Home > Owen North (Escape With an Alpha #5)

Owen North (Escape With an Alpha #5)
Author: Nina Levine

 


1

 

 

Charlize

 

 

I’m going to kill Poppy.

It’s her fault I’m currently sitting in a hotel toilet cubicle half-naked with welts the size of I-don’t-know-what under my breasts and on my back, caused by the tiniest strapless lacy bra known to womankind. I had to pull my dress down and rip that sucker off so I could have a good scratch, and now I have scratch marks all over me that make it look like I’ve been tackled by a grizzly bear.

It’s also her fault that when I finally get up the courage to put said bra back on and fasten the tightest red dress I’ve ever worn back in place, I’m going to have to walk out of this public bathroom wearing only one shoe. The heel on the other one snapped when I skidded on the shiny tiles in the bathroom. The shoe broke and I went flying, landing on my ass.

Damn my cousin for making me wear a bra, dress, and shoes I would never choose to wear to her wedding. “The society wedding of the year, Charlize” as my mother has taken every opportunity to tell me over the last few months.

Insert eye roll.

Kill me now.

No, seriously, do it.

I love girl stuff just as much as the next woman, but honestly, when did it become mandatory to put ourselves in so much pain just to attend social functions? I can do heels, just not the kind of heels that cause arthritis, back pain, heel deformity, ugly toes, overstretched Achilles, and bunions. Yes, I’ve read the data on heels.

And dresses? I’d rather not be squeezed into one that is so tight my breasts and my lungs want to take out a restraining order on it.

And that strapless bra with that allergy-causing stuff on it? As soon as I get home, I’m burning it.

My phone buzzes with a text and I reach down to grab it out of my purse that I unceremoniously dumped on the floor of the cubicle. Yes, disgusting, I know. All those germs down there, but I was desperate to get that bra off.

As I reach for the phone, the sound a woman never, ever, ever wants to hear comes from behind me.

My. Dress. Rips.

I freeze, willing it not to be true.

Holding my breath, I twist my arm around to the back of my dress to feel for a rip, and sure enough, I find it.

“Oh, my God, why does this shit always have to happen to me?” I mutter as I stand. “I told Poppy I had a dress I could wear, but no, she wants me to wear this damn dress.”

“It’ll help you meet a man,” she’d said, as if meeting a man was the highest thing on my agenda. To be clear, it isn’t. No, my current priority in life is to meet someone who can print bank notes that no one would ever suspect of being counterfeit.

I kid.

Kind of.

Actually, I just need a job. One that will pay me in bank notes.

My mother’s voice rings loud in my head—"You need to find a man, Charlize!”

Ugh.

My mother.

I grab my bra and put it back on, ignoring the itchy welts I’m covering. I then wiggle my dress up and into place. It has a zip at the back that I carefully attempt to pull up. It plays nice; however, I can feel what the problem is. When I stretched to reach for my phone, the fabric has ripped on one side of the zip, right down to my bottom.

Opening the door of the cubicle, I peer out and find no one else in the bathroom. As carefully as I can, I make my way to the mirror and turn to see how bad the dress looks from behind.

Oh. God.

It’s gaping open.

Anyone who walks behind me will be subjected to my back, half my ass, and a flash of my red thong.

All this at the society wedding of the year.

I do the only thing worth doing right now.

I scream to let my frustration out.

It feels so good that I continue screaming until it kind of turns into a wail. No tears or anything, just a good old-fashioned release of the disappointment, resentment, and irritation filling me. This is something I should do more often. Hell, everyone should do this more often. Between screaming, wailing, and having sex, I think humans could probably resolve a lot of issues without resorting to violence.

A deep voice cuts through the air. “Jesus, are you okay?”

My mouth snaps shut as I catch sight of a man entering the bathroom. My body fills with anticipation while my knees threaten to give way.

This man is hot.

Really hot.

Like, on a scale of I’d throw myself off a cliff to avoid ever having to look at you to I’d take all my clothes off right now if it meant you’d just talk to me, he has to be at the level of I’m never wearing clothes again.

He’s probably the best-looking man I’ve ever come across.

I’m even ignoring the way everything about him screams money. I’m not usually attracted to wealthy men in suits anymore, but damn, this guy knows how to wear one. He also has just the right amount of beard. And don’t get me started on the way his dark brown hair falls effortlessly into place. I’d bet all the money in my bank account—a huge risk because I don’t have much in there—that he’s had it styled, even though it looks like he simply dried it with a towel and let it do its own thing.

I grip the sink and throw out the first thing that comes to mind. “Do you always wander into women’s bathrooms?” I mean, I’m all for him doing that, just not when I’m in the middle of the kind of personal crisis that is threatening to send me to the brink. My dress is gaping open, and my ass is hanging out. That’s a crisis with a capital fucking “c”.

His brows arch as his gaze drops to my back, clearly taking in everything on display. When his eyes meet mine again, he says, “Only when I think a woman is in that bathroom possibly dying. You do realize you were screaming like a woman on her deathbed, right?”

I grip the sink harder. “That’s because I am!”

His lips twitch as if he’s trying not to smile. If he smiles or laughs, I swear I’ll turn around and clock him. He doesn’t, though. He’s smart as well as hot. “So, now that we’ve established you’re close to death, do you want a hand with that?”

My brain scrambles fast to come to a decision. I figure things could be worse. Poppy’s mother and mine could have walked in on me. The Winters sisters would not be as cool about this situation as Mr I-Could-Blow-Your-Damn-Mind is being.

I nod. “Thanks. I’ll just grab my purse.” My emergency kit for these kinds of crises is in there. I’m choosing to ignore the nagging feeling deep in my gut that there isn’t any kit that can fix this problem.

I make my way back into the stall where I left my purse on the floor, at which point I see the flaw in this plan. If I bend to retrieve it, my dress will probably rip some more.

“I hate today. Why can’t anything ever be easy?”

“Problem?”

I spin to find Mr I-Could-Blow-Your-Damn-Mind standing directly behind me. Well, in front of me now. “What’s your name?” It comes out like a demand. It is, really. I don’t have time to keep referring to him as Mr I-Could-Blow-Your-Damn-Mind every time I reference him in my head.

“We’re dealing with your death and you want my name?”

I pull a face. “Funny.” He is, but this is not the time to be funny. I click my fingers to convey the urgency I feel. “Give me your name.”

His lips twitch again. “Owen. And you are?”

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