Romance

Beautiful Mistake

Vi Keeland

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

The first time I met Caine West was in a bar. He noticed me looking his way and mistakenly read my scowling as checking him out. When he attempted to talk to me, I set him straight—telling him what I thought of his lying, cheating, egomaniacal ass.

You see, the gorgeous jerk had wined and dined my best friend--smooth talking her into his bed, all along failing to mention that he was married. He deserved every bit of my tongue-lashing and more for what he'd done. Only it turned out, the man I'd just told off wasn't the right guy.

Embarrassed, I slunk out without an apology. I was never going to see the handsome stranger again anyway, right? That’s what I thought…until I walked into class the next morning. Well, hello Professor West, I’m your new teaching assistant.

Age Rating: 18+

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Romance

Beautiful Mistake

Vi Keeland

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

The first time I met Caine West was in a bar. He noticed me looking his way and mistakenly read my scowling as checking him out. When he attempted to talk to me, I set him straight—telling him what I thought of his lying, cheating, egomaniacal ass.

You see, the gorgeous jerk had wined and dined my best friend--smooth talking her into his bed, all along failing to mention that he was married. He deserved every bit of my tongue-lashing and more for what he'd done. Only it turned out, the man I'd just told off wasn't the right guy.

Embarrassed, I slunk out without an apology. I was never going to see the handsome stranger again anyway, right? That’s what I thought…until I walked into class the next morning. Well, hello Professor West, I’m your new teaching assistant.

Age Rating: 18+

1: Chapter 1

Sometimes we forge our own path.
^~Sometimes the path is created for us, and we can only follow.~^

There has to be a corollary scientific relationship between being genetically blessed and acting like an asshole.

I looked again at the reason for my friend’s inebriation standing outside the men’s room.

Of course, the line for the ladies’ room was five deep, because only men should be allowed to relieve themselves at their leisure.

Married Guy was standing there, texting away on his phone—probably lying to some other unsuspecting woman. I studied his left ring finger as his fingers worked furiously. No ring. Shocker.

I’m sure a shiny metal band that symbolizes eternally committing yourself to another person tends to make selling that you’re single and looking for the woman of your dreams more difficult.

Ugh. What an asshole.

I loved Ava, but I think I’d be suspicious of any thirty-year-old guy who said that type of crap on a first date.

My eyes lifted from Married Guy’s hand to his face, just as he looked up. If only eyes could really shoot daggers. I scowled at the bastard. I’m not sure why I was surprised when he smiled at me.

Jerk.

Probably thought I was checking him out.

I took my own phone from my pocket to distract myself and cast my eyes down to catch up on texts while I waited. Only…I couldn’t see the damn letters without my glasses.

I put the phone away and felt eyes on me as I patiently waited, but frowning uses more facial muscles than smiling, and this jerk wasn’t worth a wrinkle.

After I used the ladies’ room and almost scalded my hands washing them—the sink at O’Leary’s only has one temperature: hotter than shit—I was ready to go home.

My shift was over an hour ago, and Ava had been miserable since the cheater walked in, so I doubted she would object to calling it an early night.

A rich baritone voice stopped me on the way out of the ladies’ room. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

I turned to find Married Guy pushing off the wall as if he’d been waiting for me. Ignore him, Rachel. He’s not worth your time.

I looked him in the eyes to make certain he knew I’d heard him, then turned my back and headed down the long hallway to the bar.

He didn’t take the hint. Falling in stride next to me, he started to say something when I stopped abruptly. I turned to face him. “You’re a total asshole. You know that?”

He had the nerve to look shocked. “Me? I guess we do know each other?”

“I know your kind.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

I rolled my eyes. “You think just because you’re gorgeous you can go shitting all over people, that you can smile your way out of anything.

“Well, I really hope karma bites you in the ass someday, that your pretty little wife winds up fucking half of New York and passes you an STD that makes your big dick fall off.”

He held up his hands. “Listen, sweetheart, I don’t know who you think I am or what you think my big dick has done wrong, but I’m pretty sure you’re confusing me with someone else.”

My face told him to save his bullshit. “I’m here with Ava.”

“ Oh. Ava. That explains it.”

I growled at him—literally. “ Grrrrrrr...Well, it should.”

The jerk flashed a mega-watt smile. “You’re cute when you growl like that.”

My eyes nearly bulged from my head. “Are you actually hitting on me?”

“That would be wrong, wouldn’t it? Considering…you know…me and Ava and all.”

“You’re a piece of work.” I turned to walk away.

