ONLY ONE MORE DAY!
I can’t believe tomorrow is finally the release day for Oliver and Piper’s story. If you’ve read the Imperfect Series, you know that we first met Oliver in Imperfectly Delicious, and he wasn’t exactly likable (at least from Scarlett and Guy’s perspective!). But I knew there was something unexpected under the surface of his prickly exterior, and I wanted to write his story. I just didn’t have the perfect heroine–yet! It wasn’t until over a year later, when I started fleshing out the Fox Family siblings that I found his match, the exact person with the right rough edges to slot into his life and soften the sharp points of his personality.
And now it’s nearly here! Keep reading for a sneak peek and click here to check out book two in the Fox Family Series: The Fox and the Rebound
She made a deal with the devil and he’s determined to collect. But when passionate sparks fly, all bets are off.
Piper Fox hates clocks. With her confidence shattered by a bad break-up, the creative welder can’t stand another minute of her debilitating artist’s block. So with time running out on her deadline, she tests a wild theory that the best way to get over a jerk is to get it on rebound-style with crazy-rich and broodingly handsome Oliver Nichols.
Oliver Nichols curates a cool facade. So when sparks fly with the stunning artist he has under contract, the eccentric billionaire does his best to stifle his reactions. And though he’s convinced love isn’t in the cards for him, ever, the lonely philanthropist can’t stay away.
Not sure how to make the next move after chickening out once before, Piper struggles to ignore her stalkery ex and keep her nose to the grindstone. While Oliver fools himself that keeping a close eye on the vulnerable metalworker is just a matter of good business, only to discover she’s somehow snared his heart.
Will the thrill of danger push them into a forever embrace?
The Fox and the Rebound Chapter One
The intercom on the corner of the desk beeps. “Mr. Nichols, Miss Fox wishes to speak with you.”
I lift my bored gaze from the steady stream of numbers flowing across the screen and frown. “I already spoke with Finley this morning. What does she want now?”
The last conversation we had was pointless. Finley updated me on how the cabins for the camp instructors were nearly complete, contracts for the rest of the renovations confirmed, interviews in progress, and the student quarters were on track to be finished by the end of summer—all of which I knew and I didn’t care about anyway. The worst part of the interaction was when Archer, my childhood acquaintance and business associate who now lives with Finley, thrust his way into the conversation between me and Finley to “see how things are going.” Things being code for my emotional well-being.
“Fine,” I said, the best answer I could muster.
He then proceeded to update me ad nauseam on the status of all his personal and professional accomplishments of late. By all appearances, and by his own declarations, Archer is happy living in a run-down house in the middle of nowhere with Finley Fox and her chaotic family. A fact I find both annoying and mystifying.
“It’s not Finley,” Carson says. “It’s Piper. Can I send her in?”
My surroundings brighten subtly, the world coming into sharp focus.
This morning started like every other Tuesday. I got out of bed at five. Drank a high-protein smoothie before running on the treadmill for an hour. Showered. Went down to the third floor to work by precisely seven a.m. Ate avocado toast and egg whites prepared by my chef at nine a.m. It was all typical. Normal. Expected. Ordinary. Gray. Boring.
My whole life has become a series of incremental steps and chores that don’t have any meaning and do nothing to hold my attention, yet at just the mention of Piper Fox’s name, suddenly I’m off the hamster wheel, where I’ve been running in a dark room, going nowhere, and am thrust out into the sunshine with the breeze and the trees and limitless possibilities.
Foolish. Ridiculous. Irrational.
Why is she here? We had a tacit understanding to avoid each other after the last time.
I shove the thought away. I can’t think of that now, not when I’m about to be confronted with her presence for the first time in three months and eleven days.
“Should I tell her you’re busy?” Carson asks.
Piper is out there, listening to the entire conversation, so I resist the urge to snap at Carson. To anyone else, he would sound professional and uninterested, but he’s teasing me. I appreciate that he doesn’t grovel or behave obsequiously, and I enjoy his brash honesty, annoying as it may be. It’s one of the reasons I stole him from his last employer and paid him extensively for the defection.
“Send her in.” I glance around my office.
This won’t do at all. The room is cold, sparse. No personal photos, all business. The desk is devoid of paperwork and has only a laptop. The whole setup—the stark colors, the size, the raised podium where my desk is, the way my chair is slightly elevated—is arranged to put me in a position of power, not in an obvious way but just enough that the guest subconsciously knows I’m the one in charge.
But using these kinds of nonverbal cues on Piper rubs me the wrong way. It doesn’t give me the pleasure it would with anyone else. Quickly, I move out from behind the massive black desk to the sitting area closer to the door. I reposition a file from the table to the chair, and just in time, I sit on the couch, leaving the spot next to me as the only reasonable seat left.
