A standalone Without Precedent novel.
No strings attached is easier, until love tangles things.
Privileged playboy Innes Kent has been unmoored since his regular escort quit on him. Though he’s a talented lawyer at a successful firm, without the distractions of a gorgeous man and frequent sex, his mind often wanders in unpleasant directions. For instance, toward his estranged daughter and his many regrets therein.
Charlie is a budding fashion designer, but the need to support his unwell mother has left him scraping to get by. When his cleaning job sends him to a lavish office one desperate night, he’s overwhelmed by the excessive luxury he sees, and when Innes catches him thieving, he’s at the lawyer’s mercy.
But Charlie is just the distraction that Innes needs: a proud and determined scrap of a man who challenges him, annoys him, and attracts him all at once. The perfect choice for a personal assistant who won’t bore him to tears or run screaming from his bad temper. Working together leads to sleeping together, but they're both too clever to mess up a perfectly good arrangement by getting feelings involved. Aren’t they?
This title comes with no special warnings.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish. Click on a label to reveal its content.
Heat Wave: 4 - On-screen and mildly explicit love scenes
Erotic Frequency: 3 - Moderate
Themes: abandonment, acceptance, age gap, angst, bullying, coming of age, commitment, divorce, duty, enemies to lovers, family, financial gap / class disparity, homophobia / transphobia, hurt / comfort, illness / injury, mental illness, power imbalance, trust issues, workplace romance
Settings: America, California, city, office building
Careers: artist / designer, assistant, lawyer / paralegal / barrister, office worker, service sector, unemployed, waiter
Charlie’s mother had a habit of calling completely innocuous things the devil’s work. Public transportation delays? The devil’s work. Cable companies charging an arm and a leg for a basic package? They, too, did the devil’s work. Diet soda? Satan had a hand in that. Charlie usually rolled his eyes and went back to whatever he was doing, but sometimes, he couldn’t help but agree. Diet soda was definitely a product of a hell-like realm.
He didn’t share too many characteristics with Ma, but as he approached the ancient age of a quarter century, he was starting to notice things coming out of his mouth or popping into his brain that sounded just like her.
Ornate brass door handles truly were the devil’s work.
Charlie didn’t mind cleaning, normally. It was a better job than a lot of things, and at least he got to be alone while he did it. He could take his cart, his assigned floor, and his comfortable shoes away by himself and polish and sweep and empty garbage cans in peace, without a radio or a coworker in his ear.
But his fingers were getting raw from digging into the decorative grooves of the handles of the fancy offices he was nearly finished cleaning. The lemon-scented disinfectant was burning his nostrils, and his back hurt from bending over for so long. And all because some germaphobe at the building recently added to their roster had decided that every door knob needed polishing to within an inch of its life.
“One more room, one more room,” he muttered to himself as he straightened and cracked his back. “Christ.”
He was too young for the kind of exhaustion he was feeling. Sighing, he tossed his rag back onto the cart, then swung it around so he could back it into the last room he had to clean. He was completely beat. He’d finished his shift at the restaurant and come straight to the office building without a break. He was still a little bitter about losing his single night off for the week, but it was entirely his fault. He could’ve said no to Norm, who was “sick” and couldn’t make it to work, but the fact was, he needed the money more than he needed a few hours of relaxing and fighting sleep at eight o’clock on a Saturday like an old man.
After he’d wrestled the cart inside, he shook out his stiff hands and took a good look around the office, the biggest one on the floor.
“Whoa,” he said to the room.
It looked like a museum. He imagined that it was very much like a diorama of a gentleman’s study from some century-old home. But way tackier. There was gold everywhere. On the frames of college degrees and tastefully bland art, in a slim band around a gleaming pen in a stand on the desk, wrapping around the gleaming balls of a Newton’s cradle, it seemed everything was gilded in some way, with enough precious metal to be worth more than Charlie’s daily pay.
All the furniture—the desk, the chairs sitting in front of it, the couch off to the side of the room—was oversized and even more ornate than the doorknobs. On its own, the selection of furniture might have been nice, just on the right side of too much, but when combined with the jarringly modern—and massive—computer, it was pushed firmly over the edge into extravagance.
Charlie took his time looking at the room, resting his back and allowing himself a bit of mean-spirited judgment of whichever asshole lawyer worked here.
(Innes Kent, according to the nameplate Charlie had already polished, which was just so perfectly douchey.)
