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Happily Ever All-Star 2

By´╝ÜSosie Frost

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To L.G.

I’m getting tired of dedicating books to you.

Why don’t you dedicate one to me?

1


Piper


Cole Hawthorne lived alone in a massive fortress of gray stone, climbing roses, and rooftop gargoyles.

And his front door had better manners than he did.

Cole didn’t answer his door when I knocked.

He ignored me when I rang the bell.

He didn’t respond to my texts, emails, or the dozen unsavory curses I spat at his home.

The skies opened, and the rain poured. I crowded under the stone portico and sought shelter behind the marble columns. Unfortunately, the wind kicked up. Fat rain drops sprayed sideways and soaked me as I beat his door.

This was not how I planned the meeting, but we had no choice. After so many unanswered calls and emails, someone had to deal with him face-to-face. Dad sent me, but I didn’t have better luck getting inside Cole’s sprawling mansion.

Castle?

I couldn’t tell the difference.

His château loomed over the countryside. Coiling ivy stretched over the intimidating mansion, and leering windows darkened the dreary gray exterior. Decorative carvings and sculptures spiraled along the facade of the intricate, gothic architecture.

I had no idea something so ornate could be so foreboding. His home was one briar patch short of a fairy tale villain’s lair. No Happily Ever Afters here. If anything, his fortress was the castle the princess escaped at the beginning of her Once Upon A Time.

And I was the village fool, pounding on the door to get inside.

What did a linebacker need with such a huge, protected estate anyway? No one in their right mind would harass Cole Hawthorne, defensive captain for the Atwood Monarchs.

But that didn’t excuse him. I rang the bell again. Twice. Three times. I hopped onto my tip-toes, but I couldn’t reach the windows on the top of his door.

I was not conducting this meeting outside, shouting in the middle of a thunderstorm.

I should have known. Cole didn’t have the best reputation with the league or his agents. But the power to change his life was clutched in my hands. The folder got a little damp, but I’d hidden the contract waiver inside.

All I needed was a signed consent form that stated he agreed to be traded. One quick signature, and I could be gone, back home, wringing the water out of my only nice outfit.

Instead, he lurked inside the shadows of a mansion more cursed than enchanted. He didn’t give me a chance to explain why I was there.

Well, I wasn’t putting up with it. No, sir. Not me. I’d guarantee it.

He wasn’t even my client. Dad was the one hell-bent on getting Cole to agree to the trade.

It didn’t feel right leaving without a fight, but I wasn’t the type to toss a brick through a window. Instead, I rang the doorbell one last time extra hard. Maybe I imagined it, but that annoying ding-dong chimed a little louder than the ones before.

I stormed to my car, slogging through in every puddle along the way. The rain poured, and I leapt into the driver’s seat to escape the deluge.

I tended to look for the little blessings. At least the rain rinsed out Rose’s gift on my skirt. Mornings were usually frantic while I tried to get her situated with the nanny, so Rose helped me however she could. This morning, my sixteen-month old combined her opinion of breakfast with her hug goodbye. Her verdict of my cheesy eggs left a splotchy pattern all over my skirt.

Of course, I hadn’t noticed the stain until I stepped into the office. Given the other types of stains Rose could leave on me, I preferred a bit of breakfast. Especially in comparison to the unexpected, milk-related surprises from before I weaned her. After one awkward meeting with my father, his biggest client, and a good dose of postpartum hormones, I decided to keep a spare bra and shirt in the office. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to pack a fresh skirt.

At least my day was almost over…or it should have been. If Cole had been amenable, the trade waiver might have been signed and I could have picked up Rose before dinner. So much for saving an hour’s worth of baby-sitting charges. Mrs. Potter was an excellent nanny, but she didn’t come cheap.

I brushed my fingers through my hair. Nope. The rain created an instant frizz. That just wasn’t fair. The downpour destroyed a modern day miracle—this morning I actually straight-ironed in peace while Rose distracted herself with her toys. A whole four minutes of frantic heat that only burned me twice while I smoothed both sides of my hair before Rose tossed out the binkie and gnawed on a shoe.

Now my curls re-inflated and ballooned. They were natural. They were angry. And they were…expanding. If I let it get bad, the rain shower would have transported me back to the 70s.

All the more reason to peel out of Rude McDouchey’s mile long driveway and head home.

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