Authors: Avery Wilde
A British Bad Boy Romance
By Avery Wilde
All Rights Reserved
Want to keep updated on Avery’s new releases? Sign up for her newsletter to be the first to know about new books, specials and promotions! Copy and paste this link into your web browser:
Please respect the work of this author. No part of this book may be reproduced or copied without permission. This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Any similarities to events or situations is also coincidental.
“But you’re an art student!” My friend Sarah’s words had a tendency to slur slightly when she’d been drinking. “Why would you want to be a cleaner?”
I rolled my eyes and wondered if I looked and sounded as drunk as my friend. I hadn’t had as much to drink as Sarah, but on the other hand, Sarah was a bigger drinker and could hold her liquor better—there was a good chance that I was just as drunk despite only having had two drinks. If that even made sense…I wasn’t sure, which probably meant that I was a little tipsy.
Oh well. Tonight was a night for celebration! I’d just finished my degree, and I was happy to be past all the late nights, cramming, and stressful final exams.
“Well?” Sarah pushed for an answer to her question.
“Okay, firstly,” I began, hearing that drink-induced slur in my own words mirroring that of my friend. “I’m not an art student. As of today, I’m officially an art graduate.”
“True. I’ll drink to that,” Sarah replied, knocking back a shot with a practiced flick of her wrist.
“Secondly,” I continued. “I don’t want to be a cleaner, I want to be a maid, which is a bit different. Thirdly, I don’t even
to be a maid exactly, but I’ve got to make money somehow on my gap year. And while it’s pretty easy to ‘maid’ your way around Europe, it’s surprisingly hard to ‘art’ your way around Europe. You go into a temp agency and say you’re looking for any art jobs they have going and they laugh in your face.”
“Jeez, they literally laughed in your face?”
“Well…mostly they snickered behind my back,” I admitted. “But the principle is the same.”
“I guess I can see that,” Sarah replied.
“If I don’t go now, then I’ll end up getting a job, getting married eventually, and having kids. And you know, I do want all that stuff sometime down the line, but if it happens soon, then I’ll never get to do the stuff for me, like traveling and experiencing the world.”
“And seeing all the great art galleries of Europe.”
“And getting good and laid along the way,” she added with a smirk.
I shook my head. “I’m just going for the art.”
Sarah shook her head in disappointment at me. “You see, I could understand that attitude if you’d cut loose in college, like everybody else did. But whenever I tried to take you out to meet some guys, you always said you had to work…”
have to work.”
,” Sarah continued, waving away my excuse. “You always said that there would be plenty of time for fun once you graduated. Well, now you’ve graduated, and you’re still being boring! You need less Manet, and more man-lay.” She paused and snickered at her artistic pun. “That’s the best I can do off the top of my head. I think there’s something with Botticelli but I can’t quite figure it out.”
“Please don’t,” I said with a grin.
Sarah shrugged. “Anyway, where are you gonna be working?”
I perked up. Although being a maid was not what I’d dreamed of through years of studying old masters, one exciting possibility had come up. “Well, I’m starting in England. I’ve applied for a bunch of places but the one I really want is—drum roll please…”
Sarah did a drum roll on the edge of the table with her hands.
“Working for the British royal family at one of their official residences.”
It was a mark of how impressive this news was that when Sarah spilled her drink, she didn’t seem to care. “You’re shitting me! You’d really be working for the Arlingtons?”
I nodded. “That’s what it’s looking like. I made it through the first stage of the application, so fingers crossed. I just have to wait for them to finish all the background checks and do the second round of applications. As you can imagine, they put all possible future staff through the wringer.”
“But they’re the friggin’ royal family…can’t they afford to hire someone with more maid experience? Like
“I may have slightly embellished my résumé,” I admitted, my cheeks turning hot. “But I spent years cleaning up after all my younger brothers and taking care of them when my parents were drinking, so that has to count for something, right? Unfortunately they don’t let you put stuff like that on résumés.”
“Yeah, that’s true. Wow, though…if you actually get that job, that’ll be so awesome!” Sarah enthused. “Oh my god! I just thought of something—you might meet Prince Andrew!”
I smiled. “I guess you never know.”
“I’ll drink to that.” Sarah reached for her glass. “Oh, crap, I spilled my drink...”
While Sarah went to the bar to get a new drink, I mused on the possibilities my new job might offer me. Frankly, unlike my friend, I had little interest in the British royal family itself, and only the vaguest idea of who Prince Andrew Arlington was. He was heir to the throne and a bit of a playboy from what I’d read in the occasional gossip column I glanced at, and my knowledge about him ground to a halt there.
What I did know was that the royal family owned the largest collection of old masters in private ownership in the world. There were endless family portraits by such luminaries as Holbein and Velazquez, but there was also the largest collection of Da Vinci sketches gathered in one place, and rarities by British greats such as Constable, Turner and Reynolds. They were the amassed artistic treasures of an empire which had once spanned the globe and which, though the empire itself had now been disbanded, the royal family had been remiss enough not to give back. For anyone with an interest in art, it was like being a kid let loose in a candy store.
I wasn’t foolish enough to think that the first thing the family would do when I arrived was say, ‘
Have a look at the art collection first, then get on with cleaning the toilets’
. Nor did I think it likely that many of my maid duties would revolve around the galleries or store rooms in which the remarkable collection was housed. But if I saw only a fraction of what they had to offer, then that was enough—I would be seeing works that were usually reserved for academics, visiting dignitaries and the family itself. It would be a thrill, and if doing a bit of vacuuming was the price of that thrill, then it was a price that I was more than willing to pay.
Sarah returned with a bottle of something vodka-based for herself and a tray of shot glasses which spilled as she tottered unsteadily to the table.
