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Love Has A Name: Billlionaire Brothers, #2

Love Has A Name: Billlionaire Brothers, #2

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Love Has A Name: Billlionaire Brothers, #2

ratings:
4/5 (1 rating)
Length:
530 pages
8 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Nov 17, 2013
ISBN:
9781393239390
Format:
Book

Description

A battle for control between two dominant souls. Who will submit?

 

Headstrong, dominant, and stubborn as hell, Axia Blacksille is the queen of her own universe. She calls the shots, sets the rules, then breaks them if she feels like it.

There's nothing she wants that she can't have. Nothing she craves that she won't get a taste of.

 

And she neither wants nor craves tech billionaire Lovello Nelson. Because if there's one thing she hates, it's pretty boys.

 

But the cocky, illegally-handsome womanizer who has "Love" as a name, is determined to get the saucy, stubborn, dark-haired femme fatale beneath him and under control. And he won't stop until she's his – mind, body, and soul.

 

In a fierce war of hearts, someone has to give in. Submit.

 

This is bound to end in disaster.

 

A beautiful disaster.

Publisher:
Released:
Nov 17, 2013
ISBN:
9781393239390
Format:
Book

About the author


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Love Has A Name - S. Ann Cole

.

Dedication

For you VB,

Always, always, always for you...

SWEET SINS

AS I SAT IN THE GARDEN,

She said to me,

"Taste and see."

She was beauty

She was lovely

She was everything to me

She was mine

She was divine

She was everything to me

She was love

She was joy

She was everything to me

"Taste and see," said she.

From her delicate hands,

I took...

I bit...

I tasted...

What I tasted was sin.

She smiled at me,

Knowing she’d win

Satisfaction in her grin

Yet, I bit again,

And Again.

Over eternal life,

I chose her sweet sin.

Because...

She was the sun,

Had me undone,

She was everything to me

She was real,

Made me feel,

She was everything to me

Again I bit,

And then I knew,

With that last bite,

I knew...

She owned me.

Sweet sins...

She owned me.

Contents

Dedication

Sweet Sins

Preface

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Acknowledgement

About the Author

Preface

Frailty, thy name is woman’ is the only line of Shakespeare’s Hamlet that I detest.

I never even went about trying to understand why the word ‘woman’ was perpetually aligned and used in conjunction with the word ‘weak’.

Were women weak? Were they truly? Were women made to be submissive—eventually?

A woman can play the card of independence as well as she wants, engulf herself in all things ‘manly’, prove equality and flaunt her ‘strength’. But at some point, she has to acknowledge the fact that no mortal will ever be able to reshape what God has molded.

It’s said that women were made to be submissive to men. Was even given stern commandments to do so. Women were made for men. Not the other way around. After all, were she not literally made from a man’s rib? How, then, can a woman ever say that she is equal to, or more than, a man?

For every woman who holds that notion, the realization comes one day that she isn’t. That day when she bumps foreheads with that one person who has the power to make her melt, dissolve, frazzle just by breathing, she knows. For every woman, there is that one man. That one man who wields ultimate power over her, no matter how strong, independent or in control she thinks she is.

That one man, she soon finds out, is whose rib she was made from...

This I know. Yet, I still ponder, is frailty woman’s name?

Chapter 1

OH MY GOD, AXIA, PLEASE tell me you’re at the gym?

Trudy had left the gym no less than fifteen minutes ago and headed straight for work, so as she gushed down the receiver the minute I answered it, I wondered why she was phoning me instead of working.

Wherever else would I be?

"Well I need a favor. Please. It seems when we were playing tug–of-war with my handbag earlier, my damned thumb-drive fell out. And that thumb-drive has the freakin’ presentation I’ve been working on all month, and the meeting for that presentation, Axia, is now! she intoned. Please, can you find it and get here in, like, five minutes? Do that crazy driving thing that you always do to get to places fast. "

’Sakes, Trudy, you’re so messy. You’re always losing something. And don’t you know you should always have more than one storage for important docs? How uncoordinated you can be! I just stepped off the treadmill and I’m half-dressed and icky an—

Goddammit, Axia! Will you just shut your ever-berating pie-hole and find the damned drive? I don’t care how sweaty or busy you are. If you’re not here in ten minutes, then our friendship is terminated!

