Publication date: May 17th 2016
Genres: New Adult, Romance, Suspense
“I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do,” Caspian tells me. “I’ll just force you to do as you wish.”
I’ve always been a good girl. Partly by choice, partly because of my mother’s shame and my father’s belt.
Caspian White is strong. Handsome. Powerful. Frightening. The world knows his name, envies his wealth, suspects his kinks, and fears his wrath.
I’ve kept myself pure, and that’s drawn Caspian to me like a predator to prey.
I don’t want to do what he wants me to. I just want to conclude my business with Caspian and go.
But Caspian seems to have been watching me for a while. I’m a target, and he knows me too well.
I’m afraid he’ll force me to do things I’ll regret … and that if he does, my shameful half will enjoy it.
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She almost seems speechless. She has so much reason not to trust me. I’ve admitted to snooping into her private business, just like I snooped into the personal lives of so many other people. I can see the wheels turning inside her falsely sweet mind. I can see the distrust and consternation on her pretty face. She’ll pretend she doesn’t want to hear this; she just wants to storm out like she threatened. But I don’t think she will. I’ve lifted the lid of Pandora’s box, and now that she’s had a hint of what’s hidden, curiosity alone will compel her.
Aurora has reason not to trust me right now, and I’ve only told her a corner of what I’ve researched, what I know, what I’ve already dug up. She doesn’t know my connections, or how much money can expose. Truth is, I’ve been watching Aurora for months — since well before my trip to Colorado, where Bridget Miller unknowingly gave Aurora a run for her money.
But Bridget didn’t fascinate me the way Aurora does. Nobody does.
I watch her now, fighting a strange urge to tell her exactly what I have in mind. There’s an odd nervousness in my core, as if I haven’t sufficiently purged. I was just upstairs; I just spent my time decompressing. And yet Aurora has me riled again. She’s looking at me with those cool blue eyes, that halo of blonde hair that I find stunning even though she’s tried to ugly up, to bury its luster. Her slim, sloping nose, her slight features, her flawless skin.
I want more than anything to touch her.
To hold her in my hands.
To make her mine.
To show her how she’s wrong, and how I’m right.
There’s a small voice in my mind that threatens dissent, but it’s hard to understand. Whereas most of me wants to conquer Aurora’s naiveté for her own good — and mine, in the doing — a small part of me feels wounded by her quiet beauty. It’s like she holds a weapon against me, and wields it simply by existing before my eyes.
The dissenting voice inside me doesn’t want to show her she’s wrong.
That voice doesn’t want to correct her. Or dismantle her. Or break her so I can rebuild her.
No. That voice prickles at the back of my neck, urging me not to do this.
It’s the same feeling I had walking away from Lucy earlier, thinking about Aurora and how long I’ve pursued her before finally tricking her into chasing me into the coffee shop last week. It’s the same disturbing, uncomfortable, vaguely painful feeling I get every time I look at her private photos. The same quiet pain I feel now, as she watches me with eyes that don’t trust me — but that must, in a sense, if she chooses to stay.
Which she will.
And for some reason, right here and now, I don’t want to betray her. I don’t want to do this.
I imagine my father, dead in his grave.
I think of my mother, cowed to his every whim.
I think of Becky Jeffries. Myself all those years ago. The wax. The blades. The pleasure and the pain.
And for the first time in decades, I doubt myself.
“What are you talking about?” she asks.
No hesitation. No intimidation. To me, she looks as lovely and frail as one of my flowers, but there’s strength behind her. I see an inch of the woman she was on the dance floor. An inch of the woman she was when she pushed me against the restroom wall and took what she wanted. I doubt she knows her strength, or how beautiful it makes her to me.
I have to take a moment. I have to look away, then at her again. Five seconds later the odd flurry of emotions are gone and I am myself again: her instructor, ready to give her a truer education than she ever hoped to find. An education that will set her free.
“A wager,” I repeat. I pace, to distance myself from Aurora’s assessing stare. It’d hard to meet her eyes, as much as they excite me. I’m aware of my erection, but there’s nothing to do about that now. My arousal and anticipation have unmasked at least that much, but I’m hardly the only person in this room who’s dying to fuck. “A bet. A gamble. A game of stakes.”
“What’s the bet?” she asks.
“Your worldview against mine.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Of course you do. You believe in fairy tales and happy endings. I believe in reality. You believe in light and optimism, whereas I’ve seen proof, in abundance, that the opposite is true. You think we can teach children out of who we are as a species. That we can change their futures with facts and figures.”
“Of course we can! Every study ever conducted has shown — ”
I wave my hand, less than dismissive. “Studies. Investigations. Reports. All conducted by people imbued with their own biases. It’s like setting out to see blue but doing so in red-tinted glasses. Every study ever conducted — on education or anything else — fails at the start because they all make one fatal assumption: that people are capable of being civilized. But it’s a lie. We’re all puppets for the animals we are deep down.”
