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Heartless (An Enemies To Lovers Novel Book 1) by Michelle Horst (1)


 

CHAPTER 1

 

DELLA

 

 

“Don’t look now, but they just walked in,” the red head whispers excitedly as I start to clear the table.

Rameses, the bar slash diner where I’ve worked since my first year of college, is always crawling with students.

I place the empty plates on top of each other as her blonde friend looks over her shoulder.

“Fuck, he’s so hot. I’d give anything to be screwed by Rhett.”

At first, I used to get embarrassed when I heard people talk like that, but after being at college for almost three years, there’s very little that shocks me now. 

There’s not much in the way of dating where I’m from. Hell, I had to go to Polk County High School because Saluda only has an elementary school. Besides the random adventurer traveling through and the summer wave of tourists, the meager population of around seven hundred didn’t cater much for dating material.

I glance in the direction of the door and watch as a group of guys walk in. I don’t know them that well. I’ve heard rumors about them, that they’re known as the Screw Crew. Every girl wants to be screwed by them and every guy wants to be one of them. It’s really stupid.

They take a seat in my section, and the one with black hair grins at the blonde sitting at the table I’m busy clearing. He bites his bottom lip and winks at her. Damn, even I have to admit that’s hot. I might not date but just like any warm-blooded girl, I appreciate a hot guy when I see one. 

The blonde shrieks excitedly and jumps up. “By tomorrow, my name will be on Rhett’s screwed list.”

The red head throws some money on the table and follows her friend over to where the guys are. The blonde slides onto the guy’s lap, immediately kissing him as if there’s no tomorrow. The university should have making out as a sport. I swear half the students would qualify for the Olympics.

People don’t behave like that back home. Sue, the owner of the Mom ʼn Pop diner I used to work at, would be chasing them out the door. After Mom passed Sue took us in. It’s because of Sue that I’m able to study for my degree in Graphic Design. Without her generosity, Jamie and I would’ve been living on the streets. I had been working at her diner for about three months when Mom passed away after her long struggle with cancer. Sue let me borrow money so I could lay Mom to rest. She also took us in. She’s old and hard as nails, but she’s also the only one who cared about us.  

I was ten when Dad died. It was an accident that took him from us. He was out hiking when he tripped over a root and plunged down Big Bradley Falls. After Dad passed, things got bad. Mom was pregnant with Jamie and had to take all kinds of odd jobs to keep the pot going. I was sixteen when Mom passed. Poor Jamie was only six and didn’t understand the finality of death. For months she asked where Mom was and when she would come back. Even though we lost our parents early in life, things weren’t all bad. Being poor didn’t matter as much. I’ve never been scared of doing an honest day’s job. I just want more for Jamie. I want to give her the world and that won’t happen as long as we’re stuck in that town. Even though Saluda is only three and a half hours away, it feels like I might as well be from another planet. The people back at Saluda are set in their ways. That’s not me. I crave more from life than the monotonous existence that small town has to offer. I want to experience everything life has to offer. I want to be independent. I want to travel. I want to live. 

I place the glasses on the tray before taking the dirty dishes back to the kitchen. I studied my backside off to earn this free ride at UNC. The tips I make just about cover the rent. It’s not like I need much, anyway. I’m here to study so I can get my degree.

Only six months left and I’ll be finished. Then I’ll be able to find a good job. I’ll go back to Saluda to get Jamie and we’ll leave that town for good.  That’s my three step plan. I don’t have time for anything else, let alone fooling around. Not that I’m Miss America with a line of guys going around the block, waiting to date her. Hell no, the opposite sex hardly notices me, which is perfectly fine by me.  Besides, guys are all horny idiots. I’ve heard one of my roommates, Willow, once say, “Dicks rule, brains drool.”

I share an apartment with three hot girls, like sizzling off the charts hot. Leigh, Willow, and Evie just have to pout and the guys are all puddles of drool at their feet. They make it easy for me to go by unnoticed, which is a blessing. I might share an apartment with the girls, but we hardly know each other. I’m too busy to hang out with any of them. Come to think of it, sometimes an entire will week will pass by without me seeing Willow or Leigh. Evie is the only one I see every other day. 

I walk back out and head over to the table the guys are seated at, noticing that more people have joined them. As I get to the table, I spot Evie. She’s glaring at the blonde that’s busy devouring one of the guy’s faces.

“Are you ready to order?” I ask in general.

Evie tears her eyes away from the couple. When she spots me, a pretty smile pulls at her lips. I wish I had her hair. Because of the natural curl in her ginger hair, she can just wash and go, leaving to air dry. I, on the other hand, have to blow dry my thick brown hair, or it will look like something made a nest in it.

