My name is Nikki O'Neill
Welcome to my little nook in the world of love and romance👋Passion, emotion and *fun* are the key ingredients here.
As a romance author, I needed a place where I could give my creativity free rein, and at the same time allow others to enjoy it too. So kick back, relax, and see the relationships between my characters develop, word for word and chapter by chapter 🪶
At the moment, I am writing Lessons in Love, a sizzling college romance novel about Louise and Spencer, who have a thing or two to learn from each other😉 You'll find the first few chapters below.👇 Updates will follow as quickly as my heart (and my life as I know it) allows.
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Lessons in Love
by Nikki O'Neill
Louise Hepburn cursed herself. God, why was she always late? It was like a disease or something. Like she was physically incapable of arriving on time. She burst into her room and dropped the books from the college library in a huddle onto her bed. Tina’s bed, on the other side of the room, was neat and crisp and pink-sheeted, and everything Louise’s wasn’t. Louise glared at the mountain of stuffed animals propped up against the foot end. There seemed to be new ones popping up every day. You’d think the girl was still in primary school instead of her third year at university! Louise sighed, wishing for the umpteenth time that she’d had smart, demure Jan as a roommate instead of that blonde ditz Tina. Well, at least “Teens” wasn’t in often. Being blonde and ditsy–and, most importantly, big-boobed—seemed to guarantee you a steady flow of boyfriends.
Louise grabbed a towel, somehow succeeded in locating her shower things and make-up bag, and stormed out again. The mint-green corridors of Glover Hall, one of the Victorian buildings used for student housing here at Kingsmore College, were as good as empty. Everyone was at the Christmas Ball, an annual tradition before the start of the holidays. Louise wasn’t much of a party-goer; a waste of valuable study time if you asked her. But this year, things were different.
I wonder what he’ll look like in a tux…
The thought of David in a 007-outfit was enough to make her cheeks flush like traffic lights. Two years ago, when she had arrived at Kingsmore, a historical university town not far from London, she’d made a solemn promise to herself not to get side-tracked on the daunting road towards her master’s degree by a silly little thing like love. She’d worked too damn long and too damn hard to get here. This specific university, this exact programme... it had been a dream of hers for as long as she could remember. She wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that. Louise prided herself in always knowing what she wanted and then going for it full steam ahead. A strategy that hadn’t failed her. With no financial means of her own, she had fought for and obtained a full scholarship.
And then she had met David Brown.
And all her lofty principles had gone straight out the window.
Their paths had crossed during the summer, while doing volunteer work with inner city kids. Louise would never forget that moment. The little group of enthusiastic teachers-to-be had been standing on the patch of dried-out grass in front of the charity's building, clutching their morning teas while they listened to the word of welcome from the coordinator, and Louise had come running up, breathless and sweaty and born down by an overly full bag, muttering: ‘So sorry I’m late…’ – in other words: her usual entrance. She had looked up, squinting against the sun, and a flash of hazel eyes had changed her life in an instant. There was no other way to describe it. It had been quite shocking, really, especially for someone like her. A rational person, who had previously scoffed at concepts like love at first sight, banning such nonsense to the land of fairy tales. But there was no denying it. The bolt of lightning, the roll of the drums, the singing of the angel choir, it had all been there, the whole shebang. David’s eyes had held her hostage. She had stood there, frozen to the spot, blinking and blushing like a some love-sick schoolgirl, while the rest of his face slowly swam into focus. The eyes appeared to be sparkling at her from behind a pair of glasses. Tanned skin, unruly light-brown hair that kinked a little and a slightly ponderous frown completed the picture. Unlike the smiles the other participants gave her, David’s wasn’t the slightest bit pitying. It only showed a sweet interest, and maybe a little bit of amusement, at her dishevelled state.
‘Hi, I’m Louise,’ she’d mumbled, drawn in by this vision in front of her, as if the two of them were the only ones there.
The heartbreaking smile had widened. ‘David. Nice to meet you.’
