Demise of a Self-Centered Playboy
by Piper Rayne
Book 5 in The Bailey's Series
You might be wondering how you’ll know when your playboy ways are coming to an end.
For some it might be an unexpected pregnancy (ahem… you know who), for others it might be finally landing the one woman you’ve always wanted (cough… I won’t mention any names). For me, it was the death of my mentor and the subsequent reading of their will.
The signs were there, they always are. But I didn’t notice them until it was too late, and my demise was complete.
Demise Sign #1 – You find yourself thrust into the land of responsibility and you don’t immediately hightail it out of town.
Demise Sign #2 – Despite being stuck with the world’s biggest Jekyll & Hyde, some sadistic part of you actually enjoys spending time with her.
Demise Sign #3 – Your family suddenly stops wanting to weigh in on every decision in your life.
Demise Sign #4 – Somehow you end up being the voice of reason in your tumultuous partnership.
Demise Sign #5 – You start thinking of other people before yourself.
Demise Sign #6 – You agree to put yourself in the middle of an Alaskan reality TV show that has both of you sleeping in the same tent.
I've been really loving The Bailey's series so far.
It's everything I love. Interconnected, standalone romances. Hot chemistry and banter. Hilarious back and forth between friends and siblings. It's just fun.
Demise of a Self-Centered Playboy was not my favorite of the series though.
I enjoyed it.
I just didn't love it.
I just didn't feel the chemistry between Denver and Cleo like I did the other couples.
What I did like, was that neither of them had their act together. Both were a bit of a mess at the beginning of the book, and by the end, they grew up with each other's help. They each helped one another with their hang-ups, and I liked that.
What I loved the most was learning more about Denver. From the past books, he is written as an incurible playboy, and excellent comedic relief in the other books. And we still get Denver's sense of humor, but learning about how his parents deaths affected him, just broke me. When Dori explained to Cleo that when Denver was a child, he used to love so fiercely that it would be too much for his pets, and then ultimately, loving his parents so much, and they end up dying - I was weeping. It was a slightly different take from some of the other siblings hangups with their parents deaths. The whole I don't want to love someone and break their heart, aka Anthony's storyline in Bridgerton. It was a fear of loving someone too much, and feeling the pain from that.
As for Cleo, I had a love/hate thing going on with her arc. I loved everything, her feeling like she can't do anything right, frustrated because she hadn't found her passion, and her complicated relationship with her parents. I just didn't love her reaction to finding out something about her dad.
If you are reading this series, I wouldn't recommend skipping out on it. It's not bad. It's written just as well as the other books. It's interesting and entertaining. I just wish there was a bit more chemistry.
Cleo: “I don’t know the first thing about—”
Her hand covers my mouth.
Bridget: “That sounded like negativity to me.”
I yank my face away from her hand.
Cleo: “It’s the truth—”
She pinches my arm.
Bridget: “Every time you say you can’t, I’m going to pinch you.”
Cleo: “That’s abuse.”
She shakes her head and her auburn hair swings side to side. It always looks as though she’s had it professionally done every day.
Bridget: “No, it’s sisterly love.”
Cleo: “Technically, you’re not my sister.”
Her lips turn down and she pinches me again.
Cleo: “Damn it!”
I put my hand on my arm.
Cleo: “Stop it.”
Bridget: “I’ll stop it after you start finding the positivity in this situation. You got this, and I’m going to stay here as long as it takes.” Denver: “I don’t wanna hear about how you paint one another and roll around as foreplay.”
She scoffs, but believe me, they’ve done it. Liam’s found a freaky side of Savannah I never thought existed. Since I’m speaking as their previous roommate, you don’t need a second opinion. She wrinkles her face.
Savannah: “I’d never share that with you.”
I wiggle my body as though I’m trying to get a bug off me and jump up and down.
Denver: “Jesus, Sav, I don’t wanna picture that.”
Savannah: “You and Liam used to swap stories all the time.”
I stare at her for a long, drawn-out second.
Denver: “He wasn’t screwing my sister at the time.”
Savannah: “If you don’t want me to share, then don’t share with the rest of us.”
Denver: “I don’t share.”
Savannah: “Um. Do you know how many girls I had to listen to scream my brother’s name or—and this is the pièce de résistance—the girl who was so explicit in telling you exactly what she wanted that I went out for a run at one in the morning and almost got eaten by a bear?”
Denver: “Let’s get one thing straight, she was telling me to keep doing what I was already doing. I don’t need that much direction—I’ve got it covered.”
We stop at Smokin’ Guns and I hold the door open for her.
Denver: “And… slight exaggeration.”
Savannah: “Maybe the bear part, but do you know how many times I slept with my earbuds in?” Then I notice a dark-haired girl lying with her chest on the table, only in her bra and pants. Something seems familiar about her, but I can’t place it.
Denver: “What’s up, Moose?”
I grab a spare chair and roll it over.
