The Right Swipe
Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup. The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules:
- Nude pics are by invitation only
- If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice
- Protect your heart
Only there aren't any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night... and disappears.
Rhi thought she'd buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won't fumble their second chance, but she's wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…
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Praise for The Right Swipe, a Target Diverse Book Club read, an Amazon and Apple Best Book, an IndieNext pick, the LibraryReads Top Pick of the month (August 2019), and on the Best Books of 2019 list for the New York Public Library, Washington Post, NPR, Oprah Magazine, and Readers Digest’s Best Romances of All Time list!
“We absolutely adored this book!” – Christina Lauren
“I absolutely loved it… volcano-hot sex and cackle-worthy dialogue…I highly recommend this!”– Sally Thorne, USA Today bestselling author of The Hating Game and 99 Percent Mine
“Rising romance star Rai brings a perfect relationship to life in this luscious contemporary series launch… This winning novel will enhance any romance reader’s collection.”– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Brilliantly self-aware…and filled with a raw tenderness that’ll have you reaching for the nearest box of wine, The Right Swipe is an unflinching look at what it takes to find love in the 21st century.” – NPR
“The Right Swipe is everything you want in a Summer read: fun, clever, and so, so sexy.”– Popsugar
“Top-notch romance.”– New York Times Book Review on The Right Swipe
“Taking the dating app business to another level, with a dose of girl power, sexual politics, and one eccentric red-headed aunt, Rai scores a touchdown.”– Booklist
“Rai addresses heavy issues without sacrificing passionate sensuality or emotional connection… a high-tech romance that proves respect is the most potent love drug.– Kirkus Reviews
Rhiannon Hunter worshipped at the altar of no man.
Or woman, for that matter. She’d worked hard to carve out her own tiny empire where she was only accountable to herself and those she chose to be accountable to. It was a luxury and privilege she didn’t take lightly.
So it was extra annoying when she had to cajole anyone for anything. Wearing heels, no less.
“Ma’am, you are not on the list.”
Rhiannon flicked the button of her jacket open. Her modest cleavage in the crimson one-piece jumpsuit she was wearing had the bouncer’s gaze slipping away from his iPad. She cocked her hip, the better to accent her legs, the dratted heels at least giving her a nice optical illusion of length. “I got an invite,” she lied. “Can you please double-check? H-U-N-T-E-R.” She spoke in what was her closest guess of what a sweet, soft tone might sound like.
The large, muscle-bound guy dragged his eyes back to his tablet and, with a sigh, scrolled through the list again. The light from the hotel’s hallway reflected off his shaved head as he straightened. “Of course. Apologies, Ms. Hunter. Here you are.” He stood aside and opened the door to the ballroom.
She gave him a regal nod and sailed inside like she belonged in truth, pulling her phone out of her pocket to send a quick text. I don’t know how you finagled that, but I’m in.
Her assistant, Lakshmi, responded immediately. Didn’t I tell you I’d handle it? And stop cursing your shoes. You only need to be in them for a little while.
Rhiannon’s lips curved. She could have worn her signature hoodie and Converse and not looked out of place during any other event this week—at a tech conference like CREATE, sweatshirts and sneakers mixed with silk and suits—but this particular party, an exclusive after-hours event, had specified a formal dress code.
She tucked her phone back into the roomy pocket of her jumpsuit and walked farther into the ballroom, snagging a glass of wine off a passing waiter’s tray.
The place was packed. A band played onstage, but most people were circulating, their voices pitched over the music. Austin might be a music lover’s city, but the majority of guests here tonight were conference attendees whose primary priority was to network and learn.
She surveyed the room with a critical eye. Formal wear was not her jam, and neither were stuffy hotel ballrooms, but Matchmaker had gone all out tonight. The company’s signature M was emblazoned on everything from the heart-shaped ice sculpture to the dark blue napkins.