He had held out a strong, beautifully shaped hand, and Louise had known she was in big, big trouble.
‘I’m studying International Relations at Kingsmore,’ she had blurted out, to distract him from the way her own hand was trembling.
His eyes had lit up, revealing tiny specks of green in the hazelness of it all. ‘You’re kidding! I’m actually transferring there in the fall to finish my bachelor's degree.’
Fuck! she had thought.
‘My!’ she had said. ‘It looks like we’re going to be in the same class next year then. Lovely!’
And she had meant it both.
She and David had just... well, clicked. That was the funny thing about it. After her initial bewilderment at the mere sight of him, Louise had worried she would keep feeling awkward in his presence. She wouldn’t have liked that. Not being in control was something she didn't support well. But once she had regained her usual composure — outwardly, anyway — she had discovered David was actually ridiculously easy to talk to. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, Louise spent hours upon hours in his company, listening to him elaborate on his theories about the world and society and how it needed to change and how he ultimately hoped to have a part in it. He voiced every one of her own hopes and dreams, some of which she hadn't even been consciously aware of before she heard him speak about them. It baffled her. Not even with Jan did she have this much in common.
It’s meant to be, she thought, as she turned the corner towards the girls’ shower room. There’s no other explanation. We’re simply perfect for each other.
David was unbelievably smart, amazingly well-read and just very very relevant. Everything that came out of his mouth was important and made sense. When he spoke up in class or debated with the professors she always felt a jolt of pride. He shared her passion for education and the wish to work for a non-profit in Africa after obtaining his degree. He even liked the same food she did. Plus he loved dogs and played a mean bit of guitar. Louise swallowed hard, the butterflies in her stomach doing backflips. She’d fought it as long as she could, but there was no escaping it anymore. She had to have him. And she was going to, tonight…
Louise swallowed hard, the butterflies in her stomach doing backflips. She’d fought it as long as she could, but there was no escaping it anymore. She had to have him. And she was going to, tonight…
‘Woops! Watch where you’re going, sweetie!’
Tina’s big baby blues blinked innocently at her. She and her friend Katie had been coming out of the shower room just as Louise was dashing in, a head-on collision only narrowly avoided. Louise had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes at the sight of them. Tina and Katie looked like they’d just been unwrapped from their Mattel boxes. Perfectly coiffed, covered in layer upon layer of make-up and simply oozing perfume. And those outfits…
Louise pulled a pained face. ‘Are you two actually wearing identical dresses?’
Tina shrieked like she’d just heard the funniest thing in the world. ‘We are! How cute is that, right? We thought it’d be fun, us two being bestest of friends and all.’ She and Katie gave each other a hug, carefully, so as not to smear their make-up, filled lips pouted.
Louise sighed inwardly. Bestest of friends… How Tina managed to navigate the courses here was a mystery to her. She was probably sleeping with one of the professors... Or several.
‘Are you still getting ready, Louise?’ Katie asked, arching her carefully shaped eyebrows in astonishment.
‘Oh, that’s Louise to a tee,’ Tina giggled, not in an unfriendly way. ‘She’s always late! Aren’t you, sweetie?’
Louise shrugged. There was no denying that.
‘Say, you are coming to the Ball, aren’t you?’ Tina asked, suddenly sounding a bit worried.
‘I was planning to, yes,’ Louise answered. If I can just manage to get past you two and take a shower, that is.
‘Oh, good!’ Tina sighed.
‘Why?' Louise frowned, wary. 'What’s the matter?’
‘Nothing. It’s just that I’ve got a big surprise for you!’
She wagged her manicured finger in front of Louise’s face. ‘Tut-tut. No use trying to pry it out of me. You’ll just have to wait and see!’
‘I’ll try to contain myself,’ Louise said flatly. She shoved past the two girls and opened one of the shower stalls.
‘Come on, Teens,’ Katie said, tugging at her friend’s arm. ‘We have to go. We’re ever so late!’
‘Okay! See you at the ball, sweetie!’ Tina waved.
Not if I can help it, Louise thought, closing the stall door with a bang.
