We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Landlord Wars: Chapter 23


“What do you think?” Victor asked.

We’d just received a new shipment of designer plants for display, and I was logging in the fiddle-leaf figs. “Everyone wants these, so we’ll have to fight to keep the display plants in the store.”

Victor nodded. “That’s my feeling too, which is why I have a distributor who’s close and can deliver new plants within twenty-four hours. But I was referring to the business proposal. Have you had a chance to look it over?”

After the impromptu make-out session with Max, my brain had been mush. I’d lain on my bed for a moment and ended up falling asleep and not waking until the next morning. “Not yet, and I need to work on the Bane mansion design this evening.”

Victor looked around the busy shop and frowned. “Should we hire another designer? It’s not healthy to work every night, Sophia. That’s not what I want for you if you take over the business.”

I wanted to say I had it all under control, but Victor was right. Even though we’d caught up these last few months on backlog projects, new ones were coming in faster than we could handle. “I think we should consider it. Even if we only hire someone to take my mocks and put them into digital drawings.”

“My son says there are a lot of people in the city with technical skills looking for freelance work,” he said. “I’ll reach out to him and see if he can point me in the right direction. I’ll also put out feelers with a few architects I know. Find out if they ever outsource digital drawings.”

I’d been so busy I hadn’t thought of how to offload work that didn’t require my expertise. If I was going to run a business now or later, I needed to learn how to delegate. “That would be wonderful.”

He patted my shoulder. “Focus on the Bane design. I should be able to find the right person quickly, but I’d like you to interview them before we hire.”

“Absolutely,” I said.

He headed toward the back of the shop and stopped midway. “Speaking of my son, how did the date go with his friend?”

Between my mom stuff and Max changing the script on me, I’d totally forgotten about my date. I bit my lip nervously. “He was really nice, but I’m sort of seeing someone now.”

Victor winked. “That’s my girl. Glad you have someone in your life, Sophia. You deserve it.”

He called out to a contractor standing by the entrance and motioned toward the back, where they disappeared.

I finally understood the meaning of having someone special in your life. When Max fed me or secretly bought me chocolates, it felt vital. He did thoughtful things to make my life easier and more enjoyable, and it made all the difference. I could easily get addicted to it.

My phone vibrated and I reached for it. Speak of the Landlord Devil…

Max: Dinner tonight? Chinese takeout okay?

My mouth watered at the sound of takeout and the handsome deliveryman attached. But I really needed to get caught up.

Sophia: I have to work late. Tomorrow?

Max: Tomorrow it is. I’ll meet you at your place at 6 with the food. Email me the proposal when you get a chance and I’ll review it before I come over.

If Victor hired someone soonish to help with digital designs, it would free up so much of my time. My brain worked best hand-to-paper, but clients needed formal drawings, and that was time I could spend hanging out with the new boyfriend I’d somehow acquired.

I texted Elise, who’d been ghosting me for days.

Sophia: Are you still alive? Do you want to stay the night tonight? I’ll be working late, but you’re welcome to crash and avoid the rats.

She texted back a skull and crossbones. But hey, at least she responded.

I went to my recents and called her. “What’s going on with you?”

“Nothing.” Her voice sounded better than the last time I’d seen her, but she also sounded defensive.

“Elise, you can’t avoid my place forever.”

“There’s no way I’m showing up at your apartment,” she said. “I’d look desperate.”

“It’s not desperate to visit your sister. It’s not like we can comfortably hang out at Mom’s,” I pointed out.

There was a pause, then, “But he doesn’t know that, Soph. All he knows is that I made an ass of myself and then ran out.”

I looked to the ceiling with impatience. “He’s in his room most of the time. The point is, you might not even see him. You can use my room to study, out of the way of the common areas.”

“Maybe,” she said, but I could hear the doubt in her voice. “I crashed at a study partner’s last night because the rat flat is not okay. Mom was taking tentative steps around the house when I came by to grab clothes, so she’s not comfortable with the situation either.”

We chatted a little longer about the unwanted rodent guests, and then I said, “Well, when you decide to come over, shoot me a text.”

Max showed up the next night wearing jeans and a crew T-shirt and looking hot as hell.

I cleared my throat. “You clean up nicely.”

He tilted his head curiously. “You typically see me in a suit. Jeans aren’t usually considered an upgrade.”

“I’m admiring the dressed-down version,” I said.

He stepped closer, closing the front door behind him, and the heat from his body filled the space. “If this is what it takes to make you happy, I’ll show up less dressed every time.”

Visions of abs and muscles and all the things I’d felt the other night but hadn’t checked out in the flesh flashed before my eyes, and my face heated.

He leaned in and kissed my burning cheek. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said, grinning as I stumbled for words.

“You’re terrible.” Max knew his effect on the female population, and he was using it against me.

He moved into the kitchen, and a waft of Chinese food hit me as he passed. It was hard to think straight with him around, but my lusty thoughts were replaced temporarily with images of food.

“Did you get enough?” I hadn’t eaten in hours, and now that I smelled delicious food, I was about to ravage the paper bag to get to it.

He set the bag on the counter. “I ordered three entrees and rice. That enough?” he said, no hint of sarcasm in his tone.

He’d just earned bonus points, because there was nothing worse than a man nitpicking how much a woman ate.

My mouth twisted as I considered. I was probably too hungry to be rational. “That should be enough. Did you order extra rice?”

His expression was pure cockiness. “I’m not an amateur, Sophia.”

Shit. No, he was not. “Good, good—just making sure.” I hurried into the kitchen for plates and utensils.

We sat at the counter and dug into the food, casual style, like we had at his place, and a wave of comfort washed over me. Max wasn’t as uptight as I’d originally thought, and I was giddy as I watched him eat. Giddy for the food, and giddy to be spending time with him. “Everything go okay at work today?”

