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The Rivals

From New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Bestselling author Vi Keeland comes the sexy stand-alone novel, The Rivals.

The feud between Weston Lockwood and me started at an altar decades before either of us was born.

Now, due to a twist of fate I’m stuck in a hotel with the man I was born to hate. Weston Lockwood; tall, smart, cocky, and too gorgeous for his own good. We were fire and ice.

But that shouldn’t be an issue, our families were used to being at war. There was just one minor problem, though. Every time Weston and I fought, we somehow wound up in bed.

Age Rating: 18+

Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.

 

The Rivals by Vi Keeland is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

1

Summary

From New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Bestselling author Vi Keeland comes the sexy stand-alone novel, The Rivals.

The feud between Weston Lockwood and me started at an altar decades before either of us was born.Now, due to a twist of fate I’m stuck in a hotel with the man I was born to hate. Weston Lockwood; tall, smart, cocky, and too gorgeous for his own good. We were fire and ice.But that shouldn’t be an issue, our families were used to being at war. There was just one minor problem, though. Every time Weston and I fought, we somehow wound up in bed.

Age Rating: 18+

Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.

“Love me or hate me, both are in my favor. If you love me, I'll always be in your heart… If you hate me, I'll always be in your mind.” – Unknown

Sophia

“Wait!”

The agent pulled the nylon belt across from one pole to the other and clicked it into place, blocking passage to the gate.

She looked up and frowned, finding me barreling toward her with my wheelie bag dragging behind me. I’d run all the way from Terminal A to Terminal C and now huffed like a two-pack-a-day smoker.

“I’m sorry I’m late. But can I please board?”

“Last call was ten minutes ago.”

“My first flight was late, and I had to run all the way from the international terminal. Please, I need to be in New York in the morning, and this is the last flight.”

She didn’t look sympathetic, and I felt desperate.

“Listen,” I said. “My boyfriend dumped me last month. I just flew back from London to start a new job tomorrow morning—a job working for my dad, whom I don’t get along with at all.

“He thinks I’m not qualified, and he’s probably right, but I really needed to get the hell out of London.” I shook my head. “Please let me get on that flight. I can’t show up late on my first day.”

The woman’s face softened. “I’ve worked my way up to manager in less than two years with this airline, yet every time I see my father, he asks if I’ve met a man yet, not how my career is going.

“Let me make sure they didn’t close the aircraft door.”

I breathed a sigh of relief as she walked over to the desk and made a call. She came back and unlatched the belt barrier. “Give me your boarding pass.”

“You’re the best! Thank you so much.”

She scanned the e-pass on my phone and handed it back to me with a wink. “Go prove your father wrong.”

I rushed down the jetway and boarded. My seat was 3B, but the overhead compartment was already full. The onboard flight attendant approached, looking very unhappy.

“Do you know if there’s room anywhere else?” I asked.

“Everything is full now. I’ll have to ask them to gate-check it.”

I glanced around. The seated passengers all had eyes on me as if I was personally holding up the plane. Oh. Maybe I am. Sighing, I forced a smile. “That would be great. Thank you.”

The flight attendant took my bag, and I looked at the empty aisle seat. I could’ve sworn I’d booked a window.

Double-checking my boarding pass and the seat numbers on the overhead, I leaned down to speak to my seatmate.

“Ummm…excuse me. I think you might be in my seat.”

The man had his face buried in a Wall Street Journal, and he lowered the newspaper. His lips pursed as if he had the right to be annoyed when he was sitting in my seat.

It took a few seconds for my eyes to make their way up to the rest of his face. But when I did, my jaw dropped—and the seat thief’s lips curved into a smug grin.

I blinked a few times, hoping maybe I’d seen a mirage.

Nope.

Still there.

Ugh.

I shook my head. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Good to see you, Fifi.”

No. Just no. The last few weeks had been shitty enough. This couldn’t be happening.

Weston Lockwood.

Of all the planes, and all the damn people in the world, how on Earth could I be seated next to him? This had to be some sort of cruel joke.

I looked around for an empty seat. But of course, there were none. The flight attendant who hadn’t been happy to take my bag appeared at my side, looking even more agitated now.

“Is there a problem? We’re waiting for you to take your seat so we can push away from the gate.”

“Yes. I can’t sit here. Is there another seat somewhere?”

She planted her hands on her hips. “It’s the only open seat on the plane. You really need to sit down now, miss.”

“But…”

“I’m going to need to call security if you don’t take your seat.”

I looked down at Weston, and the asshole had the audacity to smile.

“Get up.” I glared at him. “I at least want the window seat I’m supposed to have.”

Weston looked at the flight attendant and flashed a megawatt smile. “She’s had a thing for me since middle school. This is her way of showing it.” He winked as he stood and held out his hand.

“Please, take my seat.”

I squinted so hard my eyes were nearly slits. “Just get out of my way.” I tried to skirt around him without making body contact and slid into my window seat.

Huffing, I jammed my purse under the chair in front of me and buckled my belt.

The flight attendant immediately started her pre-flight safety announcements, and the plane began to back away from the gate.

My asshole seatmate leaned over to me. “You’re looking good, Feef. How long’s it been now?”

I sighed. “Obviously not long enough, since you’re sitting next to me at the moment.”

Weston grinned. “Still pretending you’re not interested, huh?”

I rolled my eyes. “Still delusional, I see.”

