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The Way I Hate Him: Chapter 4


She’s late.

Granted, it’s only one minute, but she’s still late.

I don’t know what came over me yesterday, but the moment I knew I could force Hattie Rowley into helping me, I made it happen. Sure, I could find someone else to assist me with my office, maybe someone less temperamental, but I also saw this look of desperation in Hattie’s eyes, and I felt that deep in my soul.

Desperation will get the best of us. You either rise from it or you sink, and I’ve experienced both. Desperation to prove myself, to make something of the person my parents both abandoned, to show them that I have value. And I sank before I rose.

I don’t know Hattie that well, but I do know something about the Rowleys. They’d rather sink before asking for help, especially from me.

So why even bother? Because at that moment, as fear crossed her eyes when I pointed out she didn’t have a job, and she didn’t have school, I saw myself in her, and I felt this instinctual need to toss her a bone.

Well, not really tossing her a bone but rather offering her a very unfair ultimatum.

At least that’s what I’m convincing myself of this morning—that I saw a little piece of myself inside those pools of green as she stared up at me.

It has nothing to do with the fact that if her brother found out about her new job opportunity, he’d probably murder me. Pissing off Ryland Rowley has its charms.

Or the fact that she looked incredibly hot in those spandex shorts. I hate to admit it, but I checked her ass out more than I should have.

Or the bright green of her eyes that seemed to cut to my very core. A color so green that I thought about them the moment I woke up this morning.

Nope, none of that. It was the desperation and paying her debts because she did participate in the night my Grammy was stolen.

I rest my head against the Adirondack chair on my porch, my hand devoid of my morning coffee. Coffee that I could use right about now after a semi-sleepless night.

I’m about to check the time again when I hear the sound of a car flying down the road. I glance up over the hedges just in time to see a flash of red pull into the driveway. At least she knows she’s late.

The car turns off, her door slams, and she jogs up to the door, not noticing me once again. When she reaches the door, she takes a second to straighten her T-shirt and pat down her hair before she rings the doorbell.

She rests her hands in front of her, waiting, and that’s when I say, “You’re late.”

She flies to the side, startled to her very core. “Jesus fuck, Hayes.”

I smile and stand from the chair. In a pair of jeans and a black shirt, I stuff my phone in my pocket and move past her to open the door.

“I’ll give you the passcode to get into the house so you don’t have to ring the doorbell. I hate answering the door.”

“You just enjoy scaring the ever-living shit out of people, instead.”

“Precisely,” I say as I move toward the kitchen. “When you arrive, I expect you to come straight to the coffee maker and make my morning coffee.”

“So we’re just going to get right down to work, no pleasantries. Like a hello, how are you?”

I raise a contemplative brow. “If you expect pleasantries, you’re working for the wrong person.”

“That much is obvious,” she mutters.

I show her where the coffee pods are stashed in the drawer. “This is where I keep my coffee.”

She examines the coffee pods that are all the same flavor. The only flavor I bother drinking. “Wow, don’t care for a variety, do you?” she asks with sarcasm.

“I know what I like,” I answer. “Why change it?”

“I don’t know . . . to live life? It’s not going to kill you to try a different coffee.”

I turn toward her and lean one hand against the counter. Looking her in the eyes, I say, “Like I said . . . I know what I like”—I pause to drag my eyes down her body and back up—“and I know what I don’t like. Don’t change that.”

Her eyes narrow. “You don’t have to be rude.”

“Not being rude, just telling you how it is. If you want me to be rude, I can be fucking rude.” I turn back to the pods and pick one up. “Drop this in the coffee maker, make sure there’s a mug underneath, and then—”

“Oh my God, I’m not an idiot. I know how to make a cup of Keurig coffee.”

“Are you sure? Because you did date Matt for a long fucking time. Anyone who lets that man stick around for that long seems to have a screw loose.”

“Yeah, so what does that say about you for hiring him?”

“The man was good at masking himself professionally, but he was inside you, so you knew him more intimately.”

