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THE EX, Chapter One (NSFW. NSFW at all.)

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We’re a little over a week away from the release of The Ex. I had wanted to set up a pre-order, but as I said before, I’m one of those people who makes changes right down to the wire, trying to make everything perfect. So, while I’m not sure we’ll have much of a pre-order period, I hope this 100% NSFW first chapter will be a fitting apology.

the ex

 

Chapter One

There’s a weird thing that happens when your life suddenly clicks into place. You stop worrying about the should-have-beens and start spending more time thinking about the could-bes.

I got a little thrill every time I walked into the Mode office. I still couldn’t believe that I, Sophie Scaife, self-pronounced “eternal fuckup” just a year before, had founded a successful—albeit teensy—magazine that actually seemed to be gaining momentum with readers.

Our office was the top floor of a six-story converted textile factory in Brooklyn. Since I was way out in Sagaponack anyway, my business partner Deja and I had agreed on a location as close as possible to her and her wife—and my forever bestie—Holli’s new loft. It was a two-hour drive for me, but I usually took a chartered helicopter or slept in the backseat of the Maybach to get there. The rent was pricey, but it was worth the cost to look professional. As my fiancé said, looking successful is thirty percent of actually being successful. And he’s a billionaire, so I figured we should listen to him.

“Ready for the weekend, Ms. Scaife?” Penny, my bubbly blond assistant, asked when I stepped out of my office. Penny had come to New York straight from Pennsylvania after graduating from college there. We’d been her first job interview, and Deja and I had felt instantly protective of her. We’d snatched her up under our wings and practically hissed at anyone we perceived as a threat. Being a small-town girl myself, I felt a spiritual obligation to create a real-life New Yorker out of her.

“You have no idea.” I let her get my coat and purse as I squinted at the split ends of my long, dark hair. I was so happy hat-wearing weather was nearly over. The static was killing me.

“Leaving early?” Deja asked, and I met her smiling eyes in the reflection of the gilded mirror on the exposed brick wall behind Penny’s desk.

“Gosh, I hope I’m not fired.” I stuck my tongue out at her. “Yeah. I haven’t been home in like, two days. Are you cool with that? Did the proofs come back for the summer wedding shoot?”

After two big weddings—one of them Holli and Deja’s—had served as bookends for the previous summer, I had seen a definite need for a “what to wear to which wedding” type of story. Maybe it was because I had been thrown into the deep end with my sorta step-daughter’s lavish New York fairy tale dream wedding. Despite my background in fashion journalism, I sometimes struggled to remember anything but the most basic fashion etiquette for special events.

“They did,” Deja confirmed with a little grimace. “I hate them. I’m going to meet with Dan at five, you want in on that meeting? We can Skype you.”

I checked the time on my phone. “I’ll still be in the car at five. But yeah, try and get me in.”

Just as Penny handed me my coat—a blue-gray, mid-thigh pea coat with two rows of military-style buttons down the front—I got a rush of giddy excitement. I had a job again. I had my best friends back. I was living my dream. But most importantly, the week was over and I was going home.

My driver, Tony, waited downstairs with the car. I let him open the back passenger-side door for me and I slid in. In the past, I’d objected to that part of his job, but now I’d come to realize it wasn’t antiquated chivalry as much as means for a driver to make sure his passenger was actually in the vehicle. The partition between the front and back seats was rolled up, so Tony used the intercom to ask, “Straight home, ma’am, or are we making stops?”

I tried to remember if I’d forgotten anything at our Manhattan apartment. I pressed the button and answered, “Straight home. I might be comatose when we get there, but straight home.”

True to my word, I passed right out almost the very moment the car pulled away from the curb. I wasn’t surprised that running a magazine was hard work—I’d been first assistant to the most demanding woman in fashion, at one time—but the toll it took did surprise me. Just two short years ago, I’d been capable of pulling all-nighters and working through the next day. Now, if I didn’t get at least six hours of sleep a night, I couldn’t function. After suggesting it might have something to do with my steady creep towards thirty, Neil had wisely recanted and agreed that it was caused by stress.

I woke when we stopped outside the gate at the end of our driveway, and stared up at the scraggly branches of the jack pines towering over the car in the twilight. I sat up and rummaged through my purse for a piece of gum. I hadn’t seen my fiancé in two days. There was no way I was going inside to kiss him with sleep mouth.

