Home > Wright Rival (Wright #10)

Wright Rival (Wright #10)
Author: K.A. Linde

 

Part I

 

 

My Own Worst Enemy

 

 

1

 

 

Piper

 

 

“It’s not that I hate Wright Vineyard,” I said, gesturing to the interior of the barn I was currently drinking in with my friends. I shot a pointed look at Jordan and Julian Wright, the owners of said establishment.

Jordan quirked a smile. “I appreciate that, considering you’re here for our one-year anniversary event.”

I held up my wineglass. “See, Julian, I don’t hate it here.”

Julian held his hands up and said, “Hey, I didn’t say that you hate us.” He slid his arm around his girlfriend, Jennifer. “That’s what Hollin has been spouting.”

I seethed at the very mention of his name. Hollin Abbey was…trouble. He was a thorn in my side on a good day and a huge pain in the ass every other day. It was unfortunate that he was the hottest guy in town. He swaggered around like he was some Greek god to be worshipped. And worse, he knew how to push every one of my buttons.

“Hollin is an asshole,” I spat.

Julian laughed. “Obviously.”

Jordan nodded.

His girlfriend, Annie, flipped her long red hair off of her shoulder and leaned forward. “Yeah? You’re not new here.”

“It is kind of his specialty,” my best friend and roommate, Blaire, said.

She’d ditched her signature baseball cap for the night and looked stunning in jeans with her dark curtain bangs falling into her blue eyes.

Bradley shot me a dopey grin. “You should just ignore him, sweetheart. Don’t let him get under your skin.”

I gritted my teeth at the words coming out of my boyfriend’s mouth. It had been six months since Bradley and I had decided to try this for real. After years of on-again, off-again, it was now or never. He was perfectly nice and normal and everything. The kind of guy I should want happily ever after with. Then why did every word out of his mouth make me want to cringe? Why did the thought of continuing this for another six months seem more like a business arrangement than anything with passion? Why was I even doing this?

“Sure. Ignore him,” I said. “That’s a good idea.”

Blaire hid a smile behind her wineglass. Jennifer coughed to try to cover her own laugh. The three of us were roommates, and they’d heard the long diatribe of should I or shouldn’t I dump my boyfriend.

“Hollin isn’t great at being ignored,” Julian said with a smile of his own.

Jordan took a sip of his wine. “We have the entire winery because he was that persistent.”

Jordan and Julian had all of that Wright charm with the dark hair and eyes, enough charisma to spare, and the dominance of someone who always got what he wanted. But the knowing look on both of their faces said that they’d heard about the worst of my relationship, too. Wonderful.

“Just ask every girl he’s three-date-ruled,” I said with an arched eyebrow.

“Three-date rule?” Bradley asked.

I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. What he said isn’t true. I like it here. It’s just not Sinclair Cellars.”

“Touché,” Julian said.

My father had worked at Sinclair Cellars since the ’70s. He’d met my mom around the same time that she and Abuelita had immigrated from Mexico. After the owner’s kids had shown no interest in the property, my dad had worked his way up and been rewarded with ownership of one of the best vineyards in West Texas. I’d been working there since I was a kid—putting up Christmas lights for our annual display, serving hot chocolate, and giving tours—and I now managed the entire property. It was in my blood.

“You have to admit, the barn is great here though,” Bradley said obliviously.

“Sure,” I ground out. Whose side was he on? “But the wine is better at Sinclair.”

Jordan winced. “Hey, our new vintage is impeccable.”

“And yet we’re not drinking that.”

“Take that up with Hollin,” Julian said with a smirk.

Blaire snorted, Jennifer kicked her foot, and Annie looked like she was going to interrupt. I didn’t want to hear it from them. It wasn’t fair that they knew all my problems when they were all so happy. Well, not Blaire. She was single. But the other two!

“Whatever,” I got out before Annie could speak up. “I’m going to go to the restroom.”

“Hey,” Bradley said. He leaned into me and planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek. “Come back soon.”

Then, he tipped a little farther forward. Everything happened in slow motion as he lost control of his wineglass. I jerked back but wasn’t fast enough. The glass slipped out of his hand, and the red wine splashed out…all over my white shirt.

“Fuck,” I cried.

I jumped backward and threw my hands into the air. The glass fell onto the hardwood floor and shattered into a thousand pieces.

“Oh shit,” Bradley said.

I stared down in horror at the huge red stain spreading across my favorite shirt. There was no way it was salvageable. Not with this much blood-red wine all over it. I’d have to toss it. Fuck.

I was still staring down at my shirt as everyone went into motion. Julian and Jordan ran for something to clean up the mess. Annie pulled the chairs away from the spreading wine. Blaire and Jennifer pressed napkins to my ruined shirt. And Bradley…he just sat there, his mouth hanging open, utterly helpless. This was far from the first time that wine had spilled on me. It was sort of an occupational hazard, considering I worked at a winery. But this had been avoidable. My anger threatened to boil up and unleash on him.

Blaire stepped between us, as if she could see what was about to happen. “I think I have a jacket in my car.”

“I…I have a shirt. A gray shirt in the side of my gym bag,” Bradley said with a cough. It was as if he had suddenly realized he should do something. “I can go get it.”

“No. I’ll get it. I don’t want to stay here any longer.”

“I can go with you,” Bradley offered, a little manically.

But Julian came back with a broom in hand. Jordan threw a towel at Bradley. I’d never been so thankful for the Wrights.

I didn’t so much as flee as stomp angrily through the crowded barn and outside into the chilly night air. My hands were clenched into fists. I wanted to kick something. Mostly my boyfriend.

Bradley’s truck was parked at the back of the lot, wedged between two other giant trucks. I jerked open the back door and grabbed for the gym bag. His shirt wasn’t going to fit me, but it would be better than wearing something soaked in wine. Maybe Blaire could work her magic and make it look okay. After all, she was the famous influencer.

I’d just ripped my blouse off when I heard a low whistle, and a gravelly voice said, “Well, well, well, what do we have here?”

My head jolted upward as Hollin Abbey came into view. Just the sight of him made my knees wobble. I wasn’t short by any stretch of the imagination, and still he towered over me. He had on jeans and a white T-shirt, revealing the inky-black lines of his full sleeve. His beard had recently been trimmed. His hair was a soft blond, and his eyes were so blue, as if reaching the endless depths of the ocean. When they caught sight of me, shirtless, my breasts half-spilling out of the nude bra, they rounded wide.

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