“Hey, sweets. Get me my usual, please,” she says.  I quickly write down her order of six chicken nuggets. She’s addicted to the chicken nuggets we serve here. 

“You know her?” One of the guys asks Evie while looking at me. He’s got dirty blonde hair with a five-o-clock shadow dusted over a strong jaw. He looks like he could be trouble.

“Yeah, Della’s one of my roomies.” She points at the two blonde guys she’s sitting between and starts to introduce the guys to me. “These two are Jaxson and Marcus.” Then she tips her chin at another guy that’s busy on his phone. “That’s Logan. Jaxson and Logan are twins.” She wags her eyebrows playfully. “Double the trouble.”

Seeing as they’re friends of Evie, I smile at them. It doesn’t really matter that she’s introducing me to her friends, it’s not like I’ll remember them tomorrow.

She glares at the black haired guy again. “That’s Rhett,” she practically spits his name out.

Hell, something must’ve gone bad between them.

Rhett shoves the blonde from his lap and licks his lips as his dark brown eyes wander over the length of me.

“Why haven’t we met you before?” he asks. “I’ve been at the apartment quite a few times but I’ve never seen you there. Trust me, I would remember a face like yours.”

I ignore his flirting and answer, “I’m either studying or here at work. I hardly see my roommates.”

“I bet you taste sweet,” he says, winking at me.

Now I see why Evie doesn’t like him. I can’t blame her at all. I scowl down at him before looking over the table again.

“Anyone want something from the kitchen? We’re closing in twenty.”

“I’d take one of you,” Rhett tries again.

“You’re wasting your time,” Evie snaps, irritated.

When he looks at Evie the smile drops from his face. Seconds tick by in silence before he looks back at me. “Are you a carpet muncher?”

“A what?” I frown at him, not in the mood for games. I’m tired and I still have an assignment I need to finish before I can even think of sleeping.

“Are you into pussies?”

What a jerk.

Probably thinks he’s God’s gift to women.

I take a deep breath so I don’t give him a piece of my mind. I need this job more than I need the satisfaction of telling him to go to hell.

“I’ll have a Dr Pepper, a cheeseburger, and fries,” Jaxson suddenly says. It sets off the others and I quickly write down all the orders. I give Jaxson a grateful smile before taking the order to the kitchen.

When I’m done handing the order over to the kitchen, I head out front to clear more tables. While I’m busy clearing the table next to the one Evie and her friends are seated at, Marcus says, “I bet you a hundred you can’t get her to spread her legs.”

“I’m a master at getting girls to spread them wide for me. Spreader bars should’ve been named after me,” Rhett jokes, while he pulls the blonde closer to his side. “Isn’t that right, babe?”

She nods all dreamily actually falling for his shit.

I shake my head, figuring Rhett already has that hundred in his pocket. The blonde will hump his leg right here if he says the word.

I go get their orders and as I place Rhett’s plate in front of him, he takes hold of my wrist. He tries to pull me closer, but I resist, yanking my hand free from his.

“Come on, babe. You’re so damn cold. I’m sure I can find a way to warm you up.”

Ignore him, Della. He’s just an arrogant jerk.

Ignoring my own warning, I place my hands on the table and lean forward until I’m right in his face. I smile sweetly and bite my bottom lip, just like he did earlier. I watch with satisfaction as his eyes lock on my lips.

“Oh, baby,” I groan seductively. A cocky smirk pulls around his lips. He’s arrogant enough to actually believe that he stands a chance with me. What an idiot. “You think just because you’re hot every girl wants to be with you. The day I let you touch me is the day hell freezes over. There’s no way I’m letting your rotten, STD infested dick near me. ”

I blow him a kiss and walk away, feeling pleased with myself for putting him in his place.

“Make that two hundred dollars. Like I said, there’s no way she’s spreading it for you,” Marcus says as he starts to laugh.

The words register and I stop dead in my tracks. Slowly, I turn around as my blood starts to boil. I only realize my mistake when a huge smile spreads over Rhett’s face. I just fell for their stupid game. The bet is about me.

“Double that,” Rhett says as he locks eyes with me. “Four hundred dollars.”

Marcus and some of the other guys at the table laugh again. “You’re on. Damn, I’m going to enjoy taking your money.”

“How stupid are you?” I ask all the guys in general. I seriously doubt they have any kind of brain activity between all of them. “You’re making a bet in front of me. Do you really think I’m going to let any of you idiots near me?” I’m angry and offended that they would make a bet about who can screw me first, let alone do it in front of me.

Rhett gets up and walks over to me. I glare at him, wishing I could castrate him with just a look. 

He lifts his hand to my face and I slap it away. “You’re seriously a piece of work,” I snap, wanting to do him some bodily harm.

