Main A Chance at Love
A Chance at LoveKate Hunt
He was my first love. My only love. And the last person I expected to see in this crazy place. When I get accepted to be on the newest season of Love Mansion, I know what I’m getting into. There’s going to be drama. There’s going to be a twist. There’s going to be a whole lot of crying. What I don’t expect is to show up and discover that my high school boyfriend is also on the show. I try to resist Leo’s allure, but eventually my resolve crumbles. Soon I find myself in a private suite with him, delirious with pleasure as we finally do all the things we never did back in high school. If I’m not careful, though, I’m going to leave this mansion both brokenhearted and as broke as I was when I arrived.
A Chance at Love A Second Chance Romance Kate Hunt Copyright © 2019 by Kate Hunt All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Get a FREE Kate Hunt novella! Contents 1. Whitney 2. Leo 3. Whitney 4. Leo 5. Whitney 6. Leo 7. Whitney 8. Leo 9. Whitney 10. Leo Chapter One Whitney “Just think,” says Jess, turning from the car window. “Ten weeks from now, one of us could be fifty thousand dollars richer.” “Yeah, or heartbroken on top of still being broke,” I say dryly. Ever since my best friend Jess and I both got accepted to be on the latest season of Love Mansion, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the inevitable tears and heartbreak that happens on these kinds of shows. “Oh, Whitney.” Jess rolls her eyes. “You should be more optimistic, girl.” “Okay, fine,” I say. I straighten up and push my shoulders back. “I’m going to win it all. Ten weeks from now, I’m going to be running to the bank with a big, fat, juicy check.” “That’s better.” Jess grins. “Although…I bet they do direct deposit.” I shrug. “Doesn’t mean I can’t still do a ceremonious sprint to the bank.” “True. If I win, though…I think I’ll be sprinting to Barneys.” The Uber we’re in takes a sharp turn and we both sway to the side in the back seat. “Please don’t tell me you’d blow all the money on clothes, Jess,” I say. I mean, to be honest, I’d probably do a little shopping, too. But first I’d pay off my student loans and treat my parents to a vacation or something. “Not all of it,” says Jess. “Just…like…ten percent or so.” “Okay. Good.” “Maybe fifteen. Or twenty.” “Jess.” She laughs. Then her eyes drift away from me and widen as she looks through the windshield of the car. “Holy shit,” she says. “Is that it?” I follow her gaze and feel my eyes widen, too, when I see the mansion we’re driving up to. I don’t know why we’re both so surprised—we’ve watched every episode of all six seasons of the show, and all of the seasons have been filmed here. In person, though, the mansion is so much freakin’ grander. Imagine a mansion. Then double it. Then double it again. Add a bunch of pristine rose bushes and exotic looking flowers all around the property. And gorgeous huge trees that look like they’ve been there for hundreds of years. And a huge marble water fountain. And warm, glowy uplighting that makes everything look even more fancy than it already is. “I feel underdressed,” murmurs Jess. “You’re not alone,” I say. “Yeah, but you’re always underdressed, silly.” I peel my eyes away from the mega mansion to shoot my best friend a look. It’s true, though. If I could, I’d be in yoga pants and a boxy oversized tee right now. Instead, I have on one of Jess’s dresses, which is sexier than anything I own. I was seriously shocked when I saw myself in the mirror earlier today—this little purple dress shows off all of my curves. Seriously, it’s like I have curves I didn’t even know about. And my boobs…in this dress, they look damn incredible. And I never say stuff like that. Now, though, pulling up to the mansion, it feels like we should be wearing full-length sparkly ball gowns. Soon, Jess and I find out that we’re dressed just fine. As soon as our Uber drops us off, a TV producer welcomes us and points us to the big front doors of the house, and when Jess and I walk inside, we enter into a room full of other girls who are dressed in short, tight dresses just like us. “Hey, girls!” says Jess. They all smile at us, but at least half of the smiles barely conceal their true feelings: they’re sizing us up, trying to figure out how much of a threat we are. Well, I guess I can’t lie. I’m doing the same to them. The premise of this show is simple: there’s a bunch of single girls, a bunch of single guys, and a hundred thousand dollars on the line. We’ll be expected to pair up with a contestant of the opposite sex, and couples will be voted off each week. The last couple standing will split the hundred thousand. Easy, right? Except you just know there’s going to be a twist. And drama. Oh, so much drama. Jess and I stick close together as we drift around the room. It doesn’t seem like anyone else is here with a friend, which definitely seems like it’s going to be an advantage for us. “How many fake boobs do you think are in this room right now?” Jess whispers into my ear. “At least…fifteen,” I say. Jess laughs loudly. A girl with extremely glossy lips looks at Jess like she just screamed out something offensive. “Good morning, ladies!” A voice booms out from across the room. We all quiet down, our attention immediately focused on our host. “I’m Warren Turner,” he says, although we all know who he is. Of course he’s Warren Turner. Anyone who watches reality TV knows he’s Warren Turner. “And I’m very, very pleased to welcome you to the Love Mansion. Are you ladies ready to meet the men of your dreams?” Around me, a sea of girls erupts in cheering and hooting. My eardrums throb. But I join in, too, of course. Up front, Warren laughs and gestures for us to settle down. “All right, ladies,” he says, flashing his TV-perfect smile and glimmering his eyes, “here they are!” As soon as he says it, two huge wooden doors open up behind him, and hot man after hot man begins to stream out. They’re each so tall and handsome—and radiating vibes of sex—that my whole body instantly flushes with heat. “Holy shit,” says Jess. “I know,” I murmur. Around us, the other girls are equally stunned into silence. But as the guys continue to enter the room, I force myself to get over my initial shock. I do my best to ignore their physical hotness for the time being and focus on the things that will get me the greatest chances of winning this competition. Does the guy look trustworthy? Does he look like he’s good at strategy? Does he look like he’s not a total douche? Of course it’s all the really hot ones that look untrustworthy, bad at strategy, and douchey. I do see a handful who have potential, though. I mentally catalog their faces so I can remember who I want to talk to as soon as we’re set free. As the guys continue to file in, I turn to Jess and say, “See anyone you like?” “Um, yes,” says Jess. “A see a whooole lot I like.” But then her expression changes. Surprise takes over her