There's an eerie calm before the storm,
And my best friend is in the direct path of the hit.
I have to protect him, no matter the cost.
He's like a brother to me.
I'll do whatever it takes to make sure he's safe.
Even if that means being pulled into the vortex that is Jules Hemingway,
A sexy, fiery tempest that has the potential to destroy everything in her wake.
All I want is to dive in, take my chances.
But first, I must complete the mission—save my friend.
Though it may mean losing what really matters,
The only woman worth drowning for.
Something's amiss—strange and ominous,
And I can't quite put my finger on it.
When Theo Katawhateverhisnameis comes thundering in,
It's like lightning to my heart, my body, my soul.
It's a shock—a jolt, as I realize my life is a scam,
A scheme with no winners.
I'm in over my head, treading in a sea of lies,
Leery of whom to trust,
Only looking to protect myself, my heart.
Together, we're wreckage, debris,
but are we collateral damage in this perfect storm?
Prologue | Jules | Present
Tossing the papers across my desk, I bury my head in my hands. This day has been crap. Absolute crap. I sigh. Typically I'm efficient. I'm neat, organized. My desk tidy, but not today. I'm up to my ankles in spreadsheets. Crumpled reports that missed the trashcan are strewn across my office. Highlighters are scattered on the traces of my hidden mahogany desk peeking through the manila folders that are covering it, half open and half closed. My workspace resembles my life. It's how my brain feels.
For as chaotic as it looks, you'd think I would've accomplished something. Anything. But nothing. I've managed to do nothing on my list. Lists. I'm a list person. I've got one for everything. For work, home, the wedding. I don't usually leave work until everything on it is done. That's how I operate, but not today. Something's off, and I can't put my finger on it.
The only thing I know is that I have to get out of here. To hell with the list. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut. And mine is telling me that I should be anywhere but here. All day something has been eating at me, and it's kept me from accomplishing a single damn thing on my list, and I don't think staying here all night would change a thing. In fact, it'd just piss me off, and besides, I have plans with my fiancé.
And any other night, I would have canceled them if my list had been in such disarray, but not tonight. Ha. And any other circumstance, I'd also clean up this mess before leaving, but not today. I glance around and kick a few of the papers beneath my feet. Standing on the pads of my feet, I slide and glide across the carpeted floor. It's fun and carefree. This isn't me at all. In fact, who is this girl and what have I done with the real me?
Kicking the paper, I grab my briefcase, jacket, and flip the switch to the lights. The mess can wait until tomorrow. Like my list.
Making my way to the elevator, I press the down button. The office is pretty empty. Even though I said I wasn't staying late, my definition of that word is different from other people on staff. It chimes. The doors open. But it's not empty as I expected. All the air has been sucked out of the building because I can't breathe as I take in the sight of the man standing before me. All approximately six foot six inches of him. His light molten brown eyes swirl like lava, and he's dressed in an impeccable tailored suit that fits him perfectly. And when I say perfectly, I mean it hugs every muscle in all the right places. And by every muscle, I mean there are lots. My insides quiver. If Charlie didn't drink so much, he could probably look like that in a suit. Charlie. Think of Charlie. I run my thumb along the back of my engagement ring while the sexy god sucks his bottom lip between his teeth, and my pulse races. There's definitely no air in the building. Is there a problem with the ventilation system? I swallow. He stares at me, and I stare back. The doors close. Then he sticks his hand out and holds the door. "You coming in?"
I shouldn't. I shouldn't go anywhere near him. But my body finally starts to actually respond the way it's supposed to instead of betraying me the way it did two seconds ago. "Yeah." I smile. Because I actually have a date, and I'm going to be late if I wait on the next elevator.
When I get inside, the button for the bottom floor is already illuminated, so I stand against the back wall. Maybe there's a problem with the air conditioning, too, in this building. Exhaling a breath, I blow air up, fanning my bangs. "Is it hot in here to you?"
He smirks. "Not really. But you're clearly hot." He stalks toward me. He points to my forehead, then tilts his head down, his lips mere inches from mine. Oh hell. What. Is. He. Doing. Better yet? Why am I not stopping him? "You have a little bead of sweat right here." He swipes it away.
"Oh. That's kind of embarrassing. And gross."
He shakes his head as the doors open. As he's walking out, he says, "Nothing about you is gross. You're sexy as fuck, Jules."
I don't think I realized what a giant he was until he put a little space between us and walked away. He looks back over his shoulder, his lips forming into a sideways smirk. Wait. How does he know my name? What's his? My voice won't work. Swallowing, my mouth parts, but the only thing that escapes is my labored breathing.
These damn doors start to close again as I watch his fine ass flexing beneath his black pinstriped suit. I'd not had long to stare in his eyes because I'd been too busy trying to remember how to breathe and stand, but I'd noticed how those stripes seemed to bring out the rims of his eyes, how the brown wasn't super dark, so the black didn't get lost in them.
Kicking my foot out instinctively, I manage to squeeze through the door just before it's too late. "Hey! Mystery Giant."
He chuckles, stopping in his tracks. His eyes close a little as his head jerks around, but his smile is dazzling. Nope. Change that. Incinerating. Fuck me. I bet he would too. Stop it, Jules. "What'd you just call me?"
Shaking my head, I wave him off. "Doesn't matter. How'd you know my name?"
