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Authors: Elise Alden

Hate to Love You

BOOK: Hate to Love You
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Hate to Love You
By Elise Alden

Despite my slutty reputation, I was
technically
a virgin at eighteen. But it turns out all those sex-ed teachers aren’t just trying to scare you. The faint positive on a budget pregnancy test sent me spinning, moments before meeting my sister’s snooty new fiancé.

Shaking hands with upper-crusty James was like downing a triple shot of vodka. Dizzy with desire, confused by my body’s reaction, and shocked by the possessiveness flashing in his eyes, I deceived him that night and told the world at their wedding reception.

The truth?

I slept with my sister’s fiancé. Hot and sweaty, all night long in a room so dark he couldn’t tell I wasn’t her.

The lie?

Said fiancé is the father of my child. The one I signed over my rights to just before he was born.

That was seven years ago.

It’s time to come clean.

95,000 words

Dear Reader,

June seems to be a time of both magical beginnings and wishful thinking, as we combine the wedding season with the last month of school. Here at Carina, our jobs are filled with a combination of both magical beginnings and wishful thinking, as we work in the land of fiction and allow ourselves to drift through fantastic worlds, happily ever afters and action-filled stories. Okay, maybe our jobs are a lot more rooted in reality than that, but the books we publish do allow us a brief escape and I hope they’ll do the same for you this month.

Powerhouse erotic romance author Lynda Aicher is back with
Bonds of Courage
, in which an alpha professional hockey player finds himself the one bound and at her mercy. Joining Lynda in the erotic category is Samantha Ann King with another fantastic ménage,
Tempting Meredith
. One man is risky, but two might teach her to trust and love again.

June brings quite a lineup of male/male romances. Ava March always stands out for me because not only does she write a fantastic male/male erotic romance, but she sets it in historical times, when it was even harder for two men to be in love, lending even more delicious romantic tension. Don’t miss
Sharp Love
, followed by
The Viscount’s Wager
releasing in December 2014.

And speaking of magical beginnings, we have two debut authors in the male/male category. This month we’re pleased to introduce Tyler Flynn and
Chasing the Rebel.
One man is fleeing the French Revolution, the other sympathizes with the Revolution. How can they fall for each other when they can’t even trust each other?

Also debuting with Carina Press this month is G.B. Lindsey, who leads off a three-part anthology,
Secrets of Neverwood
, which includes novellas from returning Carina Press authors Diana Copland and Libby Drew. As three foster brothers renovate a stately mansion to reopen it as a home for troubled gay youth, their love lives are complicated by the whimsical ghost of their foster mother in
One Door Closes
;
The Growing Season
; and
The Lost Year
.

Rounding out our male/male selections for the month is returning author L.B. Gregg with her popular Men of Smithfield series. In
Men of Smithfield:
Sam and Aaron
, Sam’s in a rut and looking to break out of it, so he’s thrilled when a newcomer to town introduces more than an edge of naughty nights and risky days into his life.

There are so many more incredible books coming in June, it’s hard to know which world to lead you to next. How about some angels and demons in
The Fire Within
by Dana Marie Bell? Or why not take a trip on the high seas on a pirate ship—only this one captained by a woman in
Mutiny of the Heart
by Jennifer Bray-Weber. Danube Adele isn’t shy about taking new adult to a whole new level in her paranormal romance
Dark Summer Dreams
, in which Shandria is forced to rescue a sworn enemy of her people, only to find herself kidnapped by that same rugged warrior who promises retribution of his own. And who wouldn’t want to spend time with an outlaw witch, a society ice queen, and illicit magic that light up the night in the tense futuristic world of the Magic Born in Sonya Clark’s
Witchlight.

In another twist on the new adult genre, Anne Tibbets joins Carina Press and introduces
The Line Book One:
Carrier
and her dystopian world. In a futuristic society, sex slave Naya is released and given a choice—find someone willing to take her place, or fight against the ruling corporation to save her unborn children.

Amylynn Bright also joins Carina Press, bringing contemporary romance
Cooking Up Love
to our virtual shelves. When anonymous food critic and lousy chef Holly signed up for cooking classes, she didn’t realize that she and her yummy instructor would be whipping up more than dinner in the kitchen—or that he’d blame her bad review for closing his restaurant and killing his career.

