Updated: Jan 18
After the Kiss
by Lauren Layne
Published by Loveswept
Book #1 in the Sex, Love and Stilletto Series
Julie Greene loves flings.
Loves steamy first dates, sizzling first kisses, and every now and then, that first sexy romp between the sheets. Comfy pants, sleepy Sundays, movie nights on the couch? Shudder. But when Julie gets assigned the hardest story of her career—a first-person account of that magical shift between dating and “I do”—she’ll need a man brave enough to give a total commitment-phobe a chance at more.
Normally, Mitchell Forbes would be exactly that man. A devastatingly hot workaholic who tends to stay in relationships for far too long, he should be the perfect subject for Julie’s “research.” But what Julie doesn’t know is that Mitchell is looking to cut loose for once in his life. And the leggy journalist notorious for avoiding love is exactly the type of no-strings fling he’s looking for. In other words, Mitchell is the polar opposite of what Julie needs right now. And, at the same time, he’s exactly what she wants.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy Rom-com Feel Good
After The Kiss is the first book in Lauren Layne's Sex, Love, and Stilletto Series. The series itself focuses on the the dating, love and sex columnists of Stiletto magazine, the top womens magazine in the country, and their own issues when it comes to love. After the Kiss centers on Julie Greene, Stilletto's dating guru, and self-admitted commitment-phobe. At 28, she has never had a serious relationship, and she is okay with that. Until, of course, Camilla, her boss, demands for her to write about how to take a relationship to the next level. In her pursuit to keep up with her writing style of personal touches, and to ensure she doesn't lose her position to her enemy, she decides to date a man for the sole purpose to get him to fall for her enough to take their relationship to the next level ... all for research purposes. Enter Mitchell Forbes, Julia's complete opposite. After a work friend bet him he couldn't have a fling without wanting to marry the woman, and betting half of his Yankee's season tickets, Mitchell decides to go for it, and goes for a sure fling: Julie Greene.
After The Kiss has a bit of a "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" vibe. The whole idea of a successful writer for a magazine, luring a man into a relationship for research purposes has been used, but it doesn't hurt the story any. And of course, there are differences that stand apart. After The Kiss's story flows beautifully, and there isn't a time that I felt I was getting unnecessary story.
The best part of After The Kiss is the characters. Julie Greene is you typical bubbly, happy, extroverted personality, with the smarts, talent, success and looks on her side. On the inside, she hurts. She is very aware that her being left an orphan at the age of eight, after her parents and sister die in a car crash on the way to her ballet recital, that it keeps her from wanting to get close enough to someone to hurt her. Logically, she knows it isn't her mothers fault that she broke her promise about them being at her recital ... but she can't help feeling the trauma of that time in her life. Not feeling good enough for something long and lasting. Despite her really awful idea of luring a man into love for her story, she is a good person. As she gets to know Mitchell, as she starts to like him, and eventually fall for him, she feels guilty.
I like Mitchell. I like your non-typical male protagonist. He is the total opposite of Julie. He is quiet, and introverted. Smart and successful just like her, but where she likes to party and be around people, he would rather be reading or running ... solitary activities. Whereas she sticks to casual dating and flings, he doesn't see a point to dating unless you are interested in eventually marrying. We don't learn much about Mitchell, other than him in the present. No baggage other than a stupid bet with a co-worker. He was able to realize his feelings for Julie much quicker than her, because he is the type of guy who knows what he wants. He wants to settle down.
I love these two characters together. I do believe opposites attract, and in this case it does. One of my favorite things is the first time they meet, and they had no chemistry. Like, none. Both found each other attractive, but neither of them saw potential, until Mitchell touched her back to lead her into the pub, and then, sparks. The fact that they picked each other because they didn't think it would matter in the end is my favorite kind of irony. The original story, while leading to their break up, was the only reason they fell for each other. If it was just the bet, Julie would have been totally okay with the fling. She needed an excuse to actually open herself up, and get to know someone. It just so happened that Mitchell was the perfect guy for that, and balances her out in a way she needed.