There were countless dating apps and sites now, but most North American serial singles knew only three mattered. Swype, the original left and right swipe-based dating app built around Hot or Not bro culture; Crush, Rhiannon’s pink and feminist response; and Matchmaker, that old-time behemoth website that had started back in the day when people wanted to spend days building their dating profile and had to scan their photos via a dedicated machine.
Rhiannon had studied Matchmaker in college classes, had picked the business and its strategies apart when she’d entered the dating industry. Despite a recent slowdown, the Kostas sisters were legends of the dot-com world, having outlasted most of their contemporaries through recessions and technological change.
Rhiannon’s suspicion was most of that staying power had been fueled by the elder sister. Jennifer had died last year, reclusive and mysterious Annabelle had inherited everything, and the company now seemed to be in a holding pattern. Rhiannon was sure she wasn’t the only shark circling Matchmaker since its visionary had passed away. Gruesome, but that was business.
Unfortunately, all of Rhiannon’s standard and even more, um, stalky tactics to get to Annabelle had yielded zero fruit. Calls, letters, gourmet gift baskets, they’d all been returned or gone unanswered. In a moment of desperation, a few months ago, she’d even traveled up the California coast to lie in wait near Annabelle’s vacation home with a half-baked plan to, oops, bump into her on the beach.
Don’t think about that trip.
Good idea, brain. Rhiannon took a sip of her wine and wrinkled her nose. She couldn’t tell if it was the vintage or the memory of that weekend that left a bad taste in her mouth.
Anyway, through some last-minute miracle, she and Annabelle were scheduled to be on a stage together tomorrow for a live interview, their meeting inevitable, so crashing this party wasn’t entirely necessary. But Rhiannon was too curious for her own good, and she wanted to get a sneak peek of the woman she’d been chasing. Plus, she wanted to see if there was a reason for her competitor to have poured out all this cash tonight for a fancy sponsored event.
Someone jostled into Rhiannon. She stood still, not giving way, and glanced over her shoulder, resting bitch face firmly in place. She never knew what kind of reception she might get from guests at these kinds of industry gatherings. The chill and poorly concealed snickers from years ago had mostly died down, but there was always some fool who wanted to test her.
The pretty blonde gave her a dismissive look, then did a double take, her eyes widening. “Are you Rhiannon Hunter?” she asked, her voice pitched to be heard over the band.
Coming from L.A., where she was relatively invisible, it was weird to be in an environment where she was recognized. Rhiannon nodded, braced for anything.
“So cool.” The woman stuck her hand out, gold charm bracelets jingling. “I downloaded Crush on my phone last week.”
Rhiannon relaxed and accepted her hand. “Good luck with it.” She meant that. Success stories were a dating app’s lifeblood. Love was an industry fueled by hope. Whether that hope was misplaced or not was a different question.
She could practically hear her head of marketing hissing in her ear. Maybe cool it on the cynicism when you’re talking to a potential paying subscriber.
“Thank you.” The woman’s nose wrinkled. “I’m not too optimistic. San Francisco is the worst city to be a heterosexual woman trying to date, I’m sure of it.”
Rhiannon bit her cheek. It was a running gag at the office, that line. Almost every single felt like they lived in the worst city to date in. In reality, it was . . . everywhere. Everywhere and everything was terrible and on fire and if you did meet someone you clicked with, you could chalk it up to pure timing and luck.
Rhiannon buried her personal weariness down deep and dug out a perky smile. Data was her friend, and she had a lot of it. “Actually, fun fact, by our internal numbers, San Francisco has a relatively higher ratio of heterosexual men to heterosexual women, so you might be in good shape.”
The subscriber brightened. “Really? That’s hopeful. Well, thanks. So far, I’ve definitely gotten less dick pics on Crush than I do on the other apps.”
“That’s not a bad legacy to have attached to my name, I guess,” Rhiannon murmured, as the woman waved and walked away.
