Can you love two men at once? Is there any future in that?
Brant loves me fiercely.
A brilliant billionaire who has owned my heart for four years, he keeps proposing, and I keep turning him down.
I can’t marry him, not with all of the secrets between us.
Lee uses me wildly.
As grouchy as he is cocky, he's interested in getting me into his bed and little more.
There’s no reason for us to work, but I can't stay away from him.
I have to make him fall in love with me. If I don't, all of this will be for nothing.
Go ahead, judge me. You have no idea of the agony my heart is in.
If you think you understand, trust me - you don’t.
This is a re-release of Black Lies with added content!
Release date: August 18, 2023
Print pages: 398
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1) escapist/easy read (1) happily ever after (1) high heat (1) profanity-laced (1) rich setting(s) (1) satisfying ending (1) sex scenes (1) strong chemistry (1) strong heroine (1) suspenseful (1) swoon-worthy (1) terrific writing (1) unputdownable (1)
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A Divided Heart
I watched Molly's apartment, a Mediterranean-style mud brown complex with window boxes full of hot pink hibiscus. Lee’s jeep was parked at a crooked angle in the front, a mud-spattered box of American masculinity in a neat line of Hondas, Toyotas, and Kias. Twenty-two minutes had passed since Lee had ambled down the sidewalk and into the front door, his hands dipped into ripped jean pockets, his jaw set. He’d turned the handle and stepped in as if he’d gone there a hundred times. As if he belonged there.
I tapped my pale pink nails against the gearshift. Closing my eyes, I let the air conditioner's breeze wash over me. I had a massage scheduled in an hour, so this situation needed to resolve itself soon or I'd be late for my date with Roberta's hands.
Movement in the right window of the apartment. Lee moved quickly past it, a blonde close behind, tugging on his shirt, arms gesturing wildly. I could imagine the words flying out of her mouth. Lee, don't go. Lee, it isn't what you think! I wondered if the word ‘love’ left her mouth; if their relationship had progressed to that point.
He disappeared out of sight, and I leaned forward, wishing I had a drink, something to crack open and enjoy while my hard work came to fruition. This had to work; this had to happen. She couldn't have him. He was mine.
The front door blew open and he stepped out, his steps fast as he wove between the cars and up to his Jeep. His face was tight, features hard, a look I hadn't seen on his face before but one I could embrace. Resolute. Decisive. I clenched my hands in excitement, watching as she came into view, her face blotchy, eyes wide, her mouth moving rapidly, giant breasts heaving out of the top of a skimpy blue tank top as she yelled something and grabbed at his shoulders. I wanted to roll my window down, just a peek, enough to hear this exchange, enough to savor the moment.
That's right. Watch him leave. He will no longer kiss your lips or make love to your body. He's mine, and I’m right here, ready to take your place.
I watched him get in, the door slamming hard enough to make her jump. And then, with the screech of tires—the best sound in the world, better than my fantasies—a sound of finality that left her standing in the empty parking spot, black mascara tears staining her cheeks, her scream loud enough to pass through my Mercedes’s tinted windows.
Victory is mine. I grinned, giving myself a virtual high five, and put my SUV into drive. Pulling onto the street, I headed south. Maybe after my massage, I'd swing by my fiancé's office. Drop off a sandwich for him. Celebrate my victory with the other man in my life.
Go ahead. Judge me. You have no idea what my love entails.
I love two men. I fuck two men.
If you think you've heard this story before, you haven't.
My life has always had a plan. I think my parents, pre-conception, sat down and planned it out. Drilled into me with constant reminders and a follow-by-example regimen. I was a child of wealth, expected to do nothing but also everything. A 4.0 was required, though I would never hold a job. Ivy League was mandatory, but only because that was where I would meet my husband. I would not carry any additional pounds, as that would be an embarrassment, but I could not show off my figure, as that would be classless.
My life plan was simple. Earn a respectable degree while being molded into the perfect wife. Marry quickly and to someone with at least nine figures of net worth. Support my husband while pursuing my other interests, such as charity work and running my staff.
I never liked the plan and foiled it in as many passive-aggressive ways as possible. At an early age, I learned to hide treachery behind a sweet smile and innocent façade. In my parents' eyes, I was behaving and thriving. Doing my part to turn into the woman their DNA deserved. In actuality, I was lying in wait, getting my perfect deceptive ducks in a row and ready for the day that mattered: my twenty-fifth birthday.
