“You’re married, you idiot!” He shouts, throwing his hands up in the air. “You can’t marry Hollie if you’re already married. Take Shayla to your grandfather, introduce her as your wife, problem solved.”
Oh. Why didn’t I think of this? I am married.
I frown. “You mean, we stay married?” Josh nods, widening his blue eyes. “She wouldn’t agree, why would she want to stay married?”
Josh throws a cushion at me. “Because you’re Tristan Cole Hoult, that’s why. You’re the most sought-after bachelor in the country—after me, of course.” He says in jest, and I throw the cushion back at him.
I roll my eyes exasperated. “Fuck you, arsehole.” Josh catches the cushion and rests his elbow on it, grinning. “She doesn’t care about any of that. She’s nothing like the rest; my fame and money didn’t deter her one bit.”
“Sound chick. Just tell her the truth, maybe you’ll appeal to her good nature, and she’ll pity you and agree to help. If that fails, offer her a pay-out, a couple of mill, like a bearding service.”
I rub my hands over my face with a heavy sigh. “That sounds rather crude.”
“Would you rather marry Hollie?” I shake my head and fall back against the sofa.
“Fuck no.” I curse looking at the beer bottle in my had. “Least Shayla’s fun to be around, I'd much rather be stuck married to her.”
“Just ask her.” He states taking a swig of his beer. “Worse case she’ll say no.”
“Oh, she will absolutely say no. She’s feisty and stubborn as hell.” I mutter tapping the neck of the bottle thoughtfully. Can’t hurt to ask. Like Josh said, maybe she will feel sorry for me and help me. Perhaps I could give her a raise? And I’d prefer to be married to Shayla than Hollie, at least she’s amusing to be around. She cracks me up throughout the day.
“Feisty, huh?” Josh intones, raising his brows with intrigue. “Good in the sack?”
I bite my bottom lip recalling our passionate night together. “Oh, definitely,” I murmur.
I sigh, feeling relieved. I hadn’t realized how much this marriage arrangement was weighing me down.
I leave Josh’s place and head home. I had a big day ahead of me the following day, and I needed to get my shit together before the presentation.
The next morning, I sat waiting for Shayla outside her apartment building. I’d been waiting fifteen minutes, and she’s yet to come down. Women. I will never understand why they take a year to get ready for everything. I honk my horn impatiently, just as she pushes the door open and walks toward the car. I let my eyes wander over as she approaches me. That tight, black, pencil skirt and red satin blouse she’s wearing are hugging her in all the right places. Her dark tresses cascading down her back in beach waves, just like the night we met.
“Jesus, keep your hair on. You’ll wake the neighbours.” She grumbles as she gets into the car. I’m not proud of this, but my eyes instantly drift to her skirt which rides up to her mid-thigh when she sits, and I find myself checking out her shapely legs. I have a sudden flashback of our night together in Vegas, those legs wrapped around me as she drew me into her deeper.
I blink snapping out of my thoughts and look at her through my shades. “Hm?”
She looks at me with a frown, “Are we going or are we just going to sit here? You were just rushing me a moment ago?”
“Yes, we’re going,” I say, pulling away into traffic. “How are you? Did you manage to sort out tires?”
Shayla glances at me and shrugs, “Yes. Someone will be coming to fit new ones later this evening.” She explains, and I nod. “Thank you for offering to help. I was in a sour mood. I hope I didn’t come off rude.” She looks over at me, and I shake my head.
“Not at all,” I wave off her apology. “Honestly it would have been pissed me off too if someone stole all the tires off my car. Did you report it?” Shayla shakes her head, and I frown, “Why not?”
She sighs, looking out the window, “What’s the point? It’s hardly the crime of the year, is it? It’s inconvenient sure, but I think the police have much bigger cases that require their attention than my stolen tires.” I smile, shaking my head.
“That’s one way to look at it.”
Shayla sighs brushing her hair away from her pretty face, “Nothing seems to be going right for me at the moment, it truly is bizarre.”
