Exclusive excerpt: Bad Penny by Staci Hart

When I met Staci Hart at the RT Convention this year, we talked books non-stop. Hers and others… but the more she told me about hers, about this book, the more excited I got! And now, Bad Penny is out in the world (for 99¢!!!) and I’m beyond excited to share with you a taste of what to expect in this must-read, standalone romantic comedy.

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Excerpt

Penny

“Did you know that a man’s lips are the same color as the head of his dick?”

I took a long lick of my ice cream to punctuate the question. Ramona choked on hers, and Veronica, our other roommate, laughed openly and a little too loudly for a public place. A few people in the ice cream parlor turned to look.

“I’m serious,” I said. “It’s a real thing. I can vouch for it. I’ve seen a lot of dicks.”

Veronica snorted. “Oh my God. Stop it.”

Ramona couldn’t stop giggling. The three of us sat at a small table on the patio of our favorite ice cream joint, which was conveniently located around the corner from our apartment. It was hot. June in New York is no joke — though nothing compared to August — and that day was particularly humid without a cloud in the sky to give us reprieve from the blazing sun. Hence, the ice cream, shorty shorts, and tanks we all wore.

Curse of getting ready to go anywhere with your roommates. Everyone matched.

It happened more than I’d admit to openly. But we were attached at the hips: we lived together, worked together at Tonic — a tattoo parlor— and boy hunted together. Well, I hunted boys, Ramona played with her engagement ring, and Veronica rejected all potential suitors. The only difference in our appearance was the color of our messy buns: Veronica’s was pitch-black, Ramona’s was platinum-blonde, and mine was a silvery shade of lavender that I’d stuck with for three whole months. It was nearly a record.

“Like take this guy for example,” I started, nodding into the ice cream parlor where a group of guys sat just inside the rolled up garage doors.

We all looked, not even pretending to be inconspicuous. Everyone knows no one can tell if you were looking at them when you have sunglasses on.

Two of their backs were to us, but the third faced our direction, and, boy, was he a looker. He was in a sort of muscle shirt, which sounds horribly douchey, but he pulled it off well enough that I wished he’d pull it off. He was tan and dirty blond with biceps that had curves like a rollercoaster and a tattoo on his shoulder that I couldn’t make out from the distance. Black Wayfarers sat on his nose, and when he laughed at something one of his friends had said, I swear his smile blew a circuit in my brain.

“Wait, which one are we looking at?” Veronica asked.

“Blondie. With the arm porn,” I answered. His lips were wide and full, a dusty shade of pink that sent a little tingle between my legs. “So, check his lips out — they’re like the perfect pink. Like not too pink. You just want a nice, neutral shade, nothing extreme. Don’t want any surprises when he unleashes the beast.”

Ramona snickered. “That is a neat trick, Pen. I swear to God, I can picture it now. I bet it’s pretty,” she said dreamily before licking her ice cream.

My bottom lip slipped between my teeth. “Mmm, I bet it is too. Shaped like a pretty little mushroom with veins in all the right places.”

Veronica groaned with her mouth full of ice cream. “You are so gross.”

I made a face at her. “It’s not my fault you don’t appreciate the finer things in life. Like a gorgeous dick.”

A laugh burst out of her, and I smiled. She could pretend she thought dicks were gross, but I knew it was a boldfaced lie. I’d heard her calling for Jesus behind the wall we shared — though it was rare enough that I found myself constantly on a mission to get her laid.

Blondie glanced over and caught all three of us looking. A slow smile lifted one corner of his lips, and I found myself mirroring him.

The girls and I didn’t look away because we were utterly shameless. And with him looking at me like that, I did what any woman with a pulse would do: I held his gaze and did something blatantly sexual to my ice cream.

His eyes were on my lips. I was pretty sure at least — he had on sunglasses too, so he could have been watching the granny who sat behind me. But I knew I had him when his smile faltered, his brows rising just a hair, and a little shock worked through me, a rush that set my heart ticking a little faster.

Veronica hit me, effectively knocking my elbow out from underneath me and sending the tip of my nose into my cone.

“Hey!” I said with a simultaneous pout and scowl.

She only laughed and picked up a napkin to wipe my nose off for me.

“You are so fucking boy crazy,” she said with a laugh. “Get serious.”

