Publisher: St Martin’s
Since Chase Falladay came to her rescue two years ago, Kia Stanton has never been able to forget the powerful man or the kind of life he leads. So two years later when she runs into Chase and his friend, Khalid, and leaves with them that night, she knows exactly where it is all heading. However, little prepares her for what it is like to be in Chase’s arms, and in his bed. After years of holding back, Kia is finally able to be the woman she’s always dreamed of being in his arms.Kia is a dream Chase has not allowed himself to entertain. Now that he has her, it’s her heart he’s after and he’s determined to win it, no matter the cost. And even though they both agreed that it would only be for pleasure, somewhere along the way it becomes and all-consuming love.
**Note: This is an unedited excerpt**
Kia Rutherford-Stanton opened the door to her penthouse suite and stared back at the man on the other side. Dressed in dark slacks and a gray dress shirt, he appeared far more dangerous than the clothing and the handsome quiet features would suggest.
She knew him, everyone knew who Chase Falladay was, and those who didn’t soon learned. According to her bastard husband, he was also the one man she didn’t want standing on her doorstep.
As though she should be frightened of him. Perhaps that was her mistake. It was never fear that filled her whenever she was around Chase. Wariness at times. Uncertainty. And since her marriage, an awareness that she shouldn’t be anywhere near him.
But fear had never been one of those emotions.
“What do you want?” She wondered if the bruises on her face were still apparent. She didn’t think so. She’d spent forever on her makeup that morning.
It seemed Drew hadn’t been pleased when he found out that his wife had no intentions of taking him back, or of retracting the information spilling through their social set that he had not just attempted to rape her with another man, but that he and that man were part of a club created just for such perverts.
As though she wanted that to get out. As though it didn’t humiliate her as much as it did him. That didn’t mean she had to do anything to help him. And the back handed blow had given her in response had assured her that she didn’t care if he fried in society.
But, as he had warned her, Chase had shown up. And he had also warned her that if he did, they all needed to be very frightened.
“I’d just like to talk to you a moment, Kia.” His voice was like smooth, rich brandy. It curled over the senses and reminded her, no matter how much she wished otherwise at the moment, she was still a woman, and a voice like his was guaranteed to gain a response.
“As if I’m not perfectly aware of what you want to talk about.” She stepped aside, watching as he moved into the apartment, his tall, hard body somehow at odds in the mainly feminine atmosphere that surrounded him now.
She turned and led the way from the wide foyer to the living room, tossing him a glare over her shoulder. Drew, her soon to be ex-husband had called her the day before, warning her to expect a visit from the goon squad.
The son of a bitch. Fury rose inside her like a vicious flood, filled with betrayal and anger, it stamped a trembling sneer on her face as Chase Falladay stepped into the room.
“Kia, I don’t want to battle with you,” he turned to her, staring back at her, as though he understood, as though he were compassionate. “It appears to me that you’ve been through enough.”
“Then why are you here?” Her lips trembled as she let herself meet his cool, light green eyes. They pierced her, had her throat thickening with the gentleness in them.
“Can we sit down?” He motioned to the chairs.
Kia sat down warily, watching as he took the other chair across from her, his gaze brooding and heavy as he watched her.
“Drew told you about the club,” he finally stated softly.
Kia flinched and looked away. Like the bastard had a choice.
She licked her lips nervously and turned back to him.
“Did he tell you what he did too?”
“He didn’t, but others have. I’ll tell you, his membership is being investigated. He’s facing losing it, as well as a hefty deposit he paid. But there’s more at risk here than the deposit he could lose, or his membership. The risk, Kia, is in the gossip, which came from you, and is now spreading through Alexandria.”
She tightened her lips. “Do you think I wanted that damned gossip?” She came to her feet in a rush of anger. “It seems I can’t trust my husband, nor the few friends I believed I had. And now, you’re here?” She waved her hand at the room. “What are you going to do Chase? Kill me for it?”
According to Drew the secret of the club had been maintained for more than a century. Until she told a friend what he had told her the night he and his friend tried to rape her.
She pushed her fingers through her shoulder length blonde hair before shaking her head wearily at his patient look. Chase was never ruffled. He was always calm.
“You’re not denying the gossip,” he pointed out.
Hell no she hadn’t. She had thought she could let her husband strangle beneath the weight of it, hoping he twisted in agony as all eyes turned to him. She had thought she could. How wrong she had been.
“Two of your members tried to rape me, in my own home, Chase,” she informed him bitterly.
“And you’re here to what? Berate me because I told a friend and she spread the rumor of all those little perverts you protect?”
He sat back in his chair, his arms laying comfortably on the heavily cushioned arms as he stared back at her. Those eyes, they seemed to sink into a woman, made her soften, made her want to please him. What a dangerous talent for a man’s eyes to possess.
“You’re not denying the rumor,” he stated again.
“Neither am I upholding it,” she argued.
He watched her carefully, silence stretching between them as she paced back to her chair and sat down wearily.
Her father was pacing at home she knew. He had called that morning, torn between loyalty to his daughter and the knowledge he had just learned that his entire life, the holdings four generations of Stanton’s had possessed could come crumpling to his feet. All because of Drew. Because he had dared to threaten her with that damned club and when she had spilled all her hurt and anger to the person she believed was a friend, it had begun to spread.