Rhiannon took another big gulp of her wine and surveyed the crowd again. The back of her neck itched, but it shouldn’t. Lakshmi had vetted the guest list before hacking it for Rhiannon. No Swype employees were at this event, let alone its Chief Executive Asshole. Of course, that didn’t mean everyone in this room liked her.
Her gaze lingered on a small woman not far from her, caught by her strange attire—all black and lace, with a weird hat and a veil that hid the upper half of her face, like she was some kind of old-timey widow—but then the band stopped playing. Rhiannon glanced away for a second, and when she looked back, the crowd had shifted, concealing the woman from view.
That nagging feeling of being watched disappeared, and Rhiannon was so grateful for that, she exchanged her empty wine glass for a full one. The applause died down and a tall man with salt-and-pepper hair stepped out onto the stage, took the mic, thanked the band, and smiled a Colgate smile at the audience. “Hello, all. Thank you for coming tonight. My name’s William Daniels, I’m the CEO of Matchmaker.” His smile widened when people clapped.
Rhiannon rocked back on her heels. She’d seen William around before, but his vaguely dismissive attitude toward her had discouraged her from getting to Annabelle via her executive management.
A huge screen descended onto the stage and flashed a light blue, Matchmaker’s big white M glowing.
“Over two decades ago, Matchmaker was created by a pair of sisters out of a small office in San Francisco.” William paced the stage deliberately, a showman in his natural habitat. “Annabelle and Jennifer Kostas had a vision, to take their successful brick-and-mortar matchmaking business to the new frontier of the internet, to help more people find love than ever before. And they did. The small office in San Francisco may have turned into our current, much larger headquarters in Los Angeles, but we remain committed to you. We remain committed to our hundred-point matching system. We remain committed to helping you find the high of love, not the high of swipes.”
It was an indirect dig at Crush and Swype, but Rhiannon didn’t take it personally. She’d heard this spiel a million times, and William couldn’t deliver it with Jennifer’s charm. The kind-faced matronly woman had filmed commercials proclaiming the same a few years ago.
Rhiannon could afford to be magnanimous to the company she hoped to buy.
“We are so proud of our track record, with tens of thousands of successful matches.”
Rhiannon clapped along with everyone else. Crush’s headquarters were also wallpapered with engagement and wedding and birth announcements from the last threeShe treasured all of them. Not because she was a sentimental person, but because they represented dollar bills. Hope, man. Hell of a drug.
William’s face turned grave. “This has been a year of change and reflection and regrouping for us after the death of our beloved founder and my predecessor CEO, Jennifer. I know many of you were hoping to see Annabelle here tonight, but unfortunately, she’s not feeling well, and will not be able to address you.”
Murmurs ran through the crowd. Rhiannon shared their disappointment but she’d half expected this. Two appearances at one conference from a woman who had managed to stay out of the public eye for over twenty years had seemed like a lot.
There’s still the interview tomorrow. You’ll have your chance.
William spread his hands. “However, we’re excited about what we have in the works. I won’t take up your time tonight with more talk about that—you’re here to party, after all—but I hope you’ll come to our open house tomorrow to find out more. Tonight, I’d like you to meet a friend of the company. As we say at Matchmaker, ‘You never know who you’ll find.’” William smirked and Rhiannon leaned closer, her competitive side engaged. That was totally the self-indulgent, smug face of a businessman who was about to reveal some new toy to the audience, and if Matchmaker had a toy, Rhiannon wanted it.
“Our slogan is appropriate, because to be honest, you really will never know who you’ll find on Matchmaker. The love of your life, your next best friend. A doctor. A teacher. A scientist. A carpenter. And every now and again, a former football player. Please welcome our newest spokesman and Matchmaker client, two time Super Bowl champion, son of a proud football dynasty, former linebacker for the Portland Brewers, Samson Lima!”
Rhiannon reared back, her heart thudding in time to the applause of the other people in the room.
Lots of men are named Samson.
Lots of men who are built like linebackers are named Samson.
Lots of men who are built like linebackers and look exactly like the man whose face is on the screen now are named Samson.