Louise established a new record in showering. Less than five minutes, hair washed and all. Quickly, she massaged in some of the caring conditioner she had spent a good deal of her month’s wages on. The product was meant to disentangle and “give definition” to her curls, for whatever that meant. She wrapped a towel around her head to let the stuff sink in, then proceeded to put her make-up on. A little blush, a little lipstick, and a lot of mascara. Normally, Louise preferred a more natural look, but tonight was special; her eyes were her strong point, she needed to play them out. Satisfied, Louise took the towel off and grabbed her brush. To her delight, the conditioner had delivered on its promise. Almost no knots to speak of, and after blow-drying she was actually left with flowing, wavy locks instead of the bushy mess she usually had to deal with. She bit her lower lip, a spike of nerves billowing up through her body again. She wondered if David would notice the difference. He was such a typical guy when it came to these types of things!
With nothing more than a towel on, Louise hurried back to her room. The gown she had bought for the occasion had been sitting on its hanger on the side of the wardrobe for weeks now, as eagerly awaiting this moment as she had been, it seemed. Louise tore the cellophane wrapping off and gave it a last critical glance. It was a dark green velvet off the shoulder, with long sleeves and a side-split. Very Christmassy, very classy, and very very expensive. She ran her fingers over the rich fabric. The dress had been an ever bigger assault on her bank account than the conditioner had, but she had decided it would be worth it.
Think of David’s hands on your body. David’s lips on yours…
Immediately, she felt her knees go weak. God o God o God! Heart racing, she slipped into the dress. It fit like a glove. Black strappy sandals and a tiny, bejewelled purse finished the look. Louise considered herself for a moment in the narrow mirror on the wardrobe door. A slightly flushed undergrad with thick brown hair, brown eyes and distinctive eyebrows gazed back at her. To say the dress hugged her body in all the right places was an understatement. Her chest rose and fell under the soft velvet, straining with each breath she took. It made her look… ready. Like a plum or a peach, just asking to be plucked. And for the first time in her life, Louise Hepburn like a woman instead of a girl.
I guess that’s what I will be, too, if everything works out tonight...
She cringed at the thought of how limited her experience was. She’d be twenty-one in February. Some women already had a husband and babies at that age. Or a string of past lovers. Or both.
My priorities have just been elsewhere, that’s all, she encouraged herself. With all the work she put into her studies, there simply hadn’t been time to develop that side of herself. Surely, there was no shame in that?
David will understand. Better to have too little experience than too much, right? Besides, think of the fun we’ll have discovering things together! The corners of her mouth curled upwards. She was sure he’d make a great teacher. Anyone who played the guitar that well just had to be!
Louise took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. Then, with a bounce in her step and a sense of some grand new adventure lying before her, she walked out of the room and into her future.
Spencer Hirst was bored. A sentiment he was quite familiar with. The downside of having everything your heart desired, he supposed. Still, he couldn’t complain. As the only son of Lord Richard Llewellyn-Hirst, his bed was made. Money, status, power. A couple of easy-breezy years living the college life, and then he would follow in his father’s footsteps. Get into politics. But first a short spell as a diplomat or an ambassador or something. He liked to travel.
Yawning, he took in the crowd as he waited for Daphne to return with the drinks. God, these college parties were the worst. Terrible acoustics, too many wall-flowers and not nearly enough quality booze. And why did these intellectual types always have such a bad sense of style? It seemed like he and his friends were the only people here who knew how to dress.
That’s what you get when you allow scholarship students in, he thought, brushing a hand through his ashy blond hair. There’s no real class in high-class education anymore.
Although he had to admit some of the staff were almost just as bad. He pulled a face when he saw Professor Dawkins jigging it up in an olive-and-mustard plaid suit that had clearly seen the better half of a century. Really! Didn’t that man have a wife to stop him from appearing in public like that? Spencer could only imagine his father going into the city in such a get-up…
Still, the meagre standards in fashion meant he and his clique stood out all the more. When they had walked into the packed hall just now, it had been with the full realization that every single person there had noticed them enter. Spencer could never quite get enough of that feeling. Of course, most of the looks shot his way were begrudging and envious, but that was just the way he liked it. Spencer could never quite get enough of that feeling. He was the king of Kingsmore College. The heart of the jetset. And that wasn’t without its perks.
