He let her go once.
This time he wants to keep her.
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Cruel North is an angsty second-chance, enemies to lovers romance where the most hated man in the North Brothers world finally gets brought to his knees.
A teenage girl with my eyes and a familiar glare, strolls into my life and she’s calling me Dad.
Vanessa was my high school girlfriend and the smartest person I knew. She had a plan, a future, and she swore nothing would get in the way. Until she became pregnant. I thought we agreed on our plan. I sent her the money. Then she disappeared.
Her parents told me she was in South America for a year. They told me she needed space. I never heard from her again.
Seventeen years later and she’s back. I’m staring into those green eyes that used to tempt and taunt me. But it’s not just about us anymore. We have a daughter.
Wanting to get to know her, I convince them to move in with me for one month. I’m so angry with Vanessa and she seems to be equally upset. Every insult from her smart mouth invites me to engage. The brutal chemistry between us ignites old embers. I wish I could hate her. Instead, I want her.
But too much time has passed, and I fear some hurts run too deep to heal.
At the end of thirty days, I’ll have to let them go.
Unless I figure out a way to keep them.
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“Let’s go.” I open the passenger side door to my car, and when Haven climbs in, I give Hudson a chin lift, thanking him for having my back.
He nods back with a look that says I better be nice.
Fuck me. My own twin acts like I’m the enemy here. Like I’d hurt my own daughter?
I climb behind the wheel and fire up the engine, grateful for the steady hum of the supercharged V8 that cuts through an uncomfortable silence.
“Nice ride,” Haven says and touches all the buttons and knobs. “Is this real leather?” She runs her hands along the seats, and I notice that she has long elegant fingers that are exactly like Vanessa’s.
“Yes.” I force my eyes to the road, feeling oddly uncomfortable with such precious cargo.
“I have a Jeep,” she says. “It’s a piece of shit.”
I’m not great at conversation on a good day, so I grunt like a fucking caveman.
“So what’s it like?”
I see out of my peripheral that she’s facing me. “What’s what like?”
“Being a millionaire.”
I lose the battle with my eyeballs, and they dart toward her before I wrangle them back to the road. Vanessa’s family has a net worth equal to mine. I can’t imagine Haven grew up without.
I clear the discomfort from my throat. “I hear you’re a pretty good athlete.” My tone sounds like I’m accusing her of something, and I don’t know why. Maybe I should’ve just let Hudson take her home. I suck at this.
“I am. I’m good at a lot of things.”
Confident, like her mom. Good.
“Mm-hm.” She doesn’t elaborate.
I take the bait. “Like what?”
She shrugs and looks casually out the front window. “You want the condensed version of my life so that you don’t have to actually invest?”
“No,” I say dryly and grip the steering wheel tighter.
The uncomfortable silence is back and goes on for so long that I start to sweat. I flip on the AC and aim the vent right at my face.
“Listen, uh… Haven… I…” I sound like an idiot who can’t string two words together. “I’ve been thinking—”
“About how you wanted my mom to abort me?”
Fuckin’ hell. “No.”
“About how you abandoned her and left her to have a baby alone at—”
“About how you’re a rich selfish asshole who couldn’t even be bothered to look for the woman who carried your unwanted child to see if maybe she needed anything like money for food or clothes or a safe place to live or—”
“—or money so that kid could play sports and afford equipment so she wouldn’t get made fun of for wearing the wrong shoes or sweatpants to games.”
“What are you talking about? Your mom’s family is wealthy.”
“Yeah, well, thanks to you and your mighty sperm, they disowned her.” She tilts her head, just like her mother does before she delivers a brutal tongue lashing. “Ohh, you didn’t know that, did you?” She makes a tsking sound. “You would’ve if you looked for us. Ever heard of Google, asshole?”
“Hey, you’re the one who wanted me to ride with you—”
“I get it. You want to hurt me. I’d do the same in your shoes.”
She slams her mouth closed without response. She faces forward and crosses her arms at her chest. “Whatever.”
“We need to… get to know each other. The three of us have a lot to talk about.”
“I have nothing to say to you.”
I cough out a laugh. “Could’ve fooled me.”
“Are we almost to Uncle Hudson’s house?”
He gets to be Uncle Hudson, and I’m Asshole? My jaw ticks. “Yes.”
I use the rest of the time in the car to breathe in and out and try to calm my temper. Vanessa’s parents disowned her. I shouldn’t be surprised, and yet, I am. She’s their only child, for fuck’s sake.
I have a million questions and worry I won’t get the chance to ask Vanessa if we can’t even be in the same room without fighting. Time feels like it’s slipping away, and I don’t know how to grab onto it. But I know I have to try.
I pull up to Hudson’s building. Haven makes a reach for her seatbelt.
“I have a proposition for you.”
Her hand freezes on the buckle, and her eyes narrow.
My God, it’s like looking in a mirror. “One month in New York. Rent free, all expenses paid, you and your mom.”
She eyes me cautiously. “What’s the catch?”
Here’s where I might lose her. “You live with me.”
“Yeah, right.” She snorts. “Mom will never agree to that. I’m pretty sure she hates you.”
She’s not exactly my favorite person right now either. “Leave the convincing to me.”
Her smile is a little wicked. “You’re either really brave or really stupid.”
“I’m not stupid.”
Her brows pop high on her forehead. “You clearly don’t know my mom.”
I don’t respond because she’s right. But she’s also wrong. I got the fiery Vanessa Osbourne to care for me once. A month in New York shouldn’t be too hard.
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About JB Salsbury
JB Salsbury, New York Times Best Selling author of The Fighting Series, lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband and two kids. She spends the majority of her day lost in a world of battling alphas, budding romance, and impossible obstacles as stories claw away at her subconscious, begging to be released to the page.
Her love of good storytelling led her to earn a degree in Media Communications. With her journalistic background, writing has always been at the forefront, and her love of romance prompted her to write her first novel.
Since 2013 she has published six bestselling novels in The Fighting Series and won a RONE Award.
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