The Upper Crush – Chapter Eleven

Welcome to the Upper Crusha laugh-out-loud, enemies-to-lovers, steamy, standalone, small town romantic comedy with a fiery country girl giving a cocky city boy a run for his money. No cheating or cliffhanger, but snort-laughs, swoons and a deliciously happy ending guaranteed in this sparkling and sizzling romcom!

As a newsletter subscriber you have exclusive access to the first FIFTEEN chapters of my upcoming release! Please note, even though this novel is finished, edited and ready for my ARC readers, you may still find some small errors or typos, which you are very welcome to let me know about.

Enjoy!

Evie xxx

The Blurb:

Lady Estelle Foxbrooke is done cleaning up the mess left by her wild parents. She’s got a plan: take the reins and save the family estate her way. But then she’s saddled with a business partner she’s hated all her life. He’s her twin brother’s worst enemy and looms in her path like a six-foot-four hurdle.

After a catastrophic business failure, rich and successful James Hunter-Savage has watched his dream life in London crash and burn. Forced to ditch the city for the Somerset countryside, he’s now living with his parents and expected to work with the infuriatingly attractive Estelle. She’s sharper than a whip, pushes all his buttons, and seems determined to break him.

As Estelle and James jockey for position, their explosive personalities combust into passion, sending Estelle’s plans to the edge of ruin. With James’s flimsy reputation in tatters, and the biggest event on the Foxbrooke calendar on the brink of collapse, will they realise their love is worth fighting for? Or are their hearts and hard work heading for the ultimate fall?

Chapter Eleven:

‘Hey, hey, it’s alright. Just tell me what’s going on so I can sort it,’ James said into his phone as he strode towards the door to the main house.

Max stuck his head into the corridor. ‘Boss-man!’

James held up his hand, his fingers splayed to indicate he needed five minutes, and continued on.

‘Hang on, let me find somewhere quiet,’ he said into the phone.

The door to the main house was unlocked.

Fuck’s sake. Was it his mum? Elyse?

Taking the stairs two at a time, he made his way to his room. There were women’s clothes on the bed.

‘Char, don’t go anywhere,’ he said into the phone before pressing it into his chest and calling out, ‘Elyse?’

Elyse wandered out of his bathroom, her hair in a turban and a tiny towel barely covering her modesty. ‘Hi, I thought you were done.’

‘What are you doing here?’

She shrugged. ‘Your shower’s better than mine.’

‘You can’t use it.’

‘Why not?’

‘I need to take this call.’

‘Don’t mind me.’

James stalked out, slamming the door behind him. Was there nowhere to hide from Elyse? He knocked on his parents’ bedroom door.

No reply. 

Going in, he sat on the bed and lifted the phone back to his ear.

‘Sorry about that, Char. Go on.’

As she relayed the details of her drama, his head sank lower. If a bucket of confidence had been shared between the Hunter-Savage siblings, he got most of it and his sister had been left with the dregs at the bottom. James believed she was settled and happy, but now it appeared everything had fallen apart.

‘So I’m going to come home for a bit,’ she finally finished.

‘What, here?’

‘Where else can I go?’

Shit. The last thing he wanted was her living in the same house as Elyse. And no matter how much he loved his sister, he didn’t want Estelle meeting her, either. He wanted to keep his business and personal life separate, and his family firmly away from the Foxbrookes. If only he had access to his London flat, Char could have moved in there. But his tenant had signed a year’s lease, and James needed the money.

‘Have you spoken to Mum?’

‘No, I wanted to speak to you first.’

He rubbed his forehead. ‘Whatever you need, you know I’m here for you.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Promise you’ll ring Mum?’

He could hear her sniffing back tears.

‘Char?’

‘I’ll ring her now.’

James thundered down the stairs and into his father’s office.

‘Elyse has got to go.’

His dad glanced up from the computer screen, his dinosaur poppet toy in one hand. ‘What you talking about?’

‘She can’t live here. She’s currently upstairs, using my bathroom.’

Kevin shrugged. ‘So what? You’ve got the best shower.’

‘Dad! This is a family home. Elyse is an employee. She needs her own place.’

‘Jamesy-boy, I need her around.’ He tapped his head. ‘This never sleeps. If I’ve got an idea, she’s got to be on hand to write it down.’

‘Why can’t you do it? If you don’t want to write, just type it out.’

‘Nah, she’s quicker. When I’m riding my seam of conscience, I need her holding the steering wheel.’

‘It’s a stream of consciousness, Dad,’ James spat. ‘And I can’t live with her. She has to leave.’

