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Six Memoirs That Will Make You Think: True Stories of Survival


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six memoirs that will make you think

Not all memoirs are the same. Some will make you laugh. Some will make you cry. However, only a select few will truly chill you to the bone. These memoirs deal with tough subject matters, and they are not for the faint of heart.  The books below recount nightmarish experiences, made even more heartbreaking because they are based in fact, so be warned.  These memoirs won’t just make you cry. They will make you question the very world we live in.

Read the firsthand accounts from these brave women as they share their tragedies… and eventual triumphs.


hopeTwo women kidnapped by infamous Cleveland school-bus driver Ariel Castro share the stories of their abductions, captivity, and dramatic escape

On May 6, 2013, Amanda Berry made headlines around the world when she fled a Cleveland home and called 911, saying: “Help me, I’m Amanda Berry. . . . I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for ten years.”

A horrifying story rapidly unfolded. Ariel Castro, a local school bus driver, had separately lured Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight to his home, where he kept them chained. In the decade that followed, the three were raped, psychologically abused, and threatened with death. Berry had a daughter—Jocelyn—by their captor.

Drawing upon their recollections and the diary kept by Amanda Berry, Berry and Gina DeJesus describe a tale of unimaginable torment, and Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporters Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan interweave the events within Castro’s house with original reporting on efforts to find the missing girls. The full story behind the headlines—including details never previously released on Castro’s life and motivations—Hope is a harrowing yet inspiring chronicle of two women whose courage, ingenuity, and resourcefulness ultimately delivered them back to their lives and families.

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20257122Michelle was a young single mother when she was kidnapped by a local school bus driver named Ariel Castro. For more than a decade afterward, she endured unimaginable torture at the hand of her abductor. In 2003 Amanda Berry joined her in captivity, followed by Gina DeJesus in 2004. Their escape on May 6, 2013, made headlines around the world.

Barely out of her own tumultuous childhood, Michelle was estranged from her family and fighting for custody of her young son when she disappeared. Local police believed she had run away, so they removed her from the missing persons lists fifteen months after she vanished. Castro tormented her with these facts, reminding her that no one was looking for her, that the outside world had forgotten her. But Michelle would not be broken.

In Finding Me, Michelle will reveal the heartbreaking details of her story, including the thoughts and prayers that helped her find courage to endure her unimaginable circumstances and now build a life worth living. By sharing both her past and her efforts to create a future, Michelle becomes a voice for the voiceless and a powerful symbol of hope for the thousands of children and young adults who go missing every year.

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15833693In the fall of 2007, twenty-year old college coed Amanda Knox left Seattle to study abroad in Perugia, Italy for one year. But that November 1, her life was shattered when her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher, was murdered in their apartment. Five days later, Amanda was taken into custody and charged by the Italian police; her arrest and the subsequent investigation ignited an international media firestorm. Overnight, this ordinary young American student became the subject of intense scrutiny, forced to endure a barrage of innuendo and speculation. Two years later, after an extremely controversial trial, Amanda was convicted and imprisoned. But in 2011 an appeals court overturned her conviction and vacated the charges. Free at last, she immediately returned home to the U.S., where she has remained silent, until now.

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13545414In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.
For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse.

For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.

On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.

A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.

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17287028For the first time, ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of a brutal crime.

On June 5, 2002,  fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.

Now for the first time, in her memoir, MY STORY, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving.  Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.

In the nine years after her rescue, Smart transformed from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change. She has created a foundation to help prevent crimes against children and is a frequent public speaker. In  2012, she married Matthew Gilmour, whom she met doing mission work in Paris for her church, in a fairy tale wedding that made the cover of People magazine.

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12670096‘Tom,’ I said, bracing myself for the threat that was sure to follow. ‘I need to talk to you about something. About leaving here, I mean.’ He didn’t hit me. Didn’t threaten. Instead, he looked at me with great sadness. ‘Who saved your life?’ ‘You,’ I replied, ‘but…’ ‘Who takes care of you?’ ‘I know that,’ I told him. ‘I just can’t live like this.’ ‘You can’t live? What about me? You would destroy my life if you left. I am the only person to ever show you love, and you would leave me? Don’t be stupid.’ Told from the perspective of Tanya Nicole Kach, Memoir of a Milk Carton Kid is the haunting story of a girl, lost in the cracks of the system, forced to spend more than ten years as the prisoner of her school’s security guard. From her troubled childhood, through her captivity at the hands of a manipulative captor, and ultimately on her road to recovery, Tanya’s story is one of pain but ultimately triumph. Her story is told by her advocate and confidant, Lawrence Fisher. For more than five years his impassioned advocacy has helped Tanya as she has reintegrated into society. He successfully blends Tanya’s story with his own insight into the legal issues surrounding the controversial case that followed Tanya’s release. This multipronged approach gives the reader insight into Tanya’s emotional state and the state of a criminal justice system that allowed her ordeal to happen.

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Fantasy Book: The Rise of the Sidhe by Christina George @RiseoftheSidhe


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Genres: The story is an Action/ Adventure set in 1916. It encompasses elements of the 1916 Rising and Irish myth and would belong in the Fantasy genre.

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Bran—a war weary veteran of many conflicts has always closely guarded a dark secret. Now, as he fights for the survival of his men in the brutal trenches, his past has come back to haunt him. Rioghnach, a dark fairy woman, has arisen after centuries beneath the ground. She has been driven mad and power-hungry by her imprisonment. Bran must put aside his loyalties and finally return home. Ireland is a land on the verge of political turmoil and civil unrest. As the time of the Easter Rising draws near a sequence of events will begin to unravel that could bring about an age of darkness. Bran holds the key to their salvation but it could bring about a fate worse than death.

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Excerpt:

Things seemed to have gone quiet up above as he stopped, the men behind him holding their breath for him to listen. He thought he had heard something through the earthen walls enfolding them but, as the seconds trickled by, the stillness reassured him and he began to crawl on. The air was thinner down here, making it a struggle to keep going, the exertion of pulling themselves along by their elbows slowly draining their strength. The explosives in his satchel were pressing against his side as he tried to shuffle through the ground works.

The boys were nervous, the tension even more palpable than usual. The number of explosions had increased a lot in the last few weeks. The cave-ins had taken friends from all the men and the most experienced diggers had succumbed to the German offensive. Bran was nervous too. His boys weren’t like the diggers – men who had worked in mines and dig works for years before the war. They were fearless, those large men with their gruff northern accents and their dislike of the upper class officers. His lads were just normal Tommie’s; they were young and scared and didn’t like going underground. It wasn’t natural. They felt trapped.

He stopped again, swearing he felt movement through the ground. His sudden stop halted the other men as the boy at the back, barley eighteen, began to whimper. ‘Quiet’, the harsh whisper chastised him as Bran froze; the sound of breathing seemed loaded and clumsy as it became trapped between the walls of the tunnel. The other men trusted Bran’s judgement. He was a bit of a legend among the trenches, his knack for coming back alive when all around him died was enough cause for the men to listen when he talked. It was this that went against him with his superiors. They did not like the men raising lowly captains to higher stations than themselves. The superstitions of the lower ranks was a constant pain for the officers, their men not wanting to obey direct orders because they had a “bad feeling” about it. It had to be stamped out and talk of this Irish soldier, with his ‘good luck’ and ‘sixth sense’ about things, angered them all the more.

