"You got married on your divorce-cation?"
That would unfortunately be correct.
I was hanging with the girls, celebrating my divorce when I saw him, my crush, sitting in the corner of the bar all alone. Being single and looking for a wild night, I asked him if he wanted to join me. To my delight, he said yes.
Drinks were consumed, fun was had and then . . . one drunken conversation with a cranky gondolier in Las Vegas led to an Uber lift through a drive-thru wedding chapel with the incredibly hot, British bad boy, Pike Greyson.
On paper, it seemed like I hit the jackpot. And if I wasn't fresh from a toxic marriage, I would have absolutely noticed the finer things about him.
But I wanted nothing to do with being married, so when I arrived back home from my eventful weekend in Vegas, the last thing I expected to see was a new doting husband already moved in.
I asked for an annulment, he pulled a Ross Geller and said no.
That's right, he said NO! Instead, he asked for three months to prove we could be good together.
Insanity clearly knocked him in the head and the only way I could convince him to give up on our sham of a marriage was to show him just how wrong we were for each other. Only problem with that was, he saw right through my every prank, every trick, and every yearning emotion I attempted to mask.
Release date: January 11, 2022
Print pages: 446
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Put Me in Detention
“Sweet nectar of life, please don’t ever leave me,” I groan while rubbing my cheek against a stone of chilled bliss.
And . . . repeat.
The bad-decision-driven rhythm of my body. Three pounds, vibrating through my head, followed by a very unsettling gurgle.
The only thing keeping me alive is the cool touch of the firm surface beneath me.
“Cora? Cora, where are you?” I hear Stella call out from far away. “Cora, did you order breakfast?”
Nope. No, I did not.
Definitely did not order breakfast.
“Has anyone seen Cora?” Stella asks.
“Is she not in her room?” Greer asks, her voice rather upbeat, a stark contrast to how I’m feeling.
“Do you associate Stella with idiocy?” The snap of Keiko’s voice comes in sharp. “She’s an intelligent female, smart enough to deduct from the obvious places as to where our comrade would be reposing. Why treat her with such—”
“I didn’t check her room,” Stella says.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Keiko huffs. “Analyze her place of slumber before you query individuals of her location. Have you learned nothing as an educator?”
Lucky for us, and I mean that sarcastically, Keiko has been a bit . . . snappy lately. Greer, Stella, and I think we know why, though Keiko, on the other hand, seems clueless.
Bun in the oven.
“I’m . . . here,” I mumble as I start to wiggle my fingers. Yup, those are working. I then check my toes.
Hurray, still intact.
Limbs are accounted for. What about torso? Everything good there?
My stomach is pressed against the floor, and I smooth it along the cold tile—yup, still there, but . . . why is the chilliness of the surface beneath me so strong? Why does it feel as if I’m not wearing any articles of clothing?
“Did you hear that?” Greer asks. “I think it came from the entryway.”
Footsteps parade down the hall to the entryway of the ornately expansive hotel suite I booked for my divorce-cation—a well-thought-out, meticulously planned, and obnoxious ceremony that celebrated the end of my nuptials to Keenan—the one who shall not be named.
The devil himself.
An immoral human with a loose zipper in his pants and a penchant for sleeping with women who weren’t his wife.
Cue the Maury Show-style boos.
“Maybe she ordered us breakfast,” Stella says, drawing closer.
“I could use some bacon,” Greer adds. From the proximity of her voice, I think she’s now in the same room as me. Crap. “And some—whoa—uh, Cora . . . you’re, uh, you’re naked.”
Yup, that’s what I thought.
Naked as the day I was born.
The front of my body is pressed against the floor, my legs are squeezed together, and my ass is feeling the cool breeze of the air conditioner blowing from the vent above.
“Wow,” Stella says, “you have a really nice ass.”
“I’m clenching,” I say, for Lord knows what reason.
“She does have a nice ass,” Greer says. “Even if she’s clenching, it’s still all round and bubbly.”
“From a quick analysis of her posterior chain I can rapidly deduce that she spends more time in the gym than she announces,” Keiko chimes in. I do spend a good portion of time in the gym, especially ever since I left . . . thou who shall not be named, or TWSNBN.
“Are you putting in squat time?” Stella asks.
“Uh, could someone grab me a blanket or towel?” I whisper.
I lift my head and turn it so I’m now facing my friends. Stella and Greer are both wearing oversized shirts from their men. Stella is drowning in Romeo’s Bobbies shirt, while Greer is wearing one of Arlo’s Forest Heights tees. And Keeks, well, she’s wearing an ankle-length floral nightgown that I’m pretty sure she purchased at Talbots.