“Ew, don’t say inside me.” She grimaces.

“Would you rather me say you let him come inside you?”

Her eyes shoot open as her jaw drops. Stunned, she says, “First of all, that is completely out of line when it comes to a professional atmosphere. I very well might sue you for sexual harassment.”

“Go ahead. Bring it up with HR . . . oh wait, you’re being paid under the table.”

That makes her lips twist together in annoyance. “Second,” she says slowly, “he never came inside me. I wouldn’t let him. He was always covered.”


“Not that you need to know that,” she continues and then turns back to the coffee machine. “We’re off topic. Anything else you want to show me about your coffee, my prince?”

“King,” I say.

“Huh?” she asks.

“I’m anything but a prince. If you want to address me, you can address me as king . . . or daddy. Never prince.”

A snort pops out of her mouth. “Oh, okay, let me just go around calling you daddy. Sure, that’s going to happen. You’re delusional.”

I knew she was going to be mouthy, challenging . . . defiant, but hell, I didn’t know I was going to get so much joy out of her attitude, at least not this quickly. It’s tempting to fuck with her every chance I get.

I move past her and grab my almond milk from the fridge. I hand it to her and say, “Two splashes and then stir.”

“You know, if you put the almond milk in first, there’s no need to stir.”

Is this how this is going to go? Is she going to argue every goddamn thing?

Of course it is. She’s a Rowley, and just because she’s here doesn’t mean she’ll make it easy on me.

“Two splashes, and then stir,” I repeat to let her know I’m not interested in her doing it any other way. I then pull down the recipe for my protein smoothie. “This is for my protein drink in the morning. I want both served at the same time.”

“Served?” Her brows shoot up. “Wasn’t aware I’d be serving you.”

“In my bedroom.”

“You can’t be serious.” Her shoulders sag in disbelief.

“One thing you can count on when it comes to me is that I’m always serious.”

“Clearly.” She rolls her eyes. “Your house is the no-fun zone. Got it. Now, will you want me to serve this in a maid’s outfit since that’s how you see me?”

“What you wear is up to you. If you want to be sarcastic about it, by all means, wear a maid’s outfit. Just keep your tits out of my drink.”

“Oh damn.” She snaps her finger in irritation. “And here I was about to stir your coffee with my nipple. What is a girl to do now?”

Let me lick the excess off . . .

“Follow me,” I say. I take her down the opposite hallway from my office toward my bedroom.

“Are you taking me to your dungeon for mouthing off? Because any torture you might have in mind will never match having to sit through a night of Matt trying to figure out where my clit was.”

That pauses me.

I glance over my shoulder and catch the way she’s worrying her lip. Before I can say anything, she says, “I don’t know why I said that. I’m feeling a little unhinged at the moment from this hostile environment. You bring it out in me, but if you must know, which I know you didn’t ask, but I will tell you anyway because of that look on your face, I think I’m bitter about the whole situation with Matt. I mean, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be standing here, paying his dues for something he did, and of course you wouldn’t realize that because all you see is someone to blame for what happened to you, but in reality, I was just doing a good deed.” Her eyes line up with mine. “But you know how it is. Karma never comes back to bite the right person in the ass. It always seems to sidestep and grab the innocent. It’s just like when I found a twenty-dollar bill on the ground at the grocery store. Instead of keeping it for myself, I paid it forward and stuck it on someone else’s windshield to brighten their day, and then do you know what happened to me five minutes later? A cop pulls me over. If that wasn’t karma slapping me in the face, then this surely is because all I wanted was to—”

“Get your boyfriend who broke up with you fired,” I say before she can finish her tirade. She stares at me blankly. Got her. I know exactly what she was doing coming here. Sure, she returned my Grammy, but there was a motive behind it. “Looks like karma chose the right person.” I continue to move down the hall, and reluctantly, she does too.

“He deserved to be fired,” she whispers, not sure why. “He was stealing from you.”

“But you purposely tried to mess with someone’s life, and the universe didn’t like that.”