Unfortunately, when my eyes slid down from the back of my head, I got a close-up look at the man I’d spent my entire life despising. It figured the jerk only got better looking.

Weston Lockwood had been a hot teenage boy. That was impossible to deny. But the man sitting next to me was downright gorgeous.

Masculine square jaw, Romanesque blade of a nose, and big, blue bedroom eyes the color of an Alaskan glacier.

His skin was a rugged tan, and the corner of his eyes had little crinkles that—Lord knows why—I found sexy as hell.

His full lips were surrounded by what looked like day-old stubble, and his dark hair could probably use a cut.

But instead of looking messy, Weston Lockwood’s style screamed fuck you to the corporate world of buzzer-tight, neat trims. Basically, he wasn’t my usual type.

Yet looking at the jerk made me wonder what had ever attracted me to my usual type to begin with.

Too bad he was a jerk. And a Lockwood. Though those two statements were actually redundant, since just being a Lockwood automatically meant you were a jerk.

I forced my gaze to the seat in front of me, yet felt Weston’s eyes on my face. Eventually, it became impossible to ignore, so I huffed and turned back to him.

“Are you going to stare at me the entire flight?”

His lip twitched. “I might. It’s not a bad view.”

I shook my head. “Knock yourself out. I have work to do.” Reaching underneath the seat in front of me, I grabbed for my bag. My plan had been to read up on The Countess hotel during the flight.

But I quickly realized my laptop wasn’t in my bag. I’d tucked it into the front compartment of my carry-on suitcase, because I’d assumed that bag would be in the overhead compartment. Great.

Now my laptop was gate-checked. What were the chances it would be in one piece when I got it back—if it was even still in my bag at all when I retrieved it?

And what the hell was I going to do to keep myself occupied on this flight? Not to mention, the meeting with The Countess lawyers was tomorrow morning, and I wasn’t the least bit prepared.

Now I was going to have to stay up most of the night to study the materials when I finally got to the hotel.

Awesome.

Just freaking awesome.

Rather than freak out, which would be my typical M.O., I decided I might as well get some much-needed sleep since I wouldn’t be getting it tonight.

So I closed my eyes and tried to rest as the plane took off. But thoughts of the man next to me kept me from relaxing.

God, I disliked him.

My entire family loathed his entire family.

As far back as I could remember, we’d been the Hatfields and McCoys. Our families’ feud dated back to our grandfathers. Though, for most of my childhood, we’d also traveled in the same social circles.

Weston and I attended the same private schools, often saw each other at fundraisers and social events, and even had mutual friends.

Our family’s homes on the Upper West Side were only a few blocks from each other. But just like our fathers and grandfathers, we kept as much distance as possible.

Well, except for that one time.

That one terrible, ginormous mistake of a night.

For the most part, I pretended it had never happened.

For the most part…

Except for every once in a while…

Every once in a blue moon…

When I thought about it.

It wasn’t often.

But when I did…

Forget it. I took a deep, cleansing breath, pushing those memories out of my head.

That was the absolute last thing I should be thinking of right now.

But why the hell was he sitting next to me, anyway?

Last I’d heard, Weston lived out in Vegas. He ran his family’s southwest-area hotels—not that I’d been keeping tabs on him or anything.

So what were the chances I’d run into him on my way to New York? I hadn’t been to the east coast in at least six years now.

Yet we wound up sitting next to each other, on the same flight, at the same time.

Oh!

Shit.

My eyes flashed open.

He couldn’t be.

Please, Lord. Please don’t let it be that.

I turned to Weston. “Wait a minute. Why are you going to New York?”

He grinned. “Take a guess.”

Still not wanting to believe it, I held on to hope.

“To…visit family?”

He shook his head, maintaining his arrogant smirk.

“Sightseeing?”

“Nope.”

I closed my eyes, and my shoulders slumped. “Your family sent you to manage The Countess, didn’t they?”

Weston waited until I opened my eyes before delivering the blow. “Seems like we’re going to be seeing more of each other than just this short flight.”

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

Sophia

“Going the wrong way, Fifi.”

I stepped off the elevator on the fourth floor, only to be greeted by Mr. Wonderful himself.

“Go away, Lockwood.”

He stepped into the elevator I’d just exited, but reached forward and stopped the door from closing. Shrugging, he said, “Suit yourself. But there’s no one in conference room four twenty.”

I turned back. “Why not?”

“They moved the meetings to the hotel’s attorney’s office—downtown, in the Flatiron Building.”

I huffed. “Are you kidding me? No one contacted me. Why did they move it?”

“Don’t know. Guess we’ll find out when we get there.” Weston let go of the button on the panel and stepped back. “I’m leaving. You coming or what?

“They’re not delaying the start time, and traffic’s gonna be a bitch.”

I looked back over my shoulder in the direction of the conference room. No one else was around. Sighing, I stepped into the elevator.

Weston was behind me at the rear of the car, but the minute the door closed, he took a step forward.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Well, move back. Don’t stand so close.”

Weston snickered, but didn’t budge one bit. I hated that I noticed how good he smelled—a combination of a freshly chopped oak tree and something clean, maybe with a little leather thrown into the mix.

The damn doors couldn’t open fast enough. The moment they did, I darted out. I took off into the lobby and ran for the front door without looking back.