“My father called,” she finally said. “He’s received phone calls from major stockholders.” She knew this game. She had been born and raised within the dirty little social sect that thrived on power and threats. “Drew was right, wasn’t he? You have enough power to destroy all of us.”
“Kia, I’m here to help you,” he promised her.
“Yes, of course you are, how could I have ever believed otherwise?” She stated tearfully, mockingly. “What do you want me to do, Chase, take out an ad in the newspapers that I lied?
That Drew never brought a third in on me from your damned club and tried to rape me.” Her voice rose in humiliation and pain. “Tell them he never threatened to destroy me with the power that club wields? Did you bring a list of the papers? Should I stand on the street corner and proclaim it to the world?”
The tears didn’t fall, but they wanted to. She wanted to sob in fury.
“I want you to call your friend and tell her the club doesn’t exist. That you were trying to hurt Drew. When you’re asked about the club or anything he told you concerning it, I want you to deny he ever mentioned it. You didn’t give names, Kia. At this point, it’s all speculation based on the few single members known to share their lovers. Help me fix this now, and I’ll make certain you’re protected.”
She gave him a harsh, very unladylike snort. “And how will you do that, Mr. Falladay?”
“Will you trust me, Kia.” He leaned forward, his elbows braced on his knees as he watched her. “Will you trust me to keep my word? That you’ll be protected, not just in any retaliation against Drew, but from Drew as well?”
The bruise at the side of her face burned.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“There’s not enough makeup in the world to hide that mark on your face, or the fear in your eyes, Kia. I don’t want to add to that. No one is going to hurt you, physically. Drew will never touch you again, period. When the time comes, he’ll pay for what he’s done to you, just as he’ll pay for using the club to attempt to threaten you into a relationship you didn’t want.”
She stared back at him in shock.
“Why would you do that?”
His expression hardened. “Kia, we’re not just a club filled with members who share an agreement in a lifestyle. That club, that powerbase and that protection wasn’t created for its members alone. It was created for their women”
She shook her head. That didn’t make sense. None of it did. “I’m divorcing him though.”
Something flared in his eyes, something she didn’t dare delve into too closely.
“It doesn’t matter. He and another member hurt you, they bruised you Kia, and they frightened you. And that isn’t tolerated. Trust me. Work with me, and before you know it, Drew, and the pain, will be behind you.”
It wasn’t such a large request, and she knew it. The gossip would truly never be squelched but it would never be considered more than an amusing tale without her backing.
She looked down, staring at the toes of her very stylish heels that matched her very tasteful silk dress. She hated the gossip, and she’d never had the friend she had believed she possessed.
Her world was exploding around her, what did this matter?
“I’ll take care of it,” she finally whispered. “I should have never lied on Drew. What he did was bad enough.” Humiliation flamed through her. “Perhaps I was just trying to excuse him.”
“Perhaps the friend so determined to tell the tales put her own lies to the story?” He suggested softly.
To that, Kia shook her head. “No. I’ll take the blame. I trusted her. That was my mistake. I’ll deal with it.”
Chase watched her, so vulnerable, her hair covering her face, hiding the tears he knew must be filling her eyes. Coming here had been the hardest decision he had ever made. It was the only time he had regretted fulfilling this part of his job as Ian’s private investigator.
Wounding this woman’s pride made him feel like a damned animal.
“Kia,” he whispered her name gently, the urge to take her into his arms, to hold her against him, to shelter her from that pain almost impossible to resist.
When her head lifted, he saw her eyes. Bright blue, damp with tears, but fierce with pride and with anger.
“Why did he do it?” She suddenly snapped. “Why attempt to get me drunk and rape me? Why not just ask me?”
He would beat that explanation out of the bastard.
All he could do now was shake his head. “I don’t know. But a divorce is the least of what he deserves from it. And demand a high settlement.” He would make certain she received it for this blow to her pride.
“Why do you do it?” She asked him then, her expression vulnerable, her need for answers swirling in her eyes.
She made him feel like a bastard with that look.
He reach out to her, touched the hair that framed her face and tried to smile back at her. “For the pleasure, Kia. For my lovers pleasure. For my own. Only the pleasure. And there’s no pleasure in rape or in humiliation.” He dropped his hand from the soft, warm silk of her hair and rose to his feet, staring down at her.
“There was no pleasure in what they tried to do to me.” Her voice was choked, with anger and with pain.
Chase nodded slowly, his expression tightening, anger pulling at him. “And he’ll find no pleasure in the consequences of it, Kia. I promise you that. Help me fix that, and I’ll make him pay, for you.”
He left then. He couldn’t stand there any longer and watched the tears fall from those sapphire eyes or see the evidence of that bruise on her face any longer.
He’d begin the process to take Drew Stanton out of the club though, and he’d do it as painfully for the other man as possible.
And one of these days, he swore, he’s show that son of a bitch how it felt to be backhanded across the face. And he’d add a punch just for the sheer pleasure of it. If he weren’t careful, once he got started on the spineless little bastard he might not stop.
Drew Stanton had backhanded his pretty delicate wife, and Chase knew, he wanted to kill him for it. The club had rules against this. No club member abused his wife, period, neither sexually or physically. Those women were the basis for their greatest pleasure, for their satisfaction. They were not to be harmed.
And Drew had dared to hit his wife.
As he left the penthouse he drew in a hard, savage breath and promised himself he was going to stay as far from that woman as possible. Because she made him want, and what he wanted, he knew, she could never give him.