Love to Hate You
Book 2 in the Fillmore Siblings Series
Join USA Today Bestselling author Melissa Schroeder for a frenemies to lovers romantic comedy with a sexy, tool belt wearing hero who is on a mission to get his woman.
I’m taking a stand. I’m done with him, our show, and my stupid heart. I want nothing else to do with Travis Fillmore. Or maybe I’m lying.
No, really, I mean it.
Ugh, I need help when even I don’t believe me.
Travis is my best friend’s brother and the object of my infatuation. He’s also my co-host for our home improvement show, and we are zooming to the top right now. Unfortunately, I can’t work with him anymore. He’s pushed me too far with his antics, and I’m walking away. Only, he just realized how much he needs me on the show, and he wants me back. He just pops into town and thinks I’ll forgive and forget.
At first, I refuse to even consider returning, but he won’t go away. He tells me that he’s changed, that he can be professional. And I believe him. Until he kisses me…and then does a whole lot more. Soon, we can’t keep our hands off each other. But even as I think we might be building something beautiful, someone threatens our happiness. An overzealous stalker…I can deal with that. What scares me is the man who could shatter my heart and leave me broken.
Warning: This book includes breaking and entering, donuts, sarcastic friends, a woman with many trust issues, a man who doesn’t realize what he wants until he almost loses it, a weirdo who doesn’t understand boundaries, nosey neighbors, a trip to the Juniper Jail again, and a happily ever after for two people who finally admit they are in love.
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Love to Hate You
Love to Hate You
Book 2 in the Fillmore Siblings Series
Love to Hate You
I come awake with a start, my heart hammering in my chest as my mind tries to figure out what’s happening. I blink against the bright light coming in through the window. I’m home. For a second there, I wasn’t sure. Was that noise a part of my dream? I lay quietly, listening, waiting. It could have easily been a dream because I drove straight from Amarillo last night after a whole day of shooting. When I’m exhausted, I tend to have weird dreams. Like playing chess with a penguin on a frozen lake weird. And I am exhausted, both mentally and physically.
I hear another sound, like a window opening. Fear hits me square in the chest and I realize that I can’t take another breath. Did I set the alarm? No. Because I’m stupid and now my headstone will read Dumbass Didn’t Set the Alarm. My father will make sure of it.
Then, the giggling floats back to me. I roll my eyes and slip out of bed, grabbing my phone as I go. I stomp out to the living room and stop short of the scene in front of me. Everly Spencer is standing by one of the windows that face the street. She’s holding a paper bag and a drink carrier as she tries to coax her bestie Becca through the window.
“She’s not going to call Josh on us. Besides, Josh would never arrest us.”
They’re talking about Josh Collins, our sheriff. She’s right, he won’t arrest them, but I might just call him to screw with them. “You don’t know that,” Becca says.
Everly sighs, the sound filled with such irritation that I have to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud. Happiness chases away a few of the dark clouds that seemed to settle over me this season while filming my show.
No matter what happened this year, there is one thing I know: It’s so good to be back home.
After a little more persuading, Becca hikes one leg over the windowsill. I figure now is the time to make my presence known.
“So, breaking and entering, huh?”
Becca lets out a squeak and falls back out of the window. There’s a muffled crash, but I know my bushes probably saved her from too many bruises. Everly slowly turns around with a smile on her face. “Heya, Nancy.”
I let one eyebrow rise and she laughs. Everly is a few years younger than I am and a few inches taller. She’s athletic without being overly muscular and with long hair that tends to change colors as often as Everly changes her moods—so a lot. Today it’s back to dark brown, but there are streaks of blue. She’s wearing a tank top that shows off her colorful tattoo sleeves, a pair of shorts, and short boots. I would look like an asshole trying to appear tough in an outfit like that. Everly looks badass.
“Don’t worry about me. I’m just lying here dying after I fell out the window,” Becca calls out in a strangled voice.
I shake my head as I chuckle and walk to the front door. “Why didn’t you let her in through the door once you got in?”
“I was afraid your alarm was on.”
My alarm. Ugh. My father insisted I get it because I’m a ‘celebrity’, but I rarely engage it when I’m in town. I do keep it on when I spend weeks on the road, but this is Juniper Springs. And yes, I am ignoring my earlier regret about not setting it now that I know I’m safe. The truth is, I’m safe whenever I’m home. There will be a phone call or a text message about Everly and Becca soon enough.
As if on cue, my phone vibrates in my hand.
Mrs. Peterson: Becca and Everly are breaking into your house.