“What about you?” she fires back. “You’re messing with my life. Where’s your slap in the face by the universe?”

“Am I messing with your life?” I ask as I turn around and lean against the doorframe that leads to my bedroom. “Or am I giving you an opportunity to hide from school, hide from the truth, and earn some cash while doing it?”

“Ohhhh, no.” She shakes her head. “Do not play the saint card with me. I know enough about you to know you’re anything but a saint.”

“Is that right?” I ask. “Tell me, what do you know about me?”

She goes to open her mouth and then closes it as she takes a second to think.

“That’s what I thought,” I say as I push my bedroom door open.

“You’re an ass,” she says quickly. “A jerk. You take what you want without any thought of the people around you.”

“Do you know that firsthand, or are you just hearing stories from your brother?”

“Given my current predicament, I know that firsthand.” She raises her chin, as if she got me. Little does she know, her assumption is the furthest thing from the truth, but she doesn’t need to know that.

Ignoring her, I push the door to my room open and walk in.

“This is my bedroom,” I say. She peeks inside, and I watch her carefully as she observes the dark, almost midnight room—concrete floors, nearly black walls and molding, and a black-framed bed with gray velvet bedding. The only light in the room comes from the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean.

“Uh . . . why are you showing me your bedroom? Because if you expect me to—”

“So you know where to bring my drinks,” I say, exasperated. “Jesus, are you paying attention?”

“Oh, that’s right.” She nervously smiles. “You just get my feathers all ruffled. And I know you have a reputation, so—”

“If there is one thing I can guarantee, it’s that you’re not here as a fuck toy. I have no interest in taking your clothes off, so whatever reputation you think I have, it doesn’t apply to you.”

“Well.” She crosses her arms. “Can’t hear that enough.”

I raise a brow. “Really? Angry that I won’t fuck you?”

“No . . . I mean . . . no.” She shakes her head. “But you don’t have to make me feel like a troll.”

“You’re a child,” I say as I move past her. “I prefer women with more experience.”

She chases after me. “Twenty-four is not a child, and I have experience.”

I turn on her and say, “Not five minutes ago, you told me Matt had a hard time finding your clit. Do you really consider that experience?”

“Experience in patience, yes.”

“So you want me to fuck you then?”

“No!” she shouts. “I just . . .”

“You want the satisfaction of knowing that you’re desirable, right? You want to know that Hayes Farrow finds you attractive. You’re barking up the wrong tree.”

Best to put her in her place now because even though I do find her attractive, and I could easily get lost in her eyes, I won’t allow myself to explore those internal desires. She has a job to do, and that’s it.

From her expression, I can see she probably wants to murder me right about now, but I don’t care. She’s not here to be my friend. I need help with my office, and she happened to be in the right place at the right time—not to mention, she possibly needs even more help than I do.

So I continue down the hallway toward the other side of the house, and she silently follows. When I reach the kitchen, I snag my cup of coffee and move toward the office.

“Don’t you want me to make your smoothie, your majesty?” she asks.

“I’d rather you get started on the office. We’ve already wasted enough time with your late arrival.”

“By one minute, not sure that makes a difference.”

“Makes a difference on the opinion I have of you,” I reply when we reach my office.

“Well, good thing HR isn’t involved, right? Can’t get reprimanded if there’s no official employment.”

Such a smart-ass.

I push the office door open and gesture for her to enter. She glances up at me, and I catch the irritation in her eyes before she moves past me and into the room.

“Leave it to men to make a woman clean up the mess they created.” She toes a few boxes. “Seriously, how does someone accumulate this much crap and do nothing with it?”

“Someone who is never home.”

“Clearly.” She turns toward me, hands on her hips. “How do you want me to handle this? I’m not into trashing things. Our landfills are full enough.”

“I wouldn’t want you to trash anything either,” I reply before taking a sip of my coffee. “I need you to go through every piece of mail and set aside the most important letters I need to respond to.”

