Provocation--SAMPLE (Book 3 of The Conquest Series)

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Chapter Two

Whore of Babylon.

Ugh.

Even after two days thinking about what Nate had said, the sting of his words hadn’t faded. In fact, they’d only grown.

It wasn’t her fault that every man she had fucked in however many years had been dull as dishwater. Or bad in bed. Or both. Many had been both.

And why get to know someone when it wasn’t going anywhere? She didn’t want them to know even the smallest bit about her if it was only a matter of time before they were gone. Erased from her life as if they never existed, the only thing left being a soiled condom in the garbage bin in a bathroom.

If those walls could talk, they’d tell stories that would make a nun ruin her knickers.

Still, as Leila sat in her office going over the latest contract bids, she thought back to Saturday night and frowned.

Fuck Nate. Not literally, of course. But fuck his fucked-up attitude, his high and mighty pretentiousness, and especially fuck that overgrown chip on his damn fine shoulder.

No, not fine. He may have been good-looking, but his attitude was enough to make him a horribly ugly beast in Leila’s eyes. Ugly as...as...

Well, she couldn’t think of anything as ugly as what his shit attitude made him.

“Miss Winters, Carson Cray is on line four when you get the chance,” Jared told her through the irritating speaker she had placed on her desk for him to announce visitors and callers. It had been Jared’s solution to get in touch with her and still be able to answer phones and file at the same time. She should have shot down that proposal before the first syllables slipped past his lips. It startled her every time it went off.

“I said I was not available until 2 PM, Jared,” Leila reminded him.

“I know, but he was insistent,” Jared’s voice said. “Said it was of utmost importance.”

Leila frowned at the speaker and huffed. “Fine,” she said with a sigh. “I’ll speak to him in a few.”

Leila hoped the man would hang up before she got a chance to answer the blinking extension on her landline. In any case, she was going to make him wait. For as long as possible.

Carson used to work for Leila before venturing out on his own. Now he was doing everything he could to outbid her at every turn from any project as small as a new addition to a house to the largest of skyscrapers smattering the Bay Area. And he did it all while flirting with her shamelessly.

The man was an imbecile.

“Carson, what can I do for you?” she asked when she finally answered the line.

“Leila, I was hoping for a big favor from you.” Carson’s voice sounded almost desperate.

Rolling her eyes and thinking, of course, Leila’s lips took on a sneer. “What’s the big favor?” She was merely waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“The builders I had construct my home fucked me over royal and used an unpermitted plumbing company to build the sewer lateral and water pipes running to and from my house,” he told her. The man sounded unlike his usual charming self. “I literally have shit spewing everywhere!”

Leila bit the insides of her cheeks to keep herself from laughing. So, the little shit was covered in shit. How apropos.

“I don’t see how I can help you with that, Car,” she said amiably. “Though I did warn you to stay away from Bud’s company. They cut corners at every pass.”

“I know, I know,” Carson agreed with what sounded like an irritated scoff. “I was hoping that while I am literally homeless, you might be able to rent me a unit in your duplex. Jared told me the last tenant fell through.”

Damn it, Jared. He couldn’t hold water to save his life.

“I have another prospective tenant I need to vet first before I can offer you the abode,” Leila said to him slowly. “I’m assuming you would need it for the duration of the repairs on your place?”

“Yes,” Carson answered. “I have to pull some permits and hire a new contractor, but if you could be of any help, please let me know. This shit stinks.”

Oh, I’m sure it does, Carson. Leila snickered silently.

“I’ll keep an eye out for any potential places that open up within your area too, just in case I am unable to accommodate you,” Leila promised him, gritting her teeth. Like hell he was moving into her duplex. Over her dead body. She’d rather invite Anton Lavey, Charles Manson, and Adolf Hitler to move in as flat-mates. Carson was bad fucking news. And he’d probably use his proximity to her to either seduce her or take down her company.

Fuck. That.

After Leila said her goodbye to a frustrated Carson, she called Jared into her office.

“Lovely lady?” From the look on Jared’s face, the man knew he was in trouble.

“Jared, darling,” she purred with a beatific grin on her face.

“Yes?” His grin looked terrified as he watched her smile even wider at him.

“What have I told you about keeping my personal business just that? Personal?” she asked him in a lilting, saccharine-sweet tone.

“Uhm...”

“Especially to as shady a character as Carson?” she continued.

“Well, he—”

“That little turd wouldn’t have asked me just now to rent out the bottom floor of my duplex had you not opened your yap and spilled the beans about what’s-her-face in Kansas. Or Texas.” Her smile was gone now and her cheeks were the rosy color they always got when her temper was on the rise.

“I felt bad for him, snookums.” Jared tried to placate her, resorting to using one of the many pet names he had for her. “It sounded wretched what he was going through, and I have a soft heart.” He made a motion as if to clasp the shirt over the steadily muscle beating within his chest cavity.