* * *
It was ridiculous that I was getting a birthday cake, a tradition that should die off by the teenage years. Yet, here it was, topped with twenty-five candles and carried by my mother’s reedy arms. Looking at her was like staring into an image of my future, one with Botox and fillers, pinched lips, and over-plucked brows.
She placed the cake before me, and I smiled because it was expected. I let her sing the song, my father's voice falling off after the first few words, his attention caught by the ding of his phone. I beamed for the photo and blew out the candles, missing three on purpose, and Mother's eyes flickered, but her smile remained fixed.
She cut the red velvet cake with a pearl inlaid knife, the scent of Chanel No. 5 drifting over the table as she served me the smallest possible piece, a center cut, away from the decadent icing of an end piece. Then we ate, the three of us at the end of the dining room’s twelve-seat table, the scrape of silver against china the only sound in the room. Father stood first, leaving his plate, and kissed the top of my head. "Happy birthday, sweetie."
Then there was only Mother and I, and the interrogation began.
"Are you dating anyone?" She set down her fork and pushed her untouched slice of cake forward. Her gaze darted to mine, and I placed my fork on the plate, tines down.
“Not right now." I smiled as I had been taught. Always smile. Smiles hid feelings.
"Why not? You're twenty-five. You only have a few good years left."
“Don’t worry, Mother. I'll find someone."
"I think you should reconsider Jeff Rochester. You dated him for almost two years." Four months. Four months that we spun into a two-year relationship to keep my parents appeased and his gay lifestyle a secret.
I gave a regretful frown. "I've heard Jeff is seeing someone. And to be honest, we really didn't have any chemistry." I picked up the fork and used the edge to section off another bite, enjoying the pain in her eyes when I brought it to my lips.
"Chemistry isn't important. He's from a good family—and he’ll always be able to provide for you."
My trust fund would provide for me. I didn't need a physically stale relationship, a prison sentence that would paint a permanent smile on my madness and lead me into an early case of depression and pharmaceutical drug use. But I didn't want to mention the trust. Not when I was an hour away from finishing this party and heading straight to the bank. Let her think, for just a little while longer, that she had some semblance of influence and control.
"Janice Wilkins told me she saw you working downtown. Please tell me that's not true."
I smiled. "I have a degree in quantitative science. It's not unreasonable for me to consider using it. I’m doing consulting for a medical firm. Overseeing some FDA trials."
"Please don't. Work causes stress, which will prematurely age you. And you only have—"
"A few good years left." I finished her sentence, keeping my voice light. I took another bite of cake, then scraped every bit of icing off the plate and slid the fork into my mouth. Sucking on the tines, I killed a little of my mother's soul.
"We've worked so hard for you to have a good life."
"And I do. You've done a wonderful job, and I'm very happy."
"What about Ned Wimble? I heard he and that Avon heir ended things."
I placed down my fork and wondered how much longer this celebration would take.
* * *
Two hours. That’s how long it took to sit through more stilted conversation and the opening of my gifts. Cashmere cardigan. Sapphire earrings from my father. A Tracey Garvis Graves paperback from Becky, the maid who knew more about me than both of my parents combined. Becky had been the one who’d found me puking in the bathroom as a teenager and cleaned up the mess and nursed me through my hangover. She'd cleaned my room and kept her mouth shut on condoms, birth control packets, and vodka bottles. She’d held me to her chest when I suffered my first broken heart, courtesy of Mitch Brokeretch—who hadn’t deserved my virginity, much less my tears.
I hugged both of my parents and closed the trunk’s lid, hiding all of the gifts. My real present wasn't in the trunk. It was in today's date, the trust paperwork that had been completed before my first birthday. Twelve million dollars waited for me in a joint account that I had watched from afar for over a decade. And now, with the papers I was about to sign, I would be free from my parents and from their expectations and requirements that have held this money above my head for the last two decades.
I drove straight to the attorney's office and, within thirty minutes, was a free woman. As I walked out of the sleek glass building on Wilshire Boulevard, a genuine smile crossed my face. By the time I visited the bank and transferred the funds into a money market account, it had turned into a full beam.
Freedom. It felt damn good. I put down my convertible's top and screamed into the wind. That night, I celebrated with one of my building's valets—a twenty-one-year-old kid who only lasted five pumps, but he brought some good weed and laughed at my jokes.
It was a sad start to my new life.
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