Forty minutes later, after an attempted cab ride that didn’t make it more than half a block in ten minutes, followed by two hot-as-hell subway rides, the second of which smelled delightfully of freshly baked urine, I rushed into the lobby of the Flatiron Building.

“Can you tell me what floor Barton and Fields is on, please?” I asked the reception desk.

“Fifth floor.” He pointed to a long line. “But one of the elevators is out today.”

I was already late and didn’t have time to wait. Sighing, I asked the security guard, “Where are the stairs?”

After climbing five very long flights of stairs in four-inch heels while carrying a leather bag full of files and my purse, I approached the double glass doors to The Countess hotel’s law firm.

The receptionist was helping someone, and two other people were ahead of me in line, so I checked the time on my phone.

I really hoped they didn’t start the meeting on time after moving it without notice. Then again, how could they? It had probably taken Weston just as long to get down here.

When it was finally my turn, I approached the receptionist.

“Hi. My name is Sophia Sterling. I have a meeting with Elizabeth Barton.”

The receptionist shook her head. “Ms. Barton is uptown for a meeting this morning. What time is your appointment?”

“Actually, our meeting was originally scheduled uptown at The Countess, but it was moved here.”

The woman’s brows drew down. “I saw her leaving as I walked in this morning. But let me double-check.

“Maybe she came back while I was getting coffee.” She punched a few keys on her keyboard and listened through her headset for a minute before removing it. “She’s not answering.

“Let me run back and check her office and the conference room.”

A few minutes later, a woman in a suit walked out from the back with the receptionist. “Hi. I’m Serena, Ms. Barton’s paralegal. Your meeting is uptown at The Countess today. In room four twenty.”

“No. I was just there. That’s where it was originally scheduled, but it was moved here.”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry. Whoever told you that gave you the wrong information. I just called Elizabeth on her cell and confirmed. The 9AM meeting started almost an hour ago.”

I felt heat rise from the bottom of my feet up to the top of my hair. I’m going to fucking kill Weston.

***

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” I announced as I entered.

The woman sitting at the head of the conference table—who I assumed was Elizabeth Barton, The Countess’s chief counsel—looked at her watch. Her face was stern.

“Perhaps someone who was on time would be kind enough to fill you in on what you’ve missed.” She stood.

“Why don’t we take a ten-minute break, and I’ll answer whatever questions you have when we reconvene.”

Weston smiled. “I’ll be happy to fill Ms. Sterling in.”

The attorney thanked him. She and two other men I’d never seen before walked out, leaving me alone with Weston. It took everything in my power not to blow my top—at least until she was out the door.

Weston got up like he, too, was going to take a break and walk out of here unscathed.

Not a chance in hell.

I stood in front of the door so he couldn’t get out.

“You asshole!

He buttoned his jacket with a smug smile. “Didn’t they teach you anything at Wharton? All’s fair in love and war, Fifi.”

“Stop calling me that!”

Weston picked imaginary lint off the arm of his overpriced suit. “Would you like me to fill you in on what you missed?”

“Of course I would, asshole. Because it’s your fault I wasn’t here.”

“No problem.” He folded his hands and looked at his nails. “Over dinner.”

“I am not having dinner with you.”

“No?”

“No!”

He shrugged. “Suit yourself. I was trying to be a gentleman. But if you prefer to go straight to my suite, I’m good with that, too.”

I cackled. “You’re out of your mind.”

He leaned forward. Because I was blocking his way, I had nowhere to go. And I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of flinching.

So I stood my ground while the idiot who still smelled delicious brought his lips to my ear. “I know you remember how good we were together. Best hate fuck I ever had.”

I spoke through gritted teeth. “I’m sure you’ve never had any other kind. Because no one in their right mind would like you.”

He pulled his head back and winked at me. “Hold on to that anger. We’ll make good use of it soon.”

***

By eight o’clock that evening, I really needed a drink. This had been the never-ending day.

“Can I order food here, or do I need to get a table?” I asked the bartender at the hotel restaurant.

“You can order at the bar. Let me get you a menu.”

He disappeared, and I settled onto a stool. Pulling a notepad out of my gigantic purse, I started to scribble down everything my father had said in the last twenty minutes.

I used the word said loosely. Because what he’d actually done was scream at me from the minute I’d answered the phone. Not even a hello—he’d just started to rant, yelling question after question.

Had I done this yet or done that yet, but never taking so much as a breath so I might actually get a few words in and answer.

My father hated that Grandfather had assigned me to look after The Countess. I’m sure he would have preferred my half-brother, Spencer, do it.

Not because Spencer was competent in any way—make enough donations to an Ivy League school and they miraculously let anyone in—but because Spencer was his puppet.

So when my cell phone flashed Scarlett’s name, I put my pen down for a much-needed break.

“Isn’t it, like, one in the morning there?” I asked.

“Sure is, and I’m bloody knackered.”

I smiled. My best friend Scarlett was just so British, and I loved every knickers, knackered, and knob that came out of her mouth.

“You have no idea how much I needed to hear your terrible accent right now.”

“Terrible? I speak the Queen’s English, my dear. You speak Queens English. Like, as in that dreadful borough stuck between Manhattan and Tall Island.”

“It’s Long Island. Not Tall Island.”

“Whatever.”

I laughed. “How are you doing?”

“Well, we hired a new woman at work, and I thought she might be a possible replacement for you as my only friend.

“But then we went to a movie last weekend, and she wore leggings with the outline of her thong showing through.”

