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An incredible enemies-to-lovers romance comes to life when a sweet veterinarian goes head-to-head with a developer determined to tear down her animal sanctuary. Sparks fly, but are they the wrong kind?
Arie loves being a veterinarian. She loves saving animals. She loves working for nearly nothing at a local animal shelter. She doesn’t love long walks on a beach or sipping wine at a fancy restaurant. She also doesn’t need to find a man. She already had one of those and the divorce papers to prove it. But she has bigger worries at the moment—the possible shutdown of the animal shelter she works at. She just never imagined the one man threatening to close it down could be so damn sexy.
As the showdown begins, Arie never expects for events to take the turn they do… She’s willing to give this man anything and everything to stop the shelter from closing.
She just never expects him to ask this one simple question…
- Enemies to Lovers
- Opposites Attract
- Marriage Pact
Emilia Hudson has never been one to consider arranged marriages, especially if it meant her fifty-five year old parents would have a say, but with her dismal love life, she’s almost reconsidering.
After her latest dating disaster, Emilia writes a simple blog post that goes viral. Worse yet, people start considering her a relationship expert, and all she feels like is a fraud.
As the emails and speaking engagements start rolling in, she realizes her only option is to take the bull by the horns and run with the unexpected fame.
What she doesn’t want to do is talk about the real reason why she won’t ever fall in love again.
However, when she gets an offer she can’t refuse from a major publisher, that’s all they want her to write about, but It isn’t until she meets the man behind the proposal that she realizes why…
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
“I don’t understand how someone could be so…” I gritted my teeth and closed my eyes, feeling the anger well up inside. “Heartless.”
I opened my eyes to see my three best friends staring at me. They’d brought me out to dinner to discuss next steps.
My next steps.
To them, it was obvious.
The animal shelter, Happy Pals, would shut down, and I’d find another place to work.
But my job wasn’t a job. Saving animals was my purpose in life. After veterinary school, I’d stumbled into the world of rescue and never looked back.
My career wasn’t about money. It was about saving the lives of those who didn’t have a voice.
And I wasn’t about to let my little corner of the world be torn down so a tower of condos could be built on top of my blood, sweat, and tears.
“Why do you have that look in your eyes, Arie?” Winter asked.
Winter, Samantha, and Tessa looked at me sympathetically, but they didn’t truly understand my plight.
We’d been best friends since grade school. We shared everything in life.
The highs and the lows.
And losing the shelter was a definite low.
But they’d never understood why I wasn’t crazy about boys like they were. Why I’d rather go shovel stalls on the weekends in high school or foster a kitten in college.
Granted, I’d been the first one to get married and the first one to get divorced, but that just proved why I needed to stick with animals.
I wasn’t good at doing the people thing.
My anger had turned from a soft simmer to a rapid boil as I thought about the certified letter I’d received. I’d never subscribed to generalizations, but I’d be the first to admit that my red hair and fiery outlook in life were maybe no coincidence. I certainly was never one to back down from a good fight or even a bad one.
“What look?” I took a sip of water and waited for the fried cheese curds to arrive.
“Like you want to kill someone.” Samantha pursed her lips together. “Like you did when you decided you wanted a divorce.”
I laughed and let out a deep sigh. “Sorry. You’re right. I’ll enjoy tonight with you three and worry about how to fight this in the morning.”
“There’s nothing to fight for,” Winter said softly.
“There’s everything to fight for.” I shook my head. “My pups need me, and I need them.”
“I’m sure you can find other rescues to take—” Tessa shut her mouth when she saw the look in my eyes. She was in her third trimester of pregnancy and rubbed her belly instead of continuing.
“I need another beer.” I slumped back in the booth, and my friends nodded.
“Absolutely.” Winter waved down the bartender, and I hid a chuckle.
Back in the day, the bartender would have been Winter’s type.
But all three of my friends were now happily together with their Mr. Wrongs, and I was left wondering what it would be like to take a tumble with the bartender.
After all, I saw a tattoo of a bulldog on his wrist.
How bad could the guy be?
I loved bulldogs.
“Have you met the guy?” Tessa asked, bringing my attention back to the shelter.
“You mean the heartless bastard?” I shook my head. “Nope.”
“Have you looked him up?” she asked.
“Haven’t done that either,” I confessed. “I know what I need to know. He’s a developer with a lot of money who doesn’t think twice about what’s important in this life. The prospect of more money wins over what’s right.”
“Could be…” Winter glanced at her phone. “But, I say we look him up.”
“I second that.” Tessa nodded.
I let out a groan. “Fine, but it’s not like it’s going to change anything.”
“What’s his name?” Winter pressed, holding her phone like it was the Holy Grail of mischief.
“Chad Hollis.” Just saying the name burned my tongue.
Samantha giggled and shook her head, looking at me. “Is it just me, or do those two never learn?”
“You mean the ladies who dug up their old high school pact and decided to date their Mr. Wrongs and wound up with their Mr. Rights off of just pure luck?”
“Yeah. Those ladies.” Samantha chuckled, knowing she lucked out too.
But those high school vows and old pacts were nothing more than a distant memory. My best friends got their men, and I needed to solely focus on saving this rescue.
I glanced over at Winter, whose eyes widened to the size of Oreos.
“What?” My brows shot up. “What did you find?”
“Well, he’s a good-looking, older man.” Winter nodded, and Tessa looked over her shoulder to see the image on Winter’s phone.
“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked, shaking my head.
Winter started up again. “If he was a little younger, maybe you could have convinced him to rethink—”
“I’m not prostituting myself out, but thanks for the suggestion.” I rolled my eyes, laughing.
“He’s a billionaire,” Winter continued.