“I have come to a decision,” she said.
“Are you replacing your blood with alcohol?” I asked, eyeing the impressive array of drinks as I arched one brow.
“Yes, but that’s more an ongoing project than a decision,” she replied. “I’ve decided that you are going to have fun tonight.”
Sarah shook her head. “Let me rephrase that: you are going to have
“That’s not rephrasing, that’s just changing the emphasis.”
fun,” Sarah said, rolling her eyes. “I’ve watched you having fun, Keira. It saddens me to think that you actually think you know what fun is.”
“I do know what it is!”
Sarah shook her head. “Unless you wake up in a place you don’t recognize, naked, sticky and feeling ashamed of yourself but not knowing why, you didn’t have fun. You might not remember it, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that fun was had.”
“I don’t want that kind of fun,” I said.
“You only graduate once, girl!”
“But you do this every weekend!”
“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.” Sarah winked and downed a shot, then picked up her bottle and turned to the room. “I’m going to find myself a hot guy to dance with. He may not be quite as good-looking tomorrow morning, but in these situations perception is all that matters.”
On this unexpectedly philosophical note, Sarah left the table.
I eyed the shot glasses warily and then looked up at the room. There were some handsome men here, and contrary to what Sarah might have thought, I wasn’t a frigid, stick in the mud who didn’t want or know how to have fun. I simply didn’t like to get absolutely blackout drunk when I went out, because my parents had struggled with alcohol addiction earlier in their lives, and I didn’t want to be like that at any point. Also, I was…well, to tell the truth, I was nervous. The truth was that I envied Sarah more than I cared to admit. The idea of going out, picking up a man, enjoying a night of devastating sex and then walking away without another thought was wholly off-putting to me, and yet also massively exciting and attractive. I didn’t want a one night stand; I didn’t want to be that kind of girl. But at the same time, I really envied the girls who were lucky enough to
that kind of girl. It must be so freeing to not give a crap about what others might think.
Could I do it for just one night? As I’d just noticed, there
some sexy men here at the bar…
But even as I thought it, I knew that it was beyond me. I simply wasn’t the type. And that was fine—I wasn’t horribly unhappy with who I was, and after an adolescence spent fighting against myself, I had finally come to think that being Keira Valencia was not such a bad person to be. It was just a shame that I couldn’t be entirely happy about it.
I watched Sarah dancing with a man whom she’d probably never met before tonight, and I raised my glass to my lips as I mused on what that would be like. For one night it might be nice to be Sarah Keane, but the next morning I would wake up as myself and most likely regret it all. Key to my life philosophy, such as it was, was the belief that somewhere out there, there was something that would make me as happy as Sarah seemed to be all the time. It might be harder to find, but that would just make it all the more worthwhile when I finally found it.
Boy, I hoped I was right about that.
I had no idea what the ‘something’ might be, although a persistent voice at the back of my mind told me that it might be a ‘someone’ rather than a ‘something’. And if God was kind, then it would be a someone who looked as good as the man who’d just approached and sat down at my table…
I drew in a sharp breath as I took him in. He looked around my age, perhaps a couple of years older. From what I’d seen out of the corner of my eye as he approached seconds earlier, he was tall—very tall—and although he was fully clothed, the cut nature of his body was evident, his muscles somehow imposing their presence through the constricting fabric. He reminded me of a sculpture; something strong and perfect carved by the brilliant hands of an ancient artist, aside from the tattoos twining up his upper arms and disappearing under his shirt. Ancient sculptures definitely didn’t have tattoos, and I didn’t need a fine arts degree to know that.
His face was even more captivating than his muscular form. His eyes were an entrancing shade of blue, and his face was all masculine angles from the ridge of his brows, the high cheekbones, and the square of his jaw. His lips were seemingly drawn into what appeared to be a permanent half-smirk, and I gulped as I waited to find out exactly why he’d sat down across from me.
“This is going to sound like a line,” he said.
He had an English accent that made me go unexpectedly weak at the knees. I’d never known that I found British accents sexy, but apparently I did. That movement of his lips was potent to me, and I felt something resonate within my core like the echo of a drum.
“And the reason it’s going to sound like a line is because it
a line,” he continued. “I thought it was best to get that out of the way upfront—save any misunderstandings about my intentions.”
“Okay.” I smiled and nodded. Usually I would’ve said a polite ‘no thank you’, but I had to admit, this was a good opener. Oh, and the fact that the guy was utterly gorgeous certainly didn’t hurt….
“Let’s hear the line,” I added.
“You mean that wasn’t good enough?”
I laughed and shook my head. “You said there was going to be a line and you prepared me for it, so now you have to deliver.”
The man locked his sapphire blue eyes with mine. “You are, without question, the most beautiful woman in this bar, probably in this city, possibly in the world, and I would very much like it if you would join me for a drink. If for no other reason than the fact that I will be able to tell people that I drank with the most beautiful girl in this bar, probably in this city, possibly in the world.”
I found it hard to tear my gaze away from his eyes, but I did my best to seem nonchalant. “It’s not a very original line, but you did deliver it well. I think the accent helps.”
Speaking of the accent, it had just registered with me that it was rather posh, which struck me as strange for a man who had tattoos twisting up his arms. Then again, these days a lot of people had tattoos; people from many walks of life. I suppose it wasn’t
The man smiled back, blue eyes twinkling with irresistible wickedness. “I may not be original, but I always deliver.”
I’d never thought that a smile could be sexual, but I felt the need to use birth control before allowing this man to smile at me again. I bit my lip and instantly hated myself for doing something so coyly girlish. “I still don’t know. I’m not convinced that your intentions are honorable.”