My one-night stand is my new boss.
I met him at the society wedding of the year.
The man every woman in New York wants.
Devastatingly good looking.
And yes, he did blow my mind.
It was just supposed to be one night.
I told him I don't date.
But now he wants to make me his.
How will I resist all those suits and the muscles they hide?
How will I survive the unexpected dinner parties and work trips?
How will I ignore the scorching chemistry between us?
I can’t give my heart away again.
Spoiler alert: I'm failing epically.
Owen North is a standalone billionaire boss romance featuring a swoonworthy, protective alpha hero; a quirky heroine who can’t control a thing she says; forced proximity; forbidden office steamy moments; a hero who will stop at nothing to get his woman; so much fun banter; a heroine who loves being her hero’s good girl; and a HEA you will swoon over.
Release date: June 29, 2022
Publisher: Nina Levine Publishing
Print pages: 406
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I’m going to kill Poppy.
It’s her fault I’m currently sitting in a hotel toilet cubicle half-naked with welts the size of I-don’t-know-what under my breasts and on my back, caused by the tiniest strapless lacy bra known to womankind. I had to pull my dress down and rip that sucker off so I could have a good scratch, and now I have scratch marks all over me that make it look like I’ve been tackled by a grizzly bear.
It’s also her fault that when I finally get up the courage to put said bra back on and fasten the tightest red dress I’ve ever worn back in place, I’m going to have to walk out of this public bathroom wearing only one shoe. The heel on the other one snapped when I skidded on the shiny tiles in the bathroom. The shoe broke and I went flying, landing on my ass.
Damn my cousin for making me wear a bra, dress, and shoes I would never choose to wear to her wedding. “The society wedding of the year, Charlize” as my mother has taken every opportunity to tell me over the last few months.
Insert eye roll.
Kill me now.
No, seriously, do it.
I love girl stuff just as much as the next woman, but honestly, when did it become mandatory to put ourselves in so much pain just to attend social functions? I can do heels, just not the kind of heels that cause arthritis, back pain, heel deformity, ugly toes, overstretched Achilles, and bunions. Yes, I’ve read the data on heels.
And dresses? I’d rather not be squeezed into one that is so tight my breasts and my lungs want to take out a restraining order on it.
And that strapless bra with that allergy-causing stuff on it? As soon as I get home, I’m burning it.
My phone buzzes with a text and I reach down to grab it out of my purse that I unceremoniously dumped on the floor of the cubicle. Yes, disgusting, I know. All those germs down there, but I was desperate to get that bra off.
As I reach for the phone, the sound a woman never, ever, ever wants to hear comes from behind me.
My. Dress. Rips.
I freeze, willing it not to be true.
Holding my breath, I twist my arm around to the back of my dress to feel for a rip, and sure enough, I find it.
“Oh, my God, why does this shit always have to happen to me?” I mutter as I stand. “I told Poppy I had a dress I could wear, but no, she wants me to wear this damn dress.”
“It’ll help you meet a man,” she’d said, as if meeting a man was the highest thing on my agenda. To be clear, it isn’t. No, my current priority in life is to meet someone who can print bank notes that no one would ever suspect of being counterfeit.
Actually, I just need a job. One that will pay me in bank notes.
My mother’s voice rings loud in my head—"You need to find a man, Charlize!”
I grab my bra and put it back on, ignoring the itchy welts I’m covering. I then wiggle my dress up and into place. It has a zip at the back that I carefully attempt to pull up. It plays nice; however, I can feel what the problem is. When I stretched to reach for my phone, the fabric has ripped on one side of the zip, right down to my bottom.
Opening the door of the cubicle, I peer out and find no one else in the bathroom. As carefully as I can, I make my way to the mirror and turn to see how bad the dress looks from behind.
It’s gaping open.
Anyone who walks behind me will be subjected to my back, half my ass, and a flash of my red thong.
All this at the society wedding of the year.
I do the only thing worth doing right now.
I scream to let my frustration out.
It feels so good that I continue screaming until it kind of turns into a wail. No tears or anything, just a good old-fashioned release of the disappointment, resentment, and irritation filling me. This is something I should do more often. Hell, everyone should do this more often. Between screaming, wailing, and having sex, I think humans could probably resolve a lot of issues without resorting to violence.
A deep voice cuts through the air. “Jesus, are you okay?”
My mouth snaps shut as I catch sight of a man entering the bathroom. My body fills with anticipation while my knees threaten to give way.
This man is hot.
Like, on a scale of I’d throw myself off a cliff to avoid ever having to look at you to I’d take all my clothes off right now if it meant you’d just talk to me, he has to be at the level of I’m never wearing clothes again.