“Never.” I let her wipe off my nose. I’d earned that. “And what’s wrong with being boy crazy?”

“Nothing,” Ramona answered for Veronica and in my defense. “You’re happy chasing all that dick, and it’s super entertaining to watch.”

“Thank you,” I said gratefully and stuck my tongue out at Veronica.

“You’re welcome. If we were on The Golden Girls, you’d be Blanche.”

A laugh shot out of me. “Duh, she’s my spirit guide. A different beau every episode. A drawer full of crotchless panties. A lot of dramatic flailing.” I licked my cone with my eyes on Blondie, who was still watching me too. “And Veronica would be Dorothy. Forever single and an absolute killjoy.”

Veronica rolled her eyes. I heard it from behind her sunglasses.

“Who would I be?” Ramona asked.

“Sophia, except taller. Or Rose but with less anecdotes about cows.”

We broke into more giggling. Maybe the heat was making us punchy.

“Anyway, the dick-lip thing works for women too.”

Veronica chuffed. “Oh? You can tell the color of our dicks?”

“I wonder if it would apply to a clit.” I hummed thoughtfully. “But no, our lips are the same color as our nipples.”

Ramona froze, her red lips dropping open in a little O. “Oh my God, it’s true.”

“I know it is.” Eyes locked on Blondie, I stuck out my tongue to swirl around the top of my cone. I closed my lips over the top of it real slow, making a show of it.

He gripped the edge of the table.

Ramona shook her head. “I’m never leaving the house without lipstick on again.”

Veronica snorted.

“Isn’t it weird?” I asked. “It’s like nature was like, This is your mouth. It’s for eating and putting genitals in. Let me color-code that into your brain, so you don’t forget that lips are for food and fucking.”

Ramona chuckled. “Only you, Penny.”

I put up one hand and shook my head. “Blame nature, not me. Lips are so sexual. Why do you think women wear lipstick? We want men — or women, if you swing that way — to notice our mouths, but we don’t really give their lips the consideration they deserve. Blondie’s lips are soft and smooth, and I bet his dick is too. I bet he kisses like a god and fucks like a porn star.”

Veronica laughed and stood. “All right, that’s enough out of you. Let’s go. If we stay any longer, you’re going to face-rape that poor, unsuspecting man you’ve been taunting with your sexual salted caramel.”

“Sexual a-salt.” As she pulled me out of my chair, I licked my lips, my eyes still on Blondie. “I wonder what he’d look like under a little salted caramel.”

Ramona playfully pushed me in the shoulder, and I followed the girls, twiddling my fingers at Blondie as we walked away from the shop, laughing.

Bodie

Her hips swung as she walked away, and I sat there like an idiot with ice cream dripping down my hand.

“Dude.” My twin brother, Jude, slapped me in the arm, sending my cone teetering.

I scowled at him. “What the fuck, man?”

“You weren’t even listening.”

“You’re right. I was too busy watching one of the hottest girls I’ve ever seen lick her ice cream like it was her job.”

He looked around. “Where?”

“She’s gone.”

“Man, why didn’t you tell me?”

I smirked. “Because I saw her first.”

Phil rolled his eyes from across the table. “You guys argue like sisters.”

“That’s what happens when you share a womb for nine months.” I took a bite of my waffle cone, still thinking about her.

Her hair was a soft shade of purple, tied up in a bun, and her face was framed by a blue bandana, tied on top. She looked like a pinup girl, and when she’d stood and walked away, I’d caught sight of the sweetest heart-shaped ass. I couldn’t help but imagine my hands around it and my face buried in her—

Jude slapped my arm again. “You’re drooling, asshole.”

I punched him in the bicep. “Lay off.”

He rubbed the spot where I’d hit him and frowned.

Phil shook his head and propped his skinny forearms on the table. “I miss the days when you guys were more worried about your Magic: The Gathering deck and binging on Snickers bars than girls.”

Jude smirked. “Ah, the great sexual drought of our teenage years.”

Phil made a face and pushed his glasses up his long nose. “Easy, guys. Some of us never outgrow that curse.”

“Aw, come on, Phil. You’ve got Angie.”

“True, and I love her. And, beyond all reason, she loves me too. Fortunately, Ang doesn’t give a shit that I’ll never be a blond, buff Bobbsey twin.”

