One lie tore us apart.
Another lie forced us back together.
The Harshest Hope, an all-new angst-filled and emotional second chance romance and third standalone book in the LA Hearts Series from Bestselling author, Victoria Lum, is now available!
The boy I was forbidden to love became a man with revenge in his eyes.
He was my prince in ripped jeans and tattered books.
I was the girl hiding in her parents’ mansion.
Our love was intense. Passionate. One I thought would last forever.
All it took was one secret, a devastating lie, and I lost everything.
Him. Our future. Hope.
Now he’s back, eleven years later.
Ruthless. Cunning. Cold. A shark in a business suit.
Adrian Scott built his empire on revenge.
He hates me, and I’m next in his plan.
I’m supposed to pretend to date him. Another lie. A smokescreen.
To fool the world into thinking The Shark is finally settling down.
I have no choice but to do as he asks or lose everything.
However, he still knows every curve and secret my body holds.
The lines between our lies and my heart blur more and more.
And I wonder if loving him is the harshest hope.
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“That’s our new scholarship kid, huh?”
“Duh. I mean, look at the piece of shit he’s driving. Are we accepting the poor now?”
“I hear he’s a legacy, though. At least, that’s what I overhead in the headmaster’s office the other day.”
I grind my teeth against each other as I clench my muscles. Someday, I’ll show them. One day, I’ll walk amongst them and they’ll be clamoring for my attention instead. Steeling myself, I shove open the two double doors and head into the administration office for my assignments, the curling flames of anger mixing in with the heaviness in my chest.
Fuck them. Fuck them all.
“How may I help you?” A middle-aged woman with curly brown hair and rosy cheeks sits behind a large oak desk.
“It’s my first day. I was told to report here.”
She glances up at me as recognition dawns in her gaze. No doubt she knows about my family’s story and about Mom—I had to provide a family status in my application. “Ah, you must be Adrian Callahan. I’m Doris, the school secretary.” A small crease mars the smooth skin on her forehead as her brown eyes stare at me in what I’ve come to know as one of my most-hated emotions.
I give her a terse nod. The emerald tie is choking my airway. The office reeks of the odor of full-grain leather and expensive, upholstered furniture. It smells like everything else in this place.
Rich. Old. Pretentious. Wasteful.
I tap my fingers on the desk in an erratic rhythm as I wait for the lady to return with a slip of paper and a pamphlet.
“Here’s your schedule and a map of the campus. Your first class is Shakespearean English Literature in Room 308 with Mr. Nichols. Class is just about to begin.”
Retrieving the documents, I dip my head in acknowledgement then turn to walk toward the door.
“Hold on. Our policy is to have someone walk you to your first class on your first day here. A welcome of sorts. I’ve called another student from your class to come by. Stay put and she’ll be here shortly.”
Probably another snobby, party girl decked out head-to-toe in expensive jewelry, driving a luxury vehicle purchased with her parents’ funds. I resist the urge to roll my eyes at the thought of needing to wait for a spoiled child to escort me to class. After all, I’m older than all the students here.
The grandfather clock in the corner of the room chimes a familiar tune in the background—The Westminster Quarters, as I’ve learned from my hours spent studying at the library on the weekends to catch up on coursework I’ve missed during some especially grueling weekdays. The haunting, beautiful sound echoes in the room. The craftsmanship of the clock is exquisite, with angels and flowers carved deep into the red wood case. The face is enclosed in glass with the minute and hour hands forged from gold, which glint in the lamplight. The copper pendulum, slightly dulled with age, swings to the chimes. I’m momentarily mesmerized by the beauty of the antique and don’t hear the door open behind me.
“Hi, Doris. How are you doing? You look wonderful today,” a sweet voice says from behind me—a voice radiating warmth, like a cup of steaming, creamy hot chocolate on a freezing winter’s day.
I smell a faint scent of lilies before I see her. My heart picks up in rhythm for no apparent reason as I slowly turn around. My breath catches in my throat as I take in the owner of the dulcet voice in front of me.
Long, sleek hair, the color of espresso beans, streaked with dark-russet strands.
A heart-shaped face with large mocha-brown eyes framed with the thickest of lashes.
Porcelain skin, smooth with only the lightest scattering of freckles.
A small pair of lips currently quirked up in a smile. Two beautiful dimples.
Pocket-sized to my six-foot-two height, with curves in all the right places.
An elf. A fae. A pixie.
“Emily, you smooth talker. I’m doing fine, thank you. How are you doing yourself? How is Jess doing? We miss her around here, you know.”
Emily. Her name is Emily.
She gives me a wink and walks up to the desk, propping her arms on the top. The fragrance of lilies is stronger as she stands next to me. The hairs on my arms prickle to attention under the suit jacket and my senses are on alert, as if my body knows something about this person that I don’t know. As if this is somehow a turning point in my life.
Shake it off, dude.
“She’s doing great. She’s at ULA and staying on campus—acing her classes as usual. She even has a boyfriend. I’m happy for her.”
“Oh good. I’m glad to hear. We expect nothing less from her.” Doris clears her throat and motions to me. “This is Adrian Callahan. Today is his first day. He’s in the same Shakespearean Literature class as you. Can you walk him to class and go over how things work here?”
Emily cocks her head to the side and flashes a blinding smile at me. A real one, not the fake ones I’m doling out or the ones I’d expect from the school of snobs. “I’m Emily Kingsley. Welcome to Warwick.”
For more information about Victoria Lum and her books, visit her website: https://www.victorialum.com/