He’s probably the best-looking man I’ve ever come across.
I’m even ignoring the way everything about him screams money. I’m not usually attracted to wealthy men in suits anymore, but damn, this guy knows how to wear one. He also has just the right amount of beard. And don’t get me started on the way his dark brown hair falls effortlessly into place. I’d bet all the money in my bank account—a huge risk because I don’t have much in there—that he’s had it styled, even though it looks like he simply dried it with a towel and let it do its own thing.
I grip the sink and throw out the first thing that comes to mind. “Do you always wander into women’s bathrooms?” I mean, I’m all for him doing that, just not when I’m in the middle of the kind of personal crisis that is threatening to send me to the brink. My dress is gaping open, and my ass is hanging out. That’s a crisis with a capital fucking “c”.
His brows arch as his gaze drops to my back, clearly taking in everything on display. When his eyes meet mine again, he says, “Only when I think a woman is in that bathroom possibly dying. You do realize you were screaming like a woman on her deathbed, right?”
I grip the sink harder. “That’s because I am!”
His lips twitch as if he’s trying not to smile. If he smiles or laughs, I swear I’ll turn around and clock him. He doesn’t, though. He’s smart as well as hot. “So, now that we’ve established you’re close to death, do you want a hand with that?”
My brain scrambles fast to come to a decision. I figure things could be worse. Poppy’s mother and mine could have walked in on me. The Winters sisters would not be as cool about this situation as Mr I-Could-Blow-Your-Damn-Mind is being.
I nod. “Thanks. I’ll just grab my purse.” My emergency kit for these kinds of crises is in there. I’m choosing to ignore the nagging feeling deep in my gut that there isn’t any kit that can fix this problem.
I make my way back into the stall where I left my purse on the floor, at which point I see the flaw in this plan. If I bend to retrieve it, my dress will probably rip some more.
“I hate today. Why can’t anything ever be easy?”
I spin to find Mr I-Could-Blow-Your-Damn-Mind standing directly behind me. Well, in front of me now. “What’s your name?” It comes out like a demand. It is, really. I don’t have time to keep referring to him as Mr I-Could-Blow-Your-Damn-Mind every time I reference him in my head.
“We’re dealing with your death and you want my name?”
I pull a face. “Funny.” He is, but this is not the time to be funny. I click my fingers to convey the urgency I feel. “Give me your name.”
His lips twitch again. “Owen. And you are?”
I want to spend time drooling over his name. It’s a good strong name, and I briefly imagine it falling from my lips while he gives me the kind of orgasm I bet a man like Owen can give. But I power on instead. This is no time for orgasm dreaming.
“Charlize.” I step back, over my purse so that it’s in between us, and nod at it. “I need you to please pick that up so we can get my emergency kit out of it.”
“Your emergency kit? You really think this dress can be fixed?”
My eyes widen in horror. “Don’t you say that! Now is not the time to give up, Owen. If I have to walk in front of my mother again tonight, she will not be seeing my ass swinging in the wind.”
He cocks his head. “Are you Seth’s or Poppy’s? I’m guessing if your mother is here, you must be family.”
“Seth’s. We met in college.”
He passes me my purse. Finally. However, my run of shitastic luck continues, and I fumble as his hand brushes mine, resulting in me dropping it. Tampons, condoms, and cash scatter across the floor. None of those things catch Owen’s attention. No, it’s my Motley Crue vibe and my small notebook that draw his gaze. The notebook that has a penis drawn on its cover. I mean, blink, and you might not realize it’s a penis because it’s been drawn in an abstract way, but a penis it is.
His lips pull up in a smile as he turns to face me again. “Motley Crue, huh?” He bends to retrieve the notebook. “This looks interesting.”
I snatch it from him as he straightens. Really, the only thing worse that could happen right now would be my mother walking in and finding me with this notebook full of drawings of dicks and sex acts. That I’m standing next to the hottest man on earth, in a toilet cubicle, holding said book, is mortifying. It’s the kind of book a teenager would own, not a twenty-seven-year-old woman. And why the hell are we still smooshed together in this cubicle?
“My bestie gave it to me. And for your information, the Motley Crue vibe was a joke between Poppy and me.” I hold the bullet up. “And also for your information, you’d be surprised what I can do to a man with this.”
Poppy is deader than dead after this fiasco. And Dylan, my bestie, is, too. They will now have to spend the rest of their lives listening to me complain about the night I met the man who could have given me the best orgasms of life, only to watch him walk away laughing because he thinks my vagina has a thing for Motley Crue.
His eyes twinkle. “I bet I would.”