Yep, can’t get away with shit in this town without one of the LOLs (Little Old Ladies for those of you who didn’t know) noticing. I open the door and find Becca standing on my porch. There are twigs and leaves in her hair. She’s smiling at me like there’s nothing odd about this morning. And, truthfully, there isn’t. This is Juniper Springs, which was founded by a couple of hippies who didn’t think Austin was quite weird enough.
“Welcome home, Nancy,” she says, holding her dress out and giving me a curtsey. Where Everly is dark, her best friend and business partner is light. Blonde hair, amazing blue-green eyes, and she’s short and curvy. She has her hair up in two small buns on top of her head. She’s wearing a red dress with pandas all over it, because…of course she is. She’s Becca Gold. Again, I would love to rock a look like that, but I can’t. I look down at the sandals on her feet and notice she has painted each of her toes a different color.
“I texted Nancy about you two,” Mrs. Peterson calls out from across the street. I look over and find her standing on her own porch, her cell phone in hand. She’s still in her housecoat, so she definitely just got up. See, don’t need any alarms.
“Yeah, and I’m talking to her, so thanks, Mrs. Peterson,” I call out.
She nods. “You girls need to grow up.”
Everly sticks her head out of the doorway and yells, “Never!”
“Everly,” Becca admonishes. Everly smiles at her and walks back into the house.
“Come on. You know she won’t go back inside until she can’t see what’s happening,” I say to Becca, who smiles at me and steps into the house.
“Welcome home, hun,” Mrs. Peterson yells out. “I texted your grandmother you were back in town.”
Great. Just who I want to see. I wave my hand in thanks because I don’t trust my voice not to be sarcastic. I shut my door and mentally force myself away from the idea that my grandmother will probably show up today to tell me what a loser I am. Yay. I thought I might get a few days before I had to deal with her.
I follow the sound of voices to my kitchen. I love my house. LOVE IT. Okay, so the only other house I would take is a massive farmhouse with a wraparound porch, but I have no reason for a house that big. I bought this one when it was a mess, passed from renter to renter, then left vacant for a couple of years, the craftsman style home was just what I wanted. Big front porch and good bones. I spent a year redoing the entire house, using Travis’ company to get everything just right.
At the thought of my cohost, my heart dings a little. That’s what he does to me. I’ve been stupidly in love with the idiot for a few years, but the way I left things…I think my time on our show Flipping Texas is over. I just never thought I would walk away. I have threatened it a time or two, but that’s all they were. Threats. Now though, leaving the show is my only option.
I push those thoughts aside because my friends are setting out donuts from Sugar High Donuts and, thank the lord in Heaven, they have coffee.
“Okay, I won’t press charges.”
Becca smiles at me. “I told her that we should just come over later because you would probably be sleeping.”
“How did you know I was home?”
“Juniper Springs Express,” Everly says as she hands me a coffee. I take a sip and smile. She doctored it just right.
“I thought I was late enough to miss the Express biddies.”
The Juniper Springs Express is an app developed by my cousin Jon. It connects all the LOLs with everyone in town, so they can keep tabs on everything that’s going on. I love my hometown, but that shit irritates me. And since Jon doesn’t live here, that asshole doesn’t have to deal with it. He’s been living in California for years and got sick of all the texts from people in town asking for help, so this is what he came up with. Butthead.
“I’m going to go clean up.”
Both of them nod, and I make my way to my bathroom. God, this bathroom. I designed it, complete with the feel of an old farmhouse with the clawfoot tub, but there’s a modern touch with the white subway tiles, seamless shower, and the heated floors. Hey, it’s South Texas, but it still gets chilly and I’m a wimp.
After relieving myself, I look in the mirror. Jesus, why didn’t either of them tell me I looked like I went on a bender last night? I was so tired when I got home, I collapsed in bed, makeup and all. The only thing I did was get rid of my bra and put on an old shirt and shorts. My hair looks as if I spent the night with someone in my bed, and my mascara is smudged under my eyes. So, pretty.
I brush my teeth, tame my hair and throw it up in a ponytail, then wash my face. It’s an improvement but I still look like shit. The dark circles make my blue eyes look sad. I also look a little gaunt. I’ve dropped ten pounds in the last six weeks. Usually I gain weight when we’re filming because we tend to eat on the go. I use that excuse to eat all the Whataburger’s I can. This season had been different for a lot of reasons.
Not wanting to think about those reasons, I shove those thoughts aside once again and rejoin my friends in the kitchen.
