(Contemporary Dark Romance with a Tycoon and Mobster vying for the affection of the heroine)
At twenty-one, Kari Danek fled her home and the dangerous man who forced too much from her in order to save her family. Now at twenty-five, she’s made a wonderful life for herself in Las Vegas as the personal assistant to Xander Wynne, a powerful real estate tycoon. Her work is fulfilling, and her personal feelings for Xander are always present, but she represses them due to the time she spent as a victim to another depraved man obsessed with owning her.
Kari’s world turns upside down when she learns of her brother Eddie’s suicide. With Kari returning home for the funeral, the sadness she feels for her brother’s death is overshadowed by the fear of encountering Gabriel Cavaleri, her former lover, and heir to the family’s illegal crime syndicate in New Jersey.
Now that Kari’s back home, Gabriel will stop short of nothing to keep her for good. Coercion, emotional blackmail, and the knowledge of Kari’s shameful past are just tools in his arsenal against her. Kari’s only savior is Xander, who’s willing to use his own unsettling ways of negotiation to keep her safe.
Overpowered by two ruthless men who refuse to lose, it’s double or nothing for Kari as she tries to keep not only her soul, but her sanity intact.
Gabriel chose the booth opposite from the one I sat in prior. He sat on the edge, facing the entrance with me inside on his right. Trudy came in a few second later with a bottle of wine and two glasses. He thanked her and gave her a hundred-dollar bill along with instructions for her to add whatever his brother and his ‘friends’ drank or ate on his tab. She didn’t engage him in any conversation and just nodded, cutting me a quick look before she left.
He poured the wine and sniffed his before taking a sip. He drank and nodded, pleased. “The Beychevelle is an incredible vintage.”
At one-hundred fifty dollars a bottle it should be. “They know what type of wine you drink?” I asked.
He twirled the glass back and forth. “They always have some bottles in house. Eddie made sure I was well taken care of when I came in for dinner or had a few drinks at the bar. I’m going to miss that kid.”
Eddie and Gabriel were both the same age. He acted like he was older than thirty, or some renaissance man, but he was just a thug in an expensive suit, a well-educated, attractive bully who hid his insecurities well. He had many insecurities, most of which I witnessed.
My cell buzzed in my pocket but I ignored it. It had been going off ever since I hung up on Leah. She must be freaking out or really angry at me to text or call non-stop. I’d give anything to hear her voice, but under the present circumstances it would wait.
“Join me in a glass, sweet.” He tapped his glass to mine.
I hated the word ‘sweet’ with such a passion because of him. When he was especially loving or wanted to be intimate he would revert to Italian and call me Dolceezza. When he said that, I was in trouble because he wouldn’t stop until he was inside of me.
“I rather have water.” I pushed the glass away.
“Remember those few bottles of Santa Margherita Chianti I bought when we spent the weekend in Atlantic City?” The back of his hand ran down the side of my face and his finger circled my ear. “We barely left the hotel room. It was one of the best weekends of my life. You bought that teeny tiny bikini to wear that had me salivating. There was no way I was going to let you outside looking like that. Those curves of yours and your long hair had me so hard.” He shifted in closer and his nose brushed my cheek. “Do you remember what we did with the wine?”
I’d never forget that weekend. It was the first time I had gone away with him. He thought by taking me out of my environment and removed from all other influences, I’d accept him and allow him to have me any which way he wanted. I let him do whatever he wanted because it was part of our deal. But he was sophisticated and experienced, and soon enough I was a willing participant. He stole my innocence and then introduced me to a seductive lifestyle of lavish hotels, food and of wine that tasted incredible when licked off another person’s body in the heat of the moment.
The one thing he taught me was my appreciation for wine. You’d think I’d be disgusted by the drink, but it had become my alcohol of choice.
The glass I rejected now called to me to drink. If I did, I wouldn’t stop and he would refill it. Then he’d take me some place where I’d end up naked and under him.
He snapped his fingers in front of my face and I blinked, distracted by my runaway thoughts. I had to keep it together around him or I would be lost.
“I don’t like your hair short,” he muttered and sipped his wine.
Xander does. I jerked in my seat. I couldn’t think of Xander now, not with Gabriel next to me.
He must have thought I was upset or nervous at what he said. He grasped my hand and kissed the side of it. “I’m not going to make you grow your hair or change the color.” The word ‘yet’ hovered unspoken in the air. “I just want to talk.”
“What do you want to talk about?” I wanted to add talking didn’t mean holding hands or breathing on my neck like he was doing. But if I did, he would laugh it off or pull me on his lap or rest his palm high on my leg and rub the inside of my thigh.
He twined his fingers through mine and dropped our hands on the seat in between us. “You. I wanted to make sure you’re doing okay with Eddie’s death.”
I shrugged. There was no way in hell I was going to share my feelings about my brother’s death with him. “I’m worried about my grandmother, Marcela and Annie.”
He tsked and shook his head sadly. “Poor little Annie. I can’t believe Eddie would be so selfish and take his life.”
“He must have felt he didn’t have any other choice.” I spat, not caring if my disgust was prominent.
He acted as if he didn’t hear or care. “There’s always a choice, sweetness.” He squeezed my hand. “Annie is adorable. I bet when you have a daughter she’ll look exactly like your niece.”
I wasn’t going there with him and decided to change the topic. “You talk of choices. What choice did you give Eddie about repaying the one-hundred grand he borrowed from you? You enabled his gambling addiction!”
He released my hand and dropped his arm behind my head on the edge of the booth. He finished his wine and then took my glass and drank. His nostrils flared slightly. I felt proud for causing his irritation. My criticism was also fact. No matter how much he denied it, he couldn’t ignore it.
“Eddie was weak. I did get the word out to block him, but he still found a way to play. He was a grown man. Like last time, he knew the consequences of his actions.”
Pure rage slammed me. How dare he excuse his behavior! I was shaking and didn’t even think as I snagged the glass from him and downed it in one gulp. A haze came over me and I rubbed my damp palms on my legs. It was that or punch him in the face.
“You’re a prick, you know that?” I slid away to leave.
He seized my upper arm. I swung my other arm around to slap him, but he took that also and held both my wrists captive behind my back.
“I love when you’re angry. It’s such a turn on.” He brought me up to him.
“If you think I’m going to play this game again, you’re mistaken. I’m not being your whore like last time. You lost this round.” I found some satisfaction when my spit hit his face.
He licked away a few drops landing on his lips. I peeked at his crotch where his pants tended from his arousal.
I relaxed my arms and waited for him to release me. Using one hand, he continued to hold my wrists. With the other, he sat his palm on my chest, near my heart.
“Your heart is beating very fast. You’re excited like I am,” His face came in closer.
“I’m not excited. I’m angry and frustrated. I-I can’t do this with you again.” My voice cracked. I hated for him to see me helpless and broken.
His drifted mouth near my ear. “I just want to cherish and love you. Why do you fight me? You know you’ll never win.”
I bit my bottom lip and breathed through my nose. He panted heavily in my ear. He was going to kiss me. If he did, I’d be completely undone. Instead I dropped my head and rested my forehead in the middle of his chest.
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