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I WAS LATE TO my own welcome party.
I was the host and owner, the life-giver and keeper of the new goddess who’d just stepped onto my shores, and I’d missed her touchdown.
Slipping my arms into my silk-cashmere blazer, I strode down the sandy lane linking my office to the jetty where every conquest and guest was processed. Unlike my high-paying guests, my inspection would last longer than just a stare into their eyes and quick appraisal of their personality. With guests, I’d already done my research. Background checks and online sleuthing yielded enough to make a calculated guess that I could weed out the behaved from the reckless.
But a new goddess?
I knew nothing.
I want to know everything.
Buttoning a silver engraved button, I smoothed out my graphite suit and stepped into the sunlight just as the girl was unbuckled from the helicopter and given a hand to help her climb the three steps down.
She didn’t recoil from the courteous offer of help. She didn’t screech or scratch or act stupid in any way. Instead she held her head high, inserted her hand into the staff member’s waiting below, and allowed him to guide her down the jetty bobbing on the gentle waves caused by the landing, and escorted her all the way to me.
I didn’t move, studying her every step.
She was taller than some of my other employees. She was willowy but her legs weren’t weak skinny things. They were toned with flickers of muscle beneath alabaster skin. Even barefoot, she moved with assurance and a liquid type of sensuality.
She didn’t stumble or shy away, even when she looked up to my palm-tree surrounded podium and caught my gaze. Her full lips parted as she inhaled—the only sign of nerves, before gritting her teeth and arching her chin higher.
She didn’t look like she’d been bought and smuggled here. She seemed as impenetrable as a paying patron. A female looking to indulge in her own devious tastes.
She didn’t act like any of my other goddesses. Their reactions ranged from tears to tempers and everything in between. I’d had to duck a swinging fist or pluck a sobbing girl from the sand. I’d cajoled and cursed, laying out my laws to wild-eyed and fury-filled women.
But not this one.
This one moved like she had a crown upon her head. A crown made of dignity and diamonds, heavy on her brow but invaluable to her sense of worth. Her ankles were narrow, her wrists delicate, her collarbones perfect sweeps of femininity leading to the elegant line of a regal throat.
For the first time, I felt a kick of interest.
A brief skip in my familiar cold-hearted heartbeat.
Closer and closer she came.
Harder and harder the kick of intrigue.
Waving my hand, I signalled the staff member to let her go, to step aside, to vanish. He bowed his head immediately, relinquishing her hand and backing away to subtly disappear to complete one of the countless chores he was paid to do.
I waited to see what the girl would choose.
She was technically free.
She could run back to the sea.
She could leap into the salt and try to swim to freedom.
She could attack me.
She could plead with me.
She could self-harm or shutdown or scream until her tongue turned crimson with blood.
She did none of those things.
Her bare feet sank into the crystal sugar sand. Her breakable fingers fluttered once by her sides as if she fought the urge to curl them. Her head tilted, cascading incredibly long, tangled hair over her shoulder.
Knotty and dull, the length was a distraction from the otherwise pleasing features of her face. Pixy chin, high cheekbones, smoky grey eyes, and eyebrows that slashed across her smooth brow with temper and seething refinement.
Fuck, the price I could charge for a night with her.
Even straight out of her abduction, shadows smudging her beauty from travel, rope burn around her neck, tattooed barcode on her wrist, and bruises marking her otherwise perfect skin from her punishments, she was a fucking natural-born immortal.
Raw and untouched, bristling with injustice and courage. She could be Artemis’s reincarnation or perhaps Aphrodite’s twin.
She didn’t need to be turned into a goddess, she was one.
One I very much wanted to yank from the stars and slander with every debasing, demeaning and downright disgusting act I could think of.
The kick of interest turned into a lick of lust.
I’d never sampled my stock. I didn’t play with the toys my customers paid for.
But her…fuck I was tempted.
Sorely, deliciously tempted.
Our eyes locked, grey to blue.
My island, my pride and joy and deliverer of fantasies, vanished behind a suffocating void. There was no parrot chatter. No jasmine breeze. No lapping waves.
There was just her.
The dark-haired, coldly judging, queenly, impenetrable girl.
My lust thickened, coiling from my belly to my cock.
I curled my hands, fighting my body’s reaction to swell, to heat, to crave this innocent consort.
And then, she moved of her own accord.