Lots of men who are built like linebackers and look exactly like the man whose face is on the screen now, the face of the man who kissed you one night three months ago under a moonlit sky whose name was also Samson, are named Samson.
Oh, fuck. No. That was taking the train to CoincidenceLand a little too far.
Rhi scanned the smiling headshot on the giant screen, hoping to find some way to differentiate this Samson from the Samson she’d met on a beach more than a thousand miles away from here. The man who had kissed his way down her body, then filled her up with his body.
The man who had asked, no, begged, to see her again . . . and had stood her the fuck up.
Rhiannon didn’t realize she had fisted her hands until her nails dug into her skin, and even the pain couldn’t get her to relax, especially when the man, the bastard, walked onto the stage.
He’d worn faded jeans and a shirt when they’d met, his hair pulled back into a stubby ponytail. His scruff had scraped her inner thighs when he’d gone down on her, when he’d licked her up and down like she was a melting ice cream cone, when he’d whispered against her body that she tasted so delicious.
His massive body looked even bigger and stronger tonight in a tailored suit. His face was clean-shaven, nothing to hide his smile, his teeth flashing white against his brown skin. He’d cut his long hair short. But it was still him, even all cleaned up and respectable looking. Slick and shiny and so charming now, when he’d been rough and ready and sweetly hesitant with her that night.
Long ago, when Rhiannon had been a fresh Harvard dropout, a woman executive had patiently explained to her that no one took seriously a woman who cried in the business world. So Rhiannon had eradicated tears from her lexicon. Now she didn’t even cry when she was alone.
Her nose twitched, and she beat back the prickle at the base of her throat, horrified at how close she was to leaking. Right here? Where anyone could see her? Not a fucking chance.
Theirs was a tale as old as, well, as old as a right swipe meaning you liked someone. They’d swiped, matched, met, fucked.
Leaving out the part where he snuck under your defenses and then ghosted you, I see.
She never thought she’d see him again, let alone here. Working for the company she wanted to buy? Fate, you bitch.
Inappropriate laughter tickled her throat, but she beat that back, too. Her nails cut harder into her skin. She’d leave marks on herself, but that was fine. Anything to stay expressionless. Strong.
A man had stolen her ambition from her once before. She’d be damned if she forgot the vow she’d made to herself four years ago. Never take your eyes off what really matters. Never again.
Rhi relaxed her hands, one finger at a time. She could leave now. The person she’d come to see wasn’t here, so she could absolutely leave now.
Instead, she drifted closer to the stage, driven by the same impulse that might drive someone rubbernecking at a car wreck.
Never forget how terrible a person can be.
Samson finished shaking William’s hand and smiled out at the audience. Despite her vow, Rhiannon’s hardened heart squeezed. That smile had been devastating in a dark bar, sweet and tinged with sadness. Here, brilliant and charming and assisted by a lighting team? It was irresistible.
To other women. Not to her.
“Thanks, everyone, and thank you, William.”
That voice. That deep, husky voice that had whispered all sorts of nonsense in her ear.
“I’m so honored to be a member of the Matchmaker family. People laugh when I say this, but it’s hard for me to meet women.”
Oh, this motherfucker. Rhi cracked her neck. Maybe you shouldn’t ghost the women you’ve met then.
“But I’m thirty-six and I’m ready, past ready, to put some time and energy into my love life. So I decided to make the big leap.” William handed him a tablet. Samson glanced behind him as the screen melted away to a Matchmaker profile, while the women in the audience hooted in delight. The main photo was a picture of Samson, casually leaning against a car.
“Now, I don’t know much about dating sites.”
Samson swiped on the screen of the tablet. “But I was told I needed a photo of me with a baby, with a caption that says not my baby.” The photo dissolved into one of him holding an adorable Asian baby. He smiled when people in the audience laughed and awwed. “That’s my goddaughter, Miley. She’s a cutie. Also, stereotypically conventional masculinity and a sense of adventure is important, right? So here I am posing on a safari.” He swiped to a photo of him holding a stuffed tiger and lion. “These are also my goddaughter’s. She’s the real MVP, letting me borrow them.”