He arches a brow and mirrors my gesture. "Doesn't matter, huh?"
I tilt my head. "Seriously."
This time he lifts both his brows. My stomach flips when he runs his hand through his sun-kissed brown locks. "I have to go. I'm running late. And so are you, aren't you?" His smile vanishes.
"Doesn't matter," he says as he shoves his hands in his pockets nonchalantly. "Right?"
"Mystery Giant. That's what I called you. Now what's your name?"
He grins. "You're one to call someone a giant, Jules. What are you?" He looks me up and down. "Five eleven without heels. Poor Charlie." He glances down at my feet. "Don't you miss being able to wear those super high fuck me heels that girls like you should wear?"
I wonder if it looks like my jaw is on the floor because his eyes are gleaming with each word he says. He's playing games. How does he know so much about me? Who is he? And why am I not running from him? As fast as I possibly can.
"Tell me. Can you imagine living the rest of your life not being able to wear heels because your husband is shorter than you? And you know men shrink, right?"
I blink and swallow at the same time. "Don't you have somewhere to be?"
He nods and nibbles on his bottom lip. "Yep." He continues to bob his head as he starts backing away from me, heading toward the door, his eyes never leaving mine.
He does this half laugh, half growl thing. Damn, if it doesn't ignite everything inside of me. "Yeah?"
"What's your full name so I can do a full background check on you since you seem to be stalking me?"
That was sexy as hell. The way he licked his lips as he looked away then glanced back at me and then his tongue slid between his teeth just a little to say Theo. Did I hear an accent in there? And it almost sounded like one name instead of two. "Whoa, whoa. Slow down. You're going to have to break it down for me. Maybe even spell it for me because holy hell. That's a mouthful."
Stopping dead in his tracks, he shakes his head and chuckles, raking me over. He takes a step closer, and so do I. What the hell am I doing? But he backs up, and I stop because I should be running in the opposite direction. "You're cute, Jules. I could sit here all day spelling out so, so many things for you, teaching you things, giving you..." His lips quirk up. "A mouthful."
Oh, I bet he could. He takes another step closer. My breath hitches.
"Like how to do things with your tongue to produce certain sounds." Another step. "And how to position your mouth to enunciate clearly." He's filled the space in two steps because he's a fucking giant. "I could break down so much for you. Spell out so many things." His finger skims my cheek ever so softly, barely touching my skin, sending goosebumps erupting over every pore of my highly sensitive skin. My eyes close, and I suck in a breath, his exotic scent of cedar and sandalwood filling my nostrils. "But we'll have to save all that for another day when you're not attached to a fucking asshole. I really should go."
He pushes through the large glass double doors into the cold, late December night. What's he even doing here? Who exactly is Theo Katawhateverhesaid? And why was he in my building?
Shaking my head, I contemplate the fact that I've just given him a head start to go hide behind the bushes somewhere to jump out and snatch me. Or to break in my car, climb in my backseat, and wait until we're in a deserted part of town to rape and kill me. Jules. Seriously? If he wanted to rape and kill you, he could have just done that in the elevator. Exhaling, I smooth my lips together and squeeze my eyes closed. My pulse is racing, and it's not from Theo's good looks this time. He's creepy. Totally disarming. He doesn't need to carry a gun to threaten girls. He just needs to smirk, trail a finger down their cheek, get their legs squirming and begging for him to touch them in other places, and then he can go in for the kill. Snap. Out. Of. It.
Pivoting on my heel, I turn and decide to go out the back entrance. If he is stalking or following me, he won't expect me to be going out a different way. In fact, he won't even know about the back way. Smart, Jules. I smile at myself, putting a confident pep in my step, wishing I had heels on my feet to click against the marble floors like Theo mentioned. Damn him for making me feel that way in five freaking seconds. Charlie is shorter than me. I mean, a lot of guys are either a tad shorter or just the same height as me. After all, the average height of a man is five foot ten. And he wasn't just right about my name, but my height too. I'm five eleven. Creepy bastard.
Sexy creepy bastard.
Heels are overrated. I swipe my ID badge to exit the back door into the parking garage. Thunder clashes, and I nearly crawl out of my skin. My decision to forego the main exit is proving to be a smart one too. I'm just full of great choices tonight. I mean, if you don't count all the times I kept having dirty thoughts about a sexy, potentially dangerous stranger who knows me, yet I have no clue who he is. I avoided the storm, though, and managed to maintain overhead shelter. Sweet.
Reaching in my purse, I grab my key fob and position my finger over the red button, the one I've become familiar with having left the office late so many nights, especially the last couple of months since I've been pouring over these reports the way I have been. Glancing left and right over my shoulder, the only noise I hear other than the buzz of the fluorescent lights is the hum of the vehicles, the squeaking of brakes, a few random horns, and then wheels squealing. A firm hand covered with a black leather glove covers my mouth before I can scream.
My back is pulled against a steel chest and behind a huge concrete column. I'm no longer breathing. As if not breathing is going to help save me, make me less visible. "Shh." Warm breath sends shivers against my cold, exposed ear and neck. The moment I hear his voice, I know who it belongs to. But then the scents of sandalwood and cedar compete with the leather from the glove that still covers my mouth, and that just confirms it. Son of a bitch. I knew it. "Breathe, Jules, but quietly."
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Release Date: January 31, 2017 on all major retail channels for $3.99