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Wilde's Pretend Girlfriend.

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Jacqueline Hills, a struggling writer drowning in debt, found herself at the crossroads. Her life was a struggle, working at a humble bookstore to scrape together enough to pay off her bills, while her relationship with Kent, the struggling musician, teetered on the brink. Suddenly like a tempest, Ethan Wilde stormed back into her life. The wealthy man she had stolen from three years. His arrogance was a force of nature, and his eyes held a memory she wished to forget. His proposition hung in the air, heavy with consequence: "Pretend to be my girlfriend, and your debts vanish." Jacqueline's refusal was swift even if it meant owing him a fortune. But he was unyielding. "Then you owe me a million dollars," he countered. "But I don't have your watch. Even if you arrest me, I'll remain penniless." Ethan's smile was a predatory. "Then be my girlfriend and I'll forgive you. I'll pay you $500, 000 extra." The numbers swirled in her mind, half a million dollars?! How could she refuse? Ethan Wilde—the heir to the illustrious Wilde empire—was no ordinary man. His grandmother held the keys to the kingdom. Her ultimatum for Ethan is marriage. A wife to secure Ethan's claim to the empire. Jacqueline's role was clear: become his pretend girlfriend. But Ethan is arrogant and it grated against her every nerve. How could she endure his company? As time goes by Jacqueline wondered if destiny reveled in irony. She had stolen time from Ethan once; now, she danced with him on the precipice of deception. The spotlight was on them, and the stakes were higher than money—a legacy hung in the balance. Jacqueline and Ethan dance a dance desperation, desire, and danger. And somewhere between the steps, their hearts stumbled—a twist of fate that dared them to dream.

Chapter 1

I hurried down the curb, releasing the top button of my shirt. It was a very light shirt, but the summer heat caused it to melt against my skin. It felt itchy. Breathing under the hot summer sun had become a chore, and everywhere I looked people s*ck*d on ice or dug into large cups of melting ice cream. Summer used to be my favorite season, but at that moment, I would have gladly welcomed winter with open arms.

My destination was the Old & Brown bookshop where I worked and, as the name suggests, the books are old and dusty and brown with age. Don’t get me wrong, if you love books like me, then you will welcome the musty old smell of books with open arms. Unless, of course, you are an ebook person who cannot relate. If that's the case, it sucks to be you. 

Just kidding.

Anyway, I worked there because I needed a job to pay my debts and to survive and, while it didn't pay much, the owners were sweet to me.

As soon as I pushed the steaming glass doors open, I pulled my hair up and away from my neck with one hand while hanging my purse on the coat hanger with the other. No one wears a coat in the summer, so we just hang our bags on it on days like this.

My phone dinged, and I pulled it out of my pocket. My heart dropped when I saw the debit alert on the screen. Great now I am down to 10 dollars, I thought to myself. No groceries, no rent, no bus fees. Among other concerns, like my debts. 

“Jacqueline?! Is that you?” Mrs. Trent asked from the back of the store. She had probably been sorting out the new arrivals. They will all be old books needing new covers and spines, but Mr. Trent would work on them, then we would display them for sale.

“Yes,” I called back. “I’m so sorry I’m late. I had to…”

“It’s alright just see to the customers please. And check the dispenser if you can. I don’t think it’s working anymore. I couldn't get cold water out of it this morning.”

As I said, working there didn't pay much. We sell old books, not limited editions, even though those bring in big bucks, so we make do with what we have and that means using an old dispenser that shuts down on hot summer days like that one.

I was tempted to release another button and I did just that, popping two more buttons until the lacy top of my bra pecked around the edges of my light yellow shirt. I know it’s not the right way to work, but I’m sure the customers understand. Some even fanned at themselves with one hand while they checked books with the other. 

I checked the counter, noted that nothing needed my attention there before making my way to the shelves where a few customers were checking books. Most of them were high school students and stay-at-home moms looking for a romantic adventure. A few of them smiled at me and I returned their smile with a wave.

I was beginning to feel that none of them needed me. I might as well just head back to the counter and sit and wait till my shift was over, when I spotted him.

He was definitely not dressed for a place like Old & Brown. Or for the summer, for that matter.

His black long-sleeve shirt, even from a distance, looked like high-quality stuff, something out of a famous fashion designer’s catalog, and so were the black pants and the patent leather shoes.

My brows shot up. What was a man like him doing here?

Curious, I walked toward him, noting with a smile that he was on the highest scale of handsome. Nice facial profile. Definitely 6’5, with raven black hair, and nice fingers – because I could see them the way he held the book he was looking at, he was also lean muscled. Very s*xy.