Aurora is shaking her head at Jasmine, who hasn’t spoken since I yelled at James to stop doing what I instructed him to do. For now. And the results are plain, making my point for me. Jasmine’s not paying attention to me, only to her beating heart and sensitive nipples. She’s not considering my argument even though she’s supposed to be the reporter; she’s thinking about her sopping-wet pussy. Jasmine knows perfectly well what’s acceptable and what’s not — what’s wise and what isn’t, what will help versus hinder her, what she’ll regret tomorrow and what she won’t — but Jasmine’s civilized nature isn’t in charge. It’s the wild beast beneath.
I can practically smell her lust. Like a bomb waiting to explode.
Even as Aurora challenges my gaze — sure she’s right and that I’m fucked up, jaded, and wrong — Jasmine is preparing to offer me all the proof I need.
I look at the recorder.
I look at Jasmine and see her stiff nipples. Her dilated pupils. James has turned her body into a furnace, warming my office to the tune of over 300 BTUs per hour.
In a minute, I’ll play my ace, and make the first move in this chess game.
But not yet.
“What happened to make you this way?” Aurora asks me. It’s more an accusation than a question.
“When you were dancing. When you were touching yourself in front of everyone, how did it feel?”
She rolls her eyes. Shakes her head.
“When you touched the vibrator to your clit,” I say, “how did it feel?”
“I threw it away. You’re lucky I didn’t call the cops and report you as a sex offender.”
I smirk. “When you slipped it inside yourself, how did it feel? With your eyes closed, did you think of me?”
She reaches for Jasmine, whose hand has strayed into James’s lap, now sitting on the couch beside her. “Let’s go, Jasmine. Grab your recorder.” When Jasmine doesn’t grab it, Aurora does, her stare challenging me to try and take it away. “Let’s give the press the best story they’ve ever had on Caspian White.”
“What made you put my cock in your mouth, Aurora? And when we came together, how did that feel?”
She stares at me with eyes like ice. The hatred turns me on. The hatred crushes me. The hatred makes her fascinating. I let my mind flit back to last night. I put myself in front of her, but it was only a guess as to how she’d behave, once turned on. I thought we might make out a little. I thought she might let me touch her. But what happened proved just how much more tightly bound life has made her, and how delicious she’ll be as an adversary.
“Aurora?” Jasmine says.
“Aurora, did you … ?”
“You know I’m right,” I answer first. “You know it felt good. All those things — those were your choices. I made you do nothing. I simply gave you a reason. An excuse. Nobody would have known, or seen. It was you being you, with your good girl mask removed.”
“Everyone makes mistakes,” she says. But I can see I’m upsetting her.
“You don’t have to believe me. You don’t have to admit anything. We’ll make a bet. I’ll donate another hundred thousand dollars to the school of your choice at every stage of the bet . And if you win, I’ll donate another million.”
“Jasmine, come on.”
“Ten million. In your name, if you’d like. Consider the good that much money could do. Just think of all the futures my money could change.” I say the last bit ironically, smirking as if there’s not a word I believe.
Aurora hesitates. She almost answers.
“I’ll put it in escrow so I can’t back out. You can choose the agent. I’ll transfer the funds into a holding account today.”
Her jaw moves. Her eyes fix on me.
“What’s the bet?”
“We’ll take turns. You take a day to show me you’re right. I’ll do whatever you want, so you can convince me. But then it’s my turn. And on my days, you will do what I say.”
“I’m not an idiot — I won’t agree to a blank check.” But she still hasn’t turned away, or gathered her bag. Proving my point, she’s intrigued — but won’t let herself admit it.
“I’ll add a condition. You don’t have to do anything. Just face it. I’ll let you show me the light, if that’s what you believe. Then I’ll show you the darkness.”
She’s considering my offer. Wheels turning. I don’t have to convince her; she’s already convinced. I just have to make it impossible to say no, because deep down she’s dying to agree.
“Ten million dollars,” she says. “Held by a third party. With one hundred thousand dollars for each of our ‘challenges.’”
It’s a ridiculous bargain. An impossible bet. One a good girl like Aurora would never, ever make — but that the real Aurora beneath is dying to discover.
I take my tablet from the end table. She watches as I authorize the transfer, then seems convinced I’ve done as I promised.
“Fine,” she says. “Convince me. Convince me that the world is a terrible place and that everyone is dark deep down.”
But I don’t answer. I turn to Jasmine instead.
“Jasmine,” I say. “I’ll pay you ten thousand dollars to delete what you’ve recorded.” I pick up the tablet. Jasmine’s bank information is already entered as the recipient, but this particular peculiarity goes unmentioned.
“Not everything and everyone is for sale. You can’t buy her.” But Aurora’s voice seems uncertain.
“Fifty thousand,” I say.
Jasmine reaches for the device, barely herself as she pushes buttons and makes the incriminating audio file disappear.
I smile at Aurora, initiate the transfer, and watch hate fill Aurora’s eyes, my first demonstration of cash over ethics established in seconds.
Then I look at James.
“Now fuck her,” I say, “while Aurora watches.”
I love to write stories with characters that feel real enough to friend on Facebook, or slap across the face. I write to make you feel, think, and burn with the thrill that can only come from getting lost in the pages. I love to write unforgettable characters who wrestle with life’s largest problems. My books may always end with a Happily Ever After, but there will always be drama on the way there.
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