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I would say Dr. Cruz Costello is my archenemy.
But that would require acknowledging one another, which we haven’t done in over a decade.

He’s the town’s golden child. The beloved quarterback-turned-physician.
I’m the girl who got knocked up at sixteen and now works at a diner.

He is Fairhope royalty.
I get my monarch dose from tabloid gossip.

He’s well-off.
I’m…well, off.

When our siblings get engaged, Cruz’s parents invite both families to a pre-wedding cruise.
Except Cruz and I find ourselves stuck on a different ship from everyone else.
Cue ten horrible, insufferable days at sea with a man I cannot stand.
(My fault, of course.)
But when the alcohol pours in, the secrets spill out, and I’m left with one question:
Can I take another chance on love?


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Bad Cruz

L.J. Shen

Expected Release Date: 10 November 2021

An all-new Romantic Comedy is out this week from author L.J. Shen, and I have an awesome sneak peek for you.

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Excerpt

Jocelyn couldnt stop undressing Cruz with her gaze while Dalton seriously eye-plucked me into oblivion.

Were they swingers?

No judgment here, but there was no way I would participate in that kind of thing with this nipple-wielding power couple.

I decided to go for the same wine Jocelyn sipped, while the men stuck to whiskey. It occurred to me that I should probably stop drinking, but this was my first real experience with alcohol. Pathetic, considering I was near thirty, but also true. And this was the trip of new experiences, apparently.

Where are you working these days?” Cruz asked Dalton, obviously trying to steer the conversation into safer territory.

Im a plastic surgeon in Greenville. At the Green View Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Clinic.”

That could explain why his wife had enough plastic to mold an industrial trash can.

Nice. Thats what youve been gunning for.”

How ’bout you? Heard you ended up taking your old mans job after all?” Dalton scooped an ice cube from his whiskey tumbler into his mouth, crushing it with his teeth. Thought you had second thoughts about that?”

Cruz stiffened next to me. The good-natured smile still played on his lips, but I could tell something had shifted inside him.

I was on the fence for half a minute. Ultimately, though, I like it in Fairhope.”

Dalton took a swig of his whiskey. “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers was playing in the background.

Thought you said it gave you too many dark memories.”

I couldnt help but snort out an unladylike giggle.

Dark memories?I echoed. Cruz was, and always will be, Fairhopes guiding light. I think his only unpleasant memory is being born, and thats only because that’s the moment people began to fawn over him twenty-four seven and he got tired of being admired.”

Dalton turned his gaze toward me, seeing this as a direct invitation to answer my breasts.

Thats what I heard, too. But he said something about an ex and some stuff going wrong. Last I talked to our boy here, he said he was looking for apprenticeships in Charlottesville. That was before we graduated.”

Ex?” I whipped my head toward Cruz, frowning. What ex?”

Cruz had fooled around with a few popular girls in high school, but he was too bright, too untouchable to settle down with one of them. And besides, people in our school had this small-town mentality that ensured almost zero drama where breakups were involved—the dating pool was too small for you to feel weird about dating a friend’s ex…or an ex’s friend…

In fact, I was pretty sure mine and Robs was the only messy story from Fairhope High during his graduation year.

Also, on a side note—why was everyone blurry? And how come my legs felt like they were too heavy to move, but also kind of warm and nice? Was this how being hammered felt like? No wonder alcoholics were grumpy people.

And also did this a lot. I laughed once.

Cruz kicked my ankle under the table, signaling me to shut up.

You dont know my whole life story, Turner.”

I know you didnt have a messy girlfriend back home or dark memories,” I countered, peppering my statement with a hiccup. 

Dalton and Jocelyn looked between us, grinning.

Who wants some shots?” Jocelyn purred.

Not me,” I was about to say, when Cruz bit out, Great idea.”

Oh boy.

He was going to be so pissed when I ended up puking on his friend’s wife’s pointy nipples. 

A round of tequila arrived, and we all emptied the content of our glasses. Dalton and Cruz switched to beer and started talking about football while Jocelyn ordered us girls” some bubbly.

So.” Jocelyn gave me a slow once-over. Whatd you get done?”

Telling her I got nothing done seemed impolite and haughty, even if it was the truth. I pointed to my chin, nose, and a few more areas in my body.

Everywhere, pretty much. The only thing thats real about me is my heart. And Ive been told its not the best. How ’bout you?”

Cruzs quaking shoulder, pressed against mine, told me he heard me and was wildly amused by my answer.

My walls were coming down, fast and hard, and I was growing more and more enamored with the idea of fooling around with Cruz Costello. With clothes on.

Because when you think about it—it was the perfect crime.

He didnt want word to get out.

I didnt want word to get out.

I was feeling frisky.

He was… a man.

And we both knew this cruise had an end date, and neither of us had any ideas to continue this beyond the here and now.

Plus, Id learned my lesson from a decade-and-a-half ago. I wouldnt let him go all the way. I wouldnt get pregnant again.

So what was the big deal?

Cruz was a gentleman. Hed never kiss and tell.

Tactically, I slipped my foot out of my sandal and used my big toe to brush his inner calf suggestively under the table while nodding at something Jocelyn said.

“…jawline reduction, but I told him, ‘Baby, while youre there, give my nose a little shave, would you?’ Of course, I didnt think hed actually go for it…”

Meanwhile, Cruz nodded and sipped his beer, ignoring my undercover advance.

Fortunately, I was far too drunk to take offense. Or the hint.

Maybe I was being too subtle. There was no way he wasnt game. The way hed kissed me yesterday pretty much cemented the attraction was there. Also, he’d admitted I was a hottie at the pool.

I slipped my hand under the table and placed it on his knee.

Dang it, his thighs were as hard as a statue.

“…Chris Wade had 1,794 yards receiving, you don’t have to go ham when youre running wide open,” Dalton explained to Cruz hotly, while his wife continued droning on, “…dimple creation will be my next procedure. I think Ill be asking for one for our anniversary. Seven years of marriage counts as a big anniversary, right?”

When Cruz still didnt get it, I dragged my hand up his knee, my little finger skimming his inner thigh. I hoped the rest of him was as hard as his leg. I chanced a glance at him.

He was frowning at something Dalton said and added, They also have one of the worst pass protection units in the NFL, so thats not saying much.”

My little finger almost got to his crotch, and finally—finally—Cruzs left hand snaked under the table, too. Instead of stopping my hand, he placed his directly on the edge of my dress where the fabric met my skin.

A shot of pleasure ran through my spine at the contact on my sensitive flesh.

He pressed an ice cube on my inner knee.

Whoop.

Two can play this game,” he muttered under his breath, pretending to be engrossed in Daltons football chat.

Game on,” I uttered through a close-lipped smile directed at Jocelyn, who was now contemplating removing excess labial skin from her vag after she and Dalton had their third and final child, which she was planning on having next year.

I knew depressingly too much about their sex lives.

And shape of their nipples.

“…could be a smokescreen for Roberts. But if he makes this move, I think well be in good shape,” Cruz continued conversing with Dalton, as his hand hiked up my inner thigh with the ice cube, which was literally melting against my sizzling skin.

My pinkie brushed his package through his jeans.

He was hard, fully loaded and ready to go.

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