I shook my head. “You should have gotten into surfing with us, Philly.”

He gave me a flat look. “First off, there’s no real surfing in Berkeley. Second, sharks.”

Jude laughed. “I get it, man. If Dad hadn’t guilted us into learning before we left for college, we wouldn’t have either. But even if we hadn’t, you don’t live in Santa Monica without becoming a surfer.”

I nodded. “It’s true. I mean, I hated surfing the pier, but the sound of panties hitting the ground when we came in from a session made it all worthwhile.”

Jude sighed. “Ah, the good old days. It was so easy to get chicks. But I swear, when we started surfing, I thought I was gonna die. I could barely even paddle out past the breaks without having a coronary.”

“Too many donuts.” I took another bite of my cone.

“I think I lost thirty pounds in two months. And then came the girls,” Jude said, his eyes all dreamy.

“So many girls,” I added.

Phil made a face. “I hate this story.”

“If you’d gotten into USC, you could have paddled through pussy with us,” Jude said matter-of-factly.

“Please, UCLA would have been better,” I shot.

“Whatever, dicks. Berkeley is better on all counts.”

“Anyway,” Jude started, “New York is a totally different game. In LA, if you have a BMW and surf, you can bag pretty much anybody on the West side. Here, the bar is high. New York chicks don’t give a shit about any of that.”

I frowned. “Sounds like a lot of work.”

“Yeah, but it’s worth it,” Jude said with a smile. “You’ll see tonight. We’ll hit a couple of bars, see what there is to see. I’m so ready to get back into the game after wasting all that time with Julie.”

He sounded flippant, but I knew just how much she’d hurt him. They’d moved out here together years ago, and just before I’d moved from LA a week ago, she’d dumped him.

I clapped him on the shoulder, hoping he could find a distraction at whatever bar we were going to that night. “Tonight, you get in where you fit in.”

He smiled. “Hell yeah. And you’ll see what New York is really like. We need a break. We’ve been locked up in the loft coding ever since you got here.”

I shrugged. “We’ve been talking about this game since we were in middle school, and now that we have the tools and the degrees and we’re in the same place, it’s been good. We’ve been coding it for eight fucking years, and now we can really do it instead of just dicking around with it in our spare time.”

Phil nodded. “Thank God you lost your job.”

“Thank God for my severance and savings,” I added. “And that your parents are Silicon Valley yuppies and pay for the loft.”

He laughed at that. “Otherwise, us quitting to go all in on the game wouldn’t have been an option.”

“No pressure, right?” I joked, skirting the magnitude of the situation by pretending the risk we were taking wasn’t a big deal.

Jude’s face softened until he looked all sappy and sentimental. “Really, man, I’m glad you’re here. I don’t like being split up. It’s been a shitty four years without you.”

“It has,” I agreed. “But we’re back together now. And even though I hate being stuck in the city with the beach an hour away and no surf to be had—”

Jude’s sappy face turned into a frown.

“—I’m glad I’m here. Now, show me this high-class ass before I head back to the land of a thousand bikinis.”

After we finished our ice cream, we headed back to the loft, and I found myself thinking about the pinup girl, wondering if I’d ever see her again. I’d been a fool for not chasing after her, stunned stupid by her blatancy, knocked out by the boldness of her. She’d seemed like a girl who knew what she wanted, and that confidence, that forwardness of her actions, had lit a fire in me that no amount of mint chocolate could cool down.

About Bad Penny

Nothing good comes after the third date.

Date three is the crucial point when things get real, which is exactly why I bounce out the door, twiddling my fingers at whatever poor boy I’ve left behind. Because if I stick around, one of three things will happen: he’ll profess his undying love, he’ll get weird and stalky, or I’ll go crazy. Like, Sid and Nancy crazy. Like, chase-him-through-the-streets-begging-him-to-love-me crazy.

Seriously, it’s better for everyone this way.

So when I meet Bodie, I figure it’ll be the same as it ever was. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t put a single string on me. Doesn’t matter that he’s funny and smart and jacked or that he can play my body like a grand piano. Because even though I’m built for love, love has only carved me up like a Christmas ham.

Resistance is something I can only hang on to for so long, and he has persistence in spades. But my heart isn’t as safe as I want to believe, and neither is his. And the second I ignore my cardinal rule is the second I stand to lose him forever.

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