“Wouldn’t you think every letter is important? I mean, your fans are the reason you are where you are as stated by you yesterday.”

“I don’t have time to respond to every letter.”

“Then what would you qualify as important?”

“Like if a kid wrote to me, or if someone was going through a rough time while listening to my music, something like that.”

“I see.” She reaches down and picks up a partially opened envelope. She pulls out a piece of paper, and her eyes widen before she turns it toward me. “And these naked selfies, what should I do with those?”

I glance at the picture of a woman in front of a mirror, completely naked.

“Is there a scrapbook you have of these, a little collection?”

“Shred it,” I say, unamused.

“Are you sure? I’m pretty good at scrapbooking.”

“The shredder is in the corner. Shred anything that’s not important. Keep the clippings, I drop them off at the composting center. But if the picture is photo material, keep that separate from the paper clippings, as those can’t go to the compost.”

“Do you really drop clippings off at the compost center?” she asks, surprised.

“Yes. Now start with the mail. There are more bags in the garage. I can carry them in here when you’re ready for them.”

“Okay,” she answers. “Can I grab some water or something to drink, or am I imprisoned in this room?”

Dramatic much?

“You’re not restricted to this room,” I answer. “If you want to move into the living room to spread out, have at it. Just don’t go in the room across from my bedroom. Other than that, you have free range.”

“Ooo, is that like a west wing type of thing?”

My brows pull together in confusion. “What’s that?”

“You know, how the beast from Beauty and the Beast is like don’t go in the west wing?”

Understanding falls over me. “No, it’s my studio and I’m trying to work. I don’t need you needling me with your smart-ass questions and comments.”

“Oh . . . studio, huh? Writing some new music?”

“What’s it to you?”

“Nothing.” She glances away. “But according to my friend, who is a fan, you haven’t released anything new in a while.”

Yeah, because my mind has been an empty vessel for the past year.




Loneliness . . .

It will do that . . . squash any creative flow.

“I’ve been touring. Hard to release new music when you’re traveling the world nonstop.”

“I’m sure.” She moves past me and heads down the hallway to the kitchen. This time, I follow her. “So let’s say I was hungry, could I pop open this cabinet and grab a . . .” Her voice falls off as she notices there’s nothing in my cabinet. She moves to the pantry and discovers nothing really in there as well. When she turns around to face me, she asks, “Where are your snacks?”

“Don’t have any.”

“What? How can you not have snacks? You have almond creamer, but not snacks?”

“Don’t really need them,” I answer.

“Uh, everyone needs snacks.” She shakes her head. “I can’t work under these conditions. I need snacks.”

“Are you telling me you can’t get anything done if there aren’t snacks in the house?”


Sighing, I grab my wallet from the counter and pull out a few hundred dollars. I hand them over to her and say, “Grab snacks, some fruit and veggies, as well as hummus from the general store.”

“Pardon me, but that’s not part of the job description.”

“If you want snacks, it is now. Your choice.” I then pull my phone out of my pocket and hand it to her. “Plug your number in there.”

She takes my phone. “Is this so you can call me at all hours of the night and make more requests that don’t fall under the job description?”

“You know, I could hire someone else and just report you to the police. Is that what you want?”

As she types away, she glances up at me. “You know that’s not what I want.”

“Then enough with the smart-ass comments. Jesus.”

“Can’t take a little sarcasm. Noted.” She hands me back my phone. “I’m in your phone under Wench.”

“Charming,” I reply and pocket my phone. “Last, were you able to find a place to stay?”

Her head tilts to the side. “Man, with a comment like that, it almost seems like you care about me.”

“I care about you getting to work on time, and if you’re sleeping in your car, that might be a setback.”

Her expression falls flat. “Yes, I’m staying in a small studio above The Almond Store. You know, in case you need to fetch me . . . errrr, actually, don’t fetch me.”

That makes me inwardly smile. “Why? Don’t want your family finding out who you’re working with?”