The line went dead.

I scowled at the Blackberry in my hand. Only Trudy could get away with addressing me in such a manner. She was my best friend and I didn’t feel the compulsion to control her.

True, I might have gotten carried away with the berating, and was maybe just a weeny bit inconsiderate at her desperation for my aid. But Trudy knew me well, so she no doubt had expected some shit-slapped answer from me.

Sweat dripped from my face, and my skin glistened from its sheen; the results of a one-hour mountain climbing on the treadmill. Using my towel to dry the sweat from my face, I went in search of the thumb-drive to help my damsel in distress. The bright orange thing was found sitting in solitude on a workout mat.

Trudy and I had engaged in a tug-of-war over her handbag in this vicinity when I’d caught her nibbling on Snickers, which she was prohibited from eating. She’d quickly tried to hide it in her bag and that’s when the tugging began.

Wrapping my fingers around the thumb-drive, I rushed out of the gym. When Trudy called me, the treadmill had barely come to a halt, so breathing was irregular and I was entirely soaked with sweat and in need of a shower and proper attire, but I had to get this cursed thing to Trudy without delay.

I’d watched her labor with the preparation of this presentation for over a month. But the presentation was the least of the matter. She’d tried for nigh six months to get her boss’s ear to perk in interest of a new idea she wanted to pitch. And I was pretty sure that with a company like that, this was a you-only-got-one-chance-to-prove-yourself-to-me opportunity for Trudy. If her boss liked her idea, well, Trudy could become a wealthy wench. She had brilliant ideas, but in a city like San Francisco that’s teeming with geniuses, the opportunity wall was rather difficult to break through.

Wearing only a pink tube top and a black workout capris with my pink and white Shape-up sneakers, I hopped into my jeep and pressed it to Coded Solutions. It was an eight-minute drive, but being an aggressive driver, I had the gift of getting to my destinations in record time. Patience and I were vicious enemies.

In five and half minutes I was in the parking lot of the building.

My body lunged from the jeep, leaving the engine on and car door open—no, I wasn’t worried about theft: ghosts knew who to shout boo! at—and rushed through the revolving doors of the intimidating building. Before the receptionist could look up, I spoke through labored breathing, Trudy-ann Green. It’s urgent. What floor is her meeting with Mr. Nelson?

The brunette receptionist scanned my attire with a scowl, but then she blinked at me as if realizing somehow that I was of no harm, and gave me the information I needed with an added Nice bod.

The elevator ride to floor 42 took forever, but it granted me enough time to restore my regular breathing pattern. When the doors opened, I instantly became conscious of my sparse attire when the air-conditioner whispered across my bare flesh, turning my nipples to hardened nubs under my tube top. Oh dear, I didn’t think this through.

I was about to walk into a building filled with smartly attired, starched-collar whizzes in their three-piece suits and sharp seams, and I was dressed—if ‘dressed’ was the operative word—in a tube top, vagina-printing workout capris, sneakers and dry sweat. But if I stepped off the elevator, this could be a detriment to Trudy. So, I ate self-conscious for lunch and entered the arctic building. Why on earth was the air-conditioner on full blast in here? Weren’t these people freezing?

The receptionist for this floor apprised me of Trudy’s whereabouts as she made a sloppy attempt to conceal her disapproval of my attire. As I wove around rows of cubicles, ignoring the raised eyebrows and curious stares of the employees, I espied Trudy pacing outside the door I was searching for marked ‘MR 42’, while dialing on her cell with a worried frown marring her cute oval face.

Psst, I hissed.

Trudy glanced up and saw me and her shoulders visible relaxed, relief replacing her frown. She gestured for me to hurry while she grabbed the doorknob and opened it halfway. Wasting not another second, I ran to her and pressed the drive in her hand. Go ahead and kick asses, best—

My words tripped over a lust-pebble when the door jerked back from Trudy’s grasp and revealed a tall, dark-haired figure whose attention was partly directed to a tablet in his hand while his full, sculpted lips moved to form words. "Green, I’ve waited long enough. If I didn’t think your three-line pitch had potential, I wouldn’t have considered your proposal and arrange this meeting. I’m giving my blessed time and you’re wasting it. I think it is rather negligent of you to have the board convened here, on time, and yo—" His words tumbled over a cliff when he glanced up and saw me there, half-dressed with sweat that was now fine grains of salt, and I was ninety percent sure my nipples were pressing against the fabric of my tube top due to the high-blasting air-conditioner.