I try to ignore the butterflies that just whooshed through my tummy. Owen is way too close for my comfort. I mean, if we were about to get it on, sure, this would be awesome. But we’re not, so he needs to take a step back because I’m concerned I might throw myself at him if he doesn’t. And that would be all kinds of embarrassing.
It’s his eyes.
I have a thing for eyes.
They’re the bluest of blue. Like, I want to swim in them, they’re so blue. And I want him to come swimming with me. Naked. We should have no clothes on while we do all that swimming together.
“I can’t say I did,” he says.
His deep voice snaps me back to attention, and my heart stutters when I realize my hand is clutching his shirt. I blink and quickly remove my hand. “What?”
What was I thinking when I touched him? And how did I not even know I was doing that? This man has some kind of voodoo magic power over me. And I just met him. I’m losing my damn mind.
“You asked me if I realized my eyes looked like the ocean at Shipwreck Beach. And then you said something about going swimming with me there. Where is it?”
“Holy mother of… shit…. No, just ignore me.” Words fall out of my mouth at a horrifying pace. I’m helpless to control them.
He chuckles, and the lines around his eyes etch themselves deeper into his skin. I could stare at those lines for hours. I’m always fascinated by the lives people live, and to me, the lines on someone’s face tell a story.
“Are you always this intriguing?”
No one has ever called me intriguing before. Quirky on numerous occasions. But never intriguing. My body fills with a warmth that almost takes away all my mortification over everything that has transpired tonight.
Smiling up at him, I give him my truth—something I don’t usually give this easily. Owen has managed to catch me off guard and since we’ll never see each other again, I feel safe doing this. “That’s not a word used when referring to me. People are more likely to call me quirky or weird. I’m going to take intriguing as a compliment.”
He smiles big again and good Lord above, it’s a movie-star smile if ever I saw one. Nodding, he murmurs, “Yes, intriguing is a compliment.” His gaze roams my face as he speaks. It’s like he’s trying to get a read on me, in much the same way I’m trying to get one on him.
“Shipwreck Beach is also called Navagio Beach. It’s in Greece. You should go there sometime. The water is so blue. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.”
“I’ll check it out.”
We fall into silence, each watching the other. I don’t know about him, but I could stay like this for a long time. Even with my ass hanging out the back of my dress. He’s managed to calm me in a way not many people do.
However, Poppy has other ideas. Or, should we say, other needs that prove far more important than us gazing at each other.
“Charlize! Where are you, girl? I neeeeed you!”
The sound of her heels clicking on the tiles fills the bathroom, coming closer to the cubicle at the end where Owen and I are. Always the last cubicle—I never choose any other than that one. Even if I have to wait in line longer for it to become free. There’s just something safe about the last cubicle.
Poppy comes to a stop in front of us, holding the tulle ballgown skirt of her wedding dress up. “Oh, good, there you are.” She pauses. “Ummm, why are you standing in a toilet cubicle with Owen?”
I regretfully drag my eyes from Owen to glance at my cousin. “He was, ah, helping me with something.”
Her face scrunches into a frown. “Is that code for like, sex?”
I figure it’s easier to show her than to tell her what happened. I turn so she can see my back. “I ripped my dress. Owen came to my rescue. We were just in the middle of getting my emergency kit out of my bag.” Well, kind of.
Poppy retrieves my purse and its contents from the floor and passes it to me. “Hate to break it to you, Charles, but I don’t think even your emergency kit can fix that dress.”
My kit is world-renowned. In my world, that is. Whenever I’m out with friends, it’s me they come to for any little emergency. I’ve never once failed to fix a situation. “I am not a quitter,” I declare loudly as I rummage for something to save my ass from my mother’s eyes.
“Aunt Joan is going to have a conniption when she sees your dress.”
I stop what I’m doing momentarily and hit Poppy with a glare. “I know! Why do you think I’m losing my shit over here?”
She returns my glare while she pushes her shoulder-length red hair off her face. “Don’t snap at me. I’m just the messenger. And besides, we don’t have time for this. I need you to come work your magic.”
My eyes bulge. “Do I look like I’m in any state to go anywhere with you?” It’s a good thing Poppy and I are as close as sisters, otherwise our relationship would disintegrate quickly with the way we snap and snarl at each other sometimes.
“I don’t care what state you’re in. My shares are going to crash! I need you to tell me what to do.”
Poppy has millions tied up in shares. I’ve always helped her with her investments, but about three months ago, Seth insisted she hire his friend to take over her portfolio. Something about me not being qualified enough for him. Whatever. I told her to keep the peace and let the guy take over while I watched from the sidelines. About a month ago, he insisted she invest in a company I didn’t think she should. Seth stepped in and told her to listen to the professional. I get it, she was between a rock and a hard place, but now it seems that maybe the advice was bad.
