Home > Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)

Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
Author: Ana Huang

 

 

1

 

 

JULES

 

 

Nothing good ever came from right-swiping on a guy holding a fish on a dating app. Double red flags if said guy’s name was Todd.

I should’ve known better, yet there I was, sitting alone at The Bronze Gear, D.C.’s hottest bar, and drinking my hideously expensive vodka soda after being stood up.

That’s right.

I’d been stood up for the very first time by a fish-wielding Todd. It was enough to make a girl say fuck it and throw away sixteen dollars on one drink even though she didn’t have a full-time salary yet.

What was it with men and fish pictures, anyway? Couldn’t they choose something more creative, like cage diving with sharks? Also marine animal-centric, but less mundane.

Maybe the fish was an odd thing to fixate on, but it prevented me from dwelling on the awfulness of my day and the hot, sticky embarrassment coating my skin.

Get caught in a sudden downpour halfway to campus with nary an umbrella in sight? Check. (Five percent chance of rain, my ass. I should sue the weather app company).

Get trapped in an overcrowded metro train that stunk of body odor for forty minutes due to a power problem? Check.

Go on a three-hour apartment hunt which resulted in two blistered feet and zero leads? Check.

After such a hellish day, I wanted to cancel my date with Todd, but I’d already postponed twice—once for a rescheduled study group, the other when I was feeling under the weather—and I hadn’t wanted to leave him hanging again. So I sucked it up and showed up, only to get stood up.

The universe had a sense of humor, all right, and it was a shitty one.

I finished the rest of my drink and flagged down the bartender. “Can I get the check please?” Happy hour had just started, but I couldn’t wait to go home and curl up with the two real loves of my life. Netflix and Ben & Jerry’s never let me down.

“It’s already covered.”

When my eyebrows shot up, the bartender tilted her head toward a table of preppy-looking twenty-something guys in the corner. Likely consultants, based on their outfits. One of them, a Clark Kent lookalike in a gingham shirt, raised his glass and smiled at me. “Courtesy of Clark the Consultant.”

I stifled a laugh even as I raised my own glass and smiled back at him. So I wasn’t the only one who thought he looked like Superman’s alter ego.

“Clark the Consultant saved me from eating instant ramen for dinner, so cheers to him,” I said.

That was sixteen dollars I could keep in my bank account, though I left a tip anyway. I used to work in the food service industry, and it made me obsessive about over tipping. No one dealt with more assholes on a consistent basis than service workers.

I finished my free drink and kept my eyes locked on Clark the Consultant, whose gaze swept appreciatively over my face, hair, and body.

I didn’t believe in false humility—I knew I looked good. And I knew if I walked over to that table right now, I could soothe my bruised ego with more drinks, compliments, and maybe an orgasm or two later if he knew what he was doing.

Tempting…but no. I was too exhausted to go through the whole hookup song and dance.

I turned away, but not before catching the flash of disappointment on his face. To his credit, Clark the Consultant understood the implied message—thank you for the drink, but I’m not interested in taking things further—and didn’t try to approach me, which was more than I could say for most men.

I slung my bag over my shoulder and was about to grab my coat from the hook beneath the bar when a deep, cocky drawl sent every hair on the back of my neck on end.

“Hey, JR.”

Two words. That was all it took to trigger my fight or flight. Honestly, it was a Pavlovian response at this point. When I heard his voice, my blood pressure skyrocketed.

Every. Single. Time.

And the day just keeps getting better.

My fingers tightened around my bag strap before I forced them to relax. I would not give him the satisfaction of provoking any discernible reaction from me.

With that in mind, I took a deep breath, rearranged my features into a neutral expression, and slowly turned around, where I was greeted with the world’s most unwelcome sight to go along with the world’s most unwelcome sound.

Josh fucking Chen.

All six feet of him, clad in dark jeans and a white button-down shirt that was just fitted enough to show off his muscles. No doubt he planned it that way. He probably spent more time on his appearance than I did, and I wasn’t exactly low maintenance. Merriam-Webster should stamp his face next to the word vain.

The worst part was, Josh was technically good-looking. Thick dark hair, high cheekbones, sculpted body. All the things I was a sucker for…if they weren’t attached to an ego so large it required its own zip code.

“Hi, Joshy,” I cooed, knowing how much he hated the nickname. I could thank Ava, my best friend and Josh’s sister, for that gold nugget of information.

Annoyance sparked in his eyes, and I smiled. The day was looking up already.

To be fair, Josh was the one who’d insisted on calling me JR first. It was short for Jessica Rabbit, the cartoon character. Some people might take it as a compliment, but when you were a redhead with double Ds, the constant comparison got old fast, and he knew it.

“Drinking alone?” Josh shifted his attention to the empty bar stools on either side of me. It wasn’t peak happy hour yet, and the most coveted seats were the booths lining the oak-paneled walls, not at the bar. “Or have you already scared off everyone within a twenty-foot radius?”

“Funny you should mention scaring people off.” I eyed the woman standing next to Josh. She was beautiful, with brown hair, brown eyes, and a lithe body clad in an incredible graphic-print wrap dress. Too bad her good taste didn’t extend to men, if she was on a date with him. “I see you’ve recovered from your bout of syphilis long enough to sucker another unsuspecting woman into a date.” I directed my next words to the brunette. “I don’t know you, but I already know you could do way better. Trust me.”

Did Josh actually have syphilis? Maybe. Maybe not. He slept around enough I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, and I wouldn’t be upholding girl code if I didn’t warn Wrap Dress about the possibility of contracting an STD.

Instead of recoiling, she laughed. “Thanks for the warning, but I think I’ll be okay.”

“Making jokes about STDs. How original.” If Josh was bothered by me insulting him in front of his date, he didn’t show it. “I hope your oral arguments are more creative, or you’ll have a tough time in the legal world. Assuming you pass the bar, of course.”

His mouth curved into a smirk, revealing a tiny dimple in his left cheek.

I held back a snarl. I hated that dimple. Every time it popped up, it mocked me, and I wanted nothing more than to stab it with a knife.

“I’ll pass,” I said coolly, reining in my violent thoughts. Josh always brought out the worst in me. “Better hope you don’t get sued for medical malpractice, Joshy, or I’ll be the first to offer my services to the other party.”

I’d busted my ass to get a spot at Thayer Law and a job offer from Silver & Klein, the prestigious law firm I interned for last summer. I wasn’t about to let my dreams of becoming a lawyer slip away when I was so close.

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