And then he noticed I was approaching and looked up, pinning me back with startling green eyes.

Oh, he was beautiful as f*ck. He would have been perfect if his s*xy, juicy full lips weren’t set into a firm hard line.

I put on my best receptionist smile – I say receptionist because, well, it sounds a lot fancier than calling myself a counter girl at a bookshop – and approached him.

“Hi,” I waved and continued to move toward him.

His eyes took me in without a word. He took in my curls piled carelessly atop my head, my half-opened shirt, my faded jeans and brown sandals, and without any hint of friendliness or any sort of expression for that matter, he turned his eyes back to his book.

Alright, listen. I have had my share of bratty high school kids looking for some smutty romance to masturbate to, and they are mostly girls, but I have never had a grown adult – a man for that matter – ignore me this way.

Calm down, Jacqueline, I told myself. Calm down, it’s all part of the job.

I moved even closer – foolish I know, but it was my duty to attend to new customers, after all. Making sure they knew what they were looking for was my job. I tilted my head to see what he was looking at and my smile widened. 

“Pride and Prejudice? Great choice if you are in the mood for…”

“What’s so great about it? A guy trying to prove himself to a woman who thought him a villain even though he wasn't?” he asked, and his voice was deep and very s*xy. It was definitely what I expected from a man who looked as handsome as he did.

I forced myself not to think too much about the way his voice made me feel warm and cleared my throat.

“Hmm no actually,” I laughed. “Mr. Darcy wasn’t always such a sweetie or a good guy at the beginning. He was arrogant, but as the story goes on…”

“You see that you’ve wasted your time,” he interrupted again. "Just as you are doing now."

I pressed my lips together and prayed for control. “I assume you haven’t actually read the book before Mr…?”

I waited for him to do the right thing by telling me his name, but his response was to remain silent as he perused the pages of the book. Then he snapped it shut suddenly and I nearly jumped out of my skin.

He looked up again and once again his eyes were piercing.

When he parted his lips to speak, it wasn’t to answer my question but to ask a question of his own.

“Do you always work half naked, Jacqueline?”

Oh. I forced a laugh this time, wondering what Mr. Know It All would look like with a broken nose. 

But nice move right there. He knew my name, I didn't know his. He had the upper hand.

“It’s hot if you haven’t noticed," I retorted, glancing at his dark outfit, puzzled to see he wasn't sweating. 

His brow rose a notch. “So? Travel somewhere that isn’t. Take a vacation to someplace cool." Like it was the most natural and obvious response in the world.

This time there was nothing forced about my laughter because I couldn’t believe the shallowness and audacity of the dude. F*ck my best customer service attitude.

"I don't know if you've noticed, but working here doesn't exactly guarantee an all-expense-paid vacation."

Again his eyes took in my appearance. "Obviously."

Unable to hold it in any longer, I crossed my arms in front of me and glared right back. “Okay, who the f*ck are you?”

“I own this building.”

My laughter was louder now that a couple of people stopped talking to look in our direction.

That’s one way to answer my question. The guy is obviously nuts.

“To the best of my knowledge, one Helen Wilde owns this building, and she’s a woman and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you don’t exactly have the features of a 70ish-year-old woman.”

He looked unimpressed. “I’m her grandson. Ethan Wilde.”

Oh.

My jaw unlocked and somewhere in the back of my mind, I realized I couldn’t remember to close my mouth because no freaking way!

I’ve heard of – never seen – any members of the Wilde family, but if you are a living being in Summer - Crest, Green, you know who the Wildes are, and you know them by their eyes. But those green eyes, those particular eyes...I've seen them before...

He looked so satisfied to have finally shocked me speechless.

My brain finally worked, reminding me that I was still open-mouthed, and I was staring.

He suddenly grinned and it was terrifying.

Chapter 2

“It took you long enough, but I see I have finally shut you up,” he drawled, taking a step toward me. I took an involuntary step back. “Jackie Hills," he murmured. "How long has it been? Three years? You don't look any better than you did three years ago? What happened to the money you got off pawning my watch?"

Three years?

Was it that long ago since that drunken night at the club?

I had gone out with my best friend Shelly. Kent had recently broken up with me, nothing serious. Just one of the on and off moments in our relationship.

Actually it was serious. I hadn't paid my rent and Kent had gotten so mad that he spent that one-month break at his friend’s while I stayed with Shelly until I was finally able to scrape some money together to pay my rent.

 Anyway, Shelly got me so drunk that I didn’t even know what I was doing anymore. Somehow, I found myself laughing in the face of a green-eyed stranger. He didn’t even want me, but I was too drunk to notic

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