‘Slim pickings,’ Tarquin said, with a nod at the female populous in general.
Spencer raised an eyebrow at his best friend. ‘Same old same old. Everything worth having has been had.’
‘True. Although…’ Tarquin pushed his thick-rimmed hipster glasses a little higher on his nose, as he watched Tina Miller and Katie Mumba walking by, giggling and whispering to each other. They were wearing what seemed to be identical cherry red dresses, like twin sisters would do. When they noticed the two men staring, their movements immediately took on a more seductive quality.
‘Ladies,’ Tarquin greeted, with a wide grin.
Tina and Katie giggled a little louder as they floated past, their whole bodies blossoming under the attention.
‘Phew!’ Tarquin commented, turning to follow them with his eyes. ‘I wouldn’t mind getting in on a little of that action!’
‘Please,’ Spencer scoffed. ‘Those girls are complete air-heads.’
‘So? I wasn’t exactly planning on taking them home to meet mother.’ Tarquin blew out his breath in admiration, then hissed between his teeth. ‘You have to admit they’d make the perfect one-night stand.’
But Spencer wasn’t impressed. ‘I could score a dozen tarts like that at the Country Club. And with better pedigrees too.’
Tarquin put his head in his neck and laughed. ‘God, you’re such a snob, Spence! It’s near ridiculous.’
Spencer shrugged. ‘I have high standards, that's all.’
‘When it comes to my cock, I have absolutely no standards whatsoever,’ Tarquin confessed, almost sadly.
‘See, I don’t understand that. Why settle for fish-and-chips when you can have caviar and champagne?’
‘Easy for you to say. You’ve got the Heiress eating out of your hand.’
A faint smile played around Spencer’s lips. Daphne Maybury was not as dazzlingly beautiful as some of his former conquests, but she was pretty enough, and at least she was really a conquest. Heiress of Maybury’s Groceries, she was filthy rich. Her family owned a line of supermarkets that dominated urban Britain. There was one in every town. And even though they had made their fortune in business, the Mayburies had been around long enough not to be considered “new money” anymore. Daphne’d had a typical upper-class upbringing, just like him. She was known in the right circles, had all the right connections, and the airs to go with them. Plus she was absolutely mad about him.
‘I can’t complain,’ he admitted. ‘Daphne is indeed quite…’ He searched for the appropriate word. ‘…accomodating.’
‘Lucky bastard!' Tarquin grinned. 'Well, some of us still have to hit the salt mines, though. I’ll go and try my luck with Miller and Mumba anyway.’ He cocked an eyebrow. ‘Sure you wouldn’t care to tag along?’
For a fraction of a second, Spencer was tempted, if only for the sake of the chase. But he decided it wouldn’t be enough of a challenge. Not to put his relationship with the Heiress at stake, at least. ‘Nah, I better go and check what’s keeping Daphne.’
‘She’s tamed you, old chap!’ Tarquin laughed, clapping Spencer on the back. Then he was gone, in hot pursuit of Tina and Katie.
Spencer shook his head. There were many uncertainties in life, but Tar's dogged approach to womanzing wasn't one of them. He turned around and started scanning the crowd, on the lookout for Daphne.
But then someone else caught his eye.
The girl was standing with her back to him, thick chestnut locks flowing over her shoulders. She was looking for someone too, bobbing on tip-toes trying to see over people's heads.
Now that’s what I call class. Spencer nodded approvingly, as he took in the long, green velvet gown. Without baring more than some shoulder and a bit of leg, it managed being sexy as hell, showing off the girl’s apple bottom and slender waist. Who was she? He was sure he’d never seen her here before. He would certainly have remembered that!