His father dropped his poppet and picked up a fidget spinner. ‘Not going to happen. This is my manor, not yours.’

‘I don’t give a shit. Thanks to you, I don’t have a job or a home. I’m stuck here saving your arse and the very least you can do is keep your staff out of my personal space.’

His dad sighed, his gaze on the spinner as it whirled on the end of his thumb. ‘I’ll speak to her.’

‘No, Dad. You’re going to tell her to get her own place. Today. Anyway, Char just rang—’

‘Don’t call her that.’

Things have gone tits up with Marcus, so she’s coming to live here for a bit.’

‘What?’

‘She needs Elyse’s room.’

He shook his head. ‘There’s more than enough space here for everyone.’ Dropping the spinner, he picked the poppet back up. ‘Does your mum know?’

‘She’s talking to her now.’

‘Okay, good. Good.’ Kevin stared off into the middle distance, the only sound in the room the rhythmic pop-pop-pop as he played with his toy.

‘Dad—’

‘I know what you need,’ his father interrupted, leaping to his feet and going to a pile of boxes. ‘These arrived yesterday and I forgot to show them to you.’ Opening the top of one, he pulled out a folded white t-shirt and threw it at his son. ‘This’ll cheer you up.’

James opened it out, coming face-to-face with an aubergine emoji being struck by lightning.

‘Got a great deal on them. Thought we could give them to punters at the festival.’

James stared at the ridiculous logo, printed on cotton so cheap and thin he could practically see through it.

‘Why couldn’t you have spent the money on something useful?’ he growled. ‘Like a budget for decent staff?’

‘You’ll make it work, son.’ Kevin rummaged in the box and pulled out another couple of t-shirts. ‘Give these to Lady Foxbrooke and that Max bloke. They’ll love them.’

‘No, they—’

‘Morning Kev!’ trilled Elyse as she entered the room. ‘Ooh, aren’t the t-shirts great, James?’

He threw the one in his hand back at his dad, gave him a pointed look and left the room, slamming the door like a petulant teenager.

‘Boss-man!’ Max called out as James locked the door to the main house behind him.

James nodded in reply as he strode up the corridor.

The corners of Max’s mouth turned down, his eyebrows drew together, and his head dropped to the side in a pastiche of concern. ‘Everything okay, buddy?’

‘Fine. What’s up?’

‘I’ve got the shortlist of candidates for you.’

The Spice Girls started playing from his office at the end of the corridor.

‘Good. Let’s go through them now.’

Following Max into the room, James took a seat at an empty desk and a pile of CVs were placed in front of him. These were for the key positions, the people who would report directly to him and Estelle, and oversee areas of the festival, from stages to logistics. At least half of them should have come with the company when his father bought it, so now James was starting from scratch.

His mood was already soured by Elyse and his father, plus his sister’s situation, so it didn’t take much to tip him over the edge. 

‘What the fuck is this?’ he asked, dropping the papers to the desk.

‘The candidates?’

James lifted one and read aloud. ‘I organised the school prom.’ He picked up another. ‘Ran the welly-wanging stall at the village fête. Is this a joke?’ He leafed through the CVs again. ‘And why have they all got photos attached? I don’t give a rat’s arse what they look like.’

‘This is what people do nowadays.’

‘It’s not a fucking beauty pageant. They’re all women with an average age of twenty-two. How did this happen?’

Max crossed his arms. ‘That’s ageist and sexist.’

‘No, it’s a statement of fact. And here’s another one for you. None of them are even remotely qualified for any position. How the hell did you decide this lot was the best fit for the job? Swiping right?’

‘The salaries you’re offering aren’t high enough.’

James was silent. He knew that was true, but it still didn’t explain why the candidates looked like a young man’s dating wishlist.

He stood. ‘Re-advertise. And all applications go through me.’ Picking up the pile of CVs, he dumped them into the recycling bin. There was no way Estelle could see it. She was already convinced he was a blonde-obsessed horn dog, and these résumés would only confirm those assumptions.

There was no sound when James entered the corridor, but the moment he closed the door behind him, ‘Spice Up Your Life’ started playing. He rolled his eyes. Despite being a member of the British upper-classes and ballsy as fuck, Estelle also had an innocence about her. Her pranks were childish and rather sweet. He tried to imagine her in a corporate setting in London and felt a sudden surge of protectiveness. She’d be eaten alive by women like Elyse; corporate queens who ate low-carb nails with semi-skimmed blood for breakfast.