We have two additional debut authors to introduce this month, both writing contemporary new adult romance, but in two freshly original and very different stories. In
Hate to Love You
by Elise Alden, hatred and guilt battle love and desire as Paisley and James confront the past, each other, and the unwanted attraction that sparked between them the night she ruined his wedding. This is one book that will have people firmly on either side of a line: hate Paisley, or love her?

And we welcome Sybil Bartel and her new adult romance,
No Apologies.
No heart, questionable morals, one hundred percent attitude, Graham Allen is the perfect rocker; nothing can break him—except her.

Last, this month we introduce a new trilogy, Shore Secrets, from Carina Press author Christi Barth. A hard-nosed businessman with contempt for small-town America is forever changed by the love of a sexy hotel owner and a quirky but tight-knit community famous for its anonymous journal by the lakeshore. Don’t miss
Up to Me
, the first of this trilogy featuring three strong heroes, fighting for the love and trust of three even stronger heroines on the shores of Seneca Lake.

I hope your month of June is as wonderful as ours, spending it among our reader friends at different conventions and getting to gab about the books we love. Maybe we’ll see you at one of them! And if you do, we hope you’ll stop us and tell us your favorite Carina Press book. There just might be some Carina swag in it for you if we have any on us!

Coming in July:
Falling for Max
by Shannon Stacey; a debut author, Caroline Kimberly, brings us a historical romance pitched as “Regency
Romancing the Stone
”; and Jeffe Kennedy offers up a hot new BDSM novel.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

Acknowledgments

My overwhelming gratitude to Jeremy, my lover and best
friend, for daring me to write a book and shouldering the household chores so
that I could! Without your support Paisley and James’s story would never have
been told. And to our two girls, because they adore happy endings and didn’t
complain about the time it took to craft this one. My best reward is that you
are proud of me.

Everlasting appreciation to Jules Horne from Creative Arts
Business Network, who gobsmacked me with her feedback on my first chapters and
introduced me to Helen Bleck. Thank you, Helen, for enjoying Paisley’s voice,
for your insightful comments about this story and for your encouragement to
continue writing. It means a lot to me. For reading the rough drafts, allowing
me to talk for hours about Paisley and James, asking tough questions, and
keeping me grounded, I raise my margarita to Lesley Johnson, Svetlana Astafurov
and Blake Leyers, my “reject harpy” betas.

If it hadn’t been for Angela James, who made sure Paisley’s
voice was listened to, this book might not be a click away from discovery and I
wouldn’t be a Carina Press author. On that note, enormous thanks to Kerri
Buckley,
editora sensacional
, for lifting my
manuscript off the slush pile and seeing its potential. She didn’t kick it, but
she sure has marked its arse up into shape! (Mine also, but ‘nough said.) And
Stephanie Doig, you went to bat for my story and I thank you for it. The Carina
Press team rocks.

Prologue

In my experience, telling the truth very rarely sets you free; it weighs you down with an entirely new set of problems and therefore should be avoided at all costs. But my sister Caroline’s wedding reception and the booze that went with it proved a toxic combo, and here I am seven years later, still reeling from the repercussions of opening my mouth.

If you want you can watch me self-destruct on YouTube. “Trash at the Bash” continues to be very popular, or so I was told in the rejection letter from Holborn Secretarial Services.

Sometimes people ask me why I did it—why I chose Caroline and James’s wedding to divulge my secrets. I never answer them because the truth is...

I
did it because it felt good.

Actually, it felt
great
, but now I would do anything to stop my eighteen-year-old self, hold her down and sit on her because I’m not that messed-up girl anymore.

Unfortunately, I’m still paying the price for her actions.

Revenge is a dish best served cold? What a load of crap. My vengeance against Caroline had been a long time coming but the joy of it lasted only as long as it took to finish my speech. James served his up hot, so scalding it’s seared into my heart and will be for as long as I live. Of course, the whopper I told alongside the truth is probably more to blame for that than anything else, but I figure there wouldn’t have been one without the other. Just saying.

Does my conscience hurt? Like a son of a bitch. But coming clean after all this time would only harm the person I love the most. Luckily, I’ve got a plan that will allow the truth to stay cosily buried and still get me what I want.