I shook my head with a smile. “Oh boy. Not good.” Scarlett worked in fashion and made Anna Wintour look tolerant of a style faux pas. “Let’s face it. I’m just irreplaceable.”

“You are. So have you grown bored with New York and decided to return home to London yet?”

I chuckled. “It has been a trying twenty-six hours since I departed.”

“How’s the new job?”

“Well, on day one, I was late for a meeting with the hotel’s attorney because the representative of the family that now owns the other part of the hotel sent me on a wild goose chase.”

“And this is the family of the man who fifty years ago was boinking the woman who owned the hotel, at the same time your grandfather was boinking her?”

I laughed. “Yes.” While it was a bit more complicated than that, Scarlett wasn’t wrong.

Fifty years ago my grandfather, August Sterling, opened a hotel with his two best friends—Oliver Lockwood and Grace Copeland.

The story goes that my grandfather fell in love with Grace, and they became engaged to wed on New Year’s Eve.

The day of the wedding, Grace stood at the altar and told my grandfather she couldn’t marry him, confessing she was also in love with Oliver Lockwood.

She loved both men, and refused to marry either, because marriage was an act of dedicating your heart to one man, and hers was not available for only one.

The men fought over her for years, but ultimately, neither could steal half of her heart away from the other, and the three eventually went their separate ways.

My grandfather and Oliver Lockwood became bitter rivals, spending their lives building hotel empires and trying to best each other, while Grace concentrated her efforts on building one luxury hotel, rather than a chain.

All three were enormously successful in their own right. The Sterling and Lockwood families grew into the two biggest hotel owners in the United States.

And though Grace only ever owned one hotel, the first that the three of them had started together, The Countess, with its sprawling views of Central Park, grew to become one of the most valuable single hotels in the world.

It rivaled the Four Seasons and The Plaza.

Three weeks ago, when Grace died after a long battle with cancer, my family was shocked to find out she’d left forty-nine percent of The Countess to my grandfather and forty-nine percent to Oliver Lockwood.

The other two percent went to a charity, one that was currently auctioning off their new ownership to the highest-bidding family—which would in turn give one of us a very important fifty-one percent controlling interest.

Grace Copeland had never married, and I saw her final act as a beautiful Greek tragedy—though, I guess to outsiders it seemed crazy to leave a hotel worth hundreds of millions of dollars to two men you hadn’t spoken to in fifty years.

“Your family is nuts,” Scarlett said. “You know that, right?”

I laughed. “I absolutely do.”

We talked for a little while about her last date and where she was thinking of going for holiday, and then she sighed.

“I actually called to tell you some news. Where are you right now?”

“In a hotel. Or rather in The Countess, the hotel my family now owns part of. Why?”

“Is there alcohol in your room?”

My brows knitted. “I’m sure there is. But I’m not in my room; I’m at the bar downstairs. Why?”

“Because you’re going to need it after I tell you this.”

“Tell me what?”

“It’s about Liam.”

Liam was my ex. A playwright from West London. We’d broken up a month ago. Even though I knew it was for the best, it still caused an ache in my chest to hear his name.

“What about him?”

“I saw him today.”

“Okay…”

“With his tongue down Marielle’s throat.”

“Marielle? Marielle who?”

“Pretty certain we both know only one.”

You’ve got to be joking. “You mean my cousin Marielle?”

“The one and only. Such a twat.”

I felt bile rise in my throat. How could she? We’d grown pretty close while I lived in London.

“That’s not the worst part.”

“What’s worse?”

“I asked a mutual friend how long they’ve been shagging, and she told me close to six months.”

I felt like I might be physically sick. Three or four months ago, when things had started to go south with Liam, I’d found a red Burberry trench coat in the back seat of his car.

He’d said it was his sister’s. At the time, I didn’t have reason to suspect anything. But Marielle definitely had a red trench.

I must’ve been quiet for a while.

“Are you still there?” Scarlett asked.

I blew out a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m here.”

“I’m sorry, love. I thought you should know so you aren’t nice to that slag.”

I’d been meaning to call my cousin, too. Now I was glad I’d gotten so busy.

“Thank you for telling me.”

“You know I always have your back.”

I smiled sadly. “I do know that. Thanks, Scarlett.”

“But I have some good news, too.”

I didn’t think anything could perk me up after what she’d just told me. “What’s that?”

“I fired one of my senior editors. I found out she’d been avoiding covering certain designers based on their race.”

“And that’s your good news?”

“Well, not really. The good news is that she had a ton of things on her schedule, and I’m going to have to work a gazillion hours to cover them.”

“I’m thinking you don’t get the meaning of good news, Scarlett.”

“Did I mention that one of the gazillion things I’ll have to cover is a fashion show in New York in two weeks?”

I smiled. “You’re coming to New York!”

“That’s right. So book me a room at that grossly overpriced hotel your granddaddy’s dick now owns half of. I’ll email you the dates.”

After we hung up, the bartender brought me a menu. “I’ll take a vodka cranberry, please.”

“You got it.”

When he came back to take my order, on autopilot I ordered a salad. But before he could walk away, I stopped him. “Wait! Can I change that, please?”

“Sure. What can I get you?”

Fuck the calories. “I’ll have a cheeseburger. With bacon, if you have it. And a side order of coleslaw. And French fries.”

He smiled. “Bad day?”

I nodded. “Keep the drinks coming, too.”

