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by Skye Warren
Safe in the ivory tower…
Gabriel Miller swears he’ll keep me safe. Enemies lurk outside, waiting to strike. An army held back by these walls.
Except some animal instinct warns me the danger is much closer. It’s already here. Is Gabriel my protector or my enemy? Is this house a castle or a cage?
There’s nowhere for me to go, no one left for me to trust.
No escape from a past determined to capture its prize.
A sleek black limo idles in the center of the parking lot, the gleaming black stark against the backdrop of cracked concrete and cigarette-littered gravel. It’s not for me, I tell myself. It can’t be.
It’s probably one of Chastity’s customers.
At eight o’clock in the morning. In the cheapest motel in Tanglewood.
The driver steps out and nods to me in that deferent, discreet way that drivers have. My stomach sinks. He opens the back door and stands beside it, a silent invitation. A tacit command from the man inside.
My feet move me across the pavement, breath trapped. It’s that moment when you’ve slammed your finger in a door, before the pain has registered, when your mind is all too aware of what comes next.
The shadowed interior hides his face, but I know who it is before he speaks.
“Good morning,” comes the low voice of the man who made me come on his desk. The door shuts behind me, enclosing me in the warm darkness.
“What are you doing here?”
A shuffle of papers. The scratch of a pen. As the darkness solidifies, I see him reclined in the back of the limo, focused on a stack of papers in front of him. Working, like I’m a distraction. “I’m your ride.”
He doesn’t even look up. “Excuse me?”
“To Landon Moore’s office. That is where you’re going, I assume.”
My eyes narrow. “How do you know that?”
Finally he looks up, his golden gaze searing me. “Because you’ll do anything to get your house back. It’s the only place you feel safe, isn’t it? The only place you felt loved?”
My stomach clenches. “How did you know where to find me?”
“I don’t think you need me to answer that.”
Because he knows everything that happens in the city. He could have had me followed after I left his office yesterday, but odds are he knew where I was before. “Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather walk on nails than ride with you.”
I pull the latch to discover that the door is locked. From the inside.
My gaze flies to him. “You’re kidnapping me?”
“Unfortunately,” he says with fake sympathy. “You’ll have to explain to the cops how I abducted you and transported you in comfort to your previously planned destination.”
The car glides forward, as if connected to his very will.
I glare at him, settling into the warm leather. Are these seats heated? Of course they are. I have to admit this is way more comfortable than the city bus, but everything has a cost. And when it comes to Gabriel Miller, the cost is always too high. “Why are you doing this?”
“Does it matter?” he asks, his voice faintly mocking. “As a gentleman your comfort is my highest priority. It’s enough to be of service to you.”
“You’re not a gentleman.”
“Probably right. In that case I’m coming with you to see sweet old Uncle Landon give you the horrible news, to see your face fall as he assures you there’s nothing you can do.”
My throat constricts. “Can’t you find someone else to torture?”
“No one nearly as pretty. Besides, my presence has some advantages.”
“My very own supply of fire and brimstone?”
“People are more inclined to tell the truth when I’m in the room. My reputation for dealing with liars and cheats is somewhat brutal.” He leans forward, his eyes reflecting sunlight. “All of it true, I’m afraid.”
I’m living proof of that, the fallout from my father’s decision to steal. “Be careful or I might think you’re actually being nice to me.”
A short laugh. “Not a chance. It will be my pleasure to see Landon Moore break. And even sweeter to watch you break, too. A show I can’t pass up.”
“Still giving orders, little virgin? Is that something you’re born with in the St. James family, or did they teach you that along with your ABCs?”
Rage tightens a knot in my stomach. “I’m not a virgin.”
“No?” he asks, lifting a hand to my face.
I stand very still as he captures my chin between his thumb and forefinger, torn between wanting to wrench away and wanting him to kiss me. How can he make me feel alive when I’ve been sleepwalking for months, years? What sick twist of fate let the hands of this man bring me pleasure?