He sneaks me a sly grin then peeks down at the girl. Does he like her? Moose is an overly tall bald guy who has barely an inch of skin without ink. He got his nickname because he has the same demeanor as a moose—he’s grumpy and can’t stand people. If you provoke him, you’d better run as fast as you can. His size alone fits the name. I look at the girl again. Cute ass, but I’m a breast man, so I shrug at him like ‘sure, whatever gets you off.’ When I think about breasts, Cleo comes to mind. Another downfall of hers is her great rack. I know it’s crude, but damn, she’s blessed with more than a handful. If I didn’t loathe her as much as I do, I’d totally take a chance and ask if I could cop a feel. Fuck. What am I doing? I need to straighten out my head. The brunette turns her head with Moose’s direction, and that same experience with Savannah where I felt as if I had spiders crawling all over is repeated.
Denver: “Shit. Ew. Moose just had me check out your ass.”
I stand, the chair hitting something behind me. My sister Phoenix looks at me with her evil dark eyes and smirks.
Phoenix: “How did you not recognize me? You see me every day.”
Denver: “I don’t look at your ass!” Denver: “Let’s just get this business into the black. I have a few connections I can call who might want to take a trip with me.”
Cleo: “And what about me?”
Denver: “You can stay here and be the pretty face.”
Her eyes narrow to slits and I kind of want to laugh, but I keep my composure.
Denver: “I’m kidding.” Denver: “Okay, let’s do this quick and efficient.”
He extends his arm and raises his voice.
Denver: “In the kitchen, the auburn one is Holly, and you met Austin. This is their house. Their delinquent dog Myles was the terror at the front door, and his doggie wife is Daisy. They’re in the mudroom, probably humping because that’s all they see their owners do.”
Austin flips him off, but Holly laughs, waving while pouring a glass of wine. Cleo: “I’m not outgoing and personable. I can’t come up with one-liners on the fly. Why do I have to film too?”
He leans back, his arms resting on the arms of the chair. He’s so relaxed. How can he not have a care in the world?
Denver: “You hate me. Let that shine through. The audience will love it.”
I shake my head.
Denver: “Oh crap, don’t tell me I’m growing on you.”
Oh no, not at all. I just masturbated to thoughts of you last night.
Cleo: “As if.” Cleo: “What’s this?”
Denver: “You’ll need it on the plane.”
Cleo: “Then why am I getting out of my snowsuit?”
Denver: “Because I don’t want to crash land when an eagle flies into us, thinking God is calling him home.” Griffin: “Wait.”
Griffin puts his finger out toward me then Denver.
Griffin: “I thought you two weren’t a couple?”
I look at Denver. He’s a better liar than me. Denver smiles easily and comes to my side.
Denver: “It’s kind of new, so sorry ahead of time if you think you hear bears in the middle of the night. Cleo can get a little loud.”
My mouth drops open as I stare at him in disbelief.
Cleo: “I think he’s mistaken. It’s usually him who causes the police to come for a noise disturbance. He can’t handle a little bit of pain from nipple clamps.” Cleo: “And no masturbating to thoughts of each other,”
Talk about intriguing.
Denver: “You’ve masturbated to me?”
That pink in her cheeks turns apple red. I should probably admit defeat on this because all the rules she’s putting in place are rules I’ve broken.
Cleo: “Yeah. Not like every night or anything. Keep your ego in check.”
I inch forward, my hardening cock pressing against my pants.
Denver: “Tell me what I do.”
She leans forward and pushes my shoulder.
Cleo: “That’s against the rules and now I’ll be turning to porn.”
Denver: “Ugh, that’s so unfair.”
I put the heels of my hands to my eyes and groan.
Denver: “You gave me a visual of your hand down your pants, watching porn.”
I try to erase the image, but when my eyes pop open and see her, it all magically appears again.
Denver: “Did you imagine me chopping wood without a shirt on?”
She looks at the ceiling and purses her lips.
But she crosses her legs, which I know she’s doing to release some pressure that’s building. After this conversation, if we don’t fall into bed with one another, it’ll be a miracle. Denver: “Goodnight. Remember, no sliding your hand anywhere it doesn’t belong.”
Cleo: “Technically, I can slide my hand. I just can’t think the hand is yours.”
I whirl around, but she’s giggling down the hallway.
Denver: “Just remember if you play dirty, I’ll play dirtier.”
Her laughing stops. I’m sure she’s envisioning me getting really dirty with her right now. Truth is, this deal is bullshit. If we keep this up, she’ll be under me in a week. Dori: “Denver is my wild grandchild. He never ran away from Lake Starlight though. I thought as soon as he turned eighteen, he’d be gone.”
Harley slides into her chair, not interrupting the conversation.
Dori: “Rome did though.”
Dori’s eyes go to Harley.
Dori: “He ran. I think that hurt Denver too and made yet another lasting impression.”
Cleo: “What do you mean?”
I ask then take a sip of my drink.
Dori: “When Denver was five or six, he begged for a pet. His parents got him a fish because they didn’t want any animals, what with their house already being full of kids.”
She spoons her soup and sips her drink while we all wait patiently.
Dori: “He fed it so much and changed the water so many times as an excuse to touch it, the fish died in three days.”
Holly’s lips tip down while I picture a disappointed little boy with a mop of brown hair.
