April 25, 2024

HTP Winter Reads Blog Tour Promo Post: The Good Ones are Taken by Taj McCoy

at 4/25/2024 04:33:00 PM

When Maggie's best friend admits he's in love with her, she'll have to decide whether it's worth giving up something good for something that could be amazing in this laugh-out-loud friends-to-lovers rom-com.

After a bad breakup, Maggie wants to find her Prince Charming, but all she’s finding are frogs. When her best friends, Savvy and Joan, apply pressure and demand she find a date worthy of attending their respective weddings, she agrees to take her own advice and try online dating. Since she's the maid of honor for both weddings, her bridal party duties are massive, but both brides insist that Maggie prioritize finding a date. After an onslaught of maybes, noes and hell noes, she’s close to giving up, when she meets a handsome doctor at the gym who just might be the one.

Meanwhile, her college bestie, Garrett, throws salt in everyone’s game. At every turn, he points out the red flags and tells Maggie to keep looking. Things come to a head when Maggie demands that Garrett be happy for her, and he finally admits that he can’t. Not when he’s not with her. When he blurts out his feelings, Maggie’s world is turned upside down. Now she must choose between the perfect guy and a friendship that is the foundation for everything she’s ever wanted.

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HER EYES LOCKED WITH ANOTHER PAIR ON THE OTHER side of the bar—deep brown eyes framed with black, curly lashes and bookended with laugh lines. Maggie’s heart flopped in her chest as she inhaled a breath, almost willing the scent of his cologne to travel the fifteen feet to where she sat. He looks like he smells good.

The man looked back at her, eyeing her intently. His long locs were pulled back into a messy bun, random tendrils reaching toward his bearded jawline—a lone streak of silver to one side of his manicured chin. His full lips spread into a wide smile bright enough for a toothpaste ad, and he raised two fingers in the air before beckoning her over. He jutted his thumb toward a booth behind him where the table was set with a bottle of champagne on ice and two empty flutes.

Maggie’s eyebrows shot up, and she pointed at herself. “Me?” she mouthed.

His smile widened and he bit his lip as he nodded slowly. The carnal look in his eyes spread warmth to her belly.

She swiveled her bar stool to the side, a moment from stepping down and crossing the room before she caught a glimpse of the woman standing directly behind her. Late twenties, svelte and a dress that hugged every curve of a Coke-bottle figure. She had deep dimples, and her honey-blond goddess locs were pulled up and away from her face, showing off her sparkling green eyes and fluttering lashes. The woman strode to the other side of the bar confidently in stiletto sandals tied just below muscular calves. The sexy, loc’d-up couple embraced tightly, kissing twice before they slid into the booth and poured themselves some bubbles. They snuggled close as he raised his glass to toast the occasion, his beautiful date beaming as they clinked their glasses together and tenderly locked lips.

Damn. Strike one.

Maggie turned back to face the bar, sipping the final dregs of her cocktail before running her fingers over her glass of water. The ice had melted and the glass was slick with condensation. With the pad of her finger, she drew a figure eight before dabbing it on a cocktail napkin. She opened her mouth to ask the bartender, Matt, for her check when someone spoke behind her.

“Anyone sitting here?” The rich baritone voice sent a delicious shiver down the back of her neck.

Maggie peeked coyly over her shoulder, her right brow arching slightly as her eyes swept over the tall specimen behind her. The man wore a tailored black suit with a loosened silk tie and a white dress shirt unbuttoned at the collar. His easy smile widened as she regarded him. “Seat’s all yours,” she responded slowly, her voice a sultry whisper as she swept a loose coil behind her ear. She turned back toward the counter, sending an amused wink in the direction of the bartender.

“Thanks.” He slid onto the bar stool and unfastened his tie, tucking it into his jacket pocket.

Matt nodded a greeting. “Hey, man, looks like you could use a drink. What can I get you?”

“Yeah, let me get a Maker’s Mark old-fashioned, and another drink for the lady.” The handsome stranger tilted his head in Maggie’s direction, turning to observe her. His salt and-pepper fade contoured down to a closely cut beard; a few grays speckled the sections framing his mouth.

Matt nodded and set to making the drinks.

Maggie eyed the man next to her, notes of spiced oud and sandalwood invading her senses from his cologne. “Thank you.”

“What you drinkin’?” He crossed his arms, setting his elbows on the bar. He leaned toward her slightly, pointing to her empty cocktail glass.

“A filthy gin martini, extra olives.” She accepted a fresh glass from Matt and took a slow sip, savoring the briny liquid. Her heel crooked over the stool’s footrest, she flexed her foot and then pointed her toe, her feet still sore from enduring a long day of meetings. She’d braved the day in her favorite Cole Haan pumps, mistakenly deciding that she didn’t need to carry her customary pair of flats in her laptop tote. Never again.

“Long day?” She eyed him curiously, the stem of her martini glass between her index and middle fingers, her palm flat against its cool foot. Slowly, she swirled the contents of her drink, her shoulders finally beginning to relax, courtesy of Tanqueray.

He nodded. “You could say that. Divorce mediations. You?”