“If you must know, I’ve been squatting with bands lately.”
“Well, it’s showing.” Greer claps. “It’s a great ass.”
“Structurally sound,” Keiko adds.
“Jealous of those glutes,” Stella says.
“Well, thank you, but towel, please. Something is poking my boob and I’d rather you not see everything I have to offer.”
Greer grabs my robe from the couch and chucks it at me. I do my best to maneuver on the floor and cover myself up before lifting, only to notice . . .
“Oh hell,” I mutter.
“What?” Greer asks.
With the robe securely around my waist, I turn toward them, part the lapels, and flash them my boobs.
Well, my tassel-covered boobs.
A boisterous laugh falls out of Stella’s mouth and Greer leans forward for a better look. Keiko dramatically shields her eyes, but then peeks through her fingers.
When she notices the tassels, her hand drops and she says, “I’ve heard of wearing such devices on your breasts before, but never quite considered it for Kelvin.” She takes a step forward. “How do they feel? May I examine them?”
“No.” I whip my robe shut and then grip my head from the pounding pain.
“How am I supposed to make an accurate assessment of fringe pasties for your bosom if you deny me an experimental observation?” Keiko asks. Keiko is a dear friend, quirky, a tad nerdy, and incredibly socially awkward. Has zero boundaries, but we love her for it. Even if she does get on our nerves sometimes.
“Buy some, try them on, and reach your own conclusions.” I move to the living room, where I take a seat on the couch, cross one leg over the other, and then lean back against the cushions. “Honest to God, I can’t remember why I put tassels on my boobs. Or why I’m naked, for that matter. Or why I was on the entryway floor.” I smirk. “But I guess it was a good night, right, ladies?”
Stella and Greer exchange glances, while Keiko sits next to me, a little too closely, as if—
“Keiko.” I swat away her hand as she attempts to sneak it into my robe. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“It’s not my fault you’ve stimulated my genius with inquisitiveness.”
“For the love of God.” I reach into my robe, pull off one tassel—oh my God, I think I ripped my nipple off—and I hand it to her. “There, go ham with it.”
Keiko examines it closely as she stands up. “I shall retreat to my quarters. Please inform me when our morning meal has arrived.”
And then she’s gone, leaving me with Greer and Stella and their concerned faces.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
My phone beeps with a text message, the sound echoing in the vast space of the living room. I glance around, spotting my phone on the end table.
“Do you not remember who we ran into last night?” Stella asks.
“Elvis?” I ask. “Uh, doesn’t everyone run into him? I kind of wish ours hadn’t smelled like onions though, because, woof. That was rough.”
“Not Elvis,” Greer says as I pick up my phone. “Who we ran into at the bar.”
I think back to last night, trying to recall what we did.
We got ready. I put on a killer emerald-green dress that was far too slutty for me; my ex would’ve had a heart attack if I wore it out with him—which was the reason why I wore it. Got to take advantage of the whole rebellious ex-wife thing. We pre-gamed in the suite with some Keiko-mixed cocktails, saw Elvis in the elevator, and went to dinner . . .
“You know, I think I ended up wearing tassels because I wasn’t wearing a bra last night. I remember saying my nipples were cold. Do you remember that?”
Stella shakes her head. “No, because you left us at the bar.”
“What?” My brow crinkles. “I didn’t leave you. That would mean I was alone last night, and . . .” A flash of a square jaw passes through my mind. “I . . . definitely . . . wasn’t . . .” Dark, piercing eyes penetrate my thoughts—oh God. “Alone.”
A deliciously dirty voice sharpens in the back of my mind.
The press of a large hand to my bare back.
The smell of a deeply masculine scent, which is engrained in my brain.
In the blink of an eye, I snap my phone off the end table and glance at the screen.
From . . .
My eyes flash up to Greer and Stella as the entire night unfolds right in front of me.
A British accent.
More bad decisions.
And then . . .
“Oh fuck,” I say quietly.
“I don’t think that was a good ‘oh fuck,’” Stella says from the corner of her mouth as both my friends stare at me.
“No, that sounded like an ‘oh fuck,’ oh fuck,” Greer says.
Stella slowly nods. “As if she did something really stupid, like get married.”
Greer chuckles. “Could you imagine? Getting married on your divorce-cation.” She shakes her head. “No, that sounded like an ‘I stripped in front of strange men’ oh fuck.”
“That would explain the tassels.” Leaning in, Stella asks, “Did you strip in front of a crowd?”
Unable to answer, I look at my phone again, and this time, I unlock the screen and read the text.
