The Hating Season

“K.A. Linde never fails. Ever. Read this book!”
—Corinne Michaels, New York Times bestselling author on The Lying Season

A new stand alone enemies-to-lovers romance from USA Today bestselling author K.A. Linde…

Court Kensington is a thorn in my side.

I’m hired to clean up his badboy image, which would’ve been easy if my life wasn’t falling apart.

First, I catch my movie star husband having an affair with his co-star. Then when I return to work, my job is at stake, because Court has gotten himself into trouble…again.

Instead of getting him back in line, I find myself falling for his charm. And into his bed. And against the wall. And, and, and…

Except Kensington charm shouldn’t work on me. Not when I’ve sworn to never ever sleep with a client.

I had good intentions.

I really did.

But we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

AUDIO: Coming on release day narrated by Erin Mallon & Stephen Dexter!

Chapter One

English

It had only taken forty-eight hours for my entire life to go to shit.

A trip across the pond, my cheating bastard of a husband, and a near-arrest by my current pain in the ass client. I hadn’t slept. I’d barely eaten. The only thing in my blood stream other than coffee as black as my heart was bitter righteous rage.

And I needed somewhere to direct it.

I probably should have gotten something to eat and slept off my jetlag. Instead, I jammed my finger into the button for the elevator that would take me up to Court Kensington’s penthouse. Because he had royally fucked up, and I wanted to give him a piece of my mind.

The door slid open soundlessly. I slipped inside and tapped my foot impatiently as it whisked me upstairs, opening directly into his apartment. I’d been impressed the first time I’d walked into his place. All clean modern lines, open airy floorplan, and Central Park views. I was used to Hollywood, and this was so New York. But I was over it now.

Everything about it just reminded me that Court Kensington had grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth. He might be the hottest, most eligible bachelor on the Upper East Side, but to me, he was just another client for me to clean up his messes.

“Court!” I snapped as my heels clicked onto the polished hardwood floors.

No response came from the confines of his apartment.

I should have known. The man drank like a fish and partied like a rockstar. There was no way he would be awake at this early of an hour.

It wasn’t stopping me. Not today.

“Court!” I called again.

I strode across the living room and down a hallway that led to his bedroom. The door stood already partially open. I toed it the rest of the way and breezed inside, flicking the lights on.

And what I saw stopped me in my tracks.

Court Kensington’s naked body laid out face down like Adonis on his pure white sheets. His bare ass visible for the world to see.

I swallowed.

I’d seen some gorgeous bodies before. I worked as a celebrity publicist for Christ’s sake. It was part of the job description. We dealt with asshole rockstars, entitled actors, and everything in between. I’d paid off prostitutes and thrown away condoms so they couldn’t be used as evidence and seen more dick and pussy that I wasn’t fucking than I needed to see in a lifetime. And still, Court made me come to a screeching halt.

Fuck, he was hot.

I hated that he was hot.

That he was the kind of grade-A asshole I’d been all over before I’d met Josh. Before Josh…

I ground my teeth. Just the thought of what he’d done to me brought me straight back to reality. Nothing like finding out your movie star husband was fucking his co-star to ruin your morning.

“Court, get your ass out of bed.”

He tilted his head to the side, squinting up at me through a vision of long lashes. “English?” he groaned.

“That’d be me,” I said. “We need to talk.”

He blinked a few times and then propped himself up on his elbow. “What time is it?”

“Almost eight.”

“In the morning?” he asked blearily.

“Yes. Now put on some fucking clothes. I’ve had a really long night, and I would like to get this over with.”

 “Can we do this some other time?” he asked as he pulled the pillow back over his head.

“Does it look like I’m fucking around?”

He peered back up at me. I don’t know what he saw. What degree of not-taking-your-shit was on my face, but he nodded. “Fine.”

I hustled back out of his bedroom, trying to clear the vision of that muscular ass from my mind. I knew he’d take his sweet time. So, I brewed a pot of coffee. Because what I really needed was more caffeine in my system.

He came out fifteen minutes later in a pair of black joggers. He pulled a white T-shirt on over his head as he walked into the living room. His six-pack still visible for the few seconds before the material fell over his stomach.

He tousled his dark hair and quirked a smile at me. “That for me?”

“Here,” I said, handing him a mug of coffee.

“So, what’s this all about?” he asked around a yawn.

I set my empty mug on the counter. “What in the actual fuck were you thinking last night?”

“What do you mean?”

I narrowed my eyes. “You went to an underground gambling ring. The party was raided by the police. You barely made it out in time.”

“Oh…yeah. I mean, I didn’t expect the party to get raided,” he said with a shrug.

“You went to an underground gambling ring!” I cried. “Need I remind you that you were recently arrested with your girlfriend for fraud and grand larceny! That the only reason I was hired was to keep you out of trouble, to show the world a softer side of Court Kensington. So that you don’t ruin your mother’s reelection campaign for mayor of New York?”

“First of all, there were no charges against me. And second, Jane isn’t my girlfriend.”

“She was at the time and literally no one else cares that you weren’t charged. They see you as the trainwreck that doesn’t care about crime. While your mother is tough on crime. If you’d been arrested last night, can you even imagine the consequences?”

Court shrugged. “It would have been fine. You’re blowing the whole thing out of proportion.”

“Am I?” I asked. “I would have lost my job. Lark likely would have lost her job. Your mother would lose the primary run. And you, you’d be right back where you started before you had me. We’d lose all ground.”

