The Virgin Rule Book (Rules of Love #1) by Lauren Blakely

But I’m turning over a new leaf.

I stand, grab my keys, and tap out a reply as I leave my pad in Pacific Heights.

Crosby: Love ya, Rach, but I’m benching myself. I am out of the running for dates, setups, hookups, situationships, or more.

Rachel: Really? Are you just saying that? I swear, she’s nothing like Daria. I still feel terrible.

Crosby: We’re all good. And yes, really. If I kept hitting into double plays or striking out looking, my manager would bench me. So I’m doing the same to myself.

Rachel: Has there ever been a time when you couldn’t use a baseball analogy?

Crosby: Life is baseball.

Rachel: Ah. So, what if you miss a shot at a home run with this woman while you’re benched?

Crosby: That’s a chance I’ll take. Gotta run—tux fitting with Eric in ten minutes.

Rachel: You’ll meet someone soon who’s a sweetheart. I just know it! Keep the faith.

I respond with a noncommittal smiley face. Rachel’s a good one, but she’s dead wrong. I don’t meet sweethearts. I meet bad girls.

I like bad girls. And bad girls like me.

But they haven’t been good for me. Hence, it’s time for a change.

Tucking my phone into my jeans pocket, I zip up my fleece—San Francisco is fuck-all cold in February—and make my way up Fillmore Street to Gabriel’s Tuxedos, feeling solid with my dating game plan.

The zero-date plan.

In baseball, a player sometimes needs to sit out a few innings to reset. And I figure if that works in baseball, it must work for anything else, including dating.

I meet my longtime bud outside the tuxedo shop, knock fists, then head for the changing rooms in the back, where Gabriel shows us the wedding duds.

He’s my regular supplier, and he takes care of the guys on my team too. I’ve got my own tuxes—every pro athlete does—but Eric’s bride loves the color blue, so I needed a new one for his nuptials.

I change into a navy-blue tux, then step out to check my dapper reflection in the three-way mirror. “Can’t help it. I was born to make tuxes look good.”

Eric smooths a hand over his lapel. “Need Gabriel to find a bigger door for your ego when we leave?”

“The loading doors are in the back,” the shop owner says, straight-faced.

“Double-wide for my pal’s head, I hope,” Eric says.

“On it.” A new customer walks in, and Gabriel excuses himself to take care of them. “Let me know if you need anything.”

“Will do.” I turn to Eric as Gabriel moves off. “You didn’t give me a chance to share the love. I was going to say you look like a cool cat too. We both look good.”

“Thanks, that was heartfelt,” Eric says dryly.

“That’s what the best man is for. Moral support and the occasional compliment.”

“Everything I could ever want.”

I adjust my cuff links in the mirror, catching Eric’s gaze more seriously. I need to tell him I’ve decided to hand over the keys to the dating car for the next stretch of road. That I need a designated driver because I can’t be trusted behind the wheel.

“Speaking of moral support . . .” I clear my throat. “Remember that time in eleventh grade when I vowed not to send Avery Forrester a bouquet of flowers from a secret admirer, aka me?”

Eric laughs, shaking his head as he fiddles with his sleeves. “Knew she was bad news when she claimed you copied her F. Scott Fitzgerald essay to cover for copying yours. And yet you still wanted to bone her.”

I narrow my eyes as he serves up my teenage woes. But, fact is, I need the reminder. “So you do remember.”

“You’ve been the king of bad judgment for ages when it comes to women.” Eric knots his bow tie. “Just like I remember that time last fall when you told me to take your phone away for the day so you’d abstain from calling Camille Hawthorne.”

I wince at the cruel memory. “She stole my best socks. The ones with the giraffes. Those were my lucky socks. I needed them back.”

“Dude, all your socks are lucky. At least that’s what you tell me.” Eric adopts a lower tone, imitating me. “I wore the hedgehog socks when I won the ESPY. I wore the wolf socks when I won MVP. I wore the penguin socks when I hit my fortieth homer of the season.”