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Butterface

By:Avery Flynn

Butterface (A Hot Romantic Comedy) (The Hartigans) - Avery Flynn
Chapter One

Gina Luca knew one thing right down to the very marrow of her wedding-planner bones: brides were the devil. And a bridezilla on her fourth round of tequila shots during the reception? A highly flammable devil capable of anything, including hijacking the videographer and projecting an impromptu Kiss Cam on the movie theater–sized screen behind the bridal party dais.

The screen was supposed to be showing guests in real time celebrating the happy couple’s nuptials. Instead, it was showing one of the bridesmaids going octopus on a startled guy in a brown suit holding a shrimp cocktail in one hand.

She stood on the outer edge of the crowd, watching the beautiful wedding she’d planned get turned into an episode of trash reality TV. “There is no way this is going to end well,” she muttered to herself.

“With as many of my co-workers as are here tonight?” a man next to her said. “It’s an HR nightmare.”

Startled, she turned and took in the man who spoke. Tall. Dark hair. Green eyes. The scruff of a trim beard. The tie on his tux was undone and hanging loose around his neck. She recognized him immediately.

Ford Hartigan.

The name fit. He was a cop. He was built tough—muscular, without looking like he couldn’t actually put his arms down. He looked hot, solid, and totally out of her league—not a shocker. Her league was microscopic, which she’d accepted and moved past because she had other things that were amazing in her life that had nothing to do with the size of her dating pool. She owned her own business and had great friends. The moral of the story? She wasn’t the kind to ever turn a hot guy’s head, but who the hell cared? Not her.

At least that took the pressure off trying to sound cool, which she most definitely was not.

“Aren’t you just a total romantic.” She softened the snark with a smile.

“With a Kiss Cam? At a wedding reception with an open bar? With about fifty-three percent of the Waterbury Police Department in attendance?” He snorted and somehow managed to make the rude noise sound sexy, because that’s the magic good-looking people had. “Romantic isn’t the word I’d use for it.”

She crossed her arms and stared up at him with amusement. The glittering lights in the ballroom must have flickered at that moment, because she could have sworn his gaze dropped down to her mouth, then to her breasts—totally covered in her high-neck green dress—before snapping back up to her face. And what she saw in his eyes then? It wasn’t the casual dismissal she was used to.

Obviously, something wonky was happening with the lights. She’d have to follow up with the hotel staff about it.

“How would you describe the situation?” she asked.

His intense focus turned back to the wedding guests hooting and hollering as the Kiss Cam zoomed in on a new couple. “Inadvisable.”

“Agreed.” She turned and stared at the couple on the screen. They’d been bumping and grinding on the dance floor an hour ago, the woman having matched the bride shot for shot earlier. “But at least we’re not them.”

The couple leaned into each other, mouths agape. Sloppy didn’t even begin to describe the resulting kiss.

“Oh man,” Ford groaned. “You can see their tongues. I should never have to see Partridge’s tongue. That’s gotta be a violation of something.”

Gina smiled up at him, calling his bluff. “You don’t use your tongue when you kiss?”

“On a Kiss Cam?” His eyes went wide but couldn’t seem to stop watching the horror unfold on the big screen. “Hell no.”

She laughed, she couldn’t help it. Something about his hot and uptight vibe got to her. “Have you been on many Kiss Cams?”

His jaw tightened. “Just this one.”

Her gut dropped to the center of the earth, and she looked away from him and back at the screen. The sloppy kissers were gone from the screen. Instead, it showed Gina and Ford.

While they stood there as if turned to stone, the crowd began to chant, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”

And if that wasn’t bad enough, she got to watch in live high-def as embarrassment turned her entire face a blotchy red and her already-large eyes did the whole bugging-out thing that made them protrude even more than they normally did. Great. Add that to the big nose and the stress zit on her chin from organizing this wedding from hell—all shown in great detail on the huge screen—and she was so not the kind of woman a guy like Ford would kiss. Even in the dark. Even after eight tequila shots.

She forced her mouth to form as much of a smile as she could manage at the moment and shook her head.