“Tax attorney, and it’s nearing April.” Maggie sipped slowly, willing the gin not to take hold of her too quickly. “I’m sorry about your marriage.”

His brow lifted. “How did you know the settlement was mine? I could be the attorney.”

She pursed her lips, considering that statement before shrugging a shoulder. “You could, but your thumb keeps rubbing against the space between your middle and ring finger, like you’re missing something.”

The bartender slid over a glass tumbler filled with an oversize ice cube, amber liquid and an orange peel. The man took a big gulp before jutting his chin upward in thanks. “I guess as an attorney, you know all the tells.”

Her face softened slightly. “Not all of them, but I’ve seen enough to know it’s not going well.” She regarded him out of the corner of her eye for a moment. “Sorry.”

His shoulders slumped a little. “Not your fault. All mine, really.” He took another gulp, almost finishing off his drink, gazing at her in her cream pantsuit and camel pumps. He leaned a little closer, his voice barely above a whisper. “This may be forward of me, but you are a very beautiful woman. Would you maybe want to get out of here?” He raised his eyebrows as he pressed his lips together.

Maggie’s eyes widened as she sputtered, almost choking on her cocktail. “Damn, you just go straight for ass, huh?”

Shocked, he laughed awkwardly. “Wow. I’m so sorry. I didn’t think about what I was saying until after it came out of my mouth. Please don’t be offended. I just— My eyes were immediately drawn to you when I walked in and, honestly, I’ve been out of the game for a long time.” He put a hand to his chest as he apologized, frustration furrowing his brows.

Maggie tilted her head as she employed the poker face she used with her clients, her gaze moving back and forth between her drink and the bartender, who had frozen at the proposition. “Well, I appreciate the compliment and the drink, but I’m going to have to pass. I’m not really the type to bust it open when I don’t know your name, we’re not dating and you’re still married. That’s a lot to ask of a stranger.” She shook her head, chronicling this proposition among the many things she intended to share with her girlfriends over dinner. Who does that?

The man pressed his lips together and nodded, chuckling. “You’re right, and I’m sorry. My wife and I, we’ve been living separate lives for a long time, though I can understand why it still sounds fresh. I didn’t mean any harm.”

Maggie smiled down at her drink and flipped her wrist at him. “All good, and thanks for the drink. Honestly, I’m still getting over my own breakup, so I wouldn’t make great company tonight.”

The man turned his entire body to face her, his knee bumping the outside of her thigh. “Do you want to talk about it? I’m obviously not a relationship expert, but I can listen.”

Sweet Jesus, that was not an invitation. She shook her head slowly, her lips pressed together in a tight smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Not tonight but thank you.”

It had been a few months since Rob left, and the sting of his betrayal still burned right below the surface of Maggie’s skin. She thought they were getting close to moving in together, but he had already set his sights on someone else. Now she wanted nothing more than to junk punch him in front of his new girl. Too embarrassed by the fact that he chose someone else, she preferred to brood over a cocktail rather than air out her hurt, even though her eyes had opened to the potential for someone new. Just not this guy. Being in the midst of divorce proceedings didn’t exactly signal emotional availability. Now, if only he would take a hint.

The door opened, and a couple of women breezed toward a high-top table in dark corporate suits, their identical bobs parting bone-straight hair with recent highlights. Maggie’s neighbor perked up, and she prayed silently for his departure.

“Will you excuse me? I think I recognize someone,” he murmured, his eyes never leaving the newcomers.

“Of course. Thanks again.” Maggie raised her glass and watched with amusement as he moved quickly across the room and greeted the pair, neither of whom seemed to recognize him. That didn’t stop him from planting himself at their table, oblivious to the panicked look on their faces. Maggie winked at Matt, who rested his hands on the bar, an easy smile spreading across his face. “That was…a lot!” She rested her chin in her hand, shaking her head as she laughed.

He whistled in agreement. “One more for the road, Mags? On me. You deserve it after—” he gestured around chaotically “—whatever that was.”

She grinned. “You know what, Matt? I think that I’m going to save myself from strike three and head on home. Can you cash me out?” She handed money to him to cover her drink and tip.

“You got it.” He moved over to a digital register—a tablet connected to a cash till and a printer. “Thanks, Mags. See you next week?”

“Uh-huh.” Maggie’s eyes were drawn across the bar to the-booth-that-could-have-been: the loc’d couple entwined and oblivious to the world around them. Their lips and hands were in constant movement, connecting fervently, and when they broke apart to breathe, the intensity of their gazes told everyone in the room what time it was. These two were going to ravish each other, probably before they even made it home. Their kisses made Maggie ache low in her stomach.

I want that.

Excerpt from The Good Ones Are Taken by Taj McCoy. Copyright © 2024 by Taj McCoy. Published by MIRA.

About the Author

Photo Credit: Alaysia Jordan

Law grad Taj McCoy is committed to championing plus-sized Black love stories and characters with a strong sense of sisterhood and familial bonds. Born in Oakland, Taj started writing as a child and celebrated her first publications in grade school. When she’s not writing, Taj boosts other marginalized writers, practices yoga, co-hosts the Fat Like Me and Better Than Brunch podcasts, shares recipes, and cooks supper club meals for friends.

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