Had he been some other powerful figure, I would’ve been mortified, but never with this Lothario would I cower. Actually, it was the first opportunity I’d been given to see him in person. I’d only ever heard of him, or seen his face constantly popping up on Internet news sites. His reputation in the women department was not of a squeaky clean nature, despite his billions. The man was too wealthy for his age, too crude for his status, and cocky enough to make you detest him—well, at least that’s what I heard. But he had a brain that was worth more than his billions. He was known as the ‘wise-guy’, with his never-failing ideas in the world of social networking and software creation. There stood San Fran’s hottest, sexiest, wealthiest Internet billionaire, Lovello Nelson.

Good thing I wasn’t into men as pretty as this one, because, my oh my, the man was delectable enough to eat. He had inky-dark hair with a natural unkempt flair to it, his jaws prominently squared and angular, his eyes were a mischievous slate-gray that were surrounded with curled lashes. But the highlight of his face was those amazing, impossibly perfect peach-colored lips. That’s another thing he was famous for, more than his wealth and brains: his beauty.

Anyone who referred to this man as ‘handsome’ should be tossed in the fieriest part of hell, because that wouldn’t just be an understatement, it would be a sin against descriptive words and assigning them to their rightful places.

He had to be called Beautiful. And not even that did him justice. His beauty could only be accurately described by the quill and ink of a skillful poet. New words needed to be created to suit him, because ‘beautiful’ simply didn’t cut it.

Sharply attired in a navy blue suit, he stared down at me from his height and I stared right back, not at all feeling inferior that I had to tilt my head up. His slate-gray eyes sparkled as they made a slow perusal of my body, unabashed, and came back to my face. Smirking, he said, It’s pretty chilly in here, huh?

Predictable. I’d been waiting for that remark. Plastering a smile on my face, I ignored his question. "Mr. Nelson, Trudy has worked really hard on this presentation. Her thumb-drive fell out of her bag at the gym this morning at my cost. I got here with it as soon as I could. Please don’t dismiss her, hear her out. She’s got talent. You’ll only regret it later."

Although I tried to make it sound like a petition by adding the word ‘please’, I knew it came out as a command because Trudy shook her head at me with narrowed eyes.

Damn it. I needed to practice more on injecting emotion into my words.

Pretty Boy Nelson leaned casually against the doorjamb and crossed his legs as if he were lounging at a bar. He bit down on one side of his peach-colored lip and he glared at me. Was that a plea or a command?

"It’s a plea. I’m sorry if it didn’t sound like a plea, I’m not very good at pleading. I’m used to getting whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want," I answered, matching his glare with equal intensity so he would get the message that I wasn’t one of those gushing, I-get-butterflies-in-my-stomach-when-I-see-you bimbos.

His lower lip got released from the grip of his teeth as he made another shameless perusal of my body before saying, I believe it was a command. And judging by your choice of attire in my professional building, I also believe you’re one of those irreverent and uncouth bra—

Mr. Nelson, please, Trudy cut in. You have a meeting with Tarcel’s CEO in approximately one hour. If you will dismiss me now because of my negligence, then I completely understand.

What was she doing? Giving up? No! I shot her a castigating stare, but when she narrowed her light blue eyes, I knew that she was pissed at me for toeing with her boss.

"Axia, thank you for trying to help. But it’s okay. You have an extremely busy day, too. We’ll talk later," she continued, dismissing me.

Pretty Boy Nelson earned a withering stare from me—which was evenly returned with a smug smile—and I turned on my heels and walked off. A wolf whistle left his lips and traveled behind me, harassing my ears. Ha! It was my time to smother a smile in smugness. On account of my impeccable derriere, I was anticipating that reaction.

Once upon a time, I was a victim of low self-confidence. Every day I’d sadly wish I had a tall, sexy figure with curly blonde hair like those girls the boys pursued in school. But as I grew, my breasts swelled into perky perfection, and my derriere grew past the average size and more salient each year. By my college years, I’d managed to ensnare the most popular and lusted-after guy in school, and he’d aid in the growth of my self-esteem by making me feel like the only girl in the world.