face. “Um, Whitney?” she says. “What?” “Look.” I turn to look at the front of the room again. At first, I’m just blinded by all the muscles and handsome grins and good hair. But then I see him. He’s the last guy to walk in. My high school boyfriend. Chapter Two Leo I see Whitney the moment I walk in. In a room full of beautiful girls, that’s how much she stands out. And the moment I see her, I feel the impulse to rush across the room and carry her out of here. It would be completely ridiculous, I know. But the thought of her being on a show like this, with a bunch of other dudes and catty girls…well, it’s enough to make me have crazy impulses like that. I’ve thought about Whitney since high school, of course. You don’t have a girlfriend like that and not ever think about her again. But as much as I missed her, I never once tried getting in touch with her. Our breakup at the end of high school hurt like a motherfucker and I knew I couldn’t handle getting in touch with her only to lose her again. Besides, as the years went on, I figured she’d probably gotten married, maybe even had a kid. But here she is. Standing in the same room as me. As single as they come. “Introduce yourself, Leo,” says Warren, leaning toward me. I force my attention to the rest of the crowd. “Hey, ladies. I’m Leo.” “Luscious Leo!” someone yells out. I laugh. This whole thing is fucking ridiculous, but I’ve already made up my mind to embrace it. Not that I have much of a choice. My sister-in-law, Sara, is one of the producers on the show, and after talking me into being one of the contestants, she made me swear that I’d stick it out for as long as I can. I’m not allowed to actually win, though, since someone could easily make the argument that Sara could benefit from me winning the prize money. Not that I even need the money. Thanks to the success of the tech company I co-own, I have far more than fifty thousand in the bank. What I don’t have is much of a social life. Or a love life, for that matter. My sister-in-law is convinced that coming on the show will remedy that, but honestly, I just agreed to it to get her to stop bugging me about it. “Okay, ladies and gents,” says Warren, raising his voice to get everyone’s attention. “You have the next four hours to mingle and get to know each other. Have fun. Let loose. Just try to keep your clothes on, okay?” More hooting and laughter ripples through the room. “And remember,” continues Warren, “anyone not in a couple by the end of the night will be automatically eliminated.” And with that, the game is on. Most of the guys start chatting up the girl closest to wherever they’re standing. I set my sights on getting across the room, though. There’s no way I’m not going to talk to Whitney first. Hell, if she’s the only girl I talk to tonight, I’ll be as happy as…well, as happy as a guy reunited with the girl he’s never gotten over. Making my way through the crowd is harder than I expect, though. Girls keep trying to stop me. It feels like trying to swim upstream. “Where you running off to?” they say. “Luscious Leo…we want to talk to you. Leeeeo. Stay.” “In a minute,” I grunt. “Aww,” they pout. Finally, I make it to the other side of the room. Whitney’s in the exact same spot she was when I first spotted her, and she’s so stunning that I almost can’t breathe. For a second, I feel like I’m that eighteen-year-old kid again, head-over-heels in love with her. As I approach Whitney, she stays focused on the conversation she’s in with another girl. Wait. That’s not just any other girl. That’s Jess, her best friend from high school. “Just go over there and talk to him,” Jess is saying. “Seriously, Whitney. If you don’t do it now—” “Hey, girls,” I say. They both turn and see me. Whitney looks nervous. Jess shoots me a smile. “Leo!” Jess says. “It’s so crazy to see you here.” “It’s good to see you.” I slide my gaze over. “Hey, Whitney.” “Hi,” she says, so quietly that I almost can’t hear her. “Will you two excuse me?” says Jess, glancing over my shoulder. “Wait, Jess—” says Whitney. “You’re fine, girl,” Jess says, then runs off with a smile. Whitney swallows and moves her eyes back to me. “I can’t believe you’re here, Leo,” she says. Slowly—finally—she gives me a smile. “Sorry. It’s good to see you. I’m just surprised.” Behind me, somebody bumps into me. I use the opportunity as an excuse to take a half-step closer to Whitney. I can see her chest rise as she draws in a breath. She’s close enough now that I could kiss her. And, fuck, do I want to. But I’m not going to kiss her. Not yet. Not like this. “How have you been?” I ask. “Good,” she says. She smiles again, more wryly this time. That smile. It makes my cock twitch. “I mean, obviously, I’m not rich or married, since I’m here. But life’s not bad.” “That’s your life goal, huh?” I say. “To be rich and married? I never knew that about you.” She laughs. “Yep. If I’m not a billionaire with three husbands by the time I’m thirty, I’m going to consider myself a failure.” I tsk my tongue and shake my head. “You’ve changed, kid.” She bites down on the inside of her lips, keeping a grin under control. Then, a slight blush rising in her cheeks, she says, “You’ve changed, too, Leo.” It’s true. I’m not the scrawny kid I was in high school. And she’s not the thin, slightly-awkward-in-her-own-body girl she was. I mean, I thought she was gorgeous back then. Every single inch of her. But now she’s a bombshell. “So what do you think, Whit? Should we team up and win this thing?” She smiles at me. “You really think we could win?” The fact that I technically can’t win the show flits through my mind. Fuck. How am I supposed to give up this opportunity to be with Whitney again, though? “How bad do you want the money?” I ask. Whitney looks at me like I’m nuts. “Um, fifty thousand? Pretty fucking bad.” She studies me. “Don’t you?” I want you more. “Of course,” I say, clearing my throat. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get it.” Maybe I can talk my sister-in-law into some kind of compromise. Maybe Whitney can take home the whole hundred thousand. Maybe… “Let’s do it,” says Whitney. It takes every goddamn cell in my body not to kiss her right then. Chapter Three Whitney “I can’t believe you and Leo are back together,” says Jess. The two of us are unpacking our suitcases in one of the rooms upstairs. We’ve just gotten through filming the first elimination ceremony, and while most of the other contestants immediately started drinking and celebrating, Jess and I exchanged one look and snuck away for some decompressing time. “We aren’t ‘back together,’ Jess,” I say. Okay, maybe it was a bad idea to pair up with Leo. But I agreed to it because he’s right—we do make a good team—and I’d much rather deal with being paired up with my high school ex than a douchey stranger. “It’s just for the show. But yeah. It’s crazy he’s here. I honestly never thought I’d see him again.” “You think he’s hot, though, right?” “Jess. Don’t.” “Answer