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There’s a fine line between love and hate. And these two can’t decide which side they’re really on. . . .
Poetry professor Naomi Price is loved by her students, happily works around the clock, and has credentials no one could deny. Except, it seems, for her arch-nemesis at Hainamor University. The man never has anything polite to say, and now the two of them are competing for a prestigious honor that just so happens to come with a cash award. With every move Naomi makes to impress her colleagues, her rival is right there beside her, elbow to elbow, making it impossible to ignore how devastatingly hot he is—even if he is a total bastard.
Sebastian Blake knows what Naomi thinks of him, and he’s trying hard not to care. Maybe he’s been grouchy with her in the past, but she isn’t making his life any easier with her crusade to win over the Personnel Committee and earn an honor that is rightfully his. Naomi just doesn’t quit, and though he’d never admit it, there’s something sexy about her. Something that has him tied up in knots. Something that makes him want to move beyond his painful past and take a chance—at least for as long as it takes to kiss her silly and see what happens next.
Warning: Intense bickering leads to intense sexual chemistry!
This ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
Praise for I Hate You, I Love You
“With smart, plucky heroines and the swoon-worthy men who fall for them, Elizabeth Hayley never disappoints!”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Meredith Wild
“Every time I open an Elizabeth Hayley book, it’s a moment of excitement. I know I’m going to get every important feel on my list—sighs, swoons, laughter, love—in a tale I won’t be able to put down. Smart, sexy, bold, and brilliant—Elizabeth Hayley brings it all to the page! I worship their mad storytelling skills!”—USA Today bestselling author Angel Payne
Under the Cover
An excerpt from I Hate You, I Love You
The sprawling campus of Hainamor University was a sight to behold as the first vestiges of fall appeared by means of brightly colored leaves and the crisp, clean air that always compelled Naomi to inhale more deeply. Vermont had been a revelation for her. The Prices had a long history of not traveling above the Mason-Dixon line, but here she was, teaching English Literature—with a focus on poetry—in a small town that seemed pulled from the storybooks she’d read as a child.
As much as she liked to wander around the town, which was always bustling with activity, she especially loved being on campus. Students stretched out under trees in the quad, the tall Gothic-inspired buildings that gave the impression of being on the grounds of a castle, the paths that wound through vibrant green grass—it was idyllic, and most days she couldn’t believe life had led her here. But then there were days like today. Today her deep breaths weren’t invigorating and pleasurable. They were to keep her blood pressure from elevating so high it would cause her to stroke out on the pavement as she walked to her next class. Her relocated next class, which had been moved because his almighty highness decreed it be so. Because heaven forbid anyone inconvenience the man who seemed to make it his mission in life to rile her.
It was fitting that Sebastian Blake wrote dystopian novels about the cataclysmic way the earth would end, seeing how he was a harbinger of despair and agony. Ever since she’d arrived to teach summer session three years ago, the man had been infuriating and antagonistic. He was the one gloomy spot in her otherwise bright existence. And while she knew she was giving him too much power—had allowed him to become her arch-nemesis despite it being less stressful to simply ignore him completely—it was impossible to interact in any way other than with utter contempt and malice.
It didn’t help matters that he was a literary genius. Despite Naomi’s specialty being poetry, she had not only read Sebastian’s books, but she’d reveled in them. There had been no other faculty member she’d been looking forward to meeting more than him.
It was for that reason that she’d maybe gone a little overboard on her first day, electing to bake everyone in her department a small cake in the shape of a book. She’d even iced his with the title of his latest novel on it, Persephone’s Revenge. It had taken a considerable amount of time to bake her ten fellow English professors personalized cakes, but she’d wanted to make a memorable impression—even if she now thought of the moment she presented the cakes with a tinge of embarrassment.
Still, all the other faculty members had been appreciative and touched. All except Sebastian. He’d looked down at her outstretched cake and said, “I’ll pass, thanks,” in a voice that sounded as if she’d offered him rancid squirrel meat. He then pointed as if signaling for her dismissal, and muttered, “My office hours are over for today. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to what I was doing before being interrupted.”
Naomi had been dumbstruck. His remark was so unwarranted she hadn’t been able to think of any way to respond. So she did what any rational, professional woman would do.
She told him he didn’t know what he was missing, took one bite of the cake, and then tossed the rest into his trash can and stormed out.
Once Naomi had calmed down, she’d convinced herself Sebastian had probably just been having a bad day. That their next interaction would put them on the path toward becoming thriving colleagues who bantered about how colloquialisms were destroying literature. This would be a small bump on the way to a lifelong, professional relationship built upon mutual respect and support.
As it turned out, however, their next meeting would only affirm for Naomi that Sebastian was from the very deepest bowels of hell.
This next interaction occurred at the copy machine that Naomi had, according to Sebastian, broken with her “obvious inability to perform mundane tasks that any kindergartner could execute,” to which he added the question of whether she was sure she was “meant to be teaching at this institution rather than enrolling in its undergraduate program.”
A real gem, that Sebastian.