Tony dropped me by the front door, and I fiddled with the alarm to get inside. The house is huge. It’s this sprawling seaside Hamptons mansion, way too big for just two people, but Emma would fill it up with grandkids in no time. I’d just hung up my coat when I heard Neil’s sophisticated English accent.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but do I know you?” He walked toward me from the windowed hall that led to the kitchen. Smiling, he held out his arms when I launched myself at him at a dead run.

Neil was… there was no way other way to put it. He was just Neil. Without the stress of running a company full-time, he was happier and healthier than he’d ever been since we’d gotten together—evidenced by my “oof” of pain as I collided with his chest. When he’d still been recovering from his stem cell transplant the year before, I’d gotten used to a slightly chubby Neil. Post-cancer, he had this new-lease-on-life, constantly working-out thing going on, and he wasn’t as squishy as before.

Not that I was complaining. Yeah, my fiancé was going through a midlife crisis, but I couldn’t blame him. He was only months away from becoming a grandfather, and while he was uncontrollably excited at the prospect—he’d already converted a room in our house into a nursery, “just in case we should ever need it,”—nobody was entirely okay with aging. Heck, even I was beginning to see the specter of old age looming, what with Emma and Michael’s constant “granny” jokes. They found it beyond amusing that I would be a step-grandmother at twenty-six.

I buried my face in his sweater and breathed in the smell of his cologne. “I am so glad to be home.”

His lips moved against the top of my head as he said, his voice full of raw, tender emotion, “I missed you so much.”

And then I realized that the hand on my ass was slowly bunching my skirt up. He was talking to my butt.

I gave him a playful shove. “Perv.”

“Excuse me, but I am a deeply romantic, poetic soul.” He pretended to be wounded, then grinned. “Who also happens to adore your ass.”

“Romantic,” I scoffed. “Pervmantic.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment. Come on, I’m making dinner.”

“Dinner?” I asked, walking ahead of him with a sexy sway to my hips. “I thought you said that when I got home, you’d be eating—”

My words stuttered short when we stepped through the swinging door and I saw Emma and Michael sitting at the island. I switched tracks to avert disaster and raised an irritated eyebrow at Neil. “Vegetarian. Because Emma is here. Hello, Emma.”

She gave me that look she always gave me when she knew something was up, but she didn’t want any details. “Hi, Sophie.”

“Hey, Sophie,” Michael said, standing to give me a hug. Michael came from a super WASPy family who defied stereotypes by being the huggingest damn people I’d ever met. And I’m from the Midwest.

I gave him a squeeze, then went to Emma, motioning for her stay seated. I hugged her briefly and asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Swollen,” she complained, her hand falling to her round tummy. Of course, Emma would be one of those women who carried her baby perfectly, like a little basketball in front. I was jealous, and I was never even going to have kids. But everything Emma did was adorable. Waifish, with blond hair in a chin-length bob that perfectly suited her and big green eyes that could stare down a hardened assassin, she was the perfect combination of sweet and intimidating.

Neil and I had placed bets on which features the baby would have. Neil had his money on Emma’s blond hair, but Michael’s height, while I was rooting for another brunette short person to join the family so I wouldn’t be alone anymore.

“Oh! Here’s your chance, Dad!” Emma said, flapping her hands excitedly. “She’s moving!”

Neil dropped the spoon he’d been using into the pot of marinara simmering on the stove, and I leapt behind the island to rescue it. He wiped his hands on a dishtowel and hurried over to place them on Emma’s stomach.

Then, at the same time, both he and I raised our heads and said, “She?”

Michael laughed and scratched the back of his neck. “Well, so much for keeping it a secret.”

“A little girl?” Neil exclaimed, looking to Emma for confirmation. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have done the nursery in pink.”

“We don’t know if it’s a little girl yet,” Michael reminded him. “We know it has a vagina.”

“Exactly. They might name the baby Olivia, and then we find out when he’s like three that he’s really Oliver.” I fished the spoon from the pot, keeping myself at arm’s length from the occasionally popping red sauce to protect my Cordovan lace Dolce & Gabbana sheath dress.