“Fine. Whatever. I messed up.” He set the mug down on the coffee table. His blue eyes had shuttered, gone cold. “Can I go back to sleep now?”

“No. You didn’t just fuck up. You royally fucked up. You took the one weekend I was out of town and fucking did this on purpose, Court!”

“I didn’t know…”

“But you didn’t leave either!” I snapped back. “You saw it was illegal and played poker all night. Lark had to drag you out of there and you didn’t even want to leave.”

“Okay. I get it. Fuck, English. I fucked up. Get off of my case.”

“Oh excuse me for being the first person in your life to hold you accountable for your actions,” I ground out.

I knew I was being harsh on him. But he didn’t even fucking care about what it would have done. The problems he could have caused. He was so nonchalant. And I just couldn’t accept his response. It wasn’t enough. There was no change coming from acknowledging he did something wrong. It didn’t fix his behavior.

Court stepped forward. His teeth ground together. “What the fuck has gotten into you?”

“I’m doing my job.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t need you to lay into me at eight o’clock in the morning for something that didn’t even happen.” His eyes assessed me as if he could see right through the jet lag and coffee buzz and anger to what was lurking below. “What are you even doing in New York? Aren’t you supposed to be in London with Josh?”

“I came back early.”

“Why?” he demanded. “You were raving about your trip.”

He glanced up and down at me. Judging what was in front of him. Seeing me like I didn’t like anyone to see me.

“Doesn’t fucking matter,” I said, losing some of my edge.

“Why aren’t you wearing your wedding ring?”

“That is none of your business.”

A spark of pity flashed through his cerulean blue irises. “English…”

“Don’t,” I spat. “We’re here to talk about you. And the fucking shit that you pulled while I was gone.

Anger flared in him. He took another step closer. So close that we nearly shared breath.

“This has nothing to do with me,” he growled. “You’re putting your own fucking personal problems on me. I don’t have to deal with this shit, English.”

My own anger ignited by his. “I’m not doing anything of the sort. I’m here to whip your ass into shape. I’m not here to coddle you like everyone else in your life. If you don’t like it, take it up with your mother. She was the one who hired me to fix your bullshit before you lost her the election.”

“I’m not an idiot,” Court snarled. “You can put me down and treat me like an ass if you want. But I see what the fuck you’re doing, English.”

“Good. Then you’ll stop acting like someone who needs their hand held every time they walk out into public?”

“Berate me all you want. This is about you and Josh. Not me.”

“Go fuck yourself,” I spat.

His eyes widened a fraction at the words that left my mouth. The fury that had nothing to do with him. But that I was using against him.

I thought that I’d had it all under control. I had such a picture perfect life. I was married to the Josh Hutch. He was the biggest up-and-coming movie star on the scene. He’d been hand-picked to remake the Bourne trilogy. I was the top celebrity publicist at my agency in LA. Everyone wanted to work with me. We went to premieres and sipped champagne and lived the life.

Except that hadn’t been right, had it?

I’d wanted more. I’d wanted my own agency. A place to work with fewer clients. Ones who actually cared and didn’t just need someone to secure cocaine and make sure their sex tapes didn’t end up on the internet. Or did depending on the person. So, when I’d gotten offered to work for the Kensingtons. Step into New York high society, work for a political candidate. I’d thought it was my chance.

And now, all of those pieces crumbled into ash.

I was left staring into Court Kensington’s impossible baby blues. Wondering where it had all gone wrong. And how I could fucking fix my life like I fixed everyone else’s.

“You’re a real piece of work, you know that?” Court asked after a tense silent minute.

He’d moved a step closer. Our breath mingled. I could feel the heat rising from his skin. The fury that pulled us together like magnets. A sense that we were both so beyond fucked up that impossibly we were attracted to each other. We hated each other so supremely that somehow, at any second, it could tip the other direction.

His eyes darted to my lips. I drew a line across the bottom one with my tongue. A reflex. Or was it?

My breaths came out irrationally loud. I could hear my own heartbeat in my ears. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. Time slowed until seconds felt like hours. And we just stared, edged, hedged, waited, wondered, wanted.

And then the moment the scales tipped and he moved forward, as if he were actually going to do it, actually going to cross that divide, I jolted out of that awareness. I shoved him back away from me.

“Fuck, Court,” I cried.

His eyes rounded as if he couldn’t believe for a second that the playboy prince had misread the signs. Then he returned to careful neutrality. Born out of boredom and masks and societal pressure.

“Are you done?” he asked.

“Yes. I’m fucking done. I’m going back to LA.”

“What?” His eyebrows rose.

“Don’t get too excited. Just for a few days to handle some business. I don’t want you to fucking leave this apartment until I get back. Are we clear?”

“I am not on lock down again.”

“Yes, you are. Because I can’t trust you not to do something that will land you in the papers.”

He glared at me. Any warmth we’d been mustering evaporated. “Whatever.”

“Be a good boy,” I said, patting his cheek twice.

He looked like he might bite me for the insult, but I was already storming toward the elevator to leave this hell hole. He muttered something under his breath, but I didn’t catch it. I assumed he called me a bitch. It wouldn’t have been the first time.

But as soon as the elevator doors closed, and I leaned back heavily. God, maybe I should get some sleep. What the fuck had I been thinking?

I had only one rule: don’t get involved with clients.

I’d never broken it.

And I had just almost kissed Court Kensington.

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