I loved this book. I will totally admit, this is my second time reading it. The Stiletto series, and it's spin-off, the Oxford series, are two of my favorite book series, and I was totally looking for an excuse to re-read them. The characters are interesting, and the story is fun at times, and sad at others. Second time I read it, I still cried when Mitchell and her broke up ... and I am not THAT emotional. Its a great start to the series, introducing us to the women in the next two books, and Julie's best friends and co-workers, Grace and Riley. Their stories are fun as well, and I can't wait to share them with you. 4/5
Top 3 Favorite Moments
1. Julie trying to cook chicken marsala for Mitchell, and it was a total disaster.
2. Mitchell inviting Julie to run with him. Julie's stubbornness and his goading had her running till she thought she was dying. I loved at the end when he bought her a hot dog. It was cute.
3. The sex. The first time they have sex is insanely hot, but every time they do, there is fireworks.
4. (bonus) When Julie, going for a run to try to ease some of the heartbreak, finds Mitchell sitting on the same bench as before, with her article (where she talks about falling in love and heartbreak), and they get back together. Him sliding the engagement ring on her finger was romantic as hell.
Where to Buy:
Julie: "With the right person, it just happens. That's the mystery of what makes true love so special."
Gawd, I almost made myself vomit.
Grace: "Jeez, I think even I'm getting warm looking at her."
Julie: "Don't worry, I won't tell Greg."
Grace: "Are you kidding? I'm sure the thought would give him a perpetual boner."
Riley: "What are we dealing with here? Herpes? Butt plugs? Necrophilia?"
Julie: "What is wrong with you? I said it was awful, not completely creepy."
Colin: "At least there's some decent tail here."
Mitchell: "Tail? What is this, a dockside brothel?"
Colin: "Spoken like a man who's been in a relationship since his balls dropped."
Mitchell: "Hyperbole doesn't suit you."
Mitchell: "I've had plenty of flings."
Colin: "Yeah, I can tell by the way the word just rolls off your tongue and you look ready to vomit."
Mitchell: "You want me to make a bet that I can use a woman? Do I look like I left my morals at the door?"
Colin: "Don't forget - if you win, you get the tickets and your balls back."
Colin: "Julie Greene, Grace Brighton, and Riley McKenna are practically the faces of the publication. The society pages call them Dating, Love, and Sex. Privately, I think of them as Kiss, Cuddle, and Fuck."
Mitchell: "You're disgusting."
Mitchell: "May I buy you a drink?"
Julie: "I - oh! The drinks are free."
Mitchell: "I know. It was meant to be a joke."
Julie: "Oh! Funny."
Mitchell: "It wasn't."
Julie: "You know, Mitchell Forbes, for someone who knows my name and sought me out of the crows to buy me a free drink, you certainly don't seem all that interested in conversation."
Mitchell: "I'm sorry. It's been a while since I've done this."
Mitchell: "Talking to women. I just came out of a two-year relationship. My flirtation skills are rusty."
Julie: "Lucky for you, mine are not."
Mitchell: "I can see that."
Mayday, mayday! I want to hump my story subject! - Julie
Julie: "I'm just trying to get to know you."
Mitchell: "Fine. I'll be thirty-five on November eighth, my mother was a high school math teacher, my father was also on Wall Street, and yes, I did follow in his footsteps. I'm a middle child, with an older brother and younger sister. I've never done drugs, I love red wine. I ran the New York Marathon last year. Reading is my favorite hobby. And I like vanilla ice cream."
Julie couldn't resist the urge to roll her eyes. She could have written his bio for him. Vanilla ice cream, for God's sake.
Mitchell: "You work for Stiletto magazine."
Julie: "Hardly a secret."
Mitchell: "And you're part of some little power trio."
Julie: "That's right."
Mitchell: "And you write the sexy stuff?"
Julie: "Sort of. The magazine calls it Dating, Love, and Sex."
Mitchell: "Kiss, Cuddle and Fuck."
Julie: "Excuse me?"
Julie: "Oh, no way am I letting you get off that hook. If I don't get to hide behind pleasantries, neither do you."
Mitchell: "It was nothing."
Julie: "It wasn't nothing. You said 'Kiss, Cuddle, and Fuck.' What is that?"
He gives her a look that is should be obvious. When she gets it:
Julie: "Oh, that's good. I can't wait to tell Grace and Riley. They'll love that."
Mitchell: "You're not what I expected."
Julie: "Oh? You had plans for me other than lame pickup lines?"
Mitchell: "I think what I didn't expect was that you would have plans for me."
Julie: "I assure you, my plans won't hurt."
Mitchell: "See, there you go again. Playing me like a fiddle."
