UNPLUGGED: a standalone novel, page 1
The story of Quinn & Merritt
Copyright © 2016 LK Collins
Cover Design by Prezident Collins
Edited by Lisa Christman, Adept Edits
Photography by Copyright: Volodymyr Tverdokhlib
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owner.
Table of Contents
Crystal, thank you for all that you do. This one’s for you, babe.
Slowly, I creep up the snow-packed driveway, thankful that I have my new Jeep to navigate the slippery terrain. As I put the SUV in park, Ted opens my door, his adorable green eyes sparkling in the last of the evening sunlight.
“Fancy new car you got here,” he says. Ted is my best friend, Willow’s, husband.
“Why, thank you. I did sign the biggest client my office had this year.” He takes my hand as I steady myself, planting two feet firmly on the icy ground. A chill runs through me, and I zip my coat. “God, it’s cold.”
“But beautiful,” he says, and we both look up at the shimmering white flakes coming down hard. “Come on, let’s get inside.”
I nod and open my rear door, handing him my bag. Then we walk up to the gorgeous winter retreat that Willow’s brother, Ari, rented for the week. Every year he puts together one of these trips, and it’s what I look forward to most in the wintertime. It’s the same group of people every year, and we’ve all become like family. Most of us went to college together and now meet to spend time catching up, skiing, and snowboarding somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It’s not far from where I live in Denver, and with how crazy my job and life can be at times, especially as the holiday’s approach, I can always use the time away…this year in particular.
Ted and I kick the snow from our boots as Willow and Kami greet us at the door. “Oh my God!” both girls exclaim. “You look so adorable,” Kami tells me and gives me a tight hug, followed by Willow.
“This place is stunning,” I say to them.
“Isn’t it? Ari did awesome this year. Come on, let us show you to your room.”
Kami’s boyfriend, Jacob, and Ari are zoned out on the TV, watching some sports game. “Hey guys,” I say as I walk by and they both nod their heads followed by a simultaneous, “What’s up?”
“Awesome place, Ari. Thank you.”
“No problem,” he says, still focusing on the TV, and the girls show me around and then take me upstairs. As we head down the hall, it’s clear Ari has the master; he’s paying after all.
“So, here you are,” Willow says opening the door to the rustic-inspired bedroom, with two twin beds made out of real trees. My room is right across from her and Ted, and next to Kami and Jacob’s room, so we’re all sandwiched in together.
“Wow, I’m totally gonna feel like a little kid sleeping in here,” I tell Willow and Kami, as I plop down on the couch in the room to take my boots off. My bag is already by the door. Ted is such a sweetie.
“So, how are you holding up?” Willow asks me.
“I’m okay,” I tell her, the tears already pricking the back of my throat, and even though I try and push them away, it’s hard. Kami gives me a huge hug, and through an exasperated sigh, I say, “I’m not even sure why I’m upset.”
“Breakups are always painful, babe.”
And they are, even though my ex and I were only together for a handful of months, it was a fast and furious romance. He’s that big client I signed through my work, and he literally swept me off my feet. Flying me around every weekend to be with him as we traveled all over, and I just went with it. I completely let my guard down and in the process made myself vulnerable. It really was an awesome few months of my life. Until the day he broke up with me for really no reason that I could see. The pain of thinking about it is still so hard to handle. My relationships always seem to end badly, this one included, which makes me feel like there is something wrong with me. I’m really hoping with this trip I can let it go, even if only for this week.
“Have you heard from him at all?” Kami asks.
“No, thank God. I’m sure he’s moved on,” I tell the girls, and I’m sure he has.
“Well, I say you forget all about that douchebag,” Willow says, and I smile, changing into a pair of sweats.
“I’d love nothing more than to forget about him.”
“What do you ladies say, let’s make this the best week ever? We are going to be completely relaxed, calm, and unplugged from the world, okay?” She looks at me with that look, and I know what she means. I take my cell phone from inside my purse. I’m reluctant to hand it to her…but I’m aware of the rules on these trips…so I do.
Kami and Willow hug me. Willow looks into my eyes, reading me, knowing me so damn well. “Let it all go, babe. This is a fresh start!”
“I will. Thank you both for picking my ass up.”
“Of course. Meet ya downstairs?”
“Yeah, I’m just gonna use the bathroom real quick.”
After I finish, I stare back at my reflection in the mirror. My dark blue eyes are tired and my straggly caramel colored hair is a mess. Christ, work really kicked my ass this week. I never knew managing other people’s money could be so much work. Now that I’ve been promoted to Investment Advisor within a huge financial firm, I realize how easy I had it before.
The snow made my hair such an unmanageable snarl that all I can do is use the hair band from my wrist to hold it in a messy ponytail.
