Because that was fate.
Apparently, I did believe in fate. Who knew?
My brothers thought Tobey and I were already dating. After all, we were constantly together. Always touching each other, holding one another, and sometimes even kissing. But only in that quick way, a peck on the cheek, the forehead. Maybe a brush on the lips. As if we had always been together.
Sometimes, we acted like we were an old married couple, and that was fine by me. Because I loved him. But I was also kind of through waiting. Waiting for him to make a move, to tell me that we were ready to take that next step. He’d told me that he loved me. Like I’d said it to him.
Sometimes, a small part of me worried that that love was just friendship—not that there was anything just about friendship.
What we had couldn’t be altered, not in any irrevocable way. But it could be built upon. And I knew we were ready.
So this wasn’t going to be one of those mistakes of my past. It couldn’t be. Not when it came to Tobey and me.
But waiting for Tobey to do anything was sort of a lose-lose situation. Because the man worked on his own timetable. He had spent an extra year in college, mostly because it had taken him a while to figure out his major. And then it’d taken him another six months to really figure out what job he wanted once we graduated.
Tobey took forever for most things. I even usually picked out our meals, and he just agreed with it, because if not, it would take forever to decide what we were going to eat. If we wanted to go out for a movie, he usually said, “you pick, Amelia.”
Yes, Tobey was a little slow off the start. But that was fine.
I had plenty of decisions inside for both of us. And I was quick at making them.
Maybe that’s why I made so many mistakes in the past. But it was fine, because Tobey would be there for me, even if I made more.
Tonight was the night. I was finally going to tell him that I truly loved him. Convince him that we were meant to be together. I was finally ready to do this thing. Waiting for Tobey to actually start this thing between us and take it to the next level? Yeah, no. I wasn’t really keen on waiting any longer.
As it was, everyone already considered us a couple. Part of me did, as well. Not the parts that actually had sex, but every other part of me.
We had dinner together most nights, we talked to each other or texted with each other every day.
I had a key to his house, he had mine. He was always helping me with work, and I tried to help him too, but he was a computer scientist and didn’t really need my help. I worked with my hands and did more manual labor since I was a landscape architect. I sometimes needed those extra muscles.
And while Tobey had been skinny and a little less muscle-y when he was a kid, he was nicely filled out now.
Tobey was damn sexy. I loved my best friend.
And I couldn’t wait to officially tell him.
But because I was me, and I had gotten drunk one night to formulate this plan, I was going to have fun while doing it.
Because we deserved fun.
We had been through a lot recently, mostly thanks to two of my older brothers, so it would be nice for it just to be us. We deserved this.
And with that thought, I looked at myself in the mirror and let out a shaky breath.
“You are fine, Amelia,” I told myself. “You are beautiful, busty, lusty, and so ready to get this going.”
And…I was never saying that statement again. Busty and lusty? Why don’t I just read a Penthouse magazine and get it on with myself?
Well, considering that what I was about to do might end up as a Penthouse Letter to the Editor, I planned to have some fun with it.
I bent down low and lifted my boobs into the cups of my lacy bra so they’d sit just right. It was a deep-plunged bra that had padding at the bottom, not to give me more of my girls—because I had plenty of those—but to lift and separate. It had this thick band below the cups that sort of made it like a corset, but not really. I called it more of a bustier, not that I actually knew what those were. I generally wore whatever bra was the comfiest.
But tonight was all about lace and boob.
I quickly adjusted my lace panties as well, and then grinned. Yes, I was wearing a matching set, and some high heels that I loved. They were the strappy kind so I couldn’t walk out of them like I’d done once at that bar, even though I had been sober.
And this was all I was going to wear. Well, this and the coat. I didn’t actually own a trench coat, and I didn’t want to go too far.
So I was wearing my peacoat with all the extra buttons.
This was my outfit for the night.
I was going to show up at Tobey’s house, show him his new present, and say, “You know what? It’s time we do this thing.”
I could be seductive. I had seduced many a man in my time.
Okay, a few men, and they mostly did the seducing because I wasn’t great at it. But I had been practicing with this mirror long enough that I should be okay.
Tonight was the night I was going to tell my best friend that I loved him. Nothing could go wrong.
Once again, I ignored that little voice in my head that said I was just going to push him to the back of my mind with all my childhood traumas. And then I told myself that was what therapy was for. I should probably work on getting that therapist.
But enough of that. “Okay. Let’s do this.”
I quickly shut off the lights, grabbed my bag, and got into my car. I didn’t live that far from Tobey, and I probably could have walked. But considering that I looked like I was about to go to the street corner and start a new job, I decided to drive. And I was really good about obeying all the laws on the way.
I probably stopped for a little too long at each stop sign, turned on my blinker earlier than needed for each turn, and obeyed all other traffic laws.
But there was no way I was getting pulled over in this getup.
Unease crawled up my spine as I pulled into Tobey’s driveway.
Was I making a mistake?
What would happen if he said no? No…that wasn’t going to happen. We were totally on the same page. We just needed a little kickstart. And the getup that I was wearing, even as it tightened around my chest, would work to do exactly that. Because it had to.
Tobey was my everything. My forever.
