by Amanda Ciancarelli (@a_ciancarelli)
Adult Contemporary Romance
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The day after her sister announces her upcoming nuptials, Reagan wakes up with a splitting headache, an almost-empty bottle of whiskey bottle, and a date for the engagement party with an ex-con she hired off the internet. She just needs to get through the party without being completely pathetic, and having a hot bad boy on her arm will definitely distract anyone from the fact her younger sister is marrying her ex!
Knox advertises himself as rough-around-the-edges date will to create enough of a scandal to cause family members to clutch their pearls. In reality, he’s a blue-collar, law-abiding man who’s fulfilling a self-made promise to take care of his family at all costs—even if it means telling a few little white lies on his online ad and taking advantage of his seemingly rich new client. When it comes to his side hustle of escorting, there are only two rules he follows: No attachments and no repeat jobs.
When Knox breaks his rule and fakes a public proposal, he and Reagan are stuck in their “relationship” until the real wedding is over. But with a petty sister out for revenge, an overbearing mother focused on class expectations, and a growing connection between them, Reagan and Knox are dangerously close to blurring lines between fake and real.
FOR HIRE is an 85,000-word, standalone contemporary romantic comedy novel with series potential. It will appeal to fans of the humorous tone of YOU DESERVE EACH OTHER by Sarah Hogle and the evolving relationship in THE KISS QUOTIENT by Helen Hoang.
I hold a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and I work a technical writer for a global manufacturing company. I live in southwestern Pennsylvania with my husband and our two dogs. Much like my protagonist, I am a stress-baker with a love of cookies. Unlike my protagonist, I have never drunkenly hired a boyfriend from the Internet.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
First Five Pages
CHAPTER ONE: Reagan
There are moments in life when, no matter your belief system, you plead for a higher power to intervene. Like when you wake up on the couch after a night of binge-drinking and look at your cell phone.
“No. No, no, no, no, no,” I groaned, staring at my phone in horror. I closed my eyes tightly, sent up a quick prayer to God, and made plans to never, ever have another drink again, as long as this was just one…big…nightmare.
But when I opened my eyes, the proof of last night’s stupidity was still there in black and white.
FROM: opportunityKNOX@gmail.com TO: Reagan.Sumners@gmail.com SUBJECT: Re: Your Ad Dear Ms. Sumners (Though I think that’s a bit formal, considering our “almost, but not quite, just nearly engaged” status, don’t you?) Let me try again: Hey, Babe…
Oh, God. I was going to vomit.
Instead of throwing up on my phone—or throwing it out the window—I did the next best thing. I grabbed the bottle of whiskey from the floor beside the couch. Beside the bottle were my favorite wine glass and an empty bottle of wine. These items were the only thing out of place in my extremely tidy living room. I took pride in not having a single crooked picture frame or dusty end table. I swept my beautiful original hardwood floors every day, and I never, ever tossed the mail on the nearest flat surface.
Any other time, the mess, however minuscule, would send me into a cleaning frenzy, but not today. Instead, I took a big swig, earlier bargaining and the fact that it was ten in the morning be damned. Just for good measure, I took a second gulp… Er, ladylike sip. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught how much whiskey was left in the bottle—or rather, how much was missing from it. As of yesterday, the whiskey had been unopened, a long-forgotten gift from a thankful client pleased with the contract I’d helped negotiate on the sale of his house. The now half-empty bottle explained quite a bit about my current dilemma.
Just then, my phone rang, my best friend’s face filling the screen. Her bright-green eyes were crossed, and her tongue was sticking out. It was a delightful shot, really.
“Hello?” I answered before taking another drink.
“God, you sound awful.”. I guess after ten years of friendship, you get certain rights, such as ignoring standard greetings and going straight to the insults. “What the hell happened to you last night?”
“What do you mean? Did we have plans?” I sat up, mildly panicked. I caught my reflection in the mirror above my fireplace and recoiled in horror. My hair, purposefully cut just above my shoulders for easy maintenance, looked like a blond rat’s nest struck by lightning. I made a half-hearted effort to smooth it, but I quickly realized nothing short of a shampoo and shower would fix this mess.
Charlotte snorted. “No. Calm down, girl.” She knew me too well. I was a notorious Type-A personality and planned everything, and Charlotte knew a missed event could—and would—trigger instant guilt mode.
“I mean,” she continued, “I got a text from you saying ‘Okay emoji has always happened. Drink.’ And you never answered my reply.”
I had a vague recollection of picking up my phone to text Charlotte, but I couldn’t remember what I sent or the meaning behind the mysterious words. Nor did I remember much from after that…
I groaned. “When exactly was that?” I asked, a growing suspicion beginning to form. I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. Could you get a stress headache on top of a hangover headache?
“Uhh…” There was a pause while she checked the timestamp on the text. “Eight thirteen.”
Ignoring the twinge of horror at apparently being on my way to black-out drunk before nine o’clock on a Friday, I checked my own phone to confirm that—yup—I sent the email to opportunityKNOX later than that. Much later. No wonder I don’t remember anything. I had a whole bottle of Jack to blame.
“Charlotte,” I wailed into the phone and flopped back onto the couch, “I did a thing.”
“I’ll be there in ten,” she replied.
True to her word, Charlotte was at my house in exactly ten minutes, her long hair pulled back into a sleek ponytail and looking absolutely pristine, even still dressed in her morning-run clothes. She was a woman who frequently made heads turn and stare. People were drawn to the brown-haired, green-eyed goddess, but right now, my eyes were fixed on her hands. She was holding a large coffee in one and a takeout bag of greasy breakfast sandwiches in the other. She let herself in with her “emergency key.” “Emergency” was anything from me locking myself out, which was often, to even more frequently “I had a shit day, bring wine.”