“What’s going on here?” a deep voice interrupts my thoughts of punching Rhett right in the face.

My eyes dart to the owner of the voice and for a moment, I forget to scowl. I’ve seen him with the group a couple of times, but never up close before. Damn, he’s hot. The other guys pale in comparison to him. He’s much taller than the others, with dark brown hair that’s begging to have my fingers tangled in the thick strands. Our eyes lock and I almost forget to breathe. His eyes are dark pools that would make any girl forget her own name. His jaw’s covered with a few days’ old stubble, and it only makes him so much more attractive. His shirt’s tightly wrapped over a muscled chest. I’d love to find out if it feels as hard as it looks.

Suddenly, Rhett says, “Carter, you’re just in time. We have a bet going. Four hundred dollars to whoever gets her to spread them first.” The jerk points at me with a thumb. I have a sudden urge to grab it and twist it right off his hand.

For some reason, the stupid bet really bothers me now that Carter is here.

To make things worse three more guys walk in and come to stand at the table.

“You guys want in?” Marcus adds oil to the fire.

“In on what?” one of them asks.

“Betting pool. Whoever screws her first, wins.”

My eyes drift over all the faces around me. Evie mouths ‘sorry’ to me. Jaxson and Logan are too busy eating to pay attention. Marcus winks at me and it makes my anger flare back to life.

Before this really gets out of hand, I turn around and walk back into the kitchen. I wait until they leave before I go back out to clear the remainder of my tables. I’ve worked at Rameses for almost three years. You would think I’d be used to dealing with idiots like the Screw Crew.

 

 

***

 

The walk home feels much longer tonight. I should’ve taken my truck. It’s old and leaves a huge ball of smoke whenever I pull away, but at least it still runs.

When I get home, the apartment’s empty. That’s what I like most about sharing with the other girls. When I’m here, I always have the apartment to myself. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go out with them, to have close friends I can laugh and chill with. But then I remind myself that I’m not here to make friends. I’m here for Jamie. My sister is all that matters. A month after I finish here, Jamie will be eleven. I need to find a good job and get us a place of our own before she’s twelve.

I throw my bag on the single bed. I don’t have much in my room, just the second-hand bed and nightstand. I first shower, then make myself some coffee before settling down on my bed. I need to finish the assignment I’m working on even if it takes all night. Luckily it’s Sunday tomorrow and I only have to be at work at twelve, which means I can sleep in.

I get lost in my work until I’m finally happy with it. Grabbing the cup with some cold coffee still left in it, I walk to the kitchen. I’m busy rinsing the cup when I hear the door open. I dry my hands and go to see which of the girls are home. When I see Carter coming in with his arm around Evie, I feel a slight sting of disappointment. I brush the unwelcome feeling away. 

“… fucking bitch,” he finishes whatever he was busy saying as his eyes land on me.

Damn, those eyes of his have the power to turn my mind to slush.

Then Evie looks up and my lips part with shock when I see her swollen cheek. Mascara is streaked over her cheeks, with red blotches around her eyes. I rush forward and grab Evie away from him.

“Get your hands off her,” I hiss.

Was he busy cursing Evie as they came in?

I bring her to the couch and let her sit down. I lift her face up, and with worried eyes, I take in the bruise on her cheek. Her tears make my insides quiver with anger. Evie is one of the nicest people I know. Why would he hurt her?

I turn back to Carter, my body shaking with rage. “Get out!”

He takes a step towards me and it makes me tense. I’m nothing like my friends. I won’t hesitate to introduce my knee to his balls.

“Let me-” he starts to talk, but I cut him off. He can keep his explanation for those air-headed bimbos he likes to screw.

“Nothing you say will make this okay. You’re nothing but a spineless piece of shit. Is it a turn-on?” I sneer as I walk towards him. “Does it make you feel like a man?”

“Della,” Evie calls from behind me. I need to get back to her. I shove him as hard as I can, and I’m pleased when he takes a step back.

He tilts his head and there’s an expression on his face I can’t read. Maybe anger? Who cares anyway? I hate the Screw Crew. They’re nothing but a bunch of bullies. I hope they aren’t close friends of Evie. She needs to stay away from guys like them. They’re nothing but trouble.

I didn’t see it earlier, but the brand of shirt he’s wearing is of the expensive kind. He reeks of money. That explains it all.

“You should use some of that money and buy yourself some morals,” I snap.

To my surprise he laughs, shaking his head at me. His eyes drop to my legs and it’s only then I remember that I’m only wearing a shirt.

 

 

***

CARTER

 

 

White cotton panties. Fuck. She yanks the shirt down and scowls at me.

“Careful, babe. Looking at me like that will get you in trouble,” I taunt her just because it’s so fucking easy to get her all riled up.

