Wed
May 17 2017 11:01am

Christina Lauren Excerpt: Dating You / Hating You

Christina Lauren

Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren

Everyone knows that all’s fair in love and war. But these two will learn that sabotage is a dish best served naked.
Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.
But when their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals—so why can’t they act like it?
Can Carter stop trying to please everyone and see how their mutual boss is really playing the game? Can Evie put aside her competitive nature long enough to figure out what she really wants in life? Can their actor clients just be something close to human? Whether these two Hollywood love/hatebirds get the storybook Hollywood ending, or just a dramedy of epic proportions, you get to enjoy Christina Lauren’s heartfelt, hilarious story of romance in the modern world.

Get a sneak peek at Christina Lauren's Dating You / Hating You (available June 6, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Get caught up and read Chapter 1, here!

Chapter Two
Carter

Michael Christopher finds me Saturday morning, paper open on the table, coffeemaker sputtering quietly in the background.

“Glad you didn’t try to drive home.” His voice is broken-glass scratchy, and when I look up, I grin at the sight of him in a blue velvet bathrobe hanging haphazardly open over a faded T-shirt and a pair of striped boxers. Atop his head, his hair reaches a campfire peak.

“Morning, Mr. Hefner.”

He swears roundly when his foot locates a handful of Legos buried in the fluffy kitchen rug.

“Language.” I’ve heard Stephanie give him this understated reminder at least a dozen times.

Michael growls, bending to inspect the damage. “You don’t know pain until you’ve had one of these fuckers embedded into the arch of your foot.” Satisfied he isn’t bleeding, he hobbles the rest of the way to the cupboard, pulls down a white ceramic coffee mug with Morgan’s tiny handprints stamped on the side, and pours himself some coffee. “Why are you always up so early?”

“I don’t know. My internal clock refuses to give up being a New Yorker.”

“Your internal clock is an idiot.”

“I know.” I laugh. “Nice robe, by the way.”

He pours cream into his mug and slips the carton back into the refrigerator. The fridge in the apartment we shared in college was covered in pizza coupons and phone numbers; this one has a giant drawing of Big Bird and reminders about play dates.

Michael drops into the seat across from me and takes a sip of his coffee. “It was a gift from Steph for Father’s Day.”

“Well, congratulations. You’re officially your dad.”

Leaning over the table, Michael inhales the steam rising from his coffee. “I can’t do smartass yet, Carter. My head is killing me and I’m still trying to figure out why I was wearing Steph’s underwear when I woke up.”

“Nope. No. No.” I shake my head, hoping to dislodge this particular mental image before it burns itself into my brain.

Standing, I head for the ibuprofen I know is kept in the cupboard next to the sink—the medicine cabinet, they call it. It’s filled with prescriptions and Band-Aids and every over-the- counter medication you could ever need. There’s a bottle of iodine in there, for God’s sake.

Adults have iodine. My mom has iodine. I’m twenty-eight years old and couldn’t tell you with absolute certainty what a bot- tle of iodine is even for.

It’s at these moments that I see the stark contrast between our lives. Michael and Steph have a three-bedroom house on a quiet residential street. They have a mailbox with Evans whimsically hand-painted across the side, and a growth chart on the back of a closet door. They have a kid. I have a small one-bedroom apartment and a cactus I’m proud to have kept alive for six months.

When did he move past me on the Adult Achievement Scale?

Maybe it was getting married or braving the real estate adventure that did it, or maybe it was becoming a dad. Either way, I could never ask, because as responsible as he and Steph have become, they both still consider themselves barely out of adolescence, and any mention to the contrary would lead to their insisting we crash a kegger or find the nearest rave. And I, ironically, am definitely too old for that.

With three brown Advil and a glass of water in hand, I return to the table and set it all in front of him.

He mumbles his thanks and takes both the drugs and the glass, draining the water in one long drink. “I am rough this morning.”

“How are you surprised?” I sit back down. “You had Red Bull and three different types of marijuana products at your party. I haven’t seen booze and weed in the same place since senior year.”

He looks up, mildly offended. “It was a great party.”

“It was, but it was also a costume party in late September.”

“Halloween is a busy time for Morgan,” he explains. “There are play dates and costume parades and fall carnivals to contend with. That kid is busier than I am. Steph and I had to move our party up.”

I go quiet, hoping the echo of his words sinks in a bit, but he still seems to be falling in love with his coffee.