My wool sweater looks ridiculous with my gray sweats, so I take it off, then go and dig through my bag for something more comfortable and less itchy to wear. One of the things I love about these trips is just being able to chill and relax and not care how I look. Ari is like a big brother to me,
Suddenly the door opens. “Here you are, man,” Ari says, walking in with an unfamiliar guy, and I scramble to cover my breasts.
“What the fuck, Ari?” I yell, and both he and the new guy gawk at me. Looking back at his sexy face, I’m not sure what to do, so I storm into the bathroom and pull whatever t-shirt I’m holding over my head. Then I stand there trying to decide if I should walk out. Or maybe I should wait for someone to knock. Ari said, “Here you are?” What does he mean? This is my room! Who is that guy?
“Quinn?” Willow calls out and lightly raps on the door. I open it, and she says, “You okay?”
“I’m fine. What the fuck is going on, though?”
“I’m sorry, Ari invited a friend of his. They used to work together. He didn’t think he was coming…but he’s here.”
“And he’s staying in my room?”
“Well, if you’re okay with that. But if not, I can see if he can sleep on the couch or something?”
“No, don’t do that. I don’t want to cause any drama.” Ari puts this all together and is so cool about paying for everything. “He’s his friend; I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?” she asks with a frown on her face.
“I’m sure.” We walk out into the bedroom. On the floor at the door is the guy’s bag. I follow Willow downstairs, and as I look around at everyone, I spot him bullshitting with the guys. He’s got messy brown hair and muscles for days. He senses me coming down and looks at me, making my heart thud. I glance away like I didn’t notice, but I can feel his eyes still on me. He keeps talking to the guys but watching me.
“I need a drink,” I tell Willow. My nerves are shot, having the two of them walk in on me like that. Thankfully Kami is making some sort of concoction in the kitchen. She’s our resident mixologist—literally—she worked at a high-end cocktail bar when we were all in college, and you can always count on her to make the best drinks.
“Here you ladies go,” she says, passing us some foofy pink drinks.
“Hey, Merritt, you want a beer, man?” Ari asks him.
“Sure,” he says and walks into the kitchen, stopping right next to me.
I swallow, sipping on my drink, gazing off, not sure why I’m so nervous. Minus the fact that he saw my tits, I don’t even know him.
“Hey, I’m Merritt, sorry about earlier.”
“It’s all good.” I sip on my drink again as he extends his hand to me. I look down at it for a moment and completely clam up. “You’re supposed to shake it,” he whispers, leaning into my ear. He smells good, and his warm breath on my skin makes me tighten my pussy.
I chuckle a little to myself, then take his hand in mine. “I’m Quinn,” I tell him.
“It’s nice to meet you,” he says, his brown eyes dancing in the low light of the kitchen.
“Here you go, man,” Ari says and hands him a beer. “You two get a chance to meet yet?” he asks us.
“Yeah,” I respond, watching Merritt’s lips and the way they mold around the end of the beer bottle, eyes still watching me. God, I don’t know what it is, but he’s so hot and alluring to me, which is the last thing I need right now. I can’t help but think by the way he’s looking at me that as much as I wanted this week to be about myself and relaxing, he’s going to make that very hard—if not impossible—to accomplish.
“What are you doing?” Willow asks me, in a stern warden-like tone.
Glancing up at her from my phone, a little confused by her question, “Jussssst workin’ a little.”
“Ari, did you not tell him about the rule?”
“Oh, I told him,” he says, grabbing another beer from the fridge, but he definitely didn’t tell me about any rules.
“So, what, since he’s your friend, you’re gonna let him keep it?”
Ari rolls his eyes at his sister, and I really have no clue what they are talking about. Ted leans over and says, “I’d give her your phone now, if it was me.”
What the fuck?
Willow outstretches one hand to me, with her other placed on her hip, and I’m in shock. Is she for real? I’m working on a three hundred-million-dollar deal, and she wants my phone? “I’ll stay off it,” I tell her and place it in my pocket.
The room erupts into chaos, everyone yelling and arguing. Well, everyone, except for Quinn. She’s sitting in her chair smirking, sipping on her third pink girly drink. So unbelievably gorgeous that I could fuck her, right here and right now, in front of everyone. She shrugs her shoulders at me, and I ask her, “Did you have to give yours up?”
She nods and I look at the ceiling contemplating my options. I’ve never been without my phone—it’s my lifeline to my job, and my job is my life, so they go hand in hand. “Can I just send this last email?” I ask Willow and reach into my pocket, but she snatches it out of my grip like it’s a stack of cash, and I get up feeling like I’m stuck in a house with a bunch of crazy people. Why can’t we have phones? As I grab another beer, Ari hollers over to me, “You’ll be fine, man, trust me.” I flip him off. Out of everyone, he should know how important my phone is to me.