“So, you’re done for the season?” Everly says, making herself at home at my kitchen table. A Travis Fillmore original, so of course it’s gorgeous. That man has a way with wood. Ugh. Why did I even think that? It’s weird. Nope not really. I think about that particular appendage quite often. Too often.
“Yeah,” I say, taking the seat beside her and eyeing her tank top. She loves shirts with sayings, and this is one of my favorites. It reads, ‘I have a vagina. What’s your superpower?’. “Maybe forever.”
Becca sits beside her best friend. “What do you mean? There’s no way they would cancel you.”
I sigh because I hate what I will probably do. I don’t want to, but emotionally, I don’t think I can stand being around Travis anymore. It isn’t good for me.
“I’m thinking of leaving the show.”
There is a long beat of silence as the two friends share a look, then they turn to me.
“Because of Travis?” Everly asks.
I nod. “He’s made it impossible to work together. You know the banter that we have going on in front of the camera…well, he took it to another level this season. At least, off camera. There were times I couldn’t stand to look at him. Amarillo was the worst, and I just can’t anymore. I don’t think it’s good for me.”
I blink when I realize how much I just said. I knew I was probably going to leave, but I didn’t realize how much I was hurting until right now. It just poured out of me, the pressure in my chest somewhat less than it had been while I held it all in. I’ve never been good at controlling my emotions like that. Truth is, I’m amazed I didn’t end up with an ulcer by now.
“What happened?” Becca asks.
I sigh because I don’t really want to spill secrets, but I can trust these girls. I can’t say that about a lot of people in my life. Juniper Springs is the typical small town. Everyone is under a microscope. Add in that my family is one of the richest in Texas, there is always gossip about us. But Everly and Becca are good people.
“Things got bad. Constant bickering. He would pick fights over every little thing. Then Travis tried to bring one of his hoes into the business and I lost it. He wanted me to take design direction from this idiot he was banging. And the producer was insane. He tried to foster hatred between the two of us.” And that irritated me the most. I knew what he was doing but I was helpless to stop it. “I just…I don’t think it would be good for me.”
Another beat of silence, but Everly nods. “You’ve got to put yourself first in those kinds of situations. If he doesn’t understand that, he can fuck right off.”
Becca throws her friend a look. “Travis is our friend too.”
“Yeah, but both you and I know that guys—even those we like or love—can be obtuse to what women go through in the industry.”
Everly and Becca own Nerdvana, a bookstore that specializes in comics, manga, and other graphic books. I know as women in that particular industry, it hasn’t been easy. Some of their stories about how men treat them at cons make me wonder why they do what they do.
Becca nods, then turns her blue-green gaze to me. “True. And, Everly is right. Your mental health is more important.”
“Plus, I have a lot on my plate. My design deal with Target is a go, so I have to work on all those designs. I might take a year or two off from doing anything but design.”
“What about the office you and Travis were getting set up here? What’s going to happen with that?”
“Travis will still have it. It’s really important to him.”
To both of us. Inwardly, I sigh. After this season, that doesn’t matter anymore. My heart is breaking over more than just romantic feelings. We both wanted to start that business and bring jobs to the area. Juniper can drive us both crazy, but we love this weird little town. It has a lot of tourist traffic, but it can be seasonal. An office to support our show and joint enterprises would not only bring a few jobs but also regular revenue to the area.
“So, tell me what’s been going on here,” I say, and both of them pick up on the fact I don’t want to talk about Travis anymore.
“Well, Gentry McCallister is marrying that sweet little Lisa girl,” Everly says.
“Are they old enough to marry?”
Everly rolls her eyes. “There should be a law to keep people from doing stupid things when they’re eighteen.”
“Let’s be honest that we do stupid things all the time,” Becca says. “I have no problem admitting to that.”
“You never do anything stupid,” Everly says defending her best friend. Right now, I miss my bestie Syd. I need her to help me lick my wounds, but I don’t feel right doing that. Her new job at the network makes that hard to do. The fact that she’s Travis’ sister makes it even harder. She might have an idea that I’m infatuated with her brother, but we’ve never really talked about it.
“We are almost thirty years old and we broke into Nancy’s house.”
“She would never have us arrested—not with fresh coffee and donuts.”
Before I can add to the conversation, my phone buzzes and my agent’s face shows up on the screen. I don’t want to do this, but I don’t feel I have any other choice now.
“Give me a second,” I say, picking up my phone and walking to the bedroom.
“Seriously, Nancy? ‘Hey’ is all you have to say for yourself?”
