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Kol Livingston believes in the so-called fairy tales, the clichés—love at first sight, soul mates, and happily-ever-afters. He wants it all, but after a series of failed relationships, he’s beginning to think he’ll never meet Prince Charming. He loves his job at Blackhaven Manor, but with all the gorgeous paranormals strutting around the hotel, why would anyone choose him?
When cheetah shifter and infamous bad boy, Remington Raines, is asked to perform for the Heritage Festival at Blackhaven Manor, he can’t say no. Literally. Still, an all-expenses-paid vacation from tour buses and screaming fans might be just what he needs. Falling for the quirky concierge with big, brown eyes and a smile that melts him, however, wasn’t part of the plan.
He’s used to people—men, women, supernatural and human—throwing themselves at him, but Kol doesn’t care about his fame or his money. He’s been hurt, and he’s not about to give his heart to just anyone.
Image is everything, but if Remington wants to win over this jaded human, he’ll have to dig deep and show Kol the man behind the reputation.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
Kol backpedaled when Remington took a step toward him. “Yes, of course,” he said, inching around the other side of the sofa as he did up the buttons on his shirt. He frowned when the shifter followed. “What are you doing?”
He wasn’t afraid, and he had no reason to think the guy would hurt him. That didn’t stop his pulse from racing or his hands from shaking, though. Damn it, nobody had any right to look that good, especially when Kol was dripping wet and about nine shades of embarrassed.
“I just wanted to make sure that you—”
“I said I’m fine,” Kol snapped, then instantly regretted it. Taking a deep breath, he held it for a count of three before releasing it slowly. “Thank you for your concern, but I assure you, I’m not hurt. I should be getting back to my duties. If there is anything else you need to make your stay more enjoyable, just ring the front desk and ask for Kol.”
“Kol.” Remington bobbed his head as he said it, his smooth, deep voice wrapping around it like a caress. “It suits you.”
Since Kol had no idea what to say to that, he just dipped his head and moved closer to the exit.
“Actually,” Remington said, stopping him before he could make his exit, “could you do something about the candles and roses?”
Pausing with his hand on the frame of the open door, Kol glanced around the room, his brow furrowed, and his lips tugging down at the corners. “Would you prefer something different?”
“I’d prefer it if they were gone.” The shifter tucked two knuckles under his nose and sniffed. “It’s a little overwhelming.”
Wet, cold, and confused, Kol’s patience had reached its limit. “Then why did you request them?”
Remington arched an eyebrow at him. “I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did.” Great, now he sounded like a fucking toddler. He cleared his throat and tried to explain in a politer, more mature tone. “I was informed that the guests for the Orion Suite had several requests, including a precise number of vanilla-scented candles and exactly sixty-three white roses.”
Remington’s eyebrow quirked even higher, disappearing into his side-swept fringe. “I don’t know who told you that, but I assure you I didn’t request any of this.”
Great. Just freaking great. He’d nearly set himself—along with the entire room—on fire for nothing. “I apologize for the mix-up, and I’ll see that they’re removed right away.” He tried to rein in his temper and smile, but really, it felt more like a baring of teeth than anything remotely friendly.
“Will there be anything else?”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Kol nodded once. “The hotel has several excellent restaurants. Do you have a preference?”
“Nope.” Shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his faded, ripped jeans, Remington shrugged. “Whatever you think I’ll like best.”
He would want somewhere private, probably with low lighting so he wouldn’t be recognized. Cheetah shifter, so probably not a vegan, but fastidious about cleanliness and order.
“Will seven o’clock at Matchstick work?” He smiled a little more naturally when Remington indicated that it would. “Someone will call to confirm your reservation. I’m assuming a table for two?”
The guest list indicated the suite held a double occupancy for the duration of the stay. Kol didn’t know Ruger Raines, but if he went by context clues, he had to guess the man was related to Remington in some way. Maybe a brother. Possibly a cousin.
The shifter arched an eyebrow and gave him a disarming smile. “I guess that depends.”
“On?” He clenched the doorframe more tightly and tried to ignore the way that lopsided grin made his stomach do cartwheels.
Remington took another step toward him, his lips parting wider to reveal dazzling white teeth with extended canines. “What time do you get off work?”
When Greyson Forrester receives an invitation to his cousin’s wedding, he knows he can’t refuse—even if the groom is his ex-fiancé. If he doesn’t go, people might think he still cares, which he doesn’t, thank you very much. Showing up alone isn’t any better, but he has neither the time nor the inclination to jump back into the dating scene. So, what’s a guy to do? Hire a fake boyfriend, of course!