I smile and glance at her before I look at the road again. “Oh, I’ve been there. But you should always try and stay positive because you never know when your luck might change.” Shayla looks at me briefly and nods. “Might be sooner than you think.”
“I doubt that.” She utters, her voice an octave over a whisper. The rest of the twenty-five-minute journey to the lawyer’s office, we spent reviewing my work schedule.
“Your two-thirty meeting got pushed back by fifteen minutes. Mr Cohen’s flight got delayed from Belgium; his driver dropped me an email earlier.” I nod as we walk into the office and Franc— our lawyer greets us.
“Morning, Mr Hoult, Mrs Hoult,” I observe Shayla’s reaction when Franc called her by her married name. She smiles tightly and takes his offered hand and sits at the table. “Okay, Mr Hoult I have drawn up the papers for the divorce. All I need are your signatures, and I can get it processed.” Shayla nods and picks up her pen and signs the papers. She holds the pen out to me, and I take it and stare at the paperwork in front of me.
“Cole?” I lift my gaze and look at Shayla. “Sign the papers.”
“Franc, will you leave us a moment, please?” Shayla watches as he stands up and leaves the room before she looks at me again.
“What’s wrong?” She questions eyeing me warily.
“Shayla. I have a proposition for you.”
Her frown deepens, “A proposition?”
I nod slowly and hold her gaze, “Yes, a proposition.”
“What if we don’t get a divorce?” I suggest, and she stares at me blankly and then laughs suddenly.
“Hilarious, Cole. Stop screwing around and sign the papers so we can get out of here.” When I make no move to sign the papers, her smile fades slowly. “You’re not—wait, are you serious?!”
“Very? Very what, Cole? We agreed to get a divorce. What are you talking about?” She exclaims, rising from her seat.
I sigh and put the pen down and watch her as she glares daggers at me. “I’m only suggesting we stay married for a little while longer.”
Shayla stops pacing and looks down at me angrily, “And I’m suggesting we get a divorce—right now.”
“Shayla, just listen to me for a second. I’m stuck in an impossible situation, and I need your help.” I explain, and her gaze softens a little. “My Dad, he’s forcing me to marry someone I don’t love in exchange for his and my grandfather’s shares to the company.” I sigh and stand up. “My grandfather has a terminal illness and doesn’t have long to live. His dying wish is to see his firstborn grandchild married before he dies. If I don’t, he will give his shares to my cousin Harry who is an absolute goon and will fuck up everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve at the company.”
Shayla shakes her head. “Cole, have you lost your mind? You’re talking about lying to your family. To a dying man. Absolutely not.”
“I can’t marry Hollie. She’s just not the type of girl I see myself settling down with. She’s not for me.” I explain, and she shrugs indifferently.
“How is that any different to what we did? We don’t exactly get along either. Just marry her, get your shares then divorce her.” I sigh and shake my head, frustrated.
“Shayla, you don’t get it. This girl has been obsessed with me since we were ten years old, do you think she’s going to divorce me after waiting years to tie me down. No fucking chance,”
“Cole, listen to what you’re asking of me? You’re asking me to stay married to you, to lie and scheme. I don’t even know you.” She declares pacing again. I grab hold of her arm and draw her toward me.
“I’ll pay you.” I blurt out.
Shayla’s green eyes grow wide, and if looks could kill, I’d be buried six feet under right about now. “You’ll what?” She grits annoyance evident in her tone. “If you think just because I slept with you, I now owe you something; you’re sorely mistaken. Screw you and your job, you arrogant pig.” She hisses vehemently and rips her arm from my hold.
“No! Christ, Shayla, it's not like that. Think of it as a business arrangement. Name your price; money is no object.” Shayla steps back with an appalled look on her face. A glimpse of hurt flickers in her eyes before its replaced with anger again.
