Sips & Strokes
Publication date: April 20th 2021
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
Lily Maldonado is screwed. The people-pleasing art professor has been roped into attending her ex’s wedding by her overbearing, image-obsessed parents. Even worse? The woman her ex is marrying is Lily’s childhood bully. She can’t back out, but she’s not sure she can face this nightmare solo.
Enter Calder Ross. The sexy Scot’s abs have graced the cover of many romance novel bestsellers, but the reformed playboy needs a more serious image if he wants to land his dream job as the spokesman for Sonce Whisky. Modeling for Lily’s figure drawing class is step one in the right direction.
After their very adorable—and very naked—meet-cute, Lily and Calder realize that they can be each other’s saving grace. Lily can bring Calder to the wedding as her fake boyfriend to ward off pitying stares. Calder can bring Lily to Sonce events as his fake girlfriend to show he’s the responsible, relationship-minded guy that execs want as the face of their brand.
But the longer Lily and Calder play pretend, the harder it becomes to deny the very real chemistry between them. Will they play it safe and stick to their fake roles? Or will they throw out the playbook completely and risk it all for love?
I enter the classroom expecting to find Ms. Maldonado already there but stumble to a stop as soon as I’m inside. There is no middle-aged professor dressed in a long skirt and cardigan. Instead, there’s a young woman seated on the pedestal in the center of the room. Her legs swing idly as she stares up at the sunlight streaming in from the windows close to the ceiling. An overstuffed blue velvet armchair sits on the pedestal, providing an interesting backdrop for her.
Her serenity, the graceful ease of her posture, and the faraway expression on her face make me wish I had my camera. It’s a moment, absolutely beautiful in its simplicity. Shame no one’s capturing this.
She blinks and hops to her feet when the door shuts, her gaze focusing in on me. Her dark eyes give me a full-body scan, brows rising as she goes for round two. She shakes her head and swallows hard. “Oh, hi. Sorry, I was just having a moment.”
“I hate to interrupt. Are you modeling for this class too?”
Her lips curve as a blush sweeps her cheeks. My attention snags on her mouth. Her full, pink lips are fucking lush. She’s got the kind of mouth that women kill for and men daydream about. I’m not above daydreaming a bit myself, and with the way that blush makes her skin glow—
“I’m sorry, what?” I shake my head, sure that I was too distracted to hear her correctly.
“I said no, Mr. Ross, I’ll save everyone from that horror and stick to teaching, thanks.”
Well, fuck me running. This stunner in blue jeans and a white t-shirt is Ms. Lily? Where is my buttoned-up professor?
I look around, taking in the space. The linoleum is there, sure, but this room is a proper studio. The walls are draped in warm cloth to enhance the soft lamps glowing in the corners. Easels are at attention around the dais with a teacher’s desk off to the side, but everything about this place has been set up with creativity in mind. Impressive.
I stick out my hand and abandon all presumptions I’d had about this gig. “It’s Calder, please. And I am sorry to interrupt, but I’m also sorry I’m a bit late, Ms—”
She laughs as her hand slips into mine. I’m hit with a double whammy of sensation. First, the warmth of her soft skin sliding across my palm and then the muted sound of her mirth, which she hides with her free hand.
Her eyes squint as she shakes her head. “Just Lily. If that’s what you’re comfortable with.”
“I could be very comfortable with it.”
The words I’d meant to keep in my head tumble out without warning. What the fuck is with you? Is this amateur hour? Pull your shit together and be a professional for a second.
Lily’s blush deepens, so I release her hand and flash an easy grin. “No need for formality in my opinion,” I clarify.
She exhales and nods, and I take that as a decent recovery. I watch her go to her desk, shuffling a stack of papers as she says, “We’ll start with some short gesture poses if that’s good for you?”
“Of course.” I tug off my tee as I head to the pedestal. Once I hop up, I drop my sweatpants and toss everything on the armchair.
“Great, so if you need any suggest—oh!” The papers flutter to the floor as she turns and looks at me. “Oh my god, you’re already naked.”
My brows knit. “Just getting comfortable. Was I meant to wait for a specific moment?”
“Well, I just, I mean class hasn’t started and we—or, no, but it’s just that you’re… so naked.”
Her eyes dart around the room, landing on me at regular intervals as a blush paints her cheeks all the way down her neck now.
I bite the inside of my lip, glad I’m not the only one off their game today. “You could get me a robe.”
Sarah Skye is the nom de plume of romance authors Sarah Smith and Skye McDonald. Sarah and Skye met on Twitter as fledgling authors seeking critique partners. That turned into a brilliant friendship, a joint podcast (Quick & Dirty Romance Podcast), and now a novel.
Sarah Smith (Faker; If You Never Come Back; Simmer Down) is a copywriter-turned-author who wants to make the world a lovelier place, one kissing story at a time. Her love of romance began when she was eight and she discovered her auntie’s stash of romance novels. She’s been hooked ever since. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking, eating chocolate, and perfecting her lumpia recipe. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and adorable cat Salem.
Skye McDonald (The Anti-Belle Series) is an author and personal development coach. Skye’s Anti-Belle series feature sassy GRITS (Girls Raised In the South) learning to love themselves before they can claim their happily ever after. (Spoiler: they always do!) Her coaching method uses fitness and life skills to teach individuals to do the same. When not writing sexy books or cheering for you to live your best life, Skye can be found out on a new adventure, usually with her pup at her side.