“Will the two of you please allow an old man to have his moment?” Neil scolded. We’d been round and round the gender politics carousel of hell with Neil ever since Emma and Michael had announced that they weren’t going to share the baby’s sex. Neil was super progressive in some ways, startlingly antiquated in others.

Dinner with Michael and Emma was a joy, as always. It was weird, having a stepdaughter who was the same age as me, but in a lot of ways, it was fun. We made an excellent team for ganging up on her father. And Michael was finally able to speak without fear of being destroyed by the hate radiation Neil used to emit whenever the poor guy was around. It was disappointing when it was time for them to head back to the city.

Finally getting a moment alone with Neil alleviated some of that disappointment. I’d stayed in the kitchen to load the dishwasher while Neil walked Michael and Emma to the door, and I was just washing up when he came back.

“Have I ever told you how much I enjoy this whole domestic thing?” I asked, drying my hands.

He came over to circle his arms around my waist. “You enjoy it so much, you started a magazine and put in sixty hours a week?”

“Exactly. I am not scrubbing that pot.” I indicated the giant saucepot in the sink, which I hadn’t been able to fit into the already stuffed dishwasher.

“Leave it. Julia is just going to rewash all the clean dishes by hand in the morning, anyway.”

I rolled my eyes. “She’s not that picky. Besides, isn’t that a good thing in a housekeeper? Attention to detail?”

He kissed my forehead and went to the refrigerator. Pulling out a bottle of white wine, he said, “I have an idea.”

“Oh?” I liked Neil’s ideas. They were usually absolutely filthy. A little tingle of anticipation made me shiver. Before I’d started Mode, Neil and I’d had all the time in the world for sex. Now, with work keeping me in New York several nights a week and exhausted the rest of the time, we did it when we could.

“Why don’t we start a fire in the den, drink some wine, and I can pretend that I’m more interested in hearing about your day than I am about getting into your knickers.” He grinned at me as he opened a drawer and felt for the corkscrew.

I rolled my eyes at him. “Better idea. How about I take a bath, and then we do your plan?”

“Oh, if you must.” He set the bottle aside and came to me, looping one arm around my waist to pull me against him. His fingers dove into the hair at the nape of my neck as he kissed me, and my toes curled in my shoes. My pussy clenched and I momentarily considered hopping up on the counter and letting him have his way with me right then and there, but we had all night. That was pretty rare.

I stepped back, a little wobbly on my feet. “Okay. I’m off.”

Our house was thirty-five-thousand square feet, equipped with a library, a home theatre, a hot tub and a sauna, and forty-nine acres of grounds that included the previous owner’s custom built, scale reproduction of the Pavilion Français at Versailles.

But my favorite part of the place was my bathtub.

It’s really amazing. It’s a high-backed, claw footed copper tub with a white porcelain basin. It was an antique—part of the apartment I’d shared with my best friend Holli. When I’d moved in with Neil, he’d not only bought the tub from the landlord, but he’d had a reproduction made for our house in London.

I started the water running and poured in some bubbles. The tub had good memories for me. I’d spent a lot of evenings lazing in it, fantasizing about the one-night stand I’d thought I’d never see again. Back then I’d thought Neil was Leif, a hot forty-two-year-old guy who’d swooped in like a sex guardian angel and fucked me silly for sixteen hours. He wasn’t the only one who’d lied about his identity; he’d thought I was twenty-five, not eighteen like I was at the time.

Now, eight years later, we were getting the happily ever after neither of us had even hoped for.

When I sank into the deliciously scalding water, it was like returning to the womb, and I moaned with unabashed pleasure, tilting my head back and closing my eyes.

“Have you started without me?”

I smiled slowly. I heard Neil’s footsteps and the scrape of glass on the granite tile. The cool, slender stem of a wine glass pressed against the back of my fingers, and I turned my hand to accept it.

“I haven’t started anything, Sir.” I opened my eyes to bat my lashes at him above the rim of the glass. “Would you like me to?”

He stood and went to the dimmer switch on the wall, lowering the lights. Reaching into the back pocket of his jeans, he pulled out his phone, flicked the screen a few times, and “La Femme d’Argent” by Air softly slunk over the room. Despite the steam, I had goose bumps. My nipples hardened, only half hidden by the bubbles. Every movement of the water primed me for his touch.