“Great. That’s perfectly uplifting.” I groaned and sank into the booth a little deeper.
“You never told us what the letter said.” Samantha prompted. “I spoke to your brother, and I know he’ll help any way he can.”
I let out a sigh, feeling wholly discouraged. “We actually did really well with the fundraisers this year. Paying rent wasn’t going to be an issue, and then out of nowhere, we got a certified letter from the developer telling us we have two weeks.” Saying it aloud made my stomach knot.
Tessa’s brows furrowed. “Two weeks?”
I nodded and let out a defeated sigh. “Two weeks to vacate the premises and find homes for all of our cats and dogs. We had a huge adoption event coming up in a month, but we had to cancel it since we won’t even be at the facility. Who knows when they’ll tear it down? I’m guessing soon since we have to be out in fourteen days. Meanwhile, I have all these animals that need homes, whether it’s fostering or forever, and I can’t let the shelter be closed indefinitely. The whole thing is just awful.”
“Absolutely terrible. I had no idea you had so little time.” Winter’s sympathetic smile made me feel a little better. Maybe they did understand me better than I gave them credit for.
“What can we do to help?” Tessa asked as I took a sip of the beer the bartender dropped off.
I loved Tessa to death, but she was very pregnant, and while I knew she’d do anything for me, she needed to enjoy her pregnancy. Not run around town trying to save my shelter.
“Honestly, my first focus is to find homes for all thirty-seven dogs and eleven cats. Three of the pups have special needs, and one of the cats is blind, so those might be more challenging. I know I’ll bring those home if no one else can. I’d bring them all home if I could.” I let out a deep breath, realizing how nice it felt to finally let it out. Not carry the burden so close to my chest.
“I can carve time out tomorrow to come to the shelter and make calls,” Winter promised. “We’ll find homes for your little critters.”
“I can too.” Samantha nodded in agreement as Winter slid the phone to me.
“Me too.” Tessa nodded.
“That’s the guy. That’s the heartless bastard who’s displacing all your poor innocent animals,” Winter explained. “I say we send him a letter back. Tell him what his choices are really doing.”
My heart swelled up with emotion, and I nodded. “You’re right. Let’s do it. Let’s send that man a message loud and clear.”
I looked down at the photo of the man who had so thoughtlessly decided to displace my animals from their safe place. While he was undoubtedly an attractive older man, he was definitely older. Not quite ancient but headed there this decade. His silver hair was thick and combed back in a very proper style. He was wearing a black tailored suit with a powder-blue bowtie. He reeked of money and carefree attitude, and I wanted so badly to give him a piece of my mind.
I glared at the photo and thought about what I would say when Tessa squealed, and we all looked at her.
“What’s got you so excited?” I asked, shoving Winter’s phone back in her direction.
“I found a submission form on the website, and supposedly all comments go directly to Chad Hollis. I just sent him a message. I say we all do.”
My jaw dropped open, and I attempted to close it. “What did you say?”
“That I thought it was extremely brutal and heartless of them to displace helpless puppies with only two weeks’ notice, and if their establishment is ever in need, I hope no help comes.” Tessa beamed, and Winter snickered.
“Wowzers,” Samantha muttered, glancing in my direction.
“Yikes. I think that might have ended all negotiations.” I laughed nervously.
“You wanted to negotiate?” Her brows rose.
I shook my head. “I don’t even know to be honest. Our landlord told us it was a done deal and that we had to move out, and that was yesterday. Chad Hollis must have wanted to make sure we really understood the terms and sent the certified letter to us directly. Or at least his lawyers did.”
Winter was quietly typing on her phone, which made me suspicious.
“What are you up to?” I asked.
“Thinking up things we can do to save your rescue. We’ll contact the local news channels and newspapers,” Winter began.
“And we can get a Facebook page going to save the rescue,” Samantha continued.
“We could just keep writing nasty grams to Mr. Hollis.” Tessa grimaced. “Sorry about that.”
I chuckled. “He deserves it.”
“This is one of those causes I think we can get a lot of people behind. Whether or not we can save the shelter’s location or at least get all the animals adopted, I think if we all work on it together, we have a shot.” Winter tapped the table, and her excitement was infectious. “I also remember one of my students talking about wanting to adopt a puppy, so maybe we have one new family already.”
I smiled and nodded. “Thank you, ladies. You’re making me feel less hopeless by the second.”
“I’ll be in charge of contacting the news stations,” Winter offered.
“And I’ll do the newspapers and blogs.” Tessa reached over to squeeze my hand. “We’ll turn this nightmare into an opportunity.”
“Thank you. I hope so.” I smiled as my mind drifted to all the dogs and cats at the shelter, their big, doe eyes filled with hope that they’d get a home soon, and my stomach dropped to my toes. “My animals deserve better than a man like Hollis.”
I polished off another beer and reached for my phone to do a quick search on Hollis. I found the same page with the submission form and quickly wrote a message.
“There. Now, I feel all better.” I looked up at my friends.
“Why’s that?” Winter asked.
“I just told Chad Hollis how I felt about him and his company.” My eyes felt glassy as I stared at my friends.
“Was it you telling him or the beer telling him?” Winter glanced nervously at my friends.
“Everything I wrote, I’d have no problem telling him in person.” I hiccupped and chuckled. “In fact, I dared him to meet at the rescue he’s so willing to tear down, so we could have a chat. I know he won’t show up. You can tell that just by looking at his picture.”
“Okay, so I think you had enough beer for the night.” Winter chuckled and shook her head.
“All I know is I’m not going down with a fight.” I held my finger in the air, and Samantha giggled.
“I think you mean you’re not going down without a fight.”
“That too.” I laughed.