The Rule Book

A Novel



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April 2, 2024 | ISBN 9780593823026

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About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • College exes break all the rules when they reunite years later in this enemies to lovers, second-chance romance, the companion novel to the TikTok sensation The Cheat Sheet—from the New York Times bestselling author of Practice Makes Perfect.

“A really fun, chemistry-filled sports romance you don’t want to miss!”—Hannah Grace, author of Icebreaker

Nora Mackenzie’s entire career lies in the hands of famous NFL tight end Derek Pender, who also happens to be her extremely hot college ex-boyfriend. Nora didn’t end things as gracefully as she could have back then, and now it has come back to haunt her. Derek is her first client as an official full-time sports agent and he’s holding a grudge.

Derek has set his sights on a little friendly revenge. If Nora Mackenzie, the first girl to ever break his heart, wants to be his agent, oh, he’ll let her be his agent. The plan is simple: make Nora’s life absolutely miserable. But if Derek knows anything about the woman he once loved—she won’t quit easily.

Instead of giving in, Nora starts a scheme of her own. But then a wild night in Vegas leads to Nora and Derek in bed the next morning married. With their rule book out the window, could this new relationship save their careers or spark the romance of a lifetime?
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Praise for The Rule Book

“The sporty second-chance romance of your dreams! So much tension! I love Nora and Derek forever and ever.”—Tessa Bailey, #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Happened One Summer

“Sarah Adams writes books with heart and soul. They speak to the people finding their way and being unapologetically themselves in the process. I love her style; this a really fun, chemistry-filled sports romance you don’t want to miss!”—Hannah Grace, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Icebreaker

“Fantastically swoony, sweet, and sexy.”—Elena Armas, New York Times bestselling author of The Spanish Love Deception

“If Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce didn’t ignite my football era, Sarah Adams sure did. She has a true gift for crafting compulsively readable, endearing characters that are so lived in, they feel like your real-life besties. The tension is achingly good, the writing sparkles, and the romance is sublime. Adams’s books are my ultimate happy place.”—Amy Lea, internationally bestselling author of Exes and O’s

The Rule Book is the swoony, second-chance romance of my dreams. It’s slow-burn sexy, achingly tender, and with enough heart to leave you clutching your chest. I’m obsessed with Derek and Nora.”—B.K. Borison, author of Lovelight Farms

“[Sarah] Adams dazzles in her latest, a saucy second-chance rom-com.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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The Rule Book



Sometimes life is like a box of chocolates, and sometimes life is like a box of chocolates left out in the sun all day.

Today, it turns out, is a melty, disappointing chocolate sort of day. Not only did I step in gum while wearing my favorite shoes on my way into work, but I also fired up my email to find some wonderfully disturbing information.

“Knock knock,” I say to my boss, Nicole Hart, as I step hesitantly into her office to address said email.

Truthfully, I’m always a little hesitant to step into her office because, whew, this woman is a force to be reckoned with. There’s a reason she’s CEO of the agency. She’s kind to me (in her own way), but she’s like a tornado of confidence. You need a helmet and a safe place to take shelter when she focuses her attention on you.

Like now, she’s sitting at her desk in her immaculate gray pin-striped skirt and silk blouse—red lipstick painted perfectly on her full lips, blond hair pulled back into a sleek, perky ponytail that has a magical flip on the end. But all those surface-level attributes are nothing but a misdirection. It’s in her eyes you see the truth. The alert, bone-chilling, feline ferocity. Her keen mind is why she’s the top agent in our industry and lands enormous deals for clients like Nathan Donelson, famous quarterback for our city’s NFL team, the L.A. Sharks. The woman is all sharp edges and absolute dedication. She’s an inspiration.

“Please tell me you’re asking to come in and it’s not the beginning of a joke.”

“I could tell you that, but then I’d be lying.”

She cuts her eyes to me, and I smile. She’s worked with me long enough to know I’m not going anywhere until this is over.

“Who’s there?” she asks like she’s in the middle of a root canal.


“Needle who?”

“Needle little smile to brighten your day?” I give her one as I shuffle into her office.

She looks up from her keyboard—posture ramrod straight—and her eyes bounce from my reddish-brown hair, down to my yellow sneakers, and back up to my face. Nicole misses nothing. She’s an assassin who’s just identified her target’s weak spot. God, I want to be her.

She discards my fabulous joke. “How many pairs of those shoes do you own?” She’s referring to my bright yellow sneakers.

“Four. I was wearing my red pair this morning, but I stepped in gum and had to change into these.” I raise my foot and wiggle it proudly. “Smelled delicious but left a nasty squelching trail.”

“I’m guessing Marty had something to say when he saw those. Do I need to humble him?” Her attention is on her keyboard, somehow still able to talk as her fingers fly across the keys. The thing about Nicole is she’s all bark and . . . an even worse bite. But she only bites those who threaten her people. And even though she likes to pretend I mean nothing to her—she’s made it clear I’m one of her people.

I wrinkle my nose at the mention of the worst man in this office. They’re all pretty unspectacular and seem to dislike me joining their boys’ club no matter how many fun-size packs of Skittles I leave in the break room, but Marty is by far the most awful. Male chauvinist number one.

