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*Exclusive Excerpt!* Craft by Adriana Locke

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They’re not quite enemies. Not really friends. More like frustrated balls of sexual tension and neither will give in.

Lance Gibson drives Mariah Malarkey absolutely crazy. He uses her office like a phone booth, takes cupcakes from the corner of her desk like she baked them just for him. She didn’t. Maybe she knew the history teacher happened to love peanut butter icing, but that was purely a coincidence. All sixteen times.

Mariah has a way of getting under Lance’s skin too. She calls him out on his crap, spoils him even if inadvertently, and seeing the librarian in skirts drives him wild. She won’t give in. It’s for the best, really, considering there’s no way he could lie to a woman like that and he’s not about to tell her the truth about himself. Not in a million years.

These two don’t hate each other. They don’t really like each other. But for this to be a friends-to-lovers story, they have to start somewhere, right?

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“Well, look who I found.” Lance’s voice is full of amusement as he strides right up to the table, no fucks given. Dressed in dark denim and a navy blue button-down that he didn’t bother to tuck in, he looks casual and delicious, despite the cocky look on his face. 

I plead to the heavens that he didn’t come in here just to tease me. When he winks, I know I’m screwed. 

The pink in my cheeks cranks up a notch as I look from an entertained Lance to a bewildered Jonah. I should say something, introduce them, because Jonah’s confusion is clear.

“What are you doing here?” I ask Lance instead. When I shoot him a look that practically begs him not to embarrass me, he just laughs.

“I was picking up dinner.”

“In the drive-thru,” I point out. 

“And they forgot my apple pie,” he says. Pride blooms on his face like he’s tickled to death he came up with a lie so quickly. “I’m Lance Gibson,” he says, turning to Jonah. “And you are?”

“Jonah.” He looks at me briefly before turning back to Lance. “How do you know Mariah?”

“Oh, we’re old friends,” Lance lies. Again. “How do you know her?”

“I’m her date.”

Lance takes a step back. I can’t decipher the look on his handsome face, whether he’s curious or irritated now. He watches Jonah far too closely for far too long.

“It’s nice to meet you, but we were just leaving,” Jonah says, putting his napkin on the table. 

Scrambling to get myself together, to find my purse, to take a final sip of my Coke, I freeze everything when Lance speaks. 

“You barely touched your chicken, Mariah.”

“Jonah got a call from the hospital,” I explain. “Spur of the moment thing. He’s needed there so we’re going to cut this a little short.”

 “Then perfect timing. I’ll take you home,” Lance says. He narrows his eyes as if to warn me, but I skirt right around that. 

“Oh, no,” I protest, holding up a hand. “That’s unnecessary.”

“I have ten minutes to get to Merom Memorial,” Jonah notes. “Would it be okay if your friend took you home? I hate asking, but we’re already in Merom and if I drive you back to Linton first—”

“I’ll get a ride. It’s fine.” He may not mean to be rude, but it certainly feels that way. Who lets another man take his date home? 

Still, as he gets to his feet and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Lance, my body releases an evening full of stress. Although Lance is a giant pain in my ass, being stuck with him is better than being stuck with Jonah. At least we can argue instead of regurgitating information over and over.  

“I’ll pay the bill before I leave. It was nice meeting you, Mariah,” Jonah says. 

“It was nice meeting you too.” I stand, thinking I should shake his hand or something. I don’t know. Instead, Jonah leans in and kisses me on the cheek.

Glancing up at Lance, I see a fire in his eye. I hold my breath as Lance starts to take a step toward Jonah, but then he stops. 

“You better get going.” Lance taps his watch. “Nine minutes.”

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Adriana Locke:

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