The huge executive’s chair was a steampunk-esque amalgamation of old and new. The rich brown leather was beautiful, and the adjustable arms were intimidating, but it didn’t look very comfortable. There was a heavy statue of Atlas on the edge of the wide desk. A set of encyclopedias with shiny lettering took up a ton of space on the bookshelf, but they looked like they’d never been opened. And was that a cigar box?
“Ugh.” Charlie liked to think he knew a little something about design and composition, and this place made every tasteful part of him cringe.
Under the weight of all that privilege, Charlie’s knees bent, but only so he could sit down in a straight-backed chair in front of the desk. No farther, and not for long.
If he let himself sit for too lengthy a time, it’d be harder to get back up, and even though this was the less lucrative of his two jobs, he couldn’t afford to lose it, especially not this week.
Charlie didn’t believe in fate. Usually. Except when rent was due, his mandatory nonslip work shoes needed replacing, and his dentist had informed him that he had a goddamn cavity to be filled, all in the same week. Then, he was sure fate was real and was laughing at him.
With a muttered curse, Charlie stood, picked up the cloth, and started again, putting his dwindling savings account away to worry about some other time.
He wiped all the surfaces in the methodical way he’d perfected since he’d started working for the company, scrubbing as hard as he would his own furniture. Harder, actually, since he didn’t spend much time cleaning anything that didn’t get in his way at home.
He cleaned the room well because that was what he was paid to do, and even though he was fuming at the opulence of it all, it wasn’t worth getting fired, or getting called in from across town to have a chat with his boss.
It didn’t stop him from getting pissed. He channeled his irritation into elbow grease while he was scrubbing at boot scuffs on the walls, fuming at the unfairness of the world. The fact that a single person could enjoy and display so much excessive wealth while Charlie fought to keep himself and his ma above the poverty line made his blood boil. There was so much stuff surrounding him—decorative shit that didn’t even serve a purpose to justify how much money they must have cost to be in an office like this. Charlie could appreciate art in all its forms, even the useless ones, but how many tiny vases did someone need before they started to forget how many they had in the first place?
Charlie’s hand froze mid-wipe of the dark wood coffee table. He could vaguely make out the shape of his face in the shiny, spotless surface. With its pale skin and blond hair, his fuzzy reflection looked a little like he imagined an angel would look to a person coding in an ambulance and fixating on a paramedic with fair coloring.
He was far from angelic, though.
He straightened up and flicked his dust cloth, his mind racing. Would someone who had so many things in their office realize that something was missing? And should it end up on eBay, would the owner find it? If someone— He shook his head. Might as well be honest, at least to himself: If he took something from the overstocked shelves, would he be able to sneak it out without anyone knowing?
His employers were pretty lax on monitoring their staff. Charlie reported to a shift manager at the end of the night or in the early morning, but they didn’t check his bags before he left. They relied solely on the criminal record checks they requested—and didn’t pay for, because they weren’t that generous—and the idea that no one they hired would be stupid enough to steal from one of their clients.
He shook his head rapidly and pushed his too-long hair off his sweaty forehead. The room he was cleaning was a lawyer’s office, for Christ’s sake. He was probably delirious. He needed to finish quickly, get out of here, and crash hard before he started thinking other crazy things were perfectly reasonable. Like robbing a bank.
He tried, but the entire time he was vacuuming—the last thing he had to do before he could get off his aching feet—he couldn’t get the idea out of his head. It was like a song he hated playing over and over in his brain, popping in whenever he turned a corner, before he shoved it away.
He was still thinking about it when he turned off the vacuum and hefted it up onto the cart. He leaned hard on the push bar, delaying leaving for good, even though his back was screaming and his eyes felt like they were permanently squinted.
Becoming a thief would be an incredibly stupid idea, but that didn’t stop him from considering it. Hard. He had no idea what one of the nine or ten little glass vases on the shelves was worth, but the person who sat in this office didn’t seem to be the kind of person to pinch pennies by grabbing something cheap from Bed Bath & Beyond to fill out his collection.
He lifted his head to peer blearily at his watch. It read 12:57, but it was consistently six minutes slow, so that put it past one in the morning. The only people around were his coworkers, who didn’t give a shit about what he did or if his messenger bag was a little bit more full on the way out.
“Fucking fuck,” Charlie muttered, his legs tensing against the easiest payday he’d ever make.
The reasons why and why not kept coming, too fast for him to push them away.
Jail time and a permanent record. But a few nights off next month.
