Rule's Property (The House of Rule Book 2)(7)

By: Lynda Chance



Giving up? More like restraining himself to his seat. It was true that the thought of his mother living with him for a few weeks was horrifying. But Courtney living under his roof? That was an entirely different matter. "What the hell do you want me to say, Damian? You've left me with little choice."

"I appreciate you not busting a fuse about this. They're probably moving in as we speak."

Nick's lips tightened as he dismissed his brother. "You're going to owe me, and you're going to owe me fucking big."

"Yeah, I already figured that one out," Damian replied as he turned and left the room.





****





Courtney unpacked her suitcases in the second bedroom suite of the Rule Corporation's penthouse. The apartment contained four suites and now, only one sat empty. Earlier in the day, Justine Rule had settled into the third suite, but she'd already left for a meeting with the contractors who were remodeling the house. This morning, when Courtney and her godmother had arrived at the penthouse together, the older woman had been just as loving and considerate as she'd always been, insisting that Courtney take the most spacious suite available.

Of course, Nick already occupied the largest set of rooms. Fortunately or unfortunately, Courtney couldn't decide which, the suite she was now settling into happened to be the one closest to his. She let out a sigh. Nick. He was her nemesis as well as her savior. Courtney knew the terms were inconsistent, but even as she had the thought, she shrugged a shoulder. Nick was what he was, and there was no changing him.

Several years ago, whether it had been from the flip of a coin or a simple matter of logistics, she didn't know which, Nick had commandeered the entire penthouse for his own personal use, and Courtney knew from what Justine had told her, that he wasn't going to be happy sharing his space with houseguests.

She smiled wickedly at the thought. Too damn bad.

Nick had been getting his way for far, far too long. A strong arrow of annoyance took hold of Courtney that she was unable to shake.

It was unbelievable, un-freaking-believable. She was twenty-four years old.

Twenty. Four. Years. Old.

And still a virgin.

How in the hell had that happened? She liked to think of herself as normal and she was certainly healthy. But evidently, somewhere along the way, she'd become Nick Rule's property and he never let her forget that fact.

To the rest of the Rule family, she was just Courtney Powell. Orphan, extended family member, goddaughter and ex-ward of Justine Rule.

But to Nick, she was . . . something more. What exactly that was, she wasn't sure. Nobody else in the family seemed to know what was going on in his head. Courtney reanalyzed that thought, and although she wasn't entirely certain, she figured Damian had to have a clue about how Nick treated her, and if he didn't, she had no idea how he'd missed it.

It had certainly taken Courtney awhile to figure Nick out--and she still didn't have all the puzzle pieces in place just yet. But it was coming along; she'd figure him out eventually. And living in such close proximity would help that along, it had to.

As she shook out another blouse and placed it on a hanger, she figured it was probably only her imagination, but she could almost smell Nick's scent lingering in the apartment. Just the thought of being in his home for a few weeks, even with his mother around, was causing her legs to tremble.

Damn him.

He'd always caused her legs to tremble. Even from the very beginning.

With her, it had always been about Nick. Always. But her thought process had been so clouded by grief that it had taken her years to figure out that she meant something to Nick as well.

At first, she'd thought her feelings were one-sided. Sure, there had been that crazy kiss on her eighteenth birthday, but at the time, she hadn't had a clue what had prompted it. Maybe it had been mere sympathy on his part or simply a fluke; maybe he'd been thinking of someone else. The only thing she'd understood at the time was that he cared for her somewhat, in a way she couldn't possibly figure out, but she knew it wasn't the same way that she was beginning to care for him.

After her birthday was over, he'd gone back to ignoring her as a member of the female population, just as he'd done before, only treating her in a semi-friendly way, when he deigned to notice her at all. So she'd done her best to put him from her mind and go on with rebuilding her life as she'd been trying to do since she'd arrived in St. Louis.

Her last year of high school had been nothing but a test of perseverance. After her parents had died in the car wreck, Mrs. Rule had transferred Courtney from her prestigious, all-girls school in Florida to an even more prestigious one in the suburbs of St. Louis.

Once she'd graduated from high school, Courtney couldn't find the desire or fortitude to go away to college. It was in the back of her mind to return to Florida and rejoin her friends there, but she'd felt ambivalent, almost scared about uprooting her life again. So her first two years after high school were spent in a small community college on the outskirts of St. Louis, both to get her feet wet academically, and so she wouldn't have to leave Justine, who'd become a surrogate mother to her.

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