If it works.

PART ONE

Chapter One

Mask of Horror

Brighton
,
7
years ago

My mother told me the family secret when I was twelve years old, curled up in pain with my very first menstrual cramps. While I lay in bed daydreaming about growing bigger boobs and getting noticed by the older boys, she thought it was the perfect time to shock me with the evils of sex.

“I was a pregnant virgin, Paisley,” she said, her face clenched as tightly as my abdomen. “I was already carrying your sister when I walked down the aisle.”

A
pregnant virgin?

One look into her dulled eyes told me she wasn’t joking. “But you said nice girls don’t let boys touch them.”

“Your father lied to me—he lured me into sinful intimacy with promises of marriage.” Her lips twisted with the sour taste of her memories. “He said I couldn’t get pregnant if he pressed his sword into the entrance of my forbidden passage but didn’t go any further. The devil was in me that day and I let him.”

I controlled the urge to roll my eyes. My parents may have been born in the UK but their uptight upbringing had been very much small-town Spain. They’d grown up a part of the tightly knit, ultra-conservative group of Spanish Catholics living in Trenmore Village, Sussex.

Sword
and
forbidden passage
were about as graphic as my mother got, not that she’d ever spoken about such things to me before. I’d been eavesdropping on her conversations with Caroline. At nineteen and away at university, my sister got a lot of lectures on fornication.

“You can’t get pregnant this way, María,” my mother sneered, mimicking my father’s voice. “But as usual, Juan Carlos Benítez was wrong.” She spat his name out like a piece of rotten meat.

Years later I learned the mechanics of virgin pregnancy during a sex-ed class where the boys tittered and the girls tried not to blush. Basically, eager spermatozoids in a man’s sack take a preliminary look before the guy unloads, travelling up in his pre-cum to test the waters. If it’s warm and wet, they can go for the long haul and beat their stronger pals to the prize. Feisty little buggers.

My father had been true to his word, inserting only the tip before getting himself off. Alas, he left a little bit of himself behind. When my
papi
Honorio noticed my mother’s expanding waistline he marched my parents to St. Albert’s, where they were romanically and apostolically joined in misery.

Afterward they fled the gossiping tongues of Trenmore for Brighton, where my father still works as a construction labourer and my mother stacks shelves at Asda.

Caroline thought our parents’ past was humiliating but I laughed every time I thought about it, mentally sniggering when my holier-than-thou parents lectured me on morality.

But I wasn’t sniggering now. The Find Out pregnancy test sat in my hand like a piece of lead. Tomorrow was supposed to be the first day of my new, responsible life. For starters there would be less alcohol. No, make that zero booze. And no more ABCs either. Okay, okay, the upper in my pocket was burning a hole, but it would be my last one. My decision had been made: no drugs, no procrastination about college and definitely no self-pity.

Shit happens and if you don’t die you pick yourself off the fucking pavement before a dog claims you as his turf.

Sweat stuck my palms together as I prayed like I hadn’t since I was ten years old, back when I believed there was a bearded hippie sitting on a cloud listening to my pleas for Caroline to get adopted.

Three minutes to go.

The bottle of vodka in my backpack called to me and I tried to resist its pull. Two minutes, thirty seconds until...
Fuck it
. Onto the bed went the Find Out and into my mouth the Absolut. Strong and energising, the fiery liquid slid down my throat like water. I wanted more but we were having guests for dinner and I couldn’t indulge.

Michael Jackson’s “Bad” rang out from my mobile and I choked on my booze. My friend Marcia was in a retro phase.

Her husky voice sounded worried. “Should I buy a mega pack of Huggies or get you some condoms for next time?”

“Shit if I know.”

“You’re not preggers,” she soothed. “The drugs screwed with your cycle and it’ll take a while for it to normalise. You’ve been late before, remember? It’s probably stress. Living at home with parents like yours would do anyone’s head in.”

The red crosses on my Christ’s Apostles wall calendar mocked me. “But I’m two weeks late and that’s the longest ever.”

Fourteen days ago there’d been a tiny show but that was it. Every time I went to the bathroom, every time I felt a twinge in my abdomen, I checked to see if it was my period. Nothing.