Fired without notice, no paycheck until he found something else that worked with his schedule. But a little wiggle room in the budget that might save him the next time he had an emergency expense.
Stealing was a shitty thing to do. But this old-money jerkwad could handle it.
“Jesus.” He slipped his sweaty hands off the bar of the cart and leaned on his exhausted arms. He muttered into his worn-out beige uniform shirt, “This is a new low. There’s no way.”
There was a way, though, and even trying to talk himself out of it wasn’t doing any good. Cursing himself for a damned fool the whole time, Charlie straightened and wiped his hands on his clenched thighs. His skinny legs were trembling a little under his palms, so he dug his fingers in and breathed deeply until they stopped.
If he was going to do this, the last thing he needed was to look like a kid with his hand caught in the expensive, ornately decorated cookie jar.
No one was going to catch him, he reminded himself as he stepped up to the wall of built-in shelves. It was past one in the morning and he was probably the only one on the entire floor. All the things he’d told himself could happen simply wouldn’t, because the only time someone had ever shown up to bother him, it was Norm, who walked like he cosplayed an AT-AT on weekends.
Reassured, but still jumpy, he squinted up at his options. There were plenty of books to choose from, but he figured they wouldn’t be valuable enough, not to a sleazy pawnshop where he would want to get rid of his score. There were a couple of bowls and jars that looked like they’d fetch a good amount, but they were breakable, and might not make it out of the building if stuffed into the bottom of a messenger bag.
He scanned the neat and orderly shelves with the same eye for detail that made him great at choosing the right fabric for a project, until it fell on a chunky, dark piece of metal. A statue of some kind. Vaguely East Asian looking, in a fancy but still kind of racist way. Only about five inches tall, and half as wide. Placed in the upper third of the wall, higher than eye level, it wouldn’t be missed in a hurry.
A taller guy might have been able to reach it, he noted with a pang of bitterness he usually only felt when strangers asked him what grade he was in. Charlie had to use the bottom shelf as a stepping stool to reach it, but once he was up there, he had a better view of the thing. It was even tackier up close, but promisingly heavy. It would make a hell of a noise if he dropped it, so he tucked it in close to his chest and prepared to hop down, but a glint of glass pulled his focus like the statue had. Charlie peered into the shadow of the deep shelf, and nearly dropped the statue.
Behind the wonky circle of un-dust sat a blob of amber. Big. Probably expensive. Pushed to the back of a shelf where no one, not even a seven-foot-tall giant, could see it.
“Are you kidding me?” Charlie asked the empty room.
This guy. This freaking guy who sat in his leather chair, with his feet up on a massive desk, surrounded by physical manifestations of his wealth. He actually had so much stuff that he had to shove some of it out of sight completely to avoid messing up the aesthetic.
“Goddamn capitalism,” Charlie muttered, his thoughts racing with another decision. His feet were getting sore from standing on tiptoe on the shelf. The rest of the crew downstairs would be finishing up soon, and someone might come looking for him if he didn’t hurry up and report in.
The decision to take two things instead of one was pretty easy to make compared to the first big dilemma. He didn’t much go in for arguments that relied on a slippery slope, but if he was ever going to be convinced, now would be the time.
It still didn’t stop him from taking the amber paperweight, balancing it against the statue already clutched to his chest as he carefully climbed down.
One for him, and one for his ma, he thought when he was back on solid ground. In a way, though, they were both for his ma. The way he lived his life, scrimping and saving, letting go of the things he wanted in favor of things that would make him the most money . . .
That was all for her.
Remembering his timeline, Charlie went back to the cart, yanking his canvas messenger bag off the bottom by the strap, grimacing at the thought of how bad his shoulder would ache by the time he got home. His heart pounded as he carefully nestled the items into either side of the center pocket, in between crumpled-up napkins and loose change.
And like a masterpiece of fine art in the middle of a McDonald’s, it was the contrast that made him stop and actually think.
This was so stupid. If he was caught, he would lose his job, and then what? He wouldn’t even have a couple pawnable trinkets to help him make rent until he found something else. That risk was definitely not worth the possible reward.
He couldn’t. No way.
Knowing that didn’t make it any easier to take the statue out of the bag.
Later, he’d blame the roaring in his ears for why he didn’t hear the footsteps until they were right outside the open door.
“Well, what have we here?”
Charlie froze, but there was no way to change the fact that his hands were still caught in the act of untangling the statue from the strap of his ratty brown sack. Swallowing thickly, Charlie looked over and up at the owner of the voice. He saw a spotless tailored suit, a modern cut of dark hair styled to perfection, and a black watch with glinting gold buttons that screamed expensive. As expensive as the owner of this office must be per hour.