“Exactly. They think I have an internship up the coast, and why the hell did I just tell you that?” She looks up at the ceiling in frustration. “Ugh, now you’re just going to use that against me. More fodder for you.”

“So you told your family that you’re here for an internship, not because you failed out this semester? Wow, digging yourself a hole, don’t you think?”

“How about this,” she says, looking me dead in the eyes. “I’ll mind my business, and you mind yours.”

“Fine by me,” I answer as I turn away from her. “I have no problem staying out of your way.”

“Good,” she replies. A second later, she asks, “So would it be cool if I went to grab those snacks now?”

Jesus Christ.

“Yes,” I groan as I move toward my studio.

I’M in the middle of strumming my guitar when there is a loud crash in the kitchen followed by a “Noooooo.”

Hattie just got back—an hour later—from getting snacks, and I caught sight of her bringing more paper bags into the house than I expected. I thought she was just grabbing snacks. I didn’t think she was grabbing a week’s worth of groceries.

I set my guitar down because, frankly, I’ve done nothing productive for the past hour other than play the same three chords over and over again, and I head out into the open living space that connects with the kitchen, where I find Hattie kneeling on the floor, looking completely distressed.

“What happened?” I ask.

She glances to the side and says, “I dropped my pickles.”

“What?” I peer over the counter and see a broken jar of pickles on the floor. “You got pickles for a snack?”

“Yes, if you must know. I love them, and when I tried to open the lid, the jar slipped out of my hand and broke. Now my life is over.”

Okay . . .

“Do you need my help cleaning them up?”

“No,” she says as she stands. “Just tell me where your cleaning stuff is.”

“Under the sink.” Clearly upset, she walks over to the sink and pulls out paper towels as well as cleaner. “You can put the broken glass in a bag as well as the pickles. I’ll toss them in the trash later,” I say.

“Fine,” she says as she sniffs.

Wait . . . is she . . . is she crying?

I bend at the waist, trying to get a good look at her, but I can’t quite catch her eyes.

“What are you doing?” she asks, head down. “I can feel you staring at me.”

“Are you really that upset over pickles?”

“Just leave me alone.” She starts picking up the broken jar’s large shards and putting them in a plastic bag.

I think she’s upset, and for some fucking reason, I feel bad for her.

Annoyingly bad.

They’re pickles. Why is she so upset over fucking pickles?

Maybe she likes snacks that much. Who fucking knows. I shouldn’t care.

But . . .

A small piece of my black soul flickers alive for a brief moment.

“Were they special pickles?”

“I said just leave me alone, Hayes.” She swipes at her nose and continues to clean up.

Okay . . .

“Are you sure you don’t need help?” I ask, because frankly, I don’t know how to leave this situation.

“Positive,” she answers but doesn’t look my way, just continues to pick the pickles up one at a time and deposit them into the bag.

I guess that’s that.

Confused and feeling a slight tightness in my chest, I return to my studio and sit on my couch. Instead of picking up my guitar, I stare out the window, Hattie’s sad expression imprinted on my brain.

Her sniffles echo through my head.

Her reluctance to look up at me is annoying.

I shouldn’t care. She broke her pickle jar. Who fucking cares?

I really should just let it go, but . . . hell, I feel fucking bad.

And why?

Why do I feel bad?

Maybe because no matter how hard I try to deny it, I really do have a heart.

Even though I like to paint myself as the asshole and ride that persona to the grave, a part of me is trying to break through that tough exterior and make himself known.


And for some annoying reason, he’s trying to break through when it involves Hattie.

Once again, it’s the desperation in her eyes.

The sadness.

I lift from the couch and head out toward the kitchen again. I snag my wallet from the counter and move toward the garage. “I’ll be back,” I say, climbing into my car.


Truly . . . truly hate myself.

For one, I should be working in my studio, trying to come up with lyrics that might make my studio execs happy. Instead, I spent forty-two dollars and ninety-two cents on pickles at the general store, as well as half an hour in the pickle section, racking my brain to remember what the godforsaken jar that she dropped looked like.