“Duttons?” I ask to clarify what I’m already guessing.
She nods. “Yes.” Her shoulders slump. “I should never have stopped listening to you.”
My mind swings into action. “Okay, there has to be a way up to my room without anyone seeing my ass. You can walk behind me and shield me.”
Owen shrugs out of his jacket and hands it to me. “Here, wear this. It’ll cover everything you need it to.”
I want to kiss him.
Well, let’s be real, I already wanted that.
Now, I want to kiss him and hump his leg.
Okay, okay, I wanted that before, too.
I grab the jacket before he changes his mind. “Thank you.”
He confuses me when he exits the stall we’ve been squashed in and says to Poppy, “Good luck with your shares. Yell out if you need help.”
“Wait,” I call out. “You’re not coming with us so you can get your jacket back?” I cringe at how desperate I must sound. I’m just not ready to let him go yet. I want more time in his company. I want to stare into those eyes of his and imagine swimming some more.
His baby blues sparkle as they take me in again. “Keep the jacket. I have a feeling you need it more than I do tonight.”
With that, he turns and leaves Poppy and me alone in the bathroom. I’m ready to sag against the wall and run a play-by-play in my head of the entire interaction I just had with Owen, but Poppy grabs my arm and demands, “We need to go!”
She drags me out of the cubicle before I can collect myself. I stumble because I’m only wearing one of those heels she’s trying to kill me with. “Geez, Pop, give me a moment.”
Letting me go, she drops her gaze to my feet. “Where is your other shoe? Goodness, Charles, what’s gotten into you tonight? You’re a mess.”
I make my way to where my other shoe landed in the corner of the bathroom when it broke. Snatching it up off the ground, I mutter, “You got into me tonight! You made me wear things I would never usually wear. And being in this hotel for the entire weekend with my mother is enough to put me off my game for months. You’re lucky I love you as much as I do.”
She takes a deep breath and allows some of the tension in her body to seep out. “You really must love me. Who else would put up with all my shit? Especially when I didn’t even ask you to be one of my bridesmaids. I’m sorry I’m such a bad cousin.”
I put my arm around her waist as we exit the bathroom. “You’re not a bad cousin. And for the record, I do not do the bridesmaid thing. You know that. And can I just say, this jacket is the best jacket I’ve ever worn in my life.” It really is. Mostly because it smells all manly and sexy.
“That’s because it belongs to Owen. I’m not sure how you managed to get him into that stall with you, but girl, he’s the guy every woman at this wedding wants to score.”
I don’t doubt her. When it comes to gossip, and scandal, and all the juicy society things, Poppy knows everything.
I fled New York a year ago to escape a broken engagement and travel the world, and only arrived home eleven days ago. Besides not having a clue about any of the New York gossip, I’ve missed Poppy’s entire relationship with Seth except for Zooming with him. I also missed the pre-wedding dinner and brunch her mother insisted she hold two weeks ago.
I sniff Owen’s jacket again. “It’s his eyes.”
She looks at me. “He might have great eyes, but you know what else he has? An ex-wife no woman needs in her life. I recommend you stay far away.”
“Ah, Pop, this is me we’re talking about. You know I now stay far away from men who wear suits that cost more than some people’s annual salary.”
He might be hot.
And I might want to go swimming with him.
But there’s no way Owen and I would ever be a match.
I don’t do men from this world anymore.
“True,” she says.
“What the hell made you look up your shares at your wedding, anyway?” I ask as we head toward the elevators.
“Don’t give me hell about my devotion to my shares, Charles. A girl has to make sure she’s able to take care of herself at all times. Even if she is married now.”
She’s absolutely right.
Our mothers may have taught us a lot of useless stuff about how to act in public, how to host a dinner party, and how to walk in heels, but we made sure we know how to fend for ourselves in life. Poppy and I are not the kind of women who will ever rely on a man to take care of us.
I hook my arm through hers. “Right. Let’s get your shares sorted. And then I’m taking this dress off, putting my pajamas on, and perusing the room service menu to plan what I’m going to eat for breakfast.”
Poppy rolls her eyes. “You and your breakfast.” She shakes her head. “Charles, there’s no way I’m allowing you to leave the reception yet. Put those pajama ideas away.”
I silently sigh.
If there’s one thing I know for sure it’s this: Poppy is the bossiest person I know and I allow her to boss me around because there’s no one I love more in this world than her. There’s no way I’ll be planning my breakfast in the next few hours.
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