Bran pulled the glove from his right hand with his teeth and sank his fingers into the dirt of the floor beneath his belly. He shut his eyes to concentrate. Nothing seemed to move. Then he felt it, a dragging close by. He squeezed his eyes all the tighter, straining his ears. The vibration he sent out was miniscule, undetectable but he saw what he needed to. He turned his head awkwardly in the tight space until he could see Jones in the harsh lamp light. The perspiration from the heat and the fear was running in droplets from his brow down his nose. He signalled with his hand to go back as the boys began to silently crawl backwards on the long ascent to the top.

As they got higher the tunnel became wider allowing the men to walk, if hunched down, as they awkwardly plodded ever upward, the relief added to by the fresher air the higher they crawled. ‘Say it and stop sulking Jones,’ Bran chastised as he struggled with the bag he carefully protected at his side.

‘There’s going to be trouble about this. They will have your head for turning the lads back’, Jones groaned in his heavy Newcastle accent. He faced Bran, looking into the bright blue eyes of the man he respected but could not understand. The other boys pushed onwards, eager to get back up top, allowing Bran and Jones the privacy to speak.

‘There was nothing to be done. There is a German tunnel. It’s about to intersect ours just ahead of the point we were crawling to’ Bran explained, becoming impatient with Jones’ worrying. ‘I’m not sure if they were aware of our tunnel but they were either going to come through the walls at us or plant explosives themselves. I’m not putting the lads at risk for nothing.’ Jones got the puckered skin between his brows that came when he thought for too long about how Bran knew these things. He took a deep breath of the thick pungent air as he looked at the dirt streaked face of his captain.


About the Author:

Christina George is an Irish writer based in Dundalk, Co. Louth. She mainly writes Fiction with an emphasis on Fantasy. Her academic background is in the arts. After completing her undergraduate with a BA in Cultural studies in 2008 she went on to study for an MA in Comparative Literature in Dublin City University. Her first novel The Rise of the Sidhe has recently been released for Kindle on Amazon. She is currently working in the Heritage sector in County Louth and outlining a new writing project.

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Science Fiction: Leviticus (When We Were Gods) by Daniel Seltzer @WeWereGods_Book


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Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Futuristic, Nanotechnology

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Science has created a world where anything is possible and everything is affordable.

A world where illness and disease have been eradicated.

What if you could be young forever?

What if you didn’t want to?

Levi Clayton Furstman’s decision not to be inoculated with technology designed to bestow youth and immortality leads him on a journey that forces him to reexamine his relationships, his purpose in life, and, ultimately, what it means to be human.

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Blurb:

***

“The technology for TIN has been around for decades actually,” said the young man assisting Clay. The lanyard hanging around the youth’s neck displayed the words Rudy and Genius.

It had been almost eight months since his family had purchased him an iMeme as a birthday gift and they had finally worn him down and elicited a promise to have the TIN nanochip fitted today. Rudy was explaining how the process worked and it seemed to Clay the young man knew what he was talking about. Most of the Genius Bar staff did.

“It uses the same technology the physically impaired use to transmit brain signals to a computer to perform specific functions. Your iMeme sits here on your Spot, or wherever you choose to keep it, and as long as it’s within a three-foot radius, it can transmit information to, or receive information from, the TIN, which is really just a cochlear nanochip placed in your inner ear. With two-way communication and the iMeme’s built-in nanocamera, the iMeme can perform any number of important functions.”

Clay was still nervous. “So you’re going to stick something in my inner ear? Right here?” he asked, looking around. “No doctor? No specialist?”

“Trust me sir, I’m an Apple trained audiologist. I’ve done thousands of these. I simply place this device in your ear and the TIN nanochip will be inserted into your cochlea. Takes just a few moments.” Rudy put a smile on his face to try to reassure Clay.

“That’s the problem, Rudy. I’m not too hip on you puncturing my eardrum with that thing. I mean, don’t doctors say that only thing you should put in your ear is your elbow?”

“Sir,” Rudy responded. “The PSD will barely enter your outer ear.”

“PSD? What’s a PSD?” Clay asked.

Rudy was clearly working to retain his patience. “Sir, the PSD is the Placement and Syncing Device,” he said, showing Clay the object in his hand. It looked to Clay like an ear thermometer with a small cable hanging off its lower end. Rudy pointed to the small tip protruding from the top of the PSD and continued. “A nano-needle extends from here into your inner ear and to the cochlea. The needle itself is thinner than the proboscis of a mosquito. Not only will you feel absolutely nothing, the procedure is so safe that even if the TIN were misplaced, there would be no harm done to you.” He saw the look of doubt on Clay’s face and added, “The TIN won’t be misplaced. I promise.”

Rudy put the PSD to Clay’s ear, pressed a button. Clay closed his eyes, expecting the worst. He felt absolutely nothing. A hopeful thought that the PSD was broken crossed his mind. He opened his eyes and turned to Rudy.

“Listen, if there’s a problem, I can always come back.”

“I’m sorry Sir. What was that you said?” Rudy asked, involved in hooking up Clay’s tiny iMeme to the cable dangling off the lower end of the PSD.

“I said,” Clay started and then jumped slightly when he heard a gentle whisper in his ear.

iMeme now activated: November 13, 2021. 5:43 p.m.

Clay spun around to see who had spoken to him, but quickly realized it was no one, simply his iMeme communicating to him. Clay flushed slightly with embarrassment as he noticed Rudy grinning. Clay wondered whether everyone reacted as surprised or whether Clay was the random oddball. The idea of being looked upon as some sort of fool annoyed him. “What if I want to take the chip out?” Clay asked.

A puzzled look crossed Rudy’s face. “Take it out?


About the Author:

Daniel Seltzer holds a J.D. degree and a BA in English. He also holds an MA in Bioethics and previously worked at a major university researching the ethical, legal and social implications (“ELSI”) of nanotechnology. It was while working there that the idea for this story first took shape.

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Urban Fantasy Spotlight: Winter Wolf by RJ Blain @rj_blain


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 Winter Wolf Cover Art by RJ Blain

Genres: Urban Fantasy, Thriller, Supernatural Suspense

The Hunted Wizard

When Nicole dabbled in the occult, she lost it all: Her voice, her family, and her name. Now on the run from the Inquisition, she must prove to herself—and the world—that not all wizards are too dangerous to let live.

The savage murder of a bookstore employee throws Nicole into the middle of Inquisition business, like it or not. Driven by her inability to save the young man’s life, she decides to hunt the killer on her own. Using forbidden magic to investigate the past, she learns that the murderer is in fact a disease that could kill the entire werewolf race.

Forced to choose between saving lives and preserving her own, Nicole embraces the magic that sent her into exile. Without werewolves, the power of the Inquisition would dwindle, and she could live without being hunted.

Nicole’s only hope for success lies in the hands of the werewolves she hates and the Inquisition she fears, but finding someone to trust is only the beginning of her problems. There are those who want to ensure that the werewolves go extinct and that the Inquisition falls.

But, if she fails to find a cure, her family—including her twin sister—will perish…

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Excerpt:

Almost everyone in the store had a phone. Dormant devices, from reading lights to mobile chargers, littered the tables. One woman, browsing books nearby, had four battery-powered devices in her purse. One was a phone, and like mine, it hungered. Its need was strong; its battery waned to the point of failure.

If I wanted, I could charge it for her.

No one would notice if I did. Maybe the woman would wonder how her phone hadn’t died before she got home. It only had a few minutes left. It’d take me all of ten seconds to fix it for her. If I did, I wouldn’t be so aware of it. But to do so, I’d have to touch her—or her phone. Some things I could manipulate without having a direct conduit, but cell phone batteries were tricky, greedy things.

I cringed a little, setting the thriller book down. I picked up the next nearest title. I flipped it over, not reading the text on the back. Did I dare? Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the woman browsing through the books. All it would take was a few seconds. I could charge it without her noticing.