Dori: “The next time, they got him a cat. He almost smothered the thing. He kept it on a collar and leash. He wanted that thing with him all the time. He’d squeeze it so hard, I thought its eyes would pop out. As soon as it got old enough, it would hide from Denver.”
Ethel: “Denver and pets aren’t compatible,”
Ethel agrees. I wonder how long they’ve been friends?
Dori: “Worst was Glacier.”
Dori shakes her head.
Dori: “It wasn’t Denver’s fault, but everyone kind of made fun with him and told him it was.”
Ethel joins the conversation.
Ethel: “They got a shelter dog, and of course the dog couldn’t pee without Denver standing guard over him. He ran away after a month and no one ever saw him again.”
I take the meaning of each story and add on his parents dying and finally figure out what Denver’s so scared of. He doesn’t want to love anyone or commit to anything because he doesn’t want his heart broken either. We have the same fear. That’s what Holly meant in the bathroom.
Dori: “My Denver loves hard and fierce, or at least he used to. But he acts like it’s a deadly disease now. So when I asked you if you liked him, I meant do you like him enough to fight for him. I see the way he looks at you. The way he’s been caring for you just like that goldfish, the cat, and Glacier the dog." Cleo: “Are you really going to make me do this?”
Denver: “Let me hear it.”
He grins. I huff.
Cleo: “I want to date you.”
I fall forward so my face hits the bed. He’s so going to pay for this. He pushes me onto my back so he’s half lying on top of me.
Denver: “Is that a question?”
He laughs as I push him off me.
Cleo: “I can’t believe you just made me do that!”
Denver: “Don’t you want to hear my answer?”
He rolls onto his back and pulls me in to lie on top of him. It’s difficult not to be distracted by the feel of his hard body under mine.
Cleo: “I don’t think I do.”
I wiggle, but he grips me tighter. Eventually I give up the fight and his hands land on either side of my face.
Denver: “Yes, Cleo Dawson, I’d love to date you.” Denver: “I’m not going to have sex with you right now,”
he whispers in my ear and his lips continue to venture, his tongue teasing.
Denver: “No matter how much I’m kicking my brain right now.”
Cleo: “Why not?”
I choke out. I’m in flames and he’s decided not to use the hose? What the hell? I pick up the box and head toward the plane.
Denver: “I’m sorry, Chip, but I think in a way, you wanted me to be with Cleo. At least that’s what I got from your letter. If I was wrong and you’re up there pissed off that I’m with Cleo, I’m sorry, but I’m not giving her up.” Cleo: “What are you most afraid of?”
I lift my eyelids since I was almost asleep. Obviously, we’re delving into the serious questions tonight. I take a minute to consider whether I want to be open with her or not and find that I do.
Denver: “Honestly? I’m afraid of being devastated like I was when my parents died. I’m afraid of someone I love leaving me.”
She picks up her head as her hand cradles my cheek. My beard is fuller than it usually is since I haven’t shaved on this trip.
Cleo: “I can’t imagine you being so young when you lost them. But you have your whole family.”
I nod, sleep taking over. Drifting in and out of consciousness, I kiss her forehead.
Denver: “Falling asleep, princess.”
Cleo: “Go to sleep.”
She kisses my chest, and I pull her closer. I’m not sure if I dream it or not, but I swear, she whispers,
Cleo: “I’ll never leave you, Denver Bailey. Not willingly anyway.” Phoenix: “You guys are together?”
Phoenix’s eyes are wide, and her mouth is agape. I laugh at her disbelief.
Denver: “Why is that so hard to believe?”
Denver’s lips travel to my lips, and he kisses me.
Denver: “I’m a catch.”
Phoenix: “Cleo’s the catch,”
Phoenix: “What on Earth do you see in him?” Phoenix snaps a picture.
Phoenix: “I’m sending it to Buzz Wheel.”
I turn to Denver. This is getting out of control. Denver doesn’t shift away from me.
Denver: “Go ahead. Then every guy will keep their hands and eyes off Cleo because they’ll know I’ll kick their ass.” Cleo: “I take it you and the sheriff aren’t on the best terms?”
I ask while Denver locks up.
Denver: “You take that right. To be honest, I did some stupid shit when I was younger.”
He shrugs as we walk to the truck that Phoenix is already in.
Cleo: “So you’re like a bad boy?”
He opens my door for me.
Denver: “I can be whatever turns you on, but yeah, I was a very bad boy. I probably deserve to be punished.” Denver: “Goodnight, Phoenix, I have some groveling to do,”
Denver says, taking my hands.
Phoenix: “Ew! TMI, bro.”
Denver: “Put your earplugs in tonight.”
He laughs, dragging me up the stairs. Pictures of him and me that year when I came up for the summer.
Hair saved in my year seven folder from when I took it upon myself to cut bangs.
A tooth in my five-year-old folder and a picture of me with my front tooth missing, holding up a dollar bill from the tooth fairy.
Cleo: “He did love me,” Denver: “Yeah, now excuse us. Cleo would like to properly thank me for this great party.”
I drag Cleo away.
Phoenix: “Um, I did most of the work,”
Denver: “Nobody likes a bragger,”