Chapter Four

Haven’t Met You Yet

* * *

“But, Wolfe, what a big dick you have.”

“All the better to tear you up with, my dear,” the prince said as he sprang at her.

~ Big Bad Prince: Little Red Riding Hood Made Smutty by Marian Tee

* * *

Friday mornings were always reserved for town hall meetings in Hartland, for which the town’s fifty or so founding members (or their authorized representatives in some cases) gathered at the library’s function hall to convene.

Among those discussed in this week’s agenda was the approval of new member applications, a rigorous process that typically required three rounds of deliberation.

“Please affix your signature on AYE for the application to push through. Documents that do not have your signatures will automatically count as a No.”

Fifteen minutes later, and Stephen Everly – a man who had amassed billions in the energy industry but took on the role of an independent private practitioner of law in Hartland – formally declared the newest additions to their community: Devon Montgomery, Sean Northwood, Nicholas Sutherland, Logan Hardwall.

“Earliest permanent relocation date would be two years from now.”

“Fair enough,” Raj acknowledged, “and I don’t see any of them having problems with that.” As the one who had personally vouched for the four new members, it had been up to him to explain to the group about The Hartland Initiative.

Hartland’s GDP per capita might be one of the lowest-ranking in the state, but that was exactly how the newly-established town’s founding members wanted it to be. Everything that made Hartland less than ideal – from the remoteness of its location to its notoriously poor Internet signal – was as deliberate as the way the billionaires and heiresses that secretly made up the local community assiduously played their designated roles to perfection.

In Raj’s case for instance, ‘sheikh’ and ‘prince’ may be the titles that came with his so-called day job, but in Hartland, the nature of his employment was of a humbler stature, being Hartland Stable’s senior riding instructor.

One of the most important conditions for membership was for the applicant and his or her family to take the necessary steps to withdraw from the public spotlight. And since their newest members, dubbed by the media as San Antonio’s Finest Eligibles, still rode a rather high wave of popularity following Logan’s much-publicized romance with his nephew’s nanny, a two-year delay was definitely reasonable. It should be time enough, Raj thought, for the SAFE guys to pay who needed to be paid for their names to be forgotten and they could eventually start leading ordinary lives.

The meeting ended soon after, and as everyone filed out to leave, Slade found himself walking between the Blackwood brothers. The older set of twins, Thornton and Aidan, worked as a bookstore owner and police chief respectively, while their baby brother managed the flower shop just a few blocks away from Redwood Cafe.

“Hullo there.” Of the three, only Ethan allowed his native British accent to slip out in private and was generally considered the most laidback of the bunch. “We had dinner at the cafe yesterday and got to meet your new waitress.”

“Hard not to notice her,” Aidan commented, “when she broke a plate the moment we came in. She’s the jumpy sort, isn’t she?”

“I think it’s cute, though,” Ethan asserted, and glancing at Slade, he asked, “Kady’s like a breath of fresh air, don’t you think?”

Slade tried not to bristle at how easily the younger man referred to Kady by her name. “Do me a favor,” he said grimly, “and just forget she exists.” Unfortunately, the warning only backfired.

There was a moment of silence, and then Ethan and Aidan immediately started grinning while even the normally gruff Thornton cracked a smile.

Fuck.

The thought of other men finding Kady’s shyness cute was oddly irritating as hell, and that it had to be the Blackwood men to do so just made things a lot fucking worse. The twins could practically pass off as Keanu Reeves’ twins (although granted, Thornton had more of a John Wick feel to him while the police chief better resembled the actor during his beardless, Constantine days) while their baby brother…

Thank fuck Ethan wasn’t single, Slade thought darkly. As Farica had once put it, the youngest Blackwood was dangerous enough with just his charm alone, but add the fact that he was as rakishly good-looking as Heathers-era Christian Slater, he was definitely the one to keep an eye on.

On their way out, they spotted Anah manning the library counter, and all of them immediately slowed down to say hi.

With certain circumstances causing the diminutive redhead to become Hartland’s first resident who wasn’t related by blood to any of its founding members, she had also eventually been entrusted with the truth about The Hartland Initiative.

It was why everyone looked upon her as their honorary little sister, and also why, as Anah greeted them back cheerfully, everyone studiously played dumb to the way her smitten gaze lingered a second too long on Ethan.


Tags: Marian Tee Secret Tycoons of Wyoming Billionaire Romance
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