(Cover is still a work in progress)

Prologue


Zander



My hands tremble and the adrenaline pumping in my blood makes my muscles coil, ready to fight. I grip the edge of the dresser to keep my body upright. I only need to breathe. A long and slow exhale leaves me, lowering my tense shoulders. I crack my neck before looking over my shoulder at her slender form. My sweetheart.

I’ve never run from anything in my life. And I’m not about to start now.

But I should have run from her. I knew I should have when I first laid eyes on her.

She’s destroyed my control. Ruined my reputation. She’ll be the end of me, I know it.

Her soft moans of pain from across the room call to me. She’s so beautifully broken. She needs me.

I took it too far. I can’t take it back.

They’ll come for me. I’m guilty and I have no one to blame. The evidence is all right here and I can’t deny a damn thing.

For the first time in my life, I don’t see a way out.

There’s no one I can turn to. No one who owes me who can make this right.

But I can’t stop wanting her. She’s gotten under my skin. And I won’t stop fighting for her.

Never.

“Zander,” her small voice is choked. Her brows are pinched as her head thrashes from side to side and the doctor works on the lashes on her back. A pain rises through my chest, it stiffens my body. My eyes burn and my throat closes as I try to breathe.

She’s stripped down lying on the bed on her stomach, her bottom half barely covered by the thin white sheet to keep the Doctor’s prying eyes from seeing even more of her.

I know what he thinks. What they all think since I accepted her.

I don’t give a fuck. I pay him well to turn a blind eye and that’s exactly what he’ll do. It’s what they all do. They only want the money.

But not her.

My heavy footsteps are softened by the plush rug as I cross the master bedroom and walk to her. She lifts her head as I come closer, but the moment she does, she winces and seethes in a quick breath through clenched teeth.

I’m quick to gentle my hand on her shoulder. The small area of soft skin without any wounds. “Don’t move,” my voice is low, admonishing even. I hate myself. I’m so devoid of the ability to comfort that I can’t even speak softly to her when she’s … like this.

“I’m sorry,” Arianna says quietly, her voice nearly silenced from the mattress.

A chill runs over every inch of my skin. She has no reason to apologize to me.

I swallow thickly, the lump forming in my throat feels as though it scratches the tender skin on the way down. “It’s alright,” I try to soften my voice and put as much warmth into it as possible. My fingers spear through her silky hair as I pet her with soothing strokes.

“I never should have run from you,” Arianna replies, her words coming out slow and full of genuine remorse.

She shouldn’t have. This wouldn’t have happened if she’d just listened. If she’d trusted me.

But it’s my fault. Not hers.

“It’s going to be alright,” I say softly, crouching down so my eyes are level with hers. It’s a lie. It’s not going to be alright. I’m damn sure of that.

But I’ll tell her whatever she needs to hear.

I can’t lose her.

I press my lips to hers, my hand cupping her jaw and my thumb rubbing soothing circles on her cheek.

“Is it going to be okay?” she whispers against my lips. It’s only when I open my eyes and see hers are still closed with tears running freely down her reddened cheeks that my heart shatters.

I wish I could tell I’ll take care of everything.

But it’s not okay. And I can’t fix this.

I know I shouldn’t, but lying comes so easily to me. “Everything’s going to be fine,” I tell her. Her long lashes flutter open and her gorgeous green eyes look back at me. So much raw vulnerability and something else. Something that should push me away.

I didn’t even want to take her. I should have refused. She was given to me.

Maybe even then I recognized what she would do to me. How she would change me and destroy everything I’ve worked for. When they put me behind bars, they’ll figure out everything. The corruption, the money, all the lies.

Even knowing that, I wouldn’t hesitate to take her. My hand clenches into a fist and I nod my head slightly, firming my resolve. Even if I couldn’t change a damn thing, I’d still accept that sick fuck’s offer.

She was given to me.

Now she’s mine.

mine

.