the question, Whitney. Hot or not?” I sigh. “Of course he’s hot. You saw him, didn’t you?” Jess grins. She pulls another pair of shoes out of her suitcase. “Just making sure.” “It doesn’t matter, though. I’m here to win the money. Remember?” “Shh! Don’t say that. There could be a camera guy around.” “Pretty sure they’re all downstairs filming the interesting stuff,” I say. “Anyway,” says Jess. “So if you think he’s hot—” ”Stop.” I roll my eyes. “I know what you’re about to ask. And the answer is no. I’m not going to sleep with Leo.” “Why not?” I unroll a dress and frown at the wrinkles in it. “Um, for all sorts of reasons? Because we have a past? Because it would open up an old wound? Because we’re on a national TV show?” “So you want to,” says Jess, grinning. “You’re just making up excuses not to.” “No. Drop it.” “Why? It’s so much fun. What if you two fall in love? What if you get married and have babies and—” “Jess!” Suddenly I realize there’s another girl standing in the room. “Sorry,” she says, smiling sheepishly. “Am I interrupting?” “No,” I say, eager for any excuse to get Jess off my case. I love the girl, but I really could do without the pestering about Leo. As hot as he is, it’s not going to happen. “Come in! We’re just hanging out.” “Cool,” says the other girl. “Thanks. It’s so nuts downstairs.” “God, I know,” I say. “I’m Samira, by the way,” she says. “I’m Whitney,” I say. “Jess,” says Jess. She squints at Samira. “You look familiar. Have you been on any other shows?” Samira laughs. “Just one. I was on this Halloween bake-off show.” “I knew I recognized you!” says Jess. “Wait, did you win?” “Nope. This girl named Elizabeth did. She totally deserved to win, though. She got a husband out of the deal, too.” “No shit,” says Jess, and not subtly at all, she raises her eyebrows at me. “So true love can happen on TV, huh?” “Oh, definitely,” says Samira, hopping onto one of the beds. “Honestly, I think that’s kind of why I keep applying to these shows. It’s not exactly the most effective way to meet guys, but...you never know.” “Aw,” says Jess. “I hope you meet someone, Samira.” “Thanks,” she says, and laughs. “I can tell the dude I paired up with today isn’t my Prince Charming. But maybe he’ll grow on me. Who’d you two end up with? Sorry I can’t remember. There’s so many people here!” “I’m with Noah,” says Jess. “The hot redhead.” “That’s right,” says Samira. Then she looks over at me. “And you’re with...wait, I think I know this. That entrepreneur guy, right?” I nod. “Yep. Leo.” “He’s her high school sweetheart,” says Jess. Samira’s eyes go wide. “No way.” “Yep,” I say, silently cursing Jess for saying anything. The less attention on Leo and I, the better, as far as strategy is concerned. “It’s true.” “I’m guessing you two didn’t have a horrible breakup, then, if you’re paired up with him now?” I shrug. “It was a mutual breakup.” “Ah,” says Samira. “Let me guess. End of high school?” I nod. I sit down on my bed and smooth my hand over the sheets. I wasn’t planning on getting into this, but now that it’s out, I may as well tell the story. “We dated our entire senior year of high school. He was my first love. Actually…my only love, I guess.” Shit. I really don’t need to open up like this. “Anyway. We got into different colleges, and we both agreed that it didn’t make sense to do a long-distance relationship. Not when we were so young. So we broke up. It really sucked. But we had to do it. I mean, how many college kids do you hear about being in long-distance relationships?” Samira nods. “I bet you would have broken up anyway.” “Yeah. Exactly.” I shift on the bed. “And now here we are, six years later, meeting again on a reality TV show.” Samira breaks into a grin. “Tell the truth. Do you still have feelings for him?” I let out a long sigh. “She wants him but she won’t admit it,” Jess tells Samira. “Gotcha,” says Samira. “And do you think he wants you?” “Oh, he definitely wants her,” says Jess. “I could practically see the outline of his hard-on in his pants.” “Jess!” I scream. But Jess and Samira are laughing too hard to hear me. Oh, for fuck’s sake. Why am I even bothering? “Fine!” I say. “I want Leo. There! Are you happy now?” “Yes,” Jess says, gasping for air. “Thank you. I just wanted you to admit it. That wasn’t so hard, was it?” I sigh and get up from the bed and walk past Jess and Samira, who are still laughing. “Where are you going, Whitney?” Jess chokes out. “Bathroom,” I mutter. But when I walk out of the room, I run smack into Leo. Chapter Four Leo “Shit,” says Whitney, smoothing down her hair. “Hi. Sorry. Were you standing there long?” “You mean, did I hear you say that you wanted me?” I say. I’d come upstairs to make sure she was okay—I saw her and Jess branch off from the group a little while ago and started getting concerned when they didn’t come back. But to overhear her say that she wants me...damn. Talk about good timing. Whitney’s cheeks burn. I feel a little bad for being so blatant with her, but damn, she’s adorable when she’s blushing. “Yeah,” she says. “Look, about that…” “You don’t have to explain.” I put on the most ridiculously-full-of-myself smirk that I can manage. “I mean, come on. Look at me. I’m a god.” She laughs. “You know, I was coming up here to ask if you wanted to go on a walk or something, but now that I know you want me…should we just go in a closet and get it on?” Her cheeks burn again. My over-the-top smirk fades. Shit. “Sorry. Too much?” “No. I know you’re just kidding around.” She takes a breath. “So, can I take you up on that walk? I could use the fresh air.” “Definitely,” I say. I offer my arm to her, and she laughs and hooks hers around it. “Come on. Let’s go look at the stars.” Outside, the sky is inky black and dotted with faint specks of light. Whitney and I walk around the paths on the property, and then drift off the paths and wander through the surrounding fields. While we walk, we catch up on the last six years of our lives. She tells me about the marketing job she has at a small publishing company. I tell her about what a typical day is like for me as a cofounder of a tech company. She asks about my parents; I ask about hers. It’s so good to just spend time like this with her. It reminds me of how good of a friend she was in high school—not just a girlfriend. I miss her. Oh, God, I miss her. When we reach the edge of the property, we circle around and start heading back. The mansion glows in the darkness, every one of its multitude of lights aglow. “What do you think?” I say, nodding toward the mansion. “Should we buy the place?” Whitney scoffs. “Oh, yeah. Definitely. I’m sure it will be a bargain, too.” “I bet you could get them to lower the price.” “Oh, yeah? And how would I do that?” “With your feminine wiles.” She smirks. “Feminine wiles my ass.” “Are you kidding?” I say. “Have you seen yourself, Whitney?” Her eyes drop, then raise again to mine. “This isn’t how I normally dress, you