Not away from me, but toward me.
My legs locked, my body turned rigid, my heartbeat increased into a steady pound of hunger.
She stopped with a metre between us. The grey jumper she wore hid her body, but it couldn’t belie that beneath the fabric was yet more wonder. Shapes and sinew. Curves and caverns. A girl who was grace and elegance.
“Are you him?”
Fuck, her voice.
Low pitched but soft. Husky but feminine.
Shit, her lips.
Naturally peach with a stung bottom fullness and shapely bow. Everything about her mouth was made for sucking a man’s cock and granting him every pleasure he requested.
My suit became tight.
My blood hissed into my trousers, adding pressure to my throbbing erection, reminding me it’d been a fucking age since I’d stuck that part of myself into another. Since I’d stopped indulging in my own fantasies to focus on delivering others. Since I’d become disillusioned with the idea of fucking an immortal. Since my illusions had skipped the binds of reality and ensured sex with normal could never compete to the soul-quaking fucking of a siren or angel.
Well, hadn’t my dreams just been fucking granted?
What was she? Who was she? Where the goddamn hell had she come from?
Those traffickers deserved a raise. A bonus. A place in eternal paradise for delivering her.
Bought and paid for.
I swallowed hard, battling the undeniable black satisfaction that gave me.
I didn’t have to rent her for a night.
I didn’t have to give her back after I came deep inside her.
She was mine.
Her eyes narrowed, glaring grey daggers. “Are you him?” she repeated.
I snapped out of the void. The black silence popped, bringing back the scents of orchids and fresh pineapple, the whisper of ferns and fronds, the squawk of birdlife.
“Depends on who you think I am.”
It was her turn to strike stupid.
Her gaze glazed for a moment as if stunned by something painful. Her lips parted. Her body swayed. The energy between us crackled, not with strangers meeting for the first time, but two creatures suddenly ravenous for fucking.
I couldn’t help it.
She couldn’t help it.
It was natural.
Life’s design and fate’s purpose.
Men came here to fuck.
I welcomed them to choose their preferred goddess.
But this one…she’d been tailored for me. Her body already wore my mark. Her heart already stuttered for me to snatch her, mount her, fuck her until we both either entered the Kingdom of Heaven or plummeted to the Gates of Hell.
Either destination I was fine with.
As long as I could taste, touch, own.
Shaking her head, she blinked and balled her hands. A trace of defiance, a flicker of annoyance, but most of all, no sign that she’d felt the undercurrent of greed that’d sprang from nowhere and still tainted the island heat around us.
“I think you’re a man with ludicrous, grandiose ideas that he has some right to buy another.”
A smile stretched my lips. “And yet…here you are. Bought and paid for.”
“I’m not some shopping list you get to jot down and have slaves collect for you.”
“No, that would be slavers who caught and delivered you. Not slaves.” I looked her up and down. “The only slave here is you.”
She jerked back. “So…you don’t deny it?”
“That you’re a monster who buys others.”
I leaned toward her, pleasantly surprised and dangerously turned on when she didn’t back down. When her nostrils flared as if smelling my sea salt skin and the coconut cologne I religiously used. When her grey gaze turned a rich shadow with things that tempted me beyond belief. “I don’t deny it. After all, my money brought you to my shores. Here you are. All mine.” My belly twisted with lethal desire.
I pitied her really.
The other goddesses had it easy. They’d been welcomed to my island, settled into their new home, advised of their strict guidelines, and prepared for their exclusive employment.
Not once did they intrigue me like this one.
Not once were they in danger of charming me like a perfectly prepared appetizer.
Poor, poor thing.
My client’s tastes might be varied and vulgar. They might have rascally needs and wicked fantasies but they didn’t come close to my depraved desires.
I stepped back.
For all the provocation her majesty enticed me, she was worth far more to me in servitude than in my bed.
The moment the guests saw her, she’d be requested.
Again and again.
I could charge double. Triple. A thousand-fold.
And they’d pay it.
Not because of her elegant polish but because such perfection called out wolves to maul. She promised an end to the famine of boredom. She and her invisible crown just begged, fucking begged, to be pawed and clawed and fornicated.
She was priceless.
“Come. Let me show you around your new
cage.” I stepped back, opening my arm wide, waiting for her to step into my
HE STOOD THERE, SURROUNDED by palm frond shadows, his arm spread, revealing a suit that clung to his rigid, flawless body.