If it has been up to her, the entire evening would have been manufactured, from the tilt of her head to her too-high laugh when he'd made a dud joke. That Julie hadn't interested him. But the Julie he's seen when he'd ripped away her safety net and called her on her bullshit? That Julie he kind of liked. Okay, really liked. - Mitchell
Mitchell: "Need help?"
Julie: "You cook?"
Mitchell: "Not a bit. I'd have done the same thing as you when pounding the chicken, except I wouldn't even have had foil on hand to improvise. But I do have this."
Mitchell wiggles his cellphone in front of her
Julie: "What are we going to do with that, use it to cook the chicken?"
God help them, she actually sounded serious.
Mitchell: "Okay then, expert. Show me your stuff."
Julie: "Now see, you're assuming I'm going to throw out a bunch of seduction moves and you're going to get lucky. No, I'm talking about Stage One stuff. Eye contact, the accidental touches, the first kiss."
Mitchell: "Sweetie, it might be time to rethink your day job. This is our second date now, and I can't say I've had my socks knocked off by a so-called love expert. You're the one who invited me here tonight, remember?"
Julie: "Well, that's because I wasn't trying to make you fall in love with me. If I was, you'd have for sure gone in for a kiss by now. I thought I'd go slow with you. You're so ... stodgy."
Mitchell: "So you're telling me the only reason I'm not falling wildly in love with you right now is because you don't want me to?"
Julie: "Exactly. If I wanted you to fall in love with me, I would've never let you see me without makeup this early in the game. Seeing a woman without her armor should be a gift saved until at least the seventh date. And I wouldn't have shown you my lack of cooking skills. If I thought you'd dig the domestic thing, I would have ordered in and then transferred it all into my own cookware. And I most certainly wouldn't have let you see me in the ratty shorts that I save for PMS and cleaning days."
Mitchell couldn't decide whether to laugh or strangle the outrageous ego out of her. So he did the only other thing he could think of that would catch her off guard. He kissed her.
Mitchell: "I should go."
Julie: "You sure you don't want to stay?"
Mitchell: "Want and should aren't the same thing in my book."
Julie: "No wonder you look so stuffy."
Mitchell: "You're grumpy"
He pulls her ponytail.
Julie: "Oh, yay, it's playful Mitchell."
Mitchell: "Reading is my other favorite hobby, remember?"
Julie: "Not really. That little factoid was so boring that my brain had to reject it or risk falling into a coma."
Mitchell: "I find the ladies like the glasses."
Julie: "It's not the glasses they like. It's the eyes."
His smile falters, and she blushes.
Julie: "Don't get too excited. It's about the only thing you have going for you."
Julie: "Are you flirting, Forbes?"
Mitchell: "What can I say? Sweat-soaked women with hot-dog breath really do it for me."
Julie: "I get that a lot."
Mitchell: "Julie, unless you're looking to get fucked in this hallway, I suggest you keep your hands to yourself."
Mitchell: "Cute panties."
Julie: "I know they don't scream sex. But you try running in a thong."
Mitchell: "I could care less what your underwear looks like. Get them off."
Julie almost winced at the expression on the other woman's face. She might as well have screamed, Take me back and let me have your boring babies. - Julie
Mitchell: "She was hoping there might be a chance at a reunion. I told her no."
Julie: "You did? Why?"
Mitchell: "Because Evelyn doesn't put out at the Met."
Julie: "So you like me because I'm slutty?"
Julie: "We're going to miss the show."
Mitchell: "Thank God."
Julie gave a forced smile. His compliment felt hollow. She didn't want to be hot. Not to Mitchell. She wanted to be beautiful. - Julie
Julie: "I'm tired of being the short-term kind of girl."
Mitchell: "I assumed that whatever was going on between us was just a fling. That we were just having fun. I never meant for you to get the wrong idea."
Julie almost laughed at the ridiculousness of the moment. Here was a short-term kind of girl begging for a long-term relationship from a long-term kind of guy who wanted a fling. It was movie-worthy. It was laughable. It was ... incredibly painful. - Julie
Julie: "What the hell was that, Mitchell? You tell me I'm just a fling, and yet you won't let me go to a party?"
Mitchell: "You know full well that's not what that loser was after."
Julie: "What was he after?"
Mitchell: "He was after whatever you're selling."
Julie: "Well, he's more than free to shop here, because I'm not taken."
Julie: "That shirt's all wrong for you, you know."
Mitchell: "I bought it based on the pictures of your various gigolos."