“You made sure of that.” I mean the words to come out cold, unhurt. Instead I sound breathless and somehow inviting. The white carpet may as well be streaked with red. We’re both back in his bedroom, both flushed and sated and ripped to shreds from what he’s just done.
He lifts my face, almost tender. “I put my cock into your warm little hole. Pushed right through that thin hymen to do it. It felt like fucking heaven to break you open.”
I’m a tuning fork in his hands, and the sound I make is pure arousal. “I despise you.”
“You were so wet,” he says, almost thoughtful. “But some of it was blood, wasn’t it?”
“I’m going to find a way to get my house back.”
He bends his head slightly, enough that our lips are an inch away, the words a tickle of breath against my lips. “I got off on the slide of your blood on my cock. I came that way, spilling salt into the fresh open wound.”
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to him, no line I wouldn’t cross in this moment. My anger takes an unholy shape, rearing back with all the fury and fear of a wild horse ready to trample his enemy. “And God help me, I’m going to ruin you. The way you did my father. I’m going to break you.”
He nudges my chin higher, exposing the vulnerable line of my throat. His mouth drops to the tender skin, a whisper of a kiss. “Do you want to make me bleed, little virgin?”
The violence takes me by surprise. My swing is wild, aimed straight for his face with all my strength. He catches my wrist midmotion, the abrupt stop shooting pain down my arm. We’re frozen that way, him holding me, breathing each other’s air.
“Don’t call me that,” I say between clenched teeth.
“I’m not. You saw the proof of it. You paid a million dollars for it.”
“Actually,” he says, voice deceptively mild. “I paid a million dollars to use you for a month. And as that month isn’t over yet, I think I’d like to collect.”
Shock courses through me, singeing every angry intention. “No.”
“And as for your virginity, there are a hundred ways you haven’t been taken. A thousand ways you haven’t been fucked. A million dollars left to earn.”
“That money’s mine. You sent me away.”
“And yet,” he says, echoing his earlier words, “here you fucking are. This is what you wanted. This is what you came for. Did you really think you’d see me and walk away without my come inside you?”
My gasp sounds virginal even to myself. “Of course I did.”
He uses the hold on my wrist to drag me closer, off balance, almost falling into him. His warmth surrounds me, along with a musk my body remembers. Alarm bells ring more than they did this morning. A strange man could hurt me, but Gabriel—he’s worse. My own kryptonite.
“Here’s the thing about fucking a virgin,” he whispers, breath a caress on my temple. “You gave me your pretty little hymen, the small spill of blood. The first feel of those walls squeezing my cock. And there’s no way to get it back, not ever. No matter who else you fuck. Even if you settle down with some prep-school fucker and let him climb on top of you every single night, I’ll always be your first. You will always be my little virgin.”
The show of possession does something strange to me. It should be offensive. It’s meant to be offensive, but the humiliation turns liquid and hot inside my body. And the worst part is, I can’t even deny the truth. He left an imprint inside me. I can still remember the stretch of him, the burn. The very shape of that heavy thickness I can feel against my stomach now. And anyone who comes after him, they’ll never quite fill the space he carved inside of me.
“That’s right,” he murmurs, soothing now that I’ve acquiesced. “I’ve got you.”
“No, we can’t—”
He releases my wrist only to run a finger along my cheek. “So young. You look so young like this.”
“It’s the makeup,” I say with difficulty. And the hair. And the clothes. In a thousand ways I was different before, the society princess. What am I now? Almost homeless. Definitely scared.
His eyes gentle, more brown than they’ve been before. “You didn’t think you were getting fucked today. You got dressed and took the bus and came up the elevator having no idea.”
“Don’t feel sorry for me.”
A slight smile. “Not enough to stop. Take off those clothes. Let’s see what you look like when you’re just a sweet, innocent college girl and not the toy I bought at auction.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Skye Warren is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance such as the Chicago Underground series. Her books have been featured in Jezebel, Buzzfeed, USA Today Happily Ever After, Glamour, and Elle Magazine. She makes her home in Texas with her loving family, two sweet dogs, and one evil cat.
Website - http://skyewarren.com/
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