Finally, I break: “I think the female wearing the most actual clothing was your wife dressed as Miley Cyrus.”

Michael Christopher gets a tiny glint in his eye. “I don’t know about that. Evie seemed to be showing about as much skin as you were. You adorable Hogwartsers, you.”

Here we go.

I bend, taking another sip of my coffee.

In my peripheral vision, I see him try to pull off a casual shrug. “Steph thought you guys might hit it off.”

“I’m taking at least five of your remaining cool points for letting your wife set me up with someone.”

“You didn’t seem to mind last night.”

I set down my cup and do my best to ignore the small surge in my pulse. It’s true that I had more chemistry with Evie in the three hours we were together than I’d had with all my dates in the past year combined.

“I didn’t mind, really,” I tell him. “She’s hot, she’s funny, and that laugh? Amazing.”

He pauses, and I feel him lean in a little across the table. “I’m about to do that thing where I get excited at the prospect of you hooking up with someone we know and us hanging out together as couples. I need a cool couple to hang out with, Carter. Every- one here wants to talk about how going gluten-free has changed their life, or how much they’ve put into their particular SEP IRA.”

“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. I like her enough, but . . . come on.” I lean my elbows on the table. “You live with Steph, you see the hours she works. Imagine Steph dating Steph. No way. It’d be a nightmare and we’d end up hating each other.”

“Why does logic always have to crush all my dreams?” He takes a moment to look behind him to the open doorway before quietly adding, “Never tell my wife I suggested this, but you could just hook up? Have a little fun, see where it goes?”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea. We traded numbers, at least.” I stand to put my cup in the sink. “She was fun to talk to and the connection might come in handy at some point if I can move into features.”

“This could still work out for me if one of you got fired,” he says with a grin.

“Not exactly where I was going with that, but I like your twisted brand of optimism.”

We look up at the same time at the sound of bass thumping and a car driving too fast down the quiet, sleeping street.

Michael stands and stares out the window overlooking the driveway. “Didn’t you tell me Jonah drives a black Range Rover?”

“Jonah? As in my brother Jonah?” I ask, moving to join him.

Sure enough, we watch as a shiny black Range Rover makes a skidding turn into Michael Christopher’s narrow driveway. The engine abruptly cuts off and the sudden silence makes my ears ring.

I’m already dreading this confrontation. I haven’t seen or spoken to my younger brother in months. I have no idea what he’s doing here now. We watch as the driver-side door opens and a pair of denim-clad legs emerge.

“Well, he looks . . . different,” Michael says, brows raised. “You haven’t seen him since he was eighteen; of course he looks different.” I push off the counter and head toward the front door.

In fact, most people we grew up with haven’t seen Jonah since he left home right after graduation. He was the artsy kid, the one with the camera around his neck who took photos of power lines and brick walls and depressing candid shots of people who seemed incapable of smiling. It was one of these photos that won him a scholarship to some elite arts academy senior year, but while everyone else was making plans for college, Jonah took his camera and a duffel bag and moved to LA. Just like that. Once here, he got the right guy high at a party and was hired on the spot for a black-and-white candid shoot of one of rock and roll’s biggest guitar legends. The musician died tragically only days later, and overnight Jonah went from starving artist to the cover photographer for a record-selling issue of Rolling Stone and the “it” boy, with more jobs and women and money than he knew what to do with.

My mom never stops talking about him.

It’s strange to be the older brother and still feel like the one who’s so far behind.

“I’m talking about the tattoos and the earrings,” Michael is saying, following me down the hall. “He looks like the purposefully ‘cool guy’ from a boy band.”

I fling open the front door just as Jonah begins stomping up the front steps. “Do you have any idea what time it is?” I whisper-yell, stepping out onto the porch and inwardly cringing because I sound exactly like our mother.

Jonah drops a cigarette onto Michael’s porch, stubs it out with the pointy toe of a boot, and then has the nerve to seem confused. “Huh?”

“Steph and Morgan are in bed,” I explain slowly. “It’s Saturday morning in a quiet neighborhood.” I take in his jeans and T-shirt, the black leather jacket and days’ worth of stubble. “Most people are still in bed and you come tearing down the street like you’ve got your own personal house party going on in that thing.”

“Okay, Dad.” He shoulders past me into the house, giving Michael Christopher the once-over before laughing, a little unkindly. “So this is what married with kids looks like? Rugged.”

