The Boyfriend Collector book 2 EXCERPT

Chapter One


I am a man. A strong man. But that doesn’t mean I lack feelings. For example, right now I’m listening to Mrs. Putnam whine about her cats, and I promise you I’m feeling all sorts of things. Jesus, woman. If you wanted a pet that comes when you call it, you should’ve gotten a trained monkey or a damned dog. Not that Sophie, my golden retriever, does anything I ask, but I’m not the one showing up to this couch, week after week, complaining about how brokenhearted I am because my pet doesn’t love me.

I should tell Mrs. Putnam that those are the fucking breaks. I should point out that she’s an idiot for loving anything or anyone in the first place, because she’ll only end up getting her heart pureed. I believe in honesty, so I might say those things if it weren’t for the fact that my anger has nothing to do with Mrs. Putnam.

Rose. Fucking Rose. It’s been less than twenty-four hours since I spotted her from across the street, kissing some other man. I intended to propose to her. Had the ring in my goddamned hand and everything. Sure, I was the one who rejected Rose to begin with and told her that she needed time to heal and find herself because after everything she’s been through—her cruel grandparents raising her as a servant, lying to her about her inheritance, squandering away millions of Rose’s fortune, and then trying to have Rose killed—I’d wanted the dust to settle before opening this new chapter of intimacy with her. I wanted what was best for Rose.

That’s where I went wrong.

Despite the obstacles in her life, Rose has been taking care of herself since she could walk. So while yes, I am a licensed therapist with a PhD in neuroscience, who the hell am I to second-guess her? She is unlike any woman I’ve ever met, and I pulled the “Here, baby, let me take care of you” protector card instead of saying yes when she offered her heart.
“Dr. Hughes? Dr. Hughes! Are you even listening?” Mrs. Putnam’s shrill voice scratches at my eardrums.

Her sour face and puckered lips come into focus. “Yeah,” I say bluntly, “I hear you. And if you want my advice? Stop paying me two hundred dollars an hour to cry about Mr. Buttons. Call your son, tell him you’re an asshole for shutting him out of your life when he decided to be an artist instead of a lawyer, and then invite him to lunch next week.” I shrug unapologetically. “But if you really want to keep coming here, I’ll take your money. I simply don’t see the point.”

Her pale, wrinkly face shrivels into a tight little ball, reminding me of those apple dolls my aunts Eugenia and Virginia have in their living room.
“And you call yourself a therapist?” she seethes. “Your father never would have spoken to a patient like that!”

My father, the late Murdoc Hughes, was a philandering hypocrite who broke my mother’s heart and didn’t believe in treating patients. He blew smoke signals of encouragement up their asses for three hundred bucks an hour. Each week, they’d come back for more, like junkies looking for a self-esteem fix, but they never got better.

I clear my throat. “Yes, well, my father didn’t speak to his patients like adults. I do. And adults have frank, difficult discussions.” I lean forward in my leather armchair, lacing my fingers together. “You’re not a bad woman, Mrs. Putnam. Your cat doesn’t hate you. But clearly you messed up with your son and you miss him. Now it’s up to you to fix it while you still can.” I lean back. “But like I said, feel free to keep writing those checks. Just know that it won’t change your life.”

She stares with her pale face, and I see the conflict bubbling in her gray eyes. “Well, I-I…” She rises to her feet. “I’ll see you next week, then.”
She marches out of my office located in the trendy Buckhead district of Atlanta, Georgia. I’m on the second floor of this renovated brick warehouse occupied by several boutiques and a coffee shop on the first floor. Upstairs, it’s all offices. I wish I could move to a swamp surrounded by gators. Maybe then, only people who truly take therapy seriously would come.

I release a frustrated breath and run a hand through my hair. Fuck, I need a trim. I never used to leave it so long—hate the way it curls up on my neck and falls over my eyes—but haircuts have been the least of my worries. Rose is the only thing I can think about. I don’t care anymore that she was my patient. She never wanted therapy anyway. She just needed an alibi, a place she could tell her grandparents she was while hatching her escape plan, i.e., looking for a husband on their secret list of suitable candidates. All part of claiming her inheritance. I agreed to lie for her while she went on dates, in exchange for her actually coming to a few sessions. I told myself it was because I wanted to help. Really, I think I just wanted her. Like a selfish bastard.

“Dr. Hughes? Should I send in the next patient?” My office assistant, Hailey, pops through the open door. She’s a brunette with a warm smile that reminds me a bit of Rose, though Rose is blonde and has wide brown eyes that sparkle with determination. Rose is also a little on the thin side—the result of being overworked and neglected by her grandparents—but nothing like when we first met. It infuriated me when I heard her story. I wanted to rescue her then, and I still do now, which is also part of the problem. That’s not what Rose needs.

I blink my way out of my bitter daze. I have to do something to make things right.

“No,” I finally say to Hailey. “Call my patients and reschedule them for next week.” I stand, go to my desk, and grab my keys and wallet, cursing what I’m about to do.

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