That was one thing I was actually good at.

I put the novel I held down and wandered to the same table, careful not to look at her. Book by book, I investigated the titles, circling to where she stood.

“You’re Nicole Thomas, aren’t you? The actress. You’re her.” My quarry appraised me with a pleased expression.

People normally recognized the mainliners, people with beautiful faces and voices to match, people who didn’t avoid crowds.

In short, people other than me.

I met her gaze, abandoning my perusal of novels. “I am,” I replied, wincing a little at the sandpaper-rough quality of my voice. At least I hadn’t been reduced to a whisper—yet. My fatal flaw was my rough, grating voice. Chronic laryngitis did that to a person. It ruined careers, as it had mine, though I hadn’t quite given up on being an actress. I’d already lost the ability to sing.

I wasn’t going to let a stupid disease take everything away from me.

The woman smiled, not seeming to mind talking to someone who sounded more like a zombie than a human. “You’re taller than I expected. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

She thrust out her hand.

We shook.

I left her phone alone.

“They keep putting me next to giants,” I quipped. It was true. When I did manage to get on the silver screen, I worked alongside actors easily a foot-and-a-half taller than me. “It’s a pleasure to meet you too.” I matched her smile. She didn’t tell me her name, and I didn’t ask for it.

It took all of my will not to fiddle with her phone. All it would take was a murmured word and a thought, and it’d be done. It would have been easy to charge the battery when our hands had been clasped together, but I hadn’t dared.

If, sometime later, she noticed her phone had magically been charged—literally—she might remember me. She knew my name.

And in true cowardice, I couldn’t bring myself to help her. If she connected the strange behavior of her phone with me, she might tell someone. If she did, I’d be as good as dead—or worse. I had dabbled in the occult, and the occult had dabbled back, and there were those who didn’t like when that happened.

The last thing I needed was them finding me.


About the Author:

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RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

When she isn’t playing pretend, she likes to think she’s a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband. She is currently on a quest for a new warrior fish.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.

 

Favorite Books & Series

In no particular order:

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern
Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar & Gryphon Series
Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera & The Dresden Files
Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris
Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega, Dragon Bones, & The Mercy Thompson series
Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time

 

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Contemporary Erotic Romance: Honey Girl by Juliette Jones @JulietteBillion


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Genres: Contemporary Erotic Romance

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Blurb:

Alexander Wolfe is a billionaire whose priorities used to include work, money and total control. No longer. He now has only one obsession: his beautiful new fiancée Lila, whose combined innocence and sultry femininity drive him to the brink. Their attraction began as an uncontrollable lust and has bloomed into an all-encompassing love affair that awes them both. If Alexander could have it his way, he would confine Lila to his private penthouse and bask in the glow of her sensual charms day and night.

But when reality forces its way into Alexander and Lila’s private world in the form of Alexander’s supermodel ex-girlfriend, Alexander’s brother Jake’s impending prison sentence, and a very persistent work colleague of Alexander’s – who just happened to be present at a recent wild night of poker that got a little out of control – things get complicated.

Will the drama drive them apart, or is Alexander and Lila’s love strong enough to get them to the altar?

HONEY GIRL is the second book in the BILLIONAIRE series (and can also stand alone).

Also by Juliette Jones:
BILLIONAIRE
WILD RIDE

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Excerpt:

HONEY GIRL by Juliette Jones (Chapter 1)

Lila

He lay next to me, still asleep. His black hair was all askew, framing his face in artful, silky disarray. The cinnamon skin of his brawny shoulders looked dark, as always, next to my pale curves. He lay on his stomach, his face turned towards me, his muscular arm curled around a pillow. His full lips were barely parted, his face peaceful. He looked young in his sleep. Relaxed. That visceral, male aggression that clung to him softened when he slept, but the innate arrogance was somehow still there. In the curve of his mouth. In his strong features and the dark stripes of his eyebrows. I watched him sleep for a few minutes, fascinated by his mesmerizing flawlessness. He was astoundingly beautiful.

He had the build of an athlete. Tall and toned with graceful bones. Powerful, with the kind of strength that draws your eye and makes you aware of it. Of how easily it would be for him to use it. On you. Of how brutal he could be when he drove his immense, thick, hard-as-stone cock deep into you, forcing wave after wave of raw, lustrous pleasure.

I could have touched him, with feather-light strokes across his shoulders. Down his back. I could have rubbed myself against him and kissed his perfect lips, licking him, tasting the minted, drugging flavor of him. I knew he’d be instantly ready for me.

Alexander was always ready.

But today was the day I was starting my new job. As Alexander’s assistant.

Not as his assistant, I reminded myself. As his business partner.

This whirlwind romance had not only landed me a gorgeous sex-god of a fiancé, it had also placed me at the right hand of one of the most powerful CEOs in New York City: founder, owner and mastermind of Wolfe Enterprises. Alexander was the executive of the esteemed and hugely successful magazine Skyscraper. He also owned two major book publishers and ran several investment companies, hedge funds, and a number of cash cow Internet businesses.

He was a type-A genius with a dark side and a voracious carnal appetite. Which he took out on me whenever he got the opportunity. Which was, it had to be said … often.

It was Monday morning. Early. Earlier than we usually woke. We’d become night owls, the two of us. Darkness was our erotic haven, where we could exist only for each other.

I didn’t regret a single decision. Of course I didn’t. But sometimes when I stopped to think about things, like now, in the quiet of a purple-skied dawn, I almost felt a sense of vertigo from the gargantuan shift my life had taken over the course of exactly two months.

Two months.

Two months ago, I’d been a capable yet fumbling, unemployed, broke, virginal recent-graduate who dressed in baggy clothes, wore unfashionable glasses, had a bad haircut and who preferred to keep all members of the opposite sex at arm’s length. And now? Well, times had most definitely changed. At least when it came to one particular member of the opposite sex.

I lay in the semi-darkness and took in my surroundings. The heavy, decorative drapes that framed Alexander’s – our – bedroom windows were never drawn. We were too high up to be visible to the mortals down below. Our view overlooked the distant streets, the treetops of Central Park, the gritty, graceful skyline of some of New York’s most expensive real estate. It was early October and the deep indigo of the city night hung on. The quiet, expansive room hummed with plush, cocooned luxury. Alexander’s bed was huge, swathed in expensive cotton and silk, most of which had been displaced and/or rumpled by our lovemaking.

At this, I’d proven a prodigy. Whoever thought virgins took things slow once they finally got going at the advanced age of twenty … well, they hadn’t put me in a locked room with Alexander Wolfe. It had taken all of thirty minutes for us to get not only intimate but downright feral. There had been a desperation to it that I still couldn’t explain. Physically, we were like magnets. Greedy, superstrength magnets who had no choice or control. None of it made sense, really. That we’d been willing to risk everything to get as close as humanly possible from that very first encounter – and every encounter since. Who does that? What highly educated, soon-to-be professional, modern woman throws all – and I mean all – caution to the wind just to get down and dirty with a ridiculously sexy, overconfident billionaire?

This one, apparently.

He was my drug and my addiction. With him, lines became skewed and normal considerations simply did not apply. To not get close to him proved impossible. To not want to get close to him seemed insane.

Alexander.

My lover. My devil and my saint. My strength and my weakness.

My fiancé.

Beautiful, crazy Alexander. All mine.

I was intensely happy that we would spend the day together. That we’d spend every day together. That seemed to be our way, though. Since I’d met him to interview for the position of his assistant, we’d been … completely overcome, to put it mildly. Inseparable and insatiable. He had difficulty letting me out of his sight, and I knew why. I knew what fueled his protective instincts. Still, it would now be a challenge for him: seeing me at work, having me ensconced in his professional setting. In his office and meeting with his staff. It would be difficult for us both. To resist temptation. To act like normal people and not amped-up, lust-crazed hedonists.