+One isn’t a dating agency. Fine. He’s not looking to make a love connection, just survive one week with even a shred of dignity intact. Then, Jace Harkin walks through the door, and Greyson knows he’s in trouble. Jace is the total package—successful, witty, gorgeous—but falling for him wasn’t supposed to happen. Yet, every smile, every touch, every whispered endearment pulls him in a little deeper until the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur.
Too bad it can’t last. After all, it’s just make-believe, right?
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Without waiting for a response, Jace Harkins strolled into the office with an easy, self-assured gait. “You summoned me?”
Sweet baby Jesus, his voice could melt the panties off a nun. Deep and smooth with just a hint of a southern drawl, it pierced right through me, and I kind of forgot how to breathe for a second.
While his tone radiated sarcasm, the smile on his face when he looked at his sister belied his irritation. I’d thought he had a great smile from his photograph, but it was nothing compared to the real thing. Damn, that picture really hadn’t done him justice.
“You’re late.” From behind the desk, Anna grinned back. “But since you brought coffee, I’m willing to forgive you.”
Too busy staring at the way his black T-shirt stretched around his bulging biceps, I hadn’t even noticed the drink carrier in his hands. Coming forward, he took one of the plastic cups and placed it on the desk with an unopened straw as he rattled off some complicated name that sounded like it was made of sugar and glitter.
After thanking him, Anna reached for the drink with one hand while motioning toward me with the other. “Jace, I’d like you to meet Greyson Forrester. Mr. Forrester, this is Jace Harkin.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Forrester.” Instead of offering his hand, he nodded at the remaining drinks in the carrier. “I wasn’t sure what your poison was, but you’ve got some options. There’s plain black, an iced caramel macchiato, and a vanilla cold brew.”
I didn’t normally drink coffee, but his gesture was sweet, and I found myself not wanting to disappoint him. “Uh, whichever one tastes the least like coffee.”
His laugh made my stomach flutter and my pulse skip, and I nearly melted into the floor when he winked at me. “Ah, not a big coffee fan, huh? No worries.” He took one of the plastic cups from the carrier and passed it to me. “Try the macchiato. I think you’ll like it.”
I thanked him as I opened the straw and stabbed it into the lid. Since he was still watching me, I bent my head and took a polite sip. He was right. I did like it. I could practically feel my glucose levels rising, but it was just the right blend of coffee, milk, and sugar.
“Not bad,” I declared with a smile. “It’s actually pretty good. Thanks.”
Jace nodded as he eased his hip down on the corner of the desk. “So, Mr. Forrester, what is it you do?”
“Please, call me Greyson.” My nerves had mostly settled, making it easier to speak to him without hyperventilating. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what had changed, but there was just something about him that felt…calming. “I own a shop in Wakefield. The Apothecary.”
He leaned back a little and folded his arms across his chest. “Like a pharmacy?”
I tilted my head from side to side and flopped my hand around in the universal symbol for “kind of, but not really.” I did sell remedies out of my shop, but they were homeopathic and made with organic ingredients.
“I carry a lot of things in my store. Natural remedies. Organic bath products. Lotions. Lip balms. Things like that.”
As I spoke, I raked my gaze over the numerous tattoos that inked his arms. Part of me wondered how much they’d hurt. Another part of me—namely the part behind the zipper of my jeans—just found them sexy as hell. I’d expected skulls and flames, and while those things were represented in the art, there were also flowers, dragonflies, and an adorable pixie with dark hair and tattered wings.
They weren’t random. That much I could tell. Some of his tattoos were dark and eerie, others surreal, and some just cute, but they all flowed together like parts of a story, like pieces of his life.
“That’s amazing,” he answered, forcing me to pry my gaze away from the ink. “I’d love to see it sometime.”
His smile was warm, his tone genuine, and I preened a little, surprised by how much this stranger’s approval meant to me. “I’d like that.” I leaned to the side to look at Anna. “Your sister said you’re a business owner as well.”
He glanced over his shoulder, then shook his head as he turned back to me. “Yeah, something like that.”
He didn’t elaborate, so I let the subject drop and floundered for something else to say. Eventually, I settled on honesty. “I’m guessing this is the part where you’re trying to decide if you’ll take the job or not. So, what else would you like to know?”
