The Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang
A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...
“You’ve watched Pretty Woman too many times. Kissing doesn’t mean anything, and it’s always best if you’re not thinking too much in bed. Trust me,” he said.
Her mouth thinned into a stubborn line. “This is too important for me not to think. I’d rather not kiss anymore if you don’t mind.”
Michael’s irritation redoubled, and he forced his hands to relax before he popped all his blood vessels. How the hell had he gotten himself into this? Ah yes, he’d been worried about his escort colleagues taking advantage of her. Stupid of him. His life was complicated enough without worrying about his clients. This was exactly why he had the one-session policy.
He would have backed out—it was tempting—but he’d promised. He always carried through on his promises. It was his way of balancing out the universe. His dad had broken enough promises for the both of them.
“All right,” he made himself say. “No kissing.”
“Do the other plans look okay?” she asked.
He forced himself to read them and found them pretty similar, only she’d moved from hand jobs to blowjobs and changed the sexual positions.
Amused despite himself, he said, “I’m surprised you used the terms ‘doggy style’ and ‘cow girl.’”
Her cheeks went bright red, and she adjusted her glasses. “I’m inexperienced, not clueless.”
“Your plans are missing something important.” He held his hand out, and she placed the pen in his palm with wary motions.
She tilted her head to the side as she watched him write FOREPLAY at the top of all the plans in capital letters. As an afterthought, he drew a box in front of each iteration with hard stabs of the pen.
“But why? I was under the impression men don’t need it.”
“You do,” he said flatly.
She wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “You don’t have to bother with me.”
He narrowed his eyes. “It’s not a bother. Most men like foreplay. I do. Getting a woman hot is satisfying as hell.” Besides, he was not having sex with her if she wasn’t ready. No fucking way.
Swallowing, she stared down at the menu. “So you’re saying I don’t have a chance to improve.”
“What? No.” His mind scrambled to figure out why she might say that and came up with nothing.
“You saw how I reacted. It was one button.”
“And then you slept with me all night. You were basically naked, and you cling.”
“Are you two ready to order?” the waitress interjected. Judging by the amused glimmer in her eyes, she’d caught the last part of their conversation.
Stella perused the dinner options, her nails picking at the fabric edging of the menu.
“We’ll have the special,” Michael said.
“Wise choice. I’ll leave you to it.” The waitress winked, gathered the menus, and disappeared.
“What’s the special?” Stella asked.
“I have no idea. Let’s hope it’s not woolly.”
A troubled frown bracketed her mouth, and she leaned forward hesitantly, meeting his eyes for the briefest second. “What exactly do you mean by ‘cling?’”
Michael grinned. “It means you like to cuddle when you’re asleep.”
She looked so horrified Michael couldn’t help laughing. “I confess to liking it.” Which was the truth, and unlike him. Cuddling was an obligatory thing he did for his clients because he understood they needed it. He usually spent the time counting the seconds until he could leave and go home to shower. Holding Stella had been nothing like that. They hadn’t had sex, so there’d been nothing to wash away, and the trusting way she’d curled into him had made him feel things he didn’t want to think about.
Stella is a strong confident woman in her field of work but where she struggles the most is with people. See Stella has Asperger's Syndrome which makes some things a little more difficult for her than most people. Does that make her weird or different, in her mind it does. The last thing she wants from anybody is pity. She has put herself on a mission to tackle her issues with touching, feeling and put herself out there.
Michael is definitely not living the life he had planned for himself. Sometimes the world has other plans for us. Right now his priority is his mother and family. Doing whatever he can to make sure bills are paid and the family holds strong. Even if it means working as an escort secretly. But when he meets the beautiful Stella, things start to unravel.
Can these two people help each other to see they are worth it? They are not different or destined by their past/circumstances. They need to thrive as the people the are and be proud of it. Is there a chance for romance and a HEA?
I truly loved the message behind the story and the way the characters come to realize.... You are enough as you are!
***Advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review ***
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