know.” “No?” “No. Come on. You know me, Leo. You know I’m a yoga-pants-baggy-tee kind of girl.” “Don’t forget the granny panties.” She punches me playfully. “You wish you could see my granny panties.” “Totally. I’d be all over them.” She laughs. But then she goes weirdly silent. Her footsteps slow. “What are we doing, Leo?” “We’re walking,” I say. “Although it now appears that...yep. We’re coming to a stop.” She turns to face me. “Come on. Be serious.” I meet her eyes. Fuck. I want to kiss her so bad. My hands itch to grab her face, to press my lips to hers. But when I think about actually doing it, the remembered pain of how much it hurt when we broke up flares in my chest. I know she said she wanted me, but the way she said it also sounded full of reservations. And I can’t risk her turning me down. “We’re just hanging out, Whit,” I say, shrugging. “We’re catching up. Having fun. And we’re going to win this game.” Is that disappointment on her face? Relief? Maybe a mix of both. She nods and turns her head to look at the mansion again. “I can’t believe that’s where we’re living for the next however many weeks.” “Ten weeks,” I remind her. “Only if we make it to the end.” “Oh, we will,” I say. She glances at me. “What makes you so sure?” “We make a good team.” “Right. Speaking of which...we should probably talk some strategy, huh?” I grin. “Thought you’d never ask.” We decide on a couple things upfront: first, we’re going to keep our history as on the down low as possible; second, instead of trying to become a power couple, we’re going to try to befriend as many other people in the house as we can. “This sounds perfect,” says Whitney. “We’ll get everyone to like us. Then, bam, we’ll be in the finale and everyone will wonder what happened.” “Exactly,” I say. “But remember. No alliances.” Whitney nods. “Anything else?” “I dunno. Can you think of anything?” Whitney hesitates. “Um...well, how affectionate are we going to be?” I shrug, trying to ignore my thrumming heart. “How affectionate do you want to be?” “I mean, if we aren’t affectionate at all, then us pairing up is going to come across too obviously as strategy, and I think our chances of getting voted off will be higher. But if we’re too lovey-dovey, we run the risk of annoying people. Or making them jealous.” “Right,” I say. “So…what exactly do you have in mind?” “Well…we can be flirty. Let’s not use any pet names or anything, though.” “Where do you stand on kisses?” “No making out,” she quickly says. “But an innocent kiss here or there…that’s fine.” “Cheeks? Lips?” “Either’s okay.” “Okay,” I say. My heart feels like it’s going to burst through my chest. And I almost say something about how we should practice the kisses, just to make sure we get them right. But that damn memory of pain rides up again in my chest. “Come on,” I say, taking a step toward the house. “It’s getting cold out. Let’s go back inside.” Chapter Five Whitney Three weeks later “Do you guys think this swimsuit is too slutty?” It takes all my willpower not to exchange glances with Jess. The girl who just asked the question, Abigail, is standing in the middle of the kitchen wearing a bikini that will probably necessitate censorship bars when the show goes live. “It’s cute,” I say as I continue to slice limes for drinks. “Are you comfortable in it?” “Oh, totally,” says Abigail. “It’s like wearing nothing.” “If you’re happy in it, that’s what matters,” I say. “Thanks, Whitney. You’re sweet.” As soon as Abigail bounds off toward the pool, some of the other girls in the kitchen start making fun of her. I just keep slicing limes, only laughing along with the girls one time. As it turns out, trying to stay in everyone’s favor on this show is harder than I thought it would be. In the three weeks that we’ve been here, though, I’ve done my best—and so has Leo. So far so good when it comes to our strategy. “I think you’ve cut enough limes, Whitney,” says Jess, leaning her elbows on the kitchen counter. Then, lowering her voice, Jess says, “Can you believe that bikini? I’m pretty sure I saw her cooch.” “Jess,” I hiss under my breath. A cameraman has just walked into the room. Jess straightens up. “Yeah, that knife does seem pretty dull,” Jess says loudly and not at all fake sounding. The camera man keeps walking through the kitchen. As soon as he’s gone, Jess drops to her elbows again. “Where’s Leo?” “Out by the pool, I think,” I say, grabbing a paper towel to wipe up the lime juice on the cutting board. “You don’t worry about him being around all those bikini-clad girls? Especially ones with names that rhyme with Babigail?” “Nope,” I say. “You two are so weird,” says Jess. “Why are you still pretending like you don’t want to be together for real?” Then her eyes flick away from mine. “Speak of the devil.” I look over and see Leo walk into the house. He’s just wearing swim trunks, and his body is golden tan. The sight of him makes my skin tingle, as it’s been doing since I got here. “Want a drink, Leo?” Jess calls out to him. “Sure,” he says. As he walks over to us, I have to avert my eyes from his tan, muscled chest. Jess grabs the margarita-filled blender, pours some into a glass, and adds one of the lime wedges I just sliced. “Thanks,” says Leo. He takes a drink, then grins at us. “You two should come out to the pool. It’s gorgeous out there.” “I agree,” says Jess. “Let’s put on our swimsuits, Whitney.” “Maybe later,” I say. I’ve been purposely avoiding being out by the pool. It’s just too tempting seeing Leo half-naked. Jess groans. “No. Not later. We’re going out there now.” She grabs my hand and starts pulling me toward the stairs that lead up to our room. And as much as I want to struggle and yank my hand out of her grasp, I don’t want to cause a scene. I give in and follow her. Up in our room, I begrudgingly change into my swimsuit. “Oh, stop being such a grump,” says Jess. I sigh. Okay, fine. I know I really should just chill out and enjoy this time while we’re here. I’ve been so focused on staying on everyone’s good side to avoid getting voted off and not spending too much time with Leo to avoid being tempted by him that I haven’t even been enjoying myself. The least I can do is relax in the pool. In our swimsuits—Jess is in a pink-and-gold bikini and I’m in a dark navy one—we head back downstairs and step out of the open French doors into the pool area. A bunch of people are out there, some hanging out in the pool while others lounge in the sun. Leo is lying back on one of the lounge chairs, sunglasses on, hands behind his head, soaking up the sun. All his muscles are taut and glimmering. Why couldn’t he have grown up to be ugly? It would make this so much simpler. Jess and I both jump into the pool. The water feels wonderful—cool and relaxing. I swim around a little, then hang out by the edge, laughing as Jess attempts to do a handstand underwater. “Shit!” she yells, coming to the surface again. “I almost had it.” But then our attention is