I’ll agree to try to employ you, Alexander had said. I can’t guarantee that this will work for me, though. I’m too close, too deep. I need to be able to focus on my companies, without distractions. And you, my sweet Lila, are more of a distraction than I can handle.

We’d fought about it but that had been before my meltdown. Before Jake had rescued me. I knew Alexander wouldn’t risk driving me away again. I now had a ring on my finger and a key to his universe, to come and go as I liked. He would tame himself, or he would die trying.

I hoped it could work.

And I wanted to be ready for it.

Silently, I rose from the bed, taking care not to wake him. I needed some time to prepare myself, physically as well as mentally. It had been a while since I’d worked or studied, or done anything at all except immerse myself in the decadent idyll of Alexander’s attentions.

I showered alone.

Already, I missed him. The contact. The closeness and the warmth. If I’d stayed in bed, dozing, he would have woken me like he always did. With his mouth on me, licking into me, softly opening me with his tongue, his hair silken against the sensitive skin of my thighs. Or with his cock, pressing its huge, hard heat against me as he spooned me, cradling me in his all-encompassing embrace. At first he’d just hold me. Then I’d feel him finding his way inside, barely entering me. He’d wait, pressing gently until my body began to soften and dew. I’d arch sleepily against him, taking more. And more. Until I became slippery enough for him to slide his massive arousal deep, and deeper, filling me, possessing me entirely. His fingers would be everywhere, intimate and playful. Coaxing warm, blissful pleasure. His powerful hold would demand submission, but I’d squeeze him with my body, pressing back against him invitingly, taking everything he gave. Making demands of my own. My own pleasure would tug at his, drawing the ecstasy out of him in clenching, undulating pulls, until he flooded me with his liquid heat. He’d stay inside me. We might sleep a little more. This time when he woke me, I might feel him at my breast, suckling lazily, feeding on me like I was offering him some kind of spiritual sustenance that was drugging to him. When we were fully sated, we’d get up. We’d shower together. He’d wash me and I’d wash him, my careful fingers soaping him everywhere. We’d make love again. Because we couldn’t get enough. Our hunger for each other was relentless. Eventually, we’d venture out into the day. We’d eat at a restaurant and talk. We’d walk a little, and he’d buy me something he saw in a window. Gold earrings. A cashmere sweater. A leather coat that cost more money than I’d made in my life. We’d visit a museum or a gallery, see a movie, or just walk. We might meet his brother somewhere and have a drink together. And then the two of us would return to his limo and make love, starved all over again.

Not today.

Today we’d be working.

I dressed in one of the many outfits he’d bought me. I chose a sleeveless sea-green silk tunic that matched the color of my eyes. It was a fitted wrap-around that was simple yet elegant, professional but feminine. I brushed my long blond hair and pinned it up in a French twist. Gold hoop earrings, my gold watch and my new ring were the only (real) jewelry I owned – all given to me by Alexander. I couldn’t help wondering how much he’d spent on my engagement ring. It was beautifully designed, a solid, rose-gold band inlaid with the largest, glintiest diamond I’d ever seen. It looked very, very expensive.

I wondered how Alexander’s staff would take this new development: that his new assistant was also his new fiancée.

Putting on some light makeup, I walked back into the bedroom.

His eyes were open.

He rolled onto his back and slung one arm behind his head. The way he moved was insouciant, utterly self-assured. So purely Alexander.

Damn.

His body was unreal. Big and bronzed and hair-dusted and fully aroused.

Lila,” he said, his lazy, sexy charisma hitting me where it always did. In the most intimate place imaginable. That sleep-roughened edge to his voice reminded me of his rasped growls and lust-driven oaths … when he was inside me, groaning my name as we climaxed together, my body spasming around the hard, beautiful bulk of him. “Come here.” He patted the bed.

I went to him and sat down.

His fingers entwined with mine and he played idly with my ring, looking into my eyes. “Let’s get married soon. I don’t want to wait.” The combination of his sincerity and his staunch manliness was riveting to me, almost unbearably alluring. “Something small. At one of my houses. Whichever one you want. At the hotel in Paris, or on the beach in Key West. Or maybe in my vineyard in Malibu, overlooking the ocean. I think you’ll like it there. Water Mill is quiet this time of year. We could do it there, if you don’t want to travel too far. Or in Maine, on my island. It’s very secluded.”

They all sound nice.” I’d never been to any of those places. Except Paris, of course.

Or we could do it right here in the city if you want to.”

I really don’t mind where I marry you, Alexander. As long as I do.”

His slow smile just about killed me. “You weren’t here, in my bed with me, where I need you,” he accused gently, that alpha glint touching his expression. “You’re dressed,” he added, sulky with the observation.

I’m getting ready. Since I start work with you today. Remember?”

A smile played at the corner of his mouth. Of course he remembered. He was amused by how eager I was. I was eager. In my former life it would’ve seemed too good to be true. I wouldn’t just be working as an underling at Skyscraper, which just so happened to be the most glamorous magazine in publication, that rare combination of stylish and acclaimed, whose editors-at-large included Pulitzer prize-winning journalists, supermodels, film directors, bestselling authors, rock stars, celebrity chefs, presidents and aging beat poets, to name just a few. I wouldn’t just be answering phones and typing memos, I would be meeting these people. Expanding the list. Learning about everything, at Alexander’s side. I would read the articles before they went to press. I would take part in the art direction and the decisions about shoot locations and the relevance of political op-ed pieces. I’d been fantasizing about jobs like this one all through the long days and dark nights of my gloomy adolescence and the toiling, grinding slog of my hard-won Ivy League education.

This was no longer my former life. This was my new, Alexander-charmed life. And today was the day. Today I could finally use all that.

With him.

The job itself didn’t make me nervous in the slightest. The only thing that made me nervous was Alexander. How the intensity of our … attraction would mesh with life amongst the cubicles. Not that Alexander ever got near a cubicle, but still. It would be weird, after our orgasmic sexathon over the past month to return to normality. To refrain. To have to wait. To be near him but not allowed to touch.

There’s no rush,” he said. “The meeting doesn’t start until nine. Our commute is exactly three minutes by elevator.”

I know,” I said. “But’s already almost seven thirty. I think we should get started. Do I look all right?”

His dark eyes appraised my face, the flattering fit of my stylish new clothes. The smoldering glimmer of his gaze made my stomach flutter. Slowly, he shook his head.

No?” I touched my hair.

You don’t look ‘all right’. You look so fucking gorgeous it hurts. Right here,” he said, placing his hand on his heart.

I smiled, leaning to hold his hand, to kiss his broad chest, as though to ease his pain.

And here,” he smirked, his eyes heavy-lidded. His hand slid to his massive, engorged erection.

His phone rang, splicing through the quiet, intimate privacy and the sparked anticipation. On any other day, he would have ignored the call. I would have climbed onto him and kissed him everywhere, taking him into my mouth, letting the world fade away. Today he’d committed to meetings and attending to overdue issues with his companies. There was an investigation going on in the business Jake was in charge of that was getting a lot of unwanted attention. Alexander had taken more time off in the past month than in the entire course of his business career and his minions were getting impatient. Seven thirty on Monday morning was fair game. He picked up his phone and answered it gruffly.

I got up, letting him concentrate on what was clearly an urgent complaint by whoever the caller was. I went to the walk-in closet – which, after Alexander’s latest shopping spree (for me), was now almost half-full of my new, expanding wardrobe. I put on the new pair of Balenciaga boots Alexander had bought me, to replace the ones I’d ruined when I’d run from him through the pouring rain. I wouldn’t be needing my favorite coat, since we didn’t have to go outside to get to the downstairs office suites.

We could live our whole lives in this building, safely locked away. The thought sent a ripple of unease through me, but then it was gone. I had the key now. I could let myself out anytime I wanted to.

I was putting on some lipstick when he came up behind me. He slid his steel-strong arms around my waist and nipped at my neck. Alexander had such complete erotic power over me that his lusty, possessive bite was enough to rock me to my core. His huge, hard shaft pressed strongly against the rounded curves of my ass. But his arms were gentle and his words were tender as he nuzzled my neck, biting softly like he was marking me as his own. “Are you nervous?”

About the job? No. I’m excited. I feel ready.”

You are ready,” he said. “You’ll be amazing today, Lila. Don’t worry about anything. I’ll be right there with you. Whenever you need me.”

I turned to face him. As always, the stunning vision of him made my chest feel heavy with happiness.

God, I loved him.

At first it had shocked me that I could fall this hard and this fast for someone I barely knew. Then again, by the time I even got around to questioning the warp-speed momentum of my connection to Alexander, I’d already had hot, unprotected sex with him twice. Questioning the momentum after he’d repeatedly spent himself inside me had seemed a little ridiculous. It had been crazy. Wild. Unstoppable in a way that broke every rule and recast every boundary. We’d both been all in. Alexander was the one. I didn’t need years or even months to figure that out. I’d known it all along, from that very first moment.

Whenever I need you?” I repeated, laughing as his strong, warm hand curled around the nape of my neck. His hard cock slid against my stomach and I could feel the heat of his desire through the thin silk layer of my clothing.

He chuckled, nipping the soft hollow below my ear with his teeth. He understood. Our attraction from the word go was … intense. “You’ll have to try to resist me for five minutes.”

I can’t resist you, you know that.”

We’re just not used to exercising control when it comes to each other,” he said. “Everything will be fine, once we get started. You’ll see.”

I placed my palm gently against his chest, and I could feel his heartbeat. Sure we could. We could behave like rational, professional adults. We could control our urges and subdue our over-indulged libidos when we needed to.

You will be perfect,” he continued, kissing me lightly, “the star academic, the new Princeton grad with shining credentials and talent to burn. I will be the pinnacle of discipline and self-control. As I always have been. Before you showed up. And even when you, my Lila, my Kryptonite, walks into the room – or out of it – I’ll make every attempt not to morph into a raving psychopathic lunatic.”

Alexander had a few control issues. He had a problem letting me out of his sight: it made him a little manic. We were working on it. His smile was half-apologetic at the reference to his recent fuck-up, when he’d locked me in his bedroom, triggering my total meltdown.

But I’d already forgiven him for all that.

He held my face in his hands. “I’m going to try to behave like a reasonable, normal human being. As you know, that doesn’t come particularly easily for me when it comes to you.” He was half-joking, but then his tone turned more serious. “You know I’d do anything for you, don’t you, honey girl? You know none of it means anything to me anymore without you.” He kissed me again, just a brush of his lips against mine. “I love you.”

My hands slid up his neck, into the thick locks of his wild black hair. He had amazing hair. “I love you more.”

He smiled and his eyelashes lowered once, his expression soft. Enchanted and enchanting. This was my Alexander, this warm, compassionate lover, devoid of the ruthless authority that was so much a part of his CEO persona. This was the part of himself he saved just for me. “I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

I kissed his lips, touching my tongue to his. The kiss deepened as his mouth took mine, his tongue exploring as I allowed him anything he wanted of me with teasing, adoring invitation. My body and soul opened to Alexander, as always, with an almost worshipful intent. If I was his Kryptonite, he was my superpower. With him, I felt safe. With him inside me, I felt invincible. I gently sucked his tongue into my mouth, craving him with a quiet, savage intensity.

His phone rang again.

He swore under his breath and I pulled back a little.

You should probably get that,” I told him. He was considering not answering it. His own wicked, beautiful craving burned in the dark light of his eyes. By now I knew Alexander might have let his entire empire crumble around us if I asked him to. “Go.”

He disengaged reluctantly and walked over to pick up his phone from the bedside table. His colossal arousal was rigid and hot-looking, his body as ripped and perfect as a genius’s sculpture come to life. I wished I could feast on him. I felt that now-familiar, decadent longing: to put my mouth on him, to suck on all that throbbing beauty, to drink him in greedy mouthfuls. It seemed such a shame not to indulge in his magnificence, but it was clear enough we would have to take care of business before our pleasure could be attended to.

A first, possibly.

It’s Jake,” he said. “I’d better take this.”

I’ll go downstairs to your office and wait for you there.”

Alexander took a long look at me. Then he sighed lightly, and nodded. “Yeah. This could take a while. I’ll meet you on the seventh floor.”

It was surprisingly difficult, already: these interruptions. These small separations. “You’ve got the key,” he added.

His eyes held mine for a brief moment. Yes, I had his key. To get in and to get out. To never be locked up again. Right here and now, though, I felt a little conflicted. I almost wished he would lock me up. With him. To seal us away forever so I could have him all to myself. “I’ll see you soon.”

You’ve got a hot date tonight, by the way,” he smiled, dark-eyed and wolf-like. “Be ready for me.”

I’m always ready for you,” I told him coyly.

His eyes narrowed with such smoldering lust I thought he might lunge at me, but his phone was still ringing. He answered it with a pissed-off growl. “Jake. What the fuck’s going on?”

I left him to talk to his brother, closing the bedroom door behind me. I walked down the curved, modern staircase, taking in the view out the wall of windows. New York on a clear October morning must have been the most beautiful place on Earth. Gleaming, sunlit buildings shone like beacons of power against a brilliant blue sky.

I let myself out of the apartment and took Alexander’s private elevator down towards the suite of Skyscraper offices that were located on the fifth, sixth and seventh floors of his building. He had a private penthouse office on the twenty-seventh floor and also a corner office on the seventh floor, which was where I was headed.

A woman sat behind the gargantuan desk and under the wall-sized print of the New York City skyline. I remembered it well, from the day of my interview, although it was a different receptionist today. She greeted me by name, which surprised me a little. Alexander, or someone else, must have told the Skyscraper staff of my new appointment. I wondered if they’d also been informed about my recent engagement to their CEO.

She gave me directions to Alexander’s office, and I found my way easily, entering his spacious corner suite. I felt excited, composed, but also distracted. I couldn’t get my cravings to settle down. It was unusual for us not to have acted on our compulsions this morning. It left me with a small pang of restlessness: to just disengage and walk away from him when he’d been so aroused. And so mouth-wateringly gorgeous.

For god’s sake, Lila, calm down, I ordered myself. You’re at work. Focus. Absolutely do not let yourself be reminded of the job interview. Of that very first encounter. Of the way he looked at you, licking his lips, inviting you into his lair. Of how it felt when he peeled off your sweater and squeezed your nipples between those brutal fingers. Or the way he felt when he slid that –

Ms. Carmichael, welcome.” I jumped a little, startled. A woman stood there, tapping on the open door. She was around thirty, with a short blond bob and tortoise-shell glasses. She was smiling and attempting to control her fascination, I could see this. I guess it was a vibe I would need to get used to. The ring was on my finger and her eyes rounded at the sight of it. Then she collected herself. “I’m Gwen Smith, one of the associate editors. Congratulations on getting the job as Mr. Wolfe’s assistant. We had about a million applications.”

Thank you, Ms. Smith.”

God, that makes me sound about a hundred years old. Call me Gwen. Please.”

Thank you, Gwen,” I said. She was nice, and I appreciated that she was trying to put me at ease on my first day on the job.

I can show you around while you wait for Mr. Wolfe to arrive, if you’d like.”

I kept my cool but I felt almost giddy with anticipation. About the job. About seeing Alexander again soon. I already missed him. I missed his black-haired, swarthy presence and the sparks in the room whenever he was near me. “That would be fabulous.”

She smiled and gave me a quick tour, introducing me to several other staff members. All of them watched me, half-intrigued and half-amused. I had no idea how to read their reactions to me and I felt surprisingly unaffected, like I was one step removed somehow, as if I’d been coated with a thin veneer of power. It was ridiculous, really. I didn’t have any power, over anyone. I didn’t even want power. Still, the thought crept in before I could suppress it: their mogul boss was my very-possessive fiancé, who would do anything I asked of him and who had shared with me the most passionate, transformative, intimate experiences of my life, and his. I can bring your CEO to his knees. I can make him come so hard with the flick of my tongue and the squeeze of my fingers that he groans like his heart’s being ripped out of his chest. I’ve taken him into my body and had him in every way it’s possible to do. He belongs with me. He’s mine.

God.

I’d accused Alexander of being obsessive when it came to me but I was equally guilty. Either that or I was going mad. I didn’t even care at this point. I just wanted to see him again. Now. I was having some crazy withdrawal symptoms.

Here’s the conference room,” Gwen was saying. “This is where this morning’s meeting will be held. I’ll leave you to it if you’d like to set up. There’s coffee on the table in the corner and breakfast will be served at nine fifteen. Mr. Wolfe should be here any minute.”

Great. Thanks for the tour, Gwen. I really appreciate it.”

We should have lunch sometime,” she suggested. “I’ll introduce you to a few more of the Skyscraper staff. It’s a great bunch of people.”

I’d love that.”

We’ll set something up later. I’ll see you after the meeting.”

Then she left and I was alone in the large conference room. Out the windows, the view was more closed in down here on the seventh floor and, weirdly, I used this detail to ground myself. To remind myself of the new rules and restrictions. He’ll be here soon. You can appreciate his beauty from afar and save the rest for later.

I was placing the print-outs of the agenda around the table when Alexander swept in like a stormy-eyed, billionaire monsoon. I swear the temperature in the room spiked by several degrees. His energy filled the space, crowding around me like sultry, tropical warmth. He closed the door.

He looked almost windblown, like he’d been rushing. Even from across the room, I could detect his relief. He’d rushed so he could see me. A little fissure in my heart seemed to open a fraction wider with the realization that he needed me so much. That I wasn’t the only one suffering from this full-blown addiction.

Alexander was dressed in a beautifully-cut three-piece suit. He looked clean and hastily-groomed and gorgeous. His hair was still damp from his shower and it was a little too long, curling over his collar. It had been a while since I’d seen him dressed up and the effect shot straight to the pit of my stomach. The combination of his wild ferocity, contained as it was in his business clothes, was dazzling. Almost too much to bear. I want to rip those clothes off him. I want to bite him and hold him down as I entice him with my naked body.

Damn.

He placed his leather briefcase at the head of the table. But he kept his distance, as though similarly affected. “Honey girl,” he greeted me coolly, his eyes predatory and his deep voice edged with a husked, controlled joy.

You won’t be able to call me that in the meeting,” I said, drawing closer to him, but not close enough to touch him; that would be dangerous.

No,” he drawled, and his gaze was on my parted lips. “But I can call you that now.”

God. His voice. So deep and gravelled. Thick with husky intent. How would this work? How would we function like regular people when the allure was this manic? I tried to distract myself. I pulled my eyes away, forcing myself to calm down, and I continued placing the papers around the table. “How’d it go with Jake? Everything okay?”

No. Not even close. He’s coming in this afternoon so we can make a plan. The press is in on it now, which makes everything more complicated. And a lot more expensive.”

I wasn’t used to seeing him so on edge. Most of the time we’d spent together, he’d been relaxed. Okay, not relaxed … intense. But easy enough to placate. The urge to comfort him now was too strong. I went to him, allowing myself one little indulgence: my fingers smoothed an unruly strand of his hair into place. “Is there anything I can do?”

He opened his leather briefcase, as though to distract himself. “We’ll see him later on. We’ll have to go through all the particulars and sort through them. Throw down some hush money if necessary. I don’t know why he can’t keep it on the straight and narrow. My brother has a knack for pushing every boundary.”

I’m sure there’ll be a solution.” I didn’t know anything about pushing legal boundaries, insider trading, or paying off the press and/or the police. But I wanted to be there for Alexander, to support him in any way I could. I was still touching the coarse silk of his hair. I skimmed my fingers along the line of his jaw, loving the endlessly appealing textures of him. The smoothness of his recent shave underlaid by a barely-detectable roughness. The plump curve of his lower lip. I wished I could touch my tongue to him. To lightly lick his mouth. My craving for him was pulsing in me, along with the beat of my heart.

He wasn’t breathing well. His face looked almost pained. “Lila. Why don’t you sit in that chair. Or stand over there for a minute. It’s probably not a great idea for you to touch me right now.”

My hand stilled, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to draw away. “Why not?”

He paused before giving me a gruff reply. “Because I get a fucking raging hard-on whenever you do. And, as much as I enjoy raging hard-ons, they’re not ideal in editorial meetings.”

Oh, god. I wished he hadn’t told me that. His anger fed my desire, inflaming it. I felt feverish. Alive. And so in love my heart ached.

And I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t not give in to the most potent addiction I’d ever known. Pleasing him, and pleasing myself.

I glanced at the clock on the wall. 8:29. Feigning obedience, I stepped away from him. Instead of sitting down, though, I walked over to the door and flicked the lock closed. There was a window to the hallway, a single pane of glass that ran the length of the door, but it was tinted and opaque.

Alexander watched me walk back over to him, his eyes wary and so dark they looked black. I’d gazed into them enough to know they weren’t black at all. They were flecked with shades of dark gold and chocolate brown. And he could read my intent. “Lila –” He was watching my face and his question got lost in his breathing, in the intensity of his awareness of me as I stood close to him. Very close.

It’s only eight-thirty,” I said. He was watching my face. My mouth. He was flustered. I’ll admit it: I loved flustering him. I crazy-loved him when his big, musclebound body reacted to me in a way that was beyond his control. All that broad-shouldered, dark, masculine bravado. Mine. My basest urges were on overdrive. He was far too tempting. “They won’t be here until nine.”

He looked staggered. Torn. Ridiculously sexy. The worry had eased, replaced by a conflicted, ravenous need. Still, he protested. “Lila,” he said, his sternness underlaid with raw desire. “Be reasonable.”

I stood on my toes, licking the lightest touch along his lower lip. “This is me being reasonable. What I really want to do would take much longer.”

He stared down at me, incredulous. But when I ran my hand over the front of his pants, he was fully, mouth-wateringly hard. I kissed him again, licking my tongue between his lips. “I know how to make you come quickly. Let me.”

Damn it, Lila,” he growled, his breath quickening. I was already unbuckling his belt and he made no move to stop me. “Fuck.”

I want you,” I whispered, kissing him again.

Yes. You want me. You have me. And you’re going to be the fucking undoing of me. Which you know already.”

I am going to undo you,” I crooned, owning his surrender. I knew he wouldn’t refuse me. He couldn’t. He was as needy for my touch as I was for his. “Like this.” I unzipped him, reaching into his pants and grasping my tight fist around the hot immensity of him. “The door is locked. No one can see us. No one knows what I’m about to do to you.”

His eyes were narrowed, almost furious. Letting me do whatever I wanted. Challenging me to do whatever I wanted.

I’m going take you into my mouth,” I purred. “Just the head first. I’m going to suck on you and use both hands to –”

Lila. Fuck–”

Do you want me to stop?”

No.”

I squeezed him, working both my fists along his length in careful, provocative strokes. I gripped him harder, rubbing and teasing, totally focused on his pleasure.

Alexander groaned.

I spoke softly, murmuring the words. “Look at you. Look at my fingers swirling your juice all over your big, thick cock. See? You’re already starting to come a little.”

His expression was severe. A mixture between fury and ecstasy. He obeyed me, watching as I worked the silken, purpled crown of his shaft with my playful fingers.

Be very quiet,” I commanded him. I pulled a chair closer and sat down in front of him.

Lila,” he breathed, as I laved my tongue over the gathering moisture, tasting him, nipping and kissing his silky hardness. His eyes closed. “—oh, god help me.”

Again, I touched my tongue to his hot, throbbing cock, licking across the broad end in gentle, sweeping glides. I took him deeper into my mouth as I held him in my supple grip.

Oh, fuck.”

Quiet,” I said.

Distant voices could be heard outside, in the offices down the hall, but there was no one at the door. Alexander went very still and I sucked him hungrily, easing him deeper. I ran my tongue along the sensitive underside of his cock as I took him as deep as I could take it, drawing on him with building, circular suction. With my hands and my mouth I pumped him, increasing the pace. He exhaled a curse and I knew he was close. My fingers explored secret, intimate avenues, until his thick cum spilled into my mouth in sudden, furtive bursts. I swallowed as I continued caressing him with my tongue, until he was completely spent. I drank all of it, licking him clean.

It took him a minute to recover. I tucked him back into his pants and fastened them.

My god,” he breathed, touching a finger to my chin and tipping my face up to him. He pulled me up and held me close. “That was –”

I love you,” I whispered.

His color was high, his eyes volatile yet awed. He blinked, a slow, enchanted sweep that reminded me of moonlight. “You are so in for it tonight.”

I smiled and stepped away from him, smoothing my clothing. I gave him a look, letting him know I was up for it. For him. For anything that had to do with him and his promises. “I’ll look forward to it, Mr. Wolfe,” I said, with business-like, assistant-worthy subservience.

So will I, Mrs. Wolfe.”

He stopped me in my tracks with that one. Mrs. Wolfe. Hearing him say it sent little darts of too many emotions to name through my soul.

All right?” he said to me.

I nodded.

Alexander went to the door, unlocking it.

Just then, two men and a woman approached the door, talking, entering. They were followed by nine more people.

The meeting had begun.

Alexander

Fuck.

The team of executive editors walked into the room, talking and laughing like it was any other day. Like all this shit was normal. Like I wasn’t walking some fine line between heaven and hell. The heaven part began to dissipate, speared by the sudden intrusion of twelve of my top employees.

And the hell was about to get a whole lot more intense.

I was still trying to recalibrate after an impromptu orgasm that had been so quick-rising and mind-blowing that I was still reeling. I felt like my heart was beating somewhere outside my chest, exposed and bloody for everyone to see. I had to glance down for a second just to make sure I was fucking zipped up.

It was probably a good thing Lila had sucked me off five minutes ago because there was no way I could’ve kept my cool otherwise.

Because sitting right across the table from me was Mark fucking Faber. A guy who’d worked for me for five or six years, who was friendly enough, who I’d socialized with from time to time and gotten to know, who I’d once had a conversation with about poker and who’d ended up joining in our occasional game.

Who’d been there that night.

Poker night.

With her.

Touching her.

What the fuck had I been thinking? How had I allowed things to get that out of hand? I’d been completely unprepared for her reaction. Yeah, I’d revved her up and I’d planned it that way. For me. So I could tease her and torture her like she’d done to me since the minute she’d swanned into my life like a million-watt lightning bolt of sexuality whose sole intent was to twist my heart and my soul into roped, tightening pleasure-knots.

I hadn’t predicted exactly how turned on those beads would get her. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Right there in front of the boys. She’d offered those perfect, creamy breasts to my mouth. She’d begged me, pleading and demanding. And I’d gone with it. Of course I had. She’d been so wet I hadn’t been able to see anything past that juicy little pink pussy. I’d forgotten everything but her, like those movie shots where everything on the periphery fades out. She’d come right there on the fucking poker table, laid out on a bed of money like a goddess Greek mythology had forgotten to document. The Goddess of Jackpots and Orgasms.

By the time reality had kicked in they were already there. Before I could even react or fight them off. Now, the memory was almost too rage-inducing to handle. If I could’ve blocked it out I would have but it flashed through my mind in excruciating play-by-play detail. Jon had been kissing her face. Cole’s hands had played with her silky hair.

And Mark Faber had kissed her breast. Licking that perfect rosy nipple that was mine.

He was looking at her now. I could see it on his face: he was remembering how she felt. How she’d tasted.

I was about to fucking lose it. My inner caveman was seriously considering breaking free.

I couldn’t do this.

But Lila was looking at me. She could tell I was about to go ballistic, maybe. She was watching my expression, reading it. She placed her hand on my thigh, under the table. She just left it there, holding me in place. She recognized him. She knew what was going through my mind.

It was good. That light warmth calmed me a little, diffusing a single degree of my fury.

I had to take it.

I had to own up to the fact that it was my own goddamn fault. For putting her in that position. For not letting her come before the start of the poker game, when she’d asked for it. Begged for it. For not insisting she cover up a little, to save the skimpy, practically-transparent outfits for me and for me alone. I’d been blinded and blind-sided by this tsunami of lust that was so new to me. Of course I’d experienced lust before, but not like this. Nothing like this. This lust was madness-edged and brutal. Like it had one hand gripped around my heart and the other grasped tightly around my balls.

That old version of myself had been entranced by Lila Carmichael. Covetous and wild. Now, I was so in love with her I could barely see straight. The emotions were ten times more complex. And if I was going to spend a lifetime both protecting her while simultaneously allowing her to exist and work and live her life, I was going to have to man up and calm the fuck down.

Mark Faber wasn’t the only one riveted by Lila. They were all staring at her. At the vision that was Lila. Her eyes matched the sea-green of her dress. A few tendrils of her golden hair had escaped the clip she’d pinned it up with, framing her face in elegant coils. Her full lips were pink and almost-swollen … from the blow job she’d just given me.

God, help me.

Her right hand rested on my leg. And her left hand, gently clasped around a mug of coffee, displayed the ring. One million dollars’ worth of Tiffany’s finest.

Nice to see you all,” I began, willing my own steadiness. I didn’t want to fuck around. It was better just to get right to the heart of the fucking matter. And it turned out to be easier to do than I thought. I was steady when it came to work and leadership within the company I’d built from the ground up. As long as I focused on them – and not on her – I was fine. My voice sounded unwavering, almost arrogant. Which was also fine. Better to come across as a prick than a pussy-whipped mess. “Most of you know by now that I’ve hired a new assistant. This is Lila Carmichael.”

Lila smiled a little. She seemed cool and quietly confident. Aware of her own power. She’d changed over the past month. She’d always exuded a kind of sensual prowess, even if she hadn’t always been aware of this. She had bowled me right over with it the moment I’d laid eyes on her. Now, she was more experienced. She knew her own influence. It sort of radiated from her along with her golden glow.

As some of you might have heard,” I continued, “Lila is now not only my new assistant but she’s also my fiancée. We plan to marry soon.”

I let this information settle for a few seconds. There were some surprised murmurs, some not so surprised. A few of them offered their congratulations. Ashley Lynch, executive editor of the Fashion section of the magazine, obviously hadn’t heard the news. Her eyes widened. Ashley was a tall, willowy woman with dark hair she always wore pulled back in a tight bun, which made her look severe. Her chunky, black-rimmed glasses and flowing outfits were her trademark. It wasn’t a look that endeared her to men, but she was good at her job. I’d been encouraged to head-hunt her from another magazine about two years ago. I’d offered her big money to jump ship and she’d worked out well. The fashion shoots had received glowing reviews and had been called ‘hip, must-have and oh so New York’ by the New York Times, a quote that had become a sort of tag line for the department. Ashley had walked in, glanced at Lila, then turned her attention to the agenda. But she was listening now. Staring at the ring. And I knew the first fucking person she would call.

Shawna.

I let the unpleasantness of that realization drift. I hadn’t thought much about my ex since Lila had showed up on the scene. I’d mostly ignored Shawna’s irate and frequent phone calls. To be honest, I was fully aware I’d been a complete asshole to her. I wasn’t proud of it, but in my mind the whole thing was well and truly over. It was best to make that crystal clear.

The entire thought process left me feeling irritated. When I spoke again, my voice sounded mildly pissed off. Which was probably a good thing. I didn’t want there to be any misunderstandings about the next detail. “Lila just graduated from Princeton. Top of her class. She has some experience in publishing and will be working alongside me in whatever capacity she and I choose. With my assistance – and yours – she’ll be learning the ropes. The ins and outs of the entire magazine. She’ll spend time in each department, to be informed directly by each of you. I want her to learn the workings of the company from the ground up. So I’ll thank you in advance for welcoming her and guiding her in whatever way she requires as she settles into her new role.”

I glared at Mark Faber. Except him. I had a distinct urge to fire his ass on the spot. But I inwardly applauded myself on my restraint. I could sack him if the need arose. If he made one wrong move or if it all became too much to bear. Until then, I had enough on my plate besides looking around for a new head of the Political and Current Affairs Department. The guy had around twelve degrees and must therefore be smart enough to decipher that I would happily throttle him if he so much as touched a hair on her pretty little head.

He saw the look I gave him. He said something polite and non-suggestive to Lila and she smiled at him briefly and replied with a tactfully abrupt – for my sake, I knew – response before turning to the next person as I began to introduce them, one by one.

On to the next item on the agenda, which was filling me in on all I’d missed since I’d been away. Taking my spur-of-the-moment hiatus from life so I could gorge myself on her beauty and her sweetness. Her smile and her laughter. Her initiation and her satiation. Her luscious body and that tight little –

No. Control it. Do. Not. Rise.

Fuck.

It was agonizing, with her delicate little hand still resting on my thigh like that.

I stared at Ashley Lynch, who was speaking. I concentrated on her bulky glasses and her beaky face. The way her hair was scraped back into its school-marmish bun. She was working some odd look that might have been edgily fashionable but it was doing her no favors. I wondered, and not for the first time, what she and Shawna had ever had in common. My ex-girlfriend was a highly successful model who wrote a monthly column for Skyscraper. A day in the life of a jet-setting supermodel, that kind of thing. It had been Ashley’s idea. They’d become friends and still were for all I knew.

This was better.

Listening to Ashley Lynch’s androgynous monotone as she talked about her vision for the next fashion spread was helping. My hard-on was back under control.

Which was a very good thing because my phone rang and it was a call I would need to take. A police detective. Jake had mentioned him this morning. My brother had given the guy my number, at the detective’s insistence. He wanted to speak to me about the accusation against Jake for insider trading that my brother was tangled up in. I’d already made up my mind to do everything I could to pay our way out of it, if it came to that. And I knew I might have to spend the next few hours dealing with whatever it was this cop was going to tell me.

I stood up. To the collective group: “Sorry, I have to take this.”

I made a decision right there and then, even though I knew it would have a major downside; that downside, though, was a million times more palatable than picturing Mark Faber drooling all over Lila for the duration of the morning. I needed to know where she would be. I needed to concentrate. I had the NYPD on the other end of the line, awaiting my undivided attention. “Ashley,” I said. “Show Lila around today. Give her a tour of the Fashion department and introduce her to your people. Looks like I could be tied up for a while.” I realized how fucking abrupt I sounded. “Thank you,” I added. Ashley’s tense, puckered face softened by a miniscule degree. Usually I was more dedicated to my people skills but today was already having its way with me. I’d been given a practically-public blow job by my unbelievably hot nymph of a fiancée and my brother was about to get arrested.

I looked at Lila as I left. “You all right?”

Fine.” She smiled in that sexy-demure way she had.

I had an urge to tell her I loved her, but was aware of the twelve pairs of eyes staring at me. Certain revelations would undoubtedly cross her path today that would shake her. I wished I’d prepared her for what she was about to learn. I hadn’t wanted to shatter any of the moments we’d so far shared together and my admissions would have. But I wished to hell right now that I’d done it anyway.

I’ll see you later,” she said.

It was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done it my life: leaving her. Pathetic, possibly. I didn’t even fucking care. I felt like scooping her up and taking her someplace private, where we could be alone and talk and laugh and make love in that insanely beautiful way we had. So I could wrap myself around her. So I could reach her and kiss her and touch her. So I could get inside.

It was all I really wanted to do.

Instead, I opened the door and closed it behind me as I answered the phone. “Alexander Wolfe.”

Mr. Wolfe, this is Detective John Rizzo with the NYPD. How are you this morning?”

Fine. You?”

Well, I’ve been better. Despite my track record, I don’t enjoy putting people away. I’m gonna cut right to the chase: the FSE is demanding justice. Someone’s head has to roll, Mr. Wolfe. Your brother’s laptop was seized and we have enough evidence to put him away for ten years.”

Ten years? Shit. What the fuck had Jake been up to? “I’m sure we can come to an agreement, Detective. I have very deep pockets.”

They’re not gonna be satisfied with a pay-off this time, Mr. Wolfe. They want blood and they want time. I suggest you meet with your brother, prep your lawyers to within an inch of their lives, and get ready to write some fat checks. Even so, you’ll be lucky if he gets less than two years.”

I ran a hand through my hair. My skin felt clammy as a low-strung terror iced through my veins. Jake had spent a week in juvie once when he was sixteen. It hadn’t gone well. Jake wasn’t cut out for hard time. He looked tough but his chasms of vulnerability somehow still shone through the hard-man façade. The combination was like a beacon for thugs and bullies. My heart skipped a couple of beats at the thought of Jake behind bars. My little punk brother who’d had every hard knock life could cough up. Because of that, he couldn’t quite shake his fuck you attitude.

I suppressed the urge to swear at and/or threaten Detective Rizzo. “I’ll be in touch as soon as we’ve met with our lawyers, Detective.”

Make it sooner rather than later. An arrest will be issued next Friday if we haven’t heard from you by then.”

The line went dead.

I leaned against the wall for a second, feeling suddenly drained. I wished I could take him away, hide him somewhere. Maybe we could pull it off. He could simply disappear, change his identity, live out his life in a beachfront condo in Rio or somewhere. If I thought it would work, I might have suggested it. But Jake didn’t do rules. He wouldn’t stay put or abide by an imposed lock-down. He’d turn up in New York, no doubt, or get pinged by some power-happy border control officer once the heat died down.

I called my lawyers.


About the Author:

Juliette Jones is the author of BILLIONAIRE, HONEY GIRL and WILD RIDE. She lives in New York City.

 

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