Michael opens his mouth to reply before the insult seems to register and he gives Jonah a what the fuck face. Unfortunately, Jonah misses it because he’s already moving past him toward the kitchen.

“Nice place.”

I follow my brother and watch as he pours himself a cup of coffee. “Help yourself, Jones.”

He turns, leaning back against the counter and lifting his cup to his lips. “Mom sent me about two hundred texts asking if I knew where you were.” He sips, swallowing loudly. “Guess she doesn’t know we’ve only seen each other once since you moved here.”

“You’ve been home one time in four years,” I remind him. “So spare me the family bonding lecture.”

“Yes, I’m busy, but I’d make time for my family. Thank God Mom sent me this address or who knows how long before I found out you’re basically homeless and sleeping on your college roommate’s couch.”

“Actually, we have a guest room,” Michael Christopher offers unhelpfully.

“I’m not homeless, dumbass,” I tell Jonah. “I just crashed here last night.”

Michael claps us both on the shoulders with an awkward laugh. “Moving on: How’s work, Jones? I saw that blurb about you in People last year. Fucking People. Amazing, man.”

My brother pulls out a chair, turns it around, and straddles it. Like an asshole. “It was okay,” he says. “Now Vogue . . . that was badass.”

I study him for a few seconds. “Jones, you look like you haven’t showered in a week.”

He grins over the top of his mug. “Fucking crazy night.” Michael Christopher spins his own chair around and straddles it, just like Jonah. “We had a pretty crazy night ourselves, didn’t we, Carter?”

“It was . . . pretty crazy,” I agree, heavy on the sarcasm. They might have had Red Bull and pot, but there was also a sangria bar, a tampon bouquet in the bathroom, and a pumping room cordoned off for nursing mothers.

“Yeah, this place was off the hook,” Michael says, undeterred. “Went pretty late, too. Well . . . I mean, it was over by eleven because Morgan gets cranky if she doesn’t get enough sleep and a lot of the people here had sitters they had to get home to. But until then? In-sane.”

Jonah nods like he can relate, and to his credit he doesn’t give Michael a hard time.

“Carter even hit it off with someone,” Michael says. I groan as soon as the words are out of his mouth.

“A girl?” Jonah grins.

I scowl at him. “A woman, yeah.”

Jonah laughs into his coffee. “Sorry,” he says. “I mean woman.”

I give Michael a look that I hope is terrifying.

“What’s her name, MC?” Jonah asks. “Do I know her?”

“No,” I interject. Who knows if I’m right, but it’s a desperate wish tossed out to the universe.

“Evie,” MC says eagerly. “She’s hot, smart, great body. She used to work with Steph over at Alter—”

I cut him off. “Michael. Zip it.”

Jonah claps his hands together and I startle. “Man, Mom is going to love this.”

“Don’t talk to Mom about my dating life, and I won’t mention to her the rotating buffet of barely-legals in your bed.”

He counters my low blow with an even lower one. “You’re right. I wouldn’t want to get her hopes up. You remember how hard she took it when you screwed things up with Gwen.”

I think I hear Michael Christopher wince from across the room.

“Oh my God,” I groan, cupping my forehead.

Gwen Talbot was the first girl I fell in love with, and my mom adored her. Where most mothers might try to convince their twenty-four-year-old son he was too young to get serious, let alone engaged, I could practically see Mom naming her grandchildren whenever I brought Gwen home. But Gwen and I were never on the same page. She wanted a quiet life in Long Island with a house and kids. I was working for an agent and living in a crappy apartment in the city so I could go to every show and meet every influential person in theater. The pay was terrible and the hours were even worse, and we ended our engagement after a year. I don’t think Mom has recovered.

Jonah loves to push this particular bruise and looks pleased as he sits there and continues to drink his coffee. I work on remembering why it’d be a bad idea to punch him in the throat. Jonah with his Range Rover and money and dragon tattoos. Jonah is an asshole.

“Gwen was a whore,” MC finally says, breaking the loaded silence. “And I don’t mean that in a loose-with-her-sexual-morals sort of way, because I totally approve of that and girls should be able to have sex with whomever they want and not be judged. Just, the way she acted when you guys ended things. What a dick.”

I nod in thanks to Michael, because yeah, Gwen was a dick, and then I turn back to my brother. “Just keep your mouth closed. Seriously, why are you here?”

“Mom called a bunch of times and said you weren’t answering your phone. Then she said to check in with MC because if you were dead in a ditch somewhere he’d probably know where.”