* * *
Two Hours Earlier
If someone had been at home enjoying a night in before getting a phone call and going out again, did it still count as the same day? Innes didn’t think so. His day had been over, his dinner long finished, and he’d just been getting into bed when his phone rang, and now, here he was, watching the clock inch toward the birth of Sunday. He was idling in front of a picturesque home in Malibu, which gave no indication it provided shelter for the Antichrist.
That kind of road trip surely counted as an entire day. Especially when the journey was only halfway completed.
The gleaming white front door opened, and a young woman emerged, yanking a wheeled suitcase across the threshold and slamming the door behind her. As she stalked down the curved, neatly edged walkway, the door opened again.
Innes only caught a glimpse of a fuzzy pink bathrobe before he was flipping his visor down to cover his face and obscure his vision. He knew he wasn’t invisible. She could obviously see him. But he valued his soul too much to make eye contact.
Thankfully, the passenger-side door opened and the suitcase—and its owner—plopped heavily into the car. Innes put the car in gear and pulled hastily away from the curb before she even finished buckling her seat belt. In the rearview mirror, he caught a glimpse of the front door closing. Smug pleasure unfurled in his gut and made him punch the accelerator just a little bit harder in celebration.
I win this time, bitch.
His prize—although she’d probably hit him for calling her that—hadn’t yet said anything, so he did the honors. “Hello, Mimi,” he said as he turned the corner at the end of the street.
A short sigh gusted past Mimi’s lips. “Hey,” she said, staring out the windshield with an expression of polite disinterest.
As always, his brain got caught on the few seconds of dead air after her standard greeting. It wasn’t as if he expected her to suddenly start calling him Dad. She hadn’t since she was nine and realized what kind of co-parent he was—or wasn’t. But she didn’t call him by his first name either, putting that last little bit of distance between them. She typically avoided calling him anything, mostly by avoiding him. And that was fine. They got along better that way.
The brush-off still stung a little, though. Like a flu shot: a practical, acceptable burst of a pain that was more inconvenient than truly uncomfortable, but something he could do without.
They drove in tense silence for a while. Music wouldn’t fill it adequately, so Innes didn’t bother to turn on the state-of-the-art sound system. Mimi had a way of projecting her annoyance at every song he chose that he didn’t care to experience again. It was better for her to hunch over her phone in the seat next to him, tapping away with her nail-bitten fingers.
The drive to LAX wasn’t a short one, but they still managed to make it three-quarters of the way without speaking another word to each other, and it was only to check if she wanted anything from the Starbucks drive-thru.
“No, thanks,” she said, flipping her long hair over her shoulder, revealing the pursed line of her lips as she fought—and failed—not to appear annoyed at the pit stop.
God, she looks like me, Innes thought as he pulled up to the window, one eye on her and the other on the change in his hand. Her hair, grown out, while he kept his trimmed short, was the exact shade of nondescript brown as his. The shape of her eyes and her high cheekbones were identical to his, and her irises were the same dark chocolate. He was vain enough to think she’d gotten all her best features from him. The rest—lips on the thin side, the prominent, squared chin a tad too masculine with her small features, and the ears that skewed on the large side—he could choose to blame on her other parent if he wanted.
It wasn’t the first time he’d noticed their resemblance. He had pictures buried on a hard drive somewhere of them smiling for an elf in Santa’s grotto when Mimi had been around three that had floored him the first time he’d looked at them, months after Christmas was over.
Mimi glanced up and Innes whipped his head around to the still-closed drive-thru window to avoid being caught staring. It probably hadn’t worked, but the last thing he needed was for her to think he was getting sentimental for a bygone era. What he remembered most about that time in her life wasn’t the pictures, or the red-and-green toddler-sized dresses. What came to mind more readily were the cold silences from Mimi’s mother that had sent him scurrying long before the end of his allotted visit and the judgmental gazes from his parents when he slunk past the living room when he got back home.
The good old days.
The window finally opened, and he paid for his drink, pulling away as soon as the maniacally cheerful smile of the late-night coffee shop worker started to dim. The coffee was burnt, but it was better than nothing, and it would keep him awake more than the scintillating conversation.