I was still lying on my beloved gray knit sectional couch, my face buried in the pillows, trying to suffocate myself. But when the first wave of caffeinated goodness reached my nose, I decided to forgo that plan and sat straight up.
“Have I mentioned how much I love you?” I told her, reaching for the coffee. Mmm…cream, sugar, and a hint of caramel—my favorite. Charlotte should be nominated for sainthood. Or, at the very least, the Best Friend who Slays Hangovers, Lends Numerous Bottles of Nail Polish, and Makes Sure You Don’t Forget to Feed Yourself award.
Admittedly, the name needed a bit of work.
“You better love me,” she retorted as she sat down beside me on the couch and dropped the bag of sandwiches on the wooden coffee table. “Spill.”
Instead of replying, I picked up a satiny invitation from the table and handed it to her. I read the words for the first time less than twenty-four hours ago, but they were burned into my memory forever, along with the obnoxious, curly font from hell.
Forever Has a Nice Ring to It You are invited to celebrate the engagement of Brooke and Griffin on July 24
Charlotte’s eyes met mine. “Your sister and… Please tell me that is not Griffin…your ex.”
At my deadpan expression, her mouth fell open to an O.
“Did you even know they were dating after you…” Her voice trailed off as she looked at my face, which, if I had to guess, looked like I might vomit. At least, that’s how I felt as I remembered walking in on my then-boyfriend and my only sister four months ago, yet another image forever seared into my memory bank.
I shook my head in answer to her question. “There’s more,” I said, pointing to the website address at the bottom of the card. Charlotte typed it into her phone, pulling up the wedding website for my sister and her fiancé—my ex-boyfriend. Because of course my sister would run to set up her own wedding website before the ring on her finger even warmed. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn she’d set it up months ago and had been waiting to hit the button to launch it.
What had surprised me, however, was the picture of me—me—posted right under the bold words: Maid of Honor. She hadn’t asked. In fact, we hadn’t even talked since I had walked in on my boyfriend of six years doing the horizontal hokeypokey with my sister. Apparently, his claim that he wasn’t ready for marriage didn’t extend to the younger Sumner sister.
She hadn’t even used a decent picture of me. It was the one from four Christmases ago, evident from the red sweater my grandmother bought me, one I only wore once a year. My hair was longer than it is now and could barely be considered brushed. Due to the unfortunate family tradition of my father capturing the moment we saw the presents Santa left for us on Christmas morning, I had just woken up moments before. I wondered for a brief second if I would see drool in the corner of my mouth if I zoomed in for a closer look. I decided some things were better left unknown. All in all, it was definitely not my finest, most photogenic moment.
Charlotte, bless her soul for all eternity, spat out the word, “Bitch.”
She held her phone closer to her face, squinting. “Is that Griffin’s hand on your shoulder?”
I nodded, taking another sip of coffee and trying to ignore the situation at hand. But even the beautiful elixir wasn’t helping this time around.
“Oh, honey,” Charlotte started to say.
“But wait,” I cried like an infomercial announcer. “There’s more!”
I handed over my own phone open to the email where I’d pasted opportunityKNOX’s ad in my first message of a horrifying email exchange with him, and I watched as my best friend’s eyes got wider and wider until they looked like they would bulge out of her head.
FROM: Reagan.Sumners@gmail.com TO: opportunityKNOX@gmail.com SUBJECT: Your Ad July 9, 11:58 p.m.
Alone on that special occasion? Looking to scandalize the masses? Look no further.
I am the thirty-year-old your mama warned you about. Criminal past? Check. Tattoos? Check. Piercings? Maybe. wink But I won’t say where. Motorcycle? Definitely.
If you’re looking for a platonic date to a family function, I’m your guy. No more fielding questions like, “When will you find someone to settle down with?” or “Are you sure you’re…straight?”
I can: hit on any relative, insult your mother’s cooking, break family heirlooms, instigate arguments regarding religion, politics, or other taboo subjects of choice. I don’t drink, but I can play a pretend drunk
For any combination of the above, email me at opportunityKNOX@gmail.com.
Dear Mr. Opportunity, You, sir, r a blessing.gggg. I need a date.
FROM: Reagan.Sumners@gmail.com TO: opportunityKNOX@gmail.com SUBJECT: Your Ad July 10, 12:29 a.m.
Dear Mr. Opportunity, My phone sent that two fast. I’m not done, phone! Anywho berries… I need a date. Maybe more than one. But definitly one. And if duing that one daye you would pretend we were almost, but not quite, just nearly engaged, I would pay double. Pleaz?
FROM: opportunityKNOX@gmail.com TO: Reagan.Sumners@gmail.com SUBJECT: Re: Your Ad July 10, 6:35 a.m.
Dear Ms. Sumners (Though I think that’s a bit too formal, considering our “almost, but not quite, just nearly engaged” status, don’t you?) Let me try again: Hey, Babe. That’s much better, huh, sweetie? No. That won’t do… Hot stuff? So what is the day in question, and which of my services are you looking for? Knox
FROM: Reagan.Sumners@gmail.com TO: opportunityKNOX@gmail.com SUBJECT: Re: Your Ad July 10, 10:29 a.m.
Dear Knox, July 24. All of them.
“Oh, honey,” she repeated, this time with a shake of her head. She took the bottle of Jack from the floor next to us and held it out of reach. “No more whiskey for you,” she said.
I couldn’t argue with that.