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Sex in the Sticks: A Love Hurts Novel by Sawyer Bennett (1)

Prologue

Valentine

“Sir, the 2007 Gaja Barbaresco you requested,” the sommelier says as he presents it to Blain with a flourish. Blain doesn’t even look up from his smartphone, where he’s busily typing something, but he does say to me, “Go ahead and try it, Valentine.”

The sommelier turns regally to me, the neck of the bottle held delicately in one hand with the middle of the bottle resting on his forearm as he presents the label to me. I lean forward and pretend to study it with a keen eye before looking up and nodding my head.

Almost as if he pulls the corkscrew out of thin air, the sommelier makes a production of removing the cork and pouring a tiny amount into my glass. The dark burgundy color looks nice…I suppose. I pick up my glass by the stem and give it a swirl.

“You’ll love it,” Blain says, and my eyes go from the wine to him. He’s peeking up from his smartphone and giving me what I know he thinks is a charming grin. I almost smile back, but then he says, “It cost $210.”

And my smile dies and his head drops so he can go back to whatever has his attention on his phone.

I take a sip of the wine, and it tastes like wine to me. It’s a common misconception that just because you’re wealthy it doesn’t mean you have a discernible palate when it comes to expensive food and drink. Regardless, I give another nod to the sommelier and he fills our glasses, my date still focused on his phone.

“What’s so important, Blain, that you’ve had your face stuck to that phone since we got here?” I ask him after the sommelier leaves. It’s our third date and perhaps he’s feeling comfortable enough to do this to me. I did, after all, let him cop a major feel as we kissed good night after our last date, so perhaps he thinks I’m a sure bet tonight.

He doesn’t answer me right away, but eventually looks up as he tucks his phone into his jacket breast pocket. “Sorry about that. I was having my financial adviser move some stuff for me. The Dow was a little wonky today.”

I give him a polite smile. I could give a shit about the stock market. My money is old and seems to multiply just fine on its own without me checking it every five minutes.

“So,” Blain says as he rests his elbows on the table and leans in a little. “You were telling me about a possible trip to Paris soon, right?”

“That’s right.” I put my elbows on the table, lace my fingers together, and rest my chin on the back of my hands as I smile at him. “Maybe next month to do a little shopping.”

“No better shopping than on the Champs-Élysées,” he says knowingly, but yeah…he really doesn’t know. That’s for gawking tourists and such. For God’s sake, there’s a Disney and Adidas store there. But he continues knowledgeably. “I bought several custom-made suits there on my last trip to Paris.”

Yeah, probably from Hugo Boss, which you can find in large quantities right here in Manhattan.

“Actually, I prefer some of the boutique stores on Rue de Charonne,” I say before taking a delicate sip of my wine, but he doesn’t ask me about it or seem to care.

Instead, his gaze goes to my glass as I set it down and then back to me. “It’s a beautiful wine, right?”

“Mmmmm, yes,” I murmur.

“It’s the delicate hint of raspberry that gets me every time,” he says knowledgeably. Despite the fact I’m filthy rich, my taste buds apparently can’t be bought, so I just nod in agreement as he goes on about how it wasn’t the most expensive wine on the list tonight, but it was going to go well with the beef tenderloin he’d planned on ordering for us. He assured me it was the finest beef in the city.

Whatever.

“So how’s work going?” I ask Blain, hoping to spark interesting conversation.

“Very well,” he says with a hint of superiority in his voice that I suspect they might teach as a class in law school. “I just landed a client that will net high six figures in fees over the next five years.”

“That’s wonderful,” I praise him. “I know you can’t tell me the client, but what type of business are they in?”

“Hair care products,” he says as he reaches for the bread basket. “Very high end stuff. In fact, I’m going to switch to using it myself. I mean, if I spend four hundred dollars on a haircut, I should really be using the most expensive products, out there, right?”

And he lost me.

Of course, I’m not overly surprised he’s gushing over hair-care products. I think Blain’s hair is very important to him. It’s dark and thick, short on the sides and slightly wavy on top. It shines beautifully, and I really noticed this because as we were waiting for our table in the bar tonight, Blain kept checking himself out in the mirror. He’d turn his head this way and that, sometimes smoothing his fingertips over nonexistent stray hairs.

“…and of course, I have to have the elite gym membership at Lift. The body is a temple, right? I was just telling one of my colleagues the other day that you have to maintain your body as diligently as your stock portfolio.”

He drones on and on, every single word out of his mouth more self-involved than the last.

I tune him out. His lips are moving but my mind is far away, wondering how I can possibly be attracting men like this?

I’m a goddamned dating goddess in this city. Women turn to me to find out how it’s done and they listen carefully when I give them advice on how to find the perfect guy.

Yet in the past six months, my dating life has been absolutely wretched. It’s like I’m going out with the same guy over and over but he’s been cloned into different-looking hot packages. The package is so pretty on the outside that I figure at some point I’ve got to find the insides to match, right?

Sadly, I live in New York City, home to the biggest concentration of metrosexual men in the world. They love their designer clothes, their expensive wines, their luxury apartments, and bragging about it to anyone that will listen. Their job’s the most important one in the world, and if you look semi-interested, they’ll talk about it for hours, sometimes never even taking a breath. It’s only taken me a little over a decade of dating for me to figure it out, but I have come to the glum conclusion that there just aren’t any good men out there on the dating scene.

At least not in the city.

If this is true, it spells disaster for me, because I’m a dating and sex advice columnist. I use my own unique experiences—some failures, others major scores—to help give direction, advice, and occasionally hope to other women. Sometimes it’s sage wisdom on how to recognize a guy who only wants a hookup versus something more meaningful. Sometimes it’s an awesome sexual position I may have stumbled upon and want to share with my readers. But my dates have been so bad lately that I’m afraid my column is suffering, so I’ve got to do something to get my mojo back.

My blog has been going strong for almost six years now, but for the first time in my writing career, I’m wondering if perhaps I’m tapped out. Or maybe it’s just time to shake up Valentine’s Couch and find something different to write about.

A different kind of man, perhaps.

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