Turn around, love, he willed. Let’s see if you’ve got the front to match that back.
As if she’d heard him, she did just that.
For the first time that evening, a shimmer of emotion surfaced on the black pool that was Spencer Hirst's cynicism. ‘Hepburn?’ he exclaimed, raising his eyebrows in surprise.
She recognized him and rolled her eyes. ‘Oh, it’s you,’ she sighed, with that mixture of boredom and revulsion she always adopted when addressing him.
‘My God, Hepburn,’ he repeated, leisurely strolling over to her, hands tucked in his trouser pockets. He looked her shamelessly up and down, mentally noting she did have the appropriate front. It heaved under the green velvet in a fashion never witnessed before. ‘What have you done to yourself? I almost mistook you for an actual woman.’
‘Shut up, Hirst,’ she bit at him.
‘My, my, you really aren’t feeling like yourself today, are you? I usually get a more snappy comeback than a mere “shut up”.’
She closed her eyes and sighed again, more deeply now. ‘What do you want?’
‘Nothing. Just paying you a compliment. Is that against the feminist rulebook or something?’
‘I don’t need compliments from the likes of you. And I am not a feminist!’ She turned her back to him.
He came and stood beside her. ‘Oh no? What are you then?’
She moved her shoulders in irritation. ‘I mean... I am, of course, obviously. But not in the way that you mean!'
Spencer grinned. This was getting better and better! Louise Hepburn and himself had a very special sort of relationship. As the social bottom-feeding do-gooder she and her left-wing buddies were, she had disliked him, an aristocrat with a trust-fund and a social circle to match, almost at first glance. And the feeling was mutual. In Spencer’s opinion, Louise was one of the most righteous, imperial, sex-less bookworms he had ever encountered —although he was going to have to reconsider that last part. Her leg in that side-split, Jesus!
Anyway, when the alphabet had forced the both of them to work on yet another project together earlier this semester, things had really come to a head. Their subject had been “Hunger in the Third World”, and he had found himself uttering the most insanely radical opinions, just to jank Louise's chain. He hadn’t meant any of it, of course, —he hardly ever meant anything he said— but it had been simply glorious to see her foaming at the mouth. Their discussions had gotten so heated at times that the other members of the project group could only look on, mouths slightly open, heads turning from him to her and back again, as if watching a particularly aggressive match at Wimbledon.
Tonight, Hepburn might not be foaming at the mouth just yet, but there was definitely something going on with her. She was all worked up. He had never seen her so flustered before. Spencer's smile widened. Yes, it was high time he got to the bottom of this. ‘Could it be,’ he ventured, ‘that our favourite little suffragette has found a special someone she wants to impress?’
She blinked at him, completely taken aback by his insight.
‘Oh, you have?’ he taunted, feigning surprise. ‘Well I never!’
She balled her fists and actually stomped her foot, like a little girl. ‘Stop pestering me! Don’t you have some poor date to go and harass?’
‘Well, I do plan on harassing Daphne later, but she’s definitely not poor, I can assure you.’
Louise crossed her arms. ‘Oh yes, the Supermarket Queen. I forgot. You two have been seeing each other for quite a while now, haven’t you? Well, I applaud her. There should be medals for that kind of endurance.’
Spencer grinned. Now they were getting somewhere. ‘Let’s not get side-tracked here,’ he tutted. ‘We were talking about you. Pray tell, who’s the lucky fuck who’s getting to clear away the cobwebs from your knickers tonight?’
She blushed so deeply he thought he had died and gone to heaven. ‘You’re disgusting!’ she hissed, her brown eyes flashing furiously at him. He noticed she was wearing a lot more make-up than usual. She looked quite fierce, really.
Typical Hepburn, Spencer thought, as he saw her set her jaw. Stubborn as a mule. She won’t give up until she believes she’s won the fight.
He didn’t mind. He could go all night if needs must. Actually, he found he enjoyed arguing with her even better, now she was all dolled up like this...
But before he could initiate round two, a long, elegant arm draped itself around his shoulders.