Bestselling author, Stephie Walls is a lover of words–the more poetic the better. She lives on the outskirts of Greenville, South Carolina in her own veritable zoo with two dogs, three cats, and Magoo (in no preferential order). She would thrive on coffee, books, and Charlie Hunnam if it were possible, but since it’s not, add in some Chinese food or sushi and she’s one happy girl.
Title: Hate the Game
Author: Holly Hall
Release Date: September 12, 2019
My official title: Relationship Consultant. A modern-day, one-sided matchmaker. When I approach relationships like a formula, it’s simple really. If only I had the same success in my personal life.
My gorgeous neighbor turns me into a fumbling mess, and I don’t exactly match the leggy, model-types I’ve seen him with. Despite the fact that we’re total opposites, our chemistry is almost hot enough to convince me to give the dating game another try. Not to mention, it’s totally off-brand to be a relationship skeptic.
What could it hurt to practice what I preach? After all, Theo Hartley would be a fun specimen to practice with. And if things go south—which is my luck—I just have to remember what I tell my clients:
don’t hate the player…
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Holly Hall drinks coffee and wine like they’re going out of style, would love to travel for a living, thinks animals are often better than humans, can count on one hand the number of things she loves more than Texas A&M football (that might be an exaggeration), and couldn’t handpick a better family than her enormous one. She is the author of five other standalone contemporary romance novels, Forever Grace, All the Pieces That You Left, Love in Smoke, Smoke and Lyrics, and Somewhere Between Us. She resides with her husband, daughter, and German shepherd in Houston, Texas.
Prince Albert is the notorious bad boy of the royal family, his chiseled jawline and rebel antics famous for gracing the front pages of international gossip magazines. But even a rebel prince needs a break from the daily grind, and the childhood days spent at his royal countryside estate have always been close to his heart—especially when they involve a little local girl with freckles and a stolen first kiss that still haunts his memories to this day.
On Ella Robertson’s first night serving drinks at the local pub, she never expects to find herself soaking the lap of one very charming royal in top-shelf whiskey before being promptly fired for her clumsy misstep. She’s even more shocked when the rebel Prince Albert hires her on the spot to work at his estate. She only has to agree to meet him in the morning.
But the only thought in Ella’s mind as she gazes into the prince’s captivating eyes: could he possibly remember the night they shared their first kiss together under the stars as little kids and then never saw each other again?
Warning: Prince Albert is a man on the search for the other half of his heart, and once he finds her again, he’s got endless surprises in store—in and out of the sheets. I hope you enjoy this romantic royal and his rebellious romp finding true love!
“Prince Albert von Asshat is more like it. I saw His Royal Highness playing polo on the telly last week at me mum’s house and had to turn it off it was so pathetic.”
“And not even a fraction as pathetic as you looked last night after that third round of Scotch,” I shot back at the old barkeep. The drink was enough to put hair on a woman’s chest, and old Louis was always quick to bust my balls. That’s what kept me coming back to King’s Pub.
That and the fact that the men of my family had been coming to this local dive for more than half a millennium.
“Speaking of rounds… How about another for your old childhood friend here?” Graham slurred at my side. “Manchester is about to kick some Italian ass tonight, and we’ve got the best seats in the house.”
“At the bar?” I nodded at Louis to pour all the men, in various states of drunkenness, around me another round. “Sounds like you need to get out a little more.”
“Ah, feck off!” chimed an Irish brogue at my other shoulder. “Italians are going to piss all over Manchester.”
I nodded at a pretty little thing working the bar alongside Louis tonight. He was watching her out of the corner of his eye now as she poured our shots onto a tray. Her hands shook, long waves of dark hair contained into a ponytail falling over one side of her shoulder.
The longer my ass was glued to the barstool, the more I thought how absolutely breathtaking she was. I could feel my body’s reaction to her in ways that I didn’t think was possible.
I looked at the ice floating in my glass, chuckling to myself at the realization that my heart had been just as cold as I remembered as I thought about the eight-year-old girl who’d stolen it all those years ago.
If only Granny knew that her bad boy grandson was really a pathetic sap. She’d probably stroke out in a state of shock and disbelief. I’d played the cards close to my heart over the years. I could only imagine the great relief it would be to everyone if I finally settled down.