No beer belly. No flabby jowls. No pockmarked skin or terrible body odour.
Why did he have to look like every element of my wanton dreams come to life?
It wasn’t fair.
Fate had somehow read my fantasies and stitched together every facet that I found appealing in the male sex, improving on the design, fabricating something inherently faultless, all while hiding the rot deep inside.
I already found his personality appalling.
When he’d spoken, I’d suffered a visceral reaction of loathing.
His cultured, clipped baritone dripped with blackness. It’d reached inside me and left an oily, suffocating residue on my heart. My organs felt like the sticky feathers of dying seabirds, iridescent from grease and entirely unwashable.
I knew what he was.
I wasn’t stupid—not when it came to him. I didn’t need to be worldly to understand that this was not a man. This was not someone I could ever trust or let my guard down with.
He was an untamed hunter. He was sheathed claws and hidden teeth; a well-groomed pelt hiding the viciousness within.
I forced courage that I didn’t have into my snippy voice. “I prefer to skip the tour and, instead, negotiate the terms of my freedom.”
“Oh, you would, would you?” His lips twitched into a small smile. His head tilted just slightly, as if tasting my fight and battling his own reaction toward me. It seemed I wasn’t the only one hyperaware.
My awareness came from adrenaline and the chemical makeup of my body as it sought a way free. Everything was brighter, sharper, louder. That was why I noticed so much about him.
The only reason.
What was his?
Compared to Scott, this man was from a different galaxy. He’d not only been forged from all the best pieces a male could inherit but had somehow improved upon the perfection.
His calculating, unreadable blue eyes had poisonous hooks designed to snag and trap, rendering me breathless. His glossy, dark hair fought to remain entirely ebony, but the tips rebelled with a sparkle of sun-given bronze. His nose was straight, his chin strong, his cheekbones refined as any blueblood. The dark scruff on his face was another hint of rebellion to perfection—darker than a five o’clock shadow but not quite a beard. It acted as the perfect frame for his mouth.
I tore my gaze away from harsh lips and the flash of a tempestuous tongue.
He gave in to his smile, letting it twist harshness into cruelty. “I’m not in the mood for negotiations.”
“And I’m not in the mood to be purchased.”
“That’s convenient because the transaction has already been completed.”
I crossed my arms. “How much?”
He looked me up and down as if wondering who the hell I was. “Excuse me?”
“How much did you pay?”
He narrowed blue eyes that mimicked the sky above. “Too much for you to ever comprehend.”
“Tell me a number.”
“I don’t discuss business with my possessions.”
My temper made me quake. I couldn’t contain it. My feet sank into sun-warmed sand, my toes curling for purchase. “I’m not your possession.”
“We’ll discuss titles and what you are later.” He frowned at the glowing sunshine beaming upon us. “For now, follow me. Discussions are always less fraught in the shade.”
Without waiting for me to respond, he turned and stepped in shiny expensive shoes down the sandy path. Once again, I was struck mute at the power emitting from him.
The irreproachable varnish over his every move. The self-possessed carriage and undeniable assurance that everyone obeyed him without question.
I didn’t want to obey him.
I wanted to march back to the beach and keep going until the sea claimed me. I wanted to approach a staff member and enquire if this was all a mistake and I was free to go.
Or…you could stop wasting time, quit admiring a monster, and get this over with.
Looking around at paradise, I was more wary of perceived open spaces than I was with subtle guards watching my every move. I’d been given the illusion of free will. But in reality…there was no such thing on this island.
There might not be iron bars or padlocked gates but this was still a prison. The only difference was, nature kept me trapped rather than manmade devices.
The sooner I learned his vulnerabilities and what I could use to my advantage, the better.
With a heavy sigh, I tightened the cape of my courage…and followed him.
He didn’t slow his long gait and I hurried to keep up as he vanished around a corner planted with a spray of colourful flowers. Another corner. A breeze sweet with honeysuckle. Another laneway twist. A dabble of shadow beneath trees. Until, finally, the pathway turned into a small courtyard, trading sand for basalt tile.
My feet froze on the border of yet another paradise.
The courtyard held a fountain of three mermaids tipping water from seashells, the droplets spritzing in the sun and creating hundreds of rainbows. They were naked and their breasts gleamed with pearlescent scales, the colour cascading down their sides to mystical tails.