And I was tired of waiting.
I wanted him to love me, to tell me so, and I wanted us to start our new phase. I was tired of the questioning glances and having others wonder, will they or won’t they?
Because it was going to happen.
He was my best friend. And falling for your best friend was not only my favorite trope in romance, it was also my life.
I’d had enough downs in my life.
This was the time for the ups. I deserved this. We deserved this.
I let out a shaky breath and turned off my car.
It all started now.
And I was going to be brave enough to do it.
This was not a mistake.
I grabbed my bag and got out of the car, smiling as I tried to walk up the driveway in my heels. I could totally walk in heels, I could probably even run in them, but I was a little nervous. And because I knew I had to drive this way, I hadn’t had a shot of tequila or anything to help me via liquid courage. But that was fine. I didn’t need tequila or any other booze.
Because this was right. It was everything.
This was the choice I needed to make.
I rang the doorbell instead of using my key, and Tobey answered quickly, his eyes wide. He looked so warm, so comfy, so…mine.
“Hey, I didn’t know you were coming over tonight. Aren’t you cold in that dress?” he asked, moving out of the way.
I was a little cold, and I wasn’t wearing a dress, but all the adrenaline running through my system helped. I was fine. I couldn’t really feel anything.
Except my love for the person in front of me.
He had a strong jaw and a little piece of hair that kept falling over his face.
He was so beautiful. So mine.
This would be perfect.
“So, what’s up?” Tobey asked as he looked down at his phone and then stuck it in his back pocket.
He was constantly attached to his cell. But considering that he loved tech, I didn’t blame him.
“I have a few things to say. I probably should’ve written it down and figured exactly what to say first, but I guess I’ll just start.”
His eyes widened for a moment before he frowned.
“Should I be sitting down for this?” he asked, a little bit of laughter mixed in with the wariness in his eyes.
“Maybe. But…okay. I’m going to do this. Because this is right. It’s time.”
“Okay, Amelia. What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
I shook my head. “Nothing’s wrong.” I really should have written everything down.
“Tobey, we’re best friends.”
“Yes, we are.”
“Let me just talk first. Is that okay?”
“Okay. But do you want to sit down?”
“No. It’s fine. Please, let me continue.”
Babe. See? This is right.
“We’ve been best friends forever. You’re a big part of my world, and I honestly can’t picture my life without you. You’re everything to me. I’ve loved you forever.”
“I love you too, babe.”
Those words wrapped around me, and I couldn’t breathe.
“I really love you, Tobey. I know we’ve been dancing around this forever, so I figured maybe doing something big would push us to that next level. I figured I could do this first.”
I quickly undid the buttons of my coat and let it fall to the floor.
His eyes widened for a minute, his gaze raking down my body. I blushed, knowing this was going to work.
Tobey liked big moves. He was one of those people that did things in flashes, even if he was quiet about it sometimes.
This was going to work.
But when his gaze met mine, something broke inside of me.
My skin pebbled, but not from what I wanted it to.
No, it was the sheer mortification sliding through me. Because he wasn’t moving forward, he wasn’t looking at me with hunger or love in his gaze.
No, there was horror there. Confusion.
And maybe a little pity.
How? How had I misread the situation?
I quickly reached down and put my coat on.
“Okay, so that was a little fast. Maybe I shouldn’t just show you the goods at first. Forget that happened. But we should talk.”
“Yeah, I think we should. Babe, I love you. But I don’t love you like that.”
I didn’t know the sound of a heart breaking could actually echo in your ears. It sounded like a gunshot, one ricocheting through my body as it shattered my organ into a thousand pieces. Acid pooled in my gut, and my head ached as I tried to comprehend exactly what he’d said.
I don’t love you like that.
Like I loved him.
This was a mistake.
One that I had talked myself out of. Something that I would try to bury in the back of my mind and forget. Because there was no way I could live through this without making another one.
“Why don’t you stop calling me babe.” I said it softly, my voice wooden.
I had just shown my boobs to my best friend, and he didn’t love me.
He wasn’t even moving towards me. No, his hands were in his pockets, sorrow on his face.
And that damned pity.
“I can do that, Amelia. But there’s something I should tell you.”
“I think you’ve said enough. Well, at least I said enough for both of us.”
I tried to move past him, but he reached out and grabbed my arm. I didn’t mean to flinch. I think the fact that I did shocked both of us. I moved away, tightening my jacket around myself, wishing I could just fall into a hole and never come out.
“I’m dating someone, Amelia.”
My gaze shot to his. “Dating?” Tobey was dating? We talked every day, and he’d never mentioned it before.
Oh my God. What have I done?
“Yeah. I love her, Amelia. I think I’ve found my forever with her. I didn’t know how to tell you before.”
“You love her. Your forever?”
“Yeah. And one day, I hope you get to meet her. I just…I’m sorry Amelia. I should have told you.”
I looked at him then and raised my chin. I wasn’t going to cry. I couldn’t cry in front of my best friend. Not even when I was breaking inside. I would simply raise my chin even higher. And nod.
“Yeah. You should have.”
And then I ran.
I had just told my best friend that I loved him. And found out that he didn’t love me back.
There was no coming back from that.