The vodka cranberry went down smooth. As I sat at the bar, looking at the notes my father had spewed at me and thinking about my cousin Marielle screwing Liam behind my back, I started to get angry.

My immediate reaction had been to feel hurt when Scarlett told me, but somewhere between the first vodka and the second I ordered, that shifted to pissed off.

My father can go to hell.

I work for my grandfather. No different than he does.

And Marielle has bad hair extensions and a nasally, high-pitched voice.

Fuck her, too.

And Liam? Fuck him the most. I’d wasted a year and a half of my life on that cardigan-wearing Arthur Miller wannabe. You know what? His plays weren’t even that good.

They were pretentious, just like him.

I gulped a quarter of my second vodka in one swallow. At least things couldn’t get much worse. I suppose that was the bright side.

Though I’d thought that a few seconds too soon.

They absolutely could get worse.

And they did.

When Weston Lockwood sidled up and planted his ass on the bar stool next to mine.

“Well, hello, Fifi.”

***

“So how have the last twelve years been treating you?”

Weston ordered a seltzer with lemon and sat looking at me, even though I stared straight ahead, completely ignoring his presence.

“Go away, Lockwood.”

“Mine have been pretty good. Thanks for asking. After high school, I went to Harvard, though I’m sure you know that. Got an MBA from Columbia and then went to work for the family business.

“I’m a vice president now.”

“Gee, should I be impressed that nepotism got you a fancy title?”

He smiled. “Nah. Plenty of other things to be impressed with. You remember what I look like naked, don’t you, Feef? I’ve filled in nicely since eighteen.

“Whenever you’re ready, we can go back to my room, and I’ll treat you to a little looksee.”

I turned and scowled. “I think you left out something important that happened over the last twelve years.

“You obviously had a severe head injury that left you living in a fantasy world and unable to read emotions on other humans.”

The asshole wouldn’t stop smiling. “Those who protest the hardest are usually trying to mask their true feelings.”

I let out a groan of frustration.

The bartender walked over and set down the food I’d ordered. “Anything else I can get you?”

“Bug repellent for the cockroaches around here.”

He looked around. “Bugs? Where?”

I waved him off. “Sorry. No. No bugs. I was just being funny.”

Weston looked at the bartender sympathetically. “We’re going to work on funny. She’s not quite there yet.”

The bartender seemed a bit confused, but left anyway. When I reached for the ketchup, Weston stole a French fry from my plate.

“Don’t touch my food.” I leveled him with a glare.

“That’s an awful lot of food. You sure you want to eat all that?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing. Just looks like a lot of meat for your little frame.” He grinned. “Then again, if I remember correctly, you like a lot of meat. You did twelve years ago, anyway.”

I rolled my eyes. Lifting my cheeseburger, I sank my teeth in, suddenly completely starving. The jackass next to me seemed to find my chewing riveting.

I covered my lips with my napkin and spoke with a full mouth. “Stop watching me eat.”

Not surprisingly, he didn’t. Over the next half hour, I finished off my food and guzzled another drink. Weston kept trying to make small talk, but I continued to shoot him down.

Then my bladder was full, and I didn’t want to try to balance my oversized purse, laptop, and planner while I hovered over a public toilet.

So I reluctantly asked the pain in the ass to keep an eye on my stuff.

“I’d love to keep an eye on your stuff.

I rolled my eyes yet again. As I stood, I wobbled a little. Apparently the alcohol had given me more of a buzz than I thought.

“Hey, be careful there.” Weston grabbed my arm and held on tight. His hand was warm and strong and—oh my God, I’m definitely tipsy thinking this.

I tugged my elbow from his grip. “I slipped on my heel. I’m fine. Just watch my things.”

In the bathroom, I relieved myself and washed my hands. Catching a look at my reflection, I noticed I had mascara smeared under my eye.

So I wiped it off and ran my fingers through my hair—out of habit, not because I gave a shit what I looked like for Weston Lockwood.

When I returned to the bar, my nemesis was at least preoccupied with something other than me for a change. I took my seat and noticed my drink had been refreshed.

“Sugar waxing, huh?” Weston said without looking over at me. “How is that different from regular waxing?”

My face wrinkled. “Huh?”

He tapped his finger at whatever he was looking at on the bar in front of him. “Is the sugar edible? Like, after you get all buffed out, you’re ready for some action? Or are there chemicals mixed in?”

I leaned in and squinted at what he was reading. My eyes widened.

“Give me that! You’re such an asshole!”

The jerk had taken my daily planner, which had been sitting on the bar to my left, and helped himself. I grabbed for the book, and Weston held up his hands in surrender.

“No wonder you’re so cranky. Your period is due in a few days. Have you ever tried Midol? Those commercials crack me up.”

I shoved my planner into my bag and waved for the bartender as I yelled, “Can I please get my check?”

The bartender came over. “You want to sign it to your room?”

I lifted the strap of my bulky bag to my shoulder and stood. “Actually, no. Sign it to this asshole’s room.” I thumbed toward Weston. “And give yourself a hundred-dollar tip from me.”

The bartender looked at Weston, then shrugged. “No problem.”

With a huff, I took off toward the elevator bank, not waiting or giving a shit if Mr. Wonderful wasn’t happy about paying the bill.

Impatiently, I jabbed my finger against the button to call the elevator a half-dozen times. Whatever the alcohol had done to ease my anger, it now came roaring back with a vengeance.