Granted, she had interrupted the machine from copying his syllabus (unknowingly!) and then the damned thing had jammed when she’d started running off her own. But it wasn’t her fault that he’d walked away from his copies, during which time the machine had run out of paper. She’d been using copy machines for a long time and was well versed in them, or so she thought. When she saw the error light, she refilled the paper and fed through her own syllabus, which was when her mortal mistake was made. The added task sent the machine into some kind of frenzy before it decided it had had enough of working for the day and died on the spot.
She could understand his being a little annoyed, but the condescending ire he’d aimed her way was undeserved. Though she had prided herself on the fact that she didn’t lash out at him, it felt worse to merely stand there and absorb his words before he turned on his heel and stormed off.
It was such an awful feeling—much more awful than being hollered at in the first place—that she swore then and there to never let Sebastian get away with as much as a snide look in her direction. And she hadn’t. Not really.
Though there had been times when immediate retribution would have reflected poorly on her. So she’d calmed her inner anti-Sebastian crusader by carrying out small acts of justice. These things ranged from knocking items askew on his perfectly organized desk or in his interdepartmental mailbox. Though these occasions were few and far between, she made sure to leave her subtle mark whenever she was within striking distance, including hiding all the board-writing implements from a classroom if his class was scheduled to follow hers. (This provided a small measure of satisfaction until she learned that he always brought his own whiteboard markers, preferring black to the rainbow of colors typically stocked in the classrooms.)
It was immature and petty, but also one of the most soul-deep rewarding experiences she’d had since earning her doctorate at the age of twenty-seven—making her one of the youngest in her doctoral program. It also drove that pedantic, pretentious, pompous (along with a lot of other “P” words her inner feminist would not let her utter, even in thought) prick insane. Not that he’d say anything about it, but the way the vein on his temple would pulse and his eyes would narrow as he looked at her with that stare he’d perfected told her he found her entirely unimpressive and annoying. She loathed that stare as much as she craved it. Because while it meant she was getting under his skin, it also meant he really did find her inconsequential. A nuisance that he probably wished he could swat away with the back of his hand. Being reduced to that in anyone’s eyes, no matter how detestable that person might be, had been difficult for Naomi to handle. And many might argue she wasn’t handling it particularly well, what with the high school tricks and in-depth analysis of every look he cast in her direction. But as the saying went, those people were haters and she had no time for them. Besides, it wasn’t as if Sebastian were innocent in all of this.
Take today for example. They were two weeks into the fall semester, and Sebastian had just now discovered that he “wasn’t able” to make the trek between Kellerman Building, which housed the majority of the liberal arts classes, and Svenson, a smaller building on the other side of campus often used for overflow, because he had back-to-back classes and was perpetually late for his upper-level Nature of the Narrative course.
The chair of their department, Ron Pierson—a tall, gangly man who wore spectacles and seemed to own only tweed—had stopped her in the hall fifteen minutes ago and told her he’d moved her two o’clock poetry workshop to Svenson so Sebastian could have her former classroom at that time. Change effective immediately.
Immediately meaning right now, because when she glanced down at her watch she saw it was already one forty. Apparently they (Ron’s secretary) had already sent out notices from the department to their students through their class listservs. She didn’t even know if Ron was truly permitted to make such a change, but it seemed pointless to question him about it. She was the newest professor in the department and hadn’t earned the right to rant about the injustice of it all yet.
Since the other classes she taught that day were all in the morning, it wasn’t a huge deal. But a bit of a heads-up would have been nice. She’d have to scrawl a quick note to leave on the door (in case the students hadn’t gotten the alert and his majesty didn’t want to deign to speak to them) and would then have to wait for all of her students to make the journey to Svenson. It was irritating and made abundantly more so because it was done to make life easier for Sebastian.
Sebastian. The man who stood behind Ron with his arms crossed and a smug look on his freakishly symmetrical face. That was another thing that drove her crazy about Sebastian: his features were nearly perfect. In fact, everything about him was. He was tall and solid, with piercing blue eyes, coal-black hair, and a square jaw. There was nothing about his appearance that would give evidence to the horror that lay within other than the stern countenance he often wore. Naomi couldn’t remember ever having seen the man smile or so much as allow his eyes to crinkle with happiness (other than when he was successfully making her life a living hell, of course).
Oh, how she’d wanted to say no to Ron’s decree! She’d wanted to march into her classroom, stand at the podium, and refuse to move, like she was participating in a 1960s sit-in. Instead, she was tromping across campus toward Svenson with a scowl marring her pale skin, her blond hair whipping behind her—whether from the gentle breeze or the storm of discontentment she’d manifested, she wasn’t sure. She made it to her new classroom with two minutes to spare, unpacked her materials, and plopped down to wait for her students to trickle in. It would probably take them fifteen minutes to amble over. But that was okay. She’d spend the time thinking of ways to drive Sebastian slowly insane.
Elizabeth Hayley is actually “Elizabeth” and “Hayley,” two friends who love reading romance novels to obsessive levels. This mutual love prompted them to put their English degrees to good use by penning their own. They learned a ton about each other through the process, like how they clearly share a brain and have a persistent need to text each other constantly. They live with their husbands and kids in a Philadelphia suburb. Thankfully, their children are still too young to read.