I shrug a shoulder. “Only that the yellow is somehow more offensive to look at than the red and I should spend my paycheck on a professional wardrobe one of these days.”

“He’s not wrong about the color,” she says, giving me brief side-eye. “But only I’m allowed to criticize your style choices. Not a man who wouldn’t know a good-looking suit if it smacked him in the face.”

“And on that note, you’re absolutely correct,” I say cheerfully. “But that’s not why I’m here actually.”

When I first started working here as Nicole’s intern two years ago, she was very vocal about how much she disliked my playful wardrobe. But I’ve since been promoted to her associate agent over the last year, and I’ve more than proved my capability in this industry, miraculously earning her respect. Now she never tells me what to wear. Instead, she tells everyone else to piss off on my behalf since I have a tough time saying mean things to people.

Currently I’m sporting a fitted, three-quarter-length yellow-and-white herringbone blazer with a baby blue pleated skirt and a Rolling Stones T-shirt underneath to really pull it all together, and even though I know she must hate it, she keeps quiet. I sort of miss the days when she’d say something like You look like a librarian attempting to be cool. Sassy Nicole is a pleasure to study.

“Let me know if Marty says anything else about your wardrobe. I’ll be happy to jam those yellow shoes right up his ass.”

“And this is why I fear you as much as I adore you, my glorious workplace warrior goddess. However, I think I’d rather keep my shoes away from Marty’s nether regions. Actually, I’m here because I want to talk about the email I just got.”

Nicole finally stops typing and swivels her chair to me with a sigh of long suffering. She crosses one sleek (waxed . . . I know because I used to make those appointments for her when I was an intern) leg over the other and then leans her elbow on the desk. She delicately rests her chin on her fingers.

“I think it might be a mistake,” I continue, shifting on my little feet hugs (that’s what I call these dream shoes) as her gaze narrows on me.

“Stop second-guessing yourself, Mac. You’re ready for this step. You’ve worked hard to get here and deserve the promotion,” she tells me in her no-nonsense kind of way.

She’s right. I have worked hard, and not to blow my own trumpet too loudly, but I do feel that I’ve earned this promotion. In fact, I’ve been reaching for this dream ever since I was a kid and would go visit my dad for the weekend and sit with him on the couch and watch whatever sport was on TV at the time. During those few hours, he would let me into his life, and I felt close to him. My relationship with my dad didn’t last, but my dream of becoming a professional sports agent has endured through high school, college, grad school, postgrad intern positions, and lately, working as Nicole’s associate agent.

No, the promotion to full-time agent without training wheels is not the issue.

The mistake is that she’s assigning me to Derek Pender, tight end for the L.A. Sharks.

“I’m not second-guessing,” I tell Nicole. “It’s more like third- and fourth-guessing. I could be a professional guesser at this point. Are you sure Mr. Pender and I would be a good fit?”

I’m not asking what I really want to ask. But I’m not sure if I should come out with the whole truth or keep it to myself. If Nicole has taught me anything, it’s that this industry is all about playing your cards right—and the key to doing that is to not show them too early.

Nicole senses my half-truth, though, and taps her red-tipped nails on the desk. “You’re practically vibrating with nervous energy—what is the real question you’re not asking me?”

“I’m just concerned that Derek was told he was meeting with Mac and not Nora Mackenzie and might be expecting someone else entirely.” It’s the truth. Just not all of it. I tuck my cards a little closer to my chest.

“You’re wanting to make sure he’s not expecting a man?”

Not exactly. Although, that too. Everyone around the office calls me Mac because of my last name. I don’t particularly love it, but I’ve learned to tolerate it because the sad truth is, in our industry, people on the other end of email correspondences tend to say yes more often when they have the incorrect assumption I’m a dude. The most misogynistic men live in the world of sports (ahem Marty), and women work twice as hard as men to gain the same amount of respect. It’s messed up.

“I guess I was just wondering if you could tell me exactly what you told Derek—er, Mr. Pender about me. It . . . it just seems too good to be true that he’d be willing to sign with a brand-new agent, and I want to make sure he knows the whole story.”

She waves a dismissive hand. “Don’t worry. I used your pronouns and told him that you’re new, but that I was the one who trained you, so he can be assured you have been taught by the best”—the confidence on this one—“and that if he were smart, he’d snatch you up before you have a chance to go skyrocket someone else’s career.”

My heart quivers with delight. Did she really say all of that? Does she mean it? Nicole is not flippant with compliments, so I had no idea she thought any of that about me.

“Wow . . . thank you,” I say, trying not to get emotional but not entirely successful. I press my lips together and she knows why.

Her nose crinkles in distaste. “Are you about to cry?”

About the Author

Sarah Adams
Sarah Adams is the New York Times bestselling author of The Cheat Sheet and Practice Makes Perfect. Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, she loves her family and warm days. Sarah has dreamed of being a writer since she was a girl, but finally wrote her first novel when her daughters were napping and she no longer had any excuses to put it off. Sarah is a coffee addict, a British history nerd, a mom of two daughters, married to her best friend, and an indecisive introvert. Her hope is to write stories that make readers laugh, maybe even cry—but always leave them happier than when they started reading. More by Sarah Adams
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