“Wait.” He grabbed my arm, stopping me again. “Can I just ask you one thing?”

“What?”

“Who’s Ava?”

Unreal. A guy like him—it was possible he didn’t remember the names of the women he screwed over. I mean, it had been a whole two weeks since the last time they’d slept together.

“Go home to your wife,Owen.”

I left married Owen standing in the hallway and went back to the table where Ava was quietly drinking away her pain.

“You wanna get out of here? I’m sort of tired, and I need to be up early in the morning.”

I figured there was no use in mentioning my little run-in with Owen. It would only make things worse. Unfortunately, Ava had really started to fall for the asshole.

In the month they were seeing each other, he’d made her swoon—feeding her crap about how he saw their future with two kids and a pug.

Ironically, he was right. Their future did entail two kids and a pug. Because he’d been holding a leash while walking with his two, tow-headed little girls when she ran into him in the park.

Only he’d failed to mention that in this version of his future, his wife would also be holding their month-old son as they strolled.

Ava wobbled a bit as she hopped from the barstool. “I should climb up on this bar and tell every woman to watch out for that asshole.”

Normally, I would’ve agreed. But tonight I was pretty sure her climbing up on the bar would end in a trip to the emergency room.

“He’s not worth your breath.” I slipped her sweater from the back of the stool and held it up for her to put on. She sighed and missed putting her arm into the hole the first two times.

Behind the bar, Charlie—who had been listening to us for most of the night—was pouring a beer. “That’s it.

“From now on I want names.” He slammed the full mug on the wooden bar, causing beer to slosh all over.

“I’m runnin’ any assholes either of you go out with.” Charlie O’Leary owned the Brooklyn pub where Ava and I worked. He was also a retired cop.

I smiled. “Okay.

“But you know that makes me want to give you the names of suspected serial killers—just to watch your ears turn that lovely shade of purple they turn when you’re pissed off.” I leaned over the bar and kissed him on the cheek.

“’Night, Charlie-o.”

He grumbled something about being grateful he didn’t have daughters and waved me off.

“Can we go out the back door?” Ava asked. “I don’t want to pass him on the way out.”

“Sure. Of course.”

I hooked my arm with hers to make sure she stayed steady as we walked. After a few steps, I looked up and saw Married Guy standing next to the back door.

“Ummm, Ava, we should go out the front. He’s standing at the back door now.”

She looked around the room. “No, he’s at the front door talking to Sal, the new waiter.”

She was more wasted than I thought. I lifted my chin toward the rear exit, a straight line to Owen. “That’s the back door, Ava.”

“I know. Owen’s at the front door.”

I furrowed my brow. “Isn’t that Owen? With the blue button-up shirt?”

She drunk-snorted. “I said he was the good-looking guy in the blue shirt, not the Greek god modeling one.”

My head whipped to the front of the bar. There was only one guy near the front door who I didn’t know, and he was talking to Sal. “Owen is talking to the new waiter right now?”

She looked again and then sighed and nodded. “I should tell Sal to punch him.”

“Ava—the guy talking to Sal right now, right at this moment, is Owen?”

“Yes.”

“His shirt is brown, Ava. Not blue.”

She turned again toward the front door, squinted, and shrugged. “Maybe. I can’t see so good. My contacts are all smudgy from my makeup and crying.”

When she’d said her ex had just walked into the bar and pointed in the general direction of the front door, there’d been only one guy with a blue button-up on.

Shit.

I’d told off the wrong guy.

Since I couldn’t very well make Ava leave through the front door where the real Owen was standing, I sucked it up. Of course, Not Owen had his eye on me, with a smirk, the entire way to the back door.

He nodded at my friend as we passed. “Have a good night, Ava. ’Night, Feisty.”

I took the cowardly way out and kept my head straight, not making eye contact with the guy, until we were out the door.

Ava wasn’t so strong willed. Her head turned as she kept her eyes fixed on Not Owen, even as we made our way into the alley. She might have been drunk with smudgy contacts, but she wasn’t blind.

“Holy shit. Did you see that guy? And did he just say my name?”

I glanced back just as the bar door was closing. Not Owen waved with a cheeky grin.

“You’re hearing things.”

***

God, I was going to be late.

As if Monday classes weren’t bad enough after working a double shift on Sunday, I had a stain on my blouse from spilling my coffee when I had to jam on the brakes for an old man driving an enormous Cadillac.

He’d decided he needed to make a left…from the right lane.

The first day of school was always a nightmare. People wandered around campus, standing in the middle of the road while giving fellow classmates directions to various buildings.

