Darling Venom: An Enemies-to-Lovers Romance
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My first love ended in tragedy.
My second began with his brother.
From Wall Street Journal bestseller Parker S. Huntington comes a broken love story laced with angst and forbidden romance.
I wasn’t supposed to be on that roof on Valentine’s Day.
Neither was Kellan Marchetti, the school’s designated freak.
We met on the verge of ending our lives.
Somehow, the tattered strings of our tragedies tangled and tightened into an unlikely bond.
We decided not to take the plunge and agreed to check on each other every Valentine’s Day until school ended.
Two restless souls.
We kept our promise for three years.
On the fourth, Kellan made a decision, and I was left to deal with the consequences.
Just when I thought our story ended, another one began.
They say all love stories look the same and taste different.
Mine was venomous, disgraceful, and written in scarlet scars.
My name is Charlotte Richards, but you can call me Venom.
Release date: December 11, 2021
Print pages: 712
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Darling Venom: An Enemies-to-Lovers Romance
Parker S. Huntington
She left her office at six thirty-five, waving the doorman goodbye with a smile. I sat in a coffee shop across the street, watching the building like I didn't have a twelve-million-dollar-a-year practice to run. I'd been here since five, just to be on the safe side.
For the pleasure of stalking young Miss Richards, I'd pushed back a check-up appointment, along with two IVF treatments, and there was a thoroughly upset heiress three centimeters dilated in her room in Morgan-Dunn, wondering where the hell her doctor was. Watching a barely-out-of-puberty agent assistant get off work was probably the answer she was not expecting to hear.
I dropped a few coins into a fund-my-backpacking-trip tip mug and made my way across the street to catch the little firecracker before she sizzled into the subway. My eyes didn't waver from her frame. It gave me the opportunity to assess her.
Miss Richards wore her brown hair in a purposefully messy, trendy, screw-you-I'm-from-New-York way, with side-swept bangs. Thick, dramatic eyebrows framed her green eyes. A black beret perched on her head, tilted sideways, like an artist. I wanted to tell her she was not, in fact, an artist. Although I didn't know. Maybe she was. Did I want to pick a fight with this woman?
Yes. Yes, I did.
She was curvy and small and kissed by youth's beauty—smooth skin, delicate neck, and dainty ankles. Her hot feline reading glasses, black dress, and red plaid leggings made her look like she'd stepped out of a No Doubt music video. She was the kind of girl Kellan would have liked. A whole lot.
I crossed the street at a red light before the subway entrance swallowed her. A car nearly slammed into me, stopping at the last minute. I slapped the hood at the same time the driver honked for ten seconds straight.
"Learn how to walk, moron!" he roared.
"Learn how to drive, dipshit." I gave him an unsolicited tip of my own, saluting him with my middle finger.
His mouth dropped open, but I was already gone. Running in Miss Richards' direction. Hoping the fact that I'd seen her boss earlier this morning—albeit after Reagan had waited an hour and a half while I performed a C-section—had been reported back to her.
My little showdown with the driver had caught her attention, along with half the street's. She stood in the entrance of the subway, staring at me with a mixture of shock and disgust.
Join the club, kid. I'm not my number-one fan, either.
"What are you doing here?" She scowled. A beauty spot sat between her nose and lip. Very film noir. Artistic Kellan must've had a hard-on for this girl.
"I didn't know you owned Manhattan. Mind giving me a map of streets I can walk on?" My answer defied all logic. I needed her to warm up to me, not reach atomic levels of resentment. It was hard to be nice once you fell into the habit of being a dick.
Her hate-o-meter dinged as her eyes narrowed at me. She pivoted, resuming her journey toward the subway. When she descended the stairs, I followed her. I'd started feeling like a creep about an hour ago after I'd showed up in front of her workplace, challenging my inner Joe Goldberg. But now the feeling bled into full-blown perv territory, thrusting me deep into the Jeffrey Dahmer zone.
I couldn't follow her home.
Correction: I preferred not to.
It appeared to be exactly what I was doing.
"Fine," I said as she breezed through the turnstile. I hopped over the one next to her, committing my second misdemeanor in the last ten minutes. The first was jaywalking. I'd lost my mind. I should be pinning a photo of my brain with cutouts of my number on trees around my neighborhood right about now. And still, I continued, "My behavior yesterday might have been uncalled for."
"Your existence is uncalled for." She hopped on the escalators.
I stood beside her. She shook her head, scrolling through her phone. People grunted behind us.
I dropped my voice. "Look, I have questions."
"The answer to all of them is no."
"Then one of them is, 'Would you mind it very much if we talked about Kellan for a few minutes?'"