diverted to yelling coming from across the yard. One of the girls is yelling at her partner about not taking the game seriously. I look over just in time to see her throw her drink in his face. “Draaaaama,” says Jess, swimming up to join me at the edge of the pool. “I bet you a million bucks they’ll be up for elimination this week.” “Yeah, I’m not taking that bet,” I say. I look around the yard at all the other contestants. Everybody’s watching the fighting couple, too. Everyone except for Leo and Noah, Jess’s partner, that is. They’re just sitting over there laughing about something else. Jess catches me looking over at them. “Come on,” she says, pulling herself up out of the pool. “Let’s go say hi to our boys.” I follow her over, looking down to make sure my swimsuit is still covering everything up. When Leo and Noah see us approaching, they both give us smiles. “Hey, cuties,” says Noah. As it turns out, Noah is actually the perfect match for Jess. I can totally see them together after the show. And Jess is nuts about him. She’s even gone so far as to sneak off with him in the middle of the night to have sex. Jess takes a seat on Noah’s lap, giggling and giving him a kiss as she does. I look around for an empty lounge chair, but there’s none. My eyes meet Leo’s. He gives me a little shrug to say, Go ahead, it’s fine. So, trying to act as casual as possible, I sit down on Leo’s lap. I lean in and give him a quick peck on the cheek. “Really? That’s all he gets?” says Jess. I give her a warning look. But then Noah pipes up. “Yeah, you two can do better than that,” he says. “Come to think of it, I haven’t seen you two kiss on the lips at all.” And that’s because we haven’t. Leo and I have stuck to hugs and cheek pecks—and it’s worked well for us so far. “That’s true, Noah,” says Jess, slinging her arms around his neck. “Maybe they’re faking their relationship.” A cameraman approaches, suddenly more interested in our little conversation than the fighting still going on across the yard. I could strangle Jess right now. I turn to Leo, lean forward, and quickly press my lips to his. It’s a brief kiss, the kind of kiss you’d give a family member. But it’s all I can allow myself. It happens so fast that Leo looks shocked when I pull away. “There,” I say, turning back to Jess and Noah. “Now you’ve seen us kiss on the lips.” “That was hardly a kiss,” says Jess. “Yeah, I think I blinked and missed it,” says Noah. I grit my teeth. I consider all the ways to get myself out of this moment. But then I feel Leo’s hand on my chin, turning my face back to him. And then both of his hands pulling me toward him. Before I realize what’s happening, our lips are pressed together, and then our lips are open, his tongue sweeping into my mouth. And all the feelings I’ve ever felt for him crash together inside my chest. Both Jess and Noah are cheering when Leo and I finally pull apart. As I stare, dazed, at Leo, I hear Jess say, “Now that was a kiss.” My whole body is on fire. Oh my God. Even my nipples are hard. And I’m pretty sure I can feel Leo’s erection press against my hip. Leo grins at me, his face both apologetic and not sorry in the least. And the worst part is, I want him to do it again. Chapter Six Leo “Why did you kiss me like that?” Whitney hisses. We’re back inside the house and she’s pulled me aside. Shit. She looks like she might cry. “I was just trying to get them off our backs,” I say. “It didn’t mean anything, Whit. If I wanted to kiss you and mean it, I’d do it when no one’s around.” I know it makes me sound like an asshole, saying that. But honestly? I’m freaked out about our kiss, too. I broke the promise I made to myself, that I’d wait to kiss Whitney until I knew for sure that she wanted me without hesitation. But out there by the pool, with her half-naked body filling up my vision, and those incredible hips of hers settled down on my thighs…fuck. I just couldn’t take it anymore. And now the thing I was afraid of—Whitney pushing me away—is happening. “Let’s just forget it ever happened,” I mumble. “Trust me. It won’t happen again. It was a mistake.” Whitney covers her face with her hands and groans. Then she drops her hands and looks up into my eyes again. “I can’t.” “You can’t what?” “Forget that kiss.” I heave out a sigh. “So where does that leave us, then? Do you want to find new partners? Do you want to go home?” Whitney swallows. “I want you, Leo.” And this time, when she says it, there’s not an ounce of doubt in her voice. It’s pure, genuine desire. There’s no I want you, but…Nope. It’s just I want you. “For the last three weeks,” says Whitney, “I’ve been denying my feelings. I’ve been convincing myself that we can’t be together again. But with every day that goes by, I just want you more, Leo. And my reasons for resisting are sounding stupider and stupider.” I want to kiss her again. I want to pin her up against the wall and tear her swimsuit off and ravish her. But I steady myself. I need to be absolutely sure. “Your reasons being?” She shrugs. “That we have a past. That it’s an old wound. That it will distract me from winning. But the thing is, I’m distracted by you anyway. And about us having a past…it was a good past. I hated that it had to end.” “I hated that it had to end, too.” Whitney and I just look at each other, breathing. The longing in her eyes is so intense that I want to take her here and now, just say fuck it and risk us being interrupted by someone else—even a cameraman. The things I want to do to her, though…no. We need to go somewhere else. “Aren’t you going to kiss me, Leo?” Whitney whispers. “Not here,” I grunt. “Because once I start, I won’t be able to control myself.” “Take me somewhere else, then,” she says, threading her fingers through mine. We break into a one-on-one suite. They haven’t even been introduced on the show yet—but my sister-in-law told me about them, and it doesn’t take a locksmith to fuck with the lock and get in. “Whoa,” says Whitney, her eyes widening when we step inside. “They didn’t have these on previous seasons.” “They’re brand new,” I say, kissing her neck. “They’re going to be introduced in week eight.” “Um…how do you know that?” Oh, right. Shit. I still haven’t told her about my connection to the show. I keep kissing her neck. “My sister-in-law is on the production team. She’s the one who talked me into coming onto the show.” “Oh.” Whitney laughs. “Okay. Anything else you want to tell me?” I stop kissing her neck. “What, Leo?” Fuck. I can’t not tell her now. I pull back from her. I blow air out from my cheeks. “I can’t win the show,” I say. “What?” She frowns. “Why not?” “Because of the connection to my sister-in-law.” “Oh. I see.” “Shit. I’m really sorry for not telling you sooner, Whit. I just figured that if we made it all the way to the end, I could talk to my sister-in-law and see if we could find a way around it. Now that I say that out loud, though…I realize how stupid it sounds. I just…I didn’t want