He smiled to himself. Estelle would go ballistic if he ever described her as ‘sweet’. Would she shoot another arrow at him if he did? The prospect was far too tempting.

Pushing open their office door, he was confronted by three dogs—two actual ones, and one downward one as Estelle’s magnificent backside presented itself to him.

His dick immediately sprang to life and he dashed to his desk, Chester and Joy following.

‘Hi!’ Estelle called out. ‘Just doing a bit of yoga.’

‘Do you always do it to the Spice Girls?’

‘Usually, yeah. They’re very spiritual.’

‘They are?’

She stood, raising her arms to the ceiling. She’d swapped her baggy jeans and jumper for a light grey Lycra vest top and leggings, and the fabric stretched deliciously over her ample curves.

‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘“2 Become 1” is about dissolving duality in the search for union with the divine.’ 

Folding at the waist, she placed her hands on the mat by her feet. James’s mouth watered and his hands itched to pull her onto his rock-hard cock.

‘And “Mama” is about honouring Gaia, the personification of the earth.’ She jumped back into a plank, lowered to the floor, then pushed into another downward dog.

As if tuning into his raging sexual need, Chester and Joy attempted to shag him again.

‘Down,’ he growled.

‘What, me?’

‘No,’ he replied, shifting to get comfortable. ‘Your sexually incontinent dogs.’

She grinned at him from under her armpit. ‘Maybe they’re picking up on your unmet needs.’

You have no idea… Jamming his earbuds in, he selected a track of white noise, then opened up his laptop and went to an online store. If Estelle wanted to exercise in front of him, then two could play that game.

Chester barked, and he glanced up. Estelle was standing in front of him.

He pulled out an earbud. ‘Yes?’

‘What are you listening to?’

Changing the track, he routed it through the speakers of his laptop.

Her face lit up. ‘“The Imperial March” from Star Wars! I was right!’

‘It would appear so.’

He held her gaze.

She broke first, turning her attention to the fur Q, and running her fingers through the pink pile. ‘Have we had any CVs in?’

He turned off the music, leaving only the sound of the Spice Girls. ‘No.’

‘Oh.’ She frowned. ‘That’s not good. There’s already too much to do.’

His stomach knotted. Their workload was only a small part of the problem. The lack of money was a far bigger issue, and one she could never find out about.

‘Well, maybe yoga could wait till outside of work hours?’ he asked.

‘Why?’

‘So you’ve got more time to, I don’t know, do your job?’

‘It’s helping my creativity. And anyway, you do personal stuff as well.’

‘I do? What?’

‘Who’s Char?’

He tensed. He didn’t want to give Estelle anything, but at the same time a stupid part of him wanted her to know Char wasn’t a secret girlfriend.

‘Is she the woman whose lips your cheek crashed into last week?’

‘No.’

‘Oh, so another one then. Charlotte? Charlene? Charmaine? Charcuterie? Chargrilled Chicken?’

‘She’s my sister.’

Her eyebrows raised. ‘Oh.’

James dipped his head towards his laptop, starting programmes to give him something to do other than go through the can of worms he’d just opened up.

‘What’s she like? Is she nice?’

He ignored her.

‘What’s “Char” short for?’

His fingers tapped faster.

‘Is she older or younger than you?’

James felt like he was a closed window, and Estelle was a fly repeatedly bashing herself against him, hoping he would open up.

‘Can I see a picture? Does she live here?’

His frustration was mounting. ‘Don’t you have something you need to be doing?’

‘We’re bonding.’

James bit back a sigh. He’d stipulated Estelle had to work with him because he knew it would piss Henry off, and because he fancied her. But their relationship was never going to be anything more than colleagues, and he was never going to let her see the side of his life he’d so successfully hidden for the last twenty-five years.

‘Is she blonde?’

He snapped the lid of his laptop shut. ‘No. She’s not. And my personal life is none of your business.’ He stood. ‘I’m going to work with Max today.’ Grabbing his laptop, he strode to the door. Chester and Joy followed him. ‘Stay,’ he said to them, then left the office.

Chapter Twelve: Coming Next Week!!

The Upper Crush – Available for pre-order! Release date April 3rd 2024 if bought via Evie’s site. General release date April 17th 2024

The Upper Crush is a laugh-out-loud, enemies-to-lovers, steamy, standalone, smalltown romantic comedy with a fiery country girl giving a cocky city boy a run for his money. No cheating or cliffhanger, but snort-laughs, swoons and a deliciously happy ending guaranteed in this sparkling and sizzling romcom!