"Ha. Ha," she deadpanned, but I wasn't laughing. "Go. Away."
The grunting behind me intensified. I never took the subway, and now I remembered why. Other than the fact that it smelled like a public toilet, BO, and clinical depression, it was also a hostile environment.
"Not until you give me some answers after the bomb you dropped in my office yesterday."
A guy in a hoodie tapped my shoulder. "Hey, can you hit on this fine piece standing on the right side of the escalator like a goddamn New Yorker? People are trying to pass through."
I shifted to the right side, two steps below Miss Richards. Which reminded me...
"What's your name, anyway?"
My nose was level with her head. She smelled like sugar cookies and cypress. Maybe even coconut. More importantly—not like stale piss.
"None of your business."
"Cute name. Artsy parents?"
"Dead parents," she gritted out. "You're bothering me."
I told myself her parents were not really dead, so I could keep pestering her with a clear conscience. "Give me what I want, and I'll leave you alone."
Her head snapped in my direction, her dramatic eyebrows pinched together in anger. "Kellan was right."
It hit like a bullet to the gut, but I smiled through the pain. Cocky and unaffected and everything I was known for. The aloof, charming ob-gyn with the bronze heart.
She stormed to the platform. I tailed her. My patience, already a rare commodity, evaporated. Her train arrived, and Miss Richards stepped in. I did the same. I had no idea where we were headed. Hopefully Hell, so I could have the home-field advantage.
I realized on the train that, excluding the month after Kellan's death, I hadn't done anything out of character or off my schedule for at least a decade. Yet, I took the seat next to her. She tugged a stack of papers from her leather briefcase. A manuscript. She uncapped a yellow highlighter with her teeth and struck a line on the page in her lap.
"If I were you, I would cooperate," I said through a tight-lipped smile, aware of the fact that people were watching us. Getting arrested for harassment would be the kiss of the death to my career. Living without answers, however, seemed like a bigger punishment.
She flipped a page in the manuscript, forcing me to switch to the not-so-nice method. Clearly, I should have gone that route the minute I'd found her. There were not a lot of opportunities to salvage a relationship that began with you staring into a woman's eyes while coming deep inside another.
"I guess you leave me no choice but to tell your boss you flung my door open yesterday, caught me in a compromising position, and decided to make yourself comfortable and watch." I took out my phone and began texting Reagan Rothschild.
Miss Richards snapped her head up in horror. "Wait."
My thumbs kept flying across my iPhone. She should have knocked on my door as soon as I'd lost him. No one had come to talk to me and Terry, other than Principal Brooks and a couple of guilt-ridden teachers who'd hardly even remembered anything significant about my brother.
Kellan had died, and not one of his peers came to offer their condolences.
She slapped her hand over my phone. I dragged my eyes up to meet hers. She averted her gaze.
"Where can we talk?" I demanded.
She flinched. I wanted to shake the answers out of her. I didn't even know why I cared so much. Finding out what made him do this wouldn't bring him back. A part of me just wanted to punish her for not offering her condolences.
Her forehead crumpled. "About Kellan?"
"No, about your fabulous beret. Your fashion choices charm me." I bared my teeth like a beast. "Of course, it's about Kellan."
The way she stared at me, with enough hatred to freeze the sun, made me want to laugh in her face. She thought I cared about her opinion of me. She thought I cared, period. I'd stopped caring the day he died. Threw myself into my work, not bothering to build a life outside of it.
"Well?" I popped an eyebrow.
"Fine. But not today."
"I have plans."
What could be more important than Kellan?
She tipped her chin up. "I don't want to."
I fished my phone out and resumed my text to Reagan. Miss Richards slapped it away. It fell in my lap, and the lock screen image—of Kellan hiding behind a book, grinning—flashed. I flipped the phone on its screen. She sucked in a breath.
"I'm taking my sister to the dermatologist," she answered, more softly. Which didn't make sense. Most dermatologists in my building closed by five. Six, at the latest. But I didn't press on account of the fact that I didn't want to give her any reason to change her mind.
"Tomorrow. There's a little café right across from my office—"
"I know the place," I shot out. "Time?"
I noticed her right leg was jumpy, rocking up and down. A nervous tick.
"Now let's start over. Do you have a name, Miss Richards?"
"Charlotte. My name is Charlotte." She licked her lips. "I would say it's nice to meet you, but we both know that's not the case."
I got up and off the train without looking back at Charlotte.
"Wait," she called. "Shouldn't we exchange numbers or something?" I could practically hear her blush.
Rather than turning around, I exited the doors as I answered her. "No. I don't want anything to do with you after tomorrow."
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