He turned back to me and took a long sip from his own glass. “Touch yourself,” he said finally.

I drained the rest of my glass in one long swallow, and held it out for him to take. Then, wetting my lips, I slid my hand below the water.

It had only taken a few deliberate actions, a subtle shift into his role as my Dom, and I was ready for him. He never took his eyes off me as he took another slow drink of his wine. The movement of his throat above the collar of his sweater drew me in, made me acutely aware of his body. I knew every inch of it, had kissed so many parts. He’d learned all of me, too, so I knew he could visualize my fingertips stroking the hood of my clitoris forward and back. I dipped them down and pressed inside, just enough to coat them in the dense slipperiness that felt wetter than the water. I rolled over my clit again and again, my hips rocking in time and starting a little tide in the tub.

His steady gaze spread a fire in me, raging through my body, tightening my skin and tensing my muscles. I didn’t want to close my eyes, but as I drew nearer and nearer to the apex of my pleasure, I had no choice. My breathing changed, and my thighs moved to clamp around my hand as if to prevent me from my orgasm.

“Stop.”

I shuddered and whimpered, but I pulled my fingers away from my aching clit.

He knelt beside the tub, rolling up one sleeve. His hand glided through the water, sending silken ripples along my tingling skin. He parted my thighs and sought out my pussy, sliding two fingers inside, finding my g-spot. When he pressed up, hard, the way he knew I liked it, my eyes rolled back in my head.

“You have to tell me before you come, Sophie. So I can stop.”

I writhed in frustration. I’d been so close, and now, without even moving his hand, he had me on the edge again. He circled his fingers slowly, and my cunt clenched around them. “Please let me come, Sir.”

My pleading fell on pitiless ears, as it usually did. He stood and reached for a towel. While he dried his hands, he instructed, “Finish your bath. Edge two more times, and I want you to watch yourself. Then come to the den.”

He left me in there, listening to the chill sexiness of the music, surrounded by silky, perfumed water, and I wasn’t supposed to come? I could have had an orgasm just remembering his hands on me.

I did as he’d told me. I washed, careful not to get my hair wet or streak my eyeliner. When I was finished, I stepped out of the tub and dried myself. When he’d introduced this new game a few weeks ago, Neil had put a full-length oval looking glass in our bathroom. He’d placed a small, padded stool in front of it, where I dutifully sat and spread my legs wide. Though he’d made me do this several times already, the novelty hadn’t worn off yet. I watched as my fingertips parted my labia, exposing my glistening sex. I kept my eyes there, concentrated on the soft sucking and popping sounds of my dripping, clutching cunt. My nipples stood out as hard peaks, and my back arched as I neared the crest of my release.

I pulled my fingers away with a little “ah!” of frustration. Beads of perspiration stood out on my forehead as I fought my body to stop myself from coming. I held my own gaze as I waited for my nerves to calm, for the danger to pass before I started all over. As I looked into my reflection’s eyes, I concentrated on losing myself in my role.

In our daily lives, Neil and I were equals. In our roles as Dom and sub, I was his property, glad to fulfill his every command. The body under my hands was not mine. The pleasure I felt was his. The sensual torture he inflicted on me was an expression of our love and trust for each other.

I squirmed and gasped toward the next orgasm that wouldn’t happen. Disobeying him was not an option; it wasn’t my decision to make.

The walk to the den was painfully arousing. My clit throbbed, and every step I took threatened to tip me over the edge. I stopped once and braced myself against the wall, desperate to fulfill what seemed like an impossible command from my Sir.

When I entered the den, a fire burned in the natural stone fireplace, and a thick duvet covered the floor in front of the hearth. A few throw pillows were scattered about. Neil stood before the fire, staring down at the flames and toying with the diamond-studded collar in his hands.

“Sir?” I asked, and he pointed to the floor beside him.

I knelt obediently, my eyes cast down, as he closed the platinum circle around my neck. The latch clicked, and the heavy weight settled around my throat.

He pulled his sweater over his head and let it fall to the floor beside me. Then he turned, the fly of his jeans at my eye-level, and reached for his zipper.