My eyes cut to the test. “Shit on a stick,” I croaked. “It’s positive.”

“A clear line?”

On a Find Out, the positive is indicated with a heart shape. It was faint but it was there, mocking me with its cutie little outline. It should have been a mask of horror. The back of my head hit the bed board and my body trembled. This could not be happening to me. My brain urged me toward denial but my stomach had other ideas. It lurched, churning the Absolut so violently I thought I’d have to make a run for the loo.

My voice rose hysterically. “What the hell am I going to do with a baby?”

“Shut up, hon. You’re going to count deep breaths with me and not talk unless I tell you to.”

She was only twenty-one but when she spoke in that tone—a combination of her natural assertiveness and her nurse’s training—people jumped to obey. I was no exception.

“I assume you’re not alone in the house, so
icksnay
on the
reakoutfray
, you
comprende?

I expelled a short, shaky breath. “I’m good—no more freaking out.”

“You have to calm down and think about your options. Last I heard Alex and his fiancée were in South America.”

“Fiancée? He told me he’d dumped her.”

Marcia made a disgusted noise. “Apparently not. Send him a PM on Facebook and tell him he knocked you up. He should know before he ties the knot, don’t you think?”

I cringed at the thought. As soon as I wrote down that I was pregnant it would become real. Impossible to deny.

“Yeah, I guess. No. Shit, I don’t know. I don’t want to tell him.”

I wanted to cry or hit something, throw the bottle of Absolut at the wall and scream at the unfairness of my predicament but Marcia was right. I had to seal my inner madwoman up in the attic before my parents’ dinner party.

“You could have an abortion,” Marcia said tentatively.

Her suggestion pulled me deeper into my nightmare. Regardless of my strict Catholic upbringing I’d always been pro-choice, but what I felt before peeing on that damn stick was drifting away from me now that pro-choice had become
my
choice.

How could I have been so stupid? All I’d wanted was to get drunk at Marcia’s party but when Alex Novak pulled me onto his lap I let him. He said he’d never been so hard in his life and he’d burst if he didn’t get inside me. When I looked into his eyes and read the truth of his words, I was flattered. That sounds pretty bizarre, I know. I’ve not got freaky magical powers or anything. It’s more like I can read single words or phrases when I look at people. See their truths whether they want me to or not.

It started when I was a child, when family and friends would pinch my cheek or sit me on their laps. My candid readings and blurted answers to their unasked questions caused my parents a lot of angry embarrassment, not to mention alarm. They went to Trenmore and consulted with Father Martin. He sat me down after church one Sunday, irritated and impatient to get home. Innocently, I asked him what a Marlboro was and why he was desperate for one.

He prescribed an altar in the sitting room and an expensive silver rosary.

Every day after school I kneeled in front of the Virgin Mary and begged God to forgive me until dinnertime. The gruelling schedule continued until I convinced Father Martin that prayer had destroyed my unholy defect.

And how did I do that? By lying through my teeth of course.

When Father Martin saw me again he filled his eyes with every ounce of ugliness he could think of, every bad word and every sadistic thought that could catch me out. But I had practiced, making sure to stare at family members, strangers and teachers as much as possible. I fooled Father Martin even though I saw that he projected some of his own truths.

These days I don’t look into anyone’s bright and beautifuls for too long if I can help it, especially my family’s. The eyes really are the mirrors to the soul, you know. But when I read Alex’s
I
want a piece of that cunt
, I was, perversely, charmed by his lust.

His thoughts matched his words and that made for a refreshing change. Plus, I liked him at lot. He was hot and he didn’t seem to judge me like other people. I’d kissed plenty of guys and done lots of other things too; I had a bad reputation but I’d never gone all the way.

We ended up in Marcia’s bedroom, still clothed and groping like mad.

“I thought you were only kissing in there,” Marcia said.

I snorted. “I didn’t notice he’d unzipped until he yanked my knickers aside and aimed his dick at me, groaning like he was in pain.”

“No condom?” Her shriek was so loud my eardrum pinged.

“Shit, Mar, relax. I told him no condom, no can do,” I assured her. “But he wasn’t happy and dug it into my thigh. I tried to push him off but he held me down and pumped all over me. Then he said ‘Thanks for the pussy’ and walked out as if he’d just bummed a fag off me.”