Being the girlfriend of the school’s most popular guy, I automatically became the most popular girl in school, and ultimately the girl with the body every girl wished for. Then there was me being a fitness junkie, never allowing my body the chance to slant out of shape, which meant that I had conspicuous, hard-to-attain abs and toned, well, everything.

The mouths around me never ceased to remind me that I had a body that was like a gift to men on earth. It calmed me to know that I was no longer in the minority of women with low self-esteem. But it was also annoying when people stared at me as if they’d never seen a woman before. I know, I got a sweet rack, a tiny waist, perfect hips and a gift of an ass, but so do lots of other women. The attention became irritating at times, and when I showed my annoyance, I came across as arrogant.

It didn’t help that I was half-Hispanic with straight, sixteen-inch hair that was as dark as night, and a pair of pussycat-gray eyes accompanied by fluffy black lashes. No, I wasn’t conceited or overconfident. I merely practice to accept who I am. When I’d stepped up next in line to be fashioned by the hands of God, He decided that He wanted me to be beautiful with a great bod to complement. Why, then, should I feel bad for being beautiful? If I continued to feel guilty for being me, then I wouldn’t be showing my Creator any appreciation for His gift, and I would never want to be listed in His Book of Judgment as an ingrate. So, I grasped my gift with gratitude, honed it, amplified it, and flaunted it when need be.

Like now, I knew, without a doubt, that Pretty Boy Nelson was still standing at his doorway with his eyes glued to my ass. And I also knew that being the unrestrained womanizer that he was, his wanting to get a piece of this ass would galvanize him into giving Trudy another chance with her presentation. Yep, being sexy does have its advantages.

FEELING REFRESHED AFTER showering away all the muck of dried sweat from my skin, I changed into fresh workout gear and began preparing for my ten o’clock aerobics class. The gym’s busiest was any time after four o’clock in the evenings when people are retiring from a long day’s work. That’s the time I try to be off the floors. But then there were also people with odd schedules, so on some days I instructed classes throughout the entire day.

Proud Sweat Fitness Center was my sweetheart. I’d known since age twelve that what I wanted in life was my own gym. At around age eight, I used to join in with my mother as she dressed in bright-colored leggings, tanktop and sneakers and worked her body into a bucket of sweat in front of the television. I’d been fascinated with the whole concept of being active; the continuous movements that would have my heart pounding furiously in my chest. It was the most amazing feeling—still is.

Abnormal as it was for an eight-year-old to wake before her mother at six in the morning and wait in anticipation for her to get dressed, switch on the television and start working out, this little girl did. And as I grew, I became more enthralled with gym equipment, curious about the way every machine worked, wanting to try them all, until I fell into an obsession with fitness.

At sixteen years of age, I had abs that a celebrity would toss diamonds for. Once I hit the age twenty mark, I became a plague to my father, ensuring him that this was what I wanted. Though it was difficult for him to accept that I was now an adult, he’d granted me access to the account he’d opened for me since before I was born, and, with a thumbs up, told me to go ahead and make my dream happen.

That I did.

And now, PSFC was San Fran’s most famous luxury gym.

Three storeys high, PSFC was sumptuous and inviting with top-of-the-line equipment: ENEN, no less. Under one roof there was everything from spa to swimming pool to sauna to basketball courts. Professional fitness teachers of every kind from martial arts to kickboxing. Proud Sweat Fitness Center had it all and I absolutely loved it.

A timid knock sounded outside my office door and I mumbled for the knocker to enter. It was my assistant, Tish.

Axia, the representatives of both Sweat2Forget and Fitness on Air have called again... She hesitated. They’re rather persistent. Are you sure you’re not interested?

Yes, I’m sure.

For the past two years I’ve been nagged non-stop with proposals to star in workout DVDs or have my own television program. Sweat2Forget and Fitness on Air were more persistent than others and seemed to hold the belief that one day I’d give in. Apparently, a body and fitness drive like mine would be perfect for reeling in the cash, making their asses wealthy and the consumers healthy. But for some reason, as good as it sounded, I wasn’t interested. I was quite contented with my stance in life and I didn’t dig unnecessary attention. ’Twas the prime reason why I’d moved to San Fran from Los Angeles where my family resides—it’s just an hour-long soar away, but I don’t get harassed as much here.