Neil is the largest guy I’ve ever been with. The largest I’ve ever seen, really. When he pulled himself free and pushed the broad head of his cock over my lips, I had to open wide to take it in. With a gentle hand, he pressed on the back of my head, until he went so deep he triggered my gag reflex. I breathed through it and opened my throat, swaying obediently as he slowly entered and withdrew. Sucking when I could, I focused on my breathing and the feeling of his pulse fluttering against my tongue.

“Very good, Sophie.” The praise sent a new wave of lust through me. My thighs were coated with cool wetness, and every brush of my breasts against the hair on his thighs sent electric darts through my body.

He pulled free of my mouth and reached down to hook a finger under my chin and tilt my face up. “Would you like me to fuck you?”

I nodded, my breath frozen in my chest. “Yes. Oh, yes, please, Sir.”

“What do you say?”

“Please fuck me, Sir.”

“More.”

“Please fuck me, Sir. Please fill me up with your big cock and fuck me until I come.” I shifted on my knees, pressing my thighs together hard. “Please.”

He nodded. “Go lie down. Spread your legs, and play with your clit. I want you to edge one final time.”

“No!” the cry burst from my lips before I could stop myself.

His crooked smile was one of dark, amused intent. “Did you just refuse a command?”

I froze, my hopes crashing to the ground. I would be punished now. I had been so close to coming, to having him inside me.

“Stay here,” he ordered. “And if I find you’ve moved a single muscle when I return, you won’t come tonight.”

He would do it, too. As our Dom/sub relationship had progressed, our limits had broadened. Neil felt more comfortable inflicting punishments on me, as I had proven I could take it.

Of course, all I had to do was use the safeword, and he wouldn’t be my Sir, but my fiancé. And my fiancé would be more than happy to get me off to ease my discomfort. But more often than not, I found the consequences just tolerable enough that I would accept them to get the treat at the end. Denial was an easy enough torture to withstand, when you knew how great it was going to feel when it was over.

So I didn’t move, and waited while he left the room and returned with our wireless wand-style vibrator. My heart rate skyrocketed.

“Since you wanted to come so badly,” he began, parting my legs to settle between them. “I thought I’d let you come.”

He pulled a length of rope and a small set of bandage scissors from his back pocket. He placed the scissors on the edge of the hearth, within reach, and leaned over me to tie my wrists, my hands clasped together between my breasts.

He turned the vibrator on, and my clit jumped eagerly, despite my knowledge of what he would do. Neil wasn’t going to punish by withholding orgasms. The orgasms were going to be my punishment. Endless, oversensitive, muscle-cramping punishments.

“I won’t gag you this time.” He stroked his fingers down my cheek. The touch was at once tender and a mockery of tenderness. He got a sadistic kick out of tormenting me with pleasure.

When the head of the wand touched my clit, my hips lifted off the duvet. I had gotten so close so many times, my body was eager to complete the journey. He brought me back the way I’d already been, until my hips bucked and I writhed, moaning. Just when I thought that the idea of coming too many times wasn’t so bad, he flicked the switch off.

Damnit! He’d tricked me!

I wailed my frustration, my nails digging into the rope that bound my wrists. “I’m sorry, Sir! I’m sorry!”

“I’m sure you are.” He brought the wand back to my clit, teasing me to the first flutters of release again, then pulling it away.

“You said I could come, Sir!” I babbled through my tears, desperately moving my hips against the vibrator until he could only keep it pressed against me for a heartbeat, I was so close.

“Should you have disobeyed me?” He asked, clicking the switch again, killing the vibration and my orgasm in one fell swoop.

“No, Sir!” I shook my head. My mouth was dry from panting. My thighs ached from constant tension. The fire warmed my skin, but I still shivered, caught up in desperation and agony.

“You’ve been disobedient,” he continued, reaching up to catch a tear at the corner of my eye with his thumb. He brought it to his lips and sucked the salty drop from it. “Disobedient girls get what’s coming to them.

“Do you know why I didn’t gag you?” He pushed the head of the vibrator against me once more, parting my labia around it, reaching above the slick black silicone ball to hold the hood of my clit back. “Because I love the way you scream.”

He clicked the switch again, and the vibrations buzzed over the exposed, raw tip of my clitoris. There was an unpleasant, sharp point to the sensation, and I rose, straining, and broke with a shout. My entire body bucked, and the noises that wrenched from my throat were half scream, half animalistic groan. He circled the head of the vibrator, and I twisted, but his hand clutching at my thigh reminded me that I wasn’t allowed to move away. His command was the only restraint I truly needed. The rope merely intensified my desire.

After that, orgasms came in an endless circle, until one bled into the other. No matter how much I screamed and begged, I never used the safeword. Not when I was sobbing and too limp to move. Not when it seemed like the pleasure would never end, that I would be trapped in this state of need and dread forever. I reached another searing peak and swore through my sobs, and he pulled the vibrator mercifully away.

“If my count is correct,” he said, tossing the wand aside, “That was sixteen. If you disobey me again tonight, it will be twenty.

He reached for the rope that bound my hands and deftly untied the knot. “Do you need anything, before we continue?”

“Drink,” I managed through parched lips and a throat sore from shouting. I motioned toward the wine bottle and glasses on the coffee table. He poured me some, and I sipped it gratefully.

When I was finished and the glass put carefully aside, he slid his jeans and boxer briefs down. “I have been waiting for this all day,” he said, settling between my legs as I lay back.

My heart pounded in my chest. This was the moment that would make me complete. When he was inside me, when I could return some of the pleasure and peace he’d just given me. I spread my legs wider as he found my cunt and thrust forward, stretching my swollen tissue and raking along my painfully sensitive g-spot.

His breath tickled my ear, and he moaned a long “mmm” of satisfaction as he filled me. The sound reverberated right to my core. He stroked in and out of me slowly while I wept and clung to him, whimpering, “I love you, I love you,” over and over.

“Come, Sophie,” he ordered me, and I slipped my hand between our bodies. It wasn’t torture now, but pure pleasure. I strove for my climax, wanting it, wanting him, becoming someone other than myself, someone who existed solely for my Sir. My orgasm wasn’t a pain now. It was like coming home. I cried out, lost in the beauty of it.

His steady, easy pace slowed. He breathed hard above me, and I watched, fascinated, as struggle twisted his face into a rictus of concentration. He lost the battle, pumping into me furiously and came with a groan, his cock buried so deep in me that its twitches and jerks made shocks of pain against my cervix.

Breathing heavily, he pressed his forehead against mine to recover. I smoothed my palms down his back, danced my fingertips over his shoulder blades and down the flexed muscles of his arms. He slipped from me and rolled to his side. “Do you need anything?”

I shook my head with a lazy smile.

“Would you like to take your collar off?”

Another shake of my head. “I want to wear it just a little longer, Sir.”

He drew me into his arms, curving his body protectively around mine. I flattened my palms against his chest and looked up for a kiss.

“So.” He said when he lifted his mouth from mine. “Tell me about your day.”

* * * *

Having a morning off is all well and good, if you don’t have a suddenly fitness obsessed, recently retired fiancé who longs for togetherness at inconvenient hours.

“Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey,” Neil called cheerfully as he flicked on the lights. I hated, hated that I had ever used that phrase in front of him. Although, it wasn’t as poor a choice as telling him about the “rise and shine and give God your glory, glory!” bible camp song. Having a tone-deaf Englishman sing that at you before dawn is probably what actual hell is like.

“Why?” I let the word draw out in a long, frustrated groan into my pillow. “I was going to sleep in.”

“I thought you might like to run with me. You never run with me anymore.” If the observation had sounded petulant, I would have been miffed, but he was right; at the beginning of our relationship, a brisk Saturday morning run through Central Park had been part of our routine.

But it wasn’t the season for outdoor running, and since Central Park was two hours away, I doubted it was in the cards for today. “I hate the treadmill. And you’re so competitive.”

“I promise, I won’t look at your settings,” he vowed. “It’s going to be a lovely, snowy day. Why not get up, have a jog, then I’ll make us breakfast and we can spend all day by the fire, just the two of us.”

The bed was so warm. And so lovely. But so was Neil. I had been working a lot lately, and he hadn’t complained one bit, even when I’d spent nights in the city. He’d bought me this sprawling, ocean-view mansion because I hadn’t wanted to be trapped in Manhattan, and I kept abandoning him—and it—to run back to our old apartment. If all he demanded in return was the occasional work-out companionship, I supposed I couldn’t begrudge him that.

“Okay.” I stretched and forced myself to sit up. “I’m in. Give me ten to brush my teeth and get dressed.”