“Who the hell do you think you are?! I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr Hoult, but I am not for sale! Your money can get you a lot of things but not me.” She tries to sidestep me, but I block her path. “Get out of my way.” She spits furiously.
“Jesus, Shayla, please just to listen to me. I’m not trying to buy you, and the last thing I’d ever want to do is insult you.” I explain and sigh dejectedly. “I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t desperate. You’re my only hope out of this arranged marriage.” I say pleadingly, and she licks her lips and brushes her fingers through her hair, still fuming. “I know you need the money. You’ve got outstanding debts on your student loans.” She spins and glares at me. “It came up in your background check. You can pay those off and finish your degree. Let me help you.”
“I don’t want your help! There are a million girls out there who would marry you without a second thought, go pick one of them.” She says snatching up her blazer and purse.
“I don’t want them.” Shayla rolls her eyes and tries to push past me to leave, but I stop her. “I want you.” She lifts her gaze slowly, and our eyes meet.
“Tristan?” We both jump apart when I hear my name. I turn and see my Dad standing there. Fuck.
“What is going on here?” He asks looking between Shayla and me sceptically. “What's with the shouting?” Shayla looks at me and straightens her skirt. “What are you both doing here?” I look over at Shayla, and I’m not sure what came over me, but I wrap an arm around her waist and pull her up against me.
“Dad, I’d like you to officially meet my wife…Shayla.”
God? What the hell did I do in my past life for you to be punishing me like this?As I stand there looking at Coles father, utterly humiliated—might I add, he’s just staring back at me confused. “Your wife?” He repeats, averting his gaze to his son. “I don’t understand.”I open my mouth to speak but Cole pipes in, “We’re married, what’s not to understand.” I look up at him, and he pulls me closer against him, and I have the sudden urge to punch the kid in his throat.“I should give you both some privacy,” I say and turn to leave the room.“Stay right there, young lady!” He shouts, and I jump startled at his sudden outburst. I nod and hang my head in silence, shrinking back beside Cole. “Tristan, I hired this girl a few days ago to be your assistant. What do you mean you’re married?” He questions, his green eyes, identical to Coles darting between us waiting for an answer. “What? Did it just slip your mind that you’re married to the CEO of the company?” He ask
“Thank you, Shayla. You have no idea how much this means to me. Honestly.” I nod and pull my hand back. “Well, nobody should be forced to marry someone they don’t love. Even entitled rich boys like yourself ought to have a happily ever after.” I tease, and he scoffs and pokes my side. “I am not an entitled rich boy.” He defends feigning annoyance, but I see the corner of his lips curl. “I work really hard okay.” He says and chuckles when I give him a pointed look. “Ok fine, I work hard.” “Whatever you say champ. Can we please discuss what we are going to tell you, parents, because I’m kind of terrified here?” I question, and he nods. “We just need to get our stories straight. My parents know me very well, especially my mother, so if we are going to convince them that we are in love, we have to act the part.” I shake my head and hold my hand up. “Hold up –define ‘in love’ because, if by that you mean you’re going to be shoving your tongue down
I wish I had the option just to hit pause and stay in this moment for a little while longer. I let my eyes roam over Shayla’s face, her eyes closed, lips faintly parted, just pleading to be kissed, but I know that’s not what she needs right now. If I tried, she would probably punch me. When a knock sounds on my door Shayla’s eyes flicker open, and she looks up at me, and as the door opens, she pulls herself away from me, putting a couple of feet between us. Her gaze drops to the floor, and I would give my left nut to be able to read her mind. Was she waiting for me to kiss her? Did she feel as disappointed as I did when she pulled away?“Tristan?” I look over at Lucy— my publicist when she pokes her head through the door, and I wave her in. “I just saw the article. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing.” She says, walking toward us.“How do we fix this?” I ask her, and she sets the tablet in her hand on my des