His gaze raked over me slowly, intimately, and I fought the urge to squirm under his scrutiny. “Tell me in three sentences or less why you’re here.”
I could do that. No rambling. No apologizing.
“My ex and my cousin are getting married. I can’t get out of going to the wedding, and I don’t want everyone thinking I’m pathetic. I need someone to pretend to enjoy my company so I can get through it with even a shred of dignity intact.”
There, I’d said it. Now, all I could do was wait and hope it would be enough to convince him.
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The off-limit places turned out to be a library, a large office, and the master suite, all on the upper level. Not being able to enter the library hadn’t stopped Cameron from pressing as close to the glass squares on the French doors as possible to see inside, though. The room was beautiful, a proper library straight from a fairytale with wall-to-wall bookshelves that stretched all the way to the ceiling.
“Would you like to go in?”
Cameron squeaked—actually fucking squeaked like a cartoon mouse—and spun around so quickly he lost his footing and stumbled backwards. The doors rattled in their frame, and he winced when one of the knobs dug into his hip. Heart pounding, throat tight, he lifted his head, his gaze locking with amber eyes so deep he felt as though the floor shifted beneath him.
Never had he experienced such a visceral reaction to mere eye contact, and it did nothing to ease the tightness in his throat or the thundering of his heart. Right then, those eyes sparkled with humor and a hint of mischief. Realizing he should say something instead of just staring like an idiot, he opened his mouth, but every thought he’d ever had abandoned him.
A war started between his body and his mind, and while his brain scrambled to catch up, his body took great pleasure in betraying him. His hands trembled, his legs shook, and a soft gasp escaped as his eyes drank in the sight of the man standing close enough to touch.
Thick, brown hair—wet and limp, likely from a recent shower—fell over a smooth brow. High, defined cheekbones created a perfect symmetry to his angular jaw and square chin, and the shadow of scruff, just a smidgen past five o’clock, added a ruggedness to the otherwise beautiful face.
A thin, white V-neck did little to hide his broad shoulders or muscular chest. The sleeves strained around defined biceps encased in smooth, bronzed skin, and even the fingers wrapped around a black, porcelain coffee mug flexed with a strength that made Cameron’s knees weak. The loose ash-gray sweats hung low on his narrow hips, but the baggy cotton couldn’t completely conceal a pair of thick, toned thighs.
“Take your time,” the stranger teased, his voice a flawless combination of husky and smooth, like raw honey chased by a shot of aged whiskey.
Cameron shivered, even as the heat of embarrassment stung his cheeks. Coughing twice to clear his throat, he pushed away from the library doors. “Sorry, you startled me.” Yes, that sounded reasonable. He held out his right hand. “Cameron Stone.”
The man stared for longer than necessary, a smirk playing at the edges of his mouth. Then he shifted his coffee cup to his opposite hand and took Cameron’s in a lingering embrace that felt too intimate for strangers.
Cameron had guessed as much, but he figured it would be rude to say so, especially after he’d just been caught checking out the guy. Instead, he settled on saying, “Nice to meet you. Your home is really amazing.” Taking his hand back, he shoved it into the pocket of his dress slacks and curled his fingers into a tight fist. “Why are you selling?”
For a long time, Asher didn’t speak, and Cameron fought not to squirm under the guy’s casual scrutiny. His expression gave away nothing, his features carefully arranged into a mask of neutrality that made Cameron more nervous than outright hostility.
What the hell is he thinking?
“I’m not selling,” Asher finally answered.
“So…the estate sale?”
His T-shirt strained when he lifted his shoulders. “I was bored, and needed a change.” He took a sip of his coffee, then ran his tongue over his full, pink lips. “I needed to make room for something new. This seemed like the simplest way.”
While he tried to match the guy’s indifference, Cameron could feel his brow scrunch together between his eyes. The way he’d said it sounded as though he didn’t really care about the money from the sale. He simply wanted to get rid of a style he no longer found appealing to clear space for new, likely more expensive, things. He made it sound a lot like boxing up a closet full of winter clothes to make room for a summer wardrobe.
“Oh.” Not intelligent or articulate, but it was the best he could do.
“Would you like a tour?”
Cameron couldn’t be sure, but he thought the man might be teasing him. “Thanks, but I’ve already seen everything not restricted.”
“You sure?” Yes, there was definitely a teasing lilt to his voice. “We could start with the master suite.”