Bitter Rivals

By: Winter Renshaw

DESCRIPTION

XAVIER

Work hard, play harder.

All I wanted was a weekend in the Hamptons, but what I got was forty-eight hours of quality time with my former business partner. My ex best friend. The girl who walked away without so much as an explanation the second sh*t got real.

I’m going to make her sorry she was never mine.

MAGNOLIA

Work hard, forget the rest.

All I wanted was a peaceful weekend alone at my boss’s Hamptons manse, but what I got was forty-eight hours with the guy who convinced me to fall in love with him and then did the unthinkable.

He broke my heart once, and I’ll be damned if I let him anywhere near it ever again.





CHAPTER 1


MAGNOLIA GRANTHAM

SHOES.

There are men’s shoes by the front door.

I pull the key from the door of my boss’s Montauk seaside home and crouch to examine a set of tanned leather loafers that shine like the day they were purchased.

“Hello?” My voice echoes through the two-story foyer. The call bounces off the shiplap walls and lands on the wall of windows overlooking the water.

No answer.

I pad lightly toward the kitchen. A tablet and laptop are plugged in and charging, and a breeze carrying sea salt drifts through an open window. The July midday sun blankets the day with warmth and light against the sandy dunes, and all I want after a three-hour Jitney ride is to change into something worthy of summer and dip my toes into the sand of my boss’s private beach.

In fact, that was her order. Addison yelled at me for working too much.

In the two years I’d worked as a real estate broker at Van Cleef agency, never once had I requested so much as a single vacation day.

It took forever to get here, and not just because of the Jitney’s snail pace or the myriad of stops we made during the one-hundred-twenty-mile trek. The driver was an older man, of retirement age, and when I saw him lugging fifty-some suitcases out from the bus’s storage compartment, I couldn’t let him do it alone. I stayed, handing out luggage and walking a group of little old ladies to the nearest taxi station.

Finally, I’m here.

But clearly, I’m not alone.

“Hello?” I call out again. “Who’s in here?”

Puffs of white smoke billow past the window outside, and the smoldering scent of a fired up grill wafts in front of me. I drop my bags by the butcher-block kitchen island and head for the sliders that lead to a wraparound deck.

A shirtless man in navy and white striped board shorts shimmies in front of the grill. The white cords of his ear buds dangle down his shoulders.

His tanned back glistens and his muscles flex beneath taut skin. The round curve of his tight ass keeps his low-hanging shorts intact and his head bobs to the music faintly uhn-tissing from his ears. He doesn’t hear me.

Damn it!

I’d recognize that thick, russet head of hair, that narrow, chiseled waist and those perfectly balled calves anywhere.

I’m just not sure what he’s doing here . . .

At our boss’s Hamptons home . . .

During the long weekend she designated especially for me . . .

I reach for one of the white cords and yank it from his ear with one fluid pull. A man I haven’t seen nor spoken to in two full years whips around and lifts his Ray-Bans. The corners of his smug mouth fall. He meets my disdainful glare with one of his own the second my face registers in that big, arrogant brain of his.

“Xavier.” I fold my arms across my chest.

“Magnolia.” His fist clenches around a pair of metal tongs.

“What are you doing here? Addison reserved this weekend for me.”

His jaw sets. “Evidently, Addison didn’t speak to Wilder first.”

You’d think a husband and wife would talk to one another, but apparently the Van Cleefs have bigger things to worry about besides to which employees and friends of theirs they loaned their vacation home during the second weekend in July.

“I’m calling Addison,” I say, whipping out my phone.

Xavier smirks, running a hand through his thick hair before folding his arms. He widens his stance like I’m two seconds from providing his personal entertainment.

“Fine.”

“What?” I ask.

“You’re going to bother your boss in the middle of her St. Thomas vacation with her family because you don’t want to share her five-thousand-square-foot, six bed, seven bath beach house with one of your colleagues.”

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