“A heart which I will gladly rip out through your esophagus if you so much as tell that man I have even a hangnail from now on,” she informed him, her eyes slit at her friend and PA. Honestly, this is what you got when you mixed work with friendship.

“Fine, fine,” Jared grumbled, sighing. “My lips are sealed.”

“Good, or I will never tell you a thing about me ever again,” she said, thrusting her hands through her hair in frustration. “Now I want you to call Carson in two days and tell him I am unable to let the place out to rent because I already have a tenant lined up. And put the bottom floor out for rent on Craigslist, Realty.com... whatever the fuck else you can think of. I need to find a new tenant before next month now, thanks to you.”

As Jared left the room, Leila scrubbed her hands over her face and thanked God she wasn’t one to wear a lot of makeup. It would have been utterly ruined by now.

She had more bids than she could handle and now this. Carson Cray and the duplex that was.

Mondays...

<<< >>>

“You didn’t,” Parker rebutted as he sat at the bar, frowning at Nate.

“I did,” Nate told him. “And I don’t regret it. She had it coming.”

It was Tuesday afternoon and Nate was sitting in a bar as he caught up with some of his friends. Parker, one of Leila’s previous fucks, being one of them.

“How did she have it coming?” Parker asked. “She’s done nothing to you. If anyone should be pissed, it’s me.”

Nate frowned at his words. What?

“Like you didn’t love the fact that she was only interested in a one-night stand,” Anthony told Parker. His friend just smirked.

“But I was really broken up about it...for all of two seconds,” he said, feigning innocence. “Then I just pulled up my pants and left.”

Anthony and Jim laughed, Jim almost snarfing beer out his nose as Parker spoke. Nate just shook his head as he took an innocent swig of beer.

“Can we talk about something besides my sister’s best friend’s gaping hole of a vagina or who happens to fall into it every other night?” Nate asked, irritated with the current topic of discussion.

“Like you wouldn’t like to fall into it one of these days,” Anthony told him through his barking laughter. “Remember that I know you had a little crushlet on the girl when she was a wee lass of a thing.”

Nate had forgotten he’d told him that. Damn liquor. It was like truth serum on him. And how Anthony remembered that after that one night at that sorority party he’d never know. He must have drunk less than Nate had.

He went to protest, claim insanity due to a few too many Jager-bombs until Parker spoke up.

“What’s this?” Parker asked, tossing the rest of his beer back and waving to the server passing closest to them. This news deserved another round. “Is that why your panties are in a twist? Because you had your chance and she slipped from your grasp? Or is it because I’ve had her and you haven’t yet?”

Nate skewered him with a look. “It was when I was 19 and she was underage,” Nate told him. “I got over it within a couple of months when she started acting like the little brat she was...or is, or—whatever.”

“Could our little Nathan still harbor some feelings little ‘Lay’la?” Jim teased and ordered another beer from the pretty server that Parker had summoned.

“Definitely not,” Nate refuted, his face turning red with anger. Yes, anger.

“Well, she’s not seeing anyone right now.” Nate scoffed at Parker’s words. The girl never ‘saw’ anyone. The girl fucked. Period.

“It would be a miracle if that girl has any walls left to fuck,” Anthony said, to Jim’s glee. The asshole snorted. Actually snorted.

“Anyway, what have you guys been doing?” Nate asked as he tried to change the subject.

The guys let Nate steer them in a different direction, having quenched their thirst for trash-talking him that day. The man had been in another country for years. It was only fair to get in several years’ worth of ribbing—even if they had to spread it out over the next several months.

“Are you coming to Vi’s wedding?” Nate asked Anthony. Out of all his friends, he was the one that Violet had liked the most. She said it was because he was less crass than the others.

“Yes, and I even got a plus one,” he told him.

“Hey, I didn’t get a plus one!” Parker cried out.

“That’s because you can’t bring your right hand as a date,” Jim told him, tipping his glass of beer to him.

“Fuck off,” Parker said, irritated.

Nate just sat back and watched the guys bantering back and forth. He had missed this. He had missed this a lot.

<<< >>>

The girl sat on the toilet in her bathroom. She had read the instructions front to back, back to front. She had even read them in French on the back side of the paper. It still meant the same when she looked at the stick. Correction—sticks. She had taken many of them. How could she have been so stupid?

No...she wasn’t ready. Not for this, at least. She would simply get rid of it. But first, she had to make an appointment with her physician. They wouldn’t allow her to make the appointment with the clinic unless she had it confirmed. Not that she needed any confirmation. All her confirmation came in the form of...hmmm. She counted. Yes, six different tests. Even if there had been a false positive among them, there was no denying that all of them read the same thing.

Positive.

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