Earlier at the diner, I actually thought she was hot. I admired her for standing up to the guys. I don’t have to like her to admit that she’s got killer legs, and don’t even get me started on her mouth. I’d love to see her on her knees with her lips wrapped around my cock. Then I’ll live up to the what she thinks of me as I add her name to the screwed list. She’s just another judgemental bitch. I regret standing up for her to my friends, telling them to back off and to drop the bet. I’m going to win that bet just so I can see the look on her face when she realizes that she’s nothing but a four hundred dollar fuck.

I watch as her scowl turns to a death glare, but I don’t miss the blush creeping over her cheeks. What do you know? Little Miss high and mighty may hate me, but those blushing cheeks are a clear sign that she’s attracted to me. That will work perfectly to my advantage.

I grin at her and whisper, “Game on.”

She takes another step closer to me and I get a whiff of her scent. She smells edible, like chrushed apples.

There’s a slight frown on her forehead when she says, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I’m not one of your friends.” She wiggles a finger between us. “Whatever you think is going on here, it’s not. Get out of our apartment before I call the cops. “

“You’re quick to judge others, aren’t you?” I say as I start to plan all the different ways I’m going to have fun with her. “You’re one of those who loves to sit on your high fucking pedestal, while passing judgment on anyone who’s different from you. Quite fucked up if you ask me.”

“I didn’t ask you,” she snaps, her blue eyes sparking with anger. It makes them look electric.

“No, you didn’t,” I whisper. “A word of advice, next time make sure of your facts before you jump to conclusions. It will save you from having to crawl back to me with your tail between your legs to apologize. Then again, I’d love to see you on your knees.”

I see the moment doubt washes over her face. She’s finally second-guessing her actions. That makes me smirk as I lean into her. I watch her eyes widen and the blush deepens on her cheeks.

“Just remember I didn’t start this little game, you did.” I lean in more until our cheeks brush, and whisper in her ear, “But I’m sure as hell going to finish it, babe.”

She pulls away, her breaths coming fast. “I didn’t start anything, and I’m not playing some pathetic game.”

She still doesn’t understand what she did. “Sweetheart, you were so fucking quick to label me as just some asshole who has too much money and not a lick of decency. Who am I to disappoint you? I’ll just have to live up to the image you have of me. I wouldn’t want to let a clever little thing like you down.”

She glances back at Evie who’s been watching us with huge eyes. Before Della can look back at me I turn around and leave. I’m not going to make it easy for her to apologize. She’s going to learn the hard way that I don’t let people fuck with me and get away with it.

I’m not sure whether I’m pissed off at her for accusing me being some fucked up rich kid who would hit Evie, or whether I’m turned-on by her killer body. I’ve never felt so confused over a woman before. Why the fuck do I even care what she thinks? It’s clear she doesn’t think much of me.

I was helping Evie. She and Rhett got into an argument when that psycho blonde that was hanging around Rhett attacked her. I told Rhett to fucking man up and admit that he cares about Evie. I also told him to get rid of the trash. I swear he’s fucking everything in sight so he doesn’t have to face the fact that he’s fallen for Evie. He keeps denying it but loses his shit whenever another guy just looks at her.

I don’t understand why they don’t just get together. A blind man can see that they have the hots for each other.

After the psycho blonde slapped Evie, I brought her home to make sure she was okay. I did it because she’s a decent person and didn’t deserve what happened. I also did it because Rhett is one of my best friends and I know he’s going to feel like shit about what happened.

But mostly I did it in the hopes of seeing Della again. Earlier at the diner, there was tension between us and I was curious to see if it was real. When I’d first walked into the apartment, the tension was there in full force, until she saw Evie’s face.

I had every intention of making sure the guys forgot about the damn bet until she got on her judgmental high horse. I’ve been judged wrongly before and it never bothered me. Marcus and Rhett are the ones with the screw lists. They’re the manwhores responsible for our nickname, Screw Crew. I’m no saint but I have nothing on those two. As for the twins, Jaxson and Logan, they’re not huge on dating. Jaxson keeps busy between college and being a personal trainer, where Logan is the quiet one in the group.

As for me, all my focus is on finishing my degree. Once I’ve graduated, I’ll start working at Indie Ink Publishers. Dad said I have to start at the bottom. I understand why. That’s the best way for me to learn everything about the company and the people working there. When I take over from Dad, I want it to be because I deserve it.

On the drive back to the house I share with the guys, my mind goes back to the little spitfire. Even dressed in just a shirt and panties, she handled me like a boss. I have to admire her for standing up for Evie. But fuck, I’ll never hurt a woman.

I’m sure as hell going to have some fun with Della.  

 

 

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