When I was a kid, my dad was the gardener for the richest man in town. His daughter, Lily Barnes, told me she could never like a guy like me. Then she kissed me and told me it would never happen again. When it happened again, she told me she could never love me because she was going to leave this place, and I would never leave my dad.
We were never quite friends, not exactly enemies, and we could never quite stop secretly kissing each other.
She never said goodbye before running off to try to make it as an actress. That was her dream, and I wanted her to chase it. Okay, maybe I hated her for it, just a little.
Now she’s back, with no money and even more sass.
A lot has changed around here … except for my hidden feelings about Lily Barnes.
So, it turns out I’m a terrible actress and now I’m back!
When my father offers me a job at his company, I actually think he’s finally decided I’m worthy of one day taking over the family business. Imagine my surprise when I find out that the gardener’s son is the one who’s being groomed to take over, and I’ve been assigned to work for him.
Wes Carver has always been rich in confidence and abs, but now he’s rich in everything, including disdain for yours truly.
If he thinks I’m not built to work, he’s wrong.
If he thinks he can boss me around just because he’s my boss, he’s delusional.
If he thinks I’m still the girl who could never love him … I may be a better actress than anyone thought.
Just as I’m about put down the book I’m reading and go to the kitchen to pour glasses of iced tea to take out to the Carver men, my phone dings with a text alert.
I have a message from Wes Carver’s personal phone.
Wes (Personal): Hey. This isn’t your boss. This is the other Wes.
Oh thank God.
This is my chance to bring sexy back without being face-to-face with him and accidentally putting my vulva on his mouth.
Me: The one who made me come harder than I’ve ever come in my life this morning? That Wes?
Wes: I fucking better be.
Me: You fucking are, I’m telling you.
Wes: Good. Remember that.
Me: My labia won’t let me forget it.
Wes: You alone in the house?
Oooh. A daytime booty text. Maybe Alecia was right. Maybe he does want to get back up in there.
Me: I am surrounded by books about Real Estate Investment Trusts and the structure of leases. So yeah. I’m alone.
Wes: You looking to stay that way? Or would you like some company?
Me: Two questions. First: are you asking as my boss who’s offering to mentor me, or are you asking as the other Wes, with the magical mouth and hands and penis.
My thumb hovers over the backspace key, because maybe it’s not a good idea to text the word “penis” to him, even on his personal phone.
Fuck it—it’s the weekend.
I send the message.
Seconds later, I have his reply: To be clear, your boss also possesses a magical mouth and hands and penis. He just won’t be placing them on or in you during work hours. But yeah. Asking as the other Wes.
I feel like these are pretty clear and simple boundaries that even he and I can maintain. Could it really be as simple as us needing to keep things a secret from my dad and our co-workers?
Wes: What’s the second question?
Me: Actually, I have three questions. Question number two is a two-parter: Are you currently in my backyard and are you wearing a shirt?
Wes: Yes and yes, but I can fix that last part in less than one second. Are you wearing a shirt?
Me: Yes. But you could fix that in less than one second. However…
Wes: Christ, Lily. You’re killing me. Third question?
Me: Are you asking if I want to stay alone this afternoon, or for like ever? Because I think I need to be alone today…But I do want some company, in general.
I am about to hit send, when it occurs to me that I could add one more thing.
And so, I do: Your company. Specifically.
I hold my breath as I send my reply and wait for his response.
Wes: Good to know. Glad to hear it.
I wait for him to send another text. One that says something along the lines of, “I feel the same way,” or “I also want your specific company because you’re the most beautiful wonderful girl I’ve ever known, and I just can’t seem to get enough of you.”
But that reassuring text doesn’t come. Neither does a flirty text. Or a clever text. There are no animated dots telling me that he’s typing out a response. There’s just a terrible nervous feeling in my stomach telling me that I should have quit while I was ahead.
I toss my phone onto the rug.
If this is what falling in love feels like, then I think I’ve had enough thank you very much.
I get up to run upstairs and fling myself onto my bed like a teenage drama queen, but I hear the patio door in the kitchen slide open.
“Lily?” Wes’s voice is deep and hushed.
I stand still and stare at the doorway between the living room and the dining room, through to the kitchen. “Yes?”
He steps into the kitchen doorframe. He’s wearing an old gray sweat-darkened T-shirt and jeans. He’s taken off his shoes. His skin is sun-kissed and damp and his eyes slowly drink me in, from my bare feet to my bare legs and up past my rapidly stiffening nipples under this white tank top. “You still alone in here?” he asks, quietly.
I barely nod my head before he’s coming at me so fast, and his hands are on my face and in my hair and his lips are on mine. “I’m not staying,” he says, between kisses, his voice so deep and low and I feel it in that place in my stomach that felt so terrible and nervous just seconds ago, and if this is what falling in love feels like then I guess I can take a little more of it sure why not. “I just had to see you.”
“I’m gonna give you all the company you can handle when you’re ready for it,” he whispers into my ear, then kisses my neck, and I am done for and so ready for absolutely anything he is willing to give me.
I don’t realize I’m clinging to his shirt until he suddenly pulls away from me.
“I better go.”
“Uh huh,” I nod, backing away from him and squeezing my thighs together. “Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge,” I say, as I back into the wall and then lean against it, pretending I meant to do that. “See you tomorrow.”
“Eventually,” he grins.
I clear my throat and try to catch my breath. “Was it something I said?”
“Usually,” he says. “But I have to go to the resort tomorrow morning.”
“Right. Ashland. I knew that.”
He stares at my mouth, from five feet away. I lick my lips and I can see his Adam’s apple bob up and down and the muscles tensing as he restrains himself from charging at me. He nods his head and looks away.
“Get back to work, The Help,” I smirk.
“Get back to your books, assistant,” he grumbles.
I wait until I hear the patio door slide open and shut again, before jumping up and down and running around in circles while quietly squealing.
If this is what falling in love feels like, then I want all of it.
Kayley Loring has, until recently, been a borderline workaholic living in Los Angeles. In the summer of 2017 she moved to a beautiful suburb of Portland, Oregon. She can now breathe clean air while enjoying the great outdoors, and drive around without swearing at strangers. It’s pretty great.
When not writing funny sexy sweet romantic comedy novels, she can happily channel her obsessive energies into plant hoarding, book hoarding, and staring at male models on Instagram (for research!). The rest of the time, she’s painting, feeding animals, eating her way through Portland with friends, cursing the many hours it takes to work off those delicious Portland meals, and trying to make her gosh darned wavy hair behave itself.