Husband: Good morning, wife. About to board my plane back to Chicago. After I arrive, I’m going to pack some things and then head to our place. See you at home . . . snookums.
Oh . . . fuuuuuck.
I swallow hard, nerves bristling through me as I look at my friends. Fear and anxiety creep up the back of my neck as I say, “I think I made a huge mistake last night.”
“What kind of mistake?” Greer asks. “Worse than stripping in front of a crowd?”
I nod. “Way worse.”
“What could be worse than that?” Stella asks.
Stunned, I stare off into the suite and say, “I married Pike Greyson last night.”
“Did you land?”
“Yeah,” I mutter, as I make my way through the Las Vegas airport. Slot machines ding and bling as I weave toward the baggage claim. Weary travelers, hungover visitors, and clingy couples filter through the hallways, bumping into me or cutting me off as they spot an open slot machine—just one more chance to win before they leave. “Where the hell did you book me, again?”
“Aria. There should be a car attendant ready to pick you up at baggage claim,” Killian, my oldest brother, says on the phone.
“Does Pa know I’m here?”
“No,” Killian answers. “He’s completely unaware.”
The nerves building inside me from the thought of my father knowing where I am start to ease. Thank fuck.
“And you swear on your cock, I won’t run into him?”
“Swear. You’re staying in different hotels, running in different circles, teeing off at different tee times. There’s no chance. Just go out there, kick arse, and then go home. Simple.”
I hop onto the airport shuttle and stand next to the door, my hand tightly gripping the handle of my carry-on. “I don’t know why I allowed you to convince me to do this.”
“Because you can’t say no when it comes to our foundation.”
He’s right. When it comes to our foundation, Rabid Readers, I can’t say no. Many years ago, Killian and I started a foundation to provide an equal opportunity to every child to not only learn to read, but to have the resources to do so, and to keep them invested in literature.
With my recent move to the States, I stepped away from the foundation—and from my old life—but Killian begged me to do the golf tournament, knowing I could win a good chunk of change for the Rabid Readers. It took a lot of convincing, but I agreed.
Now I’m regretting it.
“And I booked you a flight out early Sunday morning. You’ll be back in your flat before you know it.”
“Apartment,” I say absently. “Americans call them apartments.” Can you see my eye roll?
“Might not hurt you to loosen up while you’re in Vegas, you know.”
I stare out the window of the shuttle as it picks up speed. “The last thing I should do is loosen up,” I say, finally having a tight grasp on my life.
“Pike, you’re free now. Isn’t this what you wanted? A life of your own?”
I chew on the bottom of my lip.
“I don’t know what the hell I want.” The shuttle stops and I allow a few people to get off before I do. Rolling my bag behind me, I head toward baggage claim, where I see a row of drivers lined up with signs in their hands.
“Maybe this mini holiday will help you figure it out.”
I sarcastically laugh. “I doubt thirty-six hours in Vegas is going to change my life.”
“You never know.”
I spot a driver holding a sign with my last name on it. “I have to go.”
“You better beat Pa’s score.”
“Trust me, that won’t be an issue. Just know, this is the last time I’m doing this shit for you, got it? I’m a silent partner. No more of this public appearance bullshit.”
“Good. I’ll call you later.”
We hang up and I stick my mobile in my pocket as I approach the driver. When he makes eye contact with me, he asks, “Pike Greyson?”
I nod. “That would be me.”
“Pike Greyson, didn’t expect to see your peevish ass out here.”
My back tenses from the sound of that familiar American accent—it’s my pa’s business partner. Fuck.
Slowly, I turn around, golf bag hanging on my shoulder, and adjust my sunglasses as I take in the sight of Cleat Burgess.
“Cleat,” I say, giving him a smooth once-over. “Wasn’t aware you spent your weekends away from your mistress.”
His sharp eyebrows narrow. “She’s waiting in the clubhouse.”
Cleat Burgess is the epitome of a wanker. A fucking twat who cheats on his wife every chance he gets, especially on the weekends, and he makes no attempt to change his behavior. He’s a cheat, he’s an arsehole, and he’d sell his first kid if it meant he could gain an inch on the competition. I’ve never liked him.
“Does your pa know you’re here?” he asks.
Knowing how this man works and the way he enjoys grating on people’s nerves, I regain my composure, not showing an ounce of the discomfort I feel, knowing that I’m probably teeing off with this prick.
“No,” I answer.
A wicked smile spreads over Cleat’s mouth. “And why would that be?”
“Didn’t feel like dealing with his ever-present halitosis.”
His smile grows even wider. “No wonder why he despises you.” The feeling is mutual. “You’re a little shit.”