Being the daughter of Vince Blacksille, proprietor of multi-billion-dollar armament company, Blacksilles’ Protekk, I inadvertently garnered unwanted attention in Los Angeles. Paparazzi kept snapping my photo and plastering me all over the Internet just for being Vince Blacksille’s daughter. At one point I was even asked to film a reality show. Ha! Laughable. People sure as hell would turn away if they knew the darkness of my life. Therefore, I moved to SF where people are somewhat more work ethical and less starry-eyed. People here kind of, well, didn’t give a shit.

Okay, Tish replied with a look of disappointment. I’ve added four new members to your five o’clock spinning class and two to your 7am Quicksand class. So expect some new faces. All the staff have been alerted to the meeting tonight but Meredith, the yoga instructor, has come down with the flu so she will be absent all week—

Then how—

No worries. Hanna has agreed to do double time and fill in for her this week. There’s some malfunction with two of the treadmills so I’ve called the repair guys who’ll be here at 3pm. Oh, and there’s yet another complaint made about the new girl in the Juice Bar. That I’ll leave to you.

The lean brunette who stood before me never disappointed. She was the most efficient assistant I’d ever had and I appreciated her more than she knew. Half the time when problems popped up, they were solved before I was even aware of them. With an assistant like you around I’ll never have to worry about much, will I? You deserve a breath-depriving hug and a big slobbery kiss.

Tish blushed as her eyes fell to the floor. Oops, wrong choice of words.

I’m just tryna tell you that I like having you around. Don’t wanna lose your assistance. So anything you want, just let me know.

She didn’t look at me when she muttered, I think you already know what I want, before disappearing through the door.

Yeah, me.

Shaking my head, I reached for my cellphone and texted I’m sorry to Trudy for that little tiff with her boss, then got up and headed downstairs to the Juice Bar to mend this reoccurring problem.

As I entered the cool, all-glass space of my Juice Bar & Lounge, a fresh island breeze fragrance traveled on the air; the air freshener that I insisted the cleaners used. Oversized gray sofa chairs were organized neatly around cherrywood tables with fitness magazines strategically scattered in the middle, and blessed sunlight poured through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Once again, I commended Tish. She knew I liked everything clean and organized.

Set on righting this new employee who had managed to stir one too many complaints about her negligence even though she’d only been here four days, I strode up to the counter of the bar. Unaware of my presence, she was sitting cross-legged on the floor inside the bar, flipping through the pages of a magazine and bobbing her head to whatever music was pouring from her earplugs. My previous bar attendant of three years had left a week ago in migration to London. So this dark-haired, lip-pierced, tattoo-marked, Gothic-looking attendant was an emergency hire.

Still oblivious to my presence, she sucked on a straw from a large cup of smoothie until the cup made a gurgling sound, moaning that all its contents were consumed. With my eyes unmoving from this impossible girl, I pulled a bar stool beneath my rump and rested my elbows on the counter with my fingers steepled under my chin. Curious as to how long it would be before Gothic Girl realized that a possible customer was at the bar, I remained quiet. Surely she would have to look up some time within the hour.

Seven minutes ticked by before Gothic Girl finally stood up, but only to dance her way over to the ice machine and blend herself another smoothie, her head still bobbing to music that only she heard. When she was finished, she turned, saw me, and froze with her mouth on the straw. So it took her all of twelve minutes to notice I was there.

Unblinking, hands steepled, intimidation in effect, I glared.

Nervous—which was the usual effect I had on people—she hastily set her cup down on the counter and yanked the earplugs from her ears as her face flushed a deep shade of crimson. Miss Blacksille, I’m so sorry, I—

Four days, six complaints, I cut in a chilled tone. Will I receive another, Marsha?

No. No, Miss Blacksille. I promise. I never—

Good.

Cool, self-possessed and oozing intimidation, I stood up and held my hand out to her. Understanding, she wrapped her earplugs around her iPod and placed it in my hand. With one last pointed glare, I turned and left.