I felt like throwing something.

First at Liam.

Then at my father.

And twice at that asshole Weston.

Thankfully, the elevator doors slid open before I took my anger out on some unsuspecting hotel guest. I hit the button for the eighth floor and wondered if the minibar would have some wine.

“What the hell?” I pressed the button on the panel a second time. It illuminated, yet the car continued to sit there. So I jabbed my finger at it a third time.

Finally, the doors started to glide closed. Just as they were about to shut completely, a shoe blocked them from closing.

A wingtip shoe.

Weston’s smiling face was there to greet me when the doors bounced open.

My blood was near boiling. “So help me, Lockwood, if you try to get in this car, I can’t be responsible for what happens to you. I’m not in the mood anymore.”

He entered the elevator anyway. “Come on, Fifi. What’s wrong? I’m just playing around. You’re taking things way too seriously.”

I counted to ten in my head, but it didn’t help. Fuck it. He wanted to get a rise out of me? He was going to get one. The doors slid shut again, and I turned and backed him into a corner.

Seeing my face, he at least had the decency to look a little nervous.

“You wanna know what’s wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong! My father thinks I’m inept because I don’t have an appendage dangling between my legs.

“The man I spent the last eighteen months with was cheating on me with one of my cousins. Again. I hate New York City. I despise the Lockwood family.

“And you think you can get away with anything you want just because you have a big dick.” I jabbed my finger into his chest and punctuated each staccato word with another stab.

“I’m

Tired.

Of.

Men.

My father.

Liam.

You.

Every single fucking one of you. So leave me the hell alone!”

Frazzled, I turned back around and waited for the door to open, only to realize we hadn’t started to move yet. Great. Just fucking great.

I jabbed the button a few more times, closed my eyes, and took deep, cleansing breaths as we started to move. Halfway through breath three, I felt the heat of Weston’s body behind me.

He had to have moved closer. I continued to try to ignore him.

But the fucker still smelled good.

How the hell could that be? Whose cologne lasted for—what had it been now?—twelve hours? After the gauntlet run he’d sent me on across town this morning, I probably smelled like BO.

It pissed me off that the asshole smelled… fucking delicious.

He moved closer, and I felt his breath tickle my neck.

“So,” he whispered in a gravelly voice. “You think my dick’s big.”

I turned and scowled at him. While this morning he’d been clean-shaven, he now had a five o’clock shadow all along his chiseled jaw. It gave him a sinister look.

The suit that hugged his broad shoulders probably cost more than Liam’s entire sweater wardrobe. Weston Lockwood was everything I hated in a man—wealthy, good looking, cocky, arrogant, and fearless.

Liam would hate him. My father already hated him. And at the moment, those were actually Weston’s strong points.

While I struggled with my body reacting to his scent and how much I liked the stubble on his face, Weston slowly reached out and put a hand on my hip.

At first, I assumed he thought he needed to steady me, as he had when I’d wobbled in the bar. Had I wobbled again? I didn’t think I had. But I must’ve.

Though when his hand glided from my hip around to my ass, there was no misunderstanding his intention. He was not trying to help me stay on my feet.

In my head, my immediate reaction was to scream at him, but somehow my throat felt too clogged to speak.

I made the mistake of looking up from his jaw into his blue eyes. Heat flickered, turning them almost gray, and his eyes dropped to my lips.

No.

Just no.

This was not happening.

Not again.

My heart thundered in my chest, and the blood in my ears roared so loudly I almost didn’t hear the ding of the elevator announcing that we’d arrived at my floor.

Thankfully it snapped me out of whatever moment of insanity I’d slipped into.

“I…I need to go.”

It took all of my focus to put one foot in front of the other, but I managed to walk down the hall and make it to my room.

Though…

I wasn’t alone.

Again, Weston was behind me. Close. Too close. I fumbled in my bag, trying to find my room key when a hand snaked around my waist and rubbed along the top of my skirt.

I knew I needed to nip this shit in the bud, but my body reacted insanely to his touch. My breathing grew shallow.

Weston’s hand traveled up my stomach and stopped at the underwire of my bra. I swallowed, knowing I needed to say something before it was too late.

“I despise you,” I hissed.

Weston responded by cupping my left breast and squeezing hard.

“I despise you, and that thing you call a dick that is trying to flatter me with a half-ass, lame erection pushing against my ass right now.”

He leaned closer and reached around to cup my other breast. “Feeling’s mutual, Fifi.

“But I know you remember that thing I call a dick is a fuck of a lot bigger than the little playwright had tucked between his legs—the little playwright whose inadequate dick is probably buried inside your cousin right about now.”

I clenched my jaw. Fucking Liam. “At least he didn’t have diseases. You probably have every STD in the book from whoring around Las Vegas.”

Weston responded by pushing his hips into my ass. His hot erection felt like a steel pipe trying to burst through his pants.

But, God, it felt good.

So hard.

So warm.

Twelve years ago came flooding back. Weston was hung like a horse, and even at eighteen, he’d known exactly what to do with it.

“Let’s go inside,” he growled. “I want to fuck you so hard that you have trouble sitting in our meetings tomorrow.”

I closed my eyes. A battle waged within me. I knew it would be a colossal mistake to get involved with Weston, especially with the war raging between our families. But damn…my body was on fire.

It wasn’t like we had to be friends.