This asshole, showing affection for an infant. Her ovaries were sighing, and she didn’t even know if she wanted children.
He clicked to a photo of a younger Samson in a helmet and his green-and-black football uniform, face hard and intense. “I haven’t played pro in almost a decade, but my friend said a work photo is appropriate.”
That night they’d lain in bed together, he hadn’t told her he was a former pro-football player. She could have found out but she’d consciously refused and unmatched him, releasing him to the wilds of dating other women.
There was a lot you didn’t tell him, too. Starting with your real name.
A good call, she’d told herself, the night he’d stood her up.
While he scrolled through the rest of his too-sexy pics and the rest of the audience hummed their appreciation, Rhiannon seethed. When Rhi had swiped right on him on Crush, he’d only had one photo, and it had been vague, his face in profile, his thick bare chest revealed, the line of hair on his muscular belly his main attraction.
She hadn’t minded the photo, and since she owned the app—and the data people willingly forked over in their quest for love—she didn’t fear for her safety in the same way other women might. Her own single pic was of her in a bikini, face also turned away. It wouldn’t be the end of the world in terms of PR for someone to know who she was, but she didn’t particularly want to advertise her identity.
On the rare occasions she was itching for a hookup, Rhiannon chose her conquests carefully, men who appeared to be far away from her world in both distance and work. Samson had looked big and eager for sex and they’d been almost 250 miles north of her home base in L.A. Just her type.
“And finally, a shirtless selfie,” Samson said, grabbing her attention, and judging by the hoots from the audience, the attention of most of the women in the room.
The screen went blank, and he smiled. “Actually, you know what? You all can sign up to see that.”
Rhi grit her teeth as people clapped and laughed. She’d had to rip and claw her way into the good graces of so many of the people in this room, overcome a reputation damaged by Swype’s power-hungry, vindictive Chief Executive Asshole. A lot of people in her own industry still sneered at her, whispered about her, dismissed her, even though she’d worked around the clock to prove herself with a multimillion-dollar company that was poised on the verge of billion-hood.
This good-looking asshole walked right in, made some jokes, and Matchmaker was probably already getting new clients.
“All humor aside though.” Samson’s face sobered. “This is serious.” His profile took up the screen with blocks of text about who he was looking for.
Rhiannon’s rage only allowed her to consume single words and short phrases out of the word salad he’d posted.
Loves animals and children.
Looking for the real thing.
So funny, that he could type all these words for Matchmaker to describe the woman of his dreams. He hadn’t even used all 250 characters that were allotted when he’d filled out his Crush profile.
Respectful and fully understand consent, not looking for anything serious, just a mutually satisfying physical relationship.
And now he’d just said This is serious, with a straight face, and backed it up with a written thesis about his ideal woman.
Her eye twitched.
“If you’re in the greater Los Angeles area and we match, we can go out. If you agree, parts of our date will be filmed for short online episodes and commercials. If you don’t agree to the filming, we’ll go get a steak anyway, my treat.” He shrugged sheepishly. “This is a marketing campaign, yes. But it’s also my heart. So sign up. Match me if you can. Because as William said . . .” Samson’s gaze drifted over the crowd. “You never know who you’ll—”
His dark eyes landed on her and he stopped midsentence.
Rhiannon folded her arms over her chest, refusing to give him anything. She’d given him so much. Her body, her thoughts, her tentative trust even when she knew better.
Her hope for another night.
Even when she knew better.
Stone. Stone cold. That’s what she was.
Someone in the audience cleared their throat, and Samson jerked. It might be the lights, but Rhiannon swore there was a trickle of sweat at his temple.
Let it not be the lights. Squirm, you bastard.
“Find.” Samson’s hand fell to his side, the tablet tapping his thigh. “You never know who you’ll find.”