I sigh. Jesus, there is a lot of sighing this morning. I guess that’s what happens when a dream dies. Oh, for fuck’s sake. I’m definitely going all emo all of a sudden.
“Sorry, Marty. I know the whole…issue wasn’t good.”
“Well, one thing that comes from that is it looks like Garrett Howard is out.”
I blink. “Really?” Our producer this season was a complete pain in the ass, trying to pit Travis and me against each other. I didn’t think they would fire him though. He’s considered one of the best in reality shows of all sorts. He worked on shows like ours and won a few Emmys over the last decade.
“Yeah, he’s out with the network. He’s probably going to cry foul, but this isn’t the first time he was fired for the kind of crap he pulled on you and Travis.”
Garrett Howard is considered one of the best director/producers for reality shows. It was seen as a big deal when he was hired to handle our show. Because of that, I kept most of my concerns to myself. I know I probably should have said something, I didn’t know if it was just the situation with Travis. By the end of the season, I didn’t care anymore.
“I’m actually calling about your contract with At Home. They need an answer.”
The At Home Network airs our show, and they have been trying to get me to sign on for another year. I know I should just take a few days, let the dust settle, but I can’t. Doing that puts me at the bottom of my personal list, and one thing I promised myself on the long drive from Amarillo to Juniper Springs (which felt like three days) is that I had to make myself a priority. No one else would if I didn’t do it for myself. I learned that lesson early in life. Okay, that’s wrong. Syd always makes me a priority. But right now, I need to put myself first. The only way I can survive this emotionally is to walk away.
“I think it’s best if I don’t go back.” The words rip a hole in my heart, the pain filtering out to the rest of my body. Flipping Texas was actually my idea and I went to Travis with the idea. We had worked on a few projects together and, with our back and forth arguing, I knew we would be good on TV together. It’s like giving up a limb. I don’t really know how to go on from here and I hate it. Still, I know I would despise myself if I stayed on. It can’t get better, not with what went on this season.
“Okay, I hate that you are going to leave the show, but it opens up a few other options for you. Guest spots on various shows and, well, I think we need to start thinking about your own show about designing.”
There’s a tickle in the back of my throat, and I have to clear my throat before speaking. It will be official in a matter of about an hour, and I will be out there on my own. Without Travis.
“Compile all the ideas and email them to me. I’m going to take time off, step off the grid, and think about things.”
“Check in every ten days,” Marty says.
“I will. Thanks, Marty.”
“Anything for you, Nancy.”
We hang up and I stand there for a long moment. I thought I would feel relief, but instead, my stomach is in knots. I want to cry. Sit down on the floor and have a good cry. That’s what you do when a dream dies, right? If my heart felt broken before, I now feel as if someone reached in my chest and ripped it out. With each breath I take, the grief grows. God, it shouldn’t be this hard.
“If you don’t get your ass out here, I’m gonna eat your donut,” Everly calls out.
I close my eyes and draw in a deep breath trying to steady my nerves. I open my eyes and after a second or two, I feel centered enough to rejoin them in the kitchen.
“What was that about?” Everly asks.
“Everly,” Becca admonishes again. “If she took the call in private it means she wants privacy.”
“What? She left this yummy breakfast she requested.”
I shake my head. “I don’t think I requested it.”
Becca points at me in affirmation as she nods.
“She spoke to me in my dreams,” Everly insists, her hazel eyes dancing with humor.
“So, are you saying that you dream about me?” I ask, sitting down and grabbing up my donut. “I had no idea you went that way.”
Everly laughs. “Who knows what I like?”
“Maybe the mystery dude in Denver?” Becca asks sweetly. See, people think she’s not too smart, and she definitely doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, but she knows how to stick it to her bestie.
“I’m not talking about him.” Her face flushes. “Mainly because he doesn’t exist.”
I blink. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Everly so flustered.
“Sure, keep telling yourself that.” Becca is smiling like she knows all the secrets and, knowing Becca, she probably does. It’s always the quiet, sweet ones you have to look out for.
“So, tell us what you have planned for your new designs.” I know Everly is trying to change the subject, so I let her have it. Because, if I am honest with myself, and I am about fifty percent of the time, I want to avoid the subject of men altogether.
And with that thought, I launch into my thoughts and my objectives, all the while ignoring the nagging feeling in my gut. I’ll get over this with a lot of time, sugar, and alcohol—not necessarily in that order.
End of Excerpt
Love to Hate You
I loved the characters, the dialogue, and the drama.
This story was fantastic! The characters had such depth and development that I didn’t want this story to end.