Title: The Dating Dilemma
Author: Mariah Ankenman
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romcom
* Don’t think about your birthday tomorrow. Or debt, your crappy apartment, and nonexistent social life. * Re-stock wine and ice cream because that’s coming. * Die in a raging blaze of humiliation when the super-hot and very delicious fireman waiting in your office is not in fact the strip-o-gram birthday present you suspected. * Reschedule the fire safety inspection you 100 percent failed because of said humiliation. * Figure out how you, in fact, agreed to fake dating Mr. Not a Strip-O-Gram Fireman to help him with a bet. * Oh yeah, and do not fall for this guy. Seriously, they call him One Night O’Neil. Red flags all over the place. * Remember, this is fake dating, even though his very talented, very real lips are doing some sexy things you definitely like. * Realize bending one tiny rule can’t be that bad, can it? * Except bend too far, and something breaks. Something you can’t get back.
“Who would have sent me a strip-o-gram?”
Zoe shrugged. “Jordan?”
Probably. Sounded like something her outrageous roomie would do. He was always pushing her out of her comfort zone, but in a good way. Making her try new things, opening her eyes to new experiences, but he did usually keep the adventures to after work hours. Still...he had said this morning that he and his boyfriend, Angel, sent her a special birthday surprise to start her workday. She had figured it was probably going to be one of those fruit bouquets she loved so much but could never afford to indulge in.
Could they really have sent her a strip-o-gram?
She glanced at the clock. Technically the center didn’t open for the kids for another twenty minutes. Maybe Jordan had sent her a little start-her-Friday-off-right fun. She didn’t know if she should be horrified or grateful.
“Well?” Zoe asked, dark eyebrows lifting high on her forehead.
She couldn’t very well send the man away, not when he might have been paid for a job. And none of the kids were here yet, her office had blinds, so...
“Send him in, I guess.”
Zoe gave a little hop and an excited squeal. “On it! I’m so going to peek from the window.”
“Don’t get too excited—he might not be a stripper.”
But the second Zoe returned to deliver Hottie McFirefighter, Lexi changed her tune. This man had to be a stripper, or model, or Greek god in disguise. Holy cow! Five-alarm fire didn’t do the guy justice. He was more of an explosive volcano of sexiness.
“Ma’am, I’m here to check you for fire issues,” Hottie said.
Yup. Definitely a stripper.
Kudos to Jordan for the best birthday surprise ever. Lexi’s gaze greedily took him in, from the top of his closely cropped sandy blond hair, to his gorgeous hazel eyes, down to the sharp, square jaw softened by a pair of full lips that should be illegal on any man. He was tall, though not overly so. But he definitely had the muscular build of a man who did a lot of hard labor—or took off his clothes for a living.
He wasn’t dressed in typical firefighter gear, which was a bit disappointing, but she supposed that kind of stuff was hard to strip off. Instead, he was wearing a tight-fitting dark blue polo shirt that had the words Denver FD stitched on the high chest pocket and a pair of pressed khakis. In his hand he held some kind of clipboard. A prop maybe? All in all, the man looked scrumptious.
“I’m going to owe Jordan an entire month’s rent for this present.”
The man’s right eyebrow quirked. “Excuse me?”
“Nothing.” Lexi shook her head. “Go ahead and do your thing. Do you have music you need to play or something?”
The man looked even more confused as the words poured from her lips. “Why would I need to play music?”
“For...you know, for the stripping?” She practically whispered the last word, feeling her cheeks heat. Did he do it silently? That sounded weird and a little creepy. The music was half the fun.
Now both eyebrows climbed high. “Stripping?”
“I’m sorry.” She winced. “Do you have a script you’re supposed to follow or something? I’ve never gotten one of these before. Am I supposed to pretend you’re a real firefighter, get all concerned I might have a fire code violation?” She winked.
He stared at her like she’d grown another head. “Ma’am. I’m here to check you for fire issues,” he repeated.
“Oh, there’s gonna be a fire issue, all right,” she said, getting into it, “as soon as you strip off those pants and get to the show, my panties might just burst into flames.” A giggle left her. She felt so naughty, so unlike herself, flirting with the man in front of her.
She had to hand it to her roomie, he sure knew how to break her out of her shell. Jordan would be so proud if he could see her now.
The man’s jaw dropped wide. He held up a hand. “I think there’s been a terrible mistake here. Who do you think I am?”
“A-Aren’t you a strip-o-gram? It’s my birthday tomorrow, and my roommate...” Lexi trailed off as the man’s expression remained confused and slightly horrified. Heat burned her cheeks, flaming down her body. “You’re... um, you’re not a strip-o-gram, are you?”
Mr. 100-Percent-Not-A-Strip-O-Gram dipped his head, but not before she caught the smile curling his lips. Well, at least someone thought it was funny.
She was currently wishing the ground would open up and swallow her whole.
“Not a lot of sinkhole activity in this area, so that’s not a high probability,” he said with a small chuckle, letting her know she had spoken out loud.
Perfect. Just perfect.
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It’s a brand-new year, full of possibilities. Did you make any resolutions/goals for 2022? If so, please share one.
My New Year’s resolution, as always, is to finish my TBR pile. I fail every year because I keep adding to it, lol!
Why is your featured book a must-read in 2022?
If you like steamy romcoms with sexy firefighters, awkward heroines, fake dating, one bed trope, and a feisty but adorable kitty, then The Dating Dilemma is for you!
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs January 1 – 31, 2022.
Drawing will be held on February 1, 2022.
Bestselling author Mariah Ankenman lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her two rambunctious daughters and loving spouse who provides ample inspiration for her heart-stopping heroes.
Mariah loves to lose herself in a world of words. Her favorite thing about writing is when she can make someone’s day a little brighter with one of her books. To learn more about Mariah and her books, follow her on social media or sign up for her newsletter.
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