I honked my horn at two underclassmen doing just that. They looked at me like I was the annoying one.

Come on. Move it, people.

After circling the parking lot three times, I parked in a reserved spot in front of Nordic Hall.

Leaning over, I rummaged through the glove compartment, half of the contents falling to the floor as I searched for what I needed.

Got it.

I tucked an old ticket under my windshield wiper and took off for lecture hall 208. I really needed to pee, but was going to have to hold it until after class.

I knew three things about Professor West, other than that he was in the music composition department. One: He’d gotten rid of his last TA because she refused to grade as hard as he wanted her to.

Two: For the last week, whenever I told anyone I’d been reassigned to Professor West, they made a face—not an encouraging one—and said he was an asshole who almost got fired a few years back.

And, three: He hated when students were late. He was known to lock the door as class started so latecomers couldn’t interrupt his lecture.

None of those boded well for me. But what choice did I have? My TA position with Professor Clarence had been eliminated when he died suddenly three weeks ago from an aneurysm.

I was lucky to secure anything, at this point. And without a teaching assistant position, there was no way I’d be able to afford the tuition at the Music Conservatory.

I was already waitressing full time at O’Leary’s just to pay my rent and partially reduced tuition.

Beads of sweat trickled into my cleavage as I arrived at the classroom.

The door was closed, so I took a minute in an attempt to make myself presentable, smoothing down my dark, wild curls as best I could, considering the humidity.

It was hopeless to try to fix the stain that pretty much covered my right breast, so instead I switched hands and hid it with the leather portfolio I was carrying.

Taking a deep breath, I reached for the door handle.

Locked.

Shit.

Now what? I checked the time on my phone. I was only eight minutes late, and it was the first day of the fall semester, yet I heard the professor already lecturing inside.

Did I knock and interrupt the class, knowing it was his pet peeve? Or did I pull a no-show on day one of my new position?

Lateness was the lesser of two evils.

Or so I thought.

Rapping my knuckles lightly on the door a few times, I hoped a student at the back of the classroom would hear it, and I could slip in unnoticed.

The professor’s booming voice silenced just as the door opened. It was a stadium-seating lecture hall, so I was entering at the top row, while the professor was down at the bottom.

Luckily for me, he was facing the other way and writing on the board when I tiptoed in. “Thanks,” I whispered as I settled into the closest seat in the back and let out a relieved breath.

But perhaps that feeling of reprieve was premature.

The professor continued to write as he spoke. “Who arrived late?”

Ugh.

I wanted to sink down into my seat and pretend it wasn’t me. But I was the TA, not a student. I needed them to respect me, as I’d be teaching this class on occasion.

I cleared my throat. “I was late, Professor.”

He capped the dry erase marker and turned around.

I blinked a few times. My eyes had to be screwing with me.

Reaching into my purse, I pulled out my glasses and slipped them on—even though my distance vision was perfectly fine—as if by some miracle putting on my reading glasses would make the man standing in front of the room someone other than who he was.

But he wasn’t someone else.

There was no mistaking that. He had a face people didn’t forget.

A damn gorgeous one.

It was him.

Holy shit.

It was really him.

Screwed.

I was royally screwed.

The professor scanned the room of more than two hundred students, unable to ascertain where the voice had come from.

I prayed he’d drop it and give the class a general warning on his intolerance for lateness.

No such luck. I never had any.

“Stand up. Whoever was late, please stand up.”

Oh, God.

I felt the weight of the twenty-five-thousand-dollar tuition discount I had as a TA sink in my stomach like lead. It made it hard to get up from the chair. But he was waiting.

There was no avoiding it. This was going to be a problem.

Hesitantly, I stood, holding my breath that he wouldn’t recognize me.

Maybe he’d had too much to drink and wouldn’t even remember our short exchange at the bar last night.

“I will not tolerate student lateness. It interrupts my class.”

“I understand.”

The overhead lighting reflected into his face as if he were an actor on a stage, making it difficult for him to see up to the top rows of the classroom. He held a hand up, shielding his eyes.

Now, I was elevated twenty rows above him—we had to have been more than fifty yards apart—yet when our eyes met, they locked like we were the only two people in an empty room.

I knew it the minute he recognized me. I watched it play out in slow motion. A lazy smile spread across his handsome face, though not a happy one.

I’d say it was more reminiscent of a dog who’d just backed a kitten into a corner and was about to have his fun playing with the poor little pussy.

I swallowed. “It won’t happen again. I’m Rachel Martin, Professor. Your TA.”

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