“I . . . wait, what?” MC says, looking insulted.

Jonah drains his mug and stands, letting his chair slide noisily against the floor. He leaves both the cup and the chair where they are. “And since you’re not, I can go. Later, big brother.”

And like that he’s gone.

• • •

As if she’s been camped in the hall plotting an ambush, my assistant sees me the minute I step out of the elevator on Monday morning.

“You’re here!” she chirps.

“Becca, what are you doing? It’s barely eight a.m.” Undeterred, she starts toward my office, notebook in hand, and unless I plan on turning back into the elevator—which isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever had—there’s really no choice but to follow. “I wanted to make sure I caught you before anyone else did,” she says over her shoulder. “One of Blake’s clients has been asking about you.”

“Who?”

“Pretty One with Biceps.”

Becca rarely calls anyone by their given name. In TV-Literary, we represent an assortment of writers and creators, but very few actors. Most of those land in features. Emil Shepard is one of ours, however, and it takes a moment for me to process what she’s said. If Emil wants to move from Blake’s client list to mine, that would make him the third in the last two months alone, and my first big actor.

Understatement: Blake isn’t going to be happy about this. “Emil was asking about me?”

“He called three times over the weekend,” she says, tugging on my arm to get me moving again.

“Does Blake know?”

Becca tears off a piece of paper covered in lines of almost indecipherable cursive and hands it to me. “I haven’t heard any tables being flipped, so I’m assuming the answer is no. You need to call Emil this morning if you’re interested, before anyone else catches wind of it. You know what a nightmare that kind of thing can be, and if Emil’s moving, he’s moving. You’re not poaching.”

Her reassurance is nice, but it’s still a messy situation. I want to eventually move into features, but taking talent from colleagues isn’t the ideal way to get there. I can’t even think about what this could mean.

Becca rattles off my schedule: meetings at nine and nine thirty, another at ten over Skype, a staff meeting immediately after, and a possible new author over lunch. I’d always thought that if I had a type, Becca would be it. She’s smart and sarcastic, with red hair and blue eyes and a body that’s on the curvy side. We met by chance in a coffee shop one day right after I moved here, and I’d liked her immediately. In fact, I’d liked her so much I was about to ask her out when she exclaimed she was about to be late for a job interview. That interview, it turned out, was with me. I’m thankful every day that she glanced down at her watch before I asked her to dinner.

But despite our less-than-conventional beginning, things have never been weird between the two of us, or anything other than professional. Becca is amazing at her job, and in reality knows more about what goes on here than any of the partners do. Which also means she’d make a fantastic agent in her own right; she swears she doesn’t have the particular muscle for it, though.

We’ve reached my office by the time she gets to the bottom of her very long list. “Carter?” she asks, noting that my attention has strayed to a spot in the distance. “Did you get all that?”

I glance back down and scan the paper in my hand, point-edly not looking at the piles of mail and various Call me when you’re in! Post-its stuck to my computer monitor. “Most of it, I think,” I tell her. “But it’s possible I haven’t had enough caffeine and I’m not functioning on all four cylinders yet. Give me an hour and check in again.”

“I don’t know what you did to deserve me,” she says, stepping around my desk and lifting a steaming paper cup from just beside my keyboard.

“You are a goddess.” The smell alone sets off some Pavlovian response and I already feel more alert. “I didn’t leave myself enough time to grab another on my way in. I’m buying you lunch today.”

She points to the twelve o’clock on my paper. “No, you’ll be buying Alan Porter lunch. Possible new client. Remember?”

My posture slumps. “Right.”

She grips me by the shoulders and leads me to my desk. “Today is packed, but you might as well get it over with.” I drop into my chair and watch as she walks to the window and yanks open the blinds. “Happy Monday.”

***

If audiobooks are more your speed, listen to this excerpt of Chapter 2 from Christina Lauren's Dating You/Hating You, as read by Deacon Lee, now available for pre-order at Audible:


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Excerpted from DATING YOU / HATING YOU by Christina Lauren.  Copyright © 2017 by Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings.  Reprinted with permission from Gallery Books.  All rights reserved.

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Learn more about or order a copy of Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren, available June 6, 2017:

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Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of longtime writing partners/besties/soulmates and brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, the New York Times, USA TODAY, and #1 international bestselling authors of the Beautiful and Wild Seasons series, Sublime, The House, and Autoboyography.

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