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



“I hear ya, but fair warning—Mariana does have a ton of single friends.” Eric taps his chin, lost in thought for a moment. “That might be like serving cupcakes at a meeting of the cupcake resistance. What do we need to do so you can just say no?”

It’s a valid question. I take a deep breath and noodle on the dilemma. Then the answer arrives in a flash.

I have a genius idea to avoid the cupcake temptation. But to pull it off, I’m going to need the help of Eric’s sister once again.





2





Nadia





Who authorized all this stuff?

We’re talking boxes, shelves, drawers, racks, and hangers upon hangers of clothes. Stacks upon stacks of sweaters.

“My sweaters have been self-propagating. That’s the only explanation,” I declare from the middle of my walk-in closet.

Scarlett studies the scene, humming thoughtfully before she answers, “It’s hard to argue with that.” She meets my gaze, her green eyes flashing question marks. “But how do you know your sweaters are replicating themselves and not just mating with each other when you’re not looking?”

Snapping my fingers, I point at her. “Maybe it’s both,” I say, gesturing wildly to the clothes. All the clothes. “I can’t possibly have bought so many things. It’s impossible that I purchased so many shoes.”

Though the evidence suggests otherwise—floor to ceiling shelves full of heels, sandals, flats, boots.

My heart thumps harder as I gaze at my pretties. Is there anything better than shoes?

But before I get lost in the beauty of all those pairs, I’ve got to get to the bottom of this bedeviling closet.

I tap my chin. “I heard a podcast recently about possible scientific developments in nanotechnology involving machines and tubes and rays and stuff that would enable DNA and RNA to self-replicate. What if that happened to my clothes?” I run my hand along a fire-engine-red cashmere V-neck that I wore to a December meeting last year. It’s folded on top of a cherry-red twinset, on top of a cranberry turtleneck, perched on a burgundy crewneck. “Evidence, clearly evidence. What if my clothes are on the frontier of experimentation?”

“Yes, that could very well explain your closet,” my friend says, then purses her lips together like she’s trying to rein in a laugh.

“Right? But that’s not all.” I march out of the closet, ushering Scarlett with me. I point to the pile of silk, wool, and fleece ascending into a Mount Kilimanjaro of scarves on my bed—scarves I tossed there earlier while packing. I stab my finger in the direction of the offending mound, winding myself up even more, because, oh mama, I am wound tight right now. “I have sixty-seven scarves. It’s simply not possible that I purchased sixty-seven scarves. Either they’re replicating, or someone has been sneaking scarves in here to make me look like a shopaholic.”

Scarlett doesn’t even try to stifle a laugh this time. “Would that person be you?”

Aghast, I shirk back. Indignant. Utterly indignant. For . . . reasons. “No. Of course not. I would never do that. Because I can’t possibly own that many scarves.”

“How do you know there are sixty-seven? Did you actually count the number of scarves?”

“Yes! And I was annoyed that it wasn’t sixty-nine.”

“Understandable.” She fingers the thin emerald-green silk number tossed jauntily around her neck. “I’d contribute to your pile, but alas, that would only get you to sixty-eight.”

“Sixty-eight is a sad number, and an embarrassing one,” I say, flopping onto the bed, moaning like I’m a balloon running out of air.

Petering out.

Because of that word.

Embarrassing.

It cuts me to the core.

I’m coated in embarrassment courtesy of one stinking email.

An email that’s the sour cherry on top of my ice-cream sundae of worry.

“But are you actually stressed about the number of scarves and shoes and sweaters you have?” Scarlett asks gently, setting a hand on my knee. “Or maybe, possibly, is something else going on?”

There she goes, seeing through me like I’m made of Saran Wrap. Or maybe she knows me that well.

Releasing a long, sad sigh, I pick up a scarf, dropping it listlessly around my neck. “I’m moaning in embarrassment. I have too much stuff. I simply can’t move all this from Las Vegas to San Francisco, and I’m gross for having bought so much. Just gross.”