Unlike the average person, it took little to no effort for me to get people in line. To employee or non-employee, I tended to be quite intimidating. It was not something I tried, nor have I practiced to be this way. It was intrinsic; it was in my blood, my veins. My mother and father both carried the domineering gene, and through birth, I have been execrated with a double dose. Only a few were able to elicit a laugh or a smile from me, and Tish has recently become one of those persons. But most of the time I was serious and commanding, which is something I’ve been fighting to vanquish, but to very little avail.

No less than a minute after I re-entered my office and threw the confiscated iPod in my desk drawer, a knock sounded on the door and Tish entered with a huge Victoria Secret goody basket.

What’s this? I asked.

It was just delivered for you, Tish answered with a disapproving frown. She added, The sender is unknown, when she deduced what my next question would be.

Obviously peeved by the gift, Tish set the basket down on my desk with unnecessary attitude and left. I stared in amusement at the door long after she’d vanished through it. Tish was the perfect assistant, but her ridiculous expectations and hopes of me suddenly becoming a dike one day were what I believed would ruin the good work relationship that we had. It was all I could give and no more, and trying to get her to understand that was a task. Had she not been so efficient at her job, she would’ve gotten the sack ages ago.

Turning my attention to the goody basket, I opened the small card that hung from a twirl of purple strings.

Sweet rack.

Amazing ass—um, back.

Pretty Positive that I guessed your correct cup size,

’Cause I excel at that.

P.S. Your command was heeded. There better be a reward.

An eyebrow arched as I read the absurd words on the card. What the hell did this even mean and who the hell sent it? A combination of lacy lingerie, bras, frilly boy-shorts, moisturizers, body wash, body splash and colognes overflowed from the basket when I opened it. A sigh flowed through my nostrils as I sat back in my chair and stared at the commotion on my desk.

It’s been over a year since I’ve dated anyone, and I sure as hell haven’t given anyone the impression that I was searching. The sender—whoever the loser was—seemed to have gotten inside info that I was a sucker for Victoria Secret. The words on the card made no sense, and I was far from impressed. So I stood from my chair, grabbed my water bottle from the fridge, a towel from the cabinet and headed off to instruct my spinning class.

Chapter 2

MOVING ON TO THE MOST hated: hand stepping! Down, down...hands in position. Be sure your arms aren’t locked, guys. Keep ’em soft. Don’t want anyone leaving here injured...ready...now go!

From person to person, I panted out corrections as we neared the end of my early morning Quicksand class. Tish had informed me yesterday that she’d added two new members to this class, but I’d recorded only one new face when I started. As the exercises grew more rigorous, I’d stopped searching for the second new face, assuming they’d backed out.

"Up! Toss those steps aside and let’s conquer our last sixty seconds by sending those heartbeats into a frenzy with my favorite 100-meter sprints...Nuh uh, no groaning, guys. I hate groaners! Groaners are quitters and quitters are freakin’ losers. You want that dream body? Then you should be doing these workouts with an earsplitting grin on your face. Keep your eyes on your goal, and that grin will never fade. Never groan in my class!"

I waited for everyone to put their steps to the side as they huffed and panted, sweating buckets, but never throwing in the towel. In these classes, everyone tried to impress, even when it was obvious they were spent. They’ve learned that going further and digging deeper during exercises was what really gave that desired body. And I was, indeed, impressed.

On your marks...Get set...Go, go, go!!

The room pumped with energy as they all sprinted as if their life depended on it—well, their bodies did. At thirty seconds, I yelled, Impressive! Again, on your marks...get set...go!...This is your last thirty seconds, people, put all you got into it! Your body will be thanking you, believe me!

It was then that I spotted the second new face, because he’d thrown in the towel and was propped up against the back wall guzzling hard at his water bottle. When the bottle was finally empty, he scowled at it as if cursing it for not having held more water and then tossed it to the side. How dare that water finish on him, I sarcastically mused.

Bending at the waist, he rested his hands on his knees, his chest heaving as he hustled for air. As if sensing my stare, he glanced up and narrowed his eyes at me.

With a smirk, I yelled, Eight seconds, people....seven...six...five...four...three...two...one! Whooo! Well done! Now grab that water bottle, rejuvenate and come back in position for a rewarding cool down.