The entire time, I was inwardly chastising myself for even caring. This is Hattie Rowley. I have no ties and no connections to her. I technically forgot she even existed until she tried to secretly deposit that box on my front porch, yet here I am, caring that she dropped fucking pickles on my concrete floor. That’s a smell I’m sure will live there forever, no matter how many times I clean it.

There’s no reason for me to do this.

Therefore, I’m blaming my erratic actions on procrastination. I’d apparently rather spend my time in the pickle aisle with Dee Dee Coleman staring me down with a sneer on her lips than on my studio couch with my guitar across my lap and a pen in my hand.

Someone, please explain to me how this makes sense.

Irritated with myself, I exit my car with a reusable bag full of pickles, and I head into the house and straight to my office, only to stop halfway in the hallway when I hear the telltale sounds of music, but not just any music . . . The Mamas & the Papas.

Holy shit.

Color me shocked.

I wouldn’t have expected Hattie even to know who The Mamas & the Papas are, let alone softly sing to their music. And hell, her voice isn’t too bad at all.

Not to mention, it’s one of my favorite songs: Dedicated to the One I Love.

I can’t remember the last time I listened to The Mamas & the Papas, but their flawless harmonies always captured me. John Phillips’s songwriting mirrored that of The Beatles, while Denny Doherty led the group with his pure voice. Michelle and Mama Cass, fucking perfect together, their voices harmonizing so well that it almost felt like they were one human, one powerhouse staking claim to the song.

Hell, hearing them again makes me want to search for the record I have of theirs and play it on my Crosley record player.

Hmm . . .

Maybe that’s not a bad idea. I could possibly use them as some inspiration.

Although they were better known for their sunshine pop, I’m more suited for a dark folky vibe. Nonetheless, any inspiration is good inspiration.

Pickles in hand, I make my way to the office and knock on the door. Not sure why. It’s my house, my office, after all, but just out of respect.

The music stops, and Hattie says, “Come in.”

I open the door and spot her sitting cross-legged on the ground, piles of letters and empty envelopes scattered across the floor.

When she sees me, she immediately says, “There’s an order to this madness. So don’t judge me.”

“Didn’t come here to judge,” I reply, feeling awkward because this is so outside of my comfort zone. I’m truly having an out-of-body experience. “Just came to drop this off.” I set the bag in front of her, not even handing it to her. That’s how uncomfortable I am.

With a confused look, she peers into the bag and then back up at me. “You got me pickles?”

That look of surprise and the lack of disdain for me in her eyes makes me very uneasy. See, this is why I shouldn’t do nice things because it confuses everyone . . . even me.

I pull on the back of my neck. “I didn’t know what kind you were crying over—”

“I wasn’t crying over them. I was just . . . upset.”

It seemed like she was crying, but I won’t push it.

“Either way, I didn’t know what kind, so I just got one of each.”

Her eyes stay fixed on me, studying, trying to see into the depths of my dark soul.

I don’t like it.

I don’t like how exposed it makes me feel.

Like I’m naked and raw, ripe for the picking.

After a few seconds, she asks in disbelief, “You got me pickles?”

She’s softening toward me, I can see it in the way she slowly lowers her defenses, and I don’t like it. I want her annoyed with me. Angry. Irritated. So irate with frustration over being my assistant that she contemplates spilling my morning coffee on me.

Note to self, don’t do fucking nice things.

“Can you not make a big deal out of this?”

“But this is nice. You’re not nice to me or my family, so why would you do this?”

Precisely what I’m trying to figure out.

“I don’t know, you got me,” I say, tossing my hands up in the air. “Probably lost my goddamn mind.” I adjust the hat that rests on my head. “Just eat the fucking pickles, okay?”

“Okay,” she replies. “Thank you.”

I cringe. No . . . no, she can’t be grateful. That’s too much.

“No thanks needed. Forget it even happened.” And with that, I head out of the room and back to my studio, where I sit down on the couch and groan.

Fuck, why did I do that?


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