He frowned slightly. “Work was all right, but…”


He looked up and wiped the side of his mouth with a napkin. “My parents are going through something right now, and I’m not sure how to support them.”

“Is it something you can talk about?”

“It’s not something that’s known by people on the outside. If it were known, it would be a big deal.”

I held up my hands. “I don’t want to intrude.”

He smiled softly. “I want to share it with you. I want to share everything with you.”

Oh, wow. This was not Max the uptight landlord. This was the Max he didn’t show to everyone. And it made me feel special.

He set his fork on the side of his plate and then looked at me directly. “My parents lost quite a bit of money in a poor investment, and they’re looking for ways to make it up.”

“When you say ‘quite a bit of money,’ that equals destitute to me. But I somehow don’t think that’s what you meant.”

He smiled sardonically. “They lost a large fortune, but they have enough left to live out their lives in comfort. This loss won’t affect their lifestyle so much, but it will affect their standing in society if it comes out.”

“Right, society.” The foreign thing I knew nothing about. “What does it mean to lose your standing among rich people?”

He shrugged and bit into a fried wonton. “If their friends learn the truth, my parents will lose connections and business partners. Their name would be tarnished, and they likely wouldn’t be invited to as many society events.”

I pushed my plate away; I’d already eaten two platefuls of moo shu pork, orange chicken, and tofu vegetables. The food baby was at six weeks’ gestation, and it was time to simmer down. After all, I’d restocked the chocolate, and there was no dinner without a nip of chocolate for dessert. “The friends they’d lose don’t sound like good ones.”

He smiled as if to himself. “My parents don’t understand that. They’ve never had friends without strings attached.”

If they never had genuine friends, being a San Francisco first family wasn’t as much of a boon as I’d imagined. Maybe it was better to be one of the common folk.

“If their name is tarnished,” I said, thinking things through, “does that mean your name will be too? Will it affect your company?”

He shook his head, scooping another heaping of rice onto his plate. “I’m not worried about things like that. I’ve built business relationships based on my work ethic. Some people do business with me because of the name, but the people I’ve been working with for years know better. I’m not interested in society standings. I have very few close friends, and the ones I do have wouldn’t drop me over this.”

So confusing. “If it won’t affect you, and your parents will only lose superficial friendships while living out their lives in luxury, how is this a problem?”

He huffed out a breath. “It shouldn’t be. But my parents care about things like social standing. It’s how they were raised.”

“Weren’t you raised like that?”

“To some extent, yes. But I had something they didn’t—I had Jack and his family. Jack lost his mom right after we became friends, and I saw how that loss affected him and his dad. They struggled with finances in the wake of her death, and that was a cruel twist of fate. His dad worked long hours and could barely make ends meet, all while grieving his wife.”

He poked at the rice without eating it. “High society will tell you poor people are lazy, but that’s not true. They just don’t have the same connections, resources, and luck. I don’t care much for society’s opinions when it comes from a place of ignorance. Not to mention, wealthy people can be hypocrites.” He looked up at me through his lashes. “You’d be surprised how many are in debt.”

I held my hands up. “Wait, are you saying rich people aren’t really rich?”

“Oh, they’re wealthy, but not as wealthy as they claim. They keep up appearances and sometimes don’t have as much money in the bank as it would seem. My parents now fall into the second category, and they want me to help them maintain the image. And help them rebuild their wealth.”

“They want to be obscenely rich instead of only filthy rich?”


I shook my head. “This is so strange. I had no idea classism existed among the wealthy. And no offense, but I’m not sure I feel sorry for your parents.”

“You absolutely shouldn’t,” he said. “My parents will be fine. They brought this on themselves because they were greedy and wanted more. So much more that they blindly listened to a sure thing that wasn’t sure at all.”

“So your parents are worried about losing their standing, thanks to a dumb investment, and they think you have the means to fix it?”

“They think I can help them regain what they lost.”

I winced. “Can you? Isn’t that a lot of money?”

“An obscene amount of money, remember?” He shook his head. “It would take me a lifetime to earn my parents back their fortune, and a good deal of luck. And I have no interest.” He ran his fingers through his hair, his gaze distant. “If what I build impacts people negatively, I won’t do it. And most of the time, that’s what it takes to earn the kind of wealth my parents lost.”

“You won’t do it because of what you experienced with Jack?”

He glanced at me. “I can’t look the other way. It’s why I chose my next project instead of the Starlight project my parents wanted me to invest my time and money in. Starlight does nothing but make the extreme wealthy richer at the expense of the community.”

“And you saying no made your parents unhappy,” I said, catching on.

He closed the takeout cartons, which were mostly empty. Max had a nice appetite too. “I’ve told them where I stand, but my parents think I’m making a mistake. They see no reason not to use me to regain their financial standing before others discover the truth.”

I shook my head. “That’s messed up. You’re their son.”

He looked over and smiled. “I like the casual Sophia. She’s not afraid to speak her mind.”

“Was I ever?”

He chuckled. “You’ve always called me out when I was being an ass, and it’s part of your charm.”

This was a compliment, but it also meant he liked that I put him in his place. “You have a twisted mind, Maxwell Burrows.”

I hadn’t tried to put Max in his place. There were times when I cowered instead of speaking up to others. But Max had been so darn arrogant that I’d forgotten to be afraid and was too furious to back down.

“In any case,” I continued, “I’m sorry you’re feeling pressure from your parents.” No matter how crazy parents were, no child wanted to let them down.

He scanned my face, then down my body, igniting heat where his gaze touched. “Enough about family. Why don’t we go back to your room and look at that business proposal? I have a few ideas.”

Was that innuendo?

Did I care?

Back to my bedroom it was.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode