Some people would think being stuck on a private island is heaven, but this is my hell.
Because I’m not here as a guest. Not even close. I’m a prisoner. I’m his.
Julius King. Powerful. Wealthy. Dangerous.
There are parts of me he wants that I can’t give him. When he looks at me, there are times I swear he sees someone else. And the scary part is that sometimes, when he touches me, I think he may be someone else, too.
Though my body might be tempted, and he might control everything else, I can’t let him have any piece of my heart. I won’t. But every day, the fight gets harder, and Julius manages to slip past my defenses in the most unexpected ways.
I have to find out the truth about Julius King. Even if it destroys me.
This book is approximately 81,000 words
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise! Find out more at CarinaPress.com/RomancePromise
Chairs skate backwards on the polished floors as everyone gets up. The sound bursts my bubble. Everyone’s leaving and so must I if I don’t want to be caught alone. I tuck the money into my handbag, then push back my chair, slow and easy, then slip to my feet. Inch away as the men shake hands. Take one last look at Julius’s broad back, then turn to the door. They’ll all be going directly out the doors from the pool room. Still, I keep my strides even, thighs clenching until I pass through the frame, and hit the cool dark stretch of the hallway.
My muscles loosen but I resist the compulsion to run before Julius notices I’ve gone. The sharp solid thud of dress shoes on wood echoes behind me. My backbone fuses for an instant. I stumble. One strappy heel twisting before I right myself, and keep my legs moving.
His steps trail behind me. Closer and closer. He doesn’t call out, or order me to stop. Just closes in somehow without seeming to pick up the pace. He’s always that much faster than me, that little bit ahead.
The light from the kitchen floods the end of the hall. I just need to make it through the kitchen and I’ll get to the back door. Be outside, then I can break into the jog itching through my quadriceps.
I reach the end of the hallway. A hand closes around my wrist and brings me to an instant breathless stop.
My skin sizzles where he touches me.
“How did you like your gift?” he says, still behind me, still holding my wrist.
I turn to him. Give him my best big-batting eyes. “Thank you, Julius, it’s always good to keep up with current events. I found the horoscopes particularly satisfying.”
He pushes the transitional sunglasses he wears for business up on top of his head, and I’m struck as always by his eyes. “Yeah, what do the stars say about your future?”
I don’t normally give him this much. Like my opinion, let alone a preference. I keep my personality all to myself, don’t give him any weapons. He has enough over me as it is.
But that newspaper fills the back of my mind.
It’s like I’ve been living the same exact day over, and over, and over, and over. Days and weeks bleed together. Like a movie, or a dream, time has no substance, means nothing here.
But that date—one month left.
Now I feel each moment as though I’m handed a grenade every time the minute hand twitches.
And I must do something, anything, to alter my course. I smile and wonder if it looks as stillborn on my lips as it feels on my face. “Oh, just that I’m going to meet a handsome stranger who will sweep me off my feet and take me someplace new.”
A stranger who’ll kill you dead.
Wickedness breaks across his face, and fuck-me if it doesn’t make him that much better looking.
“Ahh,” he says, and that one sound vibrates down my spine. He tugs me by the wrist and looks right down into my face. Those eyes in half light—I want to close my own. Shut them out. They see too much.
I keep my lids open, keep them wide.
Hold his gaze.
“Is that what you want, romance?” His voice drips with sweetness.
I’m no stranger to this side of him. He’s always offering, and offering, and offering, as though there’s an alternative to his food, his shelter, his company.
Luring and baiting.
Until I’m craving his cooking. Singing his damned songs. Thinking about his presence when he’s gone. He’s a devil—offering my damnation peeled, sliced and arranged on a china plate.
I suck in air. His scent is on my gasp, heady enough to taste. Spicy cologne, and something all him—male and feral.
He leans down, lowering his head.
I turn my face away.
Hold my breath.
His face touches my neck. Hairs stand and rise over my body. Not what I’d thought he’d leaned in for, yet somehow worse. His nose runs intimately from the base of my throat to my jaw. His sharp inhale hums right against my skin.
“What’s this you’re wearing today?”
I stare from the hall to across the kitchen, to the door to freedom. “I spent some time in the garden. It’s called sweat.”
He chuckles, low and rough. “Of course it is.” He touches my cheek, turns my face, and makes me look at him.
I blink slowly, unable to stop the sight of him filtering through my lashes.
“Do you want to kiss me goodnight?”
My lips part. Open with no answer and hardly any conscious volition.
The question repeats in my head. A thousand times. For every day I’ve been here and every day he’s asked. The full weight of time bears down on me in these moments and I understand exactly why people go crazy in prisons.
This is all there is.
Reality shivers. His lips are right there and I see them speak, again and again and again. In my mind, in memories, in dreams. Things he’s said and things I know he has not, until maybe the dreams are real, and this a nightmare.
Now it’s his breaths filling the space between us. Closer.
I almost lean in. Every day the struggle is the same. My will no stronger from practice. Julius’s voice compels surrender. Every single day it’s this—this temptation beating in my blood. Begging me to try. See what it’d be like to just-give-in.
I breathe in, breathe out through pursed lips, reach down inside myself to the place that’s hard and strong and inaccessible.
He brushes my cheek with his fingertips. Maybe I’m going even crazier, seeing things with my eyes open instead of when they close, but for a moment I think there’s something a little heartbroken in the way he looks at me. “Why do you always lie to me?”
My chest squeezes and I wrench my face away.
His hand falls from me, but his voice rises up to take its place tormenting me. “One day, baby, I’ll have only the truth from you.”
After spending years imagining fictional adventures, Amber finally found a way to turn daydreaming into a productive habit. She now spends her time in a coffee-fuelled adrenaline haze, writing romance with a thriller edge.
She lives with her husband and children in semi-rural Australia, where if she peers outside at the right moment she might just see a kangaroo bounce by.
Amber is an award winning writer, Amazon Bestselling Author, and member of Romance Writers of Australia, Melbourne Romance Writers Guild, and Writers Victoria.