Her lips part and stares at me before her eyes narrow, “Maybe I’m just good at faking it.” She responds, pulling her face away from my hand.I look over her face and grin, “You’re right,” I tilt her head up, so our lips are perfectly aligned. “You can’t lie for shit,” I whisper and drop a kiss on her cheek, and she pulls away.“What the hell are you doing, Cole?” I pull my head back and grin.“Playing my part,” I say and step away from her. She frowns, and I gesture with my head to the crowd of employees that just watched our entire exchange. “It seems I was too into fondling my wife that I hadn’t noticed I ‘accidentally’ unfrosted the glass.” She looks around and swallows hard before she turns her stony gaze to me.“Oh, you son of a—” I wink at her and walk around my desk.“Ah, ah, ah you love me, remember?” She
“It’s nice to meet you too, Shelly.” I open my mouth to correct her, but Shayla squeezes my hand and shakes her head a little, silently telling me to let it go. “Dinner is served. Let’s eat.” My mother says and walks toward the dining room. We all follow her and take a seat at the dining table.“Your home is beautiful, Mrs Hoult,” Shayla says, laying her napkin in her lap.“I know.” My mother responds curtly, and I bite back the urge to snap at her when I see the saddened look in Shayla’s eyes at the terse remarks my mother keeps throwing at her.My father feeling the tension thicken in the room, clears his throat and sparks up a conversation. “How was the presentation, son?”I take a sip of my water and nod. “It went very well. Mr Turner was incredibly pleased with the design.” I look at Shayla who smiles at me warmly as she did at the office earlier. “We got
“Are you okay?” I blink up at Cole, who cups my face cautiously in his big hands, his green eyes scanning over my face. I wasn’t okay, not one little bit. My cheek was throbbing, and my ear was ringing. I nod despite the rage brewing inside of me to punch the face-off of the snooty bitch for laying a finger on me.“I’m fine,” I assure him, pulling my face away from his hold and hiss when he brushes his thumb over the cheek his mother just bitch slapped. “I’m okay, honestly. I’m fine.”“Stay here.” He demands and storms off, leaving me standing there.“Where are you going? Cole?” I call out after him, but he ignores me and disappears down the stairs. Oh, Christ. How did everything get so damn messed up? I head downstairs, and I can hear Cole’s angry voice echoing through the house.“How dare you lay a finger on her!” He shouts. I follow his voice and stop
“Oh, bite me,” I grumble crossing my arms over my chest and looking out my window.“Just say where baby,” He drawls leaning closer, I cover his face with my hand and push him back. He licks my palm, and I yank my hand back and wipe it on his shirt.“Ew! Oh my God, you did not just lick my hand!” I exclaim, and he giggles like a girl as he pulls out of his parents’ driveway.“I couldn’t bite you, so I improvised.” He claims with a shrug, squinting at me sideways with a mischievous grin on his stupidly handsome face. I hate him. I swear to God, these antics of his drive me up the wall. I sneak a look at him, and he looks at me at the same time, and I couldn’t contain the smile any longer. We laugh. On the journey home, we had the top down to the car, music up loud, and singing along to the songs on my playlist. I find Chicago – ‘If you leave me now’ and crank up the volume. Cole lo
I remember Cole, and I stumble into the elevator, laughing hysterically at something. A couple of other people stepped into the elevator with us, and Cole couldn’t keep his hands to himself. His fingers kept trailing up my bare spine, grazing the side of my breast, his lips on my ear whispering the things he wanted to do to me. “I can’t wait to taste you, baby.” He breathes, his voice deep and raspy, I press my thighs together and bite back the moan that was about to escape me when he nips at my ear gently. "I'm going to drive you wild."Once we hit the tenth floor, the elevator emptied, and it was just us. As soon as the doors slid shut Cole spun me to face him and had me pressed up against the wall, his mouth on mine hot and needy, kissing me hungrily. I moan and kiss him back just as eagerly, tongues duelling Cole scoops me up with one arm and lifts me into his arms pinning me against the wall, while he rocks his hips into me. I feel his erection pr