As he steered out of the parking lot and back onto the road, he tried to think of when he’d turned into such an old man. Time was, he’d only just be leaving the house for a night on the town at midnight, and he’d stumble into his bed at dawn. When had that changed? After university, surely. Law school had taken a lot out of him, but he’d done his fair share of irresponsible drinking and attempting to convert to a nocturnal sleep schedule. But lately, he’d been disinclined to try to recapture that kind of communal inconvenience-shedding. Without even realizing it, he’d started to prefer the silence of his apartment.
How lately, though? When had it happened?
He considered old to be a state of mind rather than a numerical value. Going by his scale, his own parents had been old before he’d even been born and had aged metaphorically at a rate far quicker than they had physically.
Innes was thirty-six. Closer to forty than to twenty, but not over the hill just yet. He had plenty of energy to spend fighting off vertigo in a dance club or talking over the loud music in a bar or any of the things he used to do. What he lacked was the drive, and with a little thinking as he watched the streetlights pass by his car, he figured out when he’d lost it.
He’d spent the last holiday season and most of January sulking. He was man enough to admit it. After nearly two years of a mutually satisfying arrangement, the guy he’d paid to sleep with him at his beck and call had given him the boot. Or, well, he’d given himself the boot, letting himself out of Innes’s place after laying down a dumping that was clear and concise, yet not without passion. It’d been rather like the rest of their relationship, in that way, except, for once, Innes hadn’t had the upper hand. He had no interest in continuing an entanglement where the other party was anything less than willing, but it irked him that there was nothing he could have done to manipulate the situation to his benefit. Thus, the sulking.
He didn’t miss Elliott as much as he missed the convenience of him, which was probably why they’d fizzled out in the end. He no longer wanted what they had, but he now found himself wanting the practical things the arrangement gave him: a weekly trip to somewhere fun that wasn’t his apartment, a plus-one at boring charity dinners and work functions, and most poignantly of all, a warm body to get off with.
Innes shifted in his leather seat, suddenly aware of where his thoughts were straying and how strange it was to be following that path with his daughter in the car next to him. She wouldn’t be able to tell anything from his professional poker face, but it still weirded him out.
He looked down at the clock on the brightly lit display. If his timing was right, they had less than ten minutes left of their touching father-daughter road trip to endure. If he was going to try to ask what had happened to make the whole thing necessary, he wasn’t going to get a better opportunity. He staved off a sigh, then braced himself for a tough conversation neither of them wanted to have.
“So, back to school?” Stanford, to be exact.
“Yep,” she said.
He waited, hopefully, for her to throw him a bone, but nothing seemed forthcoming.
“This was your break week, right?”
Innes slapped on the turn signal, then rolled his shoulders when he finished rounding the corner. She sure wasn’t making it easy for him, but, then again, when had she ever? And when had he ever earned that?
“Thanks for coming all the way out to get me,” she said, surprising Innes into looking over. “I would have called Kristen, but she went to Cabo instead of coming home.”
“It’s fine, really.” He might have bowed out of her childhood, but inconvenient timing and brief pre-midlife crisis aside, he didn’t begrudge her a ride to the airport. Especially since, as far as he could guess, the whole reason why she needed him was that she was running away from her mother.
She hadn’t mentioned her reasoning when she’d called him for the favor, but what else would make an 18-year-old girl—one responsible enough to decline a liquor-soaked vacation with her friends in favor of studying and visiting home—suddenly decide at ten o’clock on the second-to-last day of her break that she couldn’t stay a minute longer?
“Everything okay at home?” Innes tried, bracing himself for a swift and merciless shutdown, the likes of which he’d never taught her but was nonetheless extremely proud of, in a tiny corner of his withered heart.
Silence this time. Not even a monosyllabic brush-off. That either meant she was even more annoyed at the necessity of his presence than he’d thought, or . . . she was actually considering a response.
“Not really,” she said, her eyes still fixed out the window and her fingers fussing with the cuffs of her sweatshirt in the edge of Innes’s vision.
“You want to talk about it?”
She stiffened a bit. “Why? Like you care?”
“Shocking as you might find it, yes. I do care about your well-being.” He kept his eyes on the road, noting the sign for LAX up ahead. “And I know how your mother can be, so I thought you might appreciate a sympathetic ear.”
“Why do you assume it’s her?” Mimi asked, more amusement than accusation coming through in her tone. “It could be Jerry I have a problem with.”
Innes scoffed. “Oh, please. The last person Jerry fought with was probably his accountant, and it was likely about who was the most boring. He doesn’t have enough of an opinion on anything to fight with you.”