The tropical plants bordering the space ranged from light green to dark forest, all lush and glossy, heavy with fruit and flowers. A bird table sat on the wooden deck, big enough for an entire flock of finches to land and take their fill of speared pineapple, juicy watermelon, and a splattering of banana, mango, and sunflower seeds.
The man who thought he owned me strode up the three steps to his deck, tapped his shoes against the side of the villa to remove loose sand, then disappeared past the floaty curtains and through open French doors.
His black voice feathered back to me, disjointed from the beauty of such a place. “Stop wasting my time and come inside.”
My eyes skipped over the idyllic space as I skirted around the fountain, earned a few droplets on my skin that leaped from the mermaid’s hands, and ducked a low flying parrot as it landed on the bird table. Bracing myself, I traded the overwhelming heat of outside for the relieving cool of inside.
A rattan fan spun lazily in the open rafters of a thatched roof, pushing hot air out and leaving refreshing oxygen behind.
The décor was silver and white with a splash of woven grass. The wood was all silvered driftwood, the walls whitewashed, the furniture light and clean lines. The woven flax on the floor set off the white couch, glass coffee table, and the large driftwood desk perfectly.
Artwork of green-sketched ferns and ghostly silhouettes of half-drawn women hung huge and imposing.
A door in the opposite wall led to a bathroom sparkling with opalescent mosaic tiles from floor to ceiling. Glass replaced the ceiling, drenching the space in sunshine. The basin was one large carved piece of black marble, and the shower big enough for four people.
Two more doors led to rooms that were closed but the openness and simplicity of the lounge did its best to relax me, even as my instincts stayed on high alert.
What was this place?
The entire villa could’ve been feminine, if it wasn’t for the man seated within the centre. A man who could cover himself in pearls and prisms and still not be able to reflect anything than what he was.
Merciless and undeniably masculine.
He flicked a pen over his knuckles, watching me in a silent, lethal way.
My stomach coiled, blending fear with unwanted need.
He didn’t need to purchase women to earn every sexual favour he desired. Anyone—single and sane—would struggle not to be entranced by him.
If we’d met in different circumstances, I would’ve expected him to be untouchable by people like me. People of a middle-class persuasion. He didn’t need to buy me to say he had money. It was obvious he had mountains and skyscrapers of the stuff. He bled wealth. He breathed affluence. He was the epitome of abundance—abundant physical assets, monetary riches, and a treasure chest of private islands.
I didn’t move.
He didn’t speak.
We never looked away from each other.
I stood at the foot of his desk while he reigned in his throne. A lowly servant at court waiting for her liege’s command.
I hated the way he made me feel.
I despised the heat creeping through my veins.
But…I had to admit.
I’d hated the traffickers in Mexico.
I’d nursed my hate like a glowing ember, feeding it twigs of injustice to stay aflame, tossing a few dried leaves of righteousness for fuel.
But this man?
This man threatened to turn that flickering coal into a furnace.
One look from him and my heartbeat relocated into every extremity and my temperature increased a thousand degrees.
I detested him.
But I was drawn to him.
There was something…something ruthless and savage about him. Something instinctual that sensed predator from prey and firmly put him in the category of dangerous.
But beneath that savage suaveness, something smoothed the merciless edges, granting a strange kind of enigma.
Cold and hot.
Immune and unprotected.
He wasn’t as invincible as he appeared.
Find his weaknesses.
“What is your name?” he asked quietly. Too quietly.
I narrowed my eyes, ignoring my aches and bruises. “I already gave my name to them. They didn’t pass on that information?”
He let the pen fall from his knuckles. It clattered against the desk, making me jump. “No. We’re not in the habit of gossip.”
“My name is not gossip.”
“Your name is no longer yours.”
I stepped closer to his desk, purely because every part of me wanted to run in the opposite direction. “My name is and always will be mine. No matter that you think you can own me. No matter than you paid some bastard his fee. I am a living, breathing creature and you cannot—”
“Enough.” He swiped his hand through the air, silencing me. “I’ll go first, shall I? My name is Sully Sinclair. I don’t care what you call me inside that overworking mind of yours, but while you serve on my island, you will address me with respect.”
“While I serve you?” My lips pulled back in a snarl. “And what does that job entail exactly?” His lips spread into a sinister smile. “Fucking, of course. Lots and lots of fucking.”