I stumbled to the dressing room. I was nearly at the door when the phone rang, and I paused. “Who would be calling us this early?”

“I’ll answer it. You should get changed,” he advised with a smirk as he reached for the cordless handset. “Tight yoga pants, maybe. And that pink sports bra you’re always complaining doesn’t have enough support.”

“Perv,” I laughed, and left him to deal with whoever was calling at—I checked the time on one of Neil’s dinner plate sized watches and groaned—seven in the freaking morning.

When Neil and I had first started dating, my closet situation had involved a pipe my landlord had expressly warned us not to hang stuff on. I’d had a lot less space back then, and a lot less clothing. One of the perks of being engaged to a billionaire—and there were, well, billions of perks—was the ridiculous amount of clothing a fashion-obsessed girl could buy, and the lavish space to hang it in. The dressing room in the master bedroom was bigger than some Manhattan boutiques I’d been in, with similar features. The overhead lighting was bright, but soft, and twin trifold mirrors on either side of the room cut back on our “getting ready” arguments.

I loved my fiancé, but he was vain as hell and a total mirror hog. And there was only room for one of those per closet.

Down the center of the room were two huge, glass-topped consoles to hold his watches and cufflinks and my jewelry, except for my diamond collar, which stayed locked in a safe. Our shoes were lined up neatly on a wall of custom shelves, and I plucked my sneakers from the bottom row. I grabbed the yoga pants Neil had suggested—my ass is pretty fantastic, and giving him a treat wouldn’t hurt—but passed up the weak sports bra for something with a little less jiggle. I don’t have the biggest rack in the world, but unsecured boobs are no fun on a treadmill.

I dressed, tied my shoes, pulled my hair up into a ponytail and headed back out to the bedroom. Since he wasn’t talking anymore, I figured he was off the phone.

“Who was it?” I asked.

Neil was on the edge of the bed, leaning forward with his hands over his face. It wasn’t until he sat up and I saw how red and wet his eyes were that I realized he was crying. He hiccupped back a breath, and his face crumpled as he said, “My mum’s died.”

31 Comments

  1. Duckie
    Duckie

    Woo hoo! They’re back!!!!

    November 13, 2014
    |Reply
  2. Extraordinarily hot and also the last paragraph made me choke up just a little bit. I just want to give Neil a hug now.

    November 13, 2014
    |Reply
  3. Lorinda H
    Lorinda H

    NSFW-HA! I’ve been so excited for this book, I couldn’t wait until tonight. And it is so worth it. My favorite couple are back!!!

    November 13, 2014
    |Reply
  4. Melissa Davis
    Melissa Davis

    I cannot wait this is going to be an outstanding journey till the finish. I have loved each book and having the knowledge that this is the end is sad, but I am so ready for them to be together forever.

    November 13, 2014
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      This isn’t the end of the series, but they will always be together forever! 😀

      November 14, 2014
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      • Gray
        Gray

        OMFG! YAAASSSS!!! I need more Neil and Sophie in my life. This made my day. 😀

        November 14, 2014
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      • Ethyl
        Ethyl

        ::happy dance::

        November 16, 2014
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  5. Ellen
    Ellen

    Fortunately, I work from home so I could read this the minute I saw you’d posted it. Great job – again.

    November 13, 2014
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  6. Courtney Zinerman
    Courtney Zinerman

    Just Amazing! Too hot for Words, Cannot wait to get my hands on the Book

    November 13, 2014
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  7. Patricia
    Patricia

    Omg looking forward to this book. I Miss my favorite couple.

    November 13, 2014
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  8. bragandbounce
    bragandbounce

    Well, holy shit.

    There goes my focus for the afternoon.

    November 13, 2014
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  9. Kylie
    Kylie

    OMG I NEED LIKE TWENTY SMOKES AND THEN THAT ENDING. Brb, crying into my smokes, lol.

    November 13, 2014
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  10. Christine
    Christine

    I cannot wait for the book! yaHOO!!

    November 13, 2014
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  11. Jacqueline
    Jacqueline

    Yay so excited I’ve only got a week left to wait.Deliciously hawt… but poor Neil.

    November 13, 2014
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  12. Michelle
    Michelle

    Holy Hotness Batman the silver fox is BACK!! This is going to be a delicious ending I can feel it between my thighs.