The girls all begin to clean up from dinner, and without my phone, I find myself watching Quinn. And it’s not because she’s the only single girl here, it’s because I’ve never seen a chick so confident. Wearing a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, with her hair pulled up.
“You know you got that deal in the bag,” Ari says, bringing me back to the moment.
“How do you know?”
“I’ve heard through the grapevine, man,” he says, and what Ari knows is typically the truth in our business.
“Well, nothing’s done until it’s done. Plus, you know my dad will freak if I don’t close it. He didn’t even want to let me take this week off.”
“Fuck your old man. You gotta keep him outta your head when you’re working.”
I nod, hearing Ari’s words, but actually listening to them is an entirely different thing. My dad owns the company I work for, which is a very prominent oil and gas business with offices all over the US. Ari used to work for him too and left to join a corporate venue. Now I run the western US, and the deal I’m working on is to expand into Canada, which would make us one of the top three largest US producers of oil in North America. Quinn’s laugh echoes through the house, pulling me out of my mind fuck and back to her.
“So, what’s the deal with that chick, Quinn?” I ask the guys.
“She’s Willow’s best friend, has been for years. She’s like family,” Ari says as Jacob is shuffling a deck of cards. “You pussies bring your wallets?”
Although Ari inadvertently left out the whole “no cell phone” thing, he did tell me about this. Every night is game night, most of which involves an actual cash pool for the winner.
“Yeah, let me go grab some cash,” I call, walking upstairs to get my wallet out of my bag. I go into the room I’m staying in and chuckle at the small beds. I didn’t notice them before. Probably ‘cause all I noticed were Quinn’s tits, but I’m not sure if I’ll even fit.
Digging through my bag, I find my iPad.
The temptation is too great to resist, and I take it into the bathroom. I power it up and hope it gets service up here. I’m sure it will if my phone did. Sure enough, it does, and as I scroll through my emails, I’ve already received six new ones, on a Friday night no less. As I begin to read them, I’m startled by Quinn as she barges into the bathroom, and I freeze, looking at her in the reflection of the mirror.
“Shit, I’m sorry,” she says, but smirks when she sees my iPad.
“It’s all good. I…I…” I stall, not sure how to explain myself. She and Willow are tight, so I’m sure she’s on her side when it comes to this whole no phone thing.
She looks down at my iPad and says, “You better not let Willow catch you on tha
“I can leave,” I tell her.
“No, you’re fine. I mean, we are going to be sleeping together.” She takes out a contact lens case, and I can’t focus on anything else, except for her words. “Not like that,” she says. I nod, going back to focusing on my email. Being this close to her, alone, has my mind on other things. Goddamn, she smells so good; she’s very distracting. “What’s so important on there anyway?”
“Fucking work,” I tell her, and when I think about it, I realize that I hate that it runs my life, but it does, and I’m not sure how to change that.
“What do you do for a living?” she asks me.
“I’m in oil and gas. You?”
“Investment advisor.” Nice, she’s got her priorities in check, that’s for sure.
“So, no wife or girlfriend?” she asks me.
“Wife or girlfriend?” she gapes back at me, holding one of her contacts on her finger.
“You know what I mean.”
“No, thank God.”
“What’s that mean?” I ask her, a little offended by her remark.
“Nothing, it’s just…I was with this guy for a bit, and he turned out to be a total ass. Let’s just say it didn’t end well and left a sour taste in my mouth when it comes to men.”
“I’m sorry,” I tell her as she slides on a pair of glasses.
“It’s all good, it’s not your fault. This vacation is not about the past, Merritt, it’s about unwinding and letting go…” She trails off as her eyes get wide thinking about something, and I wonder what happened to her. What did her ex do that made her so anti-men? She recovers and looks down at my iPad, so I lock it. “I’m sure the whole no electronics thing seems crazy, but you really should try it. Once you’re unplugged from the world, it’s refreshing.” She goes to leave the bathroom, passing me close enough that I smell fresh rain and something else, the combination coming from her skin makes my cock twitch. Then she licks her lips—such a tease—and breezes past me. Her scent and her mouth, God, I fucking love it, I want it.
Grabbing my wallet, I drop my iPad in my bag and head back downstairs for something else to drink, something stronger, something that will tame the animal inside of me that Quinn is tempting. Because right now, for some reason, this chick has my head spinning, and I have no clue why. Not that I’m complaining, ‘cause she’s hot as hell, and I’d love to fuck her. But she’s fresh off a breakup and doesn’t want anything to do with men. So for once I’ll spare myself.
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