I tilt my head in Cleat’s direction, not wanting to spend more time with him than I have to. “Always a pleasure.” When I turn away from him to see if I can grab a pint before I tee off, I spin right into a familiar body, his cologne a rich musk, the fabric of his clothes velvety soft and expensive. The deep, brown gaze staring back at me, the same as mine.
I’m going to kill my brother.
“Pike,” my pa says, his voice stunned. “What on earth are you doing here?”
Strapping on my smart-arse pants, because they’re the only ones I know how to wear when I’m around my pa, my only defense mechanism, I say, “Why, Pa-pah”—I make a show of it, raising my voice and acting like a cheerful tosser—“I’m so delighted to see you.” I lean in and give him a hug. His body is stiff as a board and I feel him already starting to fume.
“For fuck’s sake, Pike, don’t cause a scene.”
I let go of him. “Cause a scene? Why on earth would I do that? I’m just so happy to see my own flesh and blood, the one who disowned me and told me to crawl up my own arsehole and die.”
His eyes sharpen. I’ve struck a chord.
Pa is always about his perceived image. The Greysons are held to a high standard, and we’ve been forced to live in not only the spotlight, but to live up to both public expectations and those put on us by our patriarch.
“It would behoove you to shut your mouth and act like a civilized human,” he whispers through clenched teeth. “Something I know will be quite difficult for you.”
“Because I’m a dodgy animal after all, right? Uncaged. Untamed.”
He adjusts the collar of his shirt and puts on a fake smile for the people around us. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Making this your worst nightmare.” Isn’t that obvious? I mean, as a person looking in, it’s obvious, right? From previous comments my pa has shouted at me, you’d think that would be his conclusion. Not that I’m here for something other than him. Not that I would be here for, I don’t know . . . a foundation.
“I’m going to have a word with the organizer. Your presence isn’t needed for our foundation since I’m here.”
“I’m not playing for your scam of a foundation that awards grants to rich kids.” Yeah, don’t even get me fucking started on the McArthur Greyson Scholarly Grant. The biggest crock of shit I’ve ever seen. “I’m here for Rabid Readers.”
“Killian,” he whispers, realization hitting him from the obvious setup by my brother. “The half-baked bugger is too lazy to come out here and earn the money himself, so he sends his gormless git brother.” Pa rolls his eyes.
The words gormless git sear into my bones.
Those two words have been associated to my person for as long as I can remember. One of four kids in my family, I’m smack dab in the middle of my siblings, the troublemaker, according to my parents, the failure, the one who can’t seem to get his shit together. The one who didn’t make smart choices, but was constantly the gormless git. The idiot. The embarrassment. The black sheep.
It’s why I left England, to get away from my pa’s toxic hatred, from having to see the constant disappointment in his eyes.
My anger spikes as memories of constant beratement flood to the forefront of my mind.
My skin crawls.
A sheen of sweat breaks out on the back of my neck, and I realize if I don’t remove myself from the situation, I might cause a scene.
Taking a deep breath, I say, “Don’t break your back trying to show off.”
I start to move away when Pa grabs my wrist and stills me.
I’m two inches taller than his six-foot stature. His peppered, gray hair is no match to my dark locks. But his eyes, a sinister, deep mahogany, match mine with such precision that when I look in the mirror in the morning, I see him. And that depresses me.
“It’s not too late,” Pa whispers as our shoulders brush against each other, me facing one direction, him facing the other. “Iris hasn’t moved on. I can speak with her father. We can settle the arrangement and act as if you needed to sow your wild oats before committing. We can get the PR team to make a spin of it. You don’t have to be the embarrassment you became by moving to America to be a godforsaken schoolteacher.”
“I don’t love Iris,” I say.
“You’ll never love anyone other than yourself. Unfortunately for me, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Commitment isn’t in your blood.” His eyes focus on mine. “But putting on the show of a long-lasting marriage, doing the duty of a Greyson, now that should be in your blood, and if it takes me until my last breath to prove that to you, then I will.”
“I’m not you,” I say through clenched teeth.
“Isn’t that obvious? If you were, you’d be with Iris instead of breaking the poor girl’s heart. You’d be helping this family by bringing our business dealings closer to our families.” He lets go of my wrist and then pushes away when he sees a future business partner he needs to suck up to.
When Pa is gone, Cleat walks up to me and places his hand on my shoulder. “I love a good father-son moment. That was beautiful.”
Shoving away from Cleat, I say, “Piss off.” I despise every molecule of both men. Hate their bootlicking ways, their soulless attitudes. Utter scum. Then I pull out my mobile and dial Killian. He’s about to get an earful.
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