Of course, that didn’t stop the chanting and catcalls from the rowdy guests. And here she’d thought planning a wedding of a Waterbury cop to a nurse at St. Vincent’s would be a low-key, everything-according-to-procedure type of event. Wow had she been wrong.

“Kiss! Kiss!” the crowd continued.

A guy in the back yelled, “Give her a smooch, Hartigan.”

“We’re celebrating love, you gotta kiss,” the bride called out as she lifted another tiny glass filled to the brim into the air as if she was giving a toast instead of making a drunken demand.

Yeah. There was a reason why Gina planned weddings for a living. One, she hated—no, loathed—being the center of attention, which a bride always was. Two, she got off on color-coded spreadsheets, checking things off to-do lists, and organizing like nobody’s business. Three, she was really good at it. Love, however, didn’t have a single thing to do with her career choice.

“Kiss!” the bride’s grandmother yelled out.

Again, Gina shook her head. Her voice seemed to be disappearing along with her last shred of dignity the more time that damn videographer kept his camera in a tight shot on her face. Taking the if-you-ignore-it-long-enough-it-will-go-away philosophy that sometimes worked when her washing machine started making that clunking noise that always eventually stopped, she dropped her attention to the very pointed toes of her tan kitten heels.

A whir of sensation tickled her ear and made her pulse pick up half a second before the man stuck in the Kiss Cam spotlight with her leaned in close.

“Let’s just get it over with,” Ford whispered, the low timbre of his voice edged with tension.

Her gaze snapped up to his too-handsome face, with its perfect square jaw, dark green eyes, and high cheekbones, and her flush of humiliation deepened. He’d probably never been teased a day in his life about anything and had no idea what being laughed at by a group of people was like. Meanwhile, she’d spent her formative years getting called rabbit because of her buckteeth. She’d thought that after the braces came off, all of that would be behind her, but that’s when she’d gotten a new nickname that was even worse: Butterface. Why? Because her body was okay, “but her face?” Not so much. Annoyance at the unfairness of it all made her prickle. Just get it over with indeed.

“Aren’t those the words that every woman is just dying to hear,” she shot back, keeping her voice quiet enough that only he could hear and not letting her fake smile slip a millimeter. “I’m not kissing you.”

Unlike her, while the wedding guests continued to call for a kiss, he didn’t bother to hide his scowl. Of course, that just made him look even sexier. “Why not?”

Reasons! She clamped her mouth shut before that inanity escaped and called it a victory. Knowing the right thing to say at the right time had never been one of her gifts, so the fact that she managed to keep her trap shut was a total win. When he raised one dark eyebrow in question, she scrambled to come up with something besides because you’re too hot.

“I’m working,” she said.

Ford cocked his head and gave her some premium cop face, that blank suspicious stare that all but screamed you’re full of shit. “You don’t think our fine groom, Porter, was on shift when he met Meg at the emergency room after a guy he was arresting took a swing at him with a two-by-four? It’s just a kiss, and then they’ll move on to the next victim.”

She turned her attention back to the big screen display of this horribly awkward moment rather than meeting Ford’s unwavering gaze.

“Do not disrespect the Kiss Cam, Hartigan!” someone bellowed out as the chanting crowd grew more restless. And louder.

“One quick kiss,” he said, his tone grim with a thread of something more vulnerable underneath. “Then, they’ll leave us alone.”

That’s when Gina’s gaze moved from her own face, blotchy with embarrassment on the screen, over to him. The tips of his ears were scarlet, and he was tapping the tips of his middle finger and thumb together like he was keeping rhythm for a ska band.

He was hiding it better, but the reality was he wasn’t enjoying this anymore than she was.

Glancing from the screen to the actual man himself, her lungs tightened. He was a big guy, and she wasn’t just talking about his broad shoulders that filled out his tux to a mouthwatering degree. He had to have at least four inches on her own five foot ten.

He glanced down, making eye contact, and for a second they weren’t the hottie and the nottie. They were two people stuck in a completely socially awkward situation that they had no control over.

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