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



I smile, cocky bastard that I am, as he rattles off my accomplishments. “Thank you, Almanac of Crosby Cash.”

“I’m the protector of your socks too. If I hadn’t kept you from caving and calling Camille, surely she would have stolen the penguin ones next.”

I bring a hand to my heart. “And I love you for looking out for my weak ass when it comes to the ladies.” I tug up the hem of my blue tux pants, showing him my footwear. “By the way, I got the giraffes back. Wearing them today as my Eric-is-getting-hitched good luck socks.”

He peers at the long-necked animals on my feet. “How did you retrieve them?” He holds up a stop-sign hand. “Wait. Do I want to know? Does it involve you and Holden breaking into Camille’s apartment for an elaborate heist?”

“Ha.” Holden is also a good friend, despite the fact that he was just traded from Los Angeles to San Francisco to play second base for the city’s other major league team. The enemy team, so to speak. But rivals can be buds. “O ye of little faith.” I wiggle a brow at Eric. “It involves your sister.”

He hums doubtfully. “How did Nadia get involved? She’s not here in San Francisco yet.”

“Got ’em back right before Christmas. Camille was in Vegas then, and she loves magic, so I arranged for a trade. And Nadia had a good laugh when I asked her to score a pair of tickets for a new magic act in the city for Camille—the ransom price for my favorite socks.”

Eric shakes his head, laughing. “Two tickets to a magic show for the woman who held your socks hostage? You could have bought another pair, you know. There’s this thing called the internet—you say, ‘Google, find me purple socks with giraffes on them.’”

I scoff. “I wore these when we went to the playoffs two years ago. Don’t you remember my walk-off homer in game two? These are irreplaceable.”

Eric rolls his eyes. “You are a special kind of superstitious. Also, you’re aware that you have the worst taste in women?”

“Well aware. That’s my point, man. I can’t risk losing my lucky socks—or worse, my sanity—by getting involved with the wrong woman again. Camille was bad news. Daria was worse. They are all bad news, and I am drawn to bad-news ladies.” I punch his arm. “So, just like you asked me to stand up for you and be your best man, I need you to be my best bud and keep me far away from women. All women.”

He strokes his chin, nodding thoughtfully. “So you need an accountability partner again? This is bigger than holding your phone for the day. You need me to be your sponsor?”

A reel of images flickers before my eyes—my personal BuzzFeed list of my top dating woes. The stolen socks, the contraband dick pic, the missing car, the disappearing dough, and the Cabo vacation that nearly got me tossed into a Mexican jail.

It’s the easiest answer I’ve ever given. “I do, man. I really do. I’m swearing off women for the next several weeks. Through spring training.”

Eric lets out a loud, barking laugh. “Oh, that’s rich.”

I square my shoulders. “I can do it.”

“I doubt it,” Eric says.

“I have to do something. Women are my kryptonite, man.”

He nods. “And you’re toxic right now.” His dark eyes hold my gaze, like he’s weighing whether I’m serious. “No take backs? No excuses?”

I hold up my right hand and avow, “I am nuclear, and I need to change.”

“Then I’ll be the rubber band on your wrist, and I’ll snap like a son of a bitch if you get near anyone.”

“So I’m entering Ladies’ Men Anonymous through spring training,” I announce grandly.

Staring in the mirror, I consider that challenge. I do like women.

Scratch that. I love women.

Serial monogamy is kind of my thing. I dig dating when I’m in town and when I’m out of town, dating during the season and during the off-season. I relish the company of women, and I’m a people person who loves getting to know someone.

Can I seriously go a whole two months without a date?

I draw a fortifying breath, staring at my reflection like I’m staring at the pitcher’s mound.

Patience.

I am the king of patience at the plate, and I know how to wait for my pitch.

Fuck yes, I can do this.

I’m a goddamn athlete. I’ve spent my whole life as a devotee of self-discipline—early morning workouts, diet regimens, training, training, and more training.