A cheer from the tiny pub erupted around me, followed by a shriek. Liquid splashed across the bar and landed in an amber wave on my gray, custom-tailored button-down.
“Oh no.” Watery tears were already forming in the new girl’s eyes when I caught her gaze.
I shook my head once, frown deepening when Louis pounced on the mess with clean dish towels.
“How many times do I have to tell you to watch your step? I can’t just replace a thousand-year-old floor, and that Scotch you just spilled would cost about as much.” He turned from her shaking form to meet my eyes. “I’m so sorry, sir. This won’t happen again. I can promise you that.”
“No worry, Louis.” I waved off his help. “And consider that bottle paid for. Don’t even think twice about it.”
Louis shook his head, still frowning as he watched the shaken girl picking up the broken pieces of a shot glass. “I can’t accept anything from you, but your generosity is appreciated, Prince Albert.” He turned to the girl. “I’m afraid this isn’t going to work out.”
My cold little heart stumbled with his words as fresh tears swooped down her cheeks. I felt like I should comfort her somehow, but my family wasn’t one for showing much emotion, so…
“Why don’t you pack up your things and head out for tonight. Stop by on Friday, and I’ll cut you a check for your training.”
“No, I can do better. I’ve just never served before. Please, I really need this if I’m going to help my dad out with his house.” Her soft green eyes held his.
I swallowed, feeling my chance to make this right. “Please, I’m sure she can do something else around here that doesn’t require so much—” I glanced around the tiny pub, brick floors in a wild state of upheaval “—balance?”
The other men laughed at my response, but Louis’s frown held fast. “Sorry, kid.”
The girl, who—from the soft angles of her face—looked not much older than nineteen or twenty, nodded once and then hung her head and walked off behind the bar.
“You didn’t have to do that, man. She seems to be working hard.”
“Oh, she’s a hard worker, but truth be told I only hired her because I felt bad. The busiest this old place gets are the night’s you’re in town and the tourists are trying to catch a peek of the famous rebel prince. I just don’t need the help otherwise.”
“What was she saying about her dad?” I inquired, finding myself drawn to her.
Louis only shrugged. “Used to come in here a lot when she was a kid. He’s old and sick now. Heard he was cleaning the property up to sell. Lives in the shack up the hill.”
“The shack?” I frowned. “The one with the rusted metal roof overlooking the bay?”
It wasn’t fit for a stray dog to sleep in, much less this girl and her father.
Louis only nodded and then turned away, greeting a new customer as they approached. A group of young American women settled in a booth in a darkened corner, all four heads craned and eyeballing me at the bar.
“Word must be out that His Royal Highness is in town,” the Irishman gritted.
“Not sure who gave them that impression,” I growled, catching sight of the newly fired bar girl as she ducked out the back door.
I pulled my jacket off the chair, shoving a hand in my pocket to pull out a few hundred-dollar bills and dropping them on the bar.
“Have a good night,” I uttered, beelining for the door that’d just swung closed behind her.
Heaving it open, I broke into the cool darkness of the night, surprised to catch sight of her with head in hand, fresh tears leaking down her cheeks.
Shit. I hadn’t thought about what I would say at this moment, only that I wanted to follow her.
“Hey,” I said, stretching it out to multiple syllables in place of knowing what else to say.
Watery eyes cast up to meet mine. Like bolts of lightning racing through my groin, pain connected to her gaze hit me square in the balls. “Hi.”
One word, one tiny little greeting, and I was fucked.
She shoved her backpack over her shoulder and pushed a leg over her bike just as big fat raindrops opened up on us.
She let out a squeal, trying to cover her head.
“Come on!” I held out a hand as torrents of fat raindrops splashed down our faces.
“What?” She half laughed and shook her head.
“What kind of prince would I be if I didn’t offer you a ride home? My car is just around the corner.”
She climbed off the bike, eyes holding fast to mine. “Are you sure about this?”
“I’m as sure about you as I’ve ever been.” My grin deepened, realizing how true that statement was at the moment. I’d never had a sort of call to someone as I did her. I’d met thousands of people, shaken the hands of thousands of women over the years, but never had one looked at me quite like she did.
“I live up on the hill, overlooking Briarcliffe.”
I only nodded, hauling her bike over my shoulder with one hand, the other resting at the small of her back as I guided her around the corner on quick steps to my Range Rover.