to lose you. I’m sorry.” She nods slowly. “Are you pissed at me?” I ask. “I probably should be,” she says. “But…if I’m being honest? The only thing I care about right now is you and me getting in that bed.” I bend down and pull her face to mine. Her lips part quickly when I slide my tongue between them. She lets out a sigh into my mouth as I lick my tongue against hers. I’m so hard already that I’m about to burst through my swim trunks. I pull her body close to mine. The the sensation of our half-naked bodies pressed together is like fucking fireworks. Whitney moans again into my mouth and presses her stomach harder against the bulge of my cock. I slide my hands over her shoulders and down her back until I reach the knotted strings of her bikini top. It’s double-knotted, but it takes me mere seconds to undo those tight little knots. Then I undo the bow that the strings are pulled into behind her neck and let the bikini top fall to the floor. She immediately presses her bare tits against me, her hard nipples rubbing needfully against my skin. I slide my hands down, hook my thumbs around the sides of her bikini bottoms, and pull them down the curves of her hips. As soon as her bikini bottoms drop to the floor, she steps out of them and kicks them aside. “Your turn,” Whitney murmurs, breaking from our kiss to reach down and loosen the drawstring on my swim trunks. As I watch her fiddle with the knot, I marvel at how gorgeous her body is. Every curve my eyes land on turns me on more. Her breasts are perky and creamy, her hips sexy and thick, and there’s a trim little thatch of hair where her legs meet. I can hardly wait to spread those legs open and see how gorgeous the rest of her is. When Whitney gets my trunks off, my freed cock springs up, and I swear, I’m harder than I’ve ever been. She draws in a breath as she lays eyes on me. Back during our senior year, she and I did touch each other—but it was always under bed covers or the cloak of evening, never in broad daylight like this. And we never went further than just touching. Believe me, I offered to go down on her back when we were eighteen. But she was a late bloomer and was uncomfortable with the very idea of me putting my tongue down there. I didn’t even bring up the topic of blow jobs. Now, though, Whitney is already dropping to her knees. I groan as she slides the tip of my cock between her plump lips. The inside of her mouth is so fucking warm. She takes me inch by inch into her mouth, drawing me further and further into ecstasy. “Fuck, Whitney,” I say. I thread my fingers through her hair and watch with quivering vision as she bobs her head. My cock throbs and I plant my feet firmly on the floor. When she looks up at me and holds my gaze as she keeps blowing me, she sends me soaring to the edge. “I’m close,” I choke out. She keeps holding my gaze. She bobs her head even deeper. “Whit—” She sucks harder and I fucking lose it. I erupt into her mouth, spurting hot come over her tongue. She moans and keeps me in her mouth as I finish. Then, slowly drawing my cock out of her mouth, she swallows, grins, and then licks the remaining drops off my head. I’m still hard, still full of need. “Get on the bed,” I command. Chapter Seven Whitney Leo doesn’t have to tell me twice. I move over to the huge bed, which is made up in luxurious linens, and sit down on the silky sheets. I start to scoot into the middle of the bed, but Leo grabs my ankles and pulls me back to the edge. “No,” he says. “Stay right here.” The grip of his hands on my ankles turns me on even more. I submit to him, letting him do whatever he wants. He kneels down before me on the floor. He pushes my legs wide open. “Fuck, you’re beautiful,” he says. I lean forward to kiss him. He lets me have one kiss before dipping his head and clamping his mouth around my nipple. I arch my back and let out a moan. But it’s a gasp that escapes my lips as he slides two fingers into me, pumping them slow and deep. “Oh, God,” I moan. “Leo.” He pulls his fingers out of me and drops his mouth down between my legs. When his tongue enters me, I gasp again, louder this time. Then he pulls out his tongue and drags it up over my clit and a noise comes out of my mouth that I don’t even recognize. Leo slides his hands beneath me, grips my ass cheeks, and pulls me further off the bed. I’m hanging off the edge now, but he’s holding on to me like I’m weightless, his face buried between my legs. It feels so incredible that I can’t stop moaning his name. He dips his tongue into me again, then pulls out and laps at my swollen clit, then dips his tongue back inside of me. “I’m going to come,” I gasp. My hips are shaking. My breath is ragged. My whole body is vibrating with intense pleasure. “Oh, God. Oh, God! Leo!” The wave hits, and I scream out, convulsing against Leo’s mouth. I melt into the bed as I come down the other side, moaning and catching my breath. My ass is still hanging off the edge of the bed, Leo holding up the weight of my lower half. When I finally catch my breath, I look down at him and feel a tingle again between my legs. “Fuck me,” I whisper. “Please, Leo. Please.” “Fuck you or make love to you?” “Fuck me. And don’t use anything. I need to feel you raw inside of me. I’m on the pill.” Hot desire fills his eyes. Then he flips me over, sets my knees down on the edge of the mattress, and pulls my ass up into the air. I can feel how dripping wet I am, and when he pushes the engorged head of his cock against me, there’s not even a hint of resistance at all—his rock-hard cock slides right into me, filling me up to the hilt. “Oh,” I moan, pushing my mouth into the bedsheet. “Oh my God.” Leo grips my ass cheeks, draws out of me, then thrusts in again. Hard. The slap of our bodies is erotic and hot. “You good, Whit?” Leo grunts out. “Uh huh,” I say. “Oh, God. So good.” He pulls out and slams into me again. And then again. And again. When he picks up the pace, I mute my moaning with the bedsheets and dig my fingers into the silky fabric. I’ve never felt like this before. Never. Leo grips my ass harder and pumps into me faster. Our heavy, barely-controlled breathing fills the room. Another orgasm builds between my legs, fast and intense, and before I even have time to tell him, I’m screaming out into the sheets. When I come, it triggers an orgasm for Leo, too. He shudders against my body, cursing as he explodes inside of me. Afterward, we rock against each other, him still in me, the both of us catching our breath. When he finally slides out of me, I immediately want him inside of me again. I want to be with him over and over. I want everything. I never want this to end. I lay down on the bed, flipping around to my back, and look at the gorgeous, incredible, hot-as-fuck man standing between my legs. He grins at me, then lowers himself on top of me and kisses my lips. “Remember in high school when you wouldn’t even let me go down on you?” he says. I laugh. “To be fair, Leo, I don’t think you would have been that good at age eighteen.” “Guess we’ll never know.” I feel his cock harden against my thigh and look at him in disbelief. “Are you seriously hard again?” He smiles at me sheepishly. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.” “No,” I insist. “Not at all. I’m just impressed.” I kiss him. He kisses me back. I spread my legs, and he shifts his hips and pushes his cock into me—slowly this time, though. We keep our eyes on each other as he rolls his hips against me, entering me deeply and slowly and so deliciously good. Leo and I are absolutely, completely, undeniably meant to be together. Leo thrusts into me a little faster, but still controlled, still sexy and slow. Every time he enters me, I become less and less able to deny my true feelings for him. I’ve never stopped loving him. I’ve always wished we could have stayed together. I see something change in Leo’s eyes, too. “I love you, Whitney,” he says. I start crying. I can’t help it. “I love you, too.” Our lips meet, and he thrusts deeper into me, faster, bringing us both to an incredible place. We come together, kissing breathlessly as he spills into me again. “I love you so much,” he whispers, and I cling to him, never wanting to let go. Chapter Eight Leo I text my sister-in-law the minute Whitney and I return to the main house—after giving Whitney another kiss and telling her I love her again, of course. I’m on such a high from being with Whitney that part of me wants to just enjoy it and not think about anything else. But I also know I need to take care of the problem we have. And I need to take care of it now. Sara replies to my text within minutes. She tells me to slip out a side door and meet her down the driveway, away from the house. I quickly change out of my swim trunks, then sneak back out of the house to go meet my sister-in-law. She’s already there when I arrive, scrolling through her phone as she waits for me. “What’s up?” she says, sliding the phone into her back pocket. “I need to talk to you about the not-being-allowed-to-win thing.” She nods. “What about it?” “Well, hypothetically, if Whitney and I do get to the finale…is there any way she could have all the money?” “Uh…no?” My chest sinks. I know I should have expected that, but still. I was holding out hope. “Wow. You really want to win, don’t you?” Sara says, studying me. “It’s not about winning,” I say. “And it’s not about me.” “It’s about Whitney, then?” I nod. Sara smiles. “You really fell for her, huh? And now you want to help her win. That’s sweet.” “Come on. Isn’t there anything you can do?” “Sorry, Leo.” Sara shakes her head. “To be honest, the other producers weren’t even that on board with you coming on the show in the first place. I had to convince them that it wouldn’t be a big deal, as long as you were secretly exempt from winning.” I sigh. “There really isn’t anything you can do?” “No,” Sara insists. “If you really want Whitney to win the money, you need to get her paired up with someone else before the final vote. That’s the only way it will work. Sorry, Leo. I honestly wish I could help, but I can’t. My hands are tied.” I head back to the house and sneak in. I find Whitney hanging out with a group in the living room. She immediately notices me when I walk in and gives me a sweet little smile. I smile at her, too, but then nod my head toward the other room and she takes the cue. She says something to the girls she’s sitting with on the couch, then stands up and walks over to join me. “Hey, hottie,” she says, sidling up beside me. “You’re the hottie, Whit,” I toss back at her, and give the side of her hip a light squeeze. We walk through the next room and I push open a door that leads outside. Whitney and I walk out into one of the manicured gardens. Thankfully, there’s no one else outside right now. “So, I just talked to my sister-in-law,” I say, keeping my voice low as we take a seat on a stone bench. “Unfortunately she can’t budge about the agreement I have with her.” “I kind of figured that would be the case,” says Whitney, sighing. “If it comes down to it, you’re going to need to partner up with someone else to win.” Whitney frowns. “I’m not exactly eager to do that, but…if I have to, I have to.” She thinks a second longer, then groans. “Oh, God. What if I have to spend the night with someone else in one of those one-on-one suites?” The very thought of it makes my blood boil. But I know right now I need to be the voice of reason. “It’s just a room, Whit. The show’s not forcing you to hook up with anyone.” “Yeah, but these shows always make it seem like couples hook up in those suites.” I keep my breathing even. “They might end up editing it to imply that something more happened, but you and I will always know the truth.” She nods. She looks up at me. “It was so nice being with you like that, Leo.” “If it was up to me,” I say, “we would lock ourselves in that room for the rest of the season.” She laughs. She slides her hand across my lap, smoothing her palm over my cock. “We could sneak away again tonight, you know…” “Whit,” I groan. “Or even right now. It didn’t seem like anyone noticed we were gone the first time.” Fuck. I kiss her. Then I say in a low growl, “You want my cock in you again? Fine. Let’s go.” Chapter Nine Whitney Nobody notices the two of us sneaking away again—probably because there’s another elimination ceremony tonight and everyone is wrapped up in the drama of that. By the time Leo and I get back, I have just enough time to get ready for the ceremony. My body is still buzzing from the little sex fest we just had. But as I head into the ceremony, my high is quickly overshadowed by stress. Even though I feel confident that Leo and I will be safe, it’s still nerve-wracking to stand there and wait for the results of the voting to come in. Couple by couple, Warren announces contestants’ names, asking each couple to come forward to receive a little plastic heart as a token of their safety for another week. When Leo and I are called up to get our heart, I squeeze his hand tight, relief flooding through me. “Thank God,” I whisper to him as we walk back to join the rest of the couples. “I know,” he whispers back. Warren continues to call couples up. But as the ceremony goes on, I realize that Jess and Noah still haven’t been called. Suddenly, a new kind of panic sears through me. “Oh, no,” I murmur under my breath. “Jess. No.” It’s down to three couples, and Jess and Noah are one of them. “The next couple I call will be the last to be safe tonight,” announces Warren. “Unfortunately, the other two couples will be leaving us tonight.” I squeeze Leo’s hand tight. He squeezes back. And when Warren calls the names of another couple out, a small cry escapes from my throat. As the ceremony ends and breaks apart, Jess and I run to each other and embrace each other tearfully. “I can’t believe you’re leaving, Jess,” I say, wiping away tears. “I know, babe,” says Jess. “It’s