As I instructed the class into relaxing stretches, the wonder of what he was doing here lingered in my mind. Why? I was sure he had his own in-house gym. Also, had he lent Trudy his ear? I hoped so. Since yesterday’s encounter, I hadn’t heard from her and she hadn’t returned my calls or text messages, so I held the assumption that she was still pissed at me and decided to give her some time to cool. And now he was here...

Once the class was dismissed, I sat cross-legged on the floor with my back against the all-mirror wall and sipped at my water, waiting for everyone to clear out.  But this morning it was a slow process due to the attention that Pretty Boy Nelson garnered. The women gawked at him as if they’d never seen a man before and I felt like puking.

Everyone soon exited the room except him, and when he forwarded his steps in my direction, I knew I was in for annoyance. His tall, chiseled frame that dripped with sweat was clothed in red basketball shorts and a black, sleeveless tank that exposed the mature brawn of his long arms. He tossed his white towel around his neck and used one end to dry the sweat from his face.

Please, I beg you, keep your distance, I said with mild irritation.

Leering at me as if I were some conquest, he continued until he halted right before me, looking down at me through beguiling slate-gray eyes and revealing a white smile, framed by his perfect peach-colored lips. A light tingle shot around my diaphragm area and I frowned, telling myself that it was just an after-effect of an intense workout, because I did not like this man, I did not want to like him, and I’d shoot myself if that tingle was on account of seeing him so marvelously sexy before me. Not acceptable.

How rude.  That’s how you treat newcomers? he asked, towering above me while I sat below.

The position made me feel inferior to him, so I scrambled to my feet and picked up my water bottle and towel, looked him dead in the eye and said, Your membership is not needed here.

As I stepped around him, he caught my wrist and asked, They fit perfectly, didn’t they? His eyes lowered to my breasts—which were, once again, covered in just a pink tube top—and they turned a molten gray.

Disgusted, I wrenched my hand away from his grasp. What?

The lingerie. I picked them out myself.

My eyes expanded. "What? How did you—"

I’m Lovello Nelson, he shrugged. "Obtaining information about anything is no mean feat."

Fuming at the fact that he thought I could be bought with a goody basket, I stepped directly up to him and his eyebrows wiggled in a licentious manner as he, crude as he was, misunderstood my intentions. Unfazed by the fact that he was around six inches taller than me, I tilted my head to meet his eyes. Whatever your intentions are, you arrogant pig, you won’t succeed with me. So you might as well give it up. As for the lingerie, Timo enjoyed ripping them to pieces with his teeth. Don’t send me anymore shit and don’t come back to my class. Or I promise I’ll throw you out on your head myself. And don’t doubt for one minute that I can’t.

Pretty Boy Nelson took on an expression of mild amusement, but then he frowned and asked, Timo? Is that your guy?

My lips twisted in a smirk. Yep. That’s my guy.

Looking a tad disappointed, he nodded and walked off. When he reached the door, he stopped and flashed me a smile over his shoulder. "I’m looking forward to being thrown out on my head, because I’m not quitting your class. It kicked my ass. And I never quit at anything until I’ve conquered and mastered it. You said it, ‘groaners are quitters and quitters are losers’. I’m neither. I’m more of a growler... and always, always a winner."

Before I could reply he turned and sauntered through the door.

HI, AXIA, TRUDY TIMIDLY answered once I’d finally gotten through to her later that day.

"My goodness, Trudy, I’ve been trying to reach you since yesterday afternoon, but you keep ignoring me. You didn’t even show up for training this morning. Are you that mad at me? Did I really blow it for you?"

Trudy sighed into the receiver. "No, you didn’t. And no, I’m not mad at you. I just...I was just preparing for when you get mad at me."

Mad at you? Why would I be?

Because...I betrayed you.

Huh? Betrayed me how?

Trudy groaned. Well, Mr. Nelson decided to let me proceed with the presentation. Sweet. He freakin’ loved it. But...

Out with it, Trudy.

He kept me back after the meeting and started drilling me about you. And I answered all his questions, in truth. I don’t know why I did it, Axia. I’m sorry for giving out information about you like that, but he’s my boss and he can be very demanding at times.

And I’m your best friend! I yelled.

I know. I know and I’m sorry, Axia. I really am.

So you’re the one who told him about my obsession with Vicky Secret?

Yes.

Did you give him my cup size, too?

No. He accurately guessed that.