Julie: "None of them wear their jeans quite like this."
Mitchell: "Liar. We both know that half the chumps you date are pretty-boy models."
Julie: "And they screw like them too."
Mitchell: "Well then, lets get you properly fucked."
He'd hurt her. It had been written all over her perfectly made-up face, and it showed now in her puffy eyes. His heart twisted with regret. He'd made a mistake. A big one. He'd realized it the second that guy Cam had put a hand on her. Nobody put a hand on Mitchell's woman. And Julie Greene was definitely his. - Mitchell
Julie: "Can you hand me a T-shirt?"
Mitchell: "Why would I do that?"
Julie: "Because I'm fairly sure that bagel crumbs on my boobs isn't going to rate very highly on the sexy factor, and I'd like to get laid again."
Mitchell: "By me?"
Julie: "That depends."
Julie: "On whether or not you get me a damned T-shirt."
Julie: "Who's that?"
Mitchell: "Pizza guy."
Julie: "What do you mean, the pizza guy? When did you order pizza? I told you on my way over that I had dinner planned."
Mitchell: "And that's when I called the pizza guy."
Mitchell: "Last night I was a scared little boy who thought I'd be happy with a quick lay and a few laughs over the occasional dinner."
Julie: "And now?"
Mitchell: "Now I'm a man, spending a quiet evening with a woman I'm crazy about."
Julie squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out the sheer kindness of this man. And when she thought she heard him whisper "I love you," she blocked that out too. Because he couldn't love her. Or at least he wouldn't. Not for much longer, anyway. - Julie
Julie: "You're a nice guy, Mitchell Forbes."
Mitchell: "I certainly didn't feel like a nice guy when I copped a feel at six a.m.
Julie: "I liked it."
Caring about this man was no longer a choice. It simply was. - Julie
The wounded creature he'd seen crying her eyes out last night would definitely be hurt if she found out about this. Last night as he'd listened to her heartbroken sobs, he finally realized what made Julie Greene tick - what made her draw men to her like toddlers to candy and then dance away before they could see anything but her sweet outer coating. Beneath all that confident, sassy flash was a lonely orphan whose parents had never come home. It was the oldest story in the book: a woman who didn't believe in lasting love because she'd never had it. And Mitchell knew just the man to show her the way. - Mitchell
Mitchell: "I think you should leave."
Grace: "I should. But I'm leaving the magazine."
Mitchell: "Great, I've been running low on toilet paper."
Grace: "Don't you dare. My best friend's heart is between these pages. You may not owe anything to her, and I know what she did to you was wrong. But you owe it to yourself to hear her side. It may give you some peace. And need I remind you that you're hardly an innocent party in all this? What makes what she did so different from what you did?"
Julie: "How'd you know I'd be out running?"
Mitchell: "Is that was you were doing? Running? It looks more like you're dying."
For the past few weeks, I've been doing something I've done an awful lot of. I've fallen in love. Then I went and did something crazy. Something wonderful. I stayed in love. I stayed past the first kiss, the first inside joke, the first fight. But I did it all wrong. I played it like a game, and I broke someone's heart. And I broke my own in the process. Does it hurt like hell? Yes. Do I miss him more than anything? Yes. But would I got back and fall in love with this guy all over again, even knowing it would end badly? Absolutely. Because despite what I've been writing all these years, the best part of love isn't about the giggles or the flirting or even the toe-curling first kiss. The best part comes after all that. It's that realization that he knows you can't cook but pretends to let you try. It's hating baseball but watching it anyways because it makes him smile. Real live - the kind that matters - is giving your heart to someone even after he tries to hand it back. And it's knowing that you'd give him your heart over and over again. If only he'd ask. - Julie's Story
Mitchell: "I fell in love with you here, you know. On this bench, watching you eat a hot dog like a starving animal."
Mitchell: "You told me you loved me, and I threw it in your face."
Julie: "Well, yeah. You're a jerk."
Mitchell: "Try me again."
Julie: "I love you."
Mitchell: "You'd better. Because I love you so damn much."
Mitchell: "Forever. Or at least until I decide I can't live without box seats at Yankee stadium."
Julie: "Ah, so Wall Street's a funny guy now."
Mitchell: "You bet your ass. Now, how about you write about this?"
His lips found hers just as she felt something cool and firm slip onto the fourth finger of her left hand.
Check out the rest of the Stilletto & Oxford series below!