okay, though. I don’t care about the money anymore. I’m leaving with something way more important.” She looks lovingly over at Noah, and I follow her gaze. I give Jess another hug. “I’ll see you soon, okay?” “Good luck, girl,” says Jess. She pulls away from me and takes Noah’s hand. I nod and dry my face as I watch her and Noah leave. Then I go over to Leo and thread my fingers through his. “You doing okay?” he asks. I nod. “Yeah. It sucks she had to leave. But I’ll survive.” “Sorry, Whit.” He smiles gently. “You’ve still got me, though.” I smile back at him. “That’s true.” Leo bends down to give me a sweet kiss. Just then, though, Warren calls for everyone’s attention. As Leo and I break from our kiss and look toward the front of the room, I get an awful feeling in my stomach. “There’s one more thing we have to do tonight,” says Warren. “Before stepping out of this room, you must all find a brand new partner. And you may not switch again for the remainder of the show.” Murmurs and protests immediately fill the room. A couple girls start freaking out, saying how unfair it is to be forced to separate from their men. Meanwhile, Leo and I stand there shocked, unsure of what to do. Even though switching partners was something we talked about having to do, we never expected to have to do it so soon. I look around the room. There’s no one else I want to be paired up with. And there’s definitely no one else I want to see Leo paired up with. If Jess and Noah were still here, we could just swap with them. Damn it. Why did they have to be voted off this week? This sucks. I look over at Leo, and he looks at me. He searches my eyes. Waves of love for him surge through me. Jess’s words echo in my head, too: I don’t care about the money anymore. I’m leaving with something way more important. And, suddenly, I don’t care about the money, either. All I want is to be with Leo. And not just here. I lean into his ear and whisper, “Let’s leave.” “Leave?” I nod. “Screw the money. Screw the show. I just want to be with you, Leo.” “Are you sure, Whitney? Absolutely positive?” “Yes,” I whisper. “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.” He looks at me once more, then grabs my hand. He starts to pull me through the crowd. Others take notice, and watch us, confused. “Uh—Leo? Whitney?” says Warren. “Where are you two going?” We ignore him. We just keep going. We don’t even bother to go upstairs and grab our stuff. We just run out of the house, hand in hand, laughing and glancing over at each other constantly. And when we make it outside, we don’t stop. I look over my shoulder and see a couple cameramen running after us, but with the heavy cameras on their shoulders, they can’t keep up. And before long, we outrun them, and it’s just Leo and I on the road. When the mansion is finally out of view, we stop running. “I guess we should call for an Uber,” I say, panting for breath. “Not quite yet,” Leo says. He drops down to one knee, and takes my hand into his. “Leo,” I say, astonished. “What are you doing?” “I’m proposing to you.” He grins at me. His eyes are so full of love. “Whitney…I’ve never stopped loving you. You’re the only one for me. You’re my world. And I know all of this is crazy. But we know each other. Truly. Deeply. And I know I want to be with you forever. Will you marry me?” Tears are streaming down my face. I nod and fall into his arms. “Yes,” I say. “Yes, Leo. Of course I’ll marry you.” Chapter Ten Leo 1 Year Later “Hey, are you guys Whitney and Leo?” I look up from watching Whitney putting a hat on our baby girl and see two teenagers looking at us giddily. “Who and who?” I say, faking confusion. Whitney playfully swats my arm. “He’s just joking, girls,” says Whitney. “Yep. That’s us.” “Oh my God!” The girls’ faces light up. “Can we take a selfie with you?” “Of course,” Whitney says, grinning. It’s kind of ridiculous that Whit and I still get attention from being on—and running away from—Love Mansion. But whenever we’re recognized, it also reminds me how grateful I am for the show. Without it, I wouldn’t be with Whitney right now, and we wouldn’t have the most beautiful daughter on the planet. The teenage girls cozy up to us and take a couple selfies. “It was sooo romantic when you guys chose love over the money,” says one of them. “Yeah,” says the other. “So romantic. I’ve never met a guy I would give up fifty thousand dollars for.” “Well,” says Whitney, smiling and glancing over at me, “maybe one day you will.” They look at each other and giggle. Then they both say, “Thank you so much!” and run off. “Wonder how long that’s going to keep happening,” I say. “It’s going to keep happening as long as you’re a hottie,” she says, running a finger up my chest. “Which will be indefinitely.” I laugh and lean over to kiss her. “You look gorgeous today, by the way,” I say. “As always.” I’m about to kiss Whitney again, but then our little one starts crying. Whitney immediately bends down to the stroller to tend to her. As I watch her calm our daughter, my heart swells. She’s such a good mom. I always knew she would be. “You’re still glad you gave up the money to be with me, right?” I say. “Of course,” Whitney says, giving me a look. “I’d give up a million dollars to be with you. Even a billion. Well…maybe not a billion…” “The truth finally comes out,” I say. She laughs. “Okay. Maybe a billion. The sex is pretty good, after all.” Oh, God. I wish we were at home right now—I’d show Whitney over and over again how much I love her. But we’re not at home. We’re on our way to meet some friends for brunch. And not just any friends—Jess and Noah, who have their own adorable little girl, and Samira and Eric, who are expecting twins in a few months. Life’s been crazy for Samira and Eric since winning our season of Love Mansion. Eric, Samira’s new partner after The Big Switch, ended up being the perfect match for her, and every time we see them, we love hearing about how things are going. Our little one calms down again and Whitney sets her back in her stroller. As we start to walk down the sidewalk again, our phones chime. I pull mine out and see a notification that I’ve been tagged in an Instagram photo. When I pull it up, it’s one of the selfies that the girls just took with us. I laugh when I read the caption. OMG guess who we just met?!? They are so cute in person! And their baby is adorable! #lovemansion #hotcelebrities #starstruck “Is it a good one?” asks Whitney, peering over to my screen while she pushes the stroller. I show her the photo and she laughs. “I love you, Whit,” I say. “I love you, too, Leo.” I pull her chin toward me and lean down and kiss her—a kiss that makes us both stop walking again. “We’re going to be late,” Whitney murmurs. “I know,” I say, kissing her again. “But screw it. I need to kiss my wife.” Craving more? Get a FREE Kate Hunt novella! Want to be a VIP reader? Join Kate’s Sweeties on Facebook Connect with Kate: Newsletter | Facebook | Bookbub