Or like each other, for that matter.

I could just use him this once.

Get my rocks off and go back to keeping my distance tomorrow.

I shouldn’t.

I definitely shouldn’t.

Weston pinched my nipple, and a spark shot through me.

Fuck it.

Fuck Liam.

Fuck my father.

Fuck Weston. Literally.

“Ground rules,” I rasped. “Don’t kiss me. And only from behind. You don’t come until after I do, or so help me God, I’ll snap that thing between your legs right from your body.

“And you use a goddamned condom, because I don’t want whatever you’re currently on antibiotics for.”

Weston nipped at my ear.

“Ouch!”

“Shut up. And I have some rules, too.”

“Rules? What rules do you have?”

“Don’t expect me to stay after. You come. I come. I leave. In that order. You don’t talk, unless you’re telling me how good my cock feels inside of you.

“And those pointy-as-fuck shoes you’re wearing stay on. Oh, and if I make you come more than once, tomorrow you wear your hair up.

I was so aroused I couldn’t even stop to think about what I was agreeing to. I just wanted it…wanted him. Now.

“Fine,” I bit out. “Now get inside, and let’s get this over with already.”

Weston took the key out of my hand and opened the door. He guided me in, not very gently, and pushed me against the wall. We were barely inside, and my cheek was already pressed against the wallpaper.

“Take my cock out,” he growled.

I hated being told what to do, especially by him.

“Am I supposed to be Houdini? I’ll need to turn around to do that.”

Weston’s chest had been leaning firmly against my back, and he released some of the pressure, taking a half step back so I could turn around.

I wrapped my hand around his thick, bulging erection through his pants and squeezed. Hard.

Weston hissed.

“Take your own cock out,” I growled.

A wicked smile spread across his face. He reached down, unbuckled his pants, and yanked down his zipper. Then he grabbed my wrist and slid my hand into his boxers.

Oh God.

The smooth skin was so hot and hard. And thick. I’d never been so turned on in my life. Though I wasn’t about to let him know that.

Reining in the emotions sparking through me, I locked my eyes with his and gave him a rough jerk up and down.

Weston’s eyes gleamed. He ran his tongue over his bottom lip and spoke with a strained voice. “We’ll call it even for sticking me with the tab for your dinner and drinks.”

My brows drew together. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about until he grabbed my silk blouse with two hands and yanked.

It ripped open, the fabric tore, and more than one button pinged against a wall somewhere.

“It’s a four-hundred-dollar shirt, asshole.”

“I guess I’ll have to buy you more dinners then.”

His big hands groped at my chest. He used his thumbs to push down the lacy fabric of my bra, and my breasts eagerly spilled over.

Weston pinched one nipple hard and studied my reaction. A jolt of pain shot through me, yet I refused to give him what he was looking for.

“Is that supposed to hurt?” I mocked.

He growled and dipped forward to suck my nipple into his mouth. One hand grabbed the hem of my skirt and bunched the fabric, yanking it up to my waist. “Are you wet for me, Fifi?”

If he actually wanted me to answer, he didn’t give me any time. Before I could formulate a sufficiently sarcastic response, his fingers lifted the edge of my panties.

They slipped beneath the fabric, and he stroked me up and down once, then unexpectedly plunged inside of me.

I gasped, and a look of primal satisfaction crossed Weston’s face. The bastard had gotten what he wanted—to make me lose control and react.

It somehow gave him the unspoken upper hand, and we both knew it.

“So wet.” He pumped in and out of me once, then a second time. “You’ve been soaked since the plane, haven’t you, you little tease?”

My body was so on edge, I thought it entirely possible that I could come just from his hand, which had never worked for me before. Not with Liam anyway.

Liam.

That bastard.

Fuck him, too.

My anger level rose in unison with my arousal. Unable to focus on anything other than the way Weston’s hand was making me feel, I completely forgot that my hand was still wrapped around his erection.

I squeezed. “Get the goddamn condom out already.”

Weston’s teeth clenched. He dug into his pocket and managed to pull a condom out of his wallet with one hand. Lifting the wrapper to his teeth, he tore it open.

“Turn around so I don’t have to look at you.”

He withdrew his hand from between my legs and spun me to face the wall again.

I looked back over my shoulder. “This better be worth it.”

He sheathed himself and spit the wrapper to the floor. “Bend.” He pressed down on my back, folding me in half at the waist.

“Hold on to that wall with two hands or your head’s going to be banging against it.”

He hiked up the back of my skirt, and his arm wrapped around my stomach as he hoisted me up to my toes.

My hands were splayed against the wall, palms sweating with the anticipation, when a loud crack echoed through the room. I heard the sound before I felt the sting on my ass.

“What the—”

Before I could finish my sentence, Weston thrust inside of me. The sudden, rough motion knocked the air from my lungs.

He’d buried himself to the root, and I had to force my legs wider to ease the twinge of discomfort it caused. I could feel Weston’s hips, pressed against my ass, begin to shake.

“So tight,” he grunted. “So fucking tight.”

His hand shifted from my back to my hip, and his fingers dug into my skin. “Now be a good little girl and tell me it feels good, Fifi.”

I bit my lip and struggled to control my breaths. It was the best thing I’d felt in ages, even with just that one simple thrust. But there was no way I was admitting that. “It doesn’t.

“You know, screwing usually involves an in-and-out motion, not just standing there.”