I hadn’t expected soppy declarations of love, but neither had I thought he’d treat me like a slag. That’s the aggravating thing about skimming the surface. Some people keep their ugliness hidden deeper, harder to fathom unless you follow the trail.

“When my shift is finished I’ll give you a buzz and we’ll study that cheapie test of yours,” Marcia said. “In the meantime look on the bright side, at least you haven’t got gastroenteritis.”

“I wish I did,” I said miserably.

“And Paisley,” Marcia said softly, “happy eighteenth.”

I threw the Find Out at the foot of my bed and shut my eyes. My world was shrinking to the size of the little parasite inside my...

Womb
.

Most days I didn’t remember I had one of those but the bloody thing took on new significance as I lay there, picturing my family’s reaction to the news. My mother would dissolve into tears and head straight to the altar and my father...well, I’d better make sure I was far away from him when he found out.

Caroline would be horrified, worried about how having a single mother in the family would reflect on her reputation. Then she’d pretend concern and play the caring sister for my parents’ benefit. But I knew the truth about Caroline.

She was a liar.

“The truth shall set you free,” my arse. It’s the lies that allow people to fly high. People like Caroline, the golden girl who’d blighted my life and turned the whole family against me. Familiar, impotent anger and hopelessness hit my sensitive stomach, threatening to overwhelm me with nausea. I shut my eyes and reached for the vodka.

My father’s voice boomed from downstairs. “Paisley! Caroline’s ’ere with James!”

Crap. If I wasn’t quick he might come upstairs to get me. Like his father before him, my father ruled the family like a Spanish hidalgo his serfs. The only concession he’d made to being born and bred in England was to deed poll his name from Juan Carlos Benítez to John Charles Benton. Otherwise we were in feudal Spain and I had to toe the line if I expected to live under his roof again. That meant church every Sunday, no boyfriends or—God send me to hell where the sluts belong—sex.

And absolutely no booze or drugs.

I’d run away and lived rough a few years earlier and it hadn’t been pretty, so I sprang off the bed and dashed across the room, one eye on the door. I yanked hard at a corner of frayed carpet, exposing a section of missing floorboard. Into the hide-hole went the Find Out and my Absolut. It was time to go downstairs and meet Caroline’s fiancé, Mr Arrogant Toff aka James Xavier Scott-Thomas.

My sister came home at weekends, but with the big day only three months away she’d finally been forced to introduce James to her working-class parents and good-for-nothing sister. He was staying the night on the sofa after dinner with Father Martin to discuss the wedding service.

Unable to resist a peek at the idiot who’d fallen for Caroline, I had checked James out on Facebook. There was no picture, but his comments about people he called “the underclass” were exactly the sort you’d expect from a snobbish, supercilious lawyer.

I frowned at my tatty clothing. The red crop top was too tight and without a bra, my nipples were clearly outlined. Well-worn jeans courtesy of the charity shop hugged my thighs and my shoes were boring flats. Shrugging, I turned my back on the mirror. Mr Posh would have to take me as I was.

I paused at the dingy wall stain halfway down the stairs to listen to Caroline and my parents in the kitchen.

My father sounded impressed. “That’s a car and a half parked out front, Caroline. Do you think James would take us for a spin after tea? They’ll never believe I was in a Lamborghini down at the yard.”

Ugh.
Was James so keen to show off his wealth he’d bring a car like that to a neighbourhood like ours? I walked into the front room, my mind made up to meet, greet and beat it.

James had his back to me when I entered, perusing our family photos. Dark and tall with a muscular build. He threw me a smile over his shoulder but didn’t look straight at me. It was just as well. When the full impact of that one casual smile hit me I got a mental rush akin to gulping down a triple shot of Cuervo. I didn’t even have time to recover before he turned around.

I gaped at James like an idiot, my lips parted and my eyes fixed on his. They were jade green with little flecks of gold, bright with intelligence and humour—and something else I felt stab through my stuporlike wild fire. I was mesmerised, lost in the expanding black of his pupils, reading him effortlessly while my heart pounded in my ears. The air between us charged as the frenzied atoms zapped his thought straight into me, possessive and indisputable.

BOOK: Hate to Love You
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