Trudy was not of a mutinous spirit, she was humble and self-effacing—most times. And I knew that under the pressure of a demanding jerk like Nelson, she’d cowered into submission.

I met Trudy on a plane to San Francisco five years ago. She was gripping her thighs, her eyes squeezed shut as she repeated The Lord’s Prayer over and over as the plane took off.  She’d whispered to no one in particular that she was afraid of takeoffs and landings, and I’d found her highly amusing. Even when the plane was in the air, she was still uneasy. So just for the heck of it, I began talking to her.  We bonded, exchanged numbers, and that’s where our lame friendship began. I’d just moved to San Francisco to start my gym, and she was moving here that day to start her new job at Coded Solutions. We deemed our meet as ‘fate’, because we’d both needed new companions at that time.

You seem to have gotten under his skin, Axia. This morning, the man came down to my office and attacked me! Accusing me of lying to him when I told him you weren’t involved with anyone.

Despite myself, I laughed. Yeah. He came to my class this morning, asking me if ‘they fit’. I didn’t even know it was him who sent the damn oversized basket. So I told him Timo enjoyed ripping them with his teeth. That left him thinking Timo’s my guy.

Trudy laughed out. Girl, you’re too cruel. Though I can’t understand why it matters to him if you’re involved or not. It has never stopped him from boning a woman before. In fact, he prefers them involved, to avoid all commitment nags.

Well he ain’t getting this ass, that’s for sure, I muttered. "Don’t divulge any more information about me, Trudy. Do you hear me?"

I know. I know. I’m sorry.

Good. You’re forgiven. Now tell me all about that presentation.

Trudy squealed into the receiver. Oh. My. God, Axia. It’s so surreal...

THE PLAGUE STUCK TO his word and didn’t quit my class. He’d showed up the next morning. And the morning after that... It also seemed that word had gotten out that the Lovello Nelson was taking my 7am Quicksand class, because, within two days, there were so many newcomers that I had to start rejecting people. Astounding to me, because this class was the least favored and was taken only by the fittest of the fittest, as it was bemoaned to be too rigorous. So seeing the class packed—with mostly women who were overly primped for a workout session—was beginning to annoy me and I really wanted the man gone.

By the end of class on Friday, I’d lost count of how many times I gagged at the women who flirted with him and the way he shamelessly flirted back. As usual, I sat on my rear and waited for everyone to leave the room. Pretty Boy Nelson gave me a curt nod of acknowledgment and left also. Sighing with relief and mild irritation, I wrapped my lips around the mouth of my water bottle and gulped down its contents as I exited the room.

Hey, Axia.

Startled by his voice, I choked on the water, and my eyes instantly brimmed with tears as the water snorted up my nostrils somehow.  I spun around to see him leaning causally against the wall outside the door, and I realized then that he’d only made me think he’d left so he could catch me unguarded.

"W-What?" I snapped, still coughing from my water-choke and wiping the tears from my eyes.

Before he could speak, Tish walked up to us with notepad in hand and shot a look of disdain in Lovello’s direction. Walk with me, I told her, knowing this would cause Lovello to fall back. But he didn’t, he just ambled leisurely with us.

Tish began. Sweat2Forget has reached out to you again. They’re relentless. Maybe you should think about it. The look I gave Tish made her flush, and she mumbled her apologies then continued. Prime Size magazine wants you on their cover for next month’s issue. I don’t know what you think about that; it’s less demanding, so maybe you could give it a shot.

If I do it, Tish, others are going to think I’m accepting proposals. I’m annoyed.

Tish sagely commented no further on it and continued. Actress Lena Marcie is proposing you move to L.A. and be her personal trainer.

A scoff escaped. "Ask the bitch if I look impoverished enough to leave my life so I could be her personal trainer."

A snort sounded behind me, but I ignored it. Why won’t the damn man leave?

Tish continued. ENEN is gifting you one gym equipment of every kind as a show of appreciation for being a loyal customer and for furnishing your gym with only their brand. You have three months to redeem them.

How is it a gift if they’re putting a time limit on it? I scoffed again.

A deep voice came from behind me. If it takes you more than three months to claim a gift, then it’s obvious you don’t want it. Which is both rude and cocky.

By this time, we were mounting the steps to the second floor and I’d forgotten he was still behind me, just

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