“Is that the way you want to play it?”

I leaned forward, pulling three quarters of the way off of him and then slammed back, sucking him in fully again. It caused the most exquisite pain to shoot through me. “Shut up and move,” I told him.

Weston growled and grabbed a handful of my hair. Giving it a good, firm tug, he held on as he rocked into me once and then stopped. “Jesus, your ass jiggles a lot.

“I should make you do all the work so I can stand here and watch the show.”

Lockwood!

“Yes, ma’am.” He chuckled.

Though he finally shut the hell up and got to work. It was hard and fast, desperate and angry, yet it felt so damn good.

I don’t think I’d ever gotten revved up so quickly—certainly not in the last year and a half of Mr. Rogers making love to me.

That thought, the thought of Liam, channeled all my anger toward the man currently pummeling my insides.

Even though Weston was already pounding into me, I started to move with him, meeting every thrust, blow by blow. When he slid one hand around to massage my clit, I lost it.

Orgasms were something I usually had to work for. Like driving a car around the track for the Indy 500, I hoped I made it before my partner ran out of gas. But not today.

Today my orgasm was more like a crash before I’d even made it through the first lap. It hit me with an intensity I hadn’t expected, and my body quaked as I let out a loud moan.

Fuck.” Weston sped up his thrusts. “I can feel you squeezing my cock.” He pumped once, twice, and on the third time let out a ferocious roar and plunged to a new depth.

My body enveloped him so tightly I could feel the pulsations as he unloaded inside of me, even through the condom.

We stood that way for a long time, both of us panting and attempting to control our breaths. Tears prickled at the corners of my eyes.

I’d been so pent up with anger and frustration the last month, and suddenly it felt like the cork had popped off, and it was all about to come flooding out. Jesus. Great timing.

No way was I going to let Weston see the flood I felt approaching. So I swallowed the lump in my throat and did what luckily came natural to me whenever I was around him. I acted like an asshole.

“Are we done? If so, you can leave now.”

“Not until you tell me how much you loved me inside of you.”

I tried to stand, but Weston spread his fingers between my shoulder blades and held me down.

“Let me up!”

“Say it. Say how much you love my cock.”

“I’ll do nothing of the sort. Now let me go before I scream bloody murder and hotel security comes running.”

“Sweetheart, you spent the last ten minutes screaming. If you haven’t noticed, no one seems to give a shit.” Yet he pulled out and helped me upright.

It would have been better if he’d pulled out and left me standing there for the cold air to replace his warmth. But instead, after he made sure I had my balance, he tugged down my skirt. “You good?

“I need to get rid of this condom in your bathroom.”

I nodded and avoided eye contact. It was bad enough my emotions were hitting me hard. The last thing I needed was niceties from Weston Lockwood.

He went into the bathroom, and I used the moments alone to pull myself together. My hair was disheveled, and my breasts overflowed from my pushed-down bra.

I fixed both and grabbed a bottle of water from the minibar while I waited for Weston to come out of the bathroom. I didn’t have to wait long.

Trying to avoid whatever awkward goodbye would ensue, I stood near the windows on the opposite side of the room, gazing out at nothing in particular. I hoped he’d just wave and slither out.

Then again, a Lockwood never did what a Sterling wanted.

Weston walked up behind me. He took the water bottle out of my hand and drank from it, then wound a lock of my hair around his pointer finger. “I like your hair like this.

“It’s longer than you wore it in high school. And it’s wavy now. Did you used to make it straight?”

I looked at him like he was nuts. “Yes. I used to straighten it. And thanks for the reminder it’s time for a haircut. I think I’ll chop it all off.”

“What color would you say it is? Chestnut?”

The confusion lines in my forehead deepened. “I have no idea.”

He grinned. “You know your eyes turn from green to almost gray when you’re angry.”

“Did someone teach you your colors today in nursery school or something?”

Weston brought the water bottle back to his lips and sucked the rest of it down. He handed it to me empty. “Ready for round two?”

I continued to stare straight ahead. “There won’t be a round two. Not tonight or ever. Get out, Lockwood.”

Even though I’d been trying not to look at him, I caught his mouth curving into a smile in the window reflection.

“Care to wager on that?” he asked.

“Don’t flatter yourself. I needed a release. You were here. At best you were adequate. This isn’t going to become a habit.”

“Adequate? For that remark, I’m going to make you beg next time.”

I rolled my eyes. “Get out. This was a gigantic mistake.”

“A mistake? Oh yeah, I forgot you like scrawny dudes who are into literature and shit. Would it help if I brushed up on some poetry and recited it while we banged next time?”

“Out!”

Weston shook his head. “Okay…but like Shakespeare said, It’s better to have fucked and lost, than never to have fucked at all.

I almost let a smile slip out. “I don’t think that’s exactly what he said. But close.”

He shrugged. “Guy was a bore anyway.”

Goodnight, Weston.”

“Such a shame. Using your own fingers to the memory of what I felt like won’t be half as much fun as round two.”

“You have delusions of grandeur.”

“’Night, Feef. Great to see you again.”

“The feeling isn’t mutual.”

Weston walked to the door. It creaked as he opened it, and I watched in the window reflection as he turned around and looked back at me for a few heartbeats. Then he was gone.

I shut my eyes and shook my head.

When I opened them, the last thirty minutes or so really hit me.

Holy crap. What the hell did I just do?

 

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