Mimi laughed, and Innes felt a jolt of pride. Don’t get cocky, he warned himself. Just because she could appreciate a good joke at her stepfather’s expense didn’t mean Innes was her friend.
“It is Mom, really,” she said. “She’s driving me crazy; I just couldn’t stay there anymore.”
“Ah. Anything specifically?
Mimi sighed gustily and pulled her knees up to her chest, her heavy boots digging into the soft Italian leather of the seat. “She wants me to transfer to Pepperdine for my second year. It’s closer to her, and I could live at home and save money on housing.” She paused, holding her breath for a few tense seconds, then letting it go in a rush of words. “But I like Stanford. The political science program is better, the profs are better, it isn’t a religious conservative wasteland, and most importantly, it’s far away from her.”
Innes nearly missed his exit, snapping his turn signal on mid-lane change. He snuck a glance at Mimi when he reached a straight course, looking for any hint that she was joking or exaggerating.
He should probably have expected some friction between Mimi and her mother, now that she was no longer a child. Mimi was headstrong, and so was her mother. There was bound to be a bit of tension between them occasionally. That level of vehemence, however, was surprising, but it seemed he’d overestimated Mimi’s willingness to be micromanaged.
Back when Mimi was in high school, and he’d still taken her out for her birthday instead of just sending an expensive present by mail, she’d spent half of each awkward coffee date telling him what her mother thought about everything he cared to bring up. In the last year, as Mimi had attempted to get to know her aunts, uncles, and cousins on Innes’s side—while still avoiding him as much as possible—no one had cared to inform him that Theresa was no longer Mimi’s yardstick for the concepts of right and wrong.
“Ah,” he said, fighting to hide his shock. “That sucks.”
She snorted. “Yeah, it does. We fought about it all week. I was supposed to be charging up for the rest of the year, not spending my time avoiding her or arguing until she cries or I want to kill her.”
Oh, boy, wouldn’t that be a nice early birthday present, he thought, then he reflected for a moment. He had just made a casual joke—in his head, but still—about the death of the mother of his first and only child. He waited for the guilt to set in, taking a sip of his coffee.
Nope. Not a pang. He wondered if he should be worried about how passionately he still hated Theresa after so long. They hadn’t even spoken for a good—tremendously good—five years.
He only wondered about it for a minute. Thoughts like those led to appointments with shrinks, and he didn’t have the time for that crap.
“Well, I’m glad you called me, then,” he said. “Though I’m sorry you had to cut your break short. Do you have a flight already? Oh, and which terminal?”
“Four. Yeah, I booked a redeye; it’ll get me there in a shorter time than the one I originally bought.”
“Can you afford that?” His hand inched along the soft material of his tailored suit pants toward his pocket.
Mimi smiled so widely that Innes could see the reflection of her straight, white teeth in the windshield. “I made Jerry pay for it.”
A short snicker bubbled up in Innes’s throat. “That’s my girl,” he said, grinning.
Mimi’s smile disappeared, and she turned her face back to the window, clearing her throat in the sudden silence.
“That’s my girl”?
Where the hell had that come from? Aside from the creepy purity ring implications, it wasn’t accurate. Mimi was a good kid and would become an even better young woman, but that had happened largely without his influence and in spite of her mother’s.
He coughed, gripping the steering wheel tighter. “Well. For what it’s worth, I think you made the right choice.”
Mimi frowned. “What right choice?”
“By leaving, I mean. It would probably do more harm than good to stay and try to work out your issues now, while you’re pissed at each other. Discretion being the better part of valor, and all that.”
“Hmm. Is that what you tell yourself?”
His stomach swooped at the coldness in her tone. “Pardon?”
“When you sleep at night. Is that how you convince yourself that you didn’t need to be around, like, ever?”
Heat started to prickle at the back of his neck as he gaped and tried to pay attention to navigating lanes to the nearing airport. “I was under the impression that you were perfectly happy with the way things were.”
Mimi tossed her hair over her shoulder, sitting straighter in her seat. “Oh, really? Are you sure about that? Or is that what you choose to believe because it’s easier than just admitting you’re selfish.”
“That’s absolutely not true.” He already knew he was selfish, and he wasn’t in the habit of lying to himself. Only to other people. “I have never—”
“No, you haven’t. That’s the problem.”
Or, check your local library.
Word Count: 98,400
Page Count: 294
Cover By: L.C. Chase
Series: Without Precedent
Release Date: 09/18/2021