    November 14, 2014
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  13. Ange
    Ange

    OMG. I’ve genuinely never given Neil a face in my mind before but suddenly he’s totally Giles and I’m loving it. Dom Giles be HOT.

    November 14, 2014
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  14. I … have not been keeping up, because Holli and Deja got married?! Well I need to go back and read THAT courtship.

    Also the tense changes a couple times? When she gets to the house and then about the bathtub? Were those intentional?

    November 14, 2014
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      Yup! I’ve referred to Sophie as being a “self-aware narrator,” and find that in some places a switch to present tense, usually in description, makes her feel more natural.

      November 14, 2014
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      • I thought it must have been. It threw me for a minute, but then I got to thinking how strange it is to say “the bathtub was” when said bathtub is right in front of you.

        November 17, 2014
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  15. Melina
    Melina

    Oh my god I can’t express how much I missed Neil and Sophie. I was just in the middle of re-reading the entire series to get ready for the release of this book, then I got so excited that the first chapter was posted!

    I can’t imagine how the death of Rose is going to effect Neil’s character development…ah I’m just so excited for the rest~

    Keep up the good work!!!!!! <3

    November 14, 2014
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  16. Amanda
    Amanda

    OMG!!!!! I couldn’t wait so this was read at work. Luckily for me it’s a slow day with not many people around! I am in love with this series!

    November 14, 2014
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  17. Bernadette
    Bernadette

    So thrilled to read this first chapter and catch up again with Sophie and Neil’s story. The series is brilliant and can’t wait for next week. So happy Jenny says there will be more to come and they’ll be together forever. Very happy UK reader- thanks Jenny!

    November 14, 2014
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  18. Miles
    Miles

    I almost started crying out of happiness when Emma and Michael acknowledged that just because their child has a vagina does not mean it will be a girl. Thank you so much for building a world where people like me not only exist, but are acknowledged and loved.
    So much love from a kinky, bisexual, poly, non-binary/genderqueer fan.

    November 14, 2014
    |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      I will admit that they don’t keep things gender neutral with the baby, but I can’t see them being the type of parents who would reject a kid or force them to pretend that they’re someone they’re not.

      They can’t be in my book if they’re gonna be awful parents.

      November 14, 2014
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      • Miles
        Miles

        Just having them acknowledge that trans people exist, and knowing they would be supportive of a trans child, makes me so happy and (even more) excited to continue reading the series.

        I think this is possibly the only book I have ever read in my life that has soon-to-be-parents acknowledging that their future child could be trans.

        November 14, 2014
        |Reply
  19. Teresa B
    Teresa B

    I honestly laughed out loud with the “wakey wakey eggs and bakey” phrase. It just shows how real you have created Sophie and Neil. One of the reasons I love this series. (The other being the hotness of the sex!)

    November 15, 2014
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  20. Cressida
    Cressida

    Whoa…Whoa. WHOA.

    Between well-written characters/details, realistic dialogue, sensitivity to gender/race/class issues, and some excellently hot sex scenes, you work a plot twist like nobody’s business. I can’t wait to read the rest of the novel.

    (Though seriously, where can I find some hot action like that in my own life?)

    November 15, 2014
    |Reply
  21. Patricia Onizuka
    Patricia Onizuka

    WOW!!! I am so excited for the book to be put. I was hooked with The Boss and so glad to have the story continue with The Bride and now The Ex. I love reading about Sophie and Neil.

    November 16, 2014
    |Reply
  22. Grey Button
    Grey Button

    i am so happy to read Th Ex!
    The series is my most favourite!
    I cannot wait for the next chapter and to get the whole book.
    My Kindle is my happy place!

    November 16, 2014
    |Reply
  23. Kimberly
    Kimberly

    I am obsessively checking back for updates hoping for pre-order info. I’m re-reading the series again right now (for like the 5th time) just because I’m dying for Saturday to arrive…

    November 17, 2014
    |Reply
  24. Blair
    Blair

    I love this whole series could not put it down. Thought way better than 50 shades. But I also love the blood ties series and lightworld/darkworld and American vampire,ever though of adding on to that one. When will the baby be out so ready for it.

    April 17, 2015
    |Reply

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