I opened the side door and helped her in one-handed before opening the rear and sliding her bicycle in the back.
With cool raindrops licking down my cheeks, I slid behind the wheel, slamming my door closed tight, only to find the air inside steamy and suffocating.
“Oh, man. They’re gonna think we’re neckin’ out here.”
“Necking?” She laughed, using the sleeve of her shirt to help me clear the fog from the windshield. “What are you, ninety-five?”
I caught her grin, surprised when it split my own. “You’d be surprised what you hear out of Granny’s mouth.”
Her eyes widened, grin falling off her face for a moment as if she’d just remembered who I was. Where I came from.
“It’s weird to hear you call the queen granny,” she confessed, pulling her ponytail out and shaking her hair between her fingers. It was longer than it looked when it was pulled back. The urge to sink my fingers deep into her dark waves left my cock twitching.
She was too sweet.
When every other fucker I’d met acted like they’d seen a ghost as soon as they’d set eyes on me, this girl hadn’t even looked at me once, too focused on doing her job and doing it as well as she could manage.
“So, I’m happy to bring you home, but only under one stipulation.”
“Oh, there’s a catch, is there?” A quiet smile lifted one side of her mouth.
“Always a catch.” I turned the key, and the engine roared to life. “First—”
“First?” She laughed. “There’s more than one?”
“I’ve got my eye on the long game. Firstly, you’re going to get a good night’s rest tonight and then meet me at Briarcliffe at eight tomorrow morning.” I informed her politely as I drove the few blocks down main, then turned down the dirt road that led to her house. It was already riddled with muddy potholes, probably from the last rain.
Sensations charged through me as we approached the house, long buried memories stirring to the surface.
“Why on earth would I meet you tomorrow morning?” She eyed me from across the cab.
“So you can fill out your employment paperwork. It so happens I’ve been looking for an estate manager, overseeing daily operations while I’m away, that sort of thing.”
“You want me to work for you?” Her mouth popped open.
Oh, I wanted more than that with her.
“You don’t even know my name.” She crossed her arms, damp shirt clinging to the curve of her heavy breasts, tight little nipples poking through the fabric and making my mouth water.
Working alongside her every day may very well be the death of me, but what a sweet death it would be.
“Which brings me to my second stipulation.” I held up two fingers. “Your name.”
She chomped down on her bottom lip, looking every bit the scared and delicate bird she probably felt like. Her heart thrummed at her throat, and the urge to slip my tongue along the warm curves and taste her was palpable.
She sucked in a breath and straightened her spine. “My name is Ella.”
“Well, Ella, how about I get my driver to pick you up tomorrow morning at seven thirty sharp?” I idled at the edge of the old country road, no driveway to even pull into. The house was smaller than I remembered, the old rotten shutters and dilapidated foundations like a haunted house overlooking the land.
“Pick me up? Why?” she asked with a shaky voice. A little startled, a lot shocked, and completely adorable. I hopped out of the Rover, moving quickly under the fat raindrops to pull her bike from the back and run it up the path to her house.
I left it just under the eave in an effort to keep it out of the rain. When I turned, she was standing at my shoulder.
“Well, you need a job, don’t you? Well, I’m in need of an assistant. I can’t see you breaking pieces of paper.” I chuckled and then immediately regretted it when she cast her head down. I reached out slowly, lifting her head up. I needed to see her eyes.
“Hey, Ella. I was just joking. I can be an ass sometimes, but I promise it’s a good job and the pay will be much better than what you were getting at the pub.”
She nodded, and with that I watched her walk away as my pants grew just a little bit tighter.
Aria Cole is a thirty-something housewife who once felt bad for reading dirty books late at night, until she decided to write her own. Possessive alpha men and the sassy heroines who love them are common, along with a healthy dose of irresistible insta-love and happily ever afters so sweet your teeth may ache.
For a safe, off-the-charts HOT, and always HEA story that doesn’t take a lifetime to read, get lost in an Aria Cole book!
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I’m an avid reader who turned to writing to combat my depression and anxiety. I have a love of travelling and like to bring this to my stories to give them the air of reality.
I like my heroes hot and hunky with a dirty mouth, my heroines demure but with spunk, and my books full of dramatic suspense.