Piper enters, the door shutting behind her. I take a moment to drink her in, keeping my face impassive. I’ve been a fan of her artwork for many years, and my admiration has leaked into our acquaintanceship. She is petite with delicate sprite-like features. Dark hair frames her oval face, and her eyes are large and expressive. On the surface, she isn’t out of the ordinary, but her work has absorbed my interest since the very beginning. She sees things in a way that that tugs at all the emotions I’ve managed to eliminate to get to where I am today.
I want her in a way that I can’t define. It’s a pointless, impractical, annoying desire. I built her up in my mind before we even met, when I had seen her art. That must be the reason for these feelings: artistic respect, nothing more.
“Mr. Nichols. Thank you for seeing me. I’m sorry to drop in unexpectedly like this.”
Mr. Nichols? She spent almost an entire night wrapped in my arms, and she calls me Mr. Nichols?
“You cut your hair,” I say.
She fingers the dark strands, which now fall slightly below her shoulders. “I’ve wanted to for a while, but I couldn’t before because…” She falters, forcing a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “Well, I just couldn’t.” She glances away.
My mind takes her words and body language apart and turns them over, examining their deeper meaning. Ben, her controlling ex-boyfriend, likely has something to do with her new hair preference and why she didn’t change it when she wanted to.
“Please. Have a seat.” I gesture to the couch next to me.
She walks over and perches on the edge of the seat, a white-knuckled grip on the strap of her purse.
My gaze sharpens on the delicate shadows under her eyes. “You haven’t been sleeping well.”
The corner of her mouth twitches. “Have you?”
I’ve never slept well, a fact I inexplicably shared with Piper Fox three months and eleven days ago, in the dark of night, under the watchful glow of an ancient lamp in the Fox living room. I have been trying to erase that night from my mind, mostly by avoiding the woman sitting next to me.
I incline my head. “Touché.”
She shifts on the seat. “Have you heard anything from—” She clears her throat. “Have they shipped any of my pieces yet?”
“I received confirmation that the scheduled pickup is Monday. They should arrive at the gallery by next week—Thursday, most likely.”
Her shoulders relax a notch. “You don’t think he’ll try anything else—delay further?”
“He can try all he likes. No one breaks a contract with me without severe consequences.” The words emerge like the slice of a knife, fast and clipped.
She blinks, flinching.
For the best, I tell myself even as an uncomfortable thorn twists in my stomach.
She doesn’t need to say his name for me to know who she’s asking about. Ben—the aforementioned ex-boyfriend who is also her ex-manager. The man is the epitome of a weak-minded, idiotic tool.
“Has he been bothering you?”
“No.” She opens her mouth, pauses for a second, then shuts it.
One slim shoulder lifts. “At first, he called me every day, multiple times a day. I blocked him. Then he would use random phones. I changed my number, and he spammed all my social media and emails. Then it stopped all of a sudden. Until last week.”
My jaw tightens. “What happened last week?”
“He sent a package.”
“To Mindy’s?” Last I knew, Piper intended to stay with her sister in the city.
She nods. “The texts have started again, from a number I don’t recognize. They’re generic—just hi, how are you kind of things—but I know it’s him.” Her shoulders droop. “I don’t know how he found me or my number. I changed it.”
A whisper of unease slithers through me. “What did he send you?”
Pink tints her cheeks. “Jewelry and clothing, a note about how he still loves me and he’s changed and wants to make it up to me. I sent it back. He’ll give up eventually if I keep ignoring him. It’s probably nothing to worry about. I tend to overreact lately, and Ben knows how to get under my skin.”
The more she speaks, the more my spine stiffens. “You are not overreacting. You should always listen to your instincts.” Concern loosens my tongue. “Mindy’s apartment—is there a doorman? Some kind of security?”
I frown. “You could stay here.”
“No.” The refusal is immediate. “I can’t do that.”
I switch tactics. “I can hire a bodyguard. Someone could be with you at all times.”
She grimaces. “Oh, no. That’s not necessary. It’s fine. Ben’s all the way across the country. Besides, I rarely leave the apartment without Mindy. Please don’t worry about it. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
The urge to press the issue shoves at me, but I swallow my arguments and counterpoints. “Is that why you came here?”
Her visit doesn’t quite track. She could have called or gotten this information from Carson. Why stop by unexpectedly only for this after months of silence?
She bites her lip, and I home in on her mouth. Her lips are perfect, pink, and heart shaped.
“Um. Well, partly. There is one other thing I needed to… ask.” She swallows.
I track the motion, noting the fluttering pulse in her neck, the hitch in her breath.
She inhales and then